Almost every large, successful online merchant uses an affiliate marketing program to drive new business to their sites. Affiliate marketing allows web site owners to post links, logos, product images and banner ads on their web site with a link to a merchant’s site. Every time a user clicks on the link, visits the merchant’s site and buys something, the affiliate gets a commission on the sale. It’s a win-win-win scenario for all involved. The user finds what he or she is looking for, the affiliate gets a small reward for sending a customer to the merchant’s site and the merchant picks up new customers and business.
Amazon.com has one of the largest affiliate marketing programs on the web. They provide a wide range of methods for posting product images, banner ads, image ads and other links. Amazon’s tools are very easy to use and the average web site owner just needs to sign up for their program, log into their Associates Central web site, select the products or images they wish to promote, and cut-and-paste the provided code to their web sites. Here is what you need to know to sign up for this program.
There are basically two levels of involvement in Amazon’s affiliate marketing program. There is an Associates program that every affiliate partner must sign up for, and there is a developer program, which offers advanced level access to Amazon technology.
The Amazon Associates Program
First, although we are talking about an affiliate marketing program, Amazon does not refer to their program as an affiliate program, nor do they refer to affiliate partners as affiliates. Amazon prefers to call their program the Amazon Associates program and their partners are called associates. To become an associate, you must sign up for the program and have a web site that Amazon can review to make sure it meets their standards. Most web sites have no problem becoming approved. You can sign up for the Associates program at the following location.
Once you sign up and are approved, you will be assigned an Associates ID, which also serves as your affiliate commission tracking ID. The Associates ID needs to be included in all links used to send your site visitors to Amazon.com. Everyone who participates in the Amazon Associates program must obtain an Associates ID. If you wish to run multiple web sites and want to be able to track sales for each separately, you can sign up for additional IDs, which are called tracking IDs. Each separate web site can then be assigned a unique ID that identifies the sales generated from links in that site. To use a tracking ID, simply substitute it in place of the Associates ID.
Amazon runs a separate web site called Associates Central that is used by associates to view sales reports and obtain banner ads and product links. When you sign up for the Associates program you will be given access to this site. Sales data includes the number of times someone clicks on your links and is sent to the Amazon site, as well as the number of individual items ordered and the number of items shipped. Commissions and specific product information is available after an item is shipped. You can see which items have been ordered, but do not have access to any customer information. Once you have been assigned an Associates ID, you should immediately begin exploring the Associates Central web site. You will be amazed at how easy it is to generate image ads, banner ads and product links.
The Amazon Developers Program
Amazon offers a more advanced program for programmers and users of turnkey Amazon store scripts who want to automate the process of displaying products and pricing for various product categories. Programming languages including PHP, ASP, ASP.NET, Java and Perl can be used in combination with REST (Representational State Transfer) or SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) to request and transfer product information from Amazon’s servers. Both REST and SOAP are web services protocols. If you do not know what they are, it’s not really important. They are merely a couple of current standards used to request XML data from a remote server. REST is faster and simpler to use that SOAP and thus it is used by about 85% of sites built by Amazon developers. The important part to remember is that each method returns real time pricing and information about Amazon products. Amazon provides an API (Application Programming Interface) that works with both of these protocols and allows a programmer to develop a web site that is completely automated with continually updated product, pricing and category information.
If you wish to buy a pre-built or turnkey Amazon store, or if you want to develop a special application using Amazon data, you must apply for an Amazon AWS Access key, which allows a web site to send REST or SOAP XML requests to Amazon’s servers. You do not need to be a programmer to sign up for an AWS Access Key. You can sign up for the AWS (Amazon Web Services) program at the following location.
Once you sign up, you will receive an AWS Access Key that you need to include in each request for information from Amazon’s API server. A few years ago, this ID was called a Developer Token or a Subscription ID. Those are different numbers than the current AWS Access Key. Current Amazon store scripts use the AWS Access Key, but many allow you to use either one. If you have an older script that only uses the older Subscription ID, you can generate a Subscription ID on the Amazon Web Services site.
The Amazon Web Services site is loaded with sample scripts, code examples, sample REST and SOAL requests and lots of valuable information to help you understand how the Amazon Web Services API operates. If you are not a programmer, it will bore you to tears, but if you are, dig in!