Monetizing your self-hosted wordpress blog with the Amazon Link plugin for Wordpress

The Amazon associate program is the grand-daddy of all affiliate programs.  That program began in the late 1990's (?1998?) with the idea that individual website owners could place links to products being sold by amazon.com, and earn a sales commission.  Today there are thousands of online stores with their own affiliate programs perhaps hoping to replicate Amazon's success that's in part due to finding a way to incentivize zillions of individual website owners to promote amazon.com as a place to buy stuff.

The point is that you, as a website owner, can help pay for your time to build your website by earning revenue from getting people to buy stuff from amazon.com.

It's a win-win arrangement where you are rewarded, and amazon.com is rewarded, and hopefully the people you send to amazon.com gains from buying a product they need.

The Amazon Link plugin for Wordpress helps you find products from amazon.com and insert product information into your posts.

Installation:  This is pretty simple because the module is part of the standard plugins available through the plugin panel in the wordpress dashboard.  Simply go to Plugins / Add New, type "Amazon Link" into the search process, then click on the install link, and then activate the plugin.  You've probably done this a few times already.

After installation an Amazon Link shows up in the Settings area.  There are some settings to make.

Link Text: This is default text on links ... out of the box it reads amazon.co.uk but maybe you want to use amazon.com instead?

Default Country: Again, out of the box it is United Kingdom, but you might want it to read United States instead?

AWS Public & Private Key: This is absolutely required.  The Amazon Link plugin accesses Amazon's product advertising data API, and requires a pair of security keys to use as credentials authenticating access to the API.  Unfortunately the plugin doesn't make it very clear what to do, and neither does Amazon make it easy to understand.

The plugin links you to http://aws.amazon.com/ but once you get there you're likely to scratch your head and say "now what?"  What you do is sign up for an account (it's free and doesn't cost anything).  Ignore most of what's on that site because the site is mostly about Amazon selling people on using this huge array of cloud computing services.  Amazon's primary intellectual property is the cloud computing infrastructure running the company's websites, and they rent out that infrastructure to other companies as well.  You might be interested in those other services, for for the moment please ignore it all.

What we need right now is the security credentials that Amazon will have already generated for your use.  In the upper right-hand-corner of the page is a "My Account" link, hover your mouse over it, and see the Security Credentials choice in the dropdown.  Click on that.  Part-way down the page is a box showing Access Credentials, one column is labeled Access Key ID, the other labeled Secret Access Key.  Simply copy/paste those keys into the AWS Public & Private Key boxes in the settings page.

Amazon Tracking ID Channels: This is also a very important thing, and if you do not change this the author of the module could be given all the credit for affiliate sales from your website.  Paste your amazon affiliate ID into the boxes.  If you haven't already signed up for the program, do so here:  Amazon Affiliate Program

USAGE: Once you've done these things usage is pretty simple.  At the bottom of the Add Post page is a new set of blocks letting you find products to paste into the post.  As you use this feature you notice that it simply pastes special tags into your posts.

Already have an ASIN for a product?  (ASIN's are Amazon's product ID codes, and the ASIN for a given product is shown on its product page)  That's the top area of the Add Amazon Link area .. paste the ASIN in, then enter Link Text, then choose a template.

Want to search for a product instead?  Use the next area.  Choose the product type, then enter search terms into either Author or Title boxes.  It then shows a number of candidate products.  Simply click the Insert button, and a tag gets entered.  Unfortunately the tag takes the default text and is a simple text link.

Recommendations:  It sounds like such a useful plug-in in the description, but in usage I don't quite grok why it's thought to be so good.  Yes, it helps you find and insert products from Amazon.  However, Amazon themselves makes that easy today.  As an affiliate program member, when you browse the Amazon website a toolbar is at the top of the page showing options that help you get HTML codes for affiliate links.

Another issue I have with it is the thing doesn't copy over any of the sales copy that Amazon can provide, nor price information, etc.  There is a feature letting you create templates, and the templates can copy over some information provided by Amazon.  But the user interface for using and creating templates is klunky.

I can't really recommend using this module.  I find it easy enough to browse around the Amazon website to get links that way.  Further, the link provided by Amazon is in HTML and does not require additional plugins on the website to use. 

The Amazon Link plugin lives on your website, and rather than generate HTML it generates a special tag, and for your website to continue displaying the right stuff (the amazon product link) the plugin must be installed.