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Amazon adds features to aStore

Astore-Beta-Logo-Announceme
Bloggers using Amazon’s aStore will have received an email today announcing some updates which include (the below is a direct quote from the email):

  • For those of you linking from your website to your aStore rather than embedding it, we have added the capability to put a link back to your website in the store navigation.
  • Advanced users can now remove both the header and category navigation when embedding the aStore within existing websites.
  • The custom product description length has been extended, allowing you to say more about the products you recommend to your customers.
  • Product detail pages now display a “crossed-out” list price followed by the Amazon.com price.
  • The page title in the browser now displays the name of the aStore combined with the category name or product name, making aStore more search-engine friendly

Amazon launches Product Preview to Associates

The Amazon Associate Program emailed their publishers today to let them know that they are officially launching their ‘Product Previews’ service to all Amazon publishers.

This has previously only been a beta test with a select group of publishers.

The ‘Product Previews’ allow you to promote Amazon products and give your readers more information about the product that you’re linking to without them leaving your site through a small popup window that opens up when readers hover the cursor over Amazon text or image links. Here’s a screen cap of an example (click for full size).

Amazon-Product-Previews

To add Product Previews you need to a script to your page’s templates and it will automatically convert image and text links that you’ve already got on those pages.

I’m not really a fan of any type of ad that pops up over a page although these ones are not nearly as bad as some other pop up ads which the user has little or no control over. At least with these ads the reader can make them disappear after they open up.

I’ve included the information page on Product Previews that Amazon provides publishers below instead of regurgitating all of the information.

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New Features Coming Soon for aStore

Astore-Beta-Logo-AnnouncemeAmazon have emailed participants in the aStore beta test (my review here) with a sneak peak of what will be included in the next version of aStores. Here’s the list:

  • Build and maintain multiple aStores using a single Associate ID
  • Specify products to feature on Category and Sub-Category pages
  • Create multiple instances of individual categories and sub-categories (e.g. Beatles Music and Rolling Stones Music)
  • Feature up to 54 products on the front page of your store rather than the current limit of nine
  • Write longer custom product descriptions
  • Better control the layout and design for use in frames by providing the capability to remove the store header and category navigation

Looks like some nice improvements but what would those of you testing aStore like to see included?

CPC Ads Vs Affiliate Programs

Robyn writes a thought provoking post with the title of Why Use Affiliate Ads Rather Than AdSense or YPN?

In it she points out the benefits of going with affiliate programs that pay larger amounts when people purchase a product in comparison to CPC (cost per click) ad programs like AdSense which generally pay a smaller amount for a click on the ad.

She writes:

“One advertiser recently sent me an email reminding me of their current affiliate promotion. It was roughly (details changed to protect my hide):

1. 10 Subscriptions – Get $50 Home Depot or Best Buy Gift Card
2. 50 Subscriptions – 2G iPod Nano
3. 150 Subscriptions – XBox 360
4. 275 – Home Theater System ($1000 value)
5. 500 – Tickets to the Affiliate Summit, $500 airfare and 3 days lodging
6. 1000 – Serious renumeration

Now, this was for a service that costs between $10 and $20 dollars, depending on plan, and it’s a really popular service at that. And, remember, this is, in addition to the $15 lead spiff. So, in essence, for option #6 you would make around $5K for the above bonus and $15K for the lead spiff.”

It’s an interesting topic and one that I’ve seen fans of both CPC and Affiliate programs argue over many times.

While the above argument is logical and seems to make sense I would argue that while 1000 subscribers to a service seems like an easy enough thing – I’ve never managed to get that type of hit rate in my three years of blogging (despite using affiliate programs on many of my blogs).

My own opinion on there is no clear winner in the CPC/Affiliate program debate on a big picture level and it’s a question that needs to be asked on a topic by topic basis.

Some blogs are naturally suited to CPC whereas others do much better with affiliate programs. This depends on many factors including the topic (ie my gadget blogs tend to do better with CPC and blogs like ProBlogger do better with affiliate programs), the voice/style of the blogger, the type of readers (ie loyal readers seem to respond better to affiliate programs where as search traffic does better with CPC) and other factors.

Where do you focus most of you online money making attention? CPC ads, Affiliate programs or a combination of both?

aStore: Get Link – Amazon.com Associates Central

Ins-Thu-Gl-IframeAmazon have just emailed those testing their aStore to let them know of three ways to integrate it into their website.

1. Link to your aStore as a stand-alone store (this is what they were offering previously and is as simple as having a link (like this) to your aStore.

2. Embed your aStore using an inline frame – where it will appear as though the aStore is a part of your site and they can shop without leaving your shop (as in the picture above/left).

3. Integrate your aStore using a frameset – placing the aStore in one frame and your site’s navigation into another – also making it seem like it’s part of your site (below).

Instructions for each method are in the ‘get link’ section of the aStore menu.

It’s nice to see Amazon taking their stores in this direction – it answers a lot of the concerns expressed by publishers when they were announced.

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Amazon aStore in iFrames

Two of the main critiques of Amazon’s new aStore (the new beta test from Amazon that allows you to make your own Amazon store) that I’m hearing from publishers are:

  • It’s hosted on Amazon’s domain which doesn’t look that integrated with your site
  • There’s no link back to your site from the store

One of the more creative ways I’ve seen the aStore used in the last two days (and I’ve seen a few of them) is by John Jantsch from Duct Tape Marketing who has added a store to his site using iframes. This enables him to put the store on his own domain (see his aStore here) and also to put his own header and footer around the store with whatever links he wants back to his own site.

I haven’t seen anything on Amazon’s site saying that this is against their terms of service but it could be worth checking if you’re going to give it a go.

found via a comment in a previous post by 5 Star Affiliate Programs

Amazon aStore First Impressions Review

Astore-Beta-Logo-AnnouncemeAmazon have in the last day released a new beta test for their associates to try out – aStore.

Put most simply – this is a way to add a shop to your blog (similar to Chitika’s shoplinc – the main difference being that Shoplincs are CPC (cost per click – you get paid if someone clicks) and aStores are CPA (cost per action – you get paid if someone buys something) The payment amounts and methods are the same as normal for Amazon associates.

The other difference is that you can host shoplinc’s on your own domain and aStores are on Amazon’s.

Here’s one I quickly set up a few minutes ago as a ProBlogger bookstore. It took me three minutes to make (I’ll need to customize it so don’t be too harsh) so it’s obviously a very quick and easy set up. There are options for different templates and customizations as well as the ability to include virtually any product in Amazon’s database.

There’s the ability to add different categories and pages to your blog and a variety of widgets that you can add to make it more your own.

First Impressions

My first impression is that it’s pretty good. Very simple to set up, nice to look at, easy to navigate and not too hard to integrate into the rest of your blog in terms of how it looks.

It’d be great to be able to run it on your own domain name (I haven’t seen any ability to do this mentioned) and to have even more control over the look of your page (as I’m sure once everyone has one that they’ll look a little common.

Also I’d love to be able to have multiple aStores per affiliate account so that those of us with multiple sites could have multiple aStores.

Lastly I’d love to be able to choose products in categories and sub category pages. While you do have some control over this by picking keywords there’s no way of selecting specific products on these pages like you can on your front/featured page. This means you could be seen to be recommending products that you might not want to promote.

I suspect it’s early days for aStore. Hopefully they’ll continue to develop it. It is only in beta so I guess it’s not too bad for a start from Amazon.

Amazon UK Test ‘Self-Optimising Links’ – Beware AdSense publishers

I’ve just noticed that Amazon UK’s Affiliate program is beta testing a new type of ad called ‘New Self-Optimising Links’.

They describe it as:

“Self-Optimising Links feature products chosen automatically based on the content of your site. To create Self-Optimising Links simply modify the template and appearance elements and copy the resulting code on to your site. With Self-Optimising Links, you do not need to chose which product, product line or even keyword that best fits a page. Our algorithm will take care of reviewing your site and selecting relevant product offerings. At present we are offering Self-Optimising Links as a BETA to our Associates.”

While this will be welcomed by heavy affiliate program users it is something to be careful of if you’re an AdSense publisher as using these ‘self-optimising’ links means you’re using a contextual way of serving ads – which from my reading of AdSense breaks their TOS.

Update – speaking of Amazon and contextual ads, David just sent me an email telling me about another service that will serve Amazon affiliate ads to your blog – contextually. It’s called TicTap Contextual Ads. in short – they scan your page and find Amazon products to match. They put their own code in the fourth ad and you get the others.

As with the Amazon UK beta above keep in mind that TicTap is contextual and in it’s default mode it cannot be used with AdSense (or YPN from what I can work out). There is a way of making it non contextual according to TicTap’s FAQ page by switching off the contextual nature of the ads (similar to what Chitika did before changing their default to non contextual) – but you might want to double check with AdSense.

Cold Call Blogging and Effective Selling on Blogs

It always amazes me how badly some businesses interact with potential clients.

Yesterday I had the ‘pleasure’ of receiving three calls in 10 minutes from a tele-sales company where the callers (3 different ones) started their calls (where they were trying to sell me a mobile phone) with these three lines:

1. ‘Hi, who am I speaking to?’
2. ‘Hi, Do you have a mobile phone?’
3. ‘Hi, Can I ask how much you earn?’

Yes – these were their very first words on each of the calls!

I was stunned to say the least – cold callers, ringing with the intention of selling me their product with an approach like that.

Now I do sympathize with the task that the people making the calls had – they are probably working for minimum wages in some other country and have been given the impossible task of selling phones to people on the other side of the world over the phone – but the approach that they had been trained to use didn’t go down to well with me. To say that I became more irate with each call would be an understatement!

As I’ve reflected upon the calls (and calmed down a little) they have left me thinking about the challenge that bloggers, especially those selling things (selling their own products, selling their business, selling affiliate products), have with their readers.

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