The 90 Day Amazon Affiliate Cookie – Frequently Asked Questions
I’ve seen a lot of differing opinions on the 90 day Amazon cookie over the past couple of years, and what’s worse, I’ve also seen a lot of different information.
This isn’t surprising, considering that the Amazon Operating Agreement isn’t particularly conclusive about exactly how the cookie works. It also doesn’t cover every possible scenario for using this cookie either, which leads to more information.
For today’s post, I’ve imagined several different scenarios, and based on what I could find in section 7 of the operating agreement, and additionally, based on what I could get out of the Amazon reps in live chat, I’ve posted my conclusions below.
Generally speaking, the 90-day cookie IS better than the 24-hour cookie, but it’s not as black and white as that, and you should decide whether or not to use it based on your own site’s situation.
What Is The 90-Day Cookie?
Let’s step back a bit, for those of you who didn’t know, and talk about the 24 hour cookie and the 90 day extension of it.
Standard 24-hour Cookie
The standard Amazon affiliate link gives you 24 hours for a customer to make a purchase, in order for you to earn a commission.
This means that if a customer clicks your link and orders ANYTHING (almost anything), within a 24 hour window, you’ll earn a commission on those items. It’s a universal cookie, meaning that even if the customer clicks through your link to view a baby stroller, but ends up buying a new kitchen set, some dumbbells, and a ribbon for their dog, you’ll get paid for all of those items.
Based on my own experiences, 30-40% of my affiliate commissions come from products that I didn’t specifically link the customer to, and another 30% come from related products they bought on top of the one I did recommend. So without the universal cookie, my commissions would be a lot lower.
Little-known fact: As soon as the customer places an order, your cookie is wiped. Even if they come back 1 hour later and order more things, you won’t get paid.
90 Day Cookie
Sometimes though, a customer doesn’t immediately order a product, especially if it’s a high-ticket item. To make up for this, Amazon will extend your cookie by another 89 days if the customer adds a product to their cart. In other words, if they add it to the cart and then leave Amazon, you’ve got 89 more days to hope they come back and finish checking out.
This is obviously a huge difference.
However, I don’t believe it’s always best to send customers straight to the add to cart button, otherwise, Amazon would make these standard.
Myths About The 90 Day Cookie
While the 90 day cookie is great, there are a lot of myths that I’ve seen about it, even from some people selling products that utilize it.
Here’s the first myth: The only way to get the 90 day cookie is to use a special add to cart button.
A lot of Amazon plugins and themes exist that claim the only way to get a 90-day cookie is to use a special plugin or theme (usually theirs). This is simply not true.
If ANY customer visits Amazon through ANY special link and adds a product to their cart, you get an 89 day extension. This means that the normal Amazon links you are already using can still earn you a 90 day cookie, and you’ve likely already had it happen.
The difference here is that those themes and plugins make it easier to get a special “add to cart” link, which prompts users to add the product to their cart, and increases the chances of a 90 day cookie.
Another myth: You can only get “add to cart” links by using the API or special plugins and themes.
Again, this is not true. You can use the following code to make an add to cart link of your own:
Replace “storeid-20” with your Associates ID and “B00003CWT6” with the ASIN of the Amazon product you wish to promote. If you are a Product Advertising API subscriber, you should also replace the Subscription ID.
<form method=”GET” action=”http://www.amazon.com/gp/aws/cart/add.html”> <input type=”hidden” name=”AssociateTag” value=”storeid-20″/> <input type=”hidden” name=”SubscriptionId” value=”[AWSAccessKeyId]”/> <input type=”hidden” name=”ASIN.1″ value=”B00003CWT6″/><br/> <input type=”hidden” name=”Quantity.1″ value=”1″/><br/> <input type=”image” name=”add” value=”Buy from Amazon.com” border=”0″ alt=”Buy from Amazon.com” src=”http://images.amazon.com/images/G/01/associates/add-to-cart.gif”> </form>
Third myth: The 90 day cookie is a cookie
It’s not actually a cookie, it’s an extension of the qualifying purchase period. A cookie is something which sits in a customer’s browser and earns you a commission when they make a purchase. The 90 day “cookie” doesn’t work this way. Basically, if a customer adds something to their cart, then once the cookie has expired (24 hours after they first clicked your link), you still have 89 days for them to complete their purchase before you earn a commission.
This means that even if they return to Amazon from a different browser or device, and complete their checkout, you still get the commission.
This also means that if they come back to Amazon via somebody else’s link, you still get the commission.
However, what this DOESN’T mean is that if the customer adds a product to their cart, you now have a 90 day cookie and can earn on anything else they buy in the next 90 days.
Fourth myth: You get a commission for anything in the customer’s cart at the time of checkout.
Here’s where it gets confusing, and sales pages of various plugins and themes get misleading. Many people say that you get paid for the WHOLE cart at the time of checkout, whereas in fact you don’t. You only get paid for the products initially added to the cart.
Here’s the scenario:
A customer visits Amazon after clicking your link, adds 3 products to their cart, then leaves Amazon. Less than 89 days later, they return to Amazon, add 5 more products to their cart, and check out all 8 items.
You only get paid for the 3 that they initially added within the 24 hour window. This is still pretty cool, but it’s not how a lot of people portray it.
Remember, it’s not a cookie, it’s just an 89 day extension of THOSE products. If it worked how some people said it did, then customers would indefinitely extend the 90 day period forever by continuously adding things to their cart and coming back later.
Other Things To Consider
While you would think on the surface level, that the 90 day “cookie” results in higher commissions, it’s not necessarily true. You have to think about conversion rates and customer behavior.
For example, when you send a customer to the “add to cart” page, they’ll see an uninspiring blank page with the question, “do you want to add this to your cart?” and the name of the product.
None of the things that they’d expect to see, such as product information, reviews, related products and pricing will be visible.
There’s a strong chance that they’ll just close the tab and leave, whereas sending them to the product page via a normal affiliate link could have resulted in a sale, or multiple sales. It’s pretty clear that some customers will find this move deceptive, and the disconnect between your review article and them being prompted to add something to cart could have the opposite effect.
In this case, chasing the 90-day cookie would have been a bad move.
Additionally, Amazon is well known for its ability to convert people, having investing billions of dollars in this very process, so for many situations, the normal affiliate link will do the job just fine.
How To Decide
As well as testing your links to see what results in higher conversions, it’s well worth considering your customer buying habits. Are you promoting low-priced ($50-100) items that customers might buy on an impulse? If so, the 90-day cookie is probably not worth going for, especially as you might lose sales due to the above mentioned disconnect.
On the other hand, if you are promoting more expensive items, like TV’s or luxury items, it might be better to try and use the add-to-cart prompt, as people are less likely to buy straight away.
You should always be trying to test your links and call to action buttons anyway, so this is something to add to your test list.
Of course, if your Amazon site is setup like an eCommerce site, where customers can add items to a cart on your store, before going to Amazon to checkout, then I would say this is an instance where you ALWAYS want to use the 90 day add to cart feature. It’s only affiliate sites where you need to weigh up the pros and cons.
Final Thoughts: The Pros And Cons Of The 90 Day Cookie
Generally, there are more pros than cons, but it’s far from a no-brainer decision. In a niche where people buy lots of items based on quick decisions, trying to force people to add items to their cart immediately might result in less conversions, not more.
In a higher ticket niche though, you may well pick up more sales as a result of doing this, and the few customers who get put off by the add to cart prompt may well be offset by the increased number of customers returning later to complete their purchase.
Remember though that the “add to cart” link still works the same as a normal affiliate link, so if they don’t immediately add the product to their cart, but shop around and make a purchase within 24 hours, you do still get paid.
The most important thing for you to do is be aware of how exactly the cookie works, and then plan your promotions around that. Additionally, make sure you are testing the different link types and tracking the outcome on your conversions and profit.
The Million Dollar Question
Are we going to add the ability to make “Add to cart” links to the AuthorityAzon theme? We’re considering it. It’s very much possible to add this function to the theme, but right now we are hoping to gauge demand first.
So let us know in the comments below if this is something you’d like to see.
In the meantime, you can use the code above to add this function to any WordPress site, including AuthorityAzon-powered ones.