One of the most interesting things about starting a business for me is to see the progression of improvements over time. Actually, I like anything which involves a low time preference, i.e. things which take a long time bear fruit. I feel the same about languages, having learned (and forgotten) a few during my life so far. It's just so interesting to see how doing small daily tasks can add up to huge gains over time.
For that reason, I wanted to start tracking my Amazon earnings for one of my niche sites.
I don't like doing a full income report because I think it causes people to “hate watch” my income, and could doxx certain things about my business which I don't care to disclose.
However, I know income reports are extremely popular, and I think it'll be helpful to track how much a specific affiliate program is earning and what I'm doing to improve those earnings. I dug up some old screenshots, and will continue to report on a yearly basis, perhaps as well on a quarterly or monthly basis depending on what projects I have going on with the website. I think it'll be easy to post my findings about what's working and what isn't.
Amazon Income Reports
This is a chart of my Amazon income from 2015 to 2020. It's mostly one site, though I do make a couple hundred dollars per year from various other tiny small projects. My biggest focus is the single site. In 2021 I'm starting to focus more on bumping up this Amazon income. Obviously the income here is pretty small on a per-year basis (just around $10k), but the goal is to get that to about $10k/month in the next year years.
Despite what others may say, I think that Amazon is still a good affiliate program for a number of reasons, and I'd like it to be part of my online income portfolio. Even though the 1% o 4% commissions are low, even pennies can pay the bills when you leverage the power of online business.
This site is also monetized with Mediavine display ad earnings as well as other affiliate programs. I just wanted to keep track of Amazon earnings because it's probably the most well-known and popular affiliate programs to get started with, so it's interesting to track over time.
Plus, then I don't have to reveal which other affiliate programs I'm working with, but can still show how gradually increasing website earnings over time can have a powerful effect on your overall income over time. Too many people are obsessed with amazing stories of getting rich quick with their shocking affiliate blog earnings, but I like to focus on the kind of sustainable growth that's manageable and realistic for most people starting their first online business.
2015 Amazon Earnings
I started this website in June of 2015 with the intent of running Facebook ads to drive traffic to Adsense ads. I was creating a lot of “lists” and running Facebook ads to send traffic to the lists. The arbitrage did not work at all, but that's another story.
In terms of Amazon affiliate promotions, I was also creating product lists. I picked a couple sets of products, and was organizing them based on price ranges. For example, I had lists like “Top X Products Under $100” and “”Top X Products Under $500”. I was quite confident that this would be a useful bit of information, and that people would search for something like that.
Turns out not. From about September to Winter I did these lists and got pretty much zero traction. Of course, it was a new site, so that could be the reason, but in reality these lists still don't rank or make many sales. A few of them rank, but they are not the price range ones. They are the “quality” ones, like “Best Large Size Product X” and “Best Mini Size Product X”. I have searched in the past, and I do see some websites rank for price range stuff, but for me, this product was a dud.
What made things worse is that I bought all the stuff and did original photographs, so then I had 50+ of these products in my house taking up space. I sold some on Craigslist and gave others away to friends and family, but to be honest, about 50% of them ended up being donated.
2016 Amazon Earnings
In 2016 I focused more on individual product reviews, which really drove a lot more traffic to my affiliate links. On top of that, I was also really starting to use Amazon's ad code, which would automatically add related products to the top/bottom of the post. You can see from the screenshot above that I was also running Amazon CPM ads. Though $231 doesn't seem like much, is was a glimmer of hope that I could get better ad revenue than with Bing Ads, which was a huge miss for me.
At this point, I was pretty disappointed in myself. Coming at this with six years experience in affiliate marketing, I was surprised that my site was not making at least a couple thousand dollars per month at this point. There were a number of issues with it that I can identify now, but at the time, I couldn't see what I was doing wrong.
My only saving grace was that in terms of growth, that's a 3000% improvement over the previous year.
As mentioned in the introduction, one of my strong qualities as a human is that I can see how small improvements over time can add up. 3000% year over year is not something to cry about, so my goal was simply to see if I could do that again. 3000 x 3000% would be $90,000.
2017 Amazon Earnings
Well, you can't get everything you want. Instead of a 3000% YoY growth, I got 200%. That's to be expected. Those initial gains are hard to replicate. Notice, the screenshot above is just Jan-Jul 2017. It's the only one I could dig up, so I'm assuming about the same earnings for the latter half of the year, though November and December are usually the best performing months. We'll just assume I made about $9k for the 2017 from Amazon.
At this point, I'm hoping that I can just double my income each year. Nine grand this year, 18 grand next year, 36 grand after that, and so on. Within 10 years, that's doing over 4 million a year from Amazon sales. Unrealistic, I know, but it's the mindset that matters. Gotta love that hopium. I'd still settle for six figures.
At this point in the business, I'm still doing a bunch of lists hoping to drive random clicks to Amazon products. More eyes = more clicks = more sales. I'm also doing some individual Amazon product reviews, but not many. Just pure traffic at this point.
2018 Amazon Earnings
Unfortunately, 2018 didn't see any growth at all. I didn't do any Amazon product promotions at all. I got into the Mediavine ad network in 2016, but it wasn't until 2018 that ads really started to take off. Amazon was earning a few hundred dollars per month, but Mediavine was starting to rake in $1k-$2k per month, so I wanted to double down on what was working rather than fix what was broken.
2019 Amazon Earnings
2019 was another lackluster year for Amazon sales. I didn't do a single Amazon product review. I was focusing purely on listicles and driving traffic to my site to get more eyes on Mediavine ads. At this point, the ads were earning over $3,000 per month, and I had no interest in Amazon. It was just icing on the cake.
I forget if it was 2018 or 2019, but in one of these years Amazon cut my category of commissions by a good chunk, so I was frustrated at that. I also had other affiliate opportunities I was starting to explore at this point, and in combination with Mediavine ads, the site was on its way to making $10k month. Not there yet, but the trend was in that direction. Noice. After years of stress and frustration, things were starting to look good.
At this point, I removed all the random ad units I had placed on my blog posts. I was running one at the bottom of each blog post, and one under the title image too. I was getting clicks and sales, but not enough to justify the annoying amount of ads. I'd rather take the $400/year (that's how few the sales were) and have an improved user experience to keep people on the site longer. I'd rather improve what's going on with Mediavine ads rather than try to squeeze out another percentage point from Amazon.
2020 Amazon Earnings
Amazon cut commissions again in 2020, but it didn't affect me much. In fact, with my website's traffic exploding upward, I'm seeing improved traffic to my Amazon links and more sales. Some articles which were underperforming previously are now ranking and getting sales.
On top of that, Amazon in the news got me thinking about how good of an affiliate program it is. Despite the low commissions, they are relatively competitive with places like Walmart, Best Buy, and Home Depot which also pay about 1%-4% commission.
Plus, you get credit for everything in the cart, and everyone knows Amazon, which means you have to do very little to convince people to buy. You get to leverage their brand, their network, and their market. Personally, I think that makes Amazon a great affiliate program to work with… as long as you're diversified.
There are still a ton of other good affiliate opportunities out there, so don't get stuck on the Amazon thing.
December was quite disappointing considering I did spend a good amount of money doing Amazon-focused content for the latter half of the year, but income did improve. A far cry from the 3000% jump from 2016 to 2017 (wouldn't it be nice?!), but improvement nonetheless.
That's 33% income growth from 2019, and 22% up from my previous all time high. 20% growth from $11k would be $13,200 in 2021 and $68,000/year by 2030.
Some folks might look down on that, but consider that it's one income stream from a website. I'll take an easy 20% YOY growth, than you!
2021 Amazon Earnings
I'm still adding more and more Amazon affiliate content to the site, so we'll see what happens in 2021. It's not a “main focus” of the site right now, but I do have about 50+ articles to add which have Amazon affiliate links, and depending on income stats over the next few months, I may continue to add more Amazon product content with new keyword sets.
Q1 2021 Update
So far, so good. My numbers for 2020 Jan/Feb/March were $446/$434/$471. Total of $1351
In 2021, the numbers for those three months are $729/$578/$902. Total of $2209.
That's a 64% increase from last year. So far, there doesn't seem to be a pattern where I could say that sales were increasing or decreasing month over month, but I do see traffic and sales coming in from the new content I'm creating, so I'm happy with the way things are going and will continue as-is for now.
Q2 2021 Update
Looks like summer had a bit of a downturn unfortunately. For April, May, and June of 2021, my site earnings were $810/$1181/$934 for a total of $2925.
Compare that with 2020, which was $865/$1272/$1142, and a total of $3279. A 10% reduction in earnings YoY. Not that much of an issue – nothing critical is happening to the site, but disappointing to see, in light of hiring a specific writer to write Amazon-focused lists. Those lists get rankings, clicks, and earnings, so whatever was ranking last year, is not ranking as well this year.
As I write this in September, June 2021 was $1380 and July 2021 was $712. June 2020 was $1142 and July 2020 was $1061, so the trend seems to be continuing. I may end up increasing overall earnings for the year, but it's yet to be seen by how much, what the trend looks like, and whether or not it'll justify the cost of the writing project.
For now, I've stopped this writing project will re-think my Amazon strategy. I was really expecting some better numbers this summer, but we'll see how things go in Q4. Traffic is pretty flat these days, so I don't expect magic, but we'll see.
Final Update 2021 (Full Year)
So much for enthusiastic optimism lol. Despite adding tons of affiliate content over late 2020 and the first half of 2021, my Amazon earnings for the year dropped compared to the year prior.
Clocking in at $9,848, compared to $11,014 from 2021, that's an 11% drop in Amazon earnings. Considering I did zero targeted affiliate promotion throughout the year, that's still not bad I guess, but definitely disappointing. I also saw a significant drop in other affiliate revenue due to me being MIA taking care of my son during the day. Daily work on my site definitely makes a difference in the active portion of my earnings portfolio.
That being said, my passive income increased during 2021, and overall revenue for the site increased as well by comparison (+31%), so it's not all bad news! Looking forward to seeing how things go in 2022.
2022 Amazon Earnings
Amazon income continues to slide, as it really isn't a focus of mine right now. I no longer actively promote Amazon products, or create content to suitable to advertising Amazon products. Looks like for the year I'll make less than $7k total, which averages out to about $500/month.
The upside of looking at this is that I make $500/month for doing nothing. The downside is that earnings will most likely continue to decrease YoY. I just don't have the time to do Amazon promotions, or promote any affiliate products for that matter, so I continue to focus on display ad income for this website. Next update to the Amazon earnings will be early 2023.