What you will learn
Gael: Hey guys, welcome to the Authority Hacker podcast. Sorry if we haven’t been too regular lately, it’s been the holidays so Mark and I took a little bit of time off, and we’ll be back on our regular schedule really soon, so give us a week or two and you should be getting a podcast every day. But today, I’m with Perrin and we are going to talk about optimizing the Amazon affiliate program revenue for your site. How’s it going Perrin?
Perrin: Pretty good. I actually have been taking some time off too, because I am moved across the country.
Gael: Where are you now? So that your friend can stalk you?
Perrin: I’m in North Carolina. Actually, like a woman fan stalked me I have met with quite a few in Chicago so I bet there are going to be less here in North Carolina, but…
Gael: Now they are all going to move there.
Perrin: I know. [laugh]
Gael: Cool. So I think it was important to talk about the Amazon affiliate program, I think first of all because it’s really popular, a lot of people are using it as a first form of monetization on their site and second of all because, it’s still a little bit tricky, you still have to make a sale even though Amazon is definitely the easiest sale to do, I mean, Mark and I we are more email marketing and high paying affiliate programs rather than Amazon, although we still make four figures a month on Amazon, so we definitely make money from it but we probably make four times more form high paying affiliate programs than we make from Amazon, but you are on the other hand more oriented towards Amazon for your site, right?
Perrin: Yeah, I am trying to move away from it, and we can talk about that later, but it is still the main source of revenue for my current site. It makes up the bulk of my revenue and it is about two thirds.
Gael: Yeah, I mean, it’s a good place to start, right, can you just explain for people who haven’t used it how the Amazon affiliate program works in broad strokes?
Perrin: Sure, yeah, so the Amazon affiliate program works basically like any other affiliate program, and the way affiliate programs work in general is that you refer a customer or a potential customer to a vendor site or a retailer site, if the customer then buys something, you get a commission. There are of course lots of ways affiliate programs pay out, but for Amazon, you get a commission when someone buys something. Also with Amazon, there is a tiered structure, so the more customers you refer, the higher percentage of that sale you get, it starts at like 6% and it goes up to I think the highest I’ve ever got was 8,5%.
Gael: Yeah, I mean it goes up more, it goes 10% or 12% or something. But like you need to sell a lot.
Perrin: Yeah, I am not sure, I thought it was 8,5% but I honestly don’t know.
Gael: Okay, maybe, I need to recheck, we probably posted graph on the site anyway. So, I think one thing that also is important for the Amazon affiliate program is that usually, with a lot of affiliate programs where you send people to a product, and then if people buy it, you get paid, but if they buy another product, you don’t get paid, right. Whereas Amazon you get paid for everything people might buy on Amazon but only for the next 24 hours.
Perrin: Right, so that’s the trade-off, is that all you have to do is get somebody on to Amazon.com and then you can basically let Amazon convert them, which is what Amazon does better than maybe almost anybody, any major physical goods retailer anyway. However, most affiliate programs if you are in the affiliate marketing space you might know this already, lots of affiliate programs have like a 30 day cookie, 60 day cookie, sometimes even a lifetime cookie, Amazon only gives you 24 hours to get that customer to buy something. That said, it’s still usually profitable for people because Amazon is so good at converting them.
Gael: Yeah, I mean, to be honest, like when I compare, when I decide like am I going to push that product on Amazon, or maybe on the retailer site, usually, the retailer’s commission needs to be 2,5 or 3 times higher for me to even consider them, just because I might not convert so well.
Perrin: Yeah, so on a typically e-commerce site, I think the benchmark conversion is like 2%, and lots of people start out on like 1,5%, or so, good retailer may have 3% or 4% percent, Amazon pretty regularly for me converts at like 6% or 7%, it’s very high.
Gael: I am checking out a dashboard right now, and we are at like 5.87% actually.
Perrin: Yeah, it’s very high for basically all retailers.
Gael: Yeah, it’s very high, it means like every less than 20 clicks you make money.
Gael: Which is, it’s not very difficult to get 20 clicks.
Gael: It’s definitely possible. So, I think the number one objection that people might have is does it work for my niche or does it work for my site. So does it?
Perrin: That’s going to be a question you have to answer for your site, there is certainly some niches where Amazon works better than others, and there are definitely some niches where Amazon will not work at all. So the niches in which Amazon will not work at all are going to be niches basically where there are no physical goods, so that’s going to be niches where there is no goods at all to sell, like a movie review site, or something, or niches-
Gael: How about the DVDs though?
Perrin: DVDs you could sell, so that’s a bad example.
Perrin: But, you get where I am going with this, so maybe- it’s a general information site, or like maybe a better example would be like a celebrity gossip site, very few products you can reasonably promote on that site, you could stretch, promote their product lines or lipstick or whatever, but it’s not going to be natural. The other niches where Amazon doesn’t work so well are going to be niches in which it’s a purely digital good, or service, so something like insurance or something like that. Amazon works best for physical products so if you are in a niche at all in which people need to buy something, Amazon will work to some extent for your site, some niches are going to be better than others, right, so if you have a site that reviews kids’ toys, there are going to be endless products you can write about, you could have thousands of articles about a thousand different toys, or if you had like a board game site, one of my favorite Amazon affiliate sites is Board Game Geek or- not a Board Game Geek but Shut Up And Sit Down, and they review board games and there are just thousands of board games, so all they do all day is they put out these amazing reviews of board games and they have affiliate links if you want to buy it. Some niches though, say for example rock climbing, there only like 3 or 4 pieces of a gear you need to go rock climbing, or like running, all you need is like shoes,maybe like a watch or whatever, there is just a lot you can promote, so there is a spectrum in any niche you are in, that has physical goods you need to buy, it can work but some niches certainly work better than others.
Gael: Yeah, I mean, I almost contradicted you on the info stuff, because I would have said oh but you can sell Kindle books, right? But the truth is, if you are going to be selling infoproducts I don’t think Amazon is a good deal as well, because they pay a little bit more for Kindle I think, I think they pay up to 15% for Kindle books and stuff, but, the truth is, and we do that a lot, with Mark, we sell a lot of info products that’s 90% of what we sell on Health Ambition, apart from the Amazon stuff physical products, but the commission rates for info products tend to be much higher, like we are talking 50 to 90% for some other stuff we sell. So, Amazon-
Perrin: If you are not on Amazon, right?
Gael: Yeah, exactly, so that’s the going rate for selling info products, you know. So, then Amazon doesn’t really become worth it, probably it could work it could probably sell something, Kindle books, but to be honest, out of 10 bucks Kindle books you get 10% that is 1 dollar. And, it’s probably not worth it, we make for a lot of ebooks we sell and that’s B2C we sell like weight loss and nutrition stuff, between 30 and 100 dollar commission is very often per single sale, you know.
Perrin: Yeah, right, and honestly the only sites that I have ever seen doing really well promoting Kindle books as an affiliate are very big, dedicated, ebook promotion sites, so they have like ebook deals of the day or whatever, and they will give you a link in email, which we are going to talk about because it’s a little bit risky for them, but, they will be promoting like daily Kindle deals and then all the links are going to be in affiliate links, those sites can do really well, and I’ve seen a few on Flippr that are medium size, that make like 2 or 3 thousand dollars a month or something, but, as far as just like general niche sites, you know, like a fitness site promoting fitness books, I think it will be a lot harder.
Gael: Yeah, I don’t think you can make a living out of that, out of selling Kindle books, although you can make a really good living selling high paying infoproducts.
Perrin: Yeah, big ton.
Gael: Okay, so I think we get how it works, now a lot of people are going to ask okay, how do I get people to buy, like what kind of keywords should I target, what kind of content works, how do I transition from being a piece of content to people swiping their credit cards on Amazon?
Perrin: There is certainly a way that I have done it, that I’ve been successful with and it’s the way that we kind of teach, especially in some of the courses that we have upcoming for newer folks, we are just getting into digital marketing, but it’s not the only way to do it, so let me kind of talk about both of those. The first one is to target keywords that show strong buying intent. Those are going to be keywords, with modifiers that indicate that the person searching for that keyword is far along in the buying process. So, the one that everybody knows is going to be best, so if you are seeing the best toster, best running shoes, whatever, if you type in any of those keywords that you can think of best anything, you are going to find and Amazon niche site probably in the top results. The other big one is reviews, so reviewing specific products, I had a lot of success with this when I ran my little shaving site, where I would review specific razors that were really popular, there is a specific type of razor called the ‘mercur 180’ it’s just a staple in the industry, it’s a good starter razor, lots of people buy it first, when they first get into shaving as a hobby, and I reviewed that one and I made lots of money with it because there were so many people looking for reviews on it, right, so those types of keywords best reviews are kind of the bread and butter of a lot of niche site builders but they are not the only ones, you can also ‘top’ you can use modifiers like ‘cheap’ but you want to put these on the front of the types of products in your niche, so that you can capture the traffic that is looking to make a buying decision.
Gael: I think ‘under x dollars’ as well works pretty well, a lot of people are like oh search ‘shaving razor under 100 dollars’ or something.
Perrin: Yeah, when I was at Niche Pursuits we had a site in the technology niche and all of the keywords were blank technology under 500 dollars, under 300 dollars, under 1000 dollars, that sort of thing, so that works really well, in industries in which there are lots of different price points, so for example, one of the markets I have always kind of wanted to go into is telescopes, right, telescopes you can buy for 59,99 or you can buy for 1200 dollars. So, in that industry lots of the best keywords are going to be ‘x size telescope under 500 dollars’ or whatever. So those are certainly really good ones. There are other ways to do it though. I have a colleague, and I think you are going to know who I am talking about, he has a site that doesn’t target those at all, but he just puts text links in the articles about that thing, so he writes really good articles and all he does is provide good information but when he mentions the product, it’s an affiliate link to Amazon. his site gets good traffic but it’s not necessarily people in the buying process specifically, but because the information is so good, the people are looking up that information they might be interested in those products, he makes a really good living last time I checked, do you know what Ii am talking about, I am trying to be vague and specific?
Gael: Yeah, I know who you are talking about.
Perrin: So, you don’t have to target the best blank keywords or reviews keywords, you really can write really good information and put text links in, you are not going to have as high of a click through rate, necessarily, and your conversions when people get to Amazon might be a little bit lower because they are not looking to buy specifically but, that guy last I heard was making more money than I did, or than I do.
Gael: Yeah, I mean, we do that as well on Health Ambition actually, we have a lot of even the new ones, articles, that will mention a solution, and I actually wrote a blog post on Authority Hacker back in the day how to sell with solution oriented blog posts. So, I am going to give you the funny example that I reviewed the few times already, the post about how to stop farting on Health Ambition, that’s pretty popular like that one makes Amazon sales, because people can take activated carbon that basically absorbs gas in their stomach essentially. And, people land on that page asking, literally top keywords are like ‘why do I fart all the time’, and, ‘how to stop farting’ it’s a very classy blog post. And so people are looking for solutions, right, and then we list a bunch of solutions, like a bunch of like supplements people can take, and these makes pretty good sales as well, like I see a bunch of that activated carbon go from Amazon and obviously, we are definitely not making a ton of money because this is actually pretty cheap, but it’s actually pushing up number of items we sell which means that we get to higher commission rates.
And also, these posts, these solution oriented posts, they get a lot more traffic than a review post. If you say ‘best activated carbon’ that’s probably going to be like 100, 200 searches a month. But like ‘how to stop farting’ is like something like 25 thousand. So even if your click through rate is alright, your conversion is alright, it actually, makes okay money, and also, it’s a lot less competitive and the people that build tiny Amazon sites they don’t really target these keywords. We usually mix the monetization for this post so we also have ads on it and we have opt in pop ups and so we run all our email marketing which is definitely what makes us the most money these days. So we kind of like mix all three together, but, what I also like about these posts is that these posts get backlinks. And so, you can do your review post and you can link to that post, from your solution post, so like I have my ‘how to stop farting’ then I can make a blog post on what is the best activated carbon to buy for bloating for example. And I can link to that post from there and then that can link build to ‘how to stop farting’ blog post, and that actually pushes my review post plus both of them make sales.
Perrin: Yeah, for sure, and so usually the way I typically like to do that or the way it looks in practice, for me, is I like to fill out my site with lots of solution oriented posts anyway, not necessarily to sell products, but just to be a good resource and to capture more traffic in general. But, when I have a few solution posts I end up doing really well, and we both have these for our sites, right, like we write these problem solution posts and a few of them are kind of right at the top end up capturing lots of long tail traffic, etc, when I see those start to raise to the top, those real winners that kind of present themselves, I can go back another post and say okay, what products would solve this solution for this person and then maybe I put those in the section up at the top or something. Or, I make solution number one try the supplement or whatever it happens to be.
Gael: Yeah, that works but there is also value in actually having it in your process, like I am finding that the long tail is actually bringing quite a bit of revenue, at least in terms of traffic, like around half a million a month, yeah, it’s we used to do it that way, but now actually we are trying the editorial team to actually include products from the get go, and I’ll explain how we manage the links and that’s going to make more sense, but actually, even if it’s not much, even if an article makes like 20 bucks or 30 bucks a year of Amazon commissions, we are talking like 2,5 dollars a month or something. It really adds up if you publish regularly. So, I think when you are low on resources, doing what you said is the best but I wouldn’t be afraid to go down to like the top 50 or 100 pages on your site, even if pages only have 500 visits per month, it still adds up.
Perrin: Sure, yeah, and I think the only counterargument for that is if you have a brand new site and you are like doing heavy link building and that sort of thing, you do risk looking like a thin affiliate site if you are not adding lots of value and writing good articles, so just as a best practice, I like to keep my percentage of articles that have affiliate links low, below half, it’s lower for me now because I just write a lot of articles, but, if you are the point where Health Ambition is putting them in all the articles that you are writing, because the site is so big can really make the revenue add up over over time.
Gael: Most of people they put some big flashy buttons and blinking and like click here and like 3 arrows pointing to the button etc, like when we do these in info articles they’re literally like a plain link and we are linking out to so many resources and authorities like government sites etc to back up all the health claims we make etc, like an article will probably have 20 to 50 links maybe, like, 1 or 2 will be Amazon, I am telling you, like the average reviewer will not even see it.
Perrin: Yeah, it’s only the person that is reading that paragraph that wants to try that solution. And that’s really important point too, is that that works really well if you are writing an article that is really solving somebody’s problem, I think a lot of people make a mistake there where they are writing an article and the first thought that they are thinking the reason to get that article written is how can I sell this product, that’s okay sometimes, but in this scenario-
Gael: It’s secondary.
Perrin: Yeah, it’s secondary. And that’s kind of why it works with those specific types of articles.
Gael: Yeah. Totally, it’s kind of like an aftertale, it’s like oh yeah by the way here is a good one on Amazon but usually, the article is written without the link given, and then it comes up.
Perrin: Yeah, and the colleague we are talking about he doesn’t even do that, it’s just when that word comes up, he kind of hyperlinks to it and that’s it, he doesn’t even call it out. And it works really well for him.
Gael: Yeah, it’s just about not overdoing it in these info articles, it’s like value first, and people might click. And, when you do your review post, you can go a little bit heavy on pushing people to click, you know. I wanted to talk, since we talk quite a bit about email marketing, I know you are not doing much email marketing at this point, but what would you say about people that are doing some email marketing that want to use Amazon?
Perrin: So, it’s tricky, putting Amazon links in the emails is against Amazon terms of service, big no- no, very easy way to get banned and it’s one of the reasons the free ebook sites are having a lot of trouble now. So there is kind of a battle going on with big sites. Buck books I think is what it is, they were putting Amazon links in the affiliate emails and a lot of ebook sites were doing that, it’s against the terms of service and a lot of them are being banned, not to mention Amazon is very ban happy right now, so they have been banning a lot of people for a lot reasons, if you are an email marketer if you have a big list, that does not mean you can use Amazon associates or you can leverage your email list to sell products with Amazon you just have to be a little bit more creative about it and you have to make it more of a two step process, so instead of just blasting out affiliate links, like you could with Clickbank products or whatever, what you want to do is write a blog post or pick a blog post that’s already written that your list would like, and then put Amazon links in that blog post. I haven’t done this because I don’t have the big email list for my site yet, but what a lot of people like to do is do curated products, you know, so if you have say a running website and you have a really big running list, you might put together a list of like the best running shoes for the first quarter of 2016 and then when people go to that post, because they are expecting to look at products, it can really just be a list of products and every single one can have a link to Amazon, or it can be something fun, like goofiest running shorts, whatever, but that’s generally the way you want to do it if you have a big email list and you want to leverage that to sell products on Amazon.
Gael: Yeah. We’ll probably do that for Christmas actually on Health Ambition, so we’re just going to be curating our own best ‘x for y’ type posts, and it’s just going to be a list of like potential gifts people can buy, like health gifts people can buy for their loved ones, and linking out to this posts, and emailing it and blasting it through push notifications in all these ways, maybe even retargeting. Yeah, that’s basically, like email you can’t email directly but you can send traffic to a landing page. To be frank, a lot of more and more affiliate offers, even high paying ones, do not allow email blast directly anymore. Like building a landing page is becoming more and more required and the good news is it can be as simple as a blog post and often these work better than like fancy landing page or anything, so literally, just make a blog post on WordPress and make it hidden if you want, and just email it and it works pretty well. So, I just wanted to mention it because a lot of people do email marketing that listen to us.
Perrin: Yeah, I think as a segue, incidentally, this is also probably how you would market to a social audience, or if you are doing paid traffic at all, I don’t think paid traffic that would produce good ROI necessarily with Amazon, but with a social audience this is also what you can do, you can post links directly to Facebook with Amazon, I asked my rep about that specifically, they view your social accounts as part of your internet entity, as part of your website, so you can do it, but, what I found, what a lot of people have found is that social audiences don’t just see a product page and click on it, they want to see 25 amazing running shoes for 2016.
Gael: They want to be entertained.
Perrin: They want to be entertained, yes.
Gael: So, you need to make something fun or like the perfect Disney theme to sports outfit, or something like that or some funny pictures etc, then you can link to Amazon then some people might buy, but yeah, social media it’s like I see so many people, they want to start and they don’t want to put the effort so they are like, oh I am going to monetize with Amazon, and I am going to get traffic with Facebook ads. And, I know it’s never going to work. And I see so many of these people on Facebook. It’s just like, it’s like Amazon id great when you don’t pay for your traffic, but when you pay for your traffic, it’s- like, if it’s your only monetization method, you wither need to be a paid traffic god or you need to have other ways of monetization. It’s just not enough usually, so it’s probably not an idea you should go for, if you are listening to this and you are thinking I want to do Amazon affiliates and Facebook ads together, big No- No unless you are building a brand email list etc.
Perrin: Yeah, but I think takeaway is that writing those types of clickworthy blog posts that are curating products in a fun way is a really good skill to have because you can use it for both email marketing and social media marketing.
Gael: Yeah, I think John Dykstra does that, as well.
Perrin: Yeah, and he is really good at it.
Gael: Yeah, he was mentioning it, I was reading his book, which is really good by the way, go check it out, and he mentioned that he did that and he made, it’s not his main way of making money but it’s one of the ways he makes money. So, it’s pretty well known that Amazon makes a lot of money to affiliates during the holidays, especially Christmas and Black Friday. Is there any specific tactic people should be using to take advantage of that? To get more out of it?
Perrin: So this is the one that I know the least about probably when I was looking at the notes for this podcast. So first of all, if you have a site that is working and making money with Amazon, during Christmas you will probably like double your money anyway just because when people click the link from your site to go look at the best running shoes, they are also going to buy the toys for the kids, and the flat screen tv for their husband, and you get commissions on all that stuff, right, you have a 24 hour cookie and you get a chunk of whatever they spend so if you have a working Amazon affiliate site you are going to make more money during Christmas anyway. But, I am sure there are some other strategies I am not thinking of, the only one I can think of and maybe you can talk me through this, the only one I am thinking of is like doing some holiday specific promotions, so gifts for runners, for Christmas time and that sort of thing where you can push it out to your audience, so or you can publish the post and put on the front page of your blog or whatever and i know some people take advantage of it that way, some people also and maybe this is the way you are thinking of it, I am just kind of talking out loud here, some people also make holiday specific niche sites, right, so they make like Easter sites like and what they recommend is like Easter baskets and for ten months out of the year they make nothing, but for those two months they make 10 thousand dollars or something. So there are those opportunities there also.
Gael: Yeah, I think the blog post is the way to go as well actually, that’s why I like authority sites to be honest, essentially, don’t treat your blog posts as blog posts, treat them as landing pages to make sales and you’ve got to be half entertaining and half selling, but like, yeah, it’s like the same thing as I was mentioning via email like how we are going to be curating for the holidays I think that is one way of doing it, I think things like site wide call to actions, like hello bar or something, that links to these kind of posts so that across all your blog posts you have a call to action to that curated post to redirect traffic, so actually if you are listening to these podcasts it might still be going on, if you are listening on a data comes up but like we have one of these call to actions right now on Authority Hacker for giveaway, and these generates quite a bit of traffic, so hello bars types posts directly call to action above your post linking to a curated post that targets your audience. So imagine you have a drone website, let’s change the example a bit, not a paintball one. One thing that you can do as well is that Amazon has Christmas deals and you could be for the ten days before Christmas you could be making one post per day with like all the daily deals in your niche. And then you email, share on social media etc, and people click through and buy stuff, so if you do that and you mix it with the site wide call to action which I really like, it’s like this is why you are blogging all year, you are blogging all year so that you get that traffic, that daily traffic increasing, that daily passive traffic that I call, it’s essentially a mix of social media traffic, search traffic and referral traffic coming to your site, reading your content that you’ve been publishing all year. While with these site wide call to actions you can take a portion of that traffic and redirect it to whatever call to action is worth it for you today. So, we are nearing the launch of Authority Hacker pro, and you’ll definitely see a bunch of these on Authority Hacker, so if you are actually listening to our podcast on the site right now, there is a good chance there is a call to action on the top of the screen right now. And I really like doing that, we do that a lot, using the Thrive Leads option, on Health Ambition, so the way it works is like getting the email subscription is number 1 for us, but Thrive Leads has these pretty cool option that nobody else has, that allows you to show different calls to actions for people that are already subscribed. And you do that through putting a specific link in the email that you send to people, and I put a cookie on their browser, and then they will always see your subscribe call to action, and for these, we link directly to affiliate offers related to the blog post, we link to whatever it is that will make us money for that blog post and usually we use the hello bar type call to actions, and we email the blog post, you know, then the ever time we email a blog post people see these calls to action and click so that allows us to send traffic ongoingly to whatever is making us money, but it’s only working on our subscribers, so we optimize for subscribers and when they are subscribers, we optimize to make money out of him. That was pretty advanced actually, maybe that was too much.
Okay, let’s talk about the next point which is optimizing commission rates. Do you do anything for that or let’s reexplain the rules, if you sell more items on Amazon, no matter their price, your commission will increase, so if you sell 20 items your commission increases, if you sell a 100 items, 1000 items, 10 thousand items, every time you get like 0,5 to 1% extra commission rate. And, this does make a difference in terms of the revenue that you make, so do you do anything to optimize that?
Perrin: Not necessarily except for the stuff that I do naturally but I do think it’s important to understand and I think it’s important to keep in mind when you are building a site, so what you really have to think about is that you need products on both ends of the spectrum, right, so the products that are going to make you the most money are going to be the expensive products. If you can recommend that telescope for several hundred dollars, 6% of that is-
Gael: You didn’t make it easy on you.
Perrin: Oh god.
Perrin: 42 dollars, right, because that is a starting commission rate, it’s like 6% so if you recommended a 700 dollar telescope, you are going to make 42 bucks. However, if you’ve got that telescope and you are making 6% on it, you could also recommend lots of telescope accessories and other stuff that a person who is into astronomy might like and they can buy as part of a kit or whatever it is and if you bump that commission rate up, every telescope you make is going to make you more commission, so the basic idea is that you need to recommend product that people are willing to buy on an impulse, so cheap stuff, if they to Amazon they go yeah, sure, why not it’s only 15 dollars or whatever. However, those by themselves aren’t going to make you that much money because the commission is so low so you need to combine those which are meant to generate sales volume to get your commission rate higher with expensive products that can generate lots of dollars per sale, so the most successful people I know are the people who recommend a few really expensive products but also are good at recommending enough products to enough people that their commission rate is high on those expensive products.
Gael: Yeah, I mean, I am going to out one of Mark’s first affiliate sites here, it doesn’t exist anymore, but you know how every time you buy a new smartphone you need to cut your SIM card? They get smaller and smaller, he made this like, to just to bump his commission rate for all his other sites, he back then he made a niche site just reviewing SIM cards cutter. These things cost like a dollar, they are very cheap so he would make like 7 cents commission on the sale, which basically it costed more money to take the money out than the money he was making, but I think at some point he was selling like 40 a day or something, and that bumped his commission rate on everything else and that was worth thousands of dollars to him. It’s like definitely selling stuff that people buy on impulse, or stuff that people buy a lot, right, like I am thinking like a cartridge for printers for example, that kind of stuff, people would buy for 6 month or something, they buy like 4, 5, 6 or like pair of socks if you are reviewing ski equipment, that kind of stuff that people are going to buy like 5, 10, because it’s based on the number of items not on the value, then you can really- the same thing, the same telescope that you were mentioning that you make 42 dollars on, if you ever get to 9% commission rate which is pretty hard to get, if you ever get there, instead of getting 42 dollars for that sale you will get 63 dollars.
Perrin: It’s a 50% increase in your money.
Gael: Yeah, that’s huge.
Perrin: That’s really big so it might not make a huge difference for one telescope but if you have a nice site and you are making 3000 dollars a month on those products, that takes it up to 4500 dollars a month which is a major difference.
Gael: Yep,although you probably make a lot more money if you had 9% but yeah. I want to talk about tracking IDs for a second. Okay, let’s explain what tracking ID is. Tracking ID is basically a parameter you can add to your url that allows you to somewhat be able to try to guess where the sale came from and that is usually the only tools affiliates have to understand what part of their marketing made the sales, so like that can be which post, which part of their site, whatever it is, but it’s kind of up to you to organize it and actually I think we should make a big guide on how to use Tracking IDs some day, that’s going to be really nerdy but I think that would be useful. Anyway, I just wanted to ask if you use them and how do you organize them?
Perrin: I do use tracking IDs, I think I do it differently than most people, I do, I try to keep my tracking IDs to as few as possible, first of all because you cannot delete tracking IDs on Amazon once you create them, so if you just go ham and you start creating like a whole bunch of tracking IDs for every little thing you need, you are going to run out and you are going to be stuck with them and you can’t rename them and all this other stuff, so it can be very annoying, so I try to create as few as possible, so let’s first of all think about what you need the Tracking ID for. You need to maybe test revenue from particular source of traffic, you might want to see what your best pages are, and you might want to like split test different types of stuff that might affect your sales rate or your conversion rate or whatever. What I like to do is have one primary Tracking ID for the whole site and then when I want to test something I have 3 or 4 testing and tracking IDs which is usually all I need to test like specific page layouts or whatever, and then I also have one for like social and if I ever started doing some email marketing I would create one for email marketing and then depending on what I do at social, like so for example right now I’ve been building my Facebook page, if I ever got into Pinterest I might create another one for Pinterest, so I kind of have one for every thing.
Gael: How do you do that though, if you promote the same page?
Perrin: Right, so you might have to create two pages
Gael: How do you do that though, if you promote the same page?
Perrin: Right, so you might have to create two pages and like no index one, or two or do a 37:15 call to the first page or whatever, depending on how much you want the tests, but, usually, I use different IDs only in so far as a test things, and then if I decide I want to make that change, I use my journal ID sitewide, and example of that is I have product tables on my site, that’s one of the ways I optimize my click through rate, and I was testing a bunch of them and I basically used Google analytics to split traffic to 3 different types of pages, and I had to track the ID for each page. And then, over the course of the week I just recorded the revenue for each tracking ID to see which table was the most profitable. But, after I figured that out, I went back to my general ID site wide.
Gael: Cool, what was the most profitable one?
Perrin: My original one. [laugh] So and it was really dumb, I made like this huge like animated lie insanely complex thing with Thrive Content Builder, it honestly took me like 15 hours to make this table, it was really crazy, and I just made no money.
Gael: Okay, well, that happens in tests anyway. But is it one of the cases where less is more, the more people trust it?
Perrin: Yeah, so if we want to kind of segue into conversion reoptimization should we just talk about that now?
Gael: Yeah, go for it.
Perrin: So yeah, the thing that I found is really with affiliate links in articles, that less is more and text links convert better than anything else. So, I have tables in my articles right now, and they are like up top and sort of like under the first paragraph where I have the name of the product, I kind of have the a general price and I give it a rating. But the only link in there is just a hyperlink for the name of the product, one of my colleagues who is also an Authority Hacker Pro member and he is also in my niche, he had big long articles and he would mention, or when he mention the products that serve towards the backend of the article, he would put an affiliate link and his click through rates were just like a third of what mine were, so he was thinking about doing tables and I wanted to save him some work because creating tables is annoying, it’s one of the most time consuming things you do for any article really especially at the beginning of a site, and especially if you are not using Thrive Content Builder, so like I would use plugins like table press early in my career.
Gael: That’s painful.
Perrin: Yeah if you have to do it every single time, and a lot of people are still using, or like custom solution, whatever, so I was like I have a inkling that it’s not the table that makes the conversions happen, it’s just having a group of text links up and near the top of the article, so I was like man, you should just try some bullet points, so he took all the products in that article and he put them in bullet points, like under his first paragraph, and every bullet point was just the name of the product and a hyperlink and then of course, you kind of introduce that bullet you say, if you want to stay some time here the products I am going to be talking about in this article you can click them to check prices on Amazon or whatever, and his conversion rates increased I think like 300%. So one of the things that we found is that it’s not the table, it’s not the design, it’s not necessarily the fanciness of the thing and if you look at my tables and you go across the internet you’ll see lots of people copying them. what we found and that’s small test and it could be anecdotal, that’s not a big sample size, but is that it’s not the table that matters, it’s just having a group of text links up top and that can really do wonders for your conversion. But we also found some related stuff like we found, or I have found some related stuff that might be a little bit counter intuitive so, I found that people generally don’t click on images, there is some conflicting data-
Gael: A lot of people say linking images is a good idea though.
Perrin: Yeah, a lot of people say linking images is a good idea, I found that they don’t increase revenue at all for me.
Perrin: Especially because you can’t alter the images, according to Amazon’s terms of service, so I think some people might be breaking the rule by having an image that includes like a button, that says like buy now, or whatever, but you can’t alter the images at all and in my test I found that they don’t alter the revenue enough to justify putting in a bunch of extra affiliate links in an article. So yeah, I think the two lessons for conversion rate optimization for me and I really do think mine is pretty good, it’s like 40% of the traffic that goes to those articles clicks the links.
Gael: That’s really good.
Perrin: It’s to just have a group of text links up top, and that text links convert better than anything else, so I will typically have a group of text links up top and then I have a big informational section and I might talk about the products specifically briefly at the end and I have another quick text ink in there and that seems to work the best.
Gael: Okay, maybe I am going to kick all the buttons out from health Ambition then.
Perrin: That’s honestly like I am thinking about some news sites now, not to cut you off here but just real quick- thinking about some new sites now and I am building one site, it’s not going to be an amazon site but I’ve got a niche that I might get into next year that will be a big Amazon site, similar to my current one, and for that one I would not do tables at all, because they take so much time and it’s just easier to create a bullet list.
Gael: Just hire someone to do it.
Perrin: That’s the thing that was like, and you know this, I create tables with Thrive Content Builder, and getting someone like training a VA-
Gael: But like what you can do is you can template it, right? So the person that does that for us they literally drag and drop the whole table at once and I just click the text to change it.
Perrin: Yeah. And it could work.
Perrin: I think for people using like the backend WordPress who aren’t using Thrive Content Builder, probably should avoid tables altogether and just do bullet list or if you want to be different you can do bullet list too. Because, I am personally tired of seeing the same Amazon tables for every Amazon niche site because I get used and overused and it’s kind of annoying, I think bullet list, people respond to them because they don’t feel like you are trying to trick them with like fancy css and all this other stuff.
Gael: I would agree with that. Less tends to be more. I am really thinking of turning down the formatting on some of our stuff actually, to make it feel more like a personal blog rather than something that is too professional.
Gael: Okay, I think another question that a lot of people will have, given the size of our sites, given the amount of Amazon links we have on our sites, how do you manage the links? Do you just copy paste the Amazon link to your site or do you do something else?
Perrin: So I differ with a lot of people here, I really do copy and paste the Amazon link directly to my site, and it’s always a hyperlink for some text of course, but, it is the raw link, it’s no followed, but I use no affiliate link software. A lot of people use Thirsty affiliates, a lot of people use genius links, those seem to be the two most popular and they do make it much easier to manage your links, However, and I know what I am about to say there is conflicting evidence, every time I have talked to Amazon support they have told me that I cannot alter the links at all and people even in their own community, and in the Authority Hacker pro community have talked to support and gotten a different answer from Amazon support. because I am so risk averse, and because Amazon is suck a big part of my revenue, I don’t want to take the chance of getting banned, so I personally choose to just use the raw links. Now, obviously that makes it hard to manage, so there are a few plugins that you can kind of work around, what I like to use is called better search replace, basically what it does is it runs through the html of your whole site and you can say like when you find this thing, replace it with this thing, so for example, like if you were to sell the site, you wouldn’t want to go change every affiliate link by hand, it would be a nightmare. I’ve done that before and it’s just the worst two or three days you can spend. But, you can say like hey, here is one tag, replace it with this tag and it will do it for your whole site, it’s not as nuance as like link manager would be, you can’t say I want to change only this product or only this pages, those you just have to do by hand if you are doing ab testing or whatever, and I still do that, I am just so risk averse with my site and I am so paranoid that I choose to only use the raw affiliate links .
Gael: Yeah, I think people, you actually have a blog post coming up soon, that will explain to people a lot why you are so risk averse. We actually use genius, we’ve tried a lot of things, and I am going to explain what genius is in a second, but we like it actually; so, genius is, it’s not your average affiliate link manager, it’s essentially a plugin, it’s an external tool but there is a WordPress plugin that you install on your site, you plug your Amazon affiliate IDs to the software service that they have on their platform and then it takes any normal Amazon link, so like we literally link to the products to Amazon without the affiliate ID so like we tell our writers to link to Amazon products and we don’t even alter that, and then it just replaces it with a shortened affiliate links, it runs through Amazon’s API actually, which is why I am really, I would be really surprised if it wasn’t supported, especially since like companies like Universal or PC gamer or Macrumors use them. They are pretty big. But what we like as well is that they convert the link to the local version of Amazon so if you click on the link, and you are in the US you get to amazon.com if you click on the link and you are in the UK you go to amazon.co.uk, if you click on the ink and you are in Germany, it goes to amazon.de etc, it does its best to match with this exact same product on the version of Amazon where people go, obviously it doesn’t always work, the plug is not always here on every version of Amazon so in that case it does a search for the name of the product so the Amazon search it comes up with what is closest so people can click on it, but they are still tagged anyway, so and it’s actually free for the first one thousand clicks per month, and then it’s ten dollars per ten thousand clicks, usually, what I found is that when you get over 1000 clicks the extra money you make from the different variations of amazon, .com, .uk, .fa, .de etc, are for Genius, so I would say that it makes even a bit more money, so like, it basically costs nothing, that’s the way I take it. And, it makes working with outsourced people so much easier because they don’t have to like log in your affiliate account and affiliate links etc, they just stick to the product that they think is good, in the context for Amazon, they don’t have to worry about monetization and Genius just does everything else. That allows us to scale things up a lot like, it’s so much less management actually which we like.
Perrin: Yeah. And there really needs to be, the thing that I don’t like about the Amazon associates program is that when you get down to the lower levels of this support, ti seems like nobody really knows what is going on, definitively, so you can talk to one support person and they will tell you one thing and then you will talk to another support person and they will go hang on, I have to look it up and then they will make a guess, you know. And that makes a little bit scary.
Gael: They give you the different answers to the same question. We’ve had people asking the same questions about like can I get money expandage etc some people say yes, some people say no, so like Mark for example, he asked and they said okay for genuis apparently for you they said no.
Perrin: It’s different with bigger affiliates too, so the wire cut our pc world, they get dedicated wraps, and I know because I just got my own dedicated wrap so I think I’m just barely big enough to get my own dedicated rep but their reps are certainly very involved with what they are doing especially for someone like the Wirecutter who is probably making millions and millions of dollars a year. So at that point, there is more of conversation where you can say if you are the Wirecutter hey, I really need some way to manage these links can you work with me and they’ll probably say yeah. But for the rest of us, where they will ban you and never talk to you again, then it’s a little bit scarier but also, it shouldn’t be scary for you if Amazon is not a huge chunk of your income, I don’t think. Because it is supported by the API and all this other stuff so take what I say with a grain of salt, I am very paranoid.
Gael: Yeah, I just want to say you were scared about doing the podcast on that topic, we are on track to make the longest ever podcast for Authority Hacker right now, right. So, if you are still here, I want to talk about the native ads as well. The native ads are something pretty new actually, it’s not the cpms, they have two different ones. They call it recommendation ads maybe? Essentially they are blocks of 4 or 8 recommended products that look pretty good, are mobile responsive etc, that you can put inside your content or wherever you want, and it does a little bit like AdSense, right, it scans the content and it finds the most relevant products, or you can yourself choose which products you want to show in a certain block or something. Did you use that so far?
Perrin: I tried it for a little, but yeah, they didn’t necessarily work for me in a way that was going to be worth it so I was testing them as an ad unit at the same time I was testing lots of other ads units so I was just getting into media.net and I was testing them against the AdSense and stuff, so they did work for me, they made like 7 dollars a day, which was like 200 bucks a month or whatever, and the place that I had them, I had a media.net that was making me much more so 4 or 5 times more than that. And so it became not necessarily worth it to have it in there, only because I thought it looked like there were too many ad units and I was willing to pay 200 dollars for a better user experience. So, I tested them for a little bit, they didn’t necessarily work for me, I know you had a different experience?
Gael: Well, actually it’s funny, because I did, at the beginning they did really like we basically usually put them at the bottom of content that mentions products. So like if an article would just be pure informational we would put something like tabula, and if something was mentioning a solution or something then we’d put these Amazon native ads. And, we changed theme recently so in our previous theme, these did pretty well actually, I think we were making like 500, 600 dollars a month, from these, so it was okay for like the second ad at the bottom, right. But, we changed theme, and now we have them and honestly, they are doing horrible, so I know you are using the same thing that we use right now on Health Ambition, so I am actually `wondering if it’s a theme thing.
Perrin: It could be.
Gael: Because, it was doing much better. Now I am probably going to kick them out actually. Although I really like putting them in the middle of solution oriented content, you know, so let’s say we say like 10 remedies for hangover, and one of them is, once again, this activated charcoal because it sponges the alcohol out of your stomach, sexy, I know.
Gael: Well, in that case, rather than putting a bullet list, I usually put these blocks of four ads, of like four recommended activated charcoal, so I craft each block when we make the content. It’s actually pretty quick, with the generator and I put it there and that works okay, but the bottom ads, right now on FocusBlog they are not doing very well actually.
Perrin: Yeah, and it’s not something where we figured it out, but like any other ad unit, the commitment to just try it is so low, because it takes five minutes to use something like Ad Inserter and just put it in there where maybe you take top ten posts and you just put it in there by hand or whatever, so they didn’t necessarily work for me well enough that I wanted to keep them in, but I know they work for some people and I’ve seen them on some sites, some really big sites that get tons of traffic and I am sure-
Gael: Yeah, like Android Authority uses it a lot for example.
Gael: Yeah, I mean, I guess it really depends, you should definitely try, I think there is a layout thing as well, that counts a lot. Did you ever try the Amazon store thing that the Amazon offers, it feels like very odd.
Perrin: I did, I didn’t try it with my current site but I did try it with my shaving site. And, I basically just created a store with all the most popular products that I come across in the niche, the stuff that I saw were doing well, and then I put a link in my menu, and I just said ‘store’, and when people clicked on it it was essentially just the Amazon a store, and then if you clicked on a product it would take you to an Amazon page where you could buy it, never worked for me, I’ve heard stories of people making them work, and people earning money, however, the people I’ve heard it from often try to sell something I’ve never personally seen in the search results. So, I don’t know, have you used them?
Gael: I have tried it once but like literally everyone that I trust that tried say it’s the worst Amazon product ever.
Perrin: It’s pretty bad.
Gael: So I don’t recommend them unless you hear about it from a guy that is trying to sell you a 7 dollar weso, it’s probably not something I would recommend, I just wanted to mention it because some people will try to it, it’s easy, it’s a little bit lazy. To be honest, the lazier it is the less it works, usually. And it’s no different, right, and there are plugins that allow you to plug Amazon products inside stuff like Woocommerce and there is a plugin called Woozon on Code Canyon, and I’ve heard people making it work, but to be frank, like, I just don’t see the point of creating that extra step of your own shopping cart page on your site that is going to convert a million times less than the Amazon shopping cart page.
Perrin: I think the only reason to do that is we did a small experiment when I was at Niche Pursuits where we had a site and we built pages that targeted ‘for sale’ keywords, so we’d have like blank product for sale, and then they would be one of those types of pages worth like a Woocommerce page, and the buy button would be an affiliate link, those turned out to be very easy to rank for, those four sale pages, the problem with them is that they often have low search volume and very low long tail traffic so while they are easy to rank for, they never made as much money. So again, not really worth it, in my experience. If you are someone who has made it work, please let us know, i know John Dykstra is tinkering with it for a while and he’s got lots of traffic so maybe we should ask him.
Gael: Yeah, I have an opinion actually, actually, but yeah, it’s like, I guess you can, it helps you rank for these ecommerce queries that only have ecommerce stores ranking, but that is basically it. That’s the only thing. And to be honest, like having a fake store on your site, just feels a bit cheaty.
Perrin: Yeah, and what you can do is using for maybe like a combination with fba, that’s what we were trying to do, we weren’t trying to do it within affiliate link, but what we end up doing is just using an Amazon link to our own product. And, so for us, that didn’t make money from an affiliate perspective, but by driving 20 extra people to that product we would make 3 sales and the product was 50 or 60 dollars, so we made some money with that page, but I don’t think it’s going to be anything crazy.
Gael: Yeah. It just doesn’t feel amazing to me as an idea, I am sure you can make some money, but it’s not something that you should be like yeah, that is going to be my business model.
Perrin: Right. And not worth the effort for sure.
Gael: Cool. I am going to go for the last question because we are over an hour now, in that podcast. The terms of service of the Amazon associates program pretty cumbersome-unknown-hard to understand. What would you say are the top 3 things that people tend to do with their promotions that are actually against the terms of service and put them at risk everything on their account.
Perrin: So, number one, the most controversial is going to be altering the affiliate links. So that is one, altering the images- you can’t do that either, I knew somebody who was running a site that was making like 9,500 dollars a month and he thought it was totally by the book and he could not figure out why they were emailing him telling him they were going to ban his account and he ended up finally figuring out and that was because he had altered the images just to have like a red corner that said click here or whatever. But you can’t do that. And then emailing your affiliate links-
Gael: Do you know people that got banned for that?
Perrin: For emailing affiliate links- not personally, I’ve just got wind of the controversy with the ebook sites, because that’s all they do is email affiliate links. But I personally don’t know anybody who has gotten banned for that, I do know people who gotten banned for affiliate link alteration and a few people who almost got banned for altering the images but what usually happens if you violate the terms of service, is you will get an email saying you are violating the terms of service, they will cite like a line or rule most of the time it’s really vague, and then you have to go figure it out and try everything. But in general, if you are worried about the terms of service especially if you are a paranoid like me, the basic way to make sure your incompliance is to first of all- oh no, this is the biggest one! So there is going to be four-
Gael: Okay, go for it.
Perrin: The biggest one is not disclosing that you are part of the Amazon associates program.
Gael: Oh yeah.
Perrin: That is going to get you banned super quickly. So I put that in my footer, so it’s on every page and under my links I say check current prices, so and there are a lots of little things too, like you can’t say ‘click this link to see the best prices’, Amazon has banned people for that I read that in some forums and stuff. But, yeah, so disclose your- in Amazon, don’t make any claims about their prices and then use the naked url if you are really concerned about the terms of service.
Gael: Okay, that’s pretty cool. I think we’re done with that podcast, any last words of advice for people that want to be very successful Amazon affiliates?
Perrin: Yeah, if you knew the internet marketing I think the best way to be really successful with Amazon affiliates is to make a smaller niche your site that recommends really expensive products. That is the way I’ve seen people make money the fastest and it usually can make more money per visitor than say my site where my rpm on article is just like 30 bucks or something, so if you want to give it a try without much investment, it’s probably a good way to do it.
Gael: Okay, well, thanks for listening, if you have any question about the Amazon affiliate program, or if you have any question about anything else that we do at Authority Hacker, you can go on authorityhacker.com/ask and we are going to do a big ‘ask us anything’ podcast soon, maybe you will be on it Perrin, maybe we should do a three way podcast, it’s going to be interesting.
Perrin: Yeah, I would love that.
Gael: And also, we have the Authority Hacker Pro membership finally we are launching soon, so watch out for the emails we are going to be sending, we are going to do a bunch of cool stuff we are releasing some cool blog posts and free courses before that so if you want to launch on your authority site, do what we do for a living, watch out there is going to be a bunch of free content coming your way and there is going to be the opening of the pro community so that everyone gets something out of it. So, guys thanks for listening, Perrin thanks for joining and we’ll see you guys later.