Updated March 2, 2018
Are you an Amazon Associate? Do you put Amazon Associates links in your emails? Do your blog posts (with Amazon affiliate links) get sent to subscribers via email? If any of those are true, it’s very, very likely you are violating the Amazon Associates Program Policies.
Update: On March 2, 2018, Amazon updated their program policies. The change affects Influencer Pages (not regular Assocates links). Read more at the end of this post.
This post contains affiliate links, meaning, if you click through and make a purchase or sign up for a program, I may earn a commission. This is at no additional cost to you.
In short, Amazon Associates affiliate links are not allowed in emails. Any email. This includes affiliate links you manually paste into your emails and affiliate links in blog posts that get sent automatically to email subscribers.
Let me back up a bit and break it down.
Is this you?
You have a blog or website. (If not, here’s how to start one.)
You are part of the Amazon Associates program.
In your blog posts, you promote Amazon products using your Associates affiliate links because this is one of the ways you make money on your blog.
As long as you are disclosing properly in your posts, there isn’t a problem so far. Sharing your Amazon affiliate links on your blog is all good.
Here’s where the violation occurs for many bloggers…
Can your blog readers get your posts via email? This is a common option many bloggers offer their readers. Some set this up through their ESP (Email Service Provider), some use a plugin, some use FeedBurner, etc.
If your blog posts containing live Amazon affiliate links end up in your emails you are almost certainly violating the Amazon Associates Program Policies you agreed to when signing up for the program.
But it’s not just blog posts via email. If you are manually putting your Amazon Associates affiliate links in your emails, you are in violation as well. Amazon Associates are not allowed to share their affiliate links in emails or any other offline manner.
Where does it say I can’t put Associates links in my emails?
Amazon says in the Associates Program Participation Requirements (emphasis mine):
5. 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 Associates Program, that are not expressly permitted under the Associates Program 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, SMS, MMS, email or attachment to email, or other document, or any oral solicitation).
Associate links can only be used on approved websites and are not permitted to be used in e-mails, newsletters, or in any off-line manner.
I emailed them to clarify. I linked to the above and asked them if it “applies to Amazon Associates links that I post on my blog, but then are sent via my RSS feed in an email to my blog subscribers?”
The answer was clear. Associates links cannot be in, emails, newsletters, RSS feeds or anything else offline.
And then I chatted with them because it never hurts to ask multiple times. Here’s the summary of the conversation, though not a direct quote:
Amazon Associate links cannot be included in email, only on your website or blog, not even in the emailed version of your RSS feed. Any product link in any email would be a violation. Amazon does not have a standard recommendation for bloggers in this instance. They simply want any Associates link you share to be on your site only.
What about so-and-so blogger who frequently has Amazon affiliate links in their emails?
I said to Amazon, “I can point to many bloggers who have affiliate links in their emails. Are there exceptions once you hit a certain level?”
The answer was a clear no. They stated there are no exceptions. (Also, see Jenny’s comment in which she explains asking the same question.)
But everyone’s doing it. Will Amazon really go after bloggers?
Listen at minute 29:30 in this episode of The Self Publishing Formula Podcast. Mark Dawson, an author, accidentally included his affiliate links in emails sent to his book’s launch list. Amazon figured it out, emailed him and gave him 5 days to fix it or risk getting his account shut down.
So, will Amazon come after you? Well, they did him.
Also, I think it’s worth noting Amazon has taken legal action against site owners who have failed to abide by the rules regarding accepting monetary compensation for reviews. Will they do the same in the case of affiliate links in emails? I have no idea of course, but is it worth the risk?
How can I keep Amazon Associates links out of my emails?
I’m sure there are several things one could do, but here are the things that immediately come to mind, that any beginner could do right away:
- Option 1: Don’t be an Amazon Associate. That’s an option, but for many of us, it’s a sad one and one we wouldn’t seriously consider. So moving on…
- Option 2: Truncate your feed. By that I mean, use a partial feed for your blog, not a full feed. That way, if you do have Amazon affiliate links in your posts, someone will have to click through to your blog before seeing the live affiliate links. This of course assumes the links are not in the first part of your post included in the snippet of your post. (So maybe put them towards the end?) To truncate your feed in WordPress, you can switch to a partial feed by going to Dashboard > Settings > Reading > For each article in feed show: Summary > Save Changes.
- Option 3: Use a plugin. Phil McDonnell and Gretchen Louise emailed me about a plugin Phil wrote that aims to deal with the problem. If you offer a full feed, this might be something you’d want to look into. The plugin automatically takes out any Amazon links in your emails, but keeps them in your blog post. If that sounds like a good fit for you, you can find the plugin here.
Help! I have a lot of Amazon Associates links to fix. Where do I start?
I totally get this. It’s hard to keep up, not only with links in emails, but uncloaking links (such as ones you used Pretty Link for), adding the nofollow tag to old links, etc.
If you’ve been blogging for a long time and have a lot of fixes to make, check out The Blog Fixer. I haven’t used the service personally, but I know Katie (who works with her husband Kris) and between them they have years of blogging experience.
Can I put Amazon Associates links in ebooks, Kindle ebooks, PDFs or other documents?
No. Amazon Associates links cannot be included in any offline manner. “Associate links can only be used on approved websites…”
Can I cloak Amazon Associates links, like with bit.ly or the Pretty Link plugin?
No. It goes against their Participation Guidelines. See 8(v) under “Associates Program Participation Requirements.” To avoid long and ugly affiliate links, use the link shortener Amazon provides. Instructions are here.
Can I put my Amazon Influencer Program unique URL in emails?
Am I automatically part of the Amazon Influencer Program if I’m an Amazon Associate?
No. You have to apply an be accepted to the Influencer Program. Read more about it and/or apply using my referral link here.
What is the Amazon Influencer Program?
The Amazon Influencer Program is a way for some Amazon Associates to increase their affiliate revenue. It’s free to join but you must apply. If your application is accepted, you are given a unique URL which acts as a landing page for your favorite things. If you want to see an example, here is mine.
Can I link to my aStore in emails?
This is no longer relevant. Amazon retired aStores in October 2017 and they no longer earn commissions. Read the retirement announcement here. (When aStores were still functional, the answer was no.)
Can I put affiliate links for other products (not Amazon) in emails?
It depends. Different affiliate programs have different restrictions. We are each responsible for knowing the terms of service for every affiliate program we participate in. There are plenty of affiliate programs that do allow affiliate links in emails. But remember you are still required to include a disclosure of your affiliate relationship. Read more about disclosing properly here.
Putting Amazon Associates links in emails is one of the most common mistakes I see affiliate marketers make. I’ve long wished Amazon would change this policy, but so far, no dice. It’s important to be aware of it and make adjustments accordingly.
You might also be interested in other issues concerning what you should and shouldn’t do from a legal perspective. Here are some other posts worth reading: