Amazon Affiliate Policy Change Did Not Put Free Kindle eBook Sites Out of Business

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Amazon Affiliate Policy Change Did Not Put Free Kindle eBook Sites Out of Business

Amazon Affiliate Policy Change Did Not Put Free Kindle eBook Sites Out of BusinessAmazon implemented a new policy on March 1 that some people thought would drive the free KDP Select promotion websites out of business. So far that hasn't happened, at least when you compare their composite Alexa rankings three months before and three months after the change.

First some background. The KDP Select program gives self-publishers 5 days every three months to promote their eBook for $0 as long as they don't offer their eBook for sale anyplace other than Amazon during that period. The program has been a win-win-win-win (yes, 4). Amazon gets an exclusive, customers get free books, authors get exposure, and the websites that sprang up to help authors get the word out get a ton of traffic. They monetized this traffic by sending shoppers to Amazon who invariably buy something else, thus earning a commission for the affiliate that sent them there.

The problem is that 4-way wins don't last—too many mouths to feed as it were. Amazon got wise and changed the rules to make it harder for the free eBook promotion websites to benefit from all those Kindle eBook bargain shoppers. Amazon announced they were capping the number of free eBooks a referring site's visitors could “buy” each month. Exceeding this threshold results in forfeiture of that month's income from affiliate commissions.

24 Free eBook Promotion Websites

To evaluate the impact of the change I used Alexa's public web traffic reports which rank the top 30 million websites worldwide—the lower the number, the more popular the website.

As the chart below shows, total traffic for the 24 promo sites we've been tracking shows little change in the six month period between December 1, 2012 and June 1, 2013. The larger sites did indeed experience lower Alexa rankings but a number of the mid-range sites saw their rankings improve. Not one site is out of business.

NOTE: This is based on our original Websites for Marketing KDP Select Free Days for Your Amazon Kindle eBook.

 6/1/13 Position12/1/12 Position6/1/13 Alexa Rank12/1/12 Alexa RankRank Chg

What can we learn from this?

The most obvious observation is that not one site closed up shop. Beyond this I have a few theories:

  1. Promotion sites simply tightened their criteria for promoting free eBooks. In my experience this was already happening. A few sites in December required minimum reviews and minimum average rankings.
  2. There is a greater emphasis now on paid advertising or they stress donations more prominently.
  3. Life is hard at the top of the Alexa rankings. It's competitive and I imagine that the decrease in traffic had a disproportionate impact on the top sites relative to those in the middle.
  4. Authors no doubt tried to list their books for free on the big sites. When that didn't work they turned to the smaller ones which had the effect of decreasing traffic for one group while increasing it for the other.

The game is still early and I think we're going to see this space evolve over time. The traffic-driving potential of free books is just too attractive—sites will figure out how to monetize it in ways other than Amazon Associates affiliate commissions.

If you've used one or more of these sites to promote your free KDP Select days, what's been your experience?

photo credit: Scurzuzu via photopin cc

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