Amazon Associates

I’ve been experimenting with the Amazon Associates program. I recently received an email from them announcing their redesign, and claiming “easy-to-use linking capabilities.” Since I’d tried it before and found the whole process really cumbersome, I thought I’d give it another try. I was fairly disappointed.

Flash over substance

Amazon has concentrated on fancy “widgets” to embed in your website at the expense of simple image links, which is what I want if I don’t want ugly Amazon buttons all over my site, or if I simply don’t want my blog to suddenly look like an e-commerce site. I prefer a plain-text or image link when I simply want to make a quick recommendation in a blog post.

While Amazon seems happy to host an entire mini-slideshow that you can embed on your site (see the far right sidebar), for a simple image link (like the one at left), they require you to download the product image and upload it to your site. This then entails editing the html snippet they give you, because the path to the image, and likely the file name, is sure to change. In a further twist, the image downloads with a “.gif” extension, but is in fact a jpg!

All that said, the slideshow widget is fairly unobtrusive and you don’t see any Amazon branding till you mouseover a product. You can also create a Wishlist widget (see mine far right) — who knows, maybe someone will surprise you with something from your wishlist!

The best thing about the widgets is that once you have one embedded on your site, you can update the products in it through Amazon, without having to touch the code on your site.

Jump to Associates while browsing

One nice new feature is that from any product page, you can jump straight to the associates link page to create a link, like this simple text link: Fingerprint: The Art of Using Hand-Made Elements in Graphic Design. Still, even this text link is needlessly complex, for some reason involving an invisible .gif file. Why can’t I just have a simple url that includes my Amazon Associate ID, so I can keep the code on my page simple and valid?

Conclusion

If you are already making product recommendations on your site, you might as well sign up for Amazon Associates, and have the possibility of making some dough if someone clicks from your site to Amazon to buy the product. While clean image and text links are a hassle, little widgets for your sidebar are fairly simple.


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