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I make $10k per month with the Amazon Affiliate Program (reddit.com)
550 points by danso on July 7, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 269 comments

I've been burned by the Amazon Affiliate Program on three separate occasions, and as a result I would not recommend it to anyone else. All three cases were for completely legitimate, high-quality websites that I created (all original content, decent traffic, good conversion rates, no gimmicks). Each time, I would be approved for the program, generate a few hundred dollars in referred sales over the space of weeks or months, and then Amazon would send me a message that my account had been terminated (and of course, no way to get any of the commission I had earned).

Each time, they pointed me to a part of the agreement that says you need to have "original content" that isn't primarily just ads. In each case, I know the content was original (I created it: mostly articles about DIY electronics, 3D printing, etc), there were no other ads on the sites other than a few (2 or 3 per page) affiliate links where I mentioned products that I had incorporated into my own DIY projects.

I wasn't able to get any further explanation from Amazon in these cases, so I don't even know why they kept shutting down my accounts - and I guess that's what concerns me the most. Even if they hadn't shut me down when they did, the fact remains that they could, at any point in time, shut down or significantly alter the terms of our "agreement" at their (seemingly arbitrary) will.

What might have happened is that your content was getting copied and the copy was assumed to be the original.

It's happened before; there was a HN post on it. Sorry can't remember the details off-hand.

That sounds plausible. I believe content supplemented by YouTube videos may help in such situations. The fact that there is publish date (I hope you can't change), it is unlikely someone can claim your content.

> The fact that there is publish date (I hope you can't change), it is unlikely someone can claim your content.

That's fairly solid evidence, but it only counts for anything if the person checking on your case bothers to look at it. For a minor affiliate to be terminated, I'd expect virtually no investigation.

Same boat here. We run an ecommerce marketplace that was sending a few hundred thousand of leads to Amazon every month. After a few years they shut us down for a minor infraction to ToS (which we fixed immediately upon being notified). No recourse to get account reinstated, in spite of us trying numerous avenues. And for good measure, they took the $15k worth of affiliate revenue they already owed us but hadn't yet paid out. Classy.

My conclusion: it's nice revenue while you can get it, but that probably won't be very long. Make money with their program and they're coming for you.

Sorry to hear. Unfortunately in the affiliate world once you get big they tend to fuck you over. Knew a guy who was making 50k per day on an affiliate network, they shut his ass down fast and kept all the money. It's best to create your own marketplace where you are in charge - this is what I'm currently working on.

I would not recommend building a business on the affiliate model to anyone, unless they don't mind having virtually zero control.

eBay and Amazon are particularly notorious for draconian "enforcement" and sudden changes in terms and/or payouts.

Also, be aware that coupon and rebate sites generate the overwhelming majority of commissions across networks. While programs claim to want content, that's not where the real money or priority lies.

That's a known problem with affiliate marketing. Whoever you are shilling^Wadvertising for has you by the balls. It's in their TOS that they can refuse to pay out your commission for almost any reason you can think of. They can also lower your payout using software that shaves away a portion of your leads.

Don't like it? Don't do affiliate marketing. Because there is nothing you can do about it.

Quite possibly someone else is copying your work and getting first to SEO. So your site become a copy-cat even though you did the work.

Yikes; usually one really bad experience that costs me more than $100 or so is enough to sour me on a company/service entirely, full stop. You are much more patient than I would've been.

If you lost enough money from this it sounds like it might be worth getting a lawyer involved

Wouldn't work, by participating in the Amazon Affiliate Program you agree to mandatory arbitration.


but if they say you copied content that you created yourself that seems slanderous, surely that isn't bound by arbitration clauses.

It's not slander if they just say it to you. They'd have to say in in some kind of public venue.

In these situations (AdSense too), they barely give a reason for your removal from the program. It seems like you almost never have recourse besides trying to raise a fuss on social media, and if you don't have clout, that will almost never amount to anything.

No reason to get a lawyer involved. If Amazon owes you less than $5k then file a small claims case against them.

In some states, the small claims limit goes up to $25K. They closed my account in the past and I took them to small claims for the five figures they owed me and I won.

I know of two other people who also took them to small claims and won as well. (both in states with five figure small claims limits)

They have to show up or summary judgement is issued.

Similar story for me they ruined my side project. I wrote detailed story about it, but in short do not built a business solely on a single affiliate. https://hackernoon.com/dont-put-all-your-eggs-in-one-basket-...

"An attitude I can do whatever I can is not a healthy way of relationship." - they are Amazon, they can do whatever they want; they do this stuff all the time. Arbitrary shutdowns, clueless "support" staff, lack of communication, meaningless replies, seizing funds, and general unethical behavior is par for the course with Amazon.

I remember them changing some kind of agreement at one point, and because I didn't see it and fill out some extensive form in time, they just disabled my account permanently.

It's a pretty weird treatment, but I think that companies just don't give a shit when it comes to fraud prevention and don't allow any wiggle room.

That sounds like a scam that's worth taking Amazon to court over.

Some interesting takeaways further down in the OP's answers:

- Has "zero" web dev experience; everything is built on Wordpress and plugins.

- Gets "a couple hundred thousand PV/mo"

- He picked an broad niche that he himself doesn't particularly care about.

- Amazon's change to their commission rates last month hurt his income by about 25-30%

I found this part amusing:

> I filled my site with a few dozen high quality pieces of content, then started outreaching to other bloggers in my niche, either asking for a guest post or asking them to check out a piece of content/infographic I just created and asking them if they'd "share" (link) it with their audience (aka the skyscraper technique).

I get these goddamned emails every week, sometimes a dozen from the same person asking me to mention their blog post about SQL because I happen to have a page that ranks fairly high for some general SQL info apparently. Never thought the SEO actually paid off (these request emails look like they're generated from a template that can be easily automated(.

I'm interested in getting started with Amazons affiliate program. Whenever I go to research things, I find many stories like this one. But I don't want to pursue this track. I have dev experience, don't want to pay for views, want to write in a narrow niche I enjoy, and I don't care about the lower commissions to boot. I'd be beyond thrilled if I made made more than a hundred bucks a month.

Where can I find information about this path, versus the substanceless course this person took? I haven't had a public website in a decade and just want to know how to do things decently well and not get into trouble.

One tip for not getting into trouble is to not use SSL on the site you are sending traffic from (or use a referrer policy meta tag so that the browser is authorized to pass the referrer from your SSL page). SSL results in blank referrers by default. A friend had his Amazon account banned and earnings confiscated because his traffic had blank referrers.

This is not correct. SSL only blanks referrals to non-HTTPS links, the referrer is passed by default to all HTTPS links.

Since HN is using HTTPS, this should be very easy to test by just clicking on this link: https://www.whatismyreferer.com/

Note that HN includes this line of HTML which affects the sent Referrer header:

    <meta name="referrer" content="origin">

I'll have to ask my friend about this...he was using SSL and had no referrers and they killed his account. He had no referrer policy tag. I know he was using a tracking script that he redirected traffic through as well, perhaps that was Http.

Interesting! Any idea why HN sets the referrer to origin?

The HackerNews repo is gone (and thus the issue), but at one point this was a Github issue I successfully filed to get HN to add it so their referral data for non-SSL pages wouldn't be lost:


(Background: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7197520)

IIRC, I think the developer was open to adding a referral, but not have it leak any on-site information, so this was a compromise.

On OSX/safari, if I click on the link, it correctly says the referrer is YC News.

if I right click the link (which I often do) and open in new tab or window, I see:

No referer / hidden

In these cases it does not alleviate the issue flagged above.

iOs/ chrome shows the correct referrer in both cases.

I am a long-term affiliate with amazon and when I switched to https I didn't experience any problems at all.

With other affiliate networks I absolutely did have problems though - because of the issue described above.

I assumed the difference was amazon's use of a referral tag at the end of every url?

I just signed up for LetsEncrypt and didn't give referer a second thought. Thanks for the tip!

How does this work WRT amazon referrals on reddit and such?

Most major sites these days have a referrer policy tag in their HTML that allows at least the domain of the site to flow through. But I think they also ban accounts for posting direct Amazon affiliate links on places like Reddit anyway. Amazon is similar to Adsense in its propensity to ban and confiscate earnings without legitimate reason, and sometimes without explanation. Personally, I wouldn't waste time or money sending traffic to them. It's like building a house on quicksand. CPA networks are far more reliable if you want to be an affiliate marketer.

Could you give some examples of CPA networks (and for that matter what CPA stands for)? I have zero knowledge of this.

Cost Per Action. Google it, there are many. MaxBounty, CJ.com, linkshare, etc.

Most subreddits don't allow Amazon referral links.

But gamedeals allows certain whitelisted ones (charity) and AFAIK there has been no problem.

Good point, although I suspect Amazon is more lenient with known charity referrals.

If you don't care about the financial aspect then just do it. You don't need more information. Just write about the niche, link to high quality products, and build it.

There's a story about a fan talking to Jerry Seinfeld and saying basically, "I want to be a comedian, how can I do it?" having never done an open mic or told a public joke in any way. Seinfeld's response was that they were never going to make it, because if they had any chance of making it they'd already be doing the open mics, etc.

Just start the site. Write/review, and enjoy.

It's not about the financial aspect of it. Create the site and the content--that's the hard part. You can always monetize the site/content later on.

Affiliate programs come and go, same with ways to monetize a site. You can always change out the ads on the site, that's fairly easy.

It's getting the traffic and building a site that people like is the tough part of that equation.

the not get into trouble thing is easy, if you want to be an Amazon affiliate, just follow their terms of service to the letter of the law.

here is how you make money with amazon. find a niche you are passionate about, it helps if it is something with relevant amazon products. start blogging until you find you are getting inbound backlinks, comments, or other "social proof."

once that happens you can start writign guides, roundups, etc and placing product links. from there its all about getting links, and promoting yourself any way you can.

> just follow their terms of service

I've put in some time trying to parse the legal speak in their operating agreement, terms of service, etc. Most of it makes sense, but I fear I'm missing something. Though, maybe that's the point.

I had my amazon affiliate account disabled because someone posted my site on Reddit. That's the reason they gave me, and they pretty much confirmed "yup, it's that easy" in email correspondence when I asked "so anybody can shut down an affiliate account by posting the website to Reddit?"

Super bizarre. You'd think there's more to the story, but I have nothing more. Maybe my site was competing with my account manager's or something? I'll never know.

initiate arbitration.

With who? In what jurisdiction?


To begin an arbitration proceeding, you must send a letter requesting arbitration and describing your claim to our registered agent, Corporation Service Company, 300 Deschutes Way SW, Suite 304, Tumwater, WA 98051. The arbitration will be conducted by the American Arbitration Association (“AAA”) under its rules, including the AAA’s Supplementary Procedures for Consumer-Related Disputes. The AAA’s rules are available at www.adr.org or by calling 1-800-778-7879. Payment of all filing, administration and arbitrator fees will be governed by the AAA’s rules. We will reimburse those fees for claims totaling less than $10,000 unless the arbitrator determines the claims are frivolous. Likewise, we will not seek attorneys’ fees and costs in arbitration unless the arbitrator determines the claims are frivolous. You may choose to have the arbitration conducted by telephone, based on written submissions, or in person in the county where you live or at another mutually agreed location.

Haha, it's hilarious that it's in Tumwater. That's a small town next to where I grew up.

With Amazon. https://affiliate-program.amazon.com/help/operating/agreemen...

"To begin an arbitration proceeding, you must send a letter requesting arbitration and describing your claim to our registered agent, Corporation Service Company, 300 Deschutes Way SW, Suite 304, Tumwater, WA 98051. The arbitration will be conducted by the American Arbitration Association (“AAA”) under its rules, including the AAA’s Supplementary Procedures for Consumer-Related Disputes. The AAA’s rules are available at www.adr.org or by calling 1-800-778-7879. Payment of all filing, administration and arbitrator fees will be governed by the AAA’s rules. We will reimburse those fees for claims totaling less than $10,000 unless the arbitrator determines the claims are frivolous. Likewise, we will not seek attorneys’ fees and costs in arbitration unless the arbitrator determines the claims are frivolous. You may choose to have the arbitration conducted by telephone, based on written submissions, or in person in the county where you live or at another mutually agreed location."

Is your goal to make money or to write about your passion the way you want to write about it?

The ultimate job feels like a hobby

I agree up to a point but don't think that lines up well with this affiliate business model. Producing what you are passionate about, sure, following an ever changing SEO landscape and constantly tweaking in search of conversions, much less likely to overlap with the hobby as job passion model.

I'd like a good balance of the two, I suppose. If I could earn a few coins while learning and writing about things I enjoy, I'd consider it a successful venture. I'm thinking about Amazon specifically because I'm an avid user/addict.

Hey there! I don't make very much on affiliate links but I've kind of done what you want to do on my personal website. I'm a big reader so I post links to what I read and have made a specialized reading list for physics. The affiliate money is just enough each month to cover the hosting cost for the site and to buy 2-4 new books each month, so it sustains my reading (and writing) habit!

FYI, I did what you want to do. On my personal website I write about my hobby projects that often include Amazon products. (I pretty much do all my shopping on Amazon, so anything I used in my projects is usually from them).

I simply link to the products using my affiliate link and thats it. I also make it very clear that it is an affiliate link.

When I first write a post I usually make $200 - $500 a month (even more if its around Christmas time)

For me, number one takeaway is, "he has a worker paid 600/700 usd per month (superstar)" who I suppose is generating much more value than 7% (700 of 10000).

In the beginning, his copywriter made the same 0.05$/word and the poster was making 0$/month.

So the copywriter has shouldered no risk either. He's also free to try and get more per word but he might be in a place where 0.05USD/word is actually pretty decent income.

That is working for someone vs owning something. It wouldn't make much sense otherwise for either party.

I mean, imagine you work for a company and come up with a change that saves a million a year. Surely you don't expect to receive that million, do you? On the other hand, it's not your problem if sales go down this quarter, since your contract pays fixed salary.

> it's not your problem if sales go down this quarter

of course it is, you can get laid off.

Capitalism works by siphoning off value that workers generate and putting it into the pockets of their employers. You're right that employees are (somewhat) insulated from risk in this scheme, but I don't think it's crazy to suggest that someone is entitled to more than 7% of the value they generate.

> On the other hand, it's not your problem if sales go down this quarter, since your contract pays fixed salary.

Sure, not my problem. Everyone's problem.

The worker is free to leave and start his own site where he can collect 100% of the profit.

And this guy is generating more than $10K/month of value for Amazon. So what?

This is the case for most employees, no?

This sounds straight out of 2005's blogosphere. Color me surprised if that field wasn't picked up clean long ago.

> Never thought the SEO actually paid off

It not only pays off for the ad-fueled sites, it's also the only way up in rankings for a product site.

No matter how good your software is – unless it went viral you'll be annoying people with link building emails.

>> Never thought the SEO actually paid off (these request emails look like they're generated from a template that can be easily automated(. There are services out there that make it really easy to manage blogger outreach, PR outreach, link building requests, etc. Sites like Pitchbox and Buzzstream.

> Has "zero" web dev experience; everything is built on Wordpress and plugins.

So what that sounds like to me is this website is just a delivery vector for whatever cookie cutter malware is floating around the ad networks who load up the sidebar.

So he's making $10k a month, and his trick, he says, is to have "high-quality, exceptional quality" content. But he does not write this content himself; rather, he pays $700 to "an expert copywriter in my niche [...] (he's a superstar)".

Seems like the real trick is to find someone talented but unaware of how much money they can generate on their own, and use their work to make money.

Now clearly, he's adding value, since that writer alone wouldn't know how to turn their writing into $10k a month. But I wonder if that writer is aware that their work is generating that much, and that they're only seeing 7% of it.

The core tenant of getting ahead massively in a capitalist society -- arbitrage. Exploitation of inequality of knowledge and/or opportunity is always a faster ticket to success than actually producing anything of value.

Ah yes, but the more arbitrage exists, the higher the incentive for another entity to learn and exploit it. The first guy cuts it in half, the next by a quarter, and so on, until normal profits emerge. Being ahead of the curve has a bonus, but it can't last forever in usual circumstances.

I think the real core tenet of capitalism is specialization - it is impossible for everyone to know everything. Mix multiple services into one, package it in a way that is ideal for a certain consumer, and the "arbitrage" is really just another word for convenience.

> the real core tenet of capitalism is specialization

That sounds like someone living in a world where "capitalism" is the dominant propaganda meme. Capitalism isn't based on specialization, it's based on private ownership of core resources and infrastructure. All other economic systems have specialization. You're just noticing that specialization is key to human prosperity and wording your point within the baseless assumption that capitalism is synonymous with prosperity or something.

While it is true that all economic systems have specialization, so far capitalism seems to be most efficient in self-organizing it. The reason is explained before: wherever specialization yields a high margin, people jump into that gap. As the gap fills, the margin gets lower over time and everybody pays lower prices for the same goods. There might be other economic systems that also foster this kind of self-optimization, and don't have the negative effects caused by capitalism, but we haven't seen them yet.

Capitalism is also good at building the right capital. Capital in this case refers to intellectual and physical goods that produce other goods, such as machine tools, construction equipment, metallurgical processes or freight railroads for example. Building a lot of the wrong capital and using it inefficiently is a problem that has always plagued centrally planned economies.

Capitalism isn't defined as "non-centrally-planned economy", it's specifically privately-owned capital. If that private ownership is concentrated enough, then lots of things are pretty centrally planned. And non-capitalist economies include ones that aren't centrally-planned.

Yes, private property is the foundation of capitalism. In my opinion, freedom is the true benefit of capitalism, and private property is what allows freedom. In a system where one is not allowed to own property (land, assets, capital, etc.), one is not truly free. And the freedom to discover unmet business needs, arbitrage, etc. is not a problem but a feature, as it drives investment and entrepreneurship.

And capitalism is synonymous with prosperity. Capitalism is freedom, and freedom is what propels the world forward.

I'm all for capitalism but that last paragraph was cringey. I think it's a mistake to consider capitalism as this perfect, ideal way of life. A lot of people, too many people, get screwed under capitalism.

You're not free when you're working 2 jobs 6 days a week. Not by my definition of freedom. And this is the reality for a lot of people out there.

I believe there is a better system that we haven't found yet and we should be looking at how we can eventually transcend capitalism when we don't need it anymore. Automation/AI is a step in the right direction.

I think you'd have a hard time finding a political system that hasn't screwed people.

I'm sorry, but earnest question: Do you really believe this in a world that has more than enough resources to take care of its population, however, millions have no access to clean water, basic nutrition or healthcare; even while others control resources sufficient to cover their own needs by several orders of magnitude?

If you choose to redistribute wealth in a way that immediately alleviates all of those issues, you kill the golden goose (private industry). Similarly, if you just give food, shoes, supplies, etc. to poor people everywhere, you screw with the local economy and destroy businesses. For example, if a guy is selling chickens, and all of a sudden a million chickens are donated to everyone, that man can no longer sell chickens.

Also, you can't simply give billions of dollars to foreign governments and have them build infrastructure, provide clean water, etc. They will squander and steal a large amount of it, as has happened repeatedly.

So yes, I agree that it's sad that in a world of abundance, people are starving and dying. But you need to give it time, align incentives, and let prosperity continue to raise the world out of poverty, as it has done in so many countries that are adopting market-based systems. China and India, despite their faults, have adopted systems that embrace the market more than their socialist / communist pasts, and have raised hundreds of millions out of poverty.

It's a utopian belief that if we could just get everyone on board, we could instantly solve everyone's problems. The correct solution is to remove barriers to free enterprise, allow people to gain and re-invest their wealth, and over time people will be raised out of poverty world-wide.

You're correct that amassing all the wealth in the world, divvying it up equally, and passing it out to everyone won't work.

But I think your view of letting free enterprise run rampant is the exact opposite of that idea, and will work just as well at "lifting" those who are in a more desperate situation. Not only does free enterprise destroy cultures and local economies just as badly as your example, it tends to poison the planet we live on at a rate we just can't ignore anymore.

Not to mention, our economy is growth-based. Most of our growth comes from exploitation of other countries...pumping our wealth into their country (arbitrage, as another comment put it). Eventually, when those countries are no longer third-world, and a hamburger there costs $10 like it does here, the companies exploiting the cheap labor there move to the next third-world shithole.

What happens when all the third-world shitholes are gone, though? Our growth economy runs out of fuel to grow. On top of this, as populations find equilibrium with our amount of resources (and resource distribution mechanisms) there will be even less people to exploit at our current rate of growth.

I believe, in the next 50-100 years, our growth economy will collapse because the people driving it believe that growth is infinite, and the resources that drive it (developing nations/growing populations and all the resources that they require) are also infinite.

The entire thing is based on an equation that doesn't balance. We're scrambling to get to the top of a mountain that will crumble. Free enterprise won't solve this, in fact, it's only accelerating the need to find an economic system based on equilibrium, not growth. Whether that means private/public/mixed ownership, socialism/UBI/etc, we need to start thinking now about how to fix this.

Pretty much all of this. And I'd add that we not forget about sovereign debt, which is another lever for exploiting poor nations (think World Bank and IMF). So, we're not just pumping wealth into poor nations to extract more wealth; we're billing them for the privilege. That is, we're really pumping debt into these countries.

It's a racket. And it is not a flaw in the machinations of the free market; it is the definition of our current free market.

>you kill the golden goose (private industry)

This is the fallacy of all fallacies and is purely circular. It is the golden goose only in a system that makes it so; the reasonableness of which is the very point we're discussing. If I were arguing in favor of communism, I would say that the state or the people are the golden goose. And, like you, I will have proved nothing.

>if you just give food, shoes, supplies, etc. to poor people everywhere, you screw with the local economy and destroy businesses

Again, you are begging the question. This problem only exists in your vaunted free market system. In fact, you are arguing against yourself and acknowledging that the system you favor creates a resource distribution model that is unjust and untenable.

>all of a sudden a million chickens are donated to everyone, that man can no longer sell chickens

Yes, another problem created by the artificial scarcity intrinsic to your beloved model. And, what if the resource is water or another essential resource that has been commoditized and made profitable? Do we withhold water and let people die to protect the free market? If so, then we have placed an ideology above human life itself, the absurdity and futility of which should require no explanation. You talk of freedom, but the most fundamental right a person has is the right to live. Starving to death is not freedom.

But, if you say that we should be humane and intervene in any way, then you have exposed a massive chink in the armor of your perfect market. Either the market itself must neccesarily be purposely impacted, or you are expecting NGOs or the state or others to marshal resources in order to mitigate the externalities created by the "free market". In so doing, you are subsidizing said market and it is no longer free. Its profit takers are indebted, but will never repay. Whether via taxation sheer lack, or otherwise, someone is counter-party to that debt but will never be made whole. So much for their freedom.

>The correct solution is to remove barriers to free enterprise, allow people to gain and re-invest their wealth

Always the fall-back: "we're just not doing it enough". It's not enough that massive deregulation has led us to the brink of disaster on more than one ocassion. It's not enough that even as corporate profits reached record-highs, wealth disparity grew and more people fell into poverty. It's not enough that automation has devalued the one commodity that the majority have to sell into the "free market" (their time). No, we simply need to make the market "more free" and that will fix everything.

This argument can be made ad nauseum by those who promote unfettered markets as the solution to all, because they know it is unreasonable that totally free markets will ever exist, owed to the tremendous human costs that would follow. Thus, there will never be (nor should there be) the political will to remove all restraints or stop subsidizing people who will die without those subsidies. So, the argument can ever be made that the problem is that markets are not free enough.

any king or pauper from the year zero could tell you that private property predated capitalism and is a totally independent concept.

Private property is not the point of what defines capitalism. Private ownership of core resources and means-of-production are. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capitalism



You seem to conflate your economic systems with your political systems. I recommend some independent study in political economy.


Let the market decide the freedom you can afford.

> but it can't last forever in usual circumstances.

I don't think that's true. Imho this would be more correctly stated as "it can't last forever in theory".

It can't last forever where there is perfect information, or perhaps equal opportunity. But as you say it is "impossible for everyone to know everything" so this is never the case in the real world.

Thus the need for interventions (i.e. by the state) to correct asymmetries such as institutional inequality. These are failures of "pure capitalism" that need to be corrected by other means.

A less cynical (and less condescending) view is that both parties come out ahead due to comparative advantage.



A true capitalist would make them pay rent!

Correct you are. Cheers.

You're going to get downvoted, but not by me. This one drives me crazy.

Not really, he is paying for good quality content. But the content itself is not what is making the money. The traffic reading the content is where the revenue is generated. His trick to generating traffic is to pay for high-quality content, and then he executes an SEO link building campaign, and pay for some advertising. Unless the writer also wants to do the SEO part, and also pay for ads, his writing is kind of worthless.

If you've ever tried to execute a link building campaign, you'd quickly realize it's VERY difficult.

My company makes a profit because it pays me less than the value my labor creates.

Is that a one person company?

It is every non-employee-owned company.

Your labor doesn't create any value without your company

The trick usually can't be told. I used to make money with adsense writing "high quality blog posts". The trick was to pingback Google own blogs, and when I do, they add a link to my blog post just right below their blog post. This would drive high quality traffic (probably because these users are already signed up to google and get targeted ads).

The trick now is no longer of use, and I did this like 6 or 7 years ago. So now I'm sharing it. I've been involved in the SEO industry from when it was young, and I'd make a 9.5/10 bet that this guy is doing something grey/black hat to generate that kind of volume/conversion/money.

Those who doesn't use grey/black hat tricks have probably built a page rank valuable enough. You can't rebuild that virtual SEO estate in a couple days, maybe a few 3 or 4 years of hard work and maintenance. So you are back at square one when you need money today.

This is called information asymmetry [1], in the general case when one party to a transaction knows more than the other participants.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Information_asymmetry


I'm one of those schmucks hired to generate content for $600/pop. My thing is React Native. (http://reactnative.school)

But it's fun and it helps my own brand too. Plus it's an excuse to learn cool shit. Building a new app every 2 weeks is fun :)

This is like, make the product and they will come. Making the product is only a small part of the equation. The other aspects (promotion, choosing right niche etc) are most overlooked...

Classic Jobs/Woz relationship.

Isn't that how everything works? For each employee, my company makes x10 the average salary.

> Seems like the real trick is to find someone talented but unaware of how much money they can generate on their own, and use their work to make money.

That's the basis of capitalism in a nutshell.

Could you elaborate ?

Im guessing, its probably a Filipino copywriter and $700 is worth a lot in pesos. Its a high-end rate for copywriters. Win win for both of them.

> consistently does between $10,000-$11,000 per month in revenue.

> an expert copywriter in my niche who I pay about $600-$700 per month (he's a superstar).

> we're talking about $9,200-$10,200/mo in pure profit

Honestly the only thing I get out of this post is that to me it seems like his superstar copywriter is being ripped off.

Clearly I'm not cut out for entrepreneurial side hustle!

Dude could have just as easily (probably far more likely) have paid his writer for 6-8 months and ended up with a dud site. Writer is free to take that risk as well if he so chooses. Instead he's taking the less risky fixed payment.

That is a good point, and at the end of his post he did say that he paid the writer a bunch upfront at the start as well.

He says that the copywriter writes 1 or 2 articles every week. He gets paid an average of 100$ per article. That's' not bad if you consider that the writer, for sure, is working for other people as well.

You have no proof of that… For all we know this might be the writer only source of income

Sure, we have no proof, but that is obviously the type of job where you work for multiple clients.

Well if he's getting paid $600/month he is homeless or living with parents, we can know that.

> we can know that

No we can't - he might be in a country where $600/month is a good wage.

If I was going to spend this much time and effort creating content and building a site, I'd certainly not be sending the traffic and sales over to Amazon.

I'd most likely be drop-shipping products or actually carrying some inventory and then doing the shipping myself.

In the long run, it's much easier to sell a profitable business than sell an affiliate site. With the traffic and search engine rankings, I'd do a few things:

- Transition out of being an Amazon affiliate and start selling your own products, even if that means drop shipping or carrying inventory

- Change the overall look and feel of the site so that it's a real business with brand

- Use alternative methods of getting traffic to the site, other than Google organic search results. Develop an email list/email newsletter, test out FB ads and other paid search alternatives.

If you build a brand and actual store (rather than being an affiliate), it's a lot easier to cash out later on.

I was going to suggest maybe the guy involved wasn't interested in flipping the business & was happy working 5 hours a week and being able to run the business from anywhere.

However, the OP replied to this same comment over on Reddit [1]:

"Great feedback, and I agree. eComm is Phase 2."

[1] https://www.reddit.com/r/Entrepreneur/comments/6lmotf/i_make...

This seems like a cheap way to make money. You're basically filling Google search results with garbage. If I'm looking for recipes I want to be directed to Kitchn or Serious Eats or Chowhoud - no some blogspam site with tupperware container links.

Searching for things on Google is useless when the first 3 pages are just pages full of affiliate links and no real content. I don't know why they don't eliminate those pages from their rankings, or at least score them lower.

What if the site is genuinely useful, though? I like The Wirecutter for technology opinions, and affiliate links are the only way they make money. It seems like a win-win(-win) to me, if the products are actually things the visitors want to buy. They're a more informed and more satisfied consumer, Amazon (or whoever) gets another sale, and the blogger gets a commission.

There's a big distinction between The Wirecutter and other sites, though. The Wirecutter specifically goes out of its way to do in depth testing with set criteria and standards for their suggestions. If you look at their headphones reviews, they typically compare several models with a variety of audio experts to validate their choices.

If another site can come up with that kind of high intensity writing, that's one thing. It's completely different if it's just a random person doing it -- that's at best the opinion of one person who's done work. At worst, someone lied and wrote a recipe or an article without doing any actual testing or research.

>> What if the site is genuinely useful, though?

I'm perfectly fine with that. Serious Eats uses affiliate links (and also has other advertising on their site). I have a ton of respect for the work it takes to do what they do.

What I'm not okay with is someone building tons of Wordpress sites and filling them with stock photos of food and recipes they found online, and linking to Amazon.

Yes, hopefully those sites will not be successful because they do not provide any value to consumers. I don't see how sites like that could get high rankings on search engines, though. Who actually wants to see those? Then again, I know nothing about SEO.

What makes you assume his content is crap? Didn't he say he has a writer who is an expert in the niche?

Bragging about the revenue of the own affiliate site is part of the affiliate marketing scheme. I read it on the internet, it must be true...

I'm sorry but I call bullsh*t on a lot of aspects on this story. I think this may have been true 5-10 years ago, but not now, not the way the Web works now. Everyone ignores those cross-link e-mails. Getting the amount of articles he says is NOT enough; you need more. You just don't get high-quality content for .05 cents a word. And that's just for starters. I know, why would this person lie? But really, for those of us who do the Web day in, day out, there's a lot that just does not ring true in this post.

i find this very disgusting

I assume its the tons of dumb 'content' put out there? Congesting Google Searches with nothing but wikipedia curated information with BS added to put Amazon Links in there. At least that's what disgusts me about that.

Case in point: https://flippa.com/8874347-thebestabovegroundpoolsreviews-co...

I have to image Google eventually figures out how to weed these out altogether.

I believe there can be quality, valuable affiliate sites (Amazon and otherwise). Reviewsignal.com is a refreshing take on hosting reviews (interviewed on Indie Hackers recently).


I agree. Every time I read about this type of "back-link hustling business" I come away feeling like I need to take a shower. Same with lead generation. I mean, congratulations, you can produce some cheap generic content and then spam it all over the web so my Google searches are 0.001% less relevant and you can suck a few $K a month out of Amazon.

What's your plan to rank a good product for relevant keywords without building backlinks?

I don't have any plan, since I have no interest in "ranking" somebody's product.

So if you or your company release something, you'll let it die without visibility because you don't like link building outreach?

Answering that would require speculation, since I own no company and have no current plans to "release something" of my own any time soon. I suppose, should I one day decide to hang my shingle out there and sell a product, I would aim to make it of sufficient quality and usefulness so as to not require scummy "link building" to sell it.

So... the good old "if you build it, they will come" approach. The level of naiveness in your comment is off the charts.

Well, it probably worked in 2007.

It's not enough to be "useful", you need to work on visibility (marketing, SEO). You need to reach the owners of the sites where your potential customers are hanging out and ask them to link to your useful product. This way you will get better positions in search results and more traffic to your site.

There's nothing "scammy" in this kind of outreach unless you're building links for a scam.

If you provide good content, google will find it and back-links will build themselves naturally from organic traffic; he's objecting to the unnatural building of back-links via spamming the Internet. No one likes when they google something and the results are full of spam sites and affiliate links.

Google will find it but it will not place it on top of your competitors if your site has low authority, i.e. small amount of backlinks.

So you will not get any organic traffic because your site is not visible. On-page keyword optimization is a very weak factor compared to the number of backlinks from "powerful" sites.

Cold emails to relevant site owners and bloggers is no more spam than "Show HN" is spam.

As I just said, back-links will come naturally and organically if the content is good and then it will have authority. Good things get found, again and again, it's what Google exists to do and they're pretty good at doing it even for sites that don't try and artificially pump up their back-links. Most sites don't get natural organic traffic because they suck, not because they don't rank high enough. Authority doesn't come from back-links, back-links come from Authority. Don't confuse cause for effect.

They do not come naturally, speaking from experience. Our site is placed on the 2nd to 3rd pages for the vital search queries that our product needs for long-term survival despite relatively low competition.

But most of the first page results have many times more backlinks. We've got less than a dozen organically during the last year.

> They do not come naturally, speaking from experience.

Yes they do, speaking from experience. They aren't coming naturally for you because you're competing in a saturated market or a small market selling things people don't really want or need. Your content probably isn't useful for any reason outside of selling something, which isn't the kind of thing people will naturally link to. If your site isn't useful to people who don't want to buy something, you're not going to attract organic growth. Write interesting content people want to share, and they'll link to it without any marketing efforts. If you can't get organic growth, your content is not interesting.

So you are saying that one needs to pick a mildly occupied niche in a relatively high demand for the organic approach to work.

I understand the possibility, but this will not work that well:

– for any market where you have competitors with decent content on the first page already

– in future because the number of niches in this state decreases each day

A company who wants to compete in more or less established market will have no choice but work on link building.

> A company who wants to compete in more or less established market will have no choice but work on link building.

Link building isn't adding any value to your site; you're merely trying to game the search engine who doesn't want to be gamed and who actively resists gaming by hiring some of the smartest people in the world to ferret out and eliminate your tricks. Google wants good content, not back links (back links are only a proxy they use to rate quality and only one of many), focus on good content and the rest will follow automatically without gaming the search engine which is only ever a temporary win at best. Trying to continually "trick google" by creating more links to your site that natural traffic would warrant is not a good long term strategy. Creating content people want is always a good strategy and works long term and removes you from the trying to trick google game which removes you from being taken out by a change in their algo aimed squarely at you fake back linkers.

I think you use a narrow definition of a backlink which is "asking a link to weak content". Asking to add a new app to somebody's "Useful tools for ..." list is link building too.

> Google wants good content, not back links

Google relies on "dofollow" backlinks from big sites more than anything, check different researches on ranking and backlink count correlation.

Google relies on an ever changing definition of what they consider "good content", which may currently include dofollow back-links and may not in the future. Optimize for good content and you don't have to worry about such ever changing implementation details. Trying to figure out how Google currently works is a losing arms race, understanding what Google is trying to do, find good content, and providing it, is a winning strategy.

All those stories about people losing their businesses because Google changed their algorithm, those were people trying to game Google to promote their content higher than it should have been, Google will always win that contest.

No, I'm saying content that users find helpful and useful will get rank naturally. Tutorials for example, teach people something, they'll link to it. No one likes spam, you can't dress up spam and make it useful, if the only point of your site is selling stuff, you're always going to be fighting for rank and traffic because your site isn't useful. Build a site that's useful first, monetize it second; sites that only exist to make money will not get organic traffic, they don't offer anything useful.

People have to want to come to your site and get something useful for free, interesting content. Look at your site, take off all the products, what's left... if it's nothing, your site will never attract organic traffic because it's a spam site hocking someone else's products. Build a site that attracts and builds an audience first, then monetize it with relevant links to affiliate stuff and you won't have to always play the SEO game. SEO is for shitty sites that don't offer anything of value in and of themselves.

Viral is just another word for extremely interesting, but normal interesting has quite a long tail. However viral marketing is the proof of what I'm saying, first be interesting, that gets eyeballs, and eyeballs can be monetized. If you're just a shopping cart site selling someone else's products, you have no draw, why would I ever come to your site, I can just go to amazon or one of the other big name sites. So you need either something interesting, or something unique you're selling I can't find anywhere else.

This guy https://www.culturehustle.com/collections/frontpage/products... can barely keep up with demand, you know why... because I can't find another product like that anywhere, it's unique, so it doesn't have to be interesting.

> Build a site that attracts and builds an audience first

Who will never find it because you didn't post it anywhere to raise up in ranking because "backlinking is gaming the system and bad".

> SEO is for shitty sites that don't offer anything of value in and of themselves.

Good luck not putting relevant keywords and having PageSpeed score under 50.

You're hung up in figuring out what google does currently and not seeing their goal, good content. There's a vast different between putting your site out there by posting links in a few places so "people" will see it, and posting links so "google" will see it. I have nothing against the former, those are simply links, but it's not about back links, it's about getting the word out to people. Worrying about back links is you trying to game Google, that's a losing game long term. By calling something a back link, you are specifically referring to Googles page ranking strategy which means you're not trying to promote your site to the audience where the link is found, you're trying to make Google think your site is more worthy, sorry, that's just a losing strategy; Google isn't stupid.

We've beaten the subject to death, I'm done.

> I have nothing against the former, those are simply links, but it's not about back links, it's about getting the word out to people.

> By calling something a back link, you are specifically referring to Googles page ranking strategy

"A backlink for a given web resource is a link from some other website (the referrer) to that web resource (the referent)."


I'm a programmer, obviously I know what a back-link is, and obviously when you're referring to them you're doing so in reference to how Google uses them in page rank, please don't pretend otherwise. I do this for a living, the site I run did 150 million in revenue last year, I'm not talking out of my ass. You want to get pedantic and start quoting me definitions of words, fine, we're done chatting, have a good day.

Yes, but if you actually just write to add value to the web, good luck monetizing it AT ALL.

I am increasingly inclined to go do something like this and see if it pays. Because trying to add value doesn't. It just makes me a chump.

Agreed. Not only is it completely destroying any hope I have of finding useful information in Google, but as someone who tries to create useful content, it makes you wonder why you even bother. Why write interesting articles/create informative YouTube videos when low quality clickbait and affiliate spam seems to make ten times more money?

Seeing stuff like this rake in the cash while actual journalists and publications struggle to stay afloat is incredibly depressing.

This is just another form of marketing, and marketing does create value. It's true that some marketing is dishonest and harmful, but I don't have a reason to think this is one of those cases.

This person is providing a service in reviewing products for people making buying decisions. As a result, they waste less time being unsure about their decision, and less money is spent on purchases they regret.

that would be true if they were actually reviewing these products and not doing basic feature overviews ranked often artibrarily. theyre in the business of looking legitimate not being it

i really disagree that marketing creates value, at least the current state of things. to me, marketing looks like a big prisoners dilemma that i have to actively ignore and filter in order to make good decisions.

I wouldn't say marketing doesn't create value at all. It can make for some amazing trailers and advertisements that are entertaining on their own merits, it can bring attention to a product that genuinely is good and needs more people to realise that and in some cases it can give you lots to talk/think/dream about before the actual thing is released.

If films, TV shows or games didn't have trailers and advertisements, an awful lot of communities would lose a decent part of their activity due to their members not having much to discuss for years.

There would be no room for speculation prior to release. No feeling of excitement every time a new announcement is made or a returning character is revealed.

And some ads are basically works in themselves. Like the ones here:


Let's also not forget that while quite a lot of ads are manipulative or dishonest, a near equally large amount are pretty much spot on and give you a great rundown of the products and its strengths.

This ad Nintendo aired for Pokemon Sun and Moon for example got a great reception online and likely sold a hell of a lot of games, yet it's also 100% true to the product and illustrates exactly what you do get by buying it:


Is that manipulating people? I wouldn't say so. It's just giving them more information about a product they may have already been interested in.

Not all ads or marketing are misleading, nor something you have to ignore to make good decisions.

i want to thank you for this kind of response. ive been commenting on hn more lately, and its suprised me how quick people are to ignore the nuance of something and just say its "bad" or "good". yes, i know thats essentially what i did in my original comment. but you are challenging what i said with specific examples, and that makes for interesting discussion. and i agree, not all ads are bad. and i think your point about some of them being works of art in their own right is something i strongly agree with- i've scored a couple commercials and have a bit of experience seeing the amount of thought that goes into some of them.

that being said, if were just restricting the discussion to movies- my personal strategy now is to wait until i hear from people i know that something is good before i bother. its not a strong interest of mine, so im pretty indifferent overall. the other way i decide is if i see people on twitter i follow say that something is good. or, i hear about something that has actors or directors i like. so, i think this stance leaves me highly susceptible to marketing. but the fact that marketing is influencing my movie choices is not evidence that its a good thing-

if no one marketed movies, would we still watch movies? i think so. maybe not as many, but probably with more enjoyment overall. just a guess. do you have any art / music / film interests that are too specific to be overcome with marketing? i do, and i actively seek new stuff, which i am able to find, without the "aid" of sophisticated, organized marketing. i guess thats my counterpoint to the idea that marketing is helping to find stuff in this arena. i can see how teasers and the like can generate excitement and interest in a positive way, and thats a separate point.

> i really disagree that marketing creates value

Have you never found a product you wouldn't have heard about had it not been for an ad or something like it?

If marketing were really about "product discovery" there would just be a yellow pages for all products and we'd call it a day.

It is a zero sum game of trying to get a manipulate a consumer to like your product over another.

spot on. Do people need McDonald's ads to inform them about McDonald's products? Maybe in a few rare cases. It's not about information, it's about manipulation.

i dont dispute that theres value in clearly identifying what your selling. im saying that we are past that point and into lying and manipulative advertising in lots of cases. to put it another way, im fairly sure that "marketing" is making it harder for me to find the things i want rather than easier.

Marketing creates value for amazon, but it's externality is a thin layer of shit over everything else.

because... lo and behold! its not doing anything of value yet someone is getting paid a bunch. in fact, its probably doing more harm than good by spamming a bunch of people and chowdering up google. cue the "you cant know how valuable it is, thats what the market decides" people in 3... 2... 1...

dear younger people than me: strive to do something that you would be proud of even if you weren't getting paid. and if you do end up making a bunch of money without a lot of work, give it away! thats my feeling anyway.

>dear younger people than me: strive to do something that you would be proud of even if you weren't getting paid. and if you do end up making a bunch of money without a lot of work, give it away! thats my feeling anyway.

Don't be stupid, invest the money and give away some of the fat from your market returns, put the rest back in. Charitable causes need consistent, long term donation more than they need one time cash bonanzas.

As a bonus, if you're ever in financial trouble you have a safety net.

Big charities have their own investments and can probably manage them cheaper than you can. So if your aim is seriously to benefit the charity, you should not keep the money and "dole it out". Either you believe that they will do something useful with your money, or you don't. If you want to keep your money so you have the option of not donating it all, go ahead, but justifying it as "better" from the charity's perspective seems like a reach.

yea- this is a subtly hypocritical behavior i think. i totally dont fault anyone for doing it, and i do it too. but i get a kind of vague sense that holding on to your money to make sure you are totally protected, and then giving it to charity when you are sure you dont need it, is not really that charitable.

agree, didnt mean to imply right away...

cue a bunch of 20 somethings living with their parents because they didn't go for the money in 3.. 2.. 1..

interpreting that charitably as "you need to be realistic about your career choice, and that means looking at how much people in the field make" ...its easy for me to agree with that. im suggesting that you add to that some consideration of the content of the work beyond how much you get paid.

May I ask why?

Probably because it's designed to feign organic interest in a niche market to get readers to hand over their money and thus little by little tactics like this erode faith in the web.

Just the other day I was looking for a good running-hydration-backpack and Googling for that brought up a bevy of sites that used round-up lists of Amazon affiliate links. The content was relatively well-written, if bland. In the end, these listicles were too bland to be helpful and I ended up adding "site:reddit.com" to my query.

This reminds me of how Amazon reviews used to be really helpful, but more and more these days I'm seeing so many obviously fake reviews that are cluttering up the site, especially for "popular" products. It's really watering down the value of the site for me.

AKA The Wirecutter/Sweethome Strategy.

I don't think that's fair. Wirecutter/Sweethome is quite well researched and what is recommended they review directly.

It's also marketing to ensure your product is included in their reviews.

Yes, I like them too, but I'm not sure anybody else had really executed on that model before them, and at any rate they are the strategy to be copied nowadays.

Well, the incentives of the wirecutter are to recommend you the more expensive products, like any commission based salesman. And it shows.

What about sockpuppets when using site:.reddit.com ?

Nathan VaporAir.

Ultimate Direction AK 3.0


That's a huge vest. Mostly I use my handheld so even the VaporAir is more than I need. So different use cases for these two recommendations.

Yeah it definitely is a big pack. During the fall/winter here in the PNW I carry a lot of layers. I'm also Type I Diabetic so I carry some emergency supplies that I (hopefully) never use and most people don't need to bother with.

Lately I've been really liking the Jurek Endure. That plus an Amp handheld (squish it up and bungee it to the waist pack when empty) have been great for up to about 15 miles this summer.

Sooner or later the readers will find out the truth. But in the mean time before the market re-adjusts itself, he's raking in 10k per month.

because sites like that push either totally generic information off as a 'review' tricking people into thinking its the best product or straight up lie about it and make up most of the first page search results

Yes, the writing is 5th Grade book report level. "There are many hydration backpacks on the market and it can be hard to choose. One of them is X, which has [feature list]. Another one that some people like is Y, which has [feature list]..."

There are so many sites with reviews like that. After reading for a while it becomes sadly clear that they didn't actually physically interact with the items in question. They just rehash manufacturer curated information or steal from other review sites. So much useless information.

I've found that invariably they have wordy and low-density first paragraphs that make it fairly obvious what's going on, and further reading reveals that it's going to be a long slog after which my back button comes out of its holster. Fine, they got a SERP click out of me, but that's as far as it goes.

Isn't the average person's reading level not much higher than that?

Pretty good for a Perl script though.

what exactly do you find disgusting.

>"what exactly do you find disgusting."

Disgust isn't usually that easy to pin down with precision.

Do you find a soiled diaper disgusting? If so, "What exactly do you find disgusting?" Do you find a it disgusting if a person is plucking out their eyebrows and eating them? Probably, but what exactly about it is disgusting?

Many if not most people would struggle to pin it down "exactly". In the case of this particular affiliate site, I'd say the general incentive structure that leads to this entire category of business is disgusting but it's somewhat difficult to pin it on any one specific actor. The site builder may have the best of motives and simply be rationally exploiting an opportunity that would undoubtedly be done by someone else otherwise.

Surprisingly interesting comment.

>Do you find a soiled diaper disgusting? If so, "What exactly do you find disgusting?"

The "soil"!

> Do you find a it disgusting if a person is plucking out their eyebrows and eating them? Probably, but what exactly about it is disgusting?

Eating hair!

Is it really hard to pin down where your disgust comes from, or are these examples just overly simplistic?

In each case, your answer was essentially, "the disgusting thing in its entirety!" This is equivalent to nudiustertian's reaction toward the affiliate site.

The difficulty comes from trying to zoom in to a higher level of precision, as nimchimpsky requested. What exactly do you find disgusting about someone eating an eyebrow, for example? Can you explain it?

Yeah, it is disgusting that someone would eat their own hair (people die from that because it clogs there intestines). Same with POOP/PEE + smell - it's gross because it literally IS gross.

Yeah, there's an evolutionary cause for sure. Maybe the cause for revulsion at certain kinds of marketing is a similar protective mechanism but driven my memetics rather than genetics at the core.

Makes you wonder if he's netting $8-9K per month for 5-10 hours a week why he doesn't just quit his day job?

Because the income can change to zero in an instant due to several factors that are completely out of his control and that have zero recourse.

Thought 1: Wow, I've replaced my income

Thought 2: Or, I've doubled it.

It's easy to go for 2 for a while and then go with 1

or just wake up one day and decide to retire early

Early retirement (significantly early that is) does not tend to do well for folks who take it. The loss of mental faculties once you have a reason to stop using them is astounding. The ones who are most successful tend to "retire" and then switch to low paid or unpaid volunteer work full time.

It's easy. If I had a site generating that kind of money on the side for that little work, I wouldn't quit my job either. Why would you when you don't need to? Two income streams are better than one. I'd just pay off debt, then bank the profit and build up a nice cash cushion.

Assuming this would be his only income, the costs would breakdown to something like this:


$5,600 AFTER TAXES (assuming 30% - largely depends on where he lives)

$4,800 AFTER HEALTHCARE (assuming $800/mo - w/family coverage this would likely be more like $1k+/mo)

So we're down to less than $5k take-home already, with a lot of additional risk. He would also lose other benefits like a 401(k), and other various perks. He said elsewhere in the Reddit thread that this "almost" matches his work pay, so I assume he is already making well into six figures, and already taking home more than this from his employer's paychecks (probably $6k+).

With that info, the choice is clear. Just keep the job as plan B, and enjoy a double income stream. Why take on significantly more risk for less money, with no benefits, when you don't have to?

These types of sites have a history of getting virtually killed in a Google change.

We don't know what his day job is. In that situation, I would quit a job at McDonald's, but I would not quit a job at a law firm.

Well he indicated his day job pays about the same as his sidejob currently does, so if he works at McDonald's he's not flipping burgers.

As someone who was using the Amazon Affiliate program, probably because it can go from $8-9k to zilch in a day. I wasn't making near that much, but our state was pulled from the program after a sales tax law.

I can think of lots of reasons. The main one is you should have a buffer to cover living costs before quitting for something that'll have variable income.

Because his day job is probably more stable.

Is Amazon still the only real large-scale affiliate program? I'm surprised Amazon is so unique in this when lots of competitors are trying to break into that space.

Any other affiliate programs recommended?

Amazon does their affiliate program in-house (It's just the &tag=affiliate-id on the regular URL. Many (most?) others use third party affiliate providers.

Adblockers often block third party affiliate providers.

Nice article. Does anybody here tried Udemy (or other online course affiliate) affiliate? Any success stories for the same?

Just an average Udemy creator here, but maybe what I've learned is useful.

I started doing Linux tutorials on YouTube a few years ago ( http://youtube.com/c/tutorialinux ) and then created a course on Udemy about a year ago. Affiliates make a decent percentage there (75%) but I suspect they have the same frustration that I do: Udemy has sales EVERY FEW DAYS.

Every few days there are sales that offer 90% off all courses, $10 courses, etc. etc. So a course with a $200 price tag will have an average sale price of $10-15, which leaves everyone (including affiliates) with pretty slim margins.

The simple problem is that they have the power to re-price courses as they see fit, and an incentive to do so (Udemy gets 50% of the revenue, possibly more from their promotions).

As it is, I make about the same amount of money from YouTube revenue (40k subscribers) as I do with one of the highest-rated Linux courses on Udemy (a few hundred dollars a month). It's really just a blip next to my salary; I can't see it replacing full-time tech work anytime soon.

I would second what Dave said, and have you look at this front pager from yesterday: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14711492

Yeah, I'm not sure why I haven't started running AdWords campaigns yet, but I need to get on that. I'll try that; thanks for the kick in the pants!

Thanks for your reply. That's an interesting stat. I have a question on:

>>>As it is, I make about the same amount of money from YouTube revenue (40k subscribers) as I do with one of the highest-rated Linux courses on Udemy (a few hundred dollars a month)

How do you promote your youtube videos?

At the moment, I don't actively promote videos except by notifying subscribers on YT, twitter, and occasionally facebook.

Others in this comment thread have convinced me to start actively promoting via e.g. Adwords, though. I'll start looking at that over the next few weeks.

Have you thought about self-hosting the course or using a platform like Teachable/Thinkific? Do you do any advertising?

My engineering instinct says, "I could build a simple little video-course platform in a weekend or two," but I know where that kind of thinking leads :-D.

More practically, I'm thinking about using something like Teachable for the next course.

OTOH at this point I've got content in a bunch of different places (YouTube, soundcloud, a website, udemy, packt/safaribooksonline), which makes leveraging all of these different platforms' features and supporting students there time-consuming.

Aside from work, hobbies, side projects, relationships, and other pesky human endeavors, I only have between 5-8 hours a week to work on tutoriaLinux. Adding another platform, with its own learning curve and features, seems like it might waste time that I could be investing into content.

I've actually spent a fair amount of time doing AdWords campaigns in the past, but I haven't done that for tutoriaLinux or the Udemy course yet. Maybe I should -- thanks!

Sorry, rambling.

Thanks for taking the time to reply. If you bring the customer to Udemy I think the cut is ~97% so definitely worth a try. Looks like you have a great platform on YouTube, I've subscribed. Best of luck!

I can't even begin to imagine putting in this amount of work and effort - while he may "only" spend 5-10 hours a week currently, apparently there was a lot of upfront effort - on something that is fundamentally of no interest to me: it really is just making money for money's sake, isn't it?

Or for the sake of the things money buys.

> it really is just making money for money's sake, isn't it?

Depends if you want to retire early.

I am not sure if this model will work if you develop a content aggregator site.

Makes me think about youtubers like Casey Neistat who post Amazon affiliate links in every video description. He's getting around 2m views per video. Wonder what that generates..

I'm not sure I understand, is this similar to the articles by comparison websites (e.g. The Wirecutter), or is he wholesale copy-pasting content from those sites & making affiliate money?

The trick is, it has to be high-quality. Exceptional quality. Read some articles on Greatist.com and you'll see exactly what I'm talking about. If you can write (or find a writer who can write) that type of content, then you're in business.

Describes his only employee, a writer, as a 'superstar' but pays him only $6-700/month while keeping $10,000 for himself. Sorry, that's sleazy. Give him more money you freeloader.

I've seen several stories like these lately. But no actually proof, no links to web sites etc. This might be an effort from Amazon to get more affiliates.

Publishing the website will get you more copycats. It will reveal your backlinks and SEO strategy.

It will also get more people to find your Amazon affiliate ID and look for it on google. Which will reveal all your Amazon affiliate websites.

How stable is this? Are you always one algorithm / policy change away from disaster?

It seems to rely primarily on Google ranks. Good gig if you can generate them.

Anyone have any other perspectives on how difficult this is?

>Are you always one algorithm / policy change away from disaster?

Yes. I saw a peak of around $5k a month in AdSense around 2008 with a similar model as the story described. Personal finance articles. That got cut in half a few times by algorithm changes. Then I quit working on it altogether, and it slid more slowly. Though it still makes around $300/month with the current stale content and no updates for years.

It's not easy...basically a ton of outreach to get links, with few takers.

I made $600 with some friends on Amazon's affiliate program with a couple weeks worth of Facebook advertising, but I personally wouldn't recommend it as more than a side business. It doesn't scale very well due to the massive number of conversions you need, it's hard to track performance since you can't cookie the potential buyer, any sales outside of your country is usually lost (you have to sign up for separate affiliate programs for each country to make money abroad) and of course you're at the mercy of Amazon's business decisions.

It's better in the long term to set up your own store and build up lifetime value around your own brand, which is what I'm currently doing. You can start out that way dropshipping from AliExpress or with print on demand products. It's more work, but it's also more stable and of course scales a lot better.

But an even better suggestion is to build SaaS products. It scales even more and not many people know how to do it.

Very experienced people have told me to sell my VPN routers[0] on amazon, and I never, ever will. I own the distribution, I own the content, I own the marketing. I'm probably leaving a good chunk of revenue on the table, but overall I think it's the better longterm solution.

[0] https://easyvpnrouter.com/

You may want to consider hosting your CSS locally. For whatever reason, the cdnjs CSS took around 4 seconds to load for me, during which time your site was a white page. The rest of the site loaded fine.

Offtopic, but it says you use OpenWRT and LEDE so - is there a link to the source somewhere?

I say it in the FAQ, but it's just vanilla LEDE, and the mobile app uses the JSON-RPC API to communicate. The mobile app isn't open source, but the everything on the device is in UCI, cron, and /etc/openvpn.

The magic isn't in the device, it's in the flashing and configuring it for non-technical people.

I'm pretty sure you still need to provide source to the version of LEDE you use, at least to your customers.

opkg can give current release and package info.

But I think you are missing the point here - people who are asking the questions you are asking aren't my typical customers. It's some random guy who has never heard the word "linux".

No the op's point is that to comply with the licence you need to provide the source to customers that ask for it. She's trying to save you some potential trouble.

If his customer asks, he doesn't need to do shit if his customer doesn't ask. My recommendation would be do what the likes of Toshiba do for their TVs include in the product an offer with an email address on some hidden copyright page.

That offer is in fact mandatory, if one doesn't want to include the source.

Ah, yes that's all included in documentation sent with the device. I was confused with the question.

I've been looking for one of these, thank you.

Link to source please, thanks.

>You can start out that way dropshipping from AliExpress or with print on demand products.

But aren't you just selling junky products? That seems pretty unsustainable as well.

You can find almost every generic product sold on Amazon through AliExpress or DHgate, and these are usually the same products. The difference is that it takes 2-4 weeks to ship but costs a fraction of the price. These products aren't junky anymore than they are on Amazon. They might not be iPhones, but they still fill needs.

Print on demand is just designing your own t-shirts, mugs, shoes, pillows, jewelry, etc through services such as Zazzle, Teespring, Gearbubble. People have passions, such as for animals or hobbies, and love to signal it.

As for sustainability, dropshipping will kill your credibility if you keep doing it. There's plenty of shared warehousing/fulfillment services now like ShipBob where once you've established yourself, you can gradually scale your fulfillment and start wholesaling. I would move away from generic dropshipped products quickly, which are the easiest to start selling, just due to competition. But print on demand and private labeling are solid choices since you own the brand and design.

Its also a saturated market.

Yep, Aliexpress rullz. They have an affiliate campaign of their own. As of today, they have no restrictions on getting affiliate cut on your own products

Why would they? A sale is a sale.

I could see an argument for how it is double-dipping... I'm not sure I agree with it though.

I have no idea, but some marketplaces do have such restrictions.

>> your own brand

What is this "brand" that you speak of ? do consumers even care ?

Brand matters a lot in the ecommerce world, as we've seen with the acquisitions of Zappos, Chewy, Bonobos and a long list of others over the years. If you aren't optimizing for customer loyalty, which is usually cheaper than customer acquisition, you're leaving money on the table and eliminating any competitive advantage.

I get the impression that Bonobos had a unique product, and Zappos excelled in customer service(and i think they also cracked the formula of their market). Brand was a nice side-effect of that.

But i don't understand what brand does a store that sells similar stuff to what you can find on Amazon can get.

Zappos started out dropshipping too. The brand is associated with the curation. You'd be surprised how little others care to comparison shop once they're ready to make a purchase. As long as you seem trustworthy and your prices seem reasonable (or aren't very high in general). Once you've made them a happy customer, they're more likely to buy again if they're on your newsletter or being retargeted. It works for us and it seems to be working well for others like Wish.com[0].

0. https://nytimes.com/2017/05/03/magazine/the-online-marketpla...

Brand isn't a side effect.

There's a whole discipline on it.

It sounds like he's doing quality work, really. There's no secret. He claims to have a GREAT copy writer for his niche and provides them with the exact info they are looking at google for. Do that for a few hundred well written articles and any site will rank well too.

But a google algorithm change could definitely crush his income.

Do that for a few hundred well written articles and any site will rank well too.

There, no secret. That is the barrier to entry. 100 hundred well written articles will probably cost a good $10,000 on the mid/low end. Not many people want to spend $10,000 then see if Google will send them traffic.

Google does not care about how much content you have; Google's claim that "the best way to rank is to have good content" is a lie, they've been completely gamed for the last decade.

Google cares only about how many links that content has. Links do not occur organically, especially not in the age of social media, where most natural non-commercial activity is locked away in walled gardens. Content owners have to actively pursue them. When serious competitors come in, they will have their own "private blog networks" that cross-link and crush any hand-made link networks.

SEO is a lie. You have to spam to win whenever there is significant competition.

He mentioned he spent $7,000 on articles before seeing any affiliate income.

That doesn't mean that he didn't get any income until he spent the whole 7k. It could be that he spent the 7k over 6 months period (assuming 1-2 article per week for $100 each). He could have started earning a few hundreds of dollars and re-invested in his business.

It took him 4 months to reach $100/month in income and 6 months to earn $1,000/month, so it was an outlay of thousands of dollars before seeing enough income to pay for itself.

That is way low and you're not going to get anything decent for that price. Honestly, what you get might not even be worth publishing.

I've done this as a full-time job (both in-house and in an agency setting) and you're off by about an order of magnitude for anything worth paying for.

From American and Western European English Speaking writers, this is true.

I have paid 5-10c per word for articles between 500-1000 words, that were all very well written in Eastern European countries by expats and fluent English speakers.

A few colloquialisms needed editing out, but if you are getting only 5 articles a week, you are spending $300-500, and 1-2 hours of editing per article if that (which includes formatting, adding hyperlinks, etc).


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