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Friday, August 4, 2006

Contextual Advertising Now Available To Amazon Associates: The Omakase Links Program

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Contextual advertising is now available from the Amazon Associates program too and the possibility of its use next to Google AdSense contextual ads may reserve you some interesting surprise.

Amazon has recently introduced a new beta program, labelled Omakase Links, where Amazon associates can automatically display products that visitors to their pages would be most interested in buying. Just like what Google AdSense does.

Here is Amazon own announcement on the new service:

"Omakase Links let Associates automatically feature products that visitors to the page are most likely to buy. With Omakase Links you do not need to chose which product, product line or even keyword that best fits a page. Our algorithms will optimize product offerings based on what the Associate has been successful with in the past; what that user has been interested in; as well as what the site is about. Omakase Links - leave it up to us! At present we are offering Omakase Links as a BETA to our Associates."

Omakase is a Japanese word that stands for "leave it up to us", "make the decision for me", "chef's choice". Just like for Google AdSense ads, you leave it to Amazon to select and fire the most appropriate ads next to your content.

With Omakase Amazon has plunged into contextual, content-sensitive advertising itself, which differently than the old Amazon Associate program (where you would select specific books to promote on your pages and received a small commission for each such sale), provides dynamic, "intelligent" product links based on the specific content of your own web page.

Just like Google's AdSense program, you need to place a snippet of code inside your Web pages to let Amazon scan, read and feed-back the most relevant ads for Amazon titles that are most fitting for your content.

But the major issue here is that most online publishers got as excited about this new announcement as much as they got worried and fearful that the new Omakase program is incompatible with AdSense itself, due to Google legal restrictions in using other competing contextual advertising services next to its.

Omakase_ad_customization.gif has unveiled Omakase Links Program, a brand new context sensitive advertisement box which works similar to the popular Google AdSense. The most interesting thing for these ads is that they also target them to your visitors, by displaying ads related to the products they have been previously checking out on Amazon.

By placing Omakase on your website, you don't get paid when someone just clicks the link to see a product. They have to purchase a product - and then you get a commission, the same as any Amazon Associate links you would place on your website.

As you may have guessed, Amazon Omakase links and AdSense links cannot exist together on the same page without violating the Google AdSense terms of service. This is because publishers are not allowed by Google to use other services that also generate ads based on the content on the individual pages.

At the moment it is not yet very clear whether Google AdSense will change this rule, because Sam at TheIInside has published the two emails he sent to Google AdSense support team, asking for further details, and they have replied that AdSense and Omasake were compatible at first, but then they hesitated the second time, and seemed unsure of their initial answer.

Dave Taylor has been one of the first bloggers to review Omakase. Here you can read all his impressions after trying out this new service.

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:

If you dig into the source, you'll find that it's all done with some basic JavaScript, and the attributes that I've changed from their default are shown as name=value pairs. Here's what I mean:


As you can see, I'm using a 300x250 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."

  2. It's very important to recognize that you cannot have Omakase links and AdSense links on the same page without violating the Google AdSense terms of service! Why? Because Google doesn't want you to use any other services that also dynamically scan and analyze the content of your individual pages to ascertain the best possible material to display. You might be able to get a waiver from them, but I would definitely discourage you from having both throughout your site and just hoping you don't get caught.

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.

Originally published by Dave Taylor on July 24, 2006
as "What is the Amazon Omakase Links Program?"
on Ask Dave Taylor

About the author
Photo credit: Colorado Internet Keiresu

Dave Taylor is the talented blogger behind Ask Dave Taylor and a unique resource to find answer to difficult online publishing and tech support issues.

Check out his photography work at Colorado Portraits, learn more about tech Q&A at his popular Ask Dave Taylor site, and keep up with his online publishing and industry analysis at The Intuitive Life.

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Reference: AskDaveTaylor [ Read more ]
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posted by on Friday, August 4 2006, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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