Amazon Associate Program Changes: Amageddon!

~ 8 Minute Read

I woke up Thursday of last week to an email from Amazon Associates, which was different than the usual Thursday morning of my baby daughter having nonsensical conversations with herself and my dog whining for breakfast.  Amazon, this had better be good….

My Gut Said I’m Fucked

The title of the email was “Amazon Associates: Important Program Update”.  My gut reaction was “uh-oh”, as I had a feeling that this was indeed not going to be good, but very, very bad.  As I read through the email my fears became even more heightened.

I really perked up when I read the following “…..and eliminates volume tiers”.  For many years, the Amazon Associates program has based their commission percentages on the volume of items referred by the affiliate marketer, and range from 4% to 8.5%.  For the last 6 months I’d been consistently hitting the 8.25% rate, which is the second highest rate that can be achieved.  Immediately upon reading this I’m anxious to know what it is being replaced with.

The old fee schedule. “We had a lot of good times together, baby.”

A Lesson in Corporate Emails

As I read through the rest of the email my fears went from a 7 out of 10 to about a 9.5.  The email included several phrases that I can only describe as being corporate speak for “You’re about to get fucked over.”

Some of my favorite corporate phrases from the email included the following gems and their proper English translation that I’ve included for your amusement:

We received feedback from associates that the advertising fee structure could be made clearer” translates to “You see, it was you who wanted to make less money so bend over and watch us drill you harder than a fracking well.”  In regular society this is simply known as victim blaming.

By offering higher advertising fees in certain categories, we want to reward associates that can refer sales across those categories” translates to “Oh, you refer 7 items per month in the ‘Luxury Beauty’ category?  Great, here’s a 10% commission rate! The rest of you peasants referring thousands of items in other categories can take the lower referral rate and suck it.”

The Changes

At the bottom of the email there was a link to see the new Amazon Associates referral rates.  I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and clicked.

This is what I found:

The new fee schedule. It’s so much….clearer?

I quickly see that the two categories I’m most concerned about, kitchen and sports, are on the bottom half of the table with a referral rate of 4.5%.  I take a deep breath and try not to have a panic attack.

The Bad News

I’m going to be hit particularly hard because the vast majority (>80%) of my referrals are in the kitchen and sports categories, which will knock me down from a solid 8.25% to a skinny 4.5%.  This will likely change my projected Amazon Associate income from $90,000 to $50,000 for 2017.  Ouch!

“Aren’t staycations fun!” I exclaim as my wife looks at me with a disapproving scowl.

On top of the very real ramifications these program changes will have on my pocketbook, Amazon has set a very scary precedent to affiliate marketers who use their program.  At any time Amazon is willing to make drastic changes that may mean the difference between living comfortably working from home and having to get a, oh I hate this word, job.

Is There Good News?

Yes, sort of.  Based on the changes to the Amazon Associates interface, Amazon appears to plan on keeping the Associates program alive for the long term.  This is important as the Amazon Associates program will continue to be the primarily income for thousands of small business owners in America.

This situation has also forced me to reevaluate my websites’ relationship with Amazon.  Up until now they were pretty much the only game in town as far as my websites are concerned.  However, now that I’m looking at a big pay cut from Amazon I’ve already begun to reach out to manufacturers directly about setting up partnerships to promote their products.  One has already stated interest.  I’ll keep you posted as I work through this process.

What I’d also like to see is another e-commerce player step up to the plate and see this as a chance to exploit what I consider a misstep by Amazon.  Wal-Mart, here’s looking at you and that shiny new acquisition Jet.com.  Offer affiliates a 10% referral with a 30 day cookie and I’m sure you’d get more than a few of us to jump on board.

“So, you want us to pay people well? Bwahahaha!”

If I’m being truthful I’m not sure Wal-Mart brass really have the foresight or commitment to do what it takes to make a real run at Amazon.  We shall see.


After sending a request to talk with Amazon Associate management about the changes to share my displeasure, I began the hard road to acceptance.  Amazon doesn’t give a poop about me or any other affiliate marketers’ woes, so time to be moving on with my life.

Moving forward I’m going to continue to utilize the Amazon Associates program, because it is still the most well known and successful program to date.  And hey, $50,000 is better than $0.

While I may sound ungrateful in this post, I want to reiterate that Amazon Associates has been good to me overall and offered me an opportunity to leave a career I disliked.  My feelings in this regard remain unchanged.

At the same time I’m going to be much more focused on pursuing other ways to monetize my websites.  I’m hopeful to get some partnerships directly with manufactures as I feel these could potentially be even more lucrative, as many brands would be happy to not give Amazon a cut.

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3 thoughts on “Amazon Associate Program Changes: Amageddon!

    1. It does, but this is how it goes with these small businesses from time to time. Hopefully, everyone making money this way can adjust and find new revenue streams.

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