Are You Violating the Amazon Associates Program Policies?

Updated September 25, 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.

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.

Related: Read What is RSS? What is a Feed? if you’re not sure. And if you use FeedBurner, you’ll want to read this post.

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.

The only exception to this rule applies to the Amazon Influencer Program. As of March 2, 2018, Amazon Influencers are allowed to share links to their Influencer Page (example) in emails.

Where does it say I can’t put Associates links in my emails?

It is stated in a few places.

Amazon says in the Associates Program Participation Requirements, and again in the Associates Program Operating Agreement under the Associates Program Participation Requirements (“Participation Requirements”) section about one third to one half of the way down the page (emphasis mine):

4. You will not engage in any promotional, marketing, or other advertising activities on behalf of us or our affiliates, or in connection with an Amazon Site or the Associates Program, that are not expressly permitted under the [Associates Program Operating] Agreement. 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 Program Content, or any Special Link in connection with email, offline promotion or in any offline manner (e.g., in any printed material, ebook, mailing, or attachment to email, or other document, or any oral solicitation).

They put it more succinctly on this page, specifically under the section Offline Use of Associates Links and Ads (emphasis mine):

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 (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. Simply put, they 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…” and as stated in #4 here (emphasis mine): “You will not engage…including by using…any Special Link…in any offline manner (e.g., in any printed material, ebook, mailing, or attachment to email, or other document, or any oral solicitation).”

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?

Yes. Here is the initial announcement and the terms are outlined under Amazon Influencer Program Policy (“Influencer Program Policy”) 1c here: “Solely with respect to the Amazon Influencer Program…you may include Special Links to your Influencer Page in emails; provided, that such emails are in compliance…”

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.

Other than the Amazon Influencer Program, are there any other Amazon Associates programs that allow affiliate links in emails?

Yes. Local Associates as stated under Associates Program Local Associates Policy (“Local Associates Policy”) #3 Marketing here:

Solely with respect to the Local Associates Program, and notwithstanding anything to the contrary in the Participation Requirements, you may include Special Links in written physical and digital materials (including email) which are displayed, distributed, emailed, or offered to customers, clients, or third parties with whom you have a preexisting relationship; provided, that such written physical and digital materials are in compliance with the Associates Program Operating Agreement, the Trademark Guidelines, and the Amazon Brand Usage Guidelines.

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.

Conclusion

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.

Affiliate marketing is an excellent way to make money as a blogger so I hope it doesn’t discourage you from doing so. Check out my top affiliate marketing tips.

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:

97 thoughts on “Are You Violating the Amazon Associates Program Policies?”

  1. Thanks for your post. Very helpful!

    Does the advice in this post apply to linking to an Amazon profile page? I am working with a client that wants to link to their Amazon profile page in email with an Amazon logo. I don’t believe it is an affiliate link and I can’t seem to find answers about linking to an Amazon profile page in email.

    Thanks much!

  2. Amy, something I learned this week and somewhat related to this post is that some of the email/newsletter services like MailChimp or the one I use, Campaign Monitor, have terms of use which we must comply with. I am an affiliate for my web host. They are offering a discount on their hosting services over a 12-month period, and they’ve asked us to spread the word. I know I can post this on my site which is a self-hosted site on WordPress, but I wondered about Campaign Monitor, on which I’m somewhat new. My question was answered with an answer of “no.” The reason behind this is that my subscribers did not sign on to receive advertising or pitches for third-party vendors. They signed on to receive my content. I’m sure each service is different, but just thought I’d mention this.

  3. Very useful and knowledgeable Post on this Topic!

    This is really good to know all these Rules, while working with Amazon Associate Program.

    Thanks God, simply I use their links in my Blog Posts and after Publishing my posts, I share a Post on Social Media. Except this I don’t do anything else!

    Thanks a lot!

  4. Hey Amy,

    Thanks for the insights. I was planning a email blast with my affiliate link but thank god I landed on this post and get to know about Amazon rules and regulations.

    There are many such rules we don’t know. I think sites like Amazon don’t pay genuinely to affiliate marketers because I have seen many people complaining about not getting paid for sales coming from their promotions on social media.

    Thanks for the insights and letting me know the Amazon rules and regulations.

    Regards,
    Yogesh Shinde

  5. Dear Amy,

    I’ve heard recently that Pinterest will allow you to put a full link to a Pin, no shortened ones though. So people have started adding their affiliate link and linking book recommendations directly to Amazon, using the long link.

    Do you know if this violate our Amazon Associate’s agreement?

    Thanks, Amy, for all the tips and recommendations! : )

  6. I am a little confused here. Can you please clarify this part:
    According to the requirements, you may not link directly to your Amazon Associates aStore in any emails (including RSS to emails) and you may not link to any individual product in your aStore.
    However, if you create a page on your website with your embedded aStore, you may include a link to that page on your site in emails.

    Option 1: Let Amazon house it for you.
    “Hey, I’ve got this cool collection of things I love in my vending machine. You should check it out!” Then you give them the address to the Amazon warehouse.
    In Option #1, you are sending people directly to the Amazon warehouse (i.e. website) using an Amazon URL (web address).

    Option 2: House it yourself.
    And if you meet someone who wants to see the collection in your vending machine, you give them the address of your own warehouse.
    In Option #2, you are sending people to your warehouse (i.e. website) using your own URL (web address).
    On that page, there are three sections:
    1. Link to your aStore as a stand-alone site – This will give you a direct URL to your aStore on Amazon’s website (i.e. warehouse). This URL may not be in any email you send (RSS to email included).
    2. Embed your aStore using an inline frame
    3. Integrate your aStore using a frameset
    The last 2 options (#2 & #3) you may do because they embed your aStore on your own site (i.e. your own warehouse). ). You may only link to the page on your site where your aStore is embedded.

    So, I can send an email with my link to the aStore itself or to a website where that link is Somewhere in there.??

    A suggestion, an explanation of these article will be even better in an Infographic form or pictures.
    Thank you
    Rodolfo

    1. Hi Rodolfo,

      You cannot put a link directly to your aStore in an email.

      You can put a link to your own website (not your aStore) in an email.

  7. Hi Amy,
    I am the plugin author that you mentioned in this post. Thank you for bringing it to my attention that the plugin hasn’t been updated in over a year. Usually I do not update any plugins unless there is some core change in WordPress that requires an update or I have a new feature. There hasn’t been either since it was published, hence the long time since update.

    I just looked over the plugin code and bumped the version up one point so it is fresh and clean and works with WP 4.5.3

    I read a comment that they would like to strip some posts but not others, could be doable with a check box on the editor side, if I have time I will look into that.

    Thanks as always for your very insightful blog posts.

    In case you need the Plugin URL: https://wordpress.org/plugins/remove-amazon-links-from-rss-feed/

    1. But why would you provide the whole post in the email?

      Don’t you want them to see part of the post and be interested enough to click through to your blog?

      1. There are varying opinions on the issue of whether to offer a full or partial feed. Some people prefer to offer a partial feed for the reason you mentioned. However, others have found a partial feed frustrates readers (and often causes them to unsubscribe) so they prefer to offer a full feed for a better user experience.

  8. Okay, wow- this is news to me, as well as SO many bloggers who are practicing this. It will definitely make us a lot more careful about sending out blog posts via email (with affiliate links). Thanks for the heads up. Sharing this post with my FB group.

  9. I contacted them about this recently. Amy, there is a big name blogger who posts Amazon links in her daily emails. I read you said “no” but I see her doing it, so I contacted Amazon. They verified exactly what you said, “No affiliate links in emails.” So I asked, is there an exception once you get to be a BIG blogger? Their answer was “No.” “Are there any exceptions?” I asked. They responded “No.”

    1. Yes, I’ve noticed the same practice among many bloggers. I asked Amazon the very same question (i.e. are there exceptions) and they confirmed, there are no exceptions.

      I just updated the post to include this as well. Thanks!

  10. This is very interesting. I had heard that sending the full blog post helps to engage your followers better. But with the amazon, thing this is obviously a problem. It’s interesting that many bloggers are not aware of this.But why does amazon not allow this?What exactly is the problem.Can we select which post to truncate by any new free plugin?

    1. I am not sure why Amazon doesn’t allow links to be shared offline (email is considered offline). It would be great if there was at least an exception for blog posts sent via email.

      In any case, I’m not aware of a plugin that allows individually truncated posts.

      1. Have my own retail website(s) for over 10 years and posted several pages for products on Amazon that complimented what I sell (all very nicely laid out, under their own specific tabs), through Amazon Associates.

        This morning, was checking the site and discovered all the images had disappeared. I’m not playing games and simply deleted all the pages.

        Never sent a link through an email, never promoted the Associate listings and don’t even need to advertise my site, as I have good ranking on Google.

        If Amazon doesn’t want the clicks, so be it. Let someone else work around all their stipulations for penny clicks. We did nothing against their TOS.

  11. I didn’t know about the affiliate links in RSS Feeds, thanks. It certainly pays to check with people like Amazon and Google, because you REALLY don’t want to upset either of these companies, they can often be the source of most of your income.

    I tend to show snippets in my RSS Feeds anyhow, since it encourages people to click through to the main articles rather than reading (say) 10 posts on one page.

  12. I’m really not sure about this. Amazon is weird. And they’re known for giving non-answers to questions (like repeating the ToS instead of explaining what they mean by it).

    But they have a new service in beta that will auto-link products and images for you. And in the documentation about it, they tell you the links will be lost in the feed. The thing is, though, the way it’s worded, it strongly implies that that’s a *downside* – in other words, that the traditional method of linking is *superior* in this particular aspect. Which implies that having links in your feeds is not a problem.

    If someone else is choosing to pull my feed in an offline manner – either by email or by use of a reader, how is that any different from them choosing the “make available offline” option in their browser? I guess what I’m saying is that, as bloggers, we are not “sending” people links offline when we use an RSS feed. We’re generating an RSS feed *online* – and end users are choosing to access it offline.

    It sounds like splitting hairs, but everything about the AA ToS seems to be hair-splitting, vague, weirdly-worded jargon, so I’m not really certain it’s clear either way. (An email *newsletter* with links appears to be a clear violation. But an option where the user is choosing to receive purely the RSS feed forwarded via email is not so clear, IMO.)

    (As a total side note, does anyone have any idea WHY Amazon doesn’t allow affiliate links in emails? They’re the only major company I’ve ever heard of that doesn’t, and I don’t imagine it would hurt their sales, so I don’t really understand the thought process behind this particular restriction.)

  13. Amy, I’m not sure I understand the term about “bookmarking” an affiliate link. Can you explain what they mean?

    I know we can “star” /bookmark a url – is that what they are saying?

    What I’m concerned with is pinning a favorite book or a free kindle on Pinterest using my affiliate link. Is that allowed?

    Thanks for keeping us in the-know!

  14. Hi Amy – Forgive me if this has been stated in the comments (I only got halfway through). Here are some things we do:

    1) Partial RSS feed that pulls from the excerpt field in WordPress (we can have links in the beginning of the blog post w/ no risk of them showing up in the RSS feed). We actually prefer the partial feed, but I know it’s not for everyone.

    2) With email, link to an aStore or better yet your own custom shop page with affiliate products.

    3) Similarly, we use Pretty Link (a redirect plugin) to manage affiliate links on the blog and in eBooks. The links from the eBook can land on a blog post or special landing page on your site that contains the product description and affiliate links. They have to click 2x, but it is OK with the Amazon TOS plus you can effectively update the links to eBooks that you’ve sold after the fact.

    1. Thanks Jason for your input! Your first suggestion is what I lean toward too.

      From what I understand, redirecting plugins like Pretty Link are a violation too (via the Operating Agreement and via my live chats). Just curious if you have different info?

      1. Hi Amy – Sorry with respect to my point #2 I didn’t actually write what I was thinking! What I meant to type (and what we experimented with last fall) was to, from an email, link to a PAGE HOSTED ON YOUR SITE that contains your aStore (similar to what I discussed in point #3 about eBooks). For example, from an email you could say “check out my favorite lunch container here” and link to http://www.100daysofrealfood.com/recommended-products/.

        Thank you for bringing this conversation up…it prompted me to verify some things this morning, and unfortunately I am very disturbed by what I found. Before I decided to start managing all of our affiliate links (including Amazon links) using Pretty Link, I had multiple phone and chat conversations with Amazon support to ensure it was OK. But I couldn’t easily find written record of that today, so I started another chat with the sole intent of obtaining that written confirmation.

        But this time they were singing a different tune. I went round and round with one rep and even got her to contradict herself, at which point I asked for the chat to be forwarded to a supervisor. After a lot of back and forth and going round and round some more, I verified that using a redirect plug in like Pretty Link is NOT OK as it violates the TOS, which really sucks since now I have to change all those links. The rep had no suggestions for how to manage links.

        I also asked about full RSS feeds, but was not able to get to get concrete answers. He offered to send an example feed to another department to analyze it, but I don’t have one (we use a partial RSS feed) so stopped there.

        -Jason

  15. It’s new Amazon’s policy to stop stuffers. Shame that many many honest affiliates will burn too.
    I had my account banned the other day just for this BS. and they they owe me 2k which gone for good.

  16. Wow, I had no idea. And I see a LOT of huge blogs using their affiliate links on FB in ways that don’t seem legit. And I have seen TONS of affiliate links in ebooks as well. Good to know. I will make sure I’m following the rules. Why do they consider email and pdfs to be “off-line”? Because you can read them while you are off-line? I’ve never thought about this and wouldn’t have considered it off-line when a pdf is hosted on a site.

  17. So much to learn about all this blogging and affiliate stuff. I need to go back and check to see that my emails are truncated.Thanks for posting this and keeping all of us informed.

  18. It seems like most of this is aimed at Amazon being able to: “reasonably determine the site or application from which a customer clicks through such Special Link to the Amazon Site.”

    In other words: emails, RSS, eBooks, etc. all don’t pass referrer information (or don’t pass the correct referrer information).

    So it would appear that cloaking your links *on your site* would be the best way to fix this.

    i.e.
    https://yoast.com/cloak-affiliate-links/

    Why? Because your site is doing the redirect, Amazon gets their referrer information and know which site sent the user to them.

    You don’t have to worry about post vs RSS vs email — all links flow to your site, then to Amazon.

    eBooks may be the edge case. However, in theory, linking to a redirect *on your site* is really no different than linking to a page where a user clicks a link…

  19. I just recently became an amazon affiliate, but what I’ve been doing is… publishing the post so that the emails go out, then going back to my post and throwing on the links. That way in the actual email there aren’t any links– but the links are on the blog.

    1. I like the direction you’re thinking there. The only problem is, your updated RSS feed will have the links so then you’re at square one again. 🙁

      1. So, how long do RSS feeds get updated? I sometimes go back and add affiliate links to highly trafficked posts in my archives. Is this illegal as well? I would assume a post from four years ago wouldn’t show up in someone’s RSS feed now, right?

  20. Amy, thank you so much for this super helpful and informative post. Like you, I’m sure thousands of us had no idea. I think I’ll be changing some settings on my blog so that I don’t get in trouble for unknowingly breaking the TOS. I would be sad if Amazon broke up with me over something like this.

  21. When I switched to a truncated feed for our blog’s email subscriptions, we saw engagement skyrocket. I assume this was because people knew there was a long blog post in that email that they didn’t want to deal with, and deleted it. With the truncated feed, they could read an intro or summary to the post and decide whether to delete it or save the email to clickthrough later. Just want to share my personal experience.

    There are also tools that can allow you to edit the email so that it’s not just a truncated version of the post (I’m not sure what this is since our developers did it for me). But now, I can go into our email marketing provider before the email of the post gets sent, and add a personal note, change the links, etc. If you do this, you can take affiliate links out of the truncated version if they’re at the beginning of the post.

    1. I don’t think the aStore would function as a workaround if live affiliate links in emails was the goal. Regarding the aStore, as I understand it, you would have to create your aStore on your site. Then in your emails you could link to the aStore on your site, but you could not link to the individual product links in your aStore. The bottom line is, they do not want any live product links in emails. Period. If a reader is going to click on your Amazon Associates link, they must do it from your blog or website.

  22. Do the emails for the rss feed get sent from your server or the feeds server? Technically I would think if it goes from an external server then essentially the data is being scraped ‘legally’.

    That would be like someone taking an article I’ve written and emailing it to their list. Technically it would have my links in the email but I didn’t send it.

  23. Thanks for giving us the heads up, Amy. Can you elaborate on the astore theory? I stopped using mine a few years ago because I heard you didn’t get the cookie for amazon site-wide. Are astore links the workaround here?

  24. Very interesting, thank you Amy. As you say, virtually every blogger who is an Amazon Associate is putting these links out in their RSS feed without realising. I’ve never heard of Amazon taking action yet and as it’s so widespread and has gone on for so long (not to mention difficult to police), I wonder if they ever will?

    One possible workaround is for bloggers to cloak their links, either using a plugin that does redirects or a simple URL shortening service such as bit.ly. I guess it’s a moot point whether an Amazon Associate link is contained in the RSS feed or not then. It’s certainly harder to spot!

    I don’t have any affiliate links in my blog, but if I did I would probably use redirects to clean them up as a matter of course.

  25. Amy, what if I use Skimlinks instead of direct Amazon Links? Is that a violation in email? I probably don’t get as much from Skimlinks but it seems like I don’t have a direct Amazon Link either?

    1. I have not asked them specifically about Skimlinks and I don’t know enough about Skimlinks to know exactly how they affiliate links are created. However, I would guess there is some sort of redirection going on. If that’s the case, I would assume Skimlinks (if the links were live in emails) would also be a violation. But that’s just my guess.

  26. I am not sure if anyone has mentioned it yet, as I honestly did not read thru ALL the comments, however; adding the Quick Linker Widget eliminates the issue. You add the code on your page and the links on your blog posts, this way when they go into the RSS feed the links disappear. Hope this helps.

    1. I think the widget just helps you create your Associate links quickly, but I don’t think it affects how the links in your RSS feed are displayed by itself??

  27. I wonder what it means if we share them on FB? The links, I mean. OY. I need to do some digging. Thanks for this info, made me think more. I only just became and associate because NC got the opportunity back, so I might have missed some things.

    1. I doubt Facebook or Twitter is a problem as long as you’re not SPAMMING anyone. They just added a NEW feature to send your associatelink out directly to these social media sites from Amazon using their “bar”.

  28. Just to be clear then, Amy … is it okay to send the blog post by email or RSS Feed with the links to the astore? If it is okay, why are astore links acceptable?

    1. Good question and I can’t say I’m totally sure. I think I would live chat with them to ask about an astore specifically. My guess is that if you linked from your blog to your astore, it’d be OK, but at this point I hesitate to guess anything!

  29. I just became an associate not too long ago (evidently, you’re supposed to refrain from using the word ‘affiliate’…I might be wrong here, since it’s all very confusing already), and I don’t make anything from it really, but a lot of bloggers do, and it gives Amazon a lot of business. I can’t recall clearly, since I was not familiar with blogging as a business back then, but I remember there was a big issue when Amazon decided to take this program out of California. There was even a blogger who moved out of the state right after it happened because the program was such a big moneymaker for her. Now the program is back for Californians, so something must have happened to change their policy. Do you think they would change their policy, even if it was just for email subscription/RSS feeds, if they knew that they would lose out if bloggers decided not to be Associates anymore? Just thinking aloud and hoping something will be put into place so bloggers can continue their partnership with Amazon.

    1. Hard to say if they’d change their policy, but if it was up to me, I’d say it’s a good idea. 🙂 I’m sure they’ve got their reasons for maintaining the policy, but boy is it hard for me to figure those out!

    2. There are many states (7 last I checked) that cannot have Amazon affiliates because Amazon refuses to let you if you live in that state. I’m in one of them, Minnesota. Minnesota passed a law a couple of years ago that said they could collect taxes from sales made in MN through affiliate links, and Amazon promptly sent an email to every associate in the state saying they were no longer eligible to be affiliates. They’ve done that in every state that did that, in order to teach a lesson to lawmakers that try to collect sales tax. They were not concerned in the least with losing individual bloggers, since they knew that the big ones would just relocate (physically or with LLCs set up in other states) to get around the new laws, and that way they keep from having any legislation passed in the other states that would take a cut of their profits.

      Amazon makes billions a day. Literally. Think of how much they could be fined if the government caught them violating US laws through their affiliate program. It makes sense for them to make it clear that you are the one entirely at fault if you’re breaking the law.

      I’ve known other bloggers that they promptly canceled accounts with for doing things like posting affiliate links in their FB posts. They’re not going to knowingly break the law for the small change they get from individual bloggers who could ruin this whole profitable set-up for them.

  30. Wow, thanks for putting this up Amy! I had no idea that would even be a problem. I do find it silly thought that they consider an RSS feed to be a direct email. But nonetheless, I need to edit a few things!

  31. Wow, thank you so much for putting this up! I was doing the exact same thing and never once thought it could violate the TOS!

    I understand they don’t want bought clicks or for Associates to be unethical with the links, but you would think that Amazon (of all companies) would be keeping up with how bloggers and other online promote their own posts.

    Guess I have some decisions to make…

  32. Very informative, both the post AND the comments. I guess I’m just weird because I actually PREFER truncated emails. That way I can gauge whether or not the article is interesting enough to me so click over and read the rest or just move on and not spend anymore of my precious time. Also, as a blogger, why would you NOT want people clicking to your blog? Isn’t site traffic the holy grail of blogging? Just asking. Lastly, if you send your entire post via RSS without affiliate links, then go back and edit your post to add them, aren’t you defeating the purpose of your links? I mean, your readers are getting your entire post in their email with no incentive to click back to your site, so wouldn’t you just be spinning your wheels?

    Please don’t read these questions and comments wrong. I am in no way being facetious, I’m fairly new at blogging and sincerely want to know and understand. Thanks.

    1. Hi Trixie, I think you’re questions are good ones.

      You are right that as a blogger, a click through to your site is great. The problem is, many readers find this frustrating so a lot of bloggers have opted for a full feed to please readers (as a fan of partial feeds, you’re in the minority!). 🙂

      And as for reading blogs via RSS, many blog readers (like Feedly for example) provide a snippet of posts, so in effect, accomplish the same benefit you’re describing for readers.

      Yes, the option to edit later is not ideal for a few reasons as I see it, so I wouldn’t recommend it as a favorable option.

      Thanks for adding to the discussion!

      1. I am in the clear, too, because I do a partial feed. And I usually prefer them, depending on the blog. Makes me a minority, as well, I guess!

  33. Knowledge is empowering, and it can spur creativity.

    While it might feel like an extra step (might even be one, but oh, well), linking to the specific product on your aStore (which you have on your site, right, fellow bloggers?) is the reasonable solution. I’ve been doing that without even realizing I was being a good doobie and abiding by Amazon’s TOS. Maybe it’s because I like my shop and want people to see what-all it has to offer.

    When I know I’ll be linking to an aStore product, I open another tab and go to my aStore. From there, I just click on the product I intend to link, and use that link in my post. It takes an extra click to get the link, but, as I said above, oh, well.

    “Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face,” etc., etc. 😉

    1. I don’t understand how you can actually link to a product within your store. When I go to a product within my store the URL is the same regardless of which product I click on.

      I guess I don’t understand what exactly you are saying here, unless you are just linking to your store and not a specific product within your store.

      Thanks!

      1. Hi, Sarah!

        It can be done.

        From your aStore, go the category the product you wish to link to is in, and locate the product within the category. Now, right-click (I use a pc; not sure of the Mac equivalent, but you’d need that) on the product link, and choose to open it in a new tab. Et voila! Check out – and copy – the item-specific URL.

        Hope that helps. Peace. ~Ellen

        1. I am not familiar with using an aStore. Ellen- do you have some links I can look out for reference? I publish a list of free eBooks almost everyday, so not sure this will be a good work around on that. But maybe for other products.

  34. Does Amazon actually look at all this stuff–I mean, do they really crack down on violators? (I’m not suggesting we should disobey just b/c they don’t. I’m just wondering.)

    So, what are you doing, Amy? Getting rid of Amazon? Or just adding links after the RSS has been sent out?

    Sheesh.

    a

    1. In answer to your first question, I couldn’t say for sure obviously, but…I certainly haven’t heard of Amazon cracking down on bloggers for this. Then again, they could start at any time. How far would they take it? I have no idea.

      It sort of reminds me of the instances I’ve heard of other companies penalizing bloggers for seemingly obscure violations. The first that comes to mind are the people who’ve gotten kicked out of Adsense. I know of a few bloggers for whom that was a huge blow to their income. I can’t say the two situations are parallel, I’m just sayin’…

      What am I going to do? Well, not sure yet. Amazon Associates isn’t a huge income stream for me at all so while I decide, I’ll probably just refrain from using it altogether. At this point, I’m probably leaning toward truncated posts, making sure the links are stripped out (WordPress does this automatically). I’m not going to edit my posts to add my links though since it would be a bear when it comes to updated RSS feeds.

      Still tossing ideas around though…

      1. When you talk about changing the settings in WordPress and it stripping the links and truncating the posts, does this just apply to RSS feed or does this also apply to email subscriptions?

        1. Well the changes occur to the RSS feed. Then the RSS feed either gets distributed via a reader or via email. So, it shouldn’t matter whether someone reads the summarized post in a reader or in email, it will be shortened in both places. I hope that helps!

  35. Wow. Thanks, Amy! I completely overlooked this aspect of my affiliate links and agree that it seems ridiculous. But, we did agree to it! I’ve become more and more frustrated with the Amazon affiliate program not always giving consistent credit, so maybe I will remove myself from the program. It just doesn’t seem worth the extra work for the little I make. Like you, I don’t like shortened feeds, so I would probably remove myself from the program before I go to that. I don’t know. I’m going to ponder that for awhile and make sure I don’t send out any links via email.

  36. Wow! I never knew.
    I had started the aStore, but I took it down because I thought it was making the load time slower. I just haven’t put it back up again. Very interesting, though. So many bloggers are in violation, if this is the case. Thanks for the info!

  37. Thanks for this information Amy! I read about this a while ago too and since I use Madmimi for my email RSS feed there is an option on there to ” Automatically format RSS feed for clean display” that you can check. When you do this your emails go out there are no links in it ever even if you have Amazon links in the first little bit and it leaves a little “read more” at the bottom too (it’s not the full article). But it will show your first image and the first bit about your post so it gets them interested.

  38. This is a horrible policy. Every website has an RSS Feed. This policy makes it virtually impossible to use Amazon Associates, which seems like it would hurt Amazon just has much as people using affiliate links.

    They need to seriously reconsider this aspect of their policy. Unfortunately, I doubt they will because as far as they are concerned it is working. I am fairly certain 99% of Amazon Affiliates aren’t following this policy if for no other reason than they don’t know or understand Amazon’s terms.

    So…I understand the RSS Feed emails, but am I to understand RSS Feed readers are also unacceptable?

    Their logic on how we are just suppose to send an email with a link to our blog makes absolutely no sense. My readers already know where my blog is, they don’t need reminder emails about where it is.

    Hmm…all in all I am not really happy with this new understanding. I am not really sure what I am going to do about it.

  39. I appreciate all the work you did to get clarification for us all and come up with a couple suggestions. I guess I’ll go with a truncated feed until I can come up with something else. But I think this is a much bigger deal than Amazon is giving it credit for and they should address it directly since a large portion of their affiliates are specifically bloggers.

  40. I don’t use Amazon links much, but yeesh! That’s ridiculous! I think I’ll just ditch Amazone Associates, it’s apparently more work than it’s worth. Crazy!

  41. It would seem that if you’re cloaking your affiliate links (as you should be to avoid Google penalties and leaking page rank) this would not apply? The user would end up going to your site first, then be redirected to Amazon via your affiliate link. Would be interesting to hear Amazon’s take on that… as it would seem to meet the letter of the TOS (if not the spirit).

    For WordPress users, it wouldn’t be too difficult to have a small plugin remove the raw (uncloaked) affiliate tags from your RSS feed content, which would fix the issues for RSS and email… but you’d be losing revenue in the process.

    So would rewriting the link in the RSS/Email to go to the post, scrolled to the affiliate link (using an anchor) work? Seems a bit of an odd workaround, but it would follow their silly TOS and keep affiliate revenues intact… hmmm… what a pain this is!

    1. Thanks for the ideas, Nick! I’m all for thinking through every possibility. Unfortunately, cloaking is out too:

      30. You will not cloak, hide, spoof, or otherwise obscure the URL of your site containing Special Links (including by use of a redirecting page) or the user agent of the application in which Content is displayed or used such that we cannot reasonably determine the site or application from which a customer clicks through such Special Link to the Amazon Site. [source]

      The idea to direct people to the anchored link in a post might work, but like you said, sort of a frustrating workaround. Rose was thinking something similar.

  42. This really doesn’t affect me personally because my business is more of helping bloggers, not making an income off of my own blog. But it is still a terrible policy that will affect many of my friends.

    I do editing/conversions/etc., and I have started suggesting to authors to make a post that contains all of the links in their book so that when they take a book to print, the links are easily accessible to the reader (no clicking in a print book). So that looks like it will become a part of my policy to prevent me from somehow being in violation of these idiotic policies.

    Thanks for the great information and the very thorough research.

  43. Bye-bye Amazon links. Not worth the hassle of truncating or publishing then editing and republishing. I will link books to an independent bookstore like Book People in Austin from now on. Geez…bad policy, Amazon.

  44. This is a terrible policy! I, like most bloggers, receive several emails a month with affiliate offers. I will be sending Amazon an email letting them know that I will no longer be able to use their links and will be sending my readers to other stores, like Walmart, instead. Maybe if enough bloggers do this they’ll reconsider the policy as it applies to RSS.

  45. PS – they really need to change that policy. They know it’s being violated by thousands and thousands of bloggers (most of them probably without even realizing it, like me). I’m not proud to say this, but I get so lost reading all of the legal jargon that many times I skim over agreements trying to get the general idea, but it’s so overwhelming that many times I have no idea what all I’ve agreed to.

  46. I’ve just been mulling this over since you first posted about it and for *me*, someone who blogs about cake and links to the same or similar products over and over and over again, I’m thinking about making a product page – or updating my “shop” page (ahem – haven’t really updated it in 2 years) with all of the products I link to, then in every blog post, just link to my favorite products page or my “shop” when I refer to a product, tool, ingredient, etc.. I know this won’t work for a deals blogger or someone who links to something new every day, but it may work for niche blogger!? Maybe?

    1. A shop page actually sounds like the best solution. Gee, doesn’t everyone want something else on their to do list? Where do we sign up? {groan}

      Seriously though, thanks for the heads up Amy. I haven’t been blogging regularly, but am working my plan to get back in the groove. Glad to know this sooner rather than later.

  47. I realized this awhile ago, stopped using affiliate links, then I forgot about it 😛 I started wondering why I stopped using Amazon affiliate links on my blog and started again. Oh yeah, this was why. Ugh. I tried to be careful since I sell on Amazon. ALL amazon accounts are linked, and Amazon has been known to ban one account, which bans all to the point you can’t even purchase from them anymore. eBook authors should be especially careful about this one especially if they’re dependent on Amazon income. I’m sharing this in a few of my facebook groups, and heck probably my blog when I have time.

  48. Yet another situation that makes me glad I have an affiliate-free blog!

    You know, if there really are a lot of people in this situation, Amazon might want to address it specifically in their rules.

    For the record, I don’t mind truncated RSS feeds at all, and maybe other people don’t either.

  49. Oh, geez. This is bad news.

    I really, really don’t want to truncate my blog feed whenever I have Amazon affiliate links. I am always SO annoyed when I subscribe to a blog only to then have to click on a link in the email. To me, it sort of negates the point of subscribing to a blog.

    Here’s a thought I just had…maybe I can write my blog posts, publish them, and then as soon as they go out through MadMimi, I can edit the post and add the affiliate links. That way they’ll be in the post but won’t go out via email.

    1. I’m not a huge fan of truncated feeds either so I’m with ya on that. Definitely an idea, although trying to think of how that would work with scheduled posts and missed clicks between posting and editing. Thanks for brainstorming with me!

      Update: Gretchen just reminded me about the updated RSS feed issue, so updating later is probably not ideal. Good line of thinking though!

      1. This is an advantage to my last minute-ness…I’m usually publishing stuff the day of, right before it goes out via RSS. So for me, this could work.

        Also, we’re certainly free to add Amazon links to evergreen posts in our archives…and all the affiliate links in my previous posts are a-ok since they’re not going out via RSS (They did initially, but that ship has already sailed, obviously!)

    2. Thanks for the information. Yet another thing I didn’t know about. *sigh* You suggest some reasonable solutions. I just don’t know that I like any of them. LOL.

      I agree… I hate truncated emails and RSS feeds – because as you mention, the reason I subscribe is to avoid going out to the site.

      I also don’t know that I like the idea of adding in the links later because I schedule the posts ahead of time, and it would be days later that I have to go back and add in the links.

      These are very practical solutions, I just don’t like either of them. I don’t want to stop using the affiliate links, but I may for a while. Hopefully Amazon will address this, but I won’t hold my breath.

      1. I suggested a work-around in my comment above, and just added specific instructions. It can still be done without the truncating, and without the potential for inciting Amazon’s wrath.

        Peace. ~Ellen

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