first off, show visitors that you have a great site by getting a better theme! You did not get a penalty because of affiliate content, nor have I ever heard of, however, I have heard of sites in the past getting penalty for having do follow links to affiliate programs such as amazon, remember, google does not like you giving credit to a site in exchange for receiving paid compensation, so ask yourself, are your external links nofollow? this may also include any buttons/graphics that link to affiliate sites that do not have a no follow attribute, not going to go to much into this, so I am going to assume your content is ok, if it is, then you need to check your link portfolio; maybe you have too many low quality links and/or you may have over-optimized anchor/text in your link building efforts; bad links, over optimization are common link issues that could cause your site to get a penalty, as it is not about what you are writing about, if all else fails, then hire seo consultant for an entire site autdit, they will go through your site tooth and nail, and see why you have lost your rankings. good luck.
The people that you refer too did not master amazon, they merely mastered the value they offer to visitors. If you are able to engage/connect with visitors, then you got a winner, some people merely have better skills then others, which may include offering high value content, coding/custom skills. Do you agree that these people brought something to the table? If they did not, then visitors would not continue to visit their sites, right? You can put up all the content in the world, you can get all the backlinks you want, but if you can not engage/connect with your visitors, then all is lost. These site most likely did not start off with custom sites; they started off just like everyone else, some rag/tag site. I ran across an affiliate site a few months ago, and the content on his site would just blow your mind, and let me tell you,this guy had affiliate links from all major affiliate networks, his site has so much authority that he is listed right up under amazon, and some actual product manufacturers; how did he do this? He brought solutions, and value to his visitors, he knew what they were looking for, and knows how to engage, and connect with them. If you can not figure out how to blow your visitors mind, then what do you really have to offer? His avg reviews were between 7k-10k words? how about you? 500-1000 words? at the end of the day, which site will google find more impressive, yours, or his, and i assure you, he had far more affiliate links on his site then you have on yours as you could not skip-a-paragraph without seeing affiliate links.
It’s a great way to make passive income. Of course, when I say “passive”, this doesn’t account for the time needed to spend building or maintaining your WordPress site. However, in terms of having to promote these affiliate links, you can put in as much or as little work as you want to drive traffic to them. This obviously makes this a great option for a passive income stream if you’re not in the business of e-commerce.

(g) You will not offer any person or entity any consideration, reward, or incentive (including any money, rebate, discount, points, donation to charity or other organization, or other benefit) for using Special Links. For example, you cannot implement any “rewards” or loyalty program that incentivizes persons or entities to visit an Amazon Site via your Special Links.


You grant to us a non-exclusive license to utilize your name, title, trademarks, and logos (the "Affiliate Trademarks") in any advertisement or other materials used to promote FatCow and the Affiliate Program, provided that FatCow’s use of the Affiliate Trademarks is not required and is at its sole discretion. This license shall terminate upon the termination of your participation in the Affiliate Program.
(b) Obtaining Product Advertising Content. You may obtain Product Advertising Content by making calls to PA API. If we provide express prior written approval, you may also obtain Product Advertising Content through a data feed (“Data Feeds”) that we make available via file transfer protocol. To request our approval for access to Product Advertising Content through Data Feeds, contact us via this link. If you obtain Product Advertising Content through Data Feeds, your access to and use of Data Feeds is subject to this License. You acknowledge that we may change, deprecate, or republish PA API or Data Feeds, or any features of PA API or Data Feeds, at any time and from time to time, and you agree that it is your responsibility to ensure that your access to and use of PA API or Data Feeds is compatible with the then-current requirements (including this License and all Program Policies).
There are countless mediums that you can deliver valuable content to your audience. You can use your blog. If you don't have a blog (which is a big mistake by the way), you can use social media, content marketing, video tutorials, infographics and so on and so forth. But  your primary channel to deliver long-form value is going to be your blog. Start building a blog early and stay consistent with it.
Amazon has long offered short-term bounties and bonuses around specific products, but the new system gives the company more power than ever to promote certain brands and categories. Affiliates hawking Amazon’s own products, like Prime Video, Prime Music, and Kindle Unlimited, will receive significantly higher rates than physical versions of the same media from traditional publishers.
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