Amazon has one of the best affiliate marketing programs going. For regular people with expertise and intense interest in a particular niche it can generate a modest income. For self-published authors, using affiliate links adds an extra bonus to royalties. Very few affiliate marketers, including those with Amazon, earn big bucks, and the successful ones tend to have well-established sites, focused niches, and years of experience.

That said, it costs nothing to become an Amazon affiliate and it’s easy to use links, widgets, and even a free aStore. Amazon offers a lot of link-building tools to affiliates, including text links, image-only links, text+iframe links, widgets of all kinds, and the mother of all widgets, the aStore. It can be hard to decide and easy to go over the top.

The truth is that simple text links and image links in the context of a substantive article result in more sales than iframe links, widgets, banners, or an aStore. There are always a few exceptions, but long-time veterans of the affiliate program have said repeatedly that they get almost all their sales from text or image links.

I like to see how things work and have spent some time playing with most of the Amazon link builder tools and widgets, including quite a few aStores. I’ve always been restrained when using widgets, to avoid a glarpy, spammy look. And aStores have never been the centerpiece of any of my sites. But, personal experience has been that simple links in context pay off better than anything else, period.

It’s still fun to throw an occasional banner or widget onto a site, and aStores are so easy to build, they’re irresistible. Just don’t expect them to be your bread and butter. Visitors come to your site for good, reliable information or product reviews that they may not be able to find elsewhere. Give it to them and they’ll reward you with loyalty and occasionally buy something from your site.

Search engines ignore aStores as duplicate content. If you have your heart set on an aStore, include original and interesting articles on your site and don’t slap an aStore on your home page. From Google’s viewpoint, an aStore is worthless.

To get some traffic to sites with Amazon affiliate links, make sure you offer visitors something they cannot easily find by going directly to Amazon. It could be a collection of products or books that are hard to find or obscure, recommendations on the most useful items, reviews for a particular audience.

Some things to consider and do:

  • Chose your niche wisely. It should be focused and something you understand well. Don’t choose a broad niche that’s already well-covered by large, authoritative sites, such as health care, music, or electronics. Above all, don’t pay some huckster for a “shopping mall” site that’s doomed to fail from the start. The mall hawkers make money on worthless coaching and paid traffic. Keep your money and use the free tools that Amazon provides.
  • Add content to your site. Make it worth visiting.
  • Pay some attention to your post and page titles to ensure that they are directly related to the focus of your content. Do a little research on how people search for such content by using Google’s AdWord Tool. Remember that people search using short phrases, not single words and compare a few variations on your focus keyword idea.
  • Post at regular intervals. Add a new page or post once a week, or at least once a month. Organize posts into broad categories and use tags to group related posts.
  • Turn on the Site Stripe in your Amazon Associate account so that you can search or browse the sales catalog and create links with your associate ID in them on the spot.
  • When you get stuck, ask specific questions on the Amazon Associates Discussion Board.
  • Consider starting out with a free site on Google Blogger or Weebly. It’s easy to make a good looking site on either of them and they tolerate both Adsense and Amazon links.

Perseverance, some luck, and enthusiasm for your niche will take you a long way