Beware: The Amazon Affiliate Zombies

For those of you old enough to remember the old Ford Escort of the 80s.. It was absolutely the best selling car of it's era. There was a lot going for it. A cheap price. Inexpensive parts and repair. A versatile hatchback style. Decent gas mileage. The marketing efforts could legitimately sell it as "The most popular car in America". It was true because they had the numbers to back it up..

What you would NOT hear anyone say is that the Ford Escort is "The best car you can buy". That would be ludicrous. Everyone knows it's a low-end compact car, designed for thrifty buyers with a high level of cost sensitivity. Everyone knew. They didn't have or need the internet to figure this out. We the American consumers, had enough awareness and intelligence that we did not resort to Google to inform us of that "it's not the best".

Here's the thing: Google has been infested with armies of "Amazon Affiliates". Their primary mission is to send as many buyers to Amazon product listings (via their own personal affiliate links) so that when an item is sold, they receive a small commission, anywhere from 3-8% as I understand it, but typically 4-5%. A monthly check from Amazon. A side hustle. Passive secondary income. All it takes is to build a free website or blog that ranks at the top of their product niche- something that is now easily manipulated when you go far enough into the rabbit hole to figure it out.

So what's the problem? Amazon charges marketplace sellers a 15% commission for every sale (Note: the majority of what's sold on Amazon is shipped from a small business that is "plugged in" to Amazon's network of products) and they share the wealth with enterprising people (affiliates) who send traffic to Amazon.com. Big deal. Sounds legit, right? Not so much these days.. It's time to be cautious.

Let's say we are in the market for a new microwave, a new camera, or even a new bicycle. By force of habit, we go to Google and search for "reviews", and rightly so. After all, past performance for others is a good predictor of our own customer satisfaction. But what is a proper legitimate review? What kind of information should drive your buying decision?

-Is it an opinion of a product presented by an actual customer? (It should be!)

-Or is it an "opinion" of an Amazon Affiliate who makes more money when they refer more sales?

Doesn't the answer boil down to one thing?

A customer of a product has nothing to gain from praising a product or from throwing it under the bus. This means it is unbiased.

An Amazon Affiliate, on the other hand, has a lot to gain or a lot to lose when they recommend one product over another. Their recommendations are not neutral.

So how do they decide which products to present to you in their "Ten Best <insert product here>" lists?

Like this: Go to Amazon.com and search for any common household product. Dig a little deeper and Amazon will tell you how the product ranks in sales volume. This is the same list that affiliates are researching, and for good reason. Recommending the toaster oven or the vacuum or the wireless router that is selling the most numbers is the surest way to maximize affiliate sales and commissions. Recommending the more expensive higher quality slower moving product is not expected to increase their monthly take.

An Amazon Affiliate that uses a website to represent a list of "The Ten Best Laser Printers" most likely did not buy those ten printers and test them out for your benefit. Why bother when Amazon tells them what's selling the most (for reasons that are both complicated and simple)? Why even come up with original content when it can be ripped off from thousands of other Affiliate websites masquerading as "Review Sites"? Please view "Ten Best" lists with some trepidation. They could lead you into the weeds.

Let me bottom line this for you because it's important that consumers know what they are buying and know who they are listening to when they make the buying decision: Be very wary of "Review Sites" on page one of your Google search results. They rigged the system to get themselves there, and they rigged their content to maximize their earnings, and for the most part, with little or no actual hands-on research into the product they are promoting. They are playing you into their little numbers-game side-hustle.

I'm not shaming anyone who happened to own a Ford Escort in the eighties.. They were good little cars for millions of people. More importantly, no one lied about how good (or bad) they were, just to make a fast buck. No one built websites telling you it's one of the "Ten Best", a phrase that is being misused and/or abused by Amazon Affiliates to get you to buy something via one of their links. These "Ten Best" lists are built using volume data and nothing else, and the Ford Escort's volume says nothing of it's quality, performance or durability. That's not right.

For these reasons, my recommendation is to stick to the customer reviews. Amazon Affiliates have nothing to lose, everything to gain, and their M.O. is to prey on consumers with low awareness of what they are interested in buying. Don't allow it.

Posted with permission from Linked In.

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