Amazon Cans PPC Affiliates

Via an email to affiliates, announced they are scaling back their associates program in North America by disallowing direct linking from paid search results:

After careful review of how we are investing our advertising resources, we have made the decision to no longer pay referral fees to Associates who send users to,, or through keyword bidding and other paid search on Google, Yahoo, MSN, and other search engines, and their extended search networks. If you're not sure if this change affects you, please visit this page for FAQs.

As of May 1, 2009, Associates will not be paid referral fees for paid search traffic. Also, in connection with this change, as of May 1, 2009, Amazon will no longer make data feeds available to Associates for the purpose of sending users to the Amazon websites in the US or Canada via paid search.

As the paid search market has matured and competitive research tools have improved the value of using affiliates for discovering new keywords has been sharply reduced. Other merchants will follow Amazon's lead. Some might wait for the economy to pick up first, but the fact that Amazon is trimming this in a down market (recession/possible depression) shows how little they feel they benefit from affiliate arbitrage of paid search results.

Yet another reason to find SEO based affiliate work more stable than PPC affiliate efforts. Any PPC-based affiliate that is sick of having to rebuild from the ground up over and over again would be smart to (and is welcome to) taking the enlightened path :)

Published: April 6, 2009 by Aaron Wall in internet


April 6, 2009 - 4:49pm

I don't get this move. Isn't this just giving up marginal sales?

Anyways, I personally wouldn't use their program except as backfill in the event other merchants didn't carry something. Only getting paid if a visitor converts in the same session is RIDICULOUS crediting theft.

April 7, 2009 - 1:45am

If affiliates are increasing Amazon's costs and/or marketing aggressively in a way that could risk Amazon's quality score then filtering them out may not be a bad idea.

April 7, 2009 - 12:02am

Not surprisingly, this post didn't get a lot of fan fare or engagement, but it's actually huge news and I appreciate you posting it.

This could potentially lead to a large boom for agencies that provide direct PPC management services for large Fortune 500 clients.

April 7, 2009 - 1:44am

A lot of the big companies like probably already have sophisticated internal bidding algorithms. It doesn't really make sense to outsource paid search on such a site when they already got all that data in databases, realtime sales data, a search box on their own site, and probably a good bit of leeway with Google AdWords quality scores.

April 8, 2009 - 10:11pm

it wouldn't be hard for amazon to collect kw conversion data, as long as most ppc traffic is not cloaked (i'm not sure if they accept cloaked traffic). at that point, the ppc traffic is just driving up their CPCs. they could just wipe out all competing traffic and run ads for kw's that they know are converting. wouldn't surprise me, and wouldn't surprise me if other big companies follow. and if they're passive about it and don't actively wipe out competitors after may 1, then it's free traffic for them since they're not paying out commissions.

February 3, 2010 - 4:17am

Hey Aaron,

I know that UK affiliates of Amazon have been hit by a SEO slap as well as Amazon won't be paying any commissions on links that show up in the SERPs. But do you know anything about U.S. traffic? Amazon is currently holding my December & November commissions for me having pulled some sales off the SERPs. It's a small amount probably but Amazon has nixed all my commissions (5 figures).

Any precedents?

February 3, 2010 - 11:15am

Bummer to hear that. Not sure what to say about it though...other than I expect some other big companies may follow in their path.

February 3, 2010 - 2:36pm

Yes. It hurts as a blogger to lose that much money in a month. But I am glad I didn't put all my eggs in one basket. The funny thing is, I am not even sure how to contact Amazon other than their online form. So far no one has gotten back to me to tell me why my commissions were removed when they don't mention anything about free search in their U.S. agreement. I do agree with you that Amazon and other companies will use this practice in the future. But is it even legal or ethical to do that when it's not in their affiliate agreement?

Is it just me or the affiliate marketing business is getting destroyed by these moves and all the talk about Internet tax.

February 3, 2010 - 2:40pm

Its not just you...and don't forget Google whacking tons of affiliates too ;)

February 3, 2010 - 4:08pm

I just hope this is a bad joke as Amazon never warned US affiliates on free search traffic. But what do I know?

@aaron. Thanks so much for taking time to respond to my comments anyway. If there is anyone here who can help me get out of this mess or have any suggestions, I'd appreciate it.

February 18, 2010 - 5:26pm

Hey guys.

Just wanted to give you an update on my situation. Here is the e-mail Amazon sent me:

We have found that you are sending users directly to the 6” Kindle detail page from general search results on Google through a Special Link that includes your Associates tracking id. As stated in the Operating Agreement, we will not pay referral fees for any purchases made by customers referred to us through Special Links generated or displayed in response to general Internet search queries or keywords. Based on this, we have made a deduction to your account balance for the referral fees generated from this activity between December 1 and December 31, 2009.

I am a U.S. affiliate. Got all my commissions written off for this incident even though this link was probably responsible for a third of our commissions. And they haven't responded to any of my emails arguing that I should be paid for the other items I have referred to them. Too bad. I used to like Amazon.

February 18, 2010 - 9:50pm

That is brutal. It seems many companies love affiliates when they are new, and as they reach maturation that love slowly disappears.

February 18, 2010 - 10:07pm

@Aaron. I agree with you, but I have never seen a large company such as Amazon being so miserable in dealing with affiliates. No phone number, no direct access to affiliate managers, takes them weeks to respond, and they don't really listen to anything we have to say.

Have never had that problem with Apple or other top affiliate programs. I mean if you are going to reject something, do it in a week or 2 not a month :) Well, I hope people who read my story learn who they are dealing with as far as Amazon is concerned. What I found funny was how they tried to tell me how it was my fault for my link getting ranked on Google.

February 19, 2010 - 6:24am

Lots of the affiliate networks (especially the spam/scam rebill offer type folks) shave your commissions and clone your campaigns...while what is doing might not be awesome, it is no worse than what is common elsewhere.

Whenever markets get somewhat monopolized the leaders start behaving like that. But that leaves a market opening for someone else to run with. Over time the above behavior will be harmful to their brand and their market position.

Think of how arrogantly Google behaves (they don't even tell their publishers the ad share rates ). If they had a smaller marketshare & more competition they wouldn't behave that way either. This is why it is so important to promote competition amongst market leaders. And when you see a market of a couple near equal quality options I like to chose the smaller player because it forces the big play to stay a bit more honest.

Yes I have Google Chrome installed, but Firefox is my main browser because it is independent. The same sort of strategy applies to monetization if possible...often the #2 players will pay more to buy marketshare and/or be flexible in their approach with partners.

February 20, 2010 - 5:02am

I completely agree with your assessment on smaller players. I have learned from my time here in the U.S. that some small companies do innovate and think outside the box more often than those larger companies.

I used to like Firefox. But it seems to be getting worse as they add more things. But I get your point.

My issue with Amazon is trust. Once you break that trust, there is no going back. Thank god I diversified. You are right though. They are not the worst. But my hands are tied as far as what I can say about them at this point :)

February 20, 2010 - 9:50am

I agree that Firefox is trying to get too broad...but they bring in so much cash from their partnerships with search engines that I think it forces them to do some counter-productive stuff to help justify that they are trying stuff and spend the funds.

Lots of it is worth next to nothing, but that is how innovation works...throw crap at the wall and some of it sticks. :D

Without them we likely wouldn't have got improvements to IE or the release of Google Chrome.

October 4, 2017 - 9:23am

As old verticals close, new ones will always open.
Innovate or die - same goes with affiliation.
Happy to chat further with anyone that is interested: phil (@)

Darlin Aviles
May 4, 2020 - 1:22pm


Nice to e-meet you!

I'd love to contribute an article to the Seobook blog, is that possible? I've created awesome content for other sites about getting rid of pests from your lawn and natural remedies to control them. I'd be honored to do the same for you!

I'm happy to send over some ideas, what are you thinking?


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