Amazon seem to be sticking to their guns with their latest California update. For those that aren’t aware of the changes, recent tax laws have resulted in Amazon terminating the Amazon affiliate accounts for those affiliates residing in California.
UPDATE TO THIS POST – OCT 2011 – Amazon have re-opened their associates program for California affiliates. See the following quote from Amazon:
California Governor Jerry Brown recently signed legislation repealing the law that had forced us to close the program to California residents. We are pleased to invite all California Associates whose accounts were closed due to the prior legislation to re-enroll in the Program. Associates who re-enroll will retain all prior account settings (login, Associates ID, payment information, etc.).
This isn’t the first state to have their accounts terminated. So far residents in Colorado, Illinois, North Carolina and Rhode Island are also no longer able to to participate in the Amazon Associates Program.
For those living in the states that have been affected by the tax laws here a few suggestions. First of all, we can’t give you any specific legal advice but there have been many who have opened up companies in other states…legally. So you might want to login to your Amazon affiliate account and go to the Discussion Boards to see what others are saying about that. There is certainly a lot of discussion going on in there and lots of suggestions.
Now I’m not going to go into the good and bad of these tax laws and whether or not Amazon is going about things in the right way or not but what I am going to do is go through a number of alternatives that you can use other than Amazon. And this is not just for those who can’t use Amazon.
Even for the rest of us that are still able to use Amazon it is worthwhile diversifying a little and trying new merchants. Of course Amazon converts extremely well but in some cases you might have a nice little niche that will work just as well with a very niche merchant. And some of your readers might prefer buying from a very niche merchant who can answer specific questions and who knows their product in detail. So if for some reason Amazon isn’t converting well for you and you do have a very specific niche then you might want to try some of the networks listed below to look for a merchant who heavily targets your niche.
So, if you are looking for alternatives to using Amazon then we can suggest the following. We use all of these affiliate networks on various websites and are all free to join.
Commission Junction (aka CJ) has been around for a long while now. They were were the first network we signed up with when we started in this business. CJ has hundreds if not thousands of different merchants so you are sure to find a one to suit your niche. You will need to get approval for each merchant that you apply to. Some will give automatic approval as soon as you sign up with them and others will want to manually approve you. Don’t be offended if they don’t approve you. There are plenty of different reasons why you may not get approved – just email the merchant and ask if you really want to know. We don’t always get approved.
Look for Overstock.com when you get there as they are very similar to Amazon with a lot of diverse products.
Each merchant in CJ has different commission rates and requirements so make sure you read the terms for each merchant before signing up with them.
CJ is easy to work with once you get the hang of it and they have a ton of product, text and banner links although this is dependent on the individual merchant of course.
The only downside with CJ is that they don’t offer a deep linking tool to enable linking to any page on a merchants site like some of the other merchant networks. If it is offered it is only on a merchant by merchant basis and most merchants we have found don’t provide the service. However, this is not a huge issue because most merchants in CJ provide links to just about all of their products anyway. This is what makes CJ one of the best merchant networks because there are thousands of product links available.
ShareaSale are another merchant network with a lot of niche merchants. ShareaSale is a good network to work with and they allow deep linking for all their merchants plus a heap of other neat tools like widgets, videos and mini-store creatives.
Their ‘Make a Page’ tool is pretty cool allowing you to select a merchant and create a page of products in seconds. All you need to do is add the code to your site and the products appear. You can select how many products to display, and whether you want descriptions and prices to also display as well as a heap of other options. Here’s an example:
Once you have signed up to ShareaSale it’s a good idea to sign up with CSN Stores (soon to be known as Wayfair). CSN are a network of very niche type online stores and we use them on a number of our sites.
Linkshare has been around for a while now and has a lot of merchants but we’re not too fussed on their reporting interface. It started out kind of confusing so we didn’t use them too much. However they have improved over time although the reporting side is still clunky to work with. You are given a site id for each website, which is fine but all records and reports are held under those seperate site id’s so you have to spend time going into each website report individually, there isn’t an overview of all your sites reports. If you only have a couple of sites then this won’t be an issue but, if you are like most of us and have way too many sites then this does become an issue If I was starting out with them now, I would only register one site and consolidate all the merchant links under that site.
They do have a lot of merchants to choose from so are well worth a look. Once you are in the link building phase LinkShare is easy to use and getting links is no problem. They also have deep linking which is really easy to use and the merchants also provide plenty of products, text links and banners for you can directly link to.
Google of course has to be in on everything so they bought out a private affiliate network and made it all their own. The Google Affiliate Network isn’t too bad but it’s a bit clunky considering this is Google we are talking about. You would expect it to be a top notch system but in our opinion, it’s not. However, they do have some of the bigger merchants like KMart and Target for instance.
Wanda reckons that Pepperjam is her favorite. She is the one who spends the majority of the time on our niche sites so she would know. You can create mini-stores, deep links and tracking ids and it is very easy to use.
Each of these merchants make your life really easy when it comes to getting products onto your page. One thing you do need to watch is for when a product link has expired, this is not always obvious when you pick up the html from the merchant, and only some have the expiry date written somewhere so that you know it has expired.
There are plenty more but those are some of the best ones to start with. Let us know which ones you use in the comments field below.