How to increase your Zazzle referral income

Are you a storekeeper or affiliate? You probably already know how the Zazzle program for referrals works. It’s a way for anyone to earn money through the sales of Zazzle products. Got a website? Create an ad on it. Hanging out on Pinterest or Google+ or Facebook? Post links to products you like or that you think your audience will buy. Do let people know that links are potential money-makers for you – it’s polite and the FTC says it’s the right thing to do.

If you’re an artist, you can let people know they can refer your work so you both earn money when a product sells.

Are there ways to increase your Zazzle referral income?

Are you expecting the affiliate program to do things it’s not meant to do? Or things it’s unable to do?

Of course, not. Right?

Are you sure?

Three pieces of advice:

  1. Understand the program.
  2. Right-size your expectations.
  3. Plug the leaks

If you can manage to get the referral system down, you will make more money on Zazzle. Referrals are paid out at 15% of the base price (the only good thing about the recent price increase) so you may make more in referral than royalty. There used to be this nice volume bonus program . . . oh, wait, there still is a volume bonus program. It’s just not that nice anymore, but the only way it does work now is if you refer the product.

Earnings are maximized if you refer your own product. Many people concentrate on marketing OR designing, however. They both take time and they call for different skills.

Let’s start with the new news about referrals – a contest!

The Zazzle referral contest for October recently announced a surprise contest, Awards for Associate Superstars, on their blog. Associates with the most referrals at the end of October can get a share of $500 worth of AMEX cards.

It hasn’t gone over very well among the vocal storekeepers (SKs) and the details are sketchy. . .

How this is supposed to work: the most dollars earned in referrals? the most number of referred sales? the most volume of referred products?

And – are the big affiliates included, the ones who earn tens of thousands of dollars plus each month in referrals? This probability really made people shrug off this contest. It’s already won, right? And what is $200 to anyone at that level?

[edited to add: Clarification posted in the public Zazzle forums that the person with the highest number of referrals will win.]

Nevertheless,  the announcement of this contest is a good reminder to us to step up our referrals game! Especially with the holiday season upon us!

Should you pay for advertising to get referrals?

A Zazzle blogger, Elizabeth P, is now suggesting taking out Facebook and/or Google ads. Yikes! Don’t think about cliff-diving into those waters until you know how to swim first.

Personally, I have not done either yet. Taken out Facebook or Google ads, I mean. I did jump off a cliff once (this one), but it wasn’t that high and I was drinking and succumbed to peer pressure. Don’t you drink and dive!!! I gave it up, myself.

Your marketing skills and products should be pretty solid before you move to paid ads, IMO. Facebook and Google ads can be a crapshoot (i.e., risky venture). All I know is, if you don’t set limits, you could be very sorry. There are plenty of ways to get your feet wet and improve your marketing skills before you start shelling out money. If you’re ready for paid ads, you probably already know it and are doing it. The big affiliates spend scary amounts of money on marketing, but they are doing so with a solid base of knowledge of where and how to market and what to promote. In other words, actual statistics are playing a big role in their success.

Basic referral linking

Creating referral links properly is the very first way to increase your Zazzle referral income! And it’s free! Ensure you create working referral links whether for websites, social media, email, etc, before you move on to anything else. Referrals won’t work everywhere because some sites strip out referral codes, but you’ll increase your chances of earning a referral. In fact referrals are very touchy: if a customer has cookies turned off, switches computers, substitutes their own rf code, etc, you are SOL. You can only work on that which is under your control.

The hard truth is: you will not get every referral you think you earned on Zazzle.

I’m assuming you’re already pretty familiar with this info, but I’ll just note the basics. The best way to create referral links is to use tools that do it for you. The Zazzle sharing tools for products are super quick and easy to use. Or there are scripts, like the free Rob Greenleaf link-builder, that you can set up. You can also hand-code your links – try a copy-and-paste method to avoid typos and other errors.

Would you be surprised that not everyone does this right? I have a friend on a Zazzle-related forum who argues that she never gets any referrals. Out of curiosity, I took a look at her website.

That is, I looked at the code. This is super-easy to do! I poke around the back end of websites all the time.

Sneak a peek behind the code curtains

Depending on your operating system and/or browser, you will find the source code in different ways. You want to access View Source.

A free extension on Firefox or Chrome,Web Developer by Chris Pederrick, is one easy way to check. On Chrome, Web Developer will install a little gear wheel near the URL box. On Firefox, you have the option to display an entire toolbar for Web Developer.

In Web Developer, look for “View Source”. This will open a new page that shows all the code for the page you were looking at. This is how reverse-engineering and bug-fixing starts. Don’t worry about understanding all of it. We are looking for for specific bits of code. You do know how to do a search, right? (cmd+F or cmd+G works on a Mac)

Now, search the source page for “”. Every single linked instance of on that page should include a referral link. If it doesn’t, you are already shooting yourself in the foot and cliff diving would be redundantly dangerous.

Here are examples of auto-generated links to which I added the tracking code. site => store => product =>

source code

Example of source code for above text.

That’s the source code for the links and paragraph above. Notice the color coding that shows your links in blue. What happened to the ampersand? It turns into & [which is the ASCII code for an ampersand. Thank you, Circus Valley!]. The target=”_blank” means the link will open in a new tab.  

Note that a page or product link has a specific format: after the URL, parameters perform extra functions. For Zazzlers, these functions can include referral (associate) ID, tracking code, promotional code, campaign code and so on. The first attached item after the URL gets a ? before it. All subsequent items each start with & and may be in any order. Zazzle gives the details on your Associates page (yes, that is a referral link! Why not?).

Do you know what your associate ID looks like? I don’t have mine memorized, but I do know the first and last bits of the number. Here are two examples of referral links to a store. Zazzle uses both when creating links for you. The asterisk is valid, but may be stripped out more often than the rf code. It does look better on business cards and such, however.


Tracking codes (tc) will show up on your earnings report so you know which links are leading to sales. Typical tracking codes might be FB (Facebook), PIN (Pinterest), email. Add your tc like this:


So, looking at my friend’s site again. . .

Bad news. She’s missing a bunch of ampersands with her parameters – they aren’t separated from each other. I’m pretty sure that kills the referral aspect!

Don’t be stupid nice, just be nice

Are you sending customers to links on the Zazzle coupon page?


Seriously, why are you doing that? It’s a big distraction and you risk not only decreasing your income, but also losing the customer to the next bright shiny object! Be strategic and creative about how you share cost savings opportunities. Look for a win-win opportunity instead of giving money away.

OK, you want to be nice.

Just don’t be so nice that you don’t include a referral code when you share coupon or discount information!

Sigh. My friend did that, too. She had links to the coupon page with no referral code. At least if you’re throwing money out the window, you can watch how happy you make some people walking by.

If you throw money away to Zazzle, they just add it to the vault and go back to riding their fixie bikes into the California sunshine life and cuddling Smushimals while eating custom chocolate bars in colorful hammocks. (LOL – see how easy it is to add referral links? Those are all new Zazzle products.)

EVERY time you link to Zazzle on your site, make sure you include your affiliate link. Yes, I’m repeating myself!

Stop all the leaks – here’s a new one!

Did you ever have a favorite pair of jeans that you wore until they turned white and were as thin and fragile as butterfly wings? Probably the pockets had holes in them by then and sometimes you’d forget and stick a handful of change in your right front pocket.

Ping! Ching!

Money would slide out of your pocket and you maybe never noticed.  That is what can easily happen with referral links.

So, what makes your Zazzle system leak? Improperly coded links and missing rf codes are the biggies that you can control.

One new phenomenon I discovered recently – to my dismay – is on my own site. You know how Zazzle updated everything this summer? They also updated some of the banners. Banners are free tools for us to use: advertisements for categories of gifts (Mother’s Day, Christmas, etc) that you can add to your website. See examples in the right-hand column.

You won’t earn Zazzle referrals this way!

Anyway, I was doing a View Source on my own page and was shocked to see that a new stock Zazzle banner I had added had NO REFERRAL CODE.

What? Zazzle always included your code automatically for you just like on the sharing buttons. They SAY they include it, but it’s not there. . This is what I call a half-broken tool. That’s dangerous, because you think it works and it hurts you instead.

See for yourself.

From the Associates banner page on Zazzle

From the Associates banner page on Zazzle




Well! That’s not very nice. They say it’s there, but it’s not.

So, check all your banners, especially the new ones. The old ones kept the referral codes intact and they still work.

There have been a lot of disconnects on Zazzle with all the changes. You can see my comments as Beachwalker about these on the Zazzle public forum. I honestly don’t know what to think about this one, but it does not give me a warm fuzzy feeling. It’s kinda cold like that Lake Superior water down at the bottom of the cliff I jumped off. (You know I didn’t actually dive, right?)

However, you probably want to add a tracking code anyway, so check and make sure all your links, whether text or banner, do include your affiliate code. This is like putting on your water shoes before you go near that cliff. 🙂

What else about Zazzle referrals?

There is a lot to learn and know about Zazzle referrals. Things change, too: the old zbar seems obsolete now. There are ways to structure referral links, use shortened links and include promotional codes. Some social media (Wanelo, sometimes Facebook or Pinterest or Twitter) sites strip the rf codes. Unscrupulous people strip and replace them with their own. There are sharks in the water at the bottom of that cliff!

I am no expert coder and I don’t make tons of money with referrals, but I’m getting better at it. People at Zazzle and associated with Zazzle have developed a variety of tools to help with referring and I suggest you check them out and keep learning. If you have recommendations, please add them in the comments. This is by no means an all-inclusive on referrals.

Even if you and I have no chance to win $200 in the contest, more referrals = more money!

Happy referring! If you liked this post, please share it!



12 Responses to How to increase your Zazzle referral income

  1. Kat Gagliano October 22, 2013 at 11:33 am #

    As always, great and excellent post, saw it wizz by on my feed on fb so here I am.

    Someone else mentioned recently that the ad block programs recognize the premade banners and block them for people so another loss of a chance of referral. We are better off making our own banner image and hand code a link to our shops with our referral. This goes for other POD banners as well as Z. I have a couple I need to fix 🙂

    • Right Brain October 22, 2013 at 11:37 am #

      Good point, Kat! I don’t know why it works that way, but I’ve heard that, too. I’ve made some of my own, but that info will get me making more!

  2. Shannon October 22, 2013 at 1:16 pm #

    Good post and good points about making sure you actually put in proper referral links if you expect them to work. So many shopkeepers get them wrong and then wonder why they don’t get referrals.

    I still maintain (after putting in way too much effort) that the Zazzle referral program only works really well (by that I mean making a true livable income) for affiliates that are not like us shopkeepers. The big affiliates claim that they make money by auto posting thousands and thousands of links per day. Us shopkeepers can’t do that. We simply can’t post enough to overcome all the leaks.

    I know how to code links and close leaks. I have tried Facebook advertising, Google advertising, pinning, Twitter, my own third party website, a shared blog, purchasing ads in popular blogs… and while I do get some referrals, it is not enough to justify any of the costs. I still make more referral money off of custom orders than any other method.

    The referral system is way too leaky. The best bet does seem to be making WordPress sites using the Zazzle plugin or Zazzle store builder sites. The sites that work seem to affiliate a specific product type such as all Zazzle marketplace mugs for example. Or they seem to affiliate a specific niche like all Zazzle products featuring owls. Anyway, it’s still tough to compete particularly when Zazzle is putting out so many of their own referral links. Plus, there are often so many cancellations that even more of your effort is wasted.

    My advice to anyone giving it a try. Figure out a few site topics you think might draw some traffic. Buy a good domain name for them. Set up hosting and add WordPress and the Zazzle plugin and affiliate the Zazzle marketplace for those products that fit with your site topic. And repeat for the next topic. WordPress hosting can be fairly cheap. This is not fun and requires a lot of learning and a lot of site maintenance. And you aren’t going to make a whole lot, but it’s the best you’ll do with Zazzle affiliate marketing unless you feel like learning how to automate link posting like the big affiliates do.

    I’ve managed to get some referrals off of pinterest too, so a focus there is possibly worth it. But, it’s not been super great either. Do not waste any time on Facebook paid advertising. Too expensive for the return on investment. Google ads stand a better chance over Facebook but it requires a lot of learning too and you have to be really good at keyword picking to actually make any money with it. It’s way too easy to spend more than it returns for sure. Zazzle is so leaky that your Google ad might as well be sent to the marketplace because people are easily lead away from your own products.

    • Right Brain October 22, 2013 at 1:37 pm #

      Shannon, I learned most of what I know about referrals from you and your excellent posts in the Zazzle and ZUG forums – thank you!

      Excellent suggestions about how to approach the referral game for regular SKs!

      • Shannon October 22, 2013 at 2:08 pm #

        Thanks! What’s said is that I don’t even recommend really bothering now. Sigh.

        I do know people with those store builder/Wordpress sites I mentioned that are having ok to decent results. I know of one person only that is a shopkeeper that makes a decent amount of money off referring. Not stellar money, but better than pocket change.

  3. Lynn-Marie October 22, 2013 at 1:58 pm #

    Great article Deb,

    Everyone has added really good information. I’d like to add I’ve had good success with a weebly free site too. It’s a specific niche but as long as you configured keywords and such you may have some success.

    Good luck everyone.

  4. Shannon October 22, 2013 at 2:08 pm #

    Oops. I meant to say “sad”, not “said”.

  5. Pam October 22, 2013 at 2:54 pm #

    Nice catch on the Z banners without referral codes added. I don’t use them much, but that is good to know. I figure I can always learn more and this post is a reminder to not give up on making the referrals. Sometimes I think, what’s the point? But the more we have out there, the better chance we have of making something. My best referrals have always come from direct customer contact.

  6. Debbie October 22, 2013 at 4:16 pm #

    Thank you for putting together this wonderful post. I had no idea the new banners did not have the referral codes added.

  7. Paul Stickland October 23, 2013 at 5:27 am #

    Hi Debra,
    This is a great article which will really help folk.
    I didn’t know about the fixie bike! Or this new strategy, that is quite some shift for Zazzle.
    Many thanks for sharing this knowledge, I’m going to share this with the Zazzlers community on G+.

    For those who are sceptical about the rf program, it DOES work, I had 2 referrals this morning and 26 last month, all with tracking codes, so I know just what worked.
    I also use as an url shortener which gives me some extra info on click throughs.

    Incidentally, I have NEVER had a referral off pinterest, despite careful adding of rf and tc. But I am quite sure I have made sales from there.

    Best wishes,


  8. Fliss October 23, 2013 at 9:56 am #

    Great information, I must act on it. I am afraid I have got so desperate for any sales lately that I haven’t been bothering to make sure I have my referral code included in all my posts etc. I think I just assumed it didn’t really work so why bother. Must become more positive, thanks for giving me a talking to!

  9. maigi October 23, 2013 at 12:45 pm #

    This is my favorite: “If you throw money away to Zazzle, they just add it to the vault and go back to riding their fixie bikes into the California sunshine life and cuddling Smushimals while eating custom chocolate bars in colorful hammocks.”
    Best reference sentence ever!
    Great advice. Thank you for your blog!