Many people are a part of the affiliate program for Amazon. But there are important rules for the Amazon Associates Program that many don’t know about or willingly break. Amazon is cracking down, so be sure you know and follow these!
I’ve heard story after story in the past few weeks about warning emails from Amazon and emails that Amazon has banned influencers and bloggers from their Amazon Associates Program. What gives?
As with any affiliate program, there are terms of service. And they are often published in tiny print with very little white space. Most people skip right on down to the “I Agree” section. Amazon can be even more confusing because they had several pages I had to read to even pull out these points.
While I hate reading that tech-speak as much as anyone, if you don’t pay attention to the rules, you are opening yourself up to getting kicked out of the program or even incurring fines.
For more on general disclosure, check out my post, Disclosure: Are You Doing It Wrong?
Important Rules for the Amazon Associates Program
Really, ALL the rules are important because violating them could get you kicked out. But I want to highlight the ones I see people messing up frequently.
Here are the two places on Amazon I took these points from (yes, there are two).
DO NOT PUT AFFILIATE LINKS IN EMAILS, PDFS, OR PRIVATE GROUPS.
Essentially, Amazon wants all of your affiliate links to be public facing. They should be on a website or a public Facebook page. About groups…I’ve heard people saying this again and again, but after my eyes crossed reading the TOS, I did NOT find this. (Email me if you have!)
I would say that you should be safe! Post on your page and share that post with your group rather than just post the link in your group. (Always with disclosure, of course.) Here is where Amazon says not to put links in emails or other offline places (under Restrictions).
If you use RSS for email, you may be at risk if the posts go out in full and include affiliate links. Some people chose to only show an excerpt of the post and will put affiliate links past the point where the post will cut off. There are also plugins that will hide this from RSS. I would be bold and say that RSS is generally not the best use of email.
Read my post: Why I Hate Your RSS Feed.
DO NOT SAY THAT CLICKING THESE LINKS SUPPORTS YOU OR YOUR FAMILY.
I’m not sure if Amazon doesn’t want you linking yourself to them in this way or they object to the way that this may have an emotional effect on people clicking. Either way, don’t do it. Stick to their common disclosure on your blog in section 5. Here is their wording:
We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.
The confusion comes for many people with the next line, where Amazon says you shouldn’t say anything else about this. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t disclose in posts! More on that later.
DON’T CLOAK YOUR LINKS WITH LINK SHORTENERS LIKE BIT.LY.
Amazon does not want you hiding your links. Use only the links that come directly from Amazon for you. (section 8v & 8w) No shorteners. No hiding it.
DON’T ASK PEOPLE TO CLICK YOUR LINKS OR BOOKMARK THEM.
Amazon doesn’t want you asking people to click your links. Not on your blog and definitely not in Facebook groups or emails to your mom. I’ve seen a lot of people doing this, but it seems to violate section 8u. It should go without saying, but that same section reminds you not to buy things through your own links.
IF YOU MENTION A SALE PRICE, DELETE IT WHEN THAT SALE ENDS.
This is super annoying because prices are always changing. The best thing to do is not post about prices specifically. If you want to refer to a sale, you can say something is a great deal, but not mention the percentage off or the price. (section 3b)
TREAT YOUR AMAZON INFLUENCER PAGE UNDER THESE RULES.
I’m in the Amazon Influencer program (check out my page HERE!), which means I get a fancy page that’s kind of like a storefront. I choose products and purchasing will earn me a fee (per Amazon’s words). This is pretty neat, but you have to realize that this is just like another affiliate link: disclose and don’t put it in emails, etc.
Balancing Amazon TOS with the FTC and Facebook TOS
If you thought that was a lot, realize that there are more confusing and difficult things when it comes to different agencies and how they work together. Or…don’t.
The FTC wants clear disclosure on every post before the first outbound affiliate link. So when I mentioned that Amazon makes it sound like you should ONLY mention the disclosure statement they give on your main page, that does not mean you shouldn’t disclose in each post as well. That would violate the FTC guidelines.
Instead, you should find where those requirements meet. Have a disclosure at the top of the post that mirrors the exact language Amazon uses and also avoids saying things like, “these links support my blog and family.”
With Facebook, things are more confusing. Especially since Facebook implemented the branded content where you can tag brands in sponsored content on your Facebook page. But you can’t tag Amazon. (Find all about this on Facebook’s business help center.)
Facebook doesn’t want you posting sponsored content and labeling that WITHOUT the handshake tool. Which leaves you in a weird limbo for promoting affiliate links on Facebook. The FTC doesn’t really want you using “affiliate” and prefers “ad.” Facebook wants you to use the handshake tool when it’s an ad. Amazon doesn’t let you use the handshake.
Again, find the place where these all meet. Disclose succinctly (the FTC wants SHORT) that you can earn a fee for people purchasing when they click the link. That’s quick. That uses Amazon’s language. But it doesn’t make Facebook try to fire up the handshake tool.
It can be really hard to follow all the rules! Especially when there are people who clearly and knowingly violate these terms. I see it all the time and it’s hard not to get frustrated when a giant Facebook page is clearly making bank on cloaked or non-disclosed affiliate links.
Here’s the thing, though: following the rules with affiliate programs keeps the companies happy, but also keeps your integrity with your readers. Especially when it comes to being up front and disclosing the relationship.
Do the right thing, even when you see people doing it wrong. You can always gently ask if people know the TOS. I’ve done this with mixed results. Some people really didn’t know and were thankful. Others got mad. Do what feels right to you, but know that not everyone likes even a kind rebuke.
Your audience, though? They want INTEGRITY. So disclose and stay transparent to keep your people’s trust.