Amazon vs. Other Affiliate Merchants: Which Earns the Most?

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Wow.

This Amazon vs. other affiliate merchants analysis I recently did was super helpful for my niche sites. I should have done it a long time ago.

The impetus for this analysis was to see how much of a discrepancy there is between desktop, mobile and table Amazon affiliate commissions.

As usual, once I dug into the numbers, I couldn’t stop the analysis at Amazon.  I just had to see how Amazon affiliate revenue compared to the other merchants I promote.

The numbers are eye-opening for me.

So much so I’ll definitely be promoting one particular merchant a whole lot more.

Check out the data in the table below:

Amazon Affiliate Performance vs. Other Affiliate Merchants

Comparison of Amazon Affiliate Performance and Other Merchants from October 1, 2015 to November 17, 2016.
 TOTALAMAZONOTHER MERCHANTS (includes best performing merchant to the right)BEST PERFORMING MERCHANT
Total Website Traffic (to URLs with affiliate links):1,139,912
# of posts included in this analysis (i.e. posts with Amazon affiliate links):81
Total number of visits to URLs with Amazon links per month:84,437
Average visits per URL per month:1,042
Clicks to Affiliate Merchants264,153154,734109,41937,074
Affiliate Revenue$43,815$15,955$27,860$18,288
Desktop Revenue (approx.)$33,536
Mobile Revenue (approx.)$5,165
Tablet Revenue (approx.)$3,245
CTR from Website to Merchant23.2%14%9.5%4.2%
EPC$.17$.10$.25$.49
Revenue per 1,000 Sessions (Visits) to Website:$38.47$14.01$28.97$20.97
Desktop$75.53$27.50$48.03$41.17
Mobile$10.09$3.67$6.42$5.50
Tablet$17.83$6.49$11.34$9.75

Notes about this analysis:

1. Type of products

The products promoted are mostly physical products.  I do successfully promote 2 software products, but they don’t generate too much to the bottom line.

2. Accuracy

The numbers are skewed a bit low overall because one URL had over 250,000 sessions over the last 13.5 months.  That post does have affiliate links (so I included it), but it promotes a very low cost product.  I hemmed and hawed over whether to include that URL.  I chose to because it does have affiliate links and I wanted this analysis to be an accurate reflection of affiliate revenue performance.

That said, I did extract those 250,000 visits for the best performing merchant because there are no affiliate links on that URL to the best performing merchant.  This accounts in part for the better performance.  I would have done a secondary Amazon analysis, but that would be almost impossible because I’d have to extract all the clicks to Amazon from that page and deciphering which products sold as a result of those links would be pretty much impossible.

The point is the above numbers for Amazon and All other merchants are conservative (I prefer erring on the conservative side with these reports) while the figures for the best performing merchant are accurate.

3. Not quite the full picture

There are a few merchants not included from a smattering of other affiliate networks.  They don’t generate all that much revenue so I didn’t bother including them all.  Again, this goes to the figures above being slightly less than in reality.  Again, I’d rather be conservative with these reports… although the revenue is really so small it wouldn’t impact the overall data such as EPC and Revenue per 1,000 visits.

4. Ad revenue not included

I have display ads on most of the URLs that have affiliate links.  I have not included that ad revenue in the analysis.  In fact, I’m also working on an in-depth analysis as to whether it’s worth having ads on affiliate promotion pages.

5 Key Takeaways:

1. Affiliate Cookie duration makes a difference

I cringe to think how much more we’d all earn if Amazon had a 30, 60 or even 90 day cookie duration.  Alas, we must accept 24 hours, but as you can see, cookie duration does make a difference.

My other merchants have longer cookie duration, varying between 30 to 90 days.

My best performing merchant has a 30 day cookie.  Clearly this helps performance.

The best performing merchant set out above is not promoted as much as Amazon.  For instance, in my product galleries, far more often than not I put an Amazon product at the top and then pepper in promotions to other merchants.

This is clearly supported by number of clicks to Amazon vs. other merchants.  I generate more clicks to Amazon  than all other merchants combined.  I will definitely need to rethink this.

Just how significant is a longer cookie?

It’s alarmingly significant.  Here’s a screenshot from my Shareasale affiliate account showing the number of sales and gross sales amount at various durations after the affiliate link was clicked:

The following screenshot is for May 1 to 19, 2017:

This chart is astonishing when you think about promoting Amazon.  Only 45% of my sales were during the first 1 to 2 days.  That’s not much.  Moreover, two days is longer than Amazon’s cookie but I include that figure because just same day is shorter than Amazon’s 24 hours.  The real percentage of sales in the first 24 hours is somewhere between 19% and 45%.

Granted Amazon probably converts better overall, but if you promote only Amazon when there are other quality merchants in your niche, you might want to re-think your strategy and incorporate other merchants.

If the ShareaSale merchants only credited me commissions for the first 24 hours, I’d earn 55% less money.  Put another way, if Amazon had a 30 day cookie, I would earn approximately double (maybe more) the commissions with Amazon that I do.  That’s some serious revenue.

2. Niche merchants CAN sell well

The merchant that outperformed Amazon is a niche merchant.  It is a big online store with many product categories, but it’s not nearly as broad as Amazon and Walmart.  In fact, the merchant doesn’t have brick and mortar stores, so it’s not really a household name like Walmart.

The point of the above data is that less recognized, quality niche merchants can outperform the behemoths.

3. Affiliate posts earn more per 1,000 visitors than display ads (generally)

I don’t think I needed to crunch the numbers to figure this out.  However, it is interesting to see just how much more money affiliate promotion earns on desktop while mobile and tablet affiliate earnings aren’t all that hot.

In fact, there’s a good case to be made to put ads on mobile/tablet affiliate pages.

But look at that awesome desktop revenue per 1,000 visits for all merchants.  It’s a whopping $75.

But guess what? 

While $75 revenue per 1,000 visits is sweet, I know affiliates earning more per 1,000 visits.  In fact, a lot more.  Talk about nuts.  It just goes to show you that affiliate marketing, when set up right, can be very, very lucrative.

4. I’m going to triple my efforts promoting the best performing merchant

You can bet your bottom dollar my best performing merchant will be a huge focus going forward.  With an eye-popping EPC of $.49 vs. $.10 from Amazon, I’d be a fool not to generate more clicks to the best merchant.

Fortunately, it’s easy to do.

5. I’m DELIGHTED that I’m not so dependent on Amazon

Amazon has been known to ban affiliates.  Therefore, I’m DELIGHTED that I have other merchants that perform really, really well for me.  If Amazon banned me, I have other excellent merchants to promote.  I understand not all niches have this luxury so believe me when I say that I know I’m fortunate to be in this situation.

Another reason I’m so excited about this data

Key points for aspiring niche site publishers:

1. If you don’t do affiliate promotion, it’s probably a good idea to incorporate if it makes sense in your niche because it is very lucrative.  In most niches, there is some affiliate opportunity.

2. If you only promote Amazon, test other merchants.  Don’t get me wrong, I love working with Amazon and will continue to do so, but diversifying your affiliate revenue is good business sense.  Moreover, other merchants are often more lenient such as with email marketing than Amazon is (always double check the email marketing terms first though).

11 Comments

  1. Jim November 20, 2016
    • Jon November 21, 2016
  2. Russell November 20, 2016
    • Jon November 21, 2016
  3. Brian November 20, 2016
    • Jon November 21, 2016
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    • Jon May 20, 2017

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