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I Earned $147k on Amazon Associates: What to expect your first year

I was surprised when I tallied up how much my blogs earned on Amazon over the last 12 months.  $147,253.02 is pretty staggering considering that it is just one of the income sources on my blogs; however, it’s not so surprising when I look back at the hard work I’ve put in over the last several years to build my blogs up to this point.

I’ve been blogging full time for the last 5 years, and have consulted with hundreds of bloggers here on Income School, so I feel like I can give you a pretty good idea of what’s possible with Amazon Associates, and what to expect your first year in the program.

When I start a brand new blog with zero traffic, I can expect to earn about $7,000 my first year as I work to build up traffic.  It’s the second year when I expect to see huge spikes in income.  You can obviously do a lot better or a lot worse, but that’s what I expect to see with a brand new blog.

Obviously, your mileage may vary.  But that’s where I set my expectations in year one.  It’s year two where things start to get exciting.

My Most Recent New Blog and How Much It Earned

I’ve started many successful blogs, but I wanted to share one single experience so you can see more of what to expect.  I bought a boat two years ago and started a blog about boating the same day.  I didn’t know much about boats, but I wanted to share what I learned about boating as I tried it out.

I wrote one article each day for about 30 days, and then I got distracted with other blog projects on my other sites.  As is normal, it took a few months for Google to start ranking my articles high on search engines.  The first year, the site earned $8,253.

The second year, I saw a huge spike in the earnings as Google started to trust my site more.  I had 3 months where the site crested the $4,000/month mark, and then I put the site up for sale.  My broker valued the website at over $100,000 and it’s currently up for sale.  The site earned 100% of its money from Amazon Associates.

This is a screenshot of my simple blog called Pontoon Guide, where I blogged about my pontoon boat.
This is a screenshot of my simple blog my boat.

If you’re new to blogging, you may not know that bloggers frequently buy and sell websites.  They are sold for a variety of reasons.  For me, I decided to sell this site mainly because I sold my boat and so I wasn’t really passionate about the subject anymore.

It’s absolutely incredible what you can earn with just Amazon Associates.  I really love the program because it works for just about any niche out there, and the earnings are completely passive.  Once you write the articles, the checks just roll in each month without really doing anything.  I just check in on my sites every 3 months or so to make sure the site looks good and isn’t having any technical issues.

If you join my email list when you see the popup on this page, you’ll get a much more in-depth case study on this niche site the first day you join the list.  It’s pretty valuable, I think, if you’re looking to start a new blog and want to learn from my mistakes.

Would you consider sharing this on your Pinterest? I'd really appreciate it so I can help more families learn to make an income from home.
Would you consider sharing this on your Pinterest? I’d really appreciate it so I can help more families learn to make an income from home.

How I Earned $147,253.02 From Amazon Associates In a Single Year

I currently own and manage a decent size network of blogs that I’ve started or purchased over the last few years.  I own one of the largest photography blogs in the world, a knife review website, a boating website, a website about campers, a tool review website, and this site.

I view my blogs like a real estate investor views rental properties.  I buy them or build them and then hold them for a long time as they earn passive income for me.  If I were to suddenly stop working today, I’d earn the same amount of money as I currently do–the only change would be that I couldn’t expect to see my investments grow.  They’d really just plateau for a year and then start to slowly decrease over time.

The question that I get most often is “how do you get traffic to your websites?”  I do absolutely ZERO SEO or link building on my blogs.  None.  Nada.  Zilch.  When I start a new website, I simply write great, helpful, meaty content and let Google do it’s thing.  If the content is good enough, it’ll start to rank eventually.  However, I’ve also found some strategies to help the rankings come quicker: youtube and Pinterest marketing.  I have developed some pretty cool tricks to get traffic almost immediately from Youtube and Pinterest, which in turn jump starts the Google rankings legitimately.

If you’d like to start a niche site using Amazon Associates, I’d really encourage you to check out my Project 24 Membership Program.  It’s a complete membership program. I’ll guide you through each step of your blogging journey with course content for every phase of your site. I’ve created a community of helpful members that I participate in almost every day. You’ll get your questions answered and get excellent feedback on your work. Everything I know about blogging gets added to that membership, so you’ll always have the latest info.


15 Tips for DOMINATING Amazon Associates

1: Check the Current Price on Amazon

This is one of my favorite tricks.  When I started implementing this trick, I saw hockey stick growth in my Amazon earnings.  What I started doing is not writing the price of any of the items I review on my websites.  Then, toward the end of the review, I include a paragraph that says something like, “I bought [this item] on Amazon so I could get the fast shipping and excellent return policy.  The price will likely change over time, so click this link to check the current price of [the product] on Amazon.”

This gives the website visitor a REASON to actually click over to Amazon.  If you include all of the information about the product and also the price in the post, then they would only click your affiliate link if they wanted to buy right away.  More than likely, they don’t want to buy right then.  However, if you get them to click your link, they are on the page and may buy out of an impulse, or may get distracted and buy a vacuum.  Either way, you get your commission.

2: Don’t Get Automated

I am frequently looking at blogs for sale by other bloggers.  Sometimes I find a great blog that is being mismanaged and I can flip the site.  I see SOOO many of these sites that shoot themselves in the foot because they are trying to automate their blogs.

They try and find plugins that take an Amazon listing and automatically turn it into a blog post that looks like spammy crap, or they have plugins that make massive, spammy-looking comparison tables.

I’d highly recommend staying away from any automated content generation tool.  It makes your site likely to be penalized, looks spammy to website visitors, and doesn’t really create any value on the web.

3: Let Me Help You Find a Good Topic

For the last two years, I’ve been keeping up an article called 50 niche sites ripe for the taking.  Basically, it’s just a huge list I’m putting together of good, profitable, low-competition topics for blogs.  I wish I had time to create blogs about all of the ideas, but I just don’t have the time.

So every time I come up with another idea for a profitable blog, I just write it on that post.  It’s definitely worth a read.

4: Hit the Sweet Spot

The Achille’s heel of my knife review website is that, despite the fact that it gets 350,000 page views per month, the average item purchased on Amazon through my links is only $20.  My commission on a $20 Amazon purchase is less than $1, so it takes TREMENDOUS volume to make a profit.

I’ve been really happy with the knife review website because it consistently earns over $3,000 per month, but I wouldn’t start a new site in this niche because the items are simply too inexpensive.

My most profitable niche sites are those where the average sale price of reviewed items is $150 to $200.  This is high enough or a price point to give a significant commission, but not so high that website visitors will think about the purchase for months after clicking my affiliate link before they finally pull the trigger.

5: Only Evergreen Content

I would never spend my time building up a site in which the content couldn’t last for at least a few years.  Sites about news, coupons or current deals, entertainment or gossip, etc are all poor choices in niches as far as I’m concerned.  Sites like this are hopping on the treadmill.  You have to keep running and running.  The second you stop generating new content, you fly backwards in traffic and rankings.

Some niches are more evergreen than others.  For example, on my photography site when I review a camera, it will be an old model 5 years from now, so the rankings will eventually fall off.  However, I can count on most articles staying relevant for at least a few years.

There are sites that are more evergreen than my photography site.  For example, a site reviewing tools for woodworking could write an article today that was still relevant 10 years from now.  Woodworking doesn’t change much over time.  Most of the tools are the same and the way things are done are mostly the same as they have been for the last 30 years.  I’ve never seen a line in front of Home Depot with people excited to buy the new model of a hammer.

6: Watch Your State!

Be aware that Amazon has in the past cut off a few states from its Amazon Associates program.  The problems were related to tax law.  If Amazon does not establish a physical business presence in a state, it generally does not have to collect state sales tax in that state.

However, some states have changed their laws to say that having an affiliate site located in a site is enough to require Amazon to pay sales tax.  In some of these cases, Amazon has chosen to cut off the affiliates in those states.

Fortunately, the trend looks good.  Amazon recently re-established its affiliates in Colorado, for example.  Also, Amazon is THE OLDEST AND LARGEST affiliate site on the internet.  It’s been around for 21 years, so it’s doubtful that it’d suddenly close down.  If it did, millions upon millions of bloggers would change their links to other websites, and Amazon listings would plummet in Google rankings, as well as losing the massive revenue that affiliates drive to Amazon.

This is the current Amazon performance fee structure as of September 2016.
This is the current Amazon performance fee structure as of September 2016.

7: Consider Referring Cheap Items Once You’re Established

Amazon determines what percentage of income you make from the affiliate program by the total number of sales you refer–NOT the total dollar amount of sales you refer.

Suppose you build up your blog to the point that it is earning $2,500 per month in affiliate income.  Depending on how expensive the items are that you’re selling, you probably have referred around 600 sales to Amazon that month.

If you write an article on your site referring people to a cheap $5 gadget, and you could get 50 people per month to purchase it (which should be easy, because it’s an inexpensive item), then it would bump you up to a higher percentage bracket on your Amazon account not only for additional items, but also for everything you’ve already sold that month.

What does this mean?  That one article referring the cheap item that only earns you pennies for each commission, will earn you about $150 per month because it bumps you into a new tier that gets .5% more on every sale.

This is even more important for sites that have larger volume.  One time I purchased a blog that was selling high volumes of inexpensive items just so it could bump me into a higher tier for my other sites.  But now I’m maxed out at the highest tier so it doesn’t matter anymore.

8: Set Up Tracking IDs

Amazon Associates lets you create multiple tracking IDs in your Amazon Associates account.  This way you can have multiple tracking IDs for multiple websites.  This helps you to get a little bit better data on what your sites are earning.  You can also use these tracking IDs to do split tests by placing different IDs in different areas of your site.

9: Try the Amazon Affiliate Link Globalizer Plugin

I use the Amazon Affiliate Globalizer Plugin by Woboq to insert my affiliate ID into blog posts.  It’s great because you just put the ID in one spot in the plugin, and it automatically applies it to every link you create to Amazon on your site.

The plugin also lets you put in affiliate IDs for,,, etc.  So when you link to a product on the store, it will change the link to the Germany store if the website visitor is in Germany, for example.  In my experience, 95% of my income comes from the Amazon US store, though.

In exchange for this service, the plugin takes 1 out of every 100 clicks and uses their affiliate ID.  This pays back the plugin creator for their work and is easily worth it as far as I’m concerned.

10: Create an Easy Link for Fans

One thing I do on many of my sites is I create a little image in the sidebar of my site that is just a link to Amazon, and I ask loyal readers of the site to click it before they buy things there as a way to support the site.  Many do.

11: Use a Good Layout

The design of your website is significant for getting good results as an affiliate.  Read this article about the WordPress theme that we use on EVERY SINGLE NEW SITE WE MAKE, and how I got an immediate 20% bump in the traffic on the site I applied it to.

What I really like about this theme is that one of the stacks for it has linked articles above the fold that are excellent spots to put affiliate articles.

I bet I’ve tried over 150 different WordPress themes over the last 7 years of blogging, so to say that X Theme is the ONLY theme I use is not a trivial statement.  I’m a HUGE fan. It’s fast, has an incredible array of features, the support is tremendous, it’s easy to design with, and it has been rock solid in terms of performance.

~Jim Harmer

12: Make Your Site Look Lived In

I don’t waste tons of time on the design of my websites.  Yet, I do spend a good amount of time trying to make sure the site looks “lived in.”  When someone comes to a website, they immediately make certain judgments about the site based on what they see.

If they see a big “ZERO COMMENTS” listed on every article’s summary on the home page, it doesn’t exactly engender confidence.  Similarly, if they see a forum with no posts, or that no new articles have been written in 6 months, etc.

I often find that with my new sites, it’s best if I spend 3 weeks just writing, writing, writing as much as possible.  Then I go back to the design phase and add photos advertising popular articles, etc.  This makes the site looked lived in.  When people think the site is reputable, they are more likely to trust your product recommendations and buy on Amazon.

13: Check Your Category!

One of the most common mistakes I see new bloggers making when choosing a niche that will be monetized on Amazon is simply not understanding the way the Amazon affiliate structure works.

For example, I frequently see people who purchase a 60 Day Niche Site School from me making the mistake of choosing categories in the technology industry.  Amazon only gives a 4% commission on electronics, and 2% for computers.  Headphones, major appliances, magazines, etc are also special categories that do not get the full 8% commission.  Choosing one of these categories can dramatically decrease your earning potential.

If you’re concerned about your niche falling into one of these categories, be sure to mention it in the community if you join Project 24 so that we can give you feedback.  But usually we catch those right away and would alert you to it.

14: Use Pretty Links on Youtube

Youtube CAN BE an excellent way to kick-start your traffic on a niche site, but only if you approach it right.  The key is to create videos that will nearly force the viewer to go to an accompanying article on your website.

For example, I created an article called “Best RV length for fitting in National Park camp sites” on Youtube for my niche site about RVs.  The article had some of the numbers, but I said that viewers could go to to get the rest of the numbers.

The traffic on the article immediately spiked.  You can create links in Youtube videos, but they don’t work on mobile, which is where half of your viewers will likely watch the video.  So a pretty link is key.  Download the pretty link lite plugin, which allows you to make an easy to remember link like that forwards users to the full URL of the article.

15: Check Out My Project 24 Membership Program

If you’re interested in earning money with Amazon Associates, I really feel like I could give you a much higher chance of succeeding if you join my Project 24 Membership.

Here’s how it works: It’s a complete membership program. I’ll guide you through each step of your blogging journey with course content for every phase of your site. I’ve created a community of helpful members that I participate in almost every day. You’ll get your questions answered and get excellent feedback on your work. Everything I know about blogging gets added to that membership, so you’ll always have the latest info.

Best of all, I priced it VERY VERY affordably.  The closest competitors I’ve seen to this product are charging $1,000 and that’s for a single course.

Learn more about Project 24 here.

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