Amazon Commission Changes in 2020: The End of an Era? Or an Opportunity?

Greg Elfrink Updated on April 17, 2020

Amazon Affiliate Commissions

The only thing that stays the same is that things always change.

Nowhere is that truer than in the online business world. Right now, it is happening with Amazon. Amazon announced today a site-wide rollout of commission structure change for their affiliates (they have officially announced this change here) that will be implemented as of April 21st.

When dramatic business-impacting changes like this come out, many people shout that the business model is dead or can no longer make money. They close up shop and leave the online world altogether.

While this change WILL hurt a ton of affiliates, but there are still some opportunities people can take advantage of as these changes roll out.

Submit Your Business For Sale

A Reminder to Diversify

Those who will suffer most from this change are affiliates that didn’t pursue diversifying their income source. Many authority site builders rely on Amazon as their sole source of income, which is a risky move for the long-term health of their media companies they are building.  Affiliates across Amazon’s program will likely be getting hit hard by this as Amazon slashes some of the most popular categories by large percentages.

You can see the new changes below:

amazon change

These changes will make some affiliate income plummet by double digits in realized earnings.

Of course, these changes don’t mean there is no opportunity left as an Amazon Associates. There are plenty of products to still sell on Amazon and the conversion rate is high enough that it can be a great income source. The keyword here is “a” income source. The program is great for sites just starting out without a ton of traction yet, sites that are still building out those coveted audiences. As a site grows in its authority, traffic levels and engaged audiences though, they should be looking outside of Amazon for more revenue streams to add to their mix.

What Will Happen to Amazon Affiliate Site Valuations?

There’s no getting around it, making less money directly translates into a less valuable business. The valuations will go down, in some cases quite significantly. Again this clearly depends on the category of the site as some had their commissions reduced more than others.

Note from Justin & Joe: We will be repricing ALL of the Amazon Associates sites on our marketplace to reflect this change. Our methodology for this will include using the seller’s earning report from Amazon. We have created a formula using historical sales that adjusts the commission percentage based on the new rates that Amazon has rolled out. These rates are adjusted in every category and accurately updated with the historical earning amounts. Since every item is in a different commission category, we will take every category that the website is selling in into account for the new adjusted valuation price.

Some Amazon affiliate site builders will continue with business-as-usual, but others are looking to at least diversify their businesses, if not move away from Amazon entirely. While you can still sell these assets for a very nice exit, it’s probably worth at least revisiting the fact that having all of your earnings on another platform opens you up to risk when/if they decide to make changes.

We’ll dive deeper into how you may want to diversify below.

The good news about selling Amazon affiliate sites is that buyers still consider them an excellent investment opportunity. From a buyer’s standpoint, not much is likely to change. The sites are still very hands-off and require little to very slight management on their part to run. If anything, they will be getting a slight “discount” on these Amazon affiliate sites since the sites themselves will still be attracting the same amount of traffic that they can use to split-test new offers once they acquire the sites.

How Affiliates Who Took A Hit Might Recover & Future Proof Their Business

Amazon is often cited (especially by themselves) as the best affiliate program around. When it comes to physical products, they have almost any item you can think of for sale. It is easy to use and people love shopping on Amazon.

That does not necessarily mean they are the best option for every niche.

In fact, depending on your niche there might be other affiliate programs that pay you far more than what Amazon is paying even on the old structure they had. Many of these affiliate programs will pay higher rates and will often have much longer cookies. Amazon cookies every visitor that clicks on your affiliate link for 24 hours, meaning anything that person buys within 24 hours will be attributed to your account.

Other affiliate programs can have as long as 90-day cookies, meaning anything that visitor buys from that website within 90 days will be attributed to your account. That is a long time, and it can make a big difference in revenue. You will still want to split test this, but by doing so you might find a big win just by switching over to a different affiliate program.

Even though we know Amazon has major trust with consumers and a well-optimized funnel, the increased percentages, and longer cookies other affiliates offer may now be worth exploring for your site.

Other Affiliate Networks

As a niche site builder, you should consider building out a genuine authority site… one that goes beyond the Amazon Associates program as a singular monetization method. Authority sites can net you a much higher ROI, typically have diversified traffic and revenue streams, and thus can protect against changes in any one program better than a niche site that only earns revenue from Amazon Associates.

There are dozens of affiliate networks that exist out there that have thousands of different offers you can promote. You can also find private affiliate programs by reaching out to the actual product owners to see if they have one or help them set up one. Amazon is by far not the only game in town. Considering the longer cookie and higher commissions that you can get when you go the non-Amazon route, this is something every affiliate should eventually consider in their site’s growth plan.

Unlike Amazon, many of these networks will give you an affiliate manager. These managers are there to help you out, listen to your needs and if you provide them solid traffic they will often be open to raising your commission. Amazon would never do this for you unless you were a huge affiliate for them with a gigantic media site in their program that they want to keep happy. But for other affiliate networks? It is just part of their normal day to day structure to take care of their affiliates and make sure they’re treated well.

If you’re curious, we actually wrote an article a while back on the top 10 affiliate networks that aren’t Amazon. Check out the article to see if you can start replacing your Amazon links with a more profitable network.

Buying Up Property

The last thing to note is that if you are a big affiliate in the Amazon Associates game, you might see a lot of competition drained from the market by this change. Many Amazon affiliates will likely feel burned by Amazon, pack in their bags, and leave the game entirely.

This could leave many once competitive niches with a lot more gaps for you to build and leverage into with your niche sites. While we don’t believe we’ll see a mass exodus from Amazon Associates, some niches may be more affected by this than others so it may pay to look for gaps in the market. Make sure to register a free account with our marketplace if you are keen to see if anything makes sense for you to acquire.

Download your free report

Display Advertising

Display advertising has made several advances over the last few years. If your plan is to grow out a large authority site that acts more like a mini-media company than display ads are a fantastic revenue source.  When you focus on display ad revenue, it opens you up to a plethora of keywords you may never have gone after before. Now, you get to write about an endless amount of information topics that can drive large volumes of traffic to your business. Over time, it is not uncommon for large sites to find their display ad revenue eclipsing their affiliate revenue.

Despite what some affiliates may think, we have never seen any truth in the idea that installing display ads on your site will take away from your affiliate revenue. In fact, if anything we’ve only ever seen the opposite happen. This is likely due to people are strangely more trusting of websites that use display ads as every big media site on the internet also uses display ads, thus the actual website user is used to seeing them on sites they trust.

An Opportunity for Amazon FBA Owners with Cash On Hand

There is another opportunity out there for the savvy Amazon FBA owner, or e-commerce store owner, as this Amazon update rolls out industry-wide. That advantage is the ability to strategically buy Amazon affiliate sites that are related to your niche. When you do this, you are basically buying traffic at a discount since these Amazon sites will dip in their earnings, and thus value, while still keeping the same amount of traffic.

These strategic buys can lead to new insightful data as well. You will see other products within your niche that the audience is prone to buy, which can help you in deciding to launch your next product. Also, each of these sites can become little satellite sites that can collect emails for your overall brand.

The important thing is finding a site that works for your product specifically. This can be a bit tricky, depending on what you are selling. It is unlikely you are going to find a site that is selling your EXACT product (though it is a nice bonus if they do). On the other hand, you should be looking at sites that are closely related to your niche – if you’re selling running shoes and you stumble upon an Amazon affiliate site selling treadmills, for instance, this could be a good purchase for you as a way to sell more of your shoes. If you sell hardcore health juicers, an Amazon affiliate kitchen website could potentially be alright, but you would likely see far less benefit of buying that site as a strategic acquisition.

You buy these sites for cheaper than what they would had been a month ago, replace the links with links to your physical product, and revamp the sites to become email collecting machines that can be used to launch any new product you create – not to mention bringing back old customers to either your Amazon FBA listings or to the affiliate site for more potential sales and engagement.

Of course, if you’re the Amazon affiliate in this case, you might instead look to buy Amazon FBA businesses related to your affiliate site so you can double dip through both Amazon’s program as well as the margin you get per unit.

The Only Constant is Change

Again, the only constant in the online business world is changing. With every change, comes drawbacks and opportunities. In order to see these, you need to take a step back to look at the big picture. Every year or two there is a major shakeup in the online space, here is a list of just a FEW changes that had entrepreneurs grumbling in the last few years:

  • Google Panda / Penguin Updates
  • The Google Adwords Slap affected many sites relying on paid traffic.
  • Amazon’s Review Smack Down impacted some FBA businesses, but especially those looking to get their new businesses off the ground.
  • Facebook’s organic reach declining dramatically over the years as they force more and more businesses to use their ad platform instead.

These aren’t the only changes that have come about, and Amazon’s newest commission structure change will definitely not be the last change that shakes up the online world.

If you want to survive the next 10-20 years then you need to learn to adapt to the changes. Every setback for someone provides an opportunity for another, and while everyone else is yelling the world is falling apart you will be using first mover’s advantage to further your own business.

Instead of niche sites, build out huge authority sites. Instead of allowing just one platform to control so much of your business like with Amazon’s Associates program, focus on developing multiple income streams.

Look for opportunities to diversify both with traffic and revenue streams. Not only will it make your business potentially more valuable, it will also protect it against changes like this in the future.

At the end of the day, adaptability is the key.

What changes will you make in your business going forward? How has the Amazon Associates change affected your business? Let us know in the comments!

Make a living buying and selling websites

Sign up now to get our best tips, strategies, and case studies


  • Absolutely there is no doubt, one should not rely on only one affiliate Program, but, when I started with Amazon, it was on Squidoo and that was the first place, where I started to learn about Online.

    Slowly slowly I learned and started to write articles on Squidoo and at that time I joined Amazon and learned, then moved on blogger blog and learned.

    Today I’m having my own three websites, but until now I was making money only with Amazon. Now I’m aware that any time they can stop, so I’m looking for other ways to earn money.

    Thanks for the information.

    • Greg Elfrink says:

      Sounds like you’re on the right path Jaswinder!

      Diversifying across different affiliate programs is almost always a good idea. You might be pleasantly surprised to find one that will make you significant more money than Amazon, AND they actually treat you well because they respect their affiliates.

  • Hey Greg!

    Hate to say that I wasn’t all that surprised when Amazon announced the changes, to be completely honest. It seems to completely be Amazon’s style to use others to build them up, get companies reliant on them, then cut them off. Went through ‘The Everything Store’ book last year to learn more about Amazon’s rise and it seems like this has been part of their strategy from the beginning.

    Very interested to see how other retailers will respond. Still though, Amazon is the place most people start their search first, and feel the most comfortable checking out.

    Just goes to show why you should never be reliant on one platform, I suppose!

  • Ade Sinmi says:

    The latest commission rates cut is a big hit.

    1% and a 24-hour cookie duration. Slit my throat!

    • Greg Elfrink says:

      Yes it was a pretty brutal change for sure. I think now more than ever it is important for affiliates not to rely on a single affiliate network for the majority of their income. Though, to be honest, relying on a single network that isn’t amazon is still going be light years ahead in terms of the kind of treatment you’ll get versus what Amazon gives to their affiliates.

  • Roman Esp says:

    Not sure if I remember it correctly, but it’s also harder to join the Youtube Partner Program. I feel like these major channels are making it a bit harder for smaller influencers to join their affiliate programs. I was thinking about adding another affiliate to my list, but I was thinking maybe I could get some recommendations?

  • John says:

    Do you have any affiliate business for sale that are monetized through other affiliate programs?

  • Peter Stec says:

    Wow – just got an email this morning that is way more alarming than this article states. Just about every item in the 7% – 10% commission range has dropped to 4% as of May 1, 2019! Yikes! Here’s the email:

    Here are some of the most important updates we made to the Amazon Associates Program Operating Agreement and Program Policies on May 1, 2019:

    We have changed the rates for Amazon Fashion Women’s, Men’s & Kids Private Label, Apparel, Amazon Cloud Cam Devices, Amazon Element Smart TV (with Fire TV), Amazon Fire TV Devices, Amazon Echo Devices, Ring Devices, Watches, Jewelry, Luggage, Shoes, and Handbags & Accessories to 4.00%.

    • Greg Elfrink says:

      Hey Peter!

      Yes, this article is fairly old now.

      But what I suggest in the article remains even more relevant based off what you said. I think as you grow a content site it is important to diversify away from Amazon. Amazon reliance can really end up strangling you depending on what they do with their program and relying on just one program is inherently risky. You might be able to find some better pay outs and even special deals looking at other networks or going private with direct relationships with the businesses that are selling the products. They’re often more likely to work on their funnels with you and give you solid treatment if you are sending quality traffic to them.

      Here is another blog post I wrote about other affiliate networks that might help you diversify:

  • Marc Arnecke says:


    I added some Amazon links to my website around early 2017 and started making some small money with it. For a while I didn’t have much time to care about my website and left everything as it was. However, since the beginning of 2018 I am still generating same number of clicks, but the purchases reduced drastically.
    An idea?

    • Greg Elfrink says:

      It could be multiple different things – for instance make sure to check your content and click through the affiliate link to make sure all those products are still in stock.

      Sometimes our affiliate links are pointing to places where the product is no longer being sold. It could be the product has fallen in popularity too and has gained a lot of negative reviews which turns people off. Try to spot what is different.

      If you’re getting the same amount of traffic from the same source as you were in 2017, it is likely something related to the product page. It could be a few other things, but that is where I’d suggest to start looking

  • Isaac says:

    Ouch. This will surely hurt all Associates. I am happy to know this ahead of time, when I’m just starting my niche site ventures.

  • Perfect timing. Just looking at the amazon affiliate program. Does anyone know of a good book affiliate program where you can download a digital book?

    • Greg Elfrink says:

      Hey Duncan!

      There is still opportunity within the Amazon affiliate program 🙂 Don’t let it get you down!

  • Akshat says:

    This might be a setback for some users but i think there are other options out there too.

    • Greg Elfrink says:

      Absolutely Akshat.

      There are a ton of other affiliate programs out there (for most niches) that site owners will be able to split test with – some of these tests will make the site owners very happy too if they’re converting better than Amazon’s current program.

      • Of Course, There are lot’s of Stores available which provides in-house affiliate program, if someones affiliate earnings goes down they can join them easily and theirs payout also good in commissions rather than amazon,

        Amazon Announces it when i was about to start my own niche site, but i’ll create, 🙂

        • Greg Elfrink says:

          Keep on creating Pradeep! 🙂

          Yes, other affiliate programs could be split tested and found to actually convert better. It all comes down to testing of course. For some niche sites this will be a big win and for many they will discover Amazon to still be their top earner.

  • Brent says:

    I’m guessing Amazon will need to start having some serious competition to reverse this trend. Perhaps a brand new retailer or Walmart will put the pressure on. But only time will tell…

    • Greg Elfrink says:

      Hey Brent!

      I agree, but right now more than ever is a time smaller affiliate program owners can scoop in some serious Amazon players. Amazon will likely remain the leader in physical products, but that doesn’t mean other affiliate programs can’t replace the Associate’s program. In some cases, a few people have acquired sites, replaced the AMZ links with other programs and found huge increases.

      It will always come down to split testing – that and being able to roll with the updates – to stay alive and ahead of this industry.

  • Jim says:

    I would think valuation is just going to have to be based on what the sites earn post-change. I don’t know if Amazon’s associate account allows you to see the detailed breakdown (i.e. commission detail) of what categories all of your affiliates sales are coming from or not. Once that segment of your traffic clicks through to Amazon, they could buy anything and you get a commission on it. They won’t necessarily be buying a items that you are promoting/reviewing on your site.

    Regarding Amazon FBA…this is another type of business I would hold off on buying as Trump’s administration is making it difficult to know where the import tariff and border tax percentages are going to shake out. Most FBA businesses are importing products from Asia, making their current valuation a high risk to drop in value should high taxes be imposed.

    All things considered, you could realistically see prices going up across the board for all items, unless some sellers deem they can partially eat the cost of tax hikes to maintain a competitive price edge in their particular space. Then there is Walmart going after Amazon’s ecommerce space market share, including and especially their Prime market. That also will affect the value of Amazon FBA businesses, just as Amazon’s rise affected to value of eBay businesses in many sectors.

    • Greg Elfrink says:

      Hey Jim!

      Yes, we shall see what happens with the Trump administration when we have to cross that bridge with possible tariffs. That being said, there are still Amazon FBA owners who are making their products using American factories. It is also important to note that there are booming Amazon FBA markets OUTSIDE of the USA too that often have far less competition (Germany and UK as an example). You could hire a good translator, translate your blurbs into the native language of the market you’re looking to target, and experiment there as well.

      As far as Amazon goes, I really don’t think Walmart is going to be able to beat out Amazon. So much of Walmart’s specialty comes from the offline market, Amazon is 100% online and has amazing split-testing powers. We have seen sites switch over from Amazon Associates to Walmart and lose commissions dramatically, it wasn’t even worth sending people to their site. I believe more “niche” affiliate programs such as New Egg stands a much better chance at stealing affiliates away from Amazon’s associate program than another larger catch-all retail like Walmart. Valuations should remain consistent with our repricing using Haver’s tool, and as the months go on we will have even more accurate data (from Amazon’s dashboard itself) for what these sites will be earning underneath the new commission changes.

      Interesting times to be sure!

  • Vinny says:

    I just received this email … Doesn’t make sense.


    We currently accept only &quotFan Pages,&quot &quotVerified&quot pages and/or a YouTube &quotchannel&quot in the Associates program. All other social network sites are not eligible to add Associate links, or for use to create an Associates Account.

    In reviewing your website, we noticed that the URL listed on your application is a social network website. However, your site is not an approved social network or established with enough unique content and followers yet. At this time, we are unable to approve your application and have closed the account under which you had been temporarily approved.

    Thank you for your interest in Associates.

    • Vinny says:

      I didn’t provide and a social URL (account), by the way.

    • Greg Elfrink says:

      Hm that is really strange Vinny.

      My only suggestions would be to email them back, clarify why they think your website is a social network. If your site is empty of content (such a bunch of empty pages waiting for content to be added), I would fill those pages up/delete them before reappyling to the program. Also make sure you have more content than just affiliate content. You want to be providing real value to the audience, plus you don’t want Google to think you are a thin affiliate website.

  • Brad Lunt says:

    I just looked up Best Buys affiliate program and it shows a 0.0% referral fee for their electronics… Guessing that can’t be right?! ( I run a themed Amazon site so this affects me, we’ll see how the rate does in the coming weeks. Hard for me to even figure out which category my niche of items fit into.

    Interested in others feedbacks about replacing Products with other affiliate programs such as: Walmart, Jet, Bestbuy or eBay.

    Obviously niche affiliate programs are great to replace with, you could also set up a drop ship store (I tried this with current site and had horrible conversion rate, was easier to just keep traffic flowing to Amazon).

    Great article, just adapt and throw some Adsense ads up for time being if needed to take away from clicks to Amazon.

    • Greg Elfrink says:

      Hey Brad!

      Yes that seems super strange with Best Buy’s affiliate program. I’m assuming it has to be an error. There are other big affiliate programs for electronics you might want to look into as well. For example New Egg offers 2.5% currently with their program, and I imagine they would convert better than Best Buy since their main customer base is online whereas Best Buy’s clientele is mainly offline retail customers.

      You can check out their program details here:

      Obviously, you will want to split-test this. Electronics is a very competitive niche typically, so you will need to be extra creative to really stand out in these style of niches minus super long tail weak competition keywords obviously.

      Hope this helped! And thank you for the compliment on the article!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Business to Sell?

Click here to get the process started today.