Back in December I logged into my amazon associates account that I've had so long that I originally signed up with a HOTMAIL account. I'm a huge fan of amazon, and I recommend everyone trying to make money with their podcast be sure to sign up to be an associate.
I made a link on my Feeding My Faith website that was feedingmyfaith.com/amazon that used the “pretty bar” option in the pretty link plugin (which makes super easy links to SAY – which is very important for podcasters). The bad news is that the pretty bar option creates a link in an iframe (we won't get into the technical details) that are invalid for Amazon.com My mistake. An honest mistake that was instantly was changed the minute it was pointed out to me. While I was on the phone with Russel, he didn't mention that having “/amazon” in my feed was a problem. I assumed it wasn't. I'm not sure if it is, but I wouldn't recommend it at this point. You can see in the graphic to the left, that its one click away between being OK, and being banned.
In looking at their agreement deeper, I see this clause:
You must, however, clearly state the following on your site:
“[Insert your name] is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to [insert the applicable site name (amazon.com, amazonsupply.com, or myhabit.com)]”
I have a privacy page, and a disclosure page on this site (somewhere). Apparently they didn't make the menus when I redesigned the site. Something I need to change. Is this what caused the ban for life? I don't know and Amazon isn't talking.
The Gray Area
In their agreement it states in the section on paid links (like Google Adsense) you can't use words like “amazon,” etc. as it drives the cost of advertising up. This was not a paid link. Here it is:
Prohibited Paid Search Placement
Section 7 “Redirecting Link” means a link that sends users indirectly to the Amazon Site via an intermediate site or webpage and without requiring the user to click on a link or take some other affirmative action on that intermediate site or webpage.
When I was on the phone with Russel, he did not mention that the link itself was the problem, but the way it was linking to their site.
Another interesting line is in section 14
we may terminate this Operating Agreement at any time, with or without cause
The Teacher in My Is Having a Hard Time
If you have listened to my show, or read my blogs you know I admit when I'm wrong. I do my best to be a man of integrity. When I make a mistake, I do everything I can to learn from it. The bad news is, Amazon.com is making it difficult. Here is the response I received:
As previously stated, you have not complied with the Associates Program Operating Agreement that governs participation in the Associates Program and therefore your account was closed.
You can find the complete terms of the Operating Agreement, including the Linking Requirements and Participation Requirements, via this link: https://affiliate-program.amazon.com/gp/associates/agreement
We have confirmed that the decision to close your Associates Program account and withhold fees is final, and you are no longer eligible to participate in the Associates Program. Any other accounts you have or may open in the future may be closed and advertising fees withheld without further notice.
Because this decision is final, further requests to review your account for reinstatement will not receive a response.ama
Thank you for your understanding.
How Do I learn from that?
I sent an email and it bounced back. I called their phone number, and their awesome support staff (I'm not being sarcastic, people like Russel, Zack, and Sharon (Sherrie), were awesome and UBER polite. However, their hands are tied and they can't reveal any information. The only person who can is the head of business (whose name I have withheld) and he doesn't want to talk to me.
So while I'm upset (really upset – because there is only myself to blame and we all know how fun that is) about the loss of income, I'm more upset that Amazon.com won't specifically say what I did wrong (and the one thing they did say I fixed – so I'm confused). I feel I must've done other things to get banned for life (you see you use your social security number so I can't just sign up with a different email address).
Over the last five years I've helped them sell 55,596 .00 worth of merchandise (almost 200 products), and one would think that might warrant a slightly kinder nudge out the door (and I believe I been an associate since 2003 if not earlier).
So Where Do I go From Here?
Well I will continue to find the best deals on podcasting equipment, and if that is Amazon.com I will still point you to them (I just won't get a referral fee). If I find the same price elsewhere like Same Day Music (who doesn't charge tax, and allows you to make multiple payments on some items), or BSW (who has a ton of PRO stuff), I will point you there. As always, I put my audience first.
As I child I hated it when a parent used the “Because I said so” as a reason, and I still hate it today.
I Do Find it Odd
I got a an email about the phone call I had with the representative (Zack in the case). I entered that Zack was awesome. His hands are tied with a policy that he didn't write. I put I was very disappointed in the policy, and the way I was handled (not by Zack, by the policy). I delivered them over 42,000 clicks and 37,00 unique visitors over the last five years and I can't get a human on the phone to discuss the details. When I sent in the survey I got this graphic:
They ask for second chances……
In digging deeper, and deeper into the terms of agreement I found, “For example, you must include your Associates ID or “tag” (appearing as XXXXX-20, or such other format as we may designate) as a parameter in the URL of each link you place on your site to the Amazon Site. In addition, you must not use a link shortening service in a manner that makes it unclear that you are linking to an Amazon Site.”
It is odd that they didn't mention this to me on the phone.