Amazon is not nearly as strict as Google AdSense, but it doesn’t hurt to make sure your website is in compliance with Amazon’s terms of services.
Keep in mind, that it takes anywhere from 1 to 6 months until Amazon terminates your account once they found a violation. If you are currently doing something that is against their terms of services, and you think because so far you haven’t been banned, it’s okay to continue… think again.
The full Amazom Associate Agreements can be found here: https://affiliate-program.amazon.com/help/operating/agreement
If you are unsure about your website, you can always contact Amazon directly and ask them: https://affiliate-program.amazon.com/home/contact
Before we start, you need to understand Amazon’s affiliate program principle:
Amazon wants to make sure that before you refer a visitor to the Amazon store with your affiliate link, that you have given the potential customer valuable information on the product in question, so that the visitor has a purchase intention by the time they reach the Amazon store, which justifies a commission from Amazon.
If you keep that principle in mind while running our affiliate website, you will do fine.
Amazon does not want you to send 1000s of random visitors to their store, using your affiliate link, spamming like crazy and hoping that a small percentage of all the visitors might buy something anyway.
That being said, here is a list of the most common reasons why people had their Amazon Amazon Associates accounts closed or even banned. I also give solutions on how to prevent those mistakes.
- Make sure you display an Amazon disclaimer across your entire website
- Don’t manually mention the exact price in your comparison tables and reviews
- Don’t use duplicate content on your website
- Don’t copy Amazon reviews
- Don’t use 1000s of amazon products on your website
- Do not use a domain with a registered trademark in it.
- Don’t use affiliate links in email, eBooks PDF or any other offline promotions
- Don’t use affiliate links on 3rd party websites
- Don’t offer discounts, cash back or promotion in return for buying your advertised products
- Buying Paid Search Placements?!
- Be careful on how you use link cloaking and URL shorteners
- Don’t use multiple Amazon Associate accounts
- Your website must not contain violent or sexually explicit materials
- Don’t do cooking stuffing!
- No sales in 3 to 6 months?
- Make Sure You Display An Amazon Disclaimer Across Your Entire Website
One of the most common reasons website owner have been banned from the Amazon Associate program, is due to the failure to display an Amazon affiliate disclaimer.
In Amazons own words:
“We do require Associates to identify themselves as members of the Associates Program”
You need to clearly state the following on your website(s): “X is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to (“your website name” (amazon.com, or endless.com, MYHABIT.com, SmallParts.com, or AmazonWireless.com).
In other words, make sure you have a page on your website called “Amazon Disclaimer” or “Amazon Affiliate Disclaimer”, where you have the following text:
[Website Name] is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to (“[Website Name]” (amazon.com, or endless.com, MYHABIT.com, SmallParts.com, or AmazonWireless.com)
Whereas both instances of [Website Name] needs to be replaced with your website’s name or URL.
Furthermore, I highly recommend you place that complete disclaimer into the footer of your website, so that this text is clearly visible on every single page across your website.
- Don’t Manually Mention The Exact Price Of A Product On Your Website
This is the one that I didn’t know about myself, until last year.
I was completely surprised, when this was pointed out to me. At first I didn’t believe it, but it turns out it’s true.
Amazon does not allow you to mention the product price in your reviews nor in your product comparison tables, if the price does not update itself.
Here is what Amazon says:
“If you choose to display prices for any Product on your site in any “comparison” format (including through the use of any price-comparison tool or engine) together with prices for the same or similar products offered through any web site or other means other than the Amazon Site, you must display both the lowest “new” price and, if we provide it to you, the lowest “used” price at which the Product is available on the Amazon Site. You may not otherwise include price information on your site.”
Amazon often changes the prices of their products. If you write an article about a product, don’t manually write the price down. If you do want to mention the price, make sure to use a script or WordPress plugin, that automatically retrieves the current regular price, as well as the sales price, if it’s on sale.
Create some kind of price box as the end of your article where you mention that this is the current and up to date price.
When using a comparison table, make sure you display both, the lowest price for the product in it’s “new” condition”, as well as the current lowest price for it’s “used condition” (if available).
If you have a website with an actual eCommerce store, where you display Amazon products, make sure the price updates itself once every 24 hours. Also mention when the price was last retrieved from Amazon.
- Don’t Use Duplicate Content On Your Website
If you are running an Amazon store on your website, and all you have is a 1:1 copy of the item descriptions and you have not added any unique content to the description, Amazon will terminate your affiliate account sooner or later.
There are many WordPress plugins which let you create an Amazon store, which automatically downloads the full product description and images and adds it to your website. On first thought this sounds great, however this is far from what Amazon wants.
As mentioned above, Amazon follows a very basic principle. Your website needs to add valuable information to the product description, simply copying the original product description along with the original images, is a big no no.
A way around this, is to use a content spinner for the amazon product descriptions. Additionally you need to write your own product reviews for each product.
- Don’t Copy Amazon Reviews
This goes hand in hand with the “Don’t use duplicate content on your website”, but I thought I mention it, since some people are under the impression, reviews don’t count as content. Well it does.
If you want to add product reviews to your website, you will need to write them yourself. Don’t just copy the ones from Amazon and add them to your website.
If you do want to display the original reviews from Amazon, you can do that by embedding them using an iframe. Here are the official Amazon docs on how to do that: http://docs.aws.amazon.com/AWSECommerceService/latest/DG/RG_Reviews.html
- Don’t Use 1000s Of Amazon Products On Your Website
This is again related to those many WordPress plugins, which allow you to create automated Amazon stores.
Many authors of these plugins use this as part of their advertising features… “Add 1000s of Amazon products to your website fully automated”.
Don’t do it, seriously! Even if you use a content spinner, that spins all product descriptions, Amazon doesn’t like quantity over quality. I have seen popular websites who had their Amazon Associate accounts terminated, because they had a shop system integrated, which literally had 1000s of Amazon products added automatically. A few months later, they had their account terminated.
Keep your website to 10-100 hand selected products, for which you create quality reviews.
- Do Not Use A Domain With A Registered Trademark In It
You are not allowed to use any registered trademarks in your domain name, this includes any trademarks by Amazon themselves, as well as 3rd parties.
When you register a domain, make sure your domain doesn’t contain words like “Amazon”, “Kindle”, nor 3rd party trademarks, such as “Sony”, “Apple”, “Playstation”, “Mars” or “Whiskas”. There are 100’000s of trademarked words, so be careful. The easiest way to avoid any violation, is to simply not use a brand name in your domain name.
Make sure to use a generic domain name.
- Don’t Use Affiliate Links In Email, Ebooks Pdf Or Any Other Offline Promotions
Amazon strictly forbids the use of affiliate links inside of offline documents, which includes emails, newsletters, eBooks, PDF, word documents, spreadsheets etc.
If you do send out newsletters, eBooks, PDF etc. to promote Amazon articles, make sure you link to an article on your website, where you then display the Amazon affiliate link. Never use an affiliate link directly inside of your emails or offline documents.
- Don’t Use Affiliate Links On 3rd Party Websites
Make sure that you only use your affiliate links on your own website. (Social media is the exception).
How could you use your links on someone else’s website? Well, you might be guest blogging on someone’s website, or making comments on another website or in a forum, and you feel the urge to include an affiliate link to a product on amazon because you were part of an ongoing conversation in the comments. Whatever you do, don’t use your affiliate link, instead, link to your own website, where you have reviewed that product or similar ones.
Social Media is the exception. Amazon does allow you to post direct affiliate links on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. Just make sure your Facebook page, YouTube video and Tweet are about a relative topics, and that you do not spam those links. Keep the quality of your social media accounts within the guidelines of Amazon.
More information can be found here: https://affiliate-program.amazon.com/help/topic/t50
- Don’t Offer Discounts, Cash Back Or Promotion In Return For Buying Your Advertised Products
Some website owners came up with the idea to offer visitors discounts, in form of cashback, coupon codes, or even for services, such as creating a website for the visitor, if the visitor makes a purchase on Amazon using the affiliate link.
This is strictly prohibited. You must not offer any incentive to your visitor to make a purchase, other than giving valuable product information.
- Buying Paid Search Placements?!
Wait, what? I didn’t feel like listing this in the first place, but due to massive confusion caused by top affiliate partners, I had to include it, along with the correct information.
On Amazon’s Associates Program Operating Agreement page https://affiliate-program.amazon.com/help/operating/agreement, you will find the following paragraph:
“Prohibited Paid Search Placement” means an advertisement that you purchased through bidding on keyword[…]
This has caused a lot of confusing among Amazon affiliate partners. Even to this very day, I see many top bloggers, who have failed to understand what Amazon means by that.
They will tell you that you are now allowed to use Google AdWords to advertise your website if you use Amazon affiliates on your website. – Wrong!
First off, that paragraph is out of context. Head to the agreement page and read the full article yourself.
What this means, is that Amazon does not allow you to run ad campaigns, for example with Google AdWords or Facebook ads, where you create ads, using Amazon trademark keywords, such as “Amazon” or “Kindle” and then link your ad directly to Amazon with your affiliate ID.
However it is completely fine to run Google AdWords and Facebook Ad campaigns, using non Amazon trademarked keywords, and have the ads link to your website, where you then have an article about certain products along with Amazon affiliate links.
- Be Careful On How You Use Link Cloaking And Url Shorteners
This seems to be another controversial issue. Many affiliate partners will tell you that you are not allowed to cloak your affiliate links or use URL shorteners. While there is some truth to that, the real truth once again got lost in translation.
What is link cloaking? Have you ever seen the full amazon affiliate link? It might look something like this: https://www.amazon.com/GREENIES-Dental-Treats-Teenie-Original/dp/B006W6YHYQ?psc=1&SubscriptionId=AKIAJPLM5YZBELFRLUWA&tag=aobrien-20&linkCode=xm2&camp=2025&creative=165953&creativeASIN=B006W6YHYQ
It’s very long and ugly. But apart from it being long and ugly, you might run into issues with such links when using twitter, where you are limited to 140 characters per tweet. That is where URL shortening services such as http://bit.ly, http://goo.gl or http://amzn.to come in.
These services will shorten the above URL to something very short like http://amzn.to/2dGUEoy. This is much easier on the eye and it can be used in tweets. But what might even be more important is, that URL shortener services also give you information on how many clicks you have received on those links along insights into the most active time of day, most engaged users and more. This is obviously a great feature for any website owner.
There are also many WordPress plugins which offer the same feature, that are directly built into your website, without using URL shortener services.
They will transform the links into something like: http://www.mydomain.com/goto/amazon_n3D3hsf
Amazon customer support, has also confirmed that it is okay to use 3rd party URL shortening services or have your own built in link cloaker to track visitor statistics. But they clearly stated, and this is important, that when using URL shorteners and link cloaking, it must be visible to the user, that if they click on the link, that you will be referred to Amazon, or you must mention that the link will refer to the Amazon store. Using http://amzn.to/2dGUEoy you can make out the shortened Amazon word “amzn”, and if you use a WordPress plugin, make sure that you use something like http://www.mydomain.com/goto/amazon_n3D3hsf, so that the word Amazon and preferably “go to” is in there as well.
Another way would be to use the official “Buy On Amazon” images, along with shortened URLs.
Amazon support said, that misleading URLs, such as http://www.mydomain.com/productname/ where it’s not clear that you will autmatcally be linked to the Amazon store, or where you intentionally mislead visitors, should not be used and can lead to your account being suspended.
Amazon support says the following: “You must clearly state that the link in question will take the user to the Amazon site when clicked and ensure that the site on which you are posting the links includes the required statement to identify yourself as an Associate.”
One more thing. When using link cloaking and URL shortening services, only make 1 hop and not multiple hops!
1 hop is defined as having this link http://amzn.to/2dGUEoy point directly to your affiliate link.
Amazon doesn’t allow for this, because a lot of malicious things can be done using multiple hops.
- Don’t Use Multiple Amazon Associate Accounts
If you have multiple websites, and you wish to track the sales individually, just log into your affiliate account on amazon, and create a new tracking ID for each of your websites. That is how you are suppose to do it.
If Amazon finds out you are using multiple accounts, they will ban all of them.
- Don’t Do Cooking Stuffing
Most website owners don’t know what this is, which is good. Unfortunately every now and then, some genius thinks he can use some malicious tricks on his websites, to increase his income.
When someone clicks on your amazon affiliate link, a 24 hour cookie is set in the browser of the visitor, which lets Amazon know, that you have referred this potential customer to them. This way you still get a commission on any article that the visitor buys over the next 24 hours, even if they don’t come back to your website, but go to Amazon directly. – Fair play to Amazon.
For this cookie to become active, a visitor actually needs to click on your affiliate link. Just visiting your website and reading through your content does not create that cookie.
However there is a way to create that cookie, without the visitors needing to click on any link.
By including the Amazon website on your website inside of an iframe (often hidden). This creates a cookie, even though they never clicked on your affiliate links.
This is called cookie stuffing and many big internet marketers have been caught red-handed doing this. (some were even taken to court over this).
Needless to say, this is cheating and Amazon has zero tolerance for this behavior and they will permanently ban your Amazon Associate account.
- Your Website Must Not Contain Violent Or Sexually Explicit Materials
Straight forward: Don’t use your affiliate links on a website that contains violent or sexually explicit content.
- No Sales In 3 To 6 Months
This is actually one of the tough ones, especially if you are just starting out. Amazon states that if an affiliate partner makes no sale within 90 days, they will terminate your account.
Many genuine websites had their accounts closed because of this. Even myself. I honestly don’t understand why Amazon is doing this in the first place. With Google AdSense, if I don’t use my ads for 1-2 years, I’m still fine and I’m always welcome to continue using Google AdSense at anytime.
I don’t understand why Amazon can’t comprehend, that there are many reasons why an affiliate partner might not make a sale within 90 days. This can be anything from taking a break running the website, to trying out different ways to generate traffic to your website, or your website might have fallen from the first page of Google.
Apart from that, if you start a brand new website, it can easily take 4-5 months until your website gets ranked on Google and you start making your first sale.
On the upside, it seems that Amazon has loosened this a bit, and now allows for up to 6 months before they close your account.
I they close your account, they state inside of your old account, that you are allowed to open up a new Amazon Associate account, using a new email address.
So yeah, if this happens, don’t worry, you are not banned. You will just need to create a new account, using a new email address.
But in all seriousness, why Amazon? Just… why?! What’s the point?
If you allow us to open a new account anyway, why terminate our old ones? It’s a hassle on your side, as well as on our side. We need replace all of our tracking IDs on our website, we need to create a new email address, and reapply for the program, and if we need to access historical sales information, we need to log back and forth between the old and new account.. And on your side, Amazon, you need to create a system that checks how active a partner is, you need to create a system that sends out warnings when becoming inactive, and you need to create a system which then automatically terminates our accounts. Additionally you need to hire more staff that manually reviews new affiliate partner applications because we have to reapply.
This is just a loss/loss situation, and only causes issues for both parties.
Big facepalm right here!