The Learning Curve

New tricks for an old dog.

Archive for the ‘Affiliate Marketing’ Category

Click the damn link – Just CLICK the damn link.

Most everyone understands affiliate marketing well enough to recognize or suspect it when they see it, to resent it, and to agonize over somebody getting money-for-nothing.  Your mother taught you not to trust strangers, and she taught you well.  The world is full of people who will beguile you with smooth talk and insincere recommendations of questionable books, in selfish pursuit of internet riches.

It’s an ambitious plan to make a living by means of affiliate marketing.  It sounds easier than an Avon business, which I see is advertising on broadcast TV these days, but the math is not promising.

Earning a six percent referral commission on a twenty-dollar book through Amazon’s affiliate program yields $1.20 per.  By selling 20,000 books a year this way, a person could support her family at just above the poverty level.  That’s about fifty-five books per day sold through an affiliate link, every day.

Suppose, for example, that one in ten blog visitors click an Amazon affiliate link and one in ten of those actually buy something within the affiliate window of opportunity, without first clicking some other’s affiliate link.  These numbers are optimistic, but if applied they mean a blog would need an average of 5500 visitors per day.  That’s over 2 million visitors per year.

If, as a blogger, you can attract 2 million visitors in a year, I suggest you come up with something to sell that has a higher profit margin than an Amazon referral, and which falls into the category of money-for-something.


Written by Tom Fox

08/30/2010 at 12:35 am

Deal or no deal? What’s the deal?

Looking at internet marketing for local business –,, and Preliminary observations and questions.

1. Businesses must be counting on the gift card effect, where a certain percentage of gift certificates and coupons are never used.  Betsy’s Hot Yoga in Louisville recently sold 1072 yoga class packages for $20 each through  It was a good deal with an 82% discount off  the normal price for ten 90-minute yoga classes, but impossible to deliver if all 1072 discounted enrolments show up at the same time.   

2. What’s the deal for businesses to participate?  Although the deal for buyers is spelled out online, the cost to the business for these  programs is a big secret.  It is impossible for a small business owner to evaluate the potential benefits of the programs without having some clue what the cost is.  I is necessary for a business to go through the screening process to find out.  This makes sense only if the deal is negotiated separately for each business applicant. 

3.  There seems to be an imbalance between buyers and sellers. has offered seven deals in Louisville, Kentucky during the last two months, and has offered two during the same time period.  More than 1000 buyers for each of those deals is fairly common.  The task is to recruit more businesses to participate.

 4. Both and have referral programs where consumer-users can earn rewards by referring new consumer-users to the program.  There does not seem to be any comparable referral program aimed toward recruiting businesses.

5. Recruiting local businesses to participate in these programs might be more effective if it incorporated off-line solicitations.  Many of the small local business owners I know don’t spend a lot of time  online researching the latest thing in local social media marketing.  It needs to be explained to them, but given 2 and 4 above, that isn’t going to happen.

Written by Tom Fox

08/22/2010 at 12:04 pm

Recent improvements to Amazon aStore

About a month ago, announced several improvements to its affiliate aStore feature. See New aStore Features on the Amazon Associates Blog for the details.

This morning I tested the new aStore banner widget, and it works fine.

The feature I’m most interested in is the ability to use custom CSS, which will take me a few hours to dig into.

Written by Tom Fox

09/10/2007 at 2:22 pm

Sturgeon was an optimist

Science fiction writer Theodore Sturgeon famously observed, “Ninety percent of everything is crud.” Sturgeon was speaking specifically about the science fiction literary genre of the 1940’s and 50’s, but his remark had legs and it caught on. It is now known as Sturgeon’s Law.

After spending a few hours perusing the bazillion cheesy designs on, I am forced to conclude that Ted underestimated our species’ capacity for generating crud when the barriers to entry are low enough.

dogs of war
But, something of remarkable quality does stand out, if you can find it. Dogs of War strikes me as an offering quite appealing to dog owners. It’s a good idea skillfully executed.

This demonstrates the opportunity for an actual human mind taking the time to sift through the crud in order to locate, and bring attention to, the gems.

Written by Tom Fox

08/16/2007 at 10:18 am

Squidoo – CafePress loophole is the primo site for artists and designers to put their art on t-shirts and coffee mugs, and to sell these products online without any of the hassles, or risks, associated with production, inventory, shipping, or consumer financial transactions. CafePress is an on-demand producer, order taker, and fulfillment operation.

CafePress sets a base price for each of the scores of various products it offers, and the artist sets whatever mark-up price she wishes. When a sale is made, CafePress keeps the set base price for doing the heavy lifting, and the artist receives the difference between the base price and the mark-up price.

It is all very nifty.

A few years ago, CafePress realized that the best artists and designers might have zero marketing ability, so CafePress started its affiliate program. That program is currently paying 15% on affiliate generated sales.

This is a smart arrangement because many individuals who are genius at marketing do not have any graphic art talent or interest.

The way CafePress set up its affiliate program, the artist who creates the CafePress shop cannot earn affiliate referral income for marketing his or her own CafePress shop. A CafePress shop owner can still earn affiliate commissions for referrals to other peoples’ shops, but just not to her own shop.

I don’t like it, but that’s the way it is, and I’m not going to grind my teeth about it.

The interesting thing about that I just recently discovered is that it provides a partial by-pass of this affiliate restriction imposed by CafePress. Squidoo offers a revenue sharing model for those who create Squidoo Lenses. Squidoo provides many different customizable revenue producing widgets for Lensmasters to choose from, and one is a CafePress module.

So, a CafePress shop owner can create a Squidoo Lens and incorporate a Squidoo widget linking to his or her own products offered on CafePress, and thus share in the affiliate revenue otherwise prohibited by CafePress, if done directly.


Inspirations from A Course in Miracles on CafePress

Best Books about A Course in Miracles on Squidoo

I just hope that pointing this out does nothing to screw it up.

Written by Tom Fox

08/13/2007 at 2:56 pm

Amazon ECS Simple Store in PHP

The new XML parsing functions incorporated into PHP version 5 make handling XML data exchanges much more easy. XML is the format used by, eBay, Google, RSS, and many others, so it is worth learning.

The Amazon E-commerce Services developer website offers its Amazon ECS Simple Store in PHP available for free download. It is a single file of 274 lines written in PHP version 5, named SimpleStore.php. It is distributed in a .zip file.

The requirements are a server that offers PHP version 5, an affiliate ID, and an API access key. The Amazon affiliate ID and API access key are each free, quick, and easy to obtain. It is necessary to insert the affiliate ID and the API access key into the SimpleStore.php code, which is a fairly obvious task.

On my web server, which offers both PHP version 4 and PHP version 5, it was necessary for me to rename SimpleStore.php as SimpleStore.php5, and to locate the 5 or 6 references to the file name SimpleStore.php within the code to make a similar change from *.php to *php5.

That’s it.

Here’s what Amazon’s simple store looks like in operation.

Obviously, this is practically useless by itself. It is, however, a very useful first step in learning the basics.

Written by Tom Fox

06/05/2007 at 8:36 am

Amazon E-Commerce Service (ECS)

Amazon’s ECS Getting Started Guide is really a quite useful and practical introduction to accessing Amazon’s product database. The introduction also includes working code examples. Registration is quick, obtaining an access key is free, and the beginning is frequently a good place to start.


From the Amazon ECS Getting Started Guide

What is ECS?

ECS is the best way to make money on the Internet. Amazon has spent ten years and over $1 billion developing a world-class web service that millions of customers use every day. As a developer, you can build ECS applications that leverage this robust, scalable, and reliable technology. You get access the data used by, including the items for sale, customer reviews, seller reviews, and most of the functionality that you see on, such as finding items, finding similar items, displaying customer reviews, and product promotions. In short, ECS operations open the doors to Amazon’s databases so that you can take advantage of Amazon’s sophisticated e-commerce data and functionality. Build your own web store to sell Amazon items or your own items.

There are many ways to earn money using ECS-driven websites and applications. One way is to become an ECS Associate. Associates earn commissions by advertising items for sale by Amazon. When the customer decides to purchase an item, the Associate’s website links the customer to Amazon for the actual order submission and fulfillment. Associates earn a percentage of the sale.

This guide explains how you can use ECS operations to create such storefronts, in which you enable Internet customers to search for items, see pictures of them, find related items, get customer reviews, and purchase items without stocking or shipping a single item.

Best of all, ECS is free. By signing up to become a ECS developer, you will join the tens of thousands of developers who are already realizing financial gains by creating ECS-driven applications and websites.

Who Should Read This Guide?

This guide is written for developers who want to create e-commerce driven applications and websites. We assume that you are proficient at programming in the computer language of your choice and have had some exposure to web service technologies, such as REST, SOAP, and XML. You can write ECS applications and websites in most modern computer languages.

Written by Tom Fox

06/04/2007 at 7:20 am