Get your blog holiday-ready by using text links instead of banner links. Also, make sure you’re following their ToS and FTC guidelines so you don’t get kicked out of the program!
Since today is Black Friday, I imagine a lot of you are finishing up some gift guides (or starting on them). One thing I’ve noticed a lot of bloggers struggling with, though, is inserting Amazon ads within their posts.
First, let me explain that, yes, you do need to be an Amazon Associates member in order to add your affiliate link. To apply, go to Amazon.com, scroll to the bottom, and under “Make Money With Us,” click on, “Become an associate.” From there, just follow the directions Amazon gives you. You will have to do a trial run–they want the ads put on your blog before they approve you (there’s a reason, but I don’t remember what it is).
Unfortunately, due to take legislation laws in Arkansas, Colorado, Mississippi, Maine, and Rhode Island, you cannot join Amazon Associates if you live in those states. Edit: It seems Vermont is being added to this list, as well.
Once you’re an affiliate, you’ll need to put a disclaimer on your blog. The specific one they want you to use (but they make sure to hide it because why not?) is this:
“__________ 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 Amazon.com.”
That disclaimer is found here under “10. Identifying Yourself as an Associate.”
Lots of people get kicked out (and lose all the money they’ve made) by not having that on their blog. So make sure you’re using it!
Now the reason I’m concentrating on text ads is because I’ve found they do better than banner ads. I haven’t made anything off of the banner ads I’ve put up, but my text links are very popular. For one thing, I can actually give my opinion on products if I’m inserting them into a post, which my readers prefer. No one wants to blindly buy something–they like product reviews (or even just a short, “Hey, I used this and it didn’t suck!”).
That said, if you want a tutorial for banner ads, let me know and I’ll write one up.
Inserting Text Ads
Sign into your Associates account. To do this, go to Amazon.com and at the top of the page, you’ll see a bar. On the right side of the bar will be an “Amazon Associates” button. Click on that and sign in.
Go back to Amazon.com, find a product that you want to promote. I chose Blog Inc. (which is a book I would love to have). Click on “Link to this page” in the bar on top.
A window will pop up with a code for a banner link. Click on the “Text” tab instead.
More code. You can either insert your own text and use the code OR you can just do what I do (which I find easier) and single out the link. Highlight everything in the quotations. You can see an example here:
Copy (CTRL+C) and paste (CTRL+V) into your blog’s link.
Save and you’re done!
A few things to keep in mind
A lot of people ask, “Why can’t I just copy and paste the link from the address bar in my browser?”
You can, but you won’t get the commission. When you sign up for Amazon Associates, you get your own Associates code (mine is budgir-20). You’ll find that code within the link that you copy using the method above.
There is also a lot of confusion about charities. YES, you can donate all Amazon Associates proceeds to any charity of your choice. Once you have the money, it is yours and you can do what you want with it. HOWEVER, you are NOT allowed to advertise what you’re doing with it. Amazon believes that telling your readers that you’re donating any or all of your commission will coerce them into buying when they otherwise would not have. Therefore, it is not allowed. Just make sure it is clear that your links will go to Amazon and that you will receive commission for anything purchased. That’s it.
You re NOT allowed to buy things through your own Amazon ID. This goes against their Terms of Service and will get your kicked out of the program. If you do it by accident, don’t freak out. I have done it by accident before and they simply removed the credits from my account. Just be careful not to do it again.
You are also not allowed to give out your ID to friends and family members. The commission needs to be coming directly from people clicking from your blog.
Prices on Amazon change frequently, as well, so it’s best not to list prices in your blog posts.
To keep Google from thinking your blog is spam, be sure to add a “nofollow” tag to the links. To do that, you have to click on the “Text” tab when editing your entries, look for the HTML code, and all rel=”nofollow” to it. Like this:
<a href=”http://URL HERE” rel=”nofollow”>TEXT HERE</a>
That tag tells Google’s bots not to scan the link. If you have a bunch of affiliate links without the nofollow tag, it will think your blog is spam. (If you already have a bunch of affiliate posts up without the nofollow tag, just edit them to add it.) If you don’t want to mess with the code, you can download a plugin for WordPress called Ultimate NoFollow.
Staying within the law
In accordance to the CAN-SPAM Act, you must NOT post Amazon links (or ANY affiliate links) within an email. That include emails that get sent via your RSS feed. If you want to post text links, then you need to set your emails to only include an excerpt, NOT the whole post. Including affiliate links within your newsletters or RSS emails is considered spam and can get you into trouble with the FTC.
Speaking of the FTC, you NEED a disclosure statement on EACH post that contains affiliate links (not just Amazon). When dealing with Amazon, it’s best if your statement specifically has the disclosure statement I posted in the intro to this post. I also have a generic, “This post contains affiliate links, meaning I will make a small commission from anything you buy” for any post that contains any kind of affiliate link. Amazon doesn’t like it and they have kicked people out for it. If that happens to you, fight it. It is illegal for you to have affiliate links and not disclose it near the link. If you are caught breaking this law, you AND Amazon will be fined. (I’ve heard of it being as high as $250,000.)
This statement must also be ABOVE the post. For a long time, the FTC allowed us to keep our disclosure statements at the bottom of the post. This changed a couple years ago and now the FTC requires the statement to be above the affiliate links. For more information on the FTC, I recommend Are You Disclosing Properly in Your Posts?, New FTC Rules, and The FTC Clarifies Their Rules for Bloggers.
I also include a link to my own Disclosure Statement, which you are more than welcome to use as a template.