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

Blogger Beware 3 Ways You Could be Breaking Amazons Affiliate Program Rules 300x600 Blogger Beware:  3 Ways You Could Be Breaking Amazons 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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Filed Under: Blogging

Comments

  1. says

    Eek! Thank you for posting this! I was looking to purchase a domain name and set up hosting for the sole purpose of being able to include affiliate links – something you’re not allowed to do with the free WordPress sites. However, I think that the only people who read my blog are friends…so, it wouldn’t be worth it. /sigh

    Thanks, again, for the heads up!

    • says

      You could still do that…friends can purchase through your Amazon affiliate links. You just can’t say, “Hey, will you buy such and such through my link on Amazon?” When you write a post, just include the link and leave it at that. Just make sure you have a privacy policy on your new site.

  2. says

    The good thing about #1 is that Amazon will shorten your link to am.zn link. But I had NO IDEA about #2. What in the world can be done about books already sold? I mean, nothing, obviously. But wow. I’ll have to change that, too! And #3, I don’t buy via my own link (I guess I assumed it just wouldn’t work.) so I usually click thru my fave bloggers’ links! ;)

    Thanks for the info!
    a

  3. says

    I have two questions:

    1. Can we used amazon affiliate links on content websites such as squidoo, hubpages etc. I know many people are already doing this, but I am not very sure if this is allowed.

    2. Can we use affiliate links on social medial websites such as facebook, twitter etc. Here, I am not talking about sharing posts with links but direct links. There is a lot of confusion online as far as this issue is concerned.

    Thank you

    Raunek k

    • says

      Not sure about #1.

      #2 is just fine, as long as you don’t shorten the URL OR You use one of the “Share” buttons from the affiliate stripe at the top of your Amazon account (the bar at the top of the page that allows you to easily link directly from a product page).

    • says

      Also, you’ll want to make sure you’ve added any social media pages (Facebook, Twitter, etc) to your Amazon Affiliate account under websites.

  4. says

    I had heard rumblings recently about not being able to use Amazon links in eBooks (thankfully, I didn’t use any in mine – I had considered it but worried about the rules changing). I had no idea about the other rules you mentioned. Thank you for this information. Pinned so I can pass it along and remind myself!

  5. says

    Awesome Article!
    Thanks for the info!!!
    I just started using Amazon Assosiates after playing around with Google Adsense for a bit (don’t worry, I’m keeping that too… whew) on my blog (fashioninfull on Blogger)
    And I am really hoping to see some results from both,
    Thanks for the heads up!!

  6. says

    Is there any way to track how many free books have been downloaded from your links or what percentage of books being downloaded are free?

  7. says

    what about sites with huge traffic but mainly file sharing. the visitors are there waiting for their download and might as well be looking at products to buy possibly.

  8. says

    There is an Amazon link shortener in your affiliate central. Using that short link is ok.

    Amazon affiliate links that do not come from a webpage will simply not generate any commission. I have a few old ones out there still, and I get “products ordered” listed, but they never move to the “earned” category. Amazon will only credit affiliate referrals from websites. So, it’s not that if you include affiliate links in your ebook you’re earning credit against the rules; it’s just a waste of your time. Same with clicks through emails.

    So I make a blog post about a book I want to link to in my eBook, then link to that post which has the affiliate link.

  9. says

    One of the very best reasons for having Amazon Affiliates is there’s a choice of products to select from, therefore ostensibly no matter what you’re interested in there is a entire type of products that you can market.

  10. says

    I was wondering if you have an opinion on the wording of of #29 with regards to bloggers. I see lots of bloggers asking their readers to please click through their links to help support their blog – in fact I used to do the same thing myself, until I read #29. It seems like a grey area and to be honest I think Amazon’s wording of their TOS is not completely clear. However, I got the impression that Amazon doesn’t want us asking *anyone* to click through our links, even blog readers. I love Amazon and would be sad if I was banned for violating one of their rules. I don’t know for sure, but I worry if I got busted for doing something wrong and they banned my associates account, they may ban my personal account, too. I would rather follow the rules. But I did wonder if maybe I’m reading between the lines and interpreting wrong – or are the bloggers asking for clicks in danger of violating the TOS? Thanks for your thoughts.

  11. Michael says

    I have a new ebook just published for Kindle. I am also an Amazon Associate. Can I post a link on Facebook with my Associate link in it? I understand from an earlier answer this would be OK, if I add my Facebook page to my sites on Amazon. But how does it work if another Facebook friend decided to share my post? I wouldn’t be able to know about that and be able to let Amazon know about their page.
    any thoughts on this?

  12. says

    Thank you so much for this. I was not aware of Rule #2. I was actually, like you, going to create an eBook and at the end I was going to recommend some good financial books that people can purchase (it was partly how I was going to fund this little project of mine!). Unfortunately I guess I’ll have to find some other ways to make this eBook worthwhile. Perhaps I’ll just create an article on my recommended product and THEN put the amazon link on there? We’ll see, haha!

  13. Silver Moon says

    Thanks for the useful information. I am thinking of starting to promote amazon products and was about to do those things you mentioned.

    Are we supposed to use amazon links ONLY on our website that we registered while signing up, or can we put the links on our other websites too ? Are we allowed to share amazon links directly on facebook and twitter ? Twitter will automatically cloak to t.co so that will violate the rules I guess.

  14. says

    What’s interesting with the ebook rule is if you put out a holiday catalogue which is posted on your site with those affiliate links, the rule states that it’s okay to have them like that.

    But if someone downloads the catalog and clicks on the link, that’s considered wrong.

    I’ve never understood the shortening thing since their links were so dang long and ugly. I always thought that as long as you disclosed affiliates on your site that was the most important thing. With them dropping various states around the country and throwing in these double edged sword rules, it’s getting a little tougher with them.

    Thanks so much for those updates since I think probably over half of Amazon affiliates are breaking at least one of them unknowingly!

  15. says

    Hi Jenae.

    I just came across your blog randomly and saw you referenced my comment on Blogging with Amy.
    As I mentioned in her comments section you can’t use your Amazon associate links in offline manner such as in your eBooks though you can use a non-affiliate link.

    Your information on URL shorteners is not quite correct. You can use link shorteners however, if you do you must clarify that the link goes to Amazon. See #5 here: https://affiliate-program.amazon.com/gp/associates/help/t50

    To be safe it is a good idea to use the tools Amazon provides. Many affiliates do not realize that Amazon has a link shortener in their Associates Central. To find this go to the Associates Central home page > Search for a product > Type in the name of the product > On the far right click on the down arrow next to Get Link > The long link will pop up with an option to Shorten URL with Amazon.to

    Hope this helps,
    Lee

    • says

      Good to know about Amazon’s own link shortener. Like Adsense, Amazon has some very specific rules, although I find them to be a lot more straightforward than those at Adsense, which can be a little obtuse to say the least ;

  16. says

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    book in it or something. I think that you could do with a few
    pics to drive the message home a bit, but instead of that, this is magnificent blog.
    An excellent read. I will certainly be back.

  17. says

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    have discovered It absolutely helpful and it has helped me out loads.
    I hope to give a contribution & assist other customers like
    its helped me. Great job.

  18. says

    I’ve been guilty of violating number 1 above ( Shortening Your Affiliate URL) for over a year now. Guess I’m lucky it hasn’t caught up to me yet. Thanks for the share. I will make the necessary correction right away.

  19. says

    Greetings.

    I suppose the term link shortener in this context really means link cloaker which main purpose is to cloak rather than shorten the affiliate link.

    Thank you for all this useful information and discussion.

    Good luck.

    • Patti says

      The Amazon link shortener dramatically reduces the length of the URL. One I used just today was 22 characters, including the slashes, colons and dots. You can actually tweet one of their shortened links – no chance with an original affiliate link.

  20. Muha says

    Thank you for the information but I have confuse about using Amazon material such as product images and consumer review. Can we use the product images and consumer review from Amazon to our website (copy paste) to add the information to our review?

    Thank you for the answer.

  21. says

    I have always used Reviewazon as well as Amazon widgets and I sell quite a bit on Amazon. I decided to give Amazon Publisher Studio a try before Christmas because I like what it does. My visitors can mouse over an image and see the Amazon price and rating. If it’s not working, I still have my images linked to where I want the user to go, so I’m not worried about their server going down.

    HOWEVER, my traffic has really started to drop and I’m wondering if something in the Google algorithm has noticed this addition to my site. It could be something else, but I’m about ready to remove the links and see if traffic comes back.

    • Val B says

      I have also seen big drops in traffic from Google since adding these links to my site. I will be removing them even though I really like the way the work too.

  22. says

    I found this article to be very informative. Big Thanks! It make me realize how effective Pinterest was as I found it on Pinterest after receiving a recommended Pins in an email. Thank you once again!

  23. says

    Thanks for the tips! Just subscribed to an auto-posting service for Facebook where they offer an option to shorten Amazon affiliate links. Good to know that the shortening needs to be through Amazon’s feature.

  24. Christopher Lindsey says

    Another way is by linking to your Amazon wish list. We had a link that said “Support our site and buy us some gifts from our wish list!”

    Amazon shut down our affiliate program without any warning and said that we violated their rules. They said that people might think that affiliate links on our site should be vlivkrf to support us, even though we only had the text on the bookmark button.

    To be clear, the bookmark button just went to the Amazon wishlist hosted at Amazon, not a page with affiliate links.

    Anyhow, Amazon said that once they delete an affiliate they can’t undelete it, so we would need to reapply and start over. It didn’t seem worth the risk if they could pull the plug at any time without warning, so we declined and moved all of our Amazon-hosted servers/data elsewhere.

  25. jamilla says

    so i created a website for book reviews and i used each title as a link back to the amazon website using the affiliate link. are you saying that this is not allowed?

  26. Matthew says

    Awesome article! I have one question though, If I have a physical product that I’ve had manufactured and and am selling on amazon (and having them fulfill the order), Would I be able to sell this on a site I own, and collect a commission through an affiliate link as well?

    I don’t see how it would be any different as anyone else promoting my product on their site, but want to be extra cautious.

  27. says

    I know this is an old post and you may have already answered, and I’ll def be reading the amazon materials but in regards to number 2…I signed up as an affiliate recently and in my email newsletter I have a monthly link up feature of stuff I want to share. Does this mean I’m not allowed to use my affiliate link?

    • says

      Yes, you are correct. That would be a violation of their terms of use. Even affiliate links in blog posts that are in an RSS feed (ultimately going out to e-mail subscribers) are considered a violation. If you have a WordPress blog, I believe there is a plug-in that removes amazon affiliate links from your RSS feed.

  28. says

    Thanks Jenae,

    I didn’t realize we can not encourage family and friends to buy from our links. I almost feel that what is the point?

    I will keep my affiliate links going for a while, but it is a little frustrating. BTW, do you know what rules they use to remove commissions? Is it based on mailing address? Before I found your page, I had given my wife a link to buy some school supplies. When I noticed the sell without commission, that is when I went looking and found your page.

    Thanks again,

    – Doug

  29. sam says

    Hi,
    Google delete my 5 nos. Amazon affiliate blogs. According to my knowledge i did not violate rules.They said I have violated rules. Any body have idea how to handle blogs with amazon affiliate without violating Google rules. Pls advice me.Thanks

  30. says

    Thanks for the heads up on this. I use a private shortener so this is a good time to fix that. I don’t mind using Amazon’s own shortener, but then it sucks because you don’t get your own stats to compare.

    Oh well. Thanks anyway! Great blog.

  31. says

    Bit.ly now creates Amazon links and you can track clicks using them. Jason with Pro Blog School verified with Amazon that this service is within terms. Now to find or develop a Bit.ly plugin that shortens internal post/page Amazon links and not just the whole post/page URL.

  32. says

    Hi Jenae,
    Well, many people are still breaking these 3 rules and Amazon have not done anything about it.
    Have you seen anyone getting banned because of these? Because I have read many ebooks with affiliate links, got redirected to amazon and seen many doing the third one too.
    Thanks for the post! Will try not to do this when I will start promoting Amazon so far I promote Indian estore.

    • says

      No, I haven’t seen or heard of anyone being banned. But technically they could at any time. I don’t want to take that risk. AND I want to be ethical in the way that I conduct myself…whether Amazon does anything about it or not. :)

  33. says

    Hi Jenae,
    I recently started a free wordpress blog. Am I not allowed to affiliate with amazon?? I understand that I cannot install any plugins with the free blog, nor can I join Wordads, but referring amazon product links and earning from that is also not allowed??

  34. says

    I just got banned from amazon. Don’t know what the reasons are. I didn’t shorten the url, or I put it on my facebook. I just leave the link as it as. So desperate of being Amazon affiliate. They don’t pay my last commissions :(
    Btw, thank you for your post. What a great blog :)

  35. don says

    the other thing that stinks a bit is the exclusions list. It comes and goes with different items that AMZ wont payout on and therefore, i have seen people build complete product sites only to find nearly everything on the items they placed is not entitled to receive a commission.
    At the time of writing 27 AUG 14 there wasnt anything listed at https://affiliate-program.amazon.com/gp/associates/help/operating/exclusions but i have seen it stacked on occassions in the past excluding mainly electronic items like brand name GPS devices, TVs etc

  36. Setter says

    I set up my Amazon affiliate website, then I set up a twitter, Facebook, and Google +, for my website. When I post, I link directly to my Amazon affiliate site and use an image of the product in the posts. Is that allowed? Do I have to put the affiliate disclaimer on the social media sites?

  37. says

    I’m so glad I found this post! I’m a newbie blogger and am an Amazon affiliate. I didn’t know about these things. I just wanted to thank you for bringing these things to our attention! I never would have wanted to get into trouble with them :)

  38. 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?

  39. 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

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