Affiliate marketers are finding themselves in a precarious position during the COVID-19 pandemic. Online traffic globally (especially in countries and regions hit hardest by the coronavirus) is through the roof. Trapped inside and barred from their regular ways of being, people are doing things they used to do in person virtually. This includes making purchases of all kinds, such as clothing, groceries, appliances, services, and so on and so forth.
So while affiliate marketers are likely receiving more traffic to their sites as of late, and are likely receiving more revenue from those affiliate partnerships, it’s more important now than ever to consider diversifying from Amazon.
As arguably the most popular place to shop in the world, Amazon has experienced a boom over the past few months and the ceiling doesn’t appear to be in sight. At first glance, Amazon’s growth in and of itself may be reason to avoid diversifying from the Amazon Associates program. But, upon a closer look, Amazon has moved to cut commission fees in eight of its most profitable product categories.
Many entrepreneurs running websites of all kinds depend on affiliate marketing for a substantial chunk of their revenue – including myself. As I’ve written about before, as a manager of a portfolio of websites, I’ve been hit hard by this recent Amazon decision. It’s been yet another reminder of the dangers of monopoly and, more specifically, of small businesses having to rely on crumbs and whatever companies like Amazon decide their partnerships are worth.
Though it might not seem like it, now is the time to diversify your affiliate marketing options from Amazon. I’ve spent a lot of time over these past few months contemplating how to do so and if it was the right decision in our current environment. In the end, I managed to 4x my affiliate revenues in a week by diversifying from Amazon and establishing new affiliate partnerships. In this article, I hope to show you how you can, too!
Why NOW is the Time to Diversify your Affiliate Partnerships
For affiliate marketers, diversifying can be thought of as both the sorts of companies you have advertising partnerships with, and the sorts of advertisements you’re placing on your site. Most affiliate marketers don’t rely on one partnership to begin with, but if you do, or if you’ve been relying on the same two or three partnerships for some time, it’s important in this unprecedented environment to look to diversify your affiliate partnerships.
Many of us rely on Amazon for our affiliate partnerships, at least to some degree, and I think now’s the time for anyone who’s been on the fence about experimenting with affiliate marketing diversification to give it a try for three big reasons:
1) Amazon’s new Commission Cut is a Gamble. The first is the most obvious. Amazon made this decision because business is booming for Jeff Bezos and Co. Sticking with Amazon during this time requires the use of some shaky circular logic; as in, you’d have to believe that more people online equals more visits to your site and creates more conversions to sales through affiliate marketing, and justify the lower commission because of the increase in conversions.
But, there’s no guarantee that’ll happen, and there’s also no guarantee that Amazon re-raises commissions to pre-COVID-19 levels when the pandemic is less of an impediment for in person shopping of all kinds. With commissions for product categories dropping by over 2% for most and up to 5% for some, that revenue stream could look a lot different. Also, let’s not forget about the other cons of Amazon, such as the fact that it’s not possible to directly promote affiliate products through email marketing!
2) Online Shopping is Booming. The good news about diversifying away from Amazon is that there are tons more options for affiliate programs than you’d think. People have been spending an abnormal amount of time online during these abnormal times, and online shopping, in nearly every industry, has seen substantial gains.
And while I said the logic for relying on Amazon isn’t very strong, I do think it’s a safe bet to assume that more online purchases translates, at least in some way, to more conversions for affiliate marketers. Think of the current online shopping boom as the perfect cover to diversify away from Amazon, if only because the boom means that if a conversion’s going to take place, it doesn’t matter much how traffic gets from your site to the business you’ve partnered with.
3) Preparing for Life Post-Pandemic. It’s hard to believe it sometimes, but there is a world on the other side of this thing. Eventually, much of life will return to normal, and whatever traffic you’re experiencing now (if it’s been up at all) will doubtlessly come back down from the stratosphere, at least a little.
Many experts believe that COVID-19 accelerated the transition of consumer spending habits away from brick-and-mortar and towards E-Commerce. The degree to which it will is a harder thing to prophesize, but regardless, entrepreneurs who run websites that are ready to extract the most value out of affiliate marketing partnerships will have a leg up against competitors in the new world.
My Experience Walking Away from Amazon
As I’ve written about in the past, this isn’t a decision one should make lightly. You might be asking yourself a ton of questions or be uncertain about putting in more work than you already have, or taking time away from other work. I had my share of doubts, for certain, and completely understand that there’s some risk and opportunity costs involved.
But for me, about a year back, someone had recommended I diversified my affiliate partnerships away from Amazon, and I figured it was worth a shot! It wasn’t an easy decision to make, but it’s taught me a lot, and made me confident that it’s worth a shot for any entrepreneur. The story of how I 4x’d my affiliate revenues for this site in only one week goes something like this:
I started a new site that covered health by ordering several pieces of content, adding in a couple links, and let it sit for a few months. Somehow, this little site began raking in $90/month from Amazon and was ranking for several high-competition keywords.
For such a small site, this was a really nice surprise for me. I figured at that time that since it wasn’t one of my breadwinners it wasn’t worth me putting all that much more work into it – especially since I hadn’t expected it to do so well. Those affiliate advertisements on that website were from Amazon, after all, and I expected to be able to rely on that $90/month for what it was: Predictable and low-risk.
And then COVID-19 happened. In April, when Amazon updated their commission rates for the products I was advertising for them from 4% to 1.5%, that $90/month turned into $15/month. I could’ve sat on that $90/month comfortably, but $15 is barely enough to cover the monthly website hosting fees! By dropping their commission rate just 2.5%, Amazon gave me a choice to make: I could either operate a fringe site making a fistful of dollars, or I could diversify away from Amazon and see what the site was worth.
I decided to update the first and second place product recommendations in my most trafficked posts with a direct partnership affiliate program, and found brands on ShareASale and Commission Junction to use for the others. It took some work, but again, my income had changed substantially because of Amazon’s change in commission rates, and I needed to do something.
In just two weeks, with just one new affiliate program and little bit of work, I ended up making $332.46!
While not all diversification has this rosy of an ending, and conversions can be hit or miss, it’s important to remember that now is the perfect time to give it a try. Having tried to diversify from Amazon is in and of itself a lesson in how to gain more control of your revenue.
Recommended Strategies for Diversifying from Amazon
In our final section, I’m going to run through several of the strategies I employed in diversifying from Amazon. I feel it’s important for me to note that in passing on this advice, know that I’m an entrepreneur just like you hoping to pass on some of what has worked for me and learn along the way. I hope you find these strategies as helpful as I have!
Establish direct commission partnerships. The biggest argument for sticking with Amazon is convenience. With so many different things to buy and such a variety of potential reasons to head to the site, why would I detach from this gigantic marketplace? You’d be surprised to learn that many companies, even big ones, aren’t engaging in direct affiliate marketing programs.
Reaching out to your favorite brand may be a bit of a stretch, but if you target brands that either a) are up and coming, b) that you personally like, or c) you think the sorts of people who visit your site might like, you might be surprised at the dividends that are possible.
Seek out and maintain recurring partnerships. Recurring revenue is the best kind of revenue. Whether the site focuses on business to business or business to consumer sales is ultimately irrelevant.
Focus on establishing relationships with partners you believe your site can provide value for, and hold on to the relationships that work best for you and your revenue goals.
When you establish partnerships and maintain them appropriately, it’s ultimately less work you have to do to sustain that passive income, and opens up your time to focus on more pressing needs or establishing new partnerships.
Do your research. On sites such as ShareASale and Commission Junction, you can browse thousands of different merchants all jostling to be hosted on your site. These websites are absolutely among the best places to search out both new affiliate marketing partners and to search for potential direct commission partnerships. Search for brands you think your traffic will be drawn to and increase your chances at conversions, or just go with any of the big recognizable merchants that offer affiliate programs through these sites.
Become an affiliate E-Commerce site. While this is a relatively new trend, some up and coming businesses seek to maximize their sales by offering their products through multiple different websites. By becoming an E-Commerce site for another brand, you can offer a one stop shop for a brand’s materials and potentially strike gold if the brand takes off or if you can successfully drive traffic to the site.
Build your brand. This is the oldest advice in the book because it makes a lot of sense. Focus on you first! If the quality of your brand improves and you can refine what you have to offer the world, the odds of you converting traffic to sales for your affiliate partners increases as a result. Building a strong brand with your niche is often the best bet in the affiliate marketing business to sustain success over time.
Brands are all about customer relationships with the brand, and building that relationship is key. An easy way to begin cultivating a community on your site is by beginning an email list – where you can send out updates to faithful visitors of your site, keep them informed, and up the odds that they’ll continue to visit.
Embrace trial and error. Don’t give up! Last but not least, don’t give up on yourself! As entrepreneurs, we know that failure is a big part of any success story. In order to successfully diversify from Amazon, you’ll need to whether some bumps in the road and keep trying different affiliate partnerships before you find the one that works for you. Remember, on the other side of COVID-19, you’ll be happy that you experimented now and for all the things you learned along the way.
This is a post from Angelo Sorbello over at AstroGrowth.com.