Amazon vs. Alternative Affiliate Programs

I received an email today from a new blogger who signed up for Amazon’s affiliate program and was curious if this was the best option for monetizing their new blog.  This is a great question and because Amazon is not usually the best option, I thought I would take the opportunity to share a quick perspective on this.

Please keep in mind this is particularly directed at new bloggers and sites that are not massive-traffic, product review sites etc.  This is for the everyday blogger considering new monetization approaches.

Amazon has its pros and cons when it comes to blog monetization. For one pro, they are such a trusted site people are quick to purchase from them.  This means your conversions may be higher than with other affiliate programs.  On the other hand…  they typically pay pennies compared to other affiliate programs so sales volume is really needed to make any real money.  On top of the low payout percentages, their payout structure quite frankly, sucks.

A quick overview of Amazon’s payout structure:

First, in order for you to get paid for a sale… a person must click on the link from your site, and place a product into their cart within 24 hours.  They then must purchase the item within 30 days.   If you refer someone to a product on Amazon, but they add it to their cart the next day, you do not get paid for that referral.  If they add a product to their cart within 24 hours, but they do not purchase it until the following month, you do not get paid for that referral.  It’s unfortunate, but although your lead resulted in a sale, that doesn’t mean you will actually get credit for that purchase.

Amazon Volume Based Payout Rates

Next, consider their % payouts.  Amazon’s payouts vary according to product category, but the majority are a measly 4% for the first 7 products you sell.  Sell over 7 products and that percentage goes up to 6%.  Over 31 products, 6.5%.  If you sell over 111 products… 7%.  It goes up to 8.5% when you sell over 3,131 products.  Even with their potentially higher conversion rates, that is still a significantly low payout rate.

Lastly, when you do get paid for a referral, keep in mind how much you will actually be making;  Let’s say a reader clicks your link and buys a $20 supplement-  you’ve made a whopping .80 cents.  🙁    Even if you sell 111 of these and your percentage is at 7%… you have still only made $155.  Boooooooooo!

Alternative Affiliate Programs

Now, let’s look at alternative affiliate programs to Amazon.  While Amazon may have great conversions, there are a number of other factors that you will want to keep in mind.  In fact, any ONE of these can influence your earnings to the point that conversion rate is pretty menial:  Payout rate, Conversion rate, Product pricing, and your own ability/interest in promoting them to your readers.
Here is a comparison of a few of my affiliate programs:
Amazon Affiliate payout:  7%   Products sold daily: 4-6   Monthly revenue:  $300+ (highest conversion, lowest earnings BY FAR)

Affiliate A payout:  20%   Products sold daily: 1-6   Monthly revenue:  $6,000+  (Note: highest priced product)

Affiliate B payout:  24%   Products sold daily: 1-5  Monthly revenue:  $5,000+   (Med priced product, higher % payout)

Affiliate C payout: 40%    Products sold daily: 3-6  Monthly revenue:  $4,000+  (Lowest priced product but highest % payout)

Affiliate D payout: 20%   Products sold daily: 0-1  Monthly revenue:  >$1,000 (These guys used to be one of my best affiliate partners but they became unethical, unreliable and greedy so I no longer actively promote them. In other words, my ability/interest in promoting them is nonexistent and they now only get sales from past blog posts and old links in my forums.)

As you can see, a higher payout rate doesn’t necessarily mean more revenue in the end.  Nor does a higher conversion mean more revenue.  For this reason, I strongly suggest focusing on finding products that are as specific to your personal followers, rather than numbers.  Find products you really feel will resonate with your readers- test them out. While they may only pay you 15%, their product may be $300, and your readers may absolutely love the product and buy it every month on subscription!

Hmm… that’s a far louder paycheck than selling 100 products on Amazon and earning $300 a month.

Here are a few more reasons I opt to focus on alternative affiliate programs over Amazon:

  • Other affiliate programs almost always have significantly higher payout rates.
  • You often have the opportunity to develop a relationship with other affiliate programs. This means the potential for special promotions for your readers; custom promo codes, exclusive offers, special packages, etc.  It also means you may be able to negotiate higher payout rates if you are doing exceedingly well.
  • With other affiliate programs, when I refer a reader to “Affiliate Partner X” and recommend their “Product #007” there is no competition on the page to steer them from that product.
    • While the conversions may be better with Amazon, one thing to keep in mind is the lower price product options your readers will have once they have been referred there.  Just because you refer them to a “Quality Product A” that you honestly love… does not mean they will not click that “Suggested Product B” Amazon conveniently places on the product page.  So while you have referred them to a quality product that costs $80 (whopping $3.20 commission for you) they instead buy “Suggested Product B” for $20 (whopping .80 cent commission for you.)


Where to find alternative affiliate programs:

A good place to start for beginners is Shareasale and Commission Junction.  Shareasale is great for the truly new since many of these affiliates will readily approve new publishers.  They offer some stats but again, I strongly suggest using stats and numbers as a simple guideline and focusing more on the product’s potential for you in particular.  Commission Junction on the other hand, still offers some affiliate programs that will approve new and intermediate publishers with the click of a button.  However, the majority of their affiliates will carefully review your application prior to approving you and may want to see an established publisher before sending out the welcome party.  CJ also offers some really helpful stats on each company, a user-friendly platform, and makes it easy to develop relationships with your new partners.  They also have a much larger database of advertisers to choose from and many well known brands (Travelocity, GoDaddy, Weight Watchers, Marriott, etc.)
In the end, I always suggest using Amazon for those “eh, why not” products that you don’t have a better affiliate option for, or for the phrase “Amazon” itself.  You can easily use a keyword auto-link plugin that places your Amazon affiliate link anytime you write the word “Amazon” in your blog posts.  If you happen to write an article about something and mention it is available on Amazon, that may just be a simple way to 1. offer a convenient link-taxi to your readers, 2. possibly make a few dollars from an Amazon sale and head out to spend that Starbucks money!

Marketing Speak Interview with Stephan Spencer

I had the extreme pleasure of being interviewed by SEO expert, author and speaker, Stephan Spencer, last week.  I was expecting the interview to be full of useful blogging tips but this ended up being so much more- I have to recommend everyone listens to it.  We ended up covering a lot about the psychology of readers, and how to meet their needs on a mental and emotional level.  Powerful stuff that can be applied to ANY business, including blogging.  Have a listen and let me know what you think!

The link to the shownotes, transcript, and audio is here:

The iTunes podcast link is here:

12 Google Ninja Search Secrets

I heard of a few tricks for using Google Search that really helped me become a more efficient “Googler.”  I was so happy with these new tips, I decided to do a little research, find more, and share them with all of you!

Google Ninja Search Secrets:

  1. If you have gmail and you’re logged into your google account, you can type “My packages” into google search and a list of your recent shipment orders will appear.
  2. Search for “My reservations” Your upcoming hotel stays.
  3. Search for “My Trips” and get your upcoming flights.
  4. “Topic Here site:edu” – Search results from education sites only.
  5. “Topic Here” – Search results from a specific domain only.
  6. “Topic Here file:ppt” – Find powerpoint presentations on any topic.
  7. “Topic Here file:pdf” – Find pdf’s on any topic.
  8. Use Google Search as a calculator.  * multiplies, / divides.  Type your math problem into Google Search and… not only will Google not only solve the problem but a calculator will appear for your next equation.
  9. Find the most recent/current results for a search phrase.  Enter your search topic, then click “Search Tools” below search bar.  You can choose Any Time, Past Hour, Past 24 Hours, Past Week, Past Month, Past Year or Custom.
  10. “Specific Phrase in quotes”
  11. Exclude a word from search results:  “Blogging Tips -webinar.”
  12. Wondering what a plant, animal or landmark is? Drag a picture from your desktop into the Google search bar of Google Images.  Google will provide webpages with similar photos.

There you have it- Now you may go forth as a Ninja Googler, yourself!

Living Dot Com… & Brilliant Etc Launch

Last year, when the producers of the Living Dot Com movie approached me, I was at a place where I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do next.  I had crossed the 100 million readers mark with my health blog, and had been traveling the world, enjoying life to the fullest for several years.  Life was great… but something was missing.  I no longer felt fulfilled and had lost that passion for my “work” (I use that word lightly), which I really missed.

When the producer, Michael Bayer, told me over 46% of American jobs will be lost to outsourcing and computers over the next 20 years, it didn’t take much more to convince me I had to help.  I felt so compelled to not only share how I make money online, but just to inspire potential and aspiring internet entrepreneurs.  I started accepting more speaking requests, booking more interviews, and taking steps to do something truly amazing that could serve millions of people.  Not only in America, but around the world.

And this is where I am today….

I am writing this particular post from Magic Mountain, just two days from the big fancy red carpet premier of Living Dot Com.  It suddenly hits me that this is exactly what the Living Dot Com lifestyle is all about;  freedom.  Here I am, at an amusement park; my blog is making money while I’m having fun with my darling fiance, Steve Hott, and friends.  A few weeks ago, we were in Cabo San Lucas having a blast.  Before that, we were in Vegas.  The last 5 years, I have had these extraordinary experiences with Fijian Chieftans, dining at King Ramsys palace in Egypt, flying to London for Christmas shopping and a girl’s night out with a friend before heading back to my beachfront condo in Puerto Vallarta.  This is the Living Dot Com lifestyle;  the freedom to come and go as you please, to make money doing something you love, and to be able to prioritize family and friends over “work” while living a life you can be excessively grateful for.  This is what I want for anyone who wants it.

What I am doing….

I’m creating a new site, Brilliant Etc, a resource for anyone who wants to learn to live the Living Dot Com lifestyle of working less and living more.  For internet entrepreneurs of all levels, think of Brilliant Etc as your online entrepreneur school.  Myself, I will be sharing my best blogging strategies on how I work only a few times a year and have made millions of dollars blogging.  I have also gathered many of the industry’s leading authorities to contribute their knowledge to the cause.  Read to learn about online seo- get training from Stephen Spencer.  Online leadership and so much more; Marc Ensign.  LinkedIn secrets: Viveka Von Rosen.  Social Media:  Yvette Ulloa and Michelle Corteggiano.  Using traditional media to promote yourself and your blog: PR Reach founder, Rob Burns.   These are just a handful of experts who have volunteered to help teach the masses by sharing what we do best.  How brilliant is that?

If you would like to know when the site is fully launched, feel free to join the mailing list here:

Your partner in success,

Jeni Larson Hott



My Interview with Biz Women Rock

I was honored to be asked for an interview by the brilliant Katie Krimitsos, founder of the “Biz Women Rock” podcast that has been rocking the “top podcast downloads” list on iTunes. For those of you who would like a few tips and the pleasure of Katie’s sense of humor, here’s where you can get my recent interview and subscribe to Katie’s inspiring new podcast:

Jeni Larson Hott on Biz Women Rock