Do you ever talk about new music or movies that just came out? Do you review books that are flying off the shelves? If so, there’s probably at least some percentage of your readers who buy those things on Amazon after hearing you talk about them. It’s time to get your cut of the profits!
Different from an ad network, an affiliate program is based on sales instead of impressions and clicks. The Amazon Associates Program allows you to benefit from every sale that results from one of your recommendations. Even if you don’t regularly devote a post to reviewing items like those that people typically buy from Amazon, you probably mention the odd book or movie here and there around your site. If you were in the affiliate program, your offhand comment could be turned into actual revenue.
Now, I’m not usually in the habit of “selling” an advertising program to my readers. The reason I’m so emphatic about Amazon’s program is that it’s incredibly easy to use and built for regular bloggers (Joe the Blogger anyone?) and web professionals alike. Beyond this, it doesn’t require you to bend your page format out of shape just so you can use their system. This is an exceedingly rare trait for an on-site advertiser, as you may already know.
The most useful feature of the Amazon Associates Program (AAP, as I’ll call it) is their linking service. With a number of tools, you can take any link to an Amazon product and convert it into one that will give you credit for the sale. The best way to do this is to simply log-on to the AAP and then visit the page in question. Above the site a collapsible toolbar (web-based) will appear and give you several options. For now, the only one we’re interested in is the “link to this page option”
While unfortunately there is no Ajax drop-down, it does take you to another page with several options in crafting your link. From there, you can paste it wherever you need it to go and you’re all set. If you want to go a little farther, they offer a small script that will create a “fly-out” about the product when your readers roll over it. This modification is up to you. Some people find this kind of advertising very obnoxious, but as they becomes more and more prevalent, less people may mind fly-outs as long as they are well coded.
If you want to simplify the process of creating links (when creating lists and so forth) you can add in another script and cause the link to go directly to the search results for your link’s text. It’s called Quick Linker and more information about installing it is available here (you must have an account first).
Another more traditional option is a simple banner that directs users to a specific part of Amazon. This is one of those things that will distort your pretty page layout. I’m not saying these kinds of ads are bad, but the only difference between these banners and the ones in an ad network is that all users have to do is click a banner ad, whereas users have to actually buy something after clicking one of these. One advantage that I can see is that AAP ads will never diverge from “ads about books” or “ads about electronics” if that’s how you set them.
The final way that the APP can help you monetize recommendations actually combines the two above ad types. Amazon gives you the option to create an “aStore” that is essentially a list of all the books and things that you like. From this list, which can be categorized by type, you can generate not just custom banner ads, but a complete mini-store for your readers to pursue. Personally, I don’t recommend the full-sized store unless you meet one of the following requirements:
- You specialize in recommendations and reviews
- Your website is very niche and people look to you for guidance
- Your blog is very “lifestyle” based – you subscribe to a very specific philosophy
- You have many readers who are interested in your personality and essentially want to be like you
To know if you fit into this last category, just look at how you interact with people on the web. Do people tweet back and forth with you on Twitter a lot? Are there a lot of commenters on your blog and/or do you get into a lot of conversations in the comments? If so, an aStore might actually be a good way to share your favorite books (for instance) with your “fans.” There’s nothing wrong with recognizing you’re a bit of a celebrity in the eyes of some people.
The controls for the aStore are very elaborate and allow you to create a fairly attractive page that can even match your site’s color palate if you so choose. As you can see, mine is fairly plain, but I created two categories to divide up the books I’ve read by genre. The system lists the books in the order that you added them, so I suggest possibly making a “featured” category at the top so that certain stand-out products aren’t lost in the crowd.
From the list of items in your aStore, you can generate a number of widgets on the “widgets” tab of the interface. Personally I was disappointed with the variety of widget sizes available to you. Since boxes are generated from a nicely packaged database, one would think that more numerous and more attractive templates could have been created for publishers. Even so, if you tinker about with the size and template controls you should be able to find something that suits you.
When everything is set up how you like it, your account activity can be monitored on the account summary. It is clean and concise and there are many options for viewing the raw data if you’re addicted to checking stats like me.
Overall, I have been impressed by the Amazon Associates Program, for it has lived up to the name given it by other bloggers who suggested it to me. The interface is very simple yet full of options. Also, it provides a number of different strategies for administering advertising to a page. At the least, everyone should use this service whenever they create a link to an Amazon product. From there you can determine if it’s the right program for you.