I’ve been an Amazon Associate for years and have been wondering when they might offer some sort of context-sensitive ad box a la Google AdSense. It appears my wishes have finally come true with the beta release of their new Omakase Links program. What can you tell me about it, Dave, and how hard is it to get working properly?
I’m with you, I’ve also been watching Amazon for a long time, wondering when they’d join the Web 2.0, dynamic context revolution, even if just a toe in the proverbial pond. It’s interesting that I’ve been an affiliate / associate for years too, and had no idea that they’d introduced this new program until your query came in!
Anyway, here’s their brief explanation: “Omakase – leave it up to us! Omakase links will show an Associate’s visitors what they’re most likely to buy based on Amazon’s unique understanding of the site, the user, and the page itself. To create Omakase links, simply modify the template and appearance elements below and copy the resulting code on to your page. Then leave the rest to Omakase!”
My first question, of course, is where the heck the name comes from! Fortunately, they have the answer in their FAQ: “Omakase is a Japanese word meaning ‘leave it up to us’. It is commonly used in Japanese restaurants for a meal where the chef uses their experience and knowledge to select and prepare the meal for a customer without specific directions.” Cool indeed!
So on the assumption that we’re not going to get the sushi that no-one ordered the previous evening, let’s dig into the program just a bit and see how it works!
To get to the Omakase links area, log in to your Amazon Associates account as usual and click on “Build Links”. Now you can see the new choice:
Click on “Build Links” and you’ll see a range of customization choices curiously reminiscent of Google’s AdSense customization area:
I’m quite impressed with the range of different customizations you can apply and, of course, the fact that Amazon can now scan pages and match the most valuable products is terrific and long overdue!
I’ll make a few tweaks and here’s what I get as a basic Omakase box for this very page:
amazon_ad_tag = “davetaylor”;
amazon_ad_width = “300″;
amazon_ad_height = “250″;
amazon_ad_logo = “hide”;
amazon_ad_border = “hide”;//–></script>
As you can see, I’m using a 300×250 block here, hiding the ad border, hiding the logo, and using my associate ID of “davetaylor”. Also, as with any other advertising block you add to your site, the more you can integrate the links into your existing content, the more success you’ll have with actually making sales. Try to match your colors, disable any borders, have the background color match the area of your page, and don’t be afraid to have the Omakase block front and center in your design.
Note: if you’re just seeing a generic Amazon shopping block here, well, that’s interesting, isn’t it? It means that Amazon can’t figure out what the page is actually about, or the site. Maybe it suggests that they need some “keyword suggestion” capability to be included too?
Two additional notes on Omakase worth making:
1. Check out their interesting legal disclaimer: “Legal Disclaimer: You acknowledge that by using Omakase Links requires a search of your site by technical means for relevant content and you understand that any technical protections you may have installed on your website preventing the use of technical means for the search of your site, will prevent the intended features of the link from operating. We may therefore decide not to serve any content to your site if such protections prevent us from searching your site. You also must ensure that when using the Omakase Links the “Privacy Information” link included with the Omakase Links is always displayed and not obscured in any way. We may terminate your participation in the Amazon Services Associates Program if you fail to properly maintain the prominence of the Privacy Information link as described above.” Yow.
Update: Point #2 is not true, as it happens. I have communicated with the Google AdSense team and they assure me that “According to our program policies, Omakase may be displayed on the same page as Google ads on your site.” My belief is that this isn’t a violation because while Omakase is a contextual system, it’s not an advertising system, per se. In any case, if you want to intermingle Omakase blocks and AdSense blocks, you’re good to go!
In any case, congrats to the Amazon team for the beta launch of Omakase and I look forward to hearing from Amazon Associates who have had good results with this new program.