Over the years, no affiliate program offered more to their publishers than Amazon Associates—not Walmart, not Target, not eBay. It’s great for beginners, converts very well, and features a vast catalog of products to promote.
That was the case until April 21, 2020.
Amazon Associates Commission Cuts 2020
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Amazon decided to slash commission rates in some niches by more than 50%.
One category, home improvement, saw a cut from 8% down to 3% (62.5% loss in earnings). Sites in this niche making $8,000 a month now only make $3,000.
Here’s a quick look at the new commission percentages.
|Category||Old Rate||New Rate (April 21, 2020)|
|Furniture, Home, Home Improvement, Lawn & Garden, Pets, Pantry||8%||3%|
|Headphones, Beauty, Musical Instruments, Business & Industrial Supplies||6%||3%|
No changes: Physical books and music, kitchen, automotive, Amazon devices, watches, jewelry, luggage, shoes, handbags and accessories, toys, PC and PC components, DVD & Blu-Ray, televisions, video games. (source)
I should note—this chart only indicates percentages for the US. I haven’t heard any news of adjustments for the international Amazon Associates programs.
Why Cut Commissions, Amazon?
Some speculate that Amazon cut unnecessary costs due to demand related to COVID-19. They reportedly hired 100,000 warehouse workers back in March of 2020. An Amazon spokesperson declined to comment to CNBC on whether or not the cuts are related to the pandemic.
No matter what the reason may be, it doesn’t matter. It’s ultimately the company’s choice to do what they will with their affiliate program.
April 21, 2020, is not the only day in history when Amazon cut rates. They’re not alone, either. These cuts remind me of reading panicked tech bloggers crying foul over Apple killing off the App Store affiliate program.
It’s all too common for companies to adjust the terms of an agreement—it’s part of the beast that is affiliate marketing.
The Volume-Based Model (pre-2017)
Amazon used to operate with a volume-based model—one that I wish we could see again. Instead of basing commission percentages on a category basis, Amazon increased your commission rate based on how many items you could sell.
|Number of Products Shipped per Month (old model)||Volume-Based Advertising Fee Rates for General Products|
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I wish I had been in the game during these rates!
On April 1, 2017, Amazon wiped this model away and introduced fixed category percentages. I started seeing success with Amazon’s program shortly after this change went live. And I’ve only experienced one big change to the commission rates since I’ve been using the Associates program.
Publishers have long complained about changes to the operating agreement. The program has existed for more than twenty years now. Even back as far as 2004, we’ve seen affiliate marketers protest changes in the commission structure. This comment below was made in response to the Amazon Associates compensation plan of 2004.
“They lowered the commission rate yet again. If this keeps up we’re going to have to PAY AMZN for putting their links on our sites!”Engaged Forums, Amazon Associates
We are at a point now where it seems that Amazon is quietly killing off their affiliate program—slowly but surely.
So it begs the question.
Is it Worth it to Use Amazon Associates Anymore?
In 2020, your website revenue should come from a multitude of sources, Amazon being just one. Do not put all your eggs in one basket. You must diversify.
While the cuts are drastic, there are plenty of other ways to monetize your website (including better affiliate programs with better commissions).
My Income Breakdown
Below is a pie chart showing detailing my sources of income for my main website. Note that Amazon only accounts for 25% of it all.
My main monetization networks are as follows:
- Impact Radius (42%)
- Amazon Associates (25%)
- Avantlink (18%)
- Mediavine (8%)
- Third Parties (5%)
- SendOwl (2%)
The amount of money Amazon brings in is starting to dwindle each month. And while I promote their links still where appropriate, I find myself using other affiliate platforms far more (more on my story and Amazon affiliate earnings here).
The 5 Best Amazon Affiliate Alternatives
You may need to do a little searching depending on your niche, but now, let’s talk about ten of the best alternatives to Amazon Associates.
For each platform, I’ll list several brands available with their commission rates. Keep in mind that these are just a few examples of the thousands of brands available to promote.
Also, I’m focusing here on US-based affiliate programs. You may need to do a bit more research if these platforms don’t exist in your region.
1) Impact Radius
Connecting brands and publishers is the top priority of Impact Radius. Since 2008, bloggers have established relationships with some of the biggest brands and big-box stores.
Links are easy to make with the link generator included on the homepage when logged in.
Some top brands that use Impact’s platform include:
- Adidas (7%)
- Blizzard Gear Store (8%)
- Design By Humans (3%)
- Foot Locker (2%)
- Getty Images (10%)
- Giorgio Armani (7.7%)
- Golf Galaxy (5%)
- H&R Block (16% on software)
- Harry’s (5-10%)
- Home Depot (2%)
- Jewelry.com (10%)
- Kohl’s (3%)
- Levi’s (4%)
- NBA Store (8%)
- Razer (3-10%)
- Serta (5%)
- Tanners Wines (7%)
- Xfinity Mobile ($75 CPA)
Of course, the major downside is you have to apply and get approved by each vendor when using a platform like Impact.
And in some cases, especially with the home improvement example, you may be better off sticking with Amazon for now, given that Home Depot’s commission rate is lower (2%).
The web software does a decent job with tracking sales, though, it can be challenging to see which items you’ve sold. There is also a two-hour delay from when a purchase comes in and when it registers to your dashboard.
Payments from each vendor process once approved. The default threshold is $10, but you can adjust to your liking.
Payouts are either Direct Deposit (to your linked bank account) or PayPal (with a 2% processing fee).
Using Impact on a mobile device isn’t the easiest, though.
Similar to Impact, Avantlink operates in the same brand to publisher fashion. Getting approved may be a bit more complicated. Be sure to have a bit of traffic and a focused niche before applying.
Avantlink shares some of the same brands as Impact but features many smaller brands that will often pay a much higher commission rate. Here’s just a few:
- KURU Footwear (10%)
- Chocolate.org (12%)
- 2×2 Cycles (6%)
- Ambrush Skateboarding (9%)
- BBQ Box (7%)
- CampGear.com (4%)
- Bladez Fitness (8%)
- FitTrack (12%)
- Maho Shades (25%)
- Zhou Nutrition (15%)
- STOPzilla (40%)
- MyCleaningProducts.com (30%)
- Surfshark (40%)
- Tread Labs (15%)
- AXIL (15%)
My experience using Avantlink is positive. Sales are nearly real-time, the interface is simple to use, and the reports themselves are incredibly detailed.
Avantlink also integrates nicely with Content Egg if you use that plugin for generating links.
Payment methods include Direct Deposit / ACH, Wire Transfer, and PayPal (2% of the amount + USD 1.00 and a maximum of USD 2.00. FX fee: 3%).
As with Impact, I don’t recommend mobile use. It’s possible, but a little annoying (these platforms should focus on UX!).
3) CJ Affiliate by Conversant (formerly Commission Junction)
While CJ Affiliate isn’t my favorite network around, it does deserve a spot on my list of Amazon Associates alternatives.
The interface is a bit dated (though not as bad as some), but it still works. Publishers gain access to thousands of advertisers—each requiring manual approval.
Links are either copied from the CJ dashboard or created on the advertiser’s product page using the CJ Deep Link tool.
CJ has a large variety of advertisers from tons of categories, including art, auto, beauty, business, clothing, entertainment, insurance, sports, and more.
Here are some big-name brands you can partner with:
- Nike (1%)
- Nord VPN (40%)
- Oakley (6%)
- Ray-Ban (6%)
- Sonos (8%)
- Verizon Wireless (10%)
- Vistaprint (6-14%)
- Wayfair (7%)
- Zappos.com (7%)
You can pick either a mailed check or Direct Deposit for payouts.
I’m sure you’ve seen ads for Rakuten by now on television. Formerly known as Ebates, Rakuten is another one of the “big-box” affiliate networks.
Again, I’m not the biggest fan of this network either, but you do get access to some big advertisers. The layout of the interface is very similar to CJ Affiliate.
All advertisers must approve you before you can promote their products.
Rakuten also features tons of categories to pick from, including auto, business, clothing, entertainment, food & drink, health, beauty, home, and more.
Here are some of the brands you can expect to partner with (many of which are smaller and very niche):
- Bambini Fashion (10%)
- OFRA Cosmetics (6%)
- American Leather Co. (5%)
- Taylor Morris Eyewear (8%)
- Snoozer Pet Products (6%)
- Billabong (5%)
- Element (5%)
- Leeds Bike (5% base commission)
- Kohler (4%)
- Codecademy (25% on Pro Subscriptions)
- Oculus (3%)
- Wine Access (10%)
- Autonomous (5%)
Again, it needs repeating. The brands I’ve listed for all platforms are just a small handful of available advertisers.
Rakuten allows three payment options: Direct Deposit, PayPal, and check.
5) Forget the Big Networks (partner directly)
And finally, one of the best ways to make money with affiliate marketing is to partner with brands and e-commerce websites individually.
I challenge you to visit a bunch of big stores you usually shop and check the footer of their website. On occasion, you may see a link to an affiliate section.
Partnering on a brand-by-brand basis is a big chunk of my overall monetization. Sure, the big networks are a significant portion, but I can’t stress working directly with a company enough.
I have a deal with one e-commerce website that sells digital downloads at a 50% commission rate. You’ll never see amounts like that with Amazon or big-name brands.
How to Find Affiliate Programs with Google
If you’ve searched around and still can’t find a good direct affiliate program, don’t forget to search Google for more opportunities.
Here’s the best way to do it:
- Open up Google
- Type “[niche or product] + affiliate program” into the search bar
- Browse through the results
Depending on your niche, you may be limited to what you can find. Mine is somewhat limited, due to most companies not offering affiliate programs, so I still rely mostly on the big networks.
If a company doesn’t offer an affiliate program, you can always reach out and ask if they ever would consider one. Pitch your numbers—think sales for other advertisers, traffic numbers, etc. There’s no company out there that wouldn’t want more business.
Final Alternatives to Amazon Associates
There are still more affiliate networks out there you can try, though I don’t have experience with them all:
Amazon is quickly becoming less and less important in my realm of monetization. With the commission cuts in April, it’s clear to me they’ve grown too big and eventually will kill the program off entirely.
Adjusting to this change today will serve you well in the future, even if you still rely heavily on Amazon. The time is now to diversify and limit yourself from being too reliant on one source of income.
And just like Amazon, every one of these companies’ terms can flip at the stroke of a pen.
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