Ever since my recent redesign (and subsequent drastic increase in activity), I’ve started using Amazon.com Affiliate links when linking to good books, games, and so forth that I am currently experiencing. I hate the idea of advertisements on Beckism.com, and since I was planning on sharing opinions on books/etc. anyway, this seems like a pretty unobtrusive way to create a small possibility of revenue. My pie-in-the-sky dream is that someday Beckism.com will pay for its own hosting costs. That will be a good day.
In any case, I’ve only recently started using Amazon.com affiliate links, and may I just say that Amazon.com has a terrible system. You have to visit their Affiliate Central. Then log in. Then view all their widgets and so forth. Then choose the Product Links option. Then search for your product. Find the product in the search results. Die of boredom.
And the URL’s hideously long. Some monstrosity like this:
It makes me cringe. I’ve been searching for a way to quickly build my own Amazon.com Affiliate links; since I’m just using simple text links, I see no reason to jump through Amazon’s hoops. My goal was something that doesn’t require me to sign into Amazon and that gives me drastically shorter URLs (because long URLs make it difficult for me to read my post’s code):
These do not seem to me impossible demands. I searched for a Mac OS X Dashboard widget that would let me find products on Amazon and automatically generate an affiliate link: no love. Searched for blog posts about how to do this: Dave Taylor had some interesting advice, but it seemed outdated (given that I’ve never seen the types of URLs that he uses as examples before), and Noah Coad’s regex, while definitely good to know for non-affiliate links, doesn’t mention how to append an affiliate ID. Chris Thomson posted Using Amazon Associates Easily in MarsEdit recently, but his solution churns out hideously long URLs (and his MarsEdit macro forces you to input text; I don’t like doing that).
So here’s what I’ve come up with, which is hardly revolutionary. First step is to search for something via Amazon’s normal webpage (forget that convoluted affiliate link generating crap). You’ll get something hideous like this:
Yuck. The part that you want is the string of letters and numbers immediately after
/dp/. This is the product ID. Copy it out of your address bar.
Now you just need to construct your shortened version. Insert the product ID into a URL that looks like this:
Of course, use your own Amazon.com affiliate ID instead of “beckism-20″, and stick the product ID after
This link is the smallest format that I can find that is recommended by multiple people on the Amazon Affiliate discussion boards.
I’m curious, however, if Dave Taylor is still correct about just slapping the tracking ID onto the end. If you’d like to help me test this, click here (I don’t expect you to buy Neverending Story, although it’s a classic and well worth reading, but in a day or so the affiliate reports will show that someone clicked a link, and then I’ll know for sure; currently the affiliate ID in the link hasn’t been published anywhere else).
I’m sure this is a common problem, so let me know in the comments if you’ve heard of a better way. Also, be aware that there’s the possibility that shortening your links down like this may disable some of Amazon’s fancy reporting stuff. I have no idea (or any way to test it).
Lastly, if you’re using MarsEdit, you can make the link creation process incredibly easy. Open up a post (or new post) and choose the “Markup” dropdown in the toolbar (or select Post→Text Markup→Edit). Click the + button to add a markup macro, name it whatever you like, and stick this in the opening tag:
(Again, replace “beckism-20″ with your Amazon Affiliate tag.) The closing tag is obviously just
</a>. If you like, assign a keyboard shortcut for easy access. All you need to do to use the macro is to copy the product’s ID (which follows
/dp/ in the standard Amazon URL) before selecting the MarsEdit macro. The macro will deal intelligently with selected text (or lack thereof) without your needing to do a thing.
Update April 13, 2008: After a couple of other people have tested the linking in the comments (and having myself tried both the shortest method and the method I recommend in the article above), it turns out that the format
http://www.amazon.com/dp/0525457585/beckism-20 does not work. The shortest format you can use is
http://www.amazon.com/dp/0525457585/?tag=beckism-20 (a similar format is additionally cited on Amazon’s own blog, so presumably it will be valid for the foreseeable future).