Following on from Amazon pulling the plug entirely on associates in Colorado in March this year due to a Sales tax measure introduced in that state, yesterday they fired out an email to associates about an upcoming change to their API which will affect a huge number of associates who use various plugins to add products and customer reviews to their sites. Here’s what they said in their email:

On November 8, 2010 the Reviews response group of the Product Advertising API will no longer return customer reviews content and instead will return a link to customer reviews content hosted on Amazon.com. You will be able to display customer reviews on your site using that link. Please refer to the Product Advertising API Developer guide found here for more details. The Reviews response group will continue to function as before until November 8 and the new link to customer reviews is available to you now through the Product Advertising API as well.

What this means is that Amazon will, as of Nov. 8th 2010, no longer be providing customer reviews through their API. So you won’t be able to add customer reviews to your posts and articles as you have done in the past. Amazon, instead, will provide a link to an iframe that you can include on your site. Since search engines can’t parse the contents of an iframe, there’s no SEO benefit from including them on a page. Visitors will, however, still be able to read the customer reviews in the iframe on your site and your associates ID is encoded into the iframe so you will still earn commissions on sales.

So why are Amazon making this change?

Put yourself in their position for a moment. You have a great site that gets lots of comments from visitors but there’s hundreds of thousands of people stealing that content and using it on their sites so you don’t get the full value of that content. What’s more, some of those people are ranking higher than you even though they’re using your content.

This is the reason I at least think Amazon are implementing this change. They’re protecting their own content. Good for Amazon. Lousy for associates who do drive a lot of traffic Amazon’s way.

So what plugins are affected? Here’s a (not comprehensive) list that comes to mind:

ReviewAZON – no longer available (use WP ZonBuilder instead)
phpZON
Amazon Astores – Amazon are discontinuing these in 2017
Store Stacker – no longer available (use Fresh Store Builder instead)
Amazon Auto Poster – no longer available (use WP ZonBuilder instead)
WP ZonBuilder

If there are any others you know of, let me know and I’ll add them to the list.

If you use any of these on your sites (I use ReviewAZON and phpZON myself), then your sites are going to be affected and it’s well worth contacting your plugin’s author to find out how you’re sites are going to suffer and how they’re going to deal with the change.

Associates earn 4%-7% with Amazon. Piddling commissions when compared to 50% commissions on Clickbank. But physical goods do seem to command low commissions, probably because margins are so tight. However, for Amazon, 4% of about $20 billion (estimated annual turnover) is a cool $800 million that comes straight from their profits. Maybe that’s incentive enough to cut some associates loose.

Making money with Amazon is not one of the easier online propositions. There are affiliates who build their sites exclusively around Amazon products and reviews and they’re the ones who are going to be hit squarely in the pocket here. Because they can no longer add customer reviews to their sites as real on-page content, their site rankings are going to suffer. That means fewer visitors and less sales. There’s no doubt that a certain percentage of affiliates are going to suffer badly from the fallout.

It’s yet another reason to follow the adage: “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket!”.

Associates who use Amazon products and reviews in among a range of other content will be less severely affected by the change. But it raises the issue of whether it’s even worth continuing as an Amazon associate. By making it more difficult for associates, less traffic will driven to Amazon and their profits will suffer. Whether that loss is counterbalanced by the commissions they would otherwise have to pay associates is open to question.

As ever, the waters in the internet marketing/affiliate marketing ocean are never calm.

So did Amazon decide to make this change under their own steam (maybe to reduce their resource usage)? Or were they enamoured of eBay’s affiliate model that purportedly rewards the big affiliates (and seems to penalise the small affiliates)? Or have Google been ratting their cage because the big G seems to be doing everything it can to get thin sites off the internet?

What’s your take on all this?

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