Back in 2015, I wanted to build a NAS for backups at home. I found the shopping experience for hard drives on Amazon extremely frustrating. There is no sort option for Price per $ATTRIBUTE. You can only view 10 search results at a time. The first dozen results are sponsored listings. Many products are available through third party sellers on Amazon’s marketplace at prices below what’s shown in the “Buy Box.” but you’ll never see these prices unless you click through to every product.
I decided to write a Python script to find all of the hard drives on Amazon, figure out their capacity, then sort by price per GB. I found the Amazon Product Advertising API, which allows you to query their product catalog and get results back as XML (later JSON). You need an access key to use the API which is only available through the Amazon Affiliates program. So I signed up.
The idea behind the affiliates program is that you’ll generate links to Amazon with a tracking ID and get people to click on them and buy stuff. I think Amazon’s original expectation of this is that bloggers and journalists would review products and refer people to Amazon to buy them. In an ideal world, this is beneficial for everyone; merchants get more sales, Amazon gets more revenue, and affiliates get a few percent commission off the top.
Amazon won’t give new affiliates access to the Product Advertising API until they’ve referred at least three sales. So my Python script turned into a diskprices.com. I built a list of hard drives in a spreadsheet and sorted by price per GB. A few people clicked my links. Armed with an API key, I was able to programmatically generate the listing and keep it up to date. I built spam filters and moderation tools so I could remove fake products and fix errors in the listings where I found them.
More people started visiting my site and I signed up for Amazon’s affiliate program in other countries. Amazon treats each country as a separate business, so you have to do the three initial sales for each region separately.
The site kept growing in both traffic and commission income. I’ve been running diskprices.com for nearly eight years, reviewed and approved by the affiliate program administrators several times.
Amazon has automated tools that crawl affiliate sites looking for violations of their Operating Agreement. Sometimes, people will find a good deal on diskprices.com and copy the link to a forum or chat room to share with their friends. If one of Amazon’s bots finds a link with my affiliate tag on a site other than diskprices.com, they assume I’m doing something shady and flag my account. This generates a form email.
The warning email
|Created at||Fri, Jun 30, 2023 at 9:55 AM|
|From||Amazon Associates <firstname.lastname@example.org>|
|Subject||ACTION REQUIRED – Your Amazon Affiliate Account - diskprices0a-22|
Hello diskprices0a-22, Your Affiliate account is at risk of closure. Why? We reviewed your account as part of our ongoing monitoring of the Amazon Affiliate Programme. During our review, we determined that you are not in compliance with the Operating Agreement, found here: https://affiliate-program.amazon.com.au/help/operating/agreement.
While reviewing your account we noticed traffic coming to Amazon from one or more sites that are currently not included in your Associates account. To understand how your Special Links are used by customers to get to the Amazon site, we request you to provide a detailed description of: • A list of the Sites, Social media handles, Mobile applications, link sharing sites (like linktree.com, campsite.bio) on which your Special Links or banner ads are posted, • Methods you are using to get customers to your website/social media page, • Live links to your Sites, (provide links to Amazon ads/special links displayed on your website/webpage) • Any other ways in which your Special Links are used by customers to get to the Amazon site (like advertising services), Please ensure that the list of sites associated with your account is complete, accurate, and up-to-date. Please do refer to the Operating Agreement for more details.
What’s next? Within five business days please correct the violations and notify us when you are in compliance through our customer service contact page: https://affiliate-program.amazon.com.au/home/contact. Please choose the subject ‘Warning/Information Request Response’ from the drop-down menu, and be sure to reference Issue Code 83441-AU in the comments field. If you do not respond within five business days, we may close your Affiliate account and withhold commissions. More information. For more information about what we’re looking for in your response, see our Warning help content, found here: https://affiliate-program.amazon.com.au/help/node/topic/GPPXH5WSX22AUNKR. We look forward to hearing from you soon. Amazon.com.au
|Created at||Fri, Jun 30, 2023 at 10:18 AM|
|From||Jeremy Grosser <email@example.com>|
|To||Amazon.com.au Affiliate Program (replied via web form)|
|Subject||Re: ACTION REQUIRED – Your Amazon Affiliate Account - diskprices0a-22|
Issue Code 83441-AU
• A list of the Sites, Social media handles, Mobile applications, link sharing sites (like linktree.com, campsite.bio) on which your Special Links or banner ads are posted,
• Methods you are using to get customers to your website/social media page,
I do not promote my site, inbound traffic to diskprices.com is organic. Here’s a list of referrers reported by browsers in the last 24 hours for all of diskprices.com, not limited to the amazon.com.au section. For the social media sites (reddit, fark, etc), I did not create those posts and have no relationship with the users that posted them.
Redacted list of referrer URLs, including forums.overclockers.com.au
• Live links to your Sites, (provide links to Amazon ads/special links displayed on your website/webpage)
All links to amazon.com.au originate from https://diskprices.com/?locale=au
• Any other ways in which your Special Links are used by customers to get to the Amazon site (like advertising services),
I do not pay for advertising, search traffic, or SEO services. I just built a website that some people find useful and share with their friends.
I’ve had similar exchanges with the affiliate programs for Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.ca, Amazon.it, Amazon.de, Amazon.fr, Amazon.es, and Amazon.se. They always wait 10 days after sending the warning email to review your response. After 10 days, the flag on your account either goes away with no further communication, or your account is deleted.
I didn’t hear anything after 10 days, so I thought I was safe and had provided sufficient evidence to prove that I’m not violating the Operating Agreement.
One month later…
The bad news
|Created at:||Sat, Jul 29, 2023 at 5:20 AM|
|From:||Amazon Associates <firstname.lastname@example.org>|
|Subject:||Your Amazon Affiliate Account has been closed - diskprices0a-22|
Hello diskprices0a-22, Effective today, Amazon is terminating your Affiliate account as well as the Operating Agreement that governs it (link below). Why? We reviewed your account as part of our ongoing monitoring of the Amazon Affiliate Programme. During our review, we determined that you are not in compliance with the Operating Agreement, found here: https://affiliate-program.amazon.com.au/help/operating/agreement. The violations include the following:
You are referring traffic from a site that is not your Site. An example can be found here: https://forums.overclockers.com.au/ While reviewing your account we noticed traffic coming to Amazon from one or more site/social media handle/mobile application that are currently not included in your Associates account. Please ensure that the list of site/social media handle/mobile application associated with your account is complete, accurate, and up-to-date. Please do refer to the Operating Agreement for more details https://affiliate-program.amazon.com.au/help/operating/policies We previously issued you a non-compliance warning regarding your Associates account. You did not respond or come into compliance within the specified time.
What’s next? You must stop using all Amazon Program Content (for example: Images, trademarks and other information in connection with the Associates Program) and promptly remove all links to the Amazon site. Because you are not in compliance with the Operating Agreement, Amazon will not pay you any outstanding commission income. Please be aware that any other related accounts may be closed without payment of any commissions. Amazon reserves all other rights and claims. In limited cases this closure may be appealable. See Appeals help for more information, found here: https://affiliate-program.amazon.com.au/help/node/topic/GACDBRFKVDTXSPTH. Amazon.com.au
Amazon.com.au approved of my account for the last four years and has paid significant commissions. I don’t even have an account on the forum they claim I’m spamming with affiliate links.
diskprices.com no longer serves data from amazon.com.au