Amazon's Associate Program is Broken

Amazon's Associate Program is Broken
Photo by Cytonn Photography / Unsplash

Technodabbler, like many tech blogs, is a labor of love. Unfortunately, love does not pay hosting fees or other expenses. Ads are common for monetizing blogs, but they provide very little money unless the blogs has a large readership. They are also ugly as sin.

An alternative method of financing are affiliate programs, where blogs receive a percentage of sales originating from their sites. For example, an article describing the Nvidia Shield Tablet could include an Amazon to the tablet's page in the store. If a reader clicks on the link and eventually purchases the tablet, the affliate will earn two to four percents of the sale. For this particular product, this would be 7 to 15 USD per sale.

Unfortunately, Amazon's affliate program, named Amazon Associate, is so broken that it is unlikely that the affliate will see the money if his readers are located in more than one country. The problem is very well explained by @Jacek in this article and easily summarized : associate accounts are bound to a specific country and associate links only work if the purchaser is in the same country as the associate account's.

Ten Distinct Stores

There are ten different Amazon stores around the world. Each of these store have an associate program. Amazon's help page explains very well that each associate program is distinct :

Your Associates ID will only earn you referral fees from sales in the same locale as your Associate ID. For example, to earn referral fees from an widget, you must be a member of the UK Associates program and use that UK Associates ID in your UK widget.

This means that that websites with readers all over the world are required to sign up to all ten associate programs if they wish to avoid losing sales revenu. Note that each associate program requires the completion of tax forms specific to that country. Then, each time a link to a product is needed, it must be created in all different associate programs. To make all of this work, some code is also needed to detect the country of origin of visitors to show them the appropriate link.

Shifting the Problem

In essence, this is not a hard problem to solve. The proper piece of code can automate link generation and show the proper one to the visitor. A good example of this is AzonWebStore, an OpenCart module that leverages the associate programs to display products and allow customers to buy them.

Bloggers using Wordpress will find no shortage of 3rd party solutions to unify all the associate programs. Two popular examples would be EasyAzon or Amazon Auto Links. However, very little exists for people using other blogging solutions.

The existance of distinct associate programs for each store is possibly motivated by a mix of technical, legal and business restrictions. However, it shift additional complexities towards members of the program, forcing them to deal with these regional quirks or lose sales. Given the Internet has very little regional barriers, a problem of this complexity would either be a gross oversight or simple neglect on Amazon's part.

Public Service Announcement

Technodabbler will not be joining Amazon's Associate program. However, you can still help Technodabbler by purchasing any of the items on this wishlist, which contains several of the items we wish to review on this site.