Blogger Beware: 3 Ways You Could Be Breaking Amazon’s Affiliate Program Rules

Blogger Beware- 3 Ways You Could be Breaking Amazon's Affiliate Program Rules

We interrupt our regularly scheduled programming to give a word of warning to all bloggers.  Unless you are a blogger, feel free to simply disregard this post.  :)

If you are a blogger, you are most likely part of the Amazon Affiliate program.  It is so easy to implement and can be a great source of income.  It also makes blogging increasingly user-friendly!

Although Amazon is super easy to use, this can sometimes mean that it is also easy to (unknowingly) abuse.  I wanted to share with you three things you could currently be doing that violates the Amazon Affiliates Program Participation Requirements.  I have either done (or come close to doing) each of these things, not realizing they were violating the terms of use, and just want to get the word out to other bloggers!

Here are three ways you could be breaking Amazon’s Affiliate Program Rules (without even knowing it):

 

1.  Shortening Your Affiliate URL:

With the recent Facebook changes, more people see your posts if you only include the link (and not the preview).  The problem is that Amazon Affiliate links are loooong and it just makes sense to shorten them using the Tiny URL or Bitly generator, right?  Wrong.  This is a violation of Amazon’s Terms of Use:

“You will not cloak, hide, spoof, or otherwise obscure the URL of your site containing Special Links (including by use of a redirecting page) such that we cannot reasonably determine the site from which a customer clicks through such Special Link to the Amazon Site.”  -Amazon Affiliates Program Participation Requirements, #30

And

“In addition, you must not use a link shortening service in a manner that makes it unclear that you are linking to an Amazon Site.”  -Amazon Associates Program Linking Requirements (middle of 2nd paragraph)

I have been (unknowingly) guilty of doing this in the past.  It wasn’t until I recently reviewed Amazon’s Participation Requirements that I realized I was violating it!  Either use the full (ugly) URL or use the “Share on Facebook” or “Share on Twitter” options within the Affiliate Site Stripe.

*Update:  If you use the link shortener through Amazon itself (available by searching for individual products on Amazon’s affiliate homepage), these shortened links are permitted.  

 

2.  Including links in eBooks, e-mails or PDF documents:

I nearly violated the Terms of Use for the Amazon Affiliate Program when I wrote my new eBook.  Within the book, I gave several recommendations for books and other products.  As always, I only included books/products I currently use and can personally endorse.  However,  three days before its launch I was reading the comments in Blogging with Amy’s post and someone had commented that you could not use affiliate links within an eBook.  I was stunned and I immediately panicked.  I had never come across this information before, so I began to dig…and dig…and dig to find out some answers.  The problem is that the wording on the Participation Requirements is a bit ambiguous (especially in reference to eBooks):

“You will not engage in any promotional, marketing, or other advertising activities on behalf of us or our affiliates, or in connection with the Amazon Site or the Program, that are not expressly permitted under the Operating Agreement.  For example, you will not engage in any promotional, marketing, or other advertising activities in any offline manner, including by using any of our or our affiliates’ trademarks or logos (including any Amazon Mark), any Content, or any Special Link in connection with an offline promotion or in any other offline manner (e.g., in any printed material, mailing, email or attachment to email, or other document, or any oral solicitation).”  -Amazon Affiliates Program Participation Requirements, #6

See what I mean?  It doesn’t say you can and it doesn’t say you can’t.  In my near panic, I abruptly e-mailed Amazon to hear it straight from the horse’s mouth and this was their response:

“You should not place an Amazon Affiliate link within your book. However, you may add the link to your website within the content of your book.”
There you have it:  You cannot use your Amazon Affiliate Links in an eBook, whether it is a Kindle version or PDF.  You can use Amazon links, they just can’t be your affiliate links.  And just so you know, all of the links in my eBook have been changed to remove my affiliate info.
3.  Using your affiliate link for items you purchase:
As much as it stinks, you cannot use your own affiliate link to purchase items (even if you use a different Amazon account to do so).  And you can’t ask friends or relatives to either (similar to Google Adsense’s policy on soliciting clicks on ads).
“You will not purchase any Product(s) through Special Links for use by you or for resale or commercial use of any kind. Similarly, you will not request or encourage any of your friends, relatives, or associates to purchase any Product(s) through Special Links for use by you or them or for resale or commercial use of any kind. Further, you will not offer any Products on your site for resale or commercial use of any kind.”  -Amazon Associates Program Participation Requirements, #29
UPDATE:  Amazon just changed their operating agreement again.  This change greatly affects those bloggers who promote free eBooks on their blogs/websites:
“YOU WILL NOT BE ELIGIBLE TO EARN ANY ADVERTISING FEES DURING ANY MONTH IN WHICH YOU MEET THE FOLLOWING CONDITIONS:
(a) 20,000 or more free Kindle eBooks are ordered and downloaded during Sessions attributed to your Special Links;
and
(b) At least 80% of all Kindle eBooks ordered and downloaded during Sessions attributed to your Special Links are free
Kindle eBooks.”
Like I said, I would have never known any of this unless I went through the Program Requirements and the Operating Agreement with a fine-toothed comb in my quest for some answers to my eBook dilemma.  Even then, a few things were still a bit ambiguous.  I share this information with you to spare you from ever being reprimanded by Amazon for unknowingly breaking their rules.
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Comments

  1. says

    Great article. But when it comes to the first part I recently had a support person tell me the following “Associates Operating Agreement doesn’t prohibit the use of link cloaking or shortening services provided that the service doesn’t use methods which violate the Associates Program Operating Agreement, such as framing the Amazon site or automatically tagging sessions with your Associates ID”. I would love to know if anyone has gotten the same info regarding this when contacting support?

  2. Matt says

    Jenae,

    I am so interested to be an affiliate, but some of ToS confuse me, I guess we shouldn’t post link in product review? but I saw some of them have affiliate link, here is one example: amazon dot com/review/R8X9S7O5Z8GDD/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm

    Please advice,

    Matty

  3. Vince says

    So what if you have a plugin that redirects links based on country, this is actually illegal. Bad, I have a lot of split redirects on my blog.

    This is needed to send visitors to Amazon UK or US or DE. Often products can’t be shipped to another zone.

  4. says

    Many thanks for this entry. Just what I needed to know, and I guess as many people, do not go through all the fine print each time there is a change, and the first time is a real long time ago.

    the product review link is also an interesting one. The review has to be such, that it refers to your page, where then there can be an affiliate code…

    Many thanks again.

    Richard de Laat

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