04 Oct

My Amazon Associate Account Suspended Cost Me 100k And How You Can Avoid The Same

Sometimes I believe I write a little too much about successes and don’t provide a realistic picture of all the ups/downs associated with an online business.

Today in this painful post I will shed some light on a recent failure which will ultimately cost me up to $100k!

Plus I share the process my team built to ensure this wouldn’t happen and had finished it just days getting suspended!

Also, if you have been suspended I do still have one strategy up my sleeve I can’t reveal publicly but if you have had your Amazon associate account suspended please contact me and I would be happy to share.

 

My Amazon Associate Account Has Been Suspended Again Losing $100k!

The irony… I had just hired a full time employee in house whose first job was to prepare a set of procedures for us to audit all of our Amazon associate sites and confirm we were 110% compliant!

I will share all of those procedures with you in this post and everything we have learned to help ensure you avoid getting your Amazon Associate Account suspended.

 

NOTE – IF YOU HAVE BEEN SUSPENDED PLEASE CONTACT ME – I DO HAVE ONE TRICK UP MY SLEEVE NOT REVEALED HERE PUBLICLY!

 

The story of my associate account getting suspended goes back to when I sold 2/3rd of my FBA business.

The purchaser also purchased another site which had been associated with a suspended account and therefore when Amazon reviewed his accounts they suspended his personal account, our partnership account and then eventually (months later) my personal account.

Amazon seems to follow a policy of “guilt by association” even if there is nothing wrong with your account or sites you can receive a message saying…

During our research, we have determined that an account belonging to you (or a person affiliated with you) has previously been closed for violations of the Operating Agreement or one of the other Associates Programs operated by our affiliates.”

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What was odd was that my personal account remained un-suspended for a much longer time!

 

My Strategy – Go Stealth:

With a substantial chunk of money on the table and after some unsuccessful attempts at getting any information out of Amazon I setup a plan to go very stealth in the creation of another account. My plan I thought was bullet proof! Here are the steps I took…

  • New Entity
  • New Address
  • New Email
  • New Phone Number
  • New Contact Name
  • 301 Redirected Website to a NEW website URL
  • Logged in via a VPN I ONLY used to login to my Amazon associates account
  • Used a browser, in incognito mode, I ONLY used for logging into my Amazon associated account

However, a couple months later it was shutdown with the same message… how I do not know other than they may have physically followed the URL.

 

Key Takeaways:

  • Don’t buy a site that has been associated with a banned account
  • Don’t connect someone to your account unless you absolutely have to!
  • Don’t connect yourself to an account unless you absolutely have to!
  • Ensure your sites are 100% compliant (easier said than done!)

 

Why This Pisses Me Off:

Other than the financial loss which will likely close at around $100k!

For every site I am trying very hard to be compliant with Amazon TOC’s, we are not doing anything sneaky and are simply trying to play by Amazon’s rules.

Amazon’s unwillingness to work with their associates/affiliates to resolve small issues drives us to take all kinds of strange actions!

 

Avoid This Pain – How to Ensure Your Amazon Associate Websites are 100% Compliant!

Like I said I hired someone full time in house to help systematize my business and had her spend a week doing the very not fun task of reading every single part of the various Terms and Conditions with Amazon associates accounts and turn it into an auditable process.

The plan was to ensure that every single one of our websites was 100% in compliant and before we could roll it out my account got suspended.

 

5 Steps I took to create an Amazon Audit Procedure for my Amazon Affiliate sites

 

  1. Reading of the Amazon Associates Programs Operating Agreement
  2. Creation of the “Associate Program Requirements Form”
  3. Creating a Standard Operating Procedure
  4. Hiring a Virtual Assistant and Giving Great Instructions
  5. Execute our Audit Procedure Yourself

 

Reading the Amazon Associates Programs Operating Agreement

Reading the Amazon Associates Programs Operating Agreement was probably the most challenging part of this task. You probably are not familiar with this piece of “literature”, but the Agreement is broken into about four different sections that are only accessible via a clickable in text link on the first page of the Agreement. These sections consist of the “Participation Requirements”, the “Trademark Guidelines”, the “ Linking Requirements”, and the “License Agreement”.

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  1. To read the Associates Program Operating Agreement click here
  2. To read the Associates Program Participation Requirements click here
  3. To read the Associates Program Linking Requirements click here
  4. To read the Associates Program Trademark Guidelines click here

As you can see, these guidelines are not easily accessible, but if you have the time to read through the ten (10)  thousand word document of legal gibberish (took me about 7 hours to fully understand what the heck they were talking about), then your account MIGHT not get shut down.

 

Creating the “Associate Program Requirements Form”

To make sure that all of our sites were compliant, I decided that an “Audit” process should be performed on every Amazon Affiliate site by an outsourced Virtual Assistant (VA). After I read through the Operating Agreement and felt confident enough with the legal content, I starting building an Audit questionnaire based on these Requirements. I wanted to make sure that the questions were asked in a clear and simple way so that someone with little knowledge of Amazon Affiliate sites could understand and answer these questions accurately. The questionnaire allows you to also insert some images so that you can help guide the Virtual Assistant on where they can find certain website elements.

See example here:

5-question

 

I used Google Forms because I like that the form produces a Google Sheet where I can view all of the Audit Responses. I standardized the questions on the questionnaire so that if the Auditor had to answer “Yes”, it would mean that the question failed the Audit. This way, If I take a quick look at the responses, I’m able to see immediately which sites needed the most work based on how many “Yes” responses I got.

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Creating a Standard Operating Procedure for the company

Since we have about 70+ sites, I knew this would be a gruelling task so I decided to create a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), which would allow me to outsource this work to a Virtual Assistant.

The SOP essentially provides a step by step guide and a clear process for all actions taken by the VA while executing the audit on our affiliate sites. The SOP also provides a clear process for how to remedy breaches of Amazon’s Terms and Conditions which, if done properly, will result in a compliant site. Check out the table below which shows the 15 steps we take to Audit and then make any necessary changes to make our sites compliant.

Action By:Step:Action:
Virtual Assistant1The VA must go to the Master List of Amazon Affiliate Sites
Virtual Assistant2The VA must select a URL and go to the site
Virtual Assistant3Once on the site, the VA must open the Associate’s Program Requirements Form and answer all questions
Virtual Assistant4If YES has been selected on the Form for any question, the VA must make corrective changes to the site for that question
Virtual Assistant5If the VA is unable to make corrective changes because the changes are Out of Scope, the VA must notify the Portfolio Manager
Portfolio Manager6The Portfolio Manager must review Out of Scope changes in conjunction with the site and create instructions for the WordPress VA
Portfolio Manager7Once the instructions are complete, the Portfolio Manager must send the instructions to the WordPress VA
WordPress VA10WordPress VA to implement all remaining  Out of Scope changes and alert Portfolio Manager of changes
Portfolio Manager11Portfolio Manager to inform VA of changes and instruct a Re-Test
VA12VA to re-test the site to ensure that all questions can be answered NO in compliance with Amazon’s Terms and Conditions
VA13VA to report status and completion of audit process to Portfolio Manager
Portfolio Manager14Portfolio Manager to look over all approved sites to confirm approved status
Portfolio Manager15Portfolio Manager to collect and reporting on status of progress and completion of Audit for each Amazon Affiliate site to the CEO

 

Hiring a Virtual Assistant ( VA) and Giving Great Instructions  

If you read my blog regularly, you might have read my post about hiring a VA. You can find it here if you want to read in depth.

What I like to do is hire a few VA’s via Upwork, give them a test (or in this case a site to audit) and see how they do. Since I want the VA to have the ability to not only find the issues on the site, but also to fix them, I’m going to look for a VA who has experience with wordpress sites.

Two things I like to look for is speed and quality. I can generally get a fast VA who outputs good quality work within a few hires. Once you find a great VA, send them lots and lots of work and great instructions!

Giving great instructions to the VA is absolutely necessary if you want them to produce the desired outcome. I have an instructions template that is specific to the Amazon process. If is broken up into 4 sections.

  1. The Purpose: Here I explain WHY the job needs to get done by providing a blurb about the purpose they are serving by executing this job.
  2. Responsibilities: Here I explain WHO is responsible and WHAT the responsibilities are
  3. Procedure: Here I explain HOW to execute the procedure step by step. I have included this 15 step procedure above.
  4. Table: Here is where I ask the VA to fill out the table if they have answered YES to any of the questions on the form

Example:

Login credentials for the wordpress site

  • Login:
  • Username:
  • Password:
Question number (#): Question:

(Copy and paste from form)

Why did you answer yes? (Short explanation)  
#
#Screenshot of BEFORE change:Screenshot of AFTER change:
#

 

Use My Audit Process

If you want to use my audit process for your own sites, click the google doc link below and make a copy of it in Google to have your own copy with your own spreadsheet:

Associates Program Requirements From for the Public:

 

Don’t have time? Let us Audit your site for you: Contact me if you would like my team to Audit your Amazon Affiliate site for you.

Source: affiliate4

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