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The Chicken and the Egg, Amazon Style

The Chicken and the Egg, Amazon Style

We go to the mailbag for our topic this month, and discuss a common problem among new users. When setting up an AOM site, you need to enter your Amazon associate ID and the two AWS keys (public and private). Without this information, the site simply won’t work, and no product will be displayed (instead an error message is shown). But what do you do if you don’t have an associate ID?

On the face of it, one would think it’s a classic chicken or egg scenario, or a Catch-22 if you prefer. You need the associate ID to make the site functional, but Amazon doesn’t want to see an unfinished site before approving you for an ID. You’re asked to supply the URL to your site when you apply for an associate account. Then you discover that they won’t approve you because your site is ‘unfinished’.

Amazon's Web Profile Form

What people who are new to setting up an affiliate site may not realize is that online stores like Associate-O-Matic and other similar products are a very tiny slice of Amazon’s total affiliate traffic. And by ‘tiny’ you can insinuate ‘fractionally insignificant’. Amazon of course does not release any numbers, so any figure named here is not much more than a wild hunch, but standalone stores may be on the order of 1% or less of their total affiliate network. Even the most optimistic guess would still be in the single digit range. So the problem of getting a site running without the affiliate information is not big enough to concern them.

Amazon’s focus is more on making sure that their links are going onto quality websites that can bring them worthwhile traffic. So their associate business is centered strongly on text links, banner ads, and widgets. These can be easily implemented into blogs, forums, static pages, even unusual things like photo galleries, news feeds or small business websites. Amazon wants to see these sites to see if they’re viable, and also to keep from being associated with sites that might promote hatred, hardcore porn, or sensitive topics.

Their affiliate network has grown so much that in recent years they’ve become pickier about which sites they approve in an attempt to rein in their massive server costs. They found that they weren’t getting enough “bang for their buck” and were wasting bandwidth without enough sales to justify the expense. So with a glut of people applying every day for an affiliate account, they can easily afford to pick and choose who they want to be partnered with. And any applicant who submits a site with “Coming soon” or “Is this your site?” or “Error:…” will fail to make the cut. Plenty of other fish in the sea.

So, what do you do?

The answer is obvious; don’t submit your half-finished AOM site to Amazon. Submit something else instead. Then when you get approved, you can use the associate account to create multiple tracking IDs and use one of them for your online store. Many of you who may be new to creating domains and sites may now be asking yourselves, “What kind of site?”. And the answer to that question is: set up one of the sites we’ve discussed above – a blog or a home page, etc. Many webhosts will now include built-in software you can implement with just a few clicks and a bit of info. WordPress or Blogger can get you started with relative ease. You may have Fantastico or Softaculous via your webhost (check with them) and that will allow you to set up all kinds of interesting programs on your website. Or even a generic home page where you can upload a few photos and write some explanatory paragraphs about whatever you’d like. HubPages doesn’t even require you to have a website – they host it themselves. And they let you link to Amazon to monetize the page.

Softaculous on cPanel
Of course it goes without saying that if you set up one of these suggestions, you need to add content to it. Don’t just sign up to Blogger, get a blog, then submit that to Amazon without posting anything in the blog! Write a few posts, perhaps making it interesting. Tie it into whatever niche you want your AOM store to be about. Don’t be afraid to make an effort. Once you do, it should help ease your way into Amazon’s good graces. Then if approved, you’ll be able to power up your online store and start selling.

Finally, once the store is up and running, don’t just let it be a collection of product links on a page – add in as much original content as you can muster up. Every store you’ve ever been in has probably had signs, flyers, descriptions and maybe even guides or explanations to help you make a selection. Why should your online store not be the same? Check out the seven-part series called “The Original Content Manifesto” to show you how to make your site more customer-friendly and not just another “affiliate site”.

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