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Amazon aStores… An Almost Amazing Alternative (or Addition) to Blog Advertising

And an awesome excuse for annoying alliteration, as well! Heh. But I promise I’ll stop that now, since what I really want to post is a review of the pros and cons of Amazon’s aStore program. Note: Adding an Amazon aStore to your blog requires no template hacks. It’s as easy as cutting and pasting a bit of code into a blog entry!

About a month ago I got an email from Amazon inviting me to try out their new aStore program, but didn’t get a chance to do more than glance at it until today. It’s actually pretty cool… using your Amazon Associates account, you can build an inline store to display and sell items from Amazon within your blog. You don’t need to know how to code, it’s easy to set up, and to a certain degree you control the content in the store. When readers buy items, Amazon pays you through your existing Associates account. If you haven’t got an Amazon Associates account, it’s easy to set one up and earn up to 8.5% in referral fees.

If you’d like to see an example of how a store looks and works within a TypePad blog, take a look at the store I built. It took me about 15 minutes, but that was because I was being picky and trying out every option. If all you want is an easy potential revenue stream for your blog, you can probably set up a store in less time than it takes to read this review.

There are some things I really like about the aStore program, and some that I don’t. I’ll start with the good stuff.

Here’s where aStore gets it right:

  • It’s easy.
  • It’s hosted on Amazon’s secure servers, but you can use it on your own site.
  • The interface, documentation and steps to create a store are clear.
  • There are options— you can create a link to your stand-alone store on Amazon, embed the store in your own site with iframes or use HTML frames to incorporate it into your site.
  • When readers click a product in your store, it loads all of Amazon’s info within the same page… I much prefer this to a store that would take readers off-site.
  • Amazon provides widgets that allow you to include (or exclude) features such as your Amazon.com Wishlist , Listmania (reader lists on Amazon), Similar Items, Accessories, Customer Reviews, and Editorial Reviews. All but the reviews show up in sidebars on you store page… the reviews are included in the body copy of individual items (or not, your choice).

What aStore could do to improve:

Almost every single suggestion I was going to make about what could be better in aStores is apparently on the slate for the next revision already! According to a post by Darren Rouse at ProBlogger, he just received an email from Amazon alerting him that the following features are to be included soon:

  • 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

Darren doesn’t say when these features can be expected, and I can’t find anything on Amazon’s site that includes an actual date but I would give aStores an almost perfect review once these are included.  There are only a few things I would change that aren’t already on this list:

  1. Currently, you can enter keywords to restrict products shown on Category and Sub-Category pages… but it only finds products matching all the keywords. I like the idea of being able to select specific products in the new version, but it would also be useful to enter multiple keywords (separated by commas maybe) and have Amazon’s catalog return results based on any of the keywords rather all. For instance, say you want to feature products by several manufacturers in the Hardware category: if you enter DeWalt and Bosch, the search turns up nothing right now rather than displaying all the items by Bosch and DeWalt because none of the listings in the catalog contain both terms.
  2. I would like to see Amazon make it possible to create multiple pages for a store, rather than just allowing a larger featured items list. Nine items is definitely too few, and 54 is probably too many for one page. When you view a category page in the current version of aStores, the bottom of the page has numbered links that allow you to see as many pages as the Amazon catalog can generate. It would be nice if the Featured Items part of the store worked this way too. After all, a great deal of the strength of Amazon’s model is allowing shoppers to filter results based on the recommendations of others… The biggest reason to shop on an aStore rather than on Amazon itself is to take advantage of selections edited by someone you trust.
  3. It would be nice to be able to choose which order items display in. Currently that is not an option and I don’t see it on Darren’s list. A simple drag and drop AJAX interface would be ideal, but additionally, it would be nice to be able select items and modify the sorting order based on variables like price, availability, genre, author, etc.

Thanks to Darren for the heads up on the new features. I didn’t get the email myself and just happened to notice he had posted about the new features as I was procrastinating typing up this post. It was especially handy ’cause every single thing on the list was something I planned to suggest and thanks to him, my lazy hands didn’t have to type them up. Yeah, there’s a reason I like to provide cut + paste template code… and it’s the same reason it works better to get me on the phone or skype than to IM me.

Author: Chris Berry

33 thoughts on “Amazon aStores… An Almost Amazing Alternative (or Addition) to Blog Advertising

  1. The bad thing is that I am from Bulgaria. If I order something from amazon, it might not arrive in normal condition….if you know what I mean. Although I think that online-shopping is a good way to save your time+It is good that at amazon you can see people’s comments about products.

  2. what is the advantage of using your subdomain instead using subdirectory on Amazon.com?! As for me site on amazon.com is MORE trustable they your method. So… I think it will not work.

    MBT Lami

  3. what is the advantage of using your subdomain instead using subdirectory on Amazon.com?! As for me site on amazon.com is MORE trustable they your method. So… I think it will not work.

    MBT Lami

  4. The most significant advantage is possibility to submit your store to search engines and directories. In conjunction with StoreBrander’s custom templates and custom headers you can use full power of SEO. Also you can change your aStore look and inject any html into aStore pages or visually integrate aStore into your content site (if you have one). Look at ‘Featured stores’ at SoreBrander home page. Popular way of embddding aStore into content site or blog is using of iFrame. But it is impossible to size iframe properly; therefore at least one of the following problems can’t be solved: huge free space below aStore or double scrollbars or truncated content of pages with large description. SoreBrander service solves the problem. The following but not last advantage: people want to know more about shoppers activity at aStore. Amazon gives no information on it. SoreBrander provides way to use Google Analytics and google webmaster tools to track visitors activity.

  5. Sergey, what is the advantage of using your subdomain instead using subdirectory on Amazon.com?! As for me site on amazon.com is MORE trustable they your method. So… I think it will not work.

  6. First, I’ll introduce myself. My name is Robert Harper, and I’m a proud owner of a two month old Amazon astore.

    It grew fast.

    After adding a link on the “best amazon store ever” and a few astore directories, it started to receive excellent targeted traffic within a month.

    You might want to create a unique look and content inside & outside of your astore. Maybe hire a CSS expert on elance to make a special astore webpage.

    A short astory,
    Robert

  7. i has been playing with aStore for a few month, and i know how hard to find web site to submit a link for make search engine ranking. i found one of good and they accept only astore, follow me homepage to try it cheer

  8. aStore Proxy is a server side software that lets the associates display their aStore content directly within their website rather than using an iframe to embed them. This has several advantages like search engine optimization and better usability to the site visitors.

  9. After having my own issues with aStore’s feature set, I decided to enhance it on my own. I setup aSensibleStore.com, which tracks statistics, allow you to ad AdSense ads and allows you to include your aStore directly in your code without iFrames.

    Please use the contact form on the website if you have any questions or new features you’d like to see.

  10. I do like the Astore concept, however I can’t insert it into my site due to the damn WordPress software. Anyone managed to find a way around that? Not to mention I get a reasonable number of clicks but like no conversion!

  11. Instead of using Amazon’s fat cumbersome code text links within my blog posts, I’m just linking to my astore. As Darren Rouse said, the astores are gonna expand to allow multiple pages and catagories. At that point, I’ll add products I’m blogging about to the astores and just link there. This offers better control with an easier link that I can even tinyurl if I want (I’ve had difficulty trying to tinyurl Amazon text links). astores do solve some problems for Amazon affiliates.

    jp

  12. I am using for about 2 months and no revenue…yet. The new enhancements seem nice.
    In order to increase traffic and hopefully sales I am trying to provide as many links to it to make it score well in SERPS. It looks like it’s extremly SEF.
    Mine it already scores #6 for metal music store and has 70 pages indexed

    This way I don’t have to be concerned by increasing it’s visibility within the main site.

    I just wish they provide some statistics about traffic

  13. Thanks for the kind words, rossouwh! Yes, I like the base ideas of Omakase – but after allen074’s comments (thanks for sharing, allen074!), I’m thinking of diversifying and putting AdSense on some pages, just to be safe.

    John: I’m planning to compare Omakase with AdSense – both are context-driven vertical banners, although on different pages, so it’s not exact. I have very few visitors on this web site right now, since I’m still building it out – but I’ll be happy to report back when I have enough data.

  14. nitink,

    I’m more interested in store solutions for blogs than advertising revenues, so I haven’t tried the Omakase links (or even AdSense). I can’t do any real comparison… but maybe after you’ve tried out aStore you could report back?

  15. I think maybe the link for the store was stripped out by the editors as being too much like self promotion?

    I posted this article originally on my typepad hacks blog… you can find the link there with a quick bit of googling.

  16. I think nitink got it spot on. Amazon being the preferred choice for their products online and most people tend to just go to amazon to get what they want. However, being keyword specific, I think it’s ideal…people visit your blog for a certain topic, and you find amazon ads related to that topic. And being all in one window is awesome. It’s certainly something I would consider for our upcoming blog. Just not too sure how much benefit South Africa gains from all these latest trends. Online Marketing and Advertising still have some way to go down here.

  17. nitink – for me say over the last 2-3 years, google adsense wins hands down – now say back in 98, amazon was a killer for us – we would make love to amazon if we could – now its barely nothing for us – why? because everyone knows amazon and when they want to buy a product, they go and buy.

  18. Hi, John! I’ve recently implemented Amazon Omakase links and I really like them. After a highly scientific test 🙂 [visiting the web page at different times and from different locations, browsers, etc.], I found the items displayed to the user to be quite relevant to the page content, and overall site context. I don’t have much information on conversions, though.

    How would you compare the Omakase links to the eStore – would you recommend one over the other, and why? And, of course, how do either of them compare with AdSense, in terms of relevance and conversion rates? Any thoughts?

  19. Hi John, I couldn’t see your link for your aStore typepad blog. could you please put it in the comments? thx.

  20. I tell ya – on htmlcenter.com, we tried a full amazon store for 18 months – we sold 65% less items. Since removing the store, and linking directly to the products, our earnings have gone up again.

    I have only tried the aStore a little, but I certainly hope it will not be the same dramatic loss in revenue that the api’s and custom built store did.

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