The latest Amazon commission cut of up to 80% for some of the most profitable product categories was a huge hit last month for many affiliate marketers and digital publishers.
But while the commission rate deduction has personally hit me on my health-related sites, I think overall, what happened served as a wake-up call for the future to diversify and gain more control over affiliate partnerships and revenues.
That’s why a number of affiliate marketers quickly began to look at alternatives to Amazon’s affiliate program in their given niches.
While some alternative options like Shareasale are obvious choices, there are times when making the switch isn’t even worth the time invested, or it can even hurt your sales.
Here is a guide on how to find non-Amazon affiliate programs that convert well as well as a few notes on when it makes sense to switch.
I will also show you some strategies that you can apply today to increase your revenues on your affiliate sites monetized with Amazon.
When Does It Make Sense to Diversify Your Revenue Streams?
Diversification is critical in every business, and most seasoned affiliate marketers don’t rely on just one network or offer.
However, the process of diversification takes time and can drag you into a never-ending loop of searching for new offers and testing them out.
While the timing of the commission cut from Amazon was unfortunate with the COVID-19 crisis on the rise, if you want to run a real business and not just make a few bucks with affiliate marketing, you cannot pour all your trust on an external company.
While Amazon Associates has several great attributes, such as an excellent conversion rate combined with a vast range of product offerings, and the fact that it pays for the aggregated products on shopping carts bought by the user, it isn’t all sunshine and roses.
The company has a history of permanently banning accounts for light reasons and the lack of an affiliate manager is a massive downside for high-level affiliate marketers, as they are looking for reliability, and eventually, the chance of negotiating higher commissions for more significant volumes of orders referred.
However, these downsides factors, added to the low commission rates, shouldn’t necessarily make you jump on a different train right away. There are some factors to consider when changing your affiliate links to other programs or networks from Amazon that should weigh on your decision one way or the other.
Commission Rate vs. Conversion Rate
While most affiliate programs in the same niches have a better commission rate than Amazon, often on other networks, many of their landing pages are outdated and will hardly convert sales. Even if the commission rate is 80%, it will still not be worth it for you to switch as you are making fewer sales and the numbers simply don’t add up.
While it’s very niche dependent and this word of advice has to be taken with caution, the sweet spot to make it worth your while is usually a minimum 10% commission.
This is because even when the landing page seems to be converting well, it will hardly have the same level of the conversion rate of Amazon simply because Amazon is such a behemoth and generates so much trust to consumers. The lower conversion rate on Amazon will often outweigh the higher commission rate that you might obtain with a smaller platform.
How to Diversify Your Affiliate Commission Without Burning Out
I know quite well that changing all of your links within just the seven days notice given by Amazon Associates was overwhelming, especially if you run a portfolio of sites like I do.
Something that I’ve been doing to keep myself sane, and recommend to others who have a diverse portfolio of sites, is to first change the links for the #1 recommended program in product roundabouts.
In this case, you could change the link to a non-Amazon affiliate program just for the editor’s choice product and possibly for the second choice, too, because that’s where your visitors will probably click and makes up for the majority of your affiliate revenue.
Direct Affiliate Commission Partnerships
Amazon’s commission cut can become a blessing in disguise. Being forced to reorganize your business is a pain, but it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. One of the most useful things that you can do right now that will pay incredible dividends in the future is reaching out to some suppliers in your industry, seeking a direct affiliate link.
Many companies, even if they’re big and established, often didn’t even think about creating an affiliate program yet, and will be willing to do so for you if you can show them the potential that it brings to the table.
The great thing about this strategy is that you will have almost no competition when promoting these offers.
Consider Adding Display Ads
Display ads, like the one offered by Ezoic or Mediavine, can be an additional way to increase the EPM of your pages that you might have overlooked.
On one of my sites, I had ten informational posts that, despite getting thousands of visitors each month, had an astoundingly low EPM.
I tried adding display ads, and I started making an additional $250-300/month from them.
While counterintuitive, adding advertisements to your pages will not necessarily decrease your affiliate revenue, but could easily increase your overall revenue.
While they may distract your visitors, adding ads won’t often make a big difference to overall conversion rate. I’d suggest you test ads, particularly on your pages monetized with Amazon Associates, if you can’t find better paying affiliate programs.
Focus On Recurring Programs
B2B affiliate programs often pay recurring commissions. This makes it notably more appealing than other cases.
Even if your website is focused on B2C (i.e., home furniture), you can find software apps about home and furniture design that can be helpful to professionals in that field and still be relevant to your audience.
Pivot to eCommerce
Something many affiliate site owners are doing is creating a separate drop shipping store and linking from their reviews post to their eCommerce site, essentially becoming an affiliate for themselves.
You can even include an eCommerce store in your actual affiliate site if it makes sense.
While it isn’t something I would personally do, it’s admittedly a viable option that many smart marketers are making a killing with.
Add an Exit Opt-in Popup
A strategy that helped me increase revenue on one of my affiliate sites almost overnight is adding an exit-intent opt-in popup which is shown when someone is leaving a page.
While I initially tested this concept with an email list form, I noticed that for some pages, it was more profitable to send the visitors directly to an affiliate landing page rather than to a data collection point.
That’s the kind of unused capacity in your business that you should be tapping right now.
To set this up on a WordPress site, you simply need a tool like Thrive Leads, OptinMonster, or Elementor Pro.
Focus More on Building a Brand
While many of us affiliate marketers got started with a small niche site, which made us realize that making money online was possible, the route to long-term profit seems to be in creating a strong brand within your niche.
Reviews and comparison posts on Amazon affiliate sites aren’t actually that much more helpful than the reviews directly on Amazon for any given product, they are simply organized in a pleasant manner which helps users make a determination on what to purchase.
While outsourcing content to a cheap writer and getting it to rank high on search can be a very profitable business model, it is increasingly less valuable now that the web is filled with this kind of content.
Creating a true “brand” means building a relationship with your site visitors. A relationship built on trust can be cultivated with reliable comparison posts and helpful emails sent via a newsletter.
A great way to speed up the process of building such a relationship is an email list which you can use to nurture and genuinely develop your brand in the long-run.
Having an engaged email list will not only give you an asset on which you have total control and will be yours in case of SEO or PPC swings, but it will also increase the worth of your site as buyers are willing to pay a premium for it if you ever decide to sell your business on a site like Flippa.
“Is It Even Worth It?” My Experience Walking Away From Amazon
Now that you read through the article, you might be wondering, “Is it even worth taking the time to update all of the links in my posts?”
I know this because I asked the same question myself.
Last year I started a new affiliate site in the health niche. I simply ordered 5 long-form pieces of content, built a couple of links, and then left the site sit for several months.
To my surprise, this small niche site started ranking for several high-competition keywords. It started making about $90/month via Amazon, nothing game-changing, but still nice to see given the little bit of work that I had put into it.
While I knew I could have probably make more with other affiliate programs selling the same category of products, I thought it wasn’t worth my time for a site that was just making $90 a month.
When Amazon updated their commission rates from 4.5% to 1% last month, I decided that it was time to test things out as that $90 was about to fall to about $15, which barely covers hosting fees at that rate.
I updated the first and second place product recommendations in my most trafficked posts with a direct partnership affiliate program and updated the others with brands that I found on Shareasale and Commission Junction.
To my surprise, two weeks later, I ended making $332.46. With just one affiliate program. For a grand total of about $370 earned in just three weeks.
That’s the same exact site that was earning me $90 through Amazon the month prior. With no additional improvements or changes besides changing the affiliate links I was able to more than triple my revenue.
Now, that’s a jump for sure, and it also increased diversification in my revenue sources! But take this information with a grain of salt.
There are lots of programs that convert so poorly that you might as well use Amazon instead. It’s a matter of continuous testing until you hit the right one.
Amazon Associates’s commission rate cut isn’t the end of the world.
While it happened once before just a few years ago in 2017, it is now a more critical wake-up call than ever to affiliate marketers and digital publishers to diversify their revenue streams and gain more control over their business’s income.