This afternoon on the bus I was reading a blog post about another person getting their Amazon Affiliate account banned because they had the audacity to send an Amazon Affiliate link to their email list promoting a book that they enjoyed and felt would be useful for their subscribers. If you actually read the Amazon Associates Terms of Service, sending an affiliate link via email, SMS, offline (say via a flyer) or anything like that is against the rules. Amazon only wants you promoting as an affiliate via a webpage that you control.
I find that rule stupid, but it gives Amazon the ability to directly point to a website owner if the person does something heinous with their marketing and the courts get involved – simply put, being ability to directly track where the link came from gives Amazon the ability to more easily throw you under the bus should they need to limit their own exposure.
That’s a great simplification on their part to make their business less risky.
Below the blog post, there were dozens of comments from readers with many of them suggesting plugins, techniques and hacks that would allow you to skirt this very simple rule while still trying to give Amazon what they ultimately wanted, a known referrer. The most popular suggestion was to cloak the link and refer it back to Amazon via your own site.
When you actually read the TOS you’ll soon work out that this too would be against the rules as it clearly states that you can’t manipulate the links to send people to Amazon indirectly without having to click through – ie, you can’t cloak the link.
The thing is, all of those people were trying to optimize the solution to get themselves the best outcome and still stay within the intent of the rules.
Amazon is a very smart organization with plenty of talented people, if they wanted to create a really smart link tracking system that could take into account things like email and SMS, then they no doubt could build one. They could optimize the system.
For people who are Amazon affiliates, they really have two choices: one, stop promoting Amazon products altogether if they don’t like the rules; or two, follow the rules, only promote via their own websites and stay within the rules. That’s the most simple solution.
Simplification vs Optimization – it’s an ongoing battle in business.
The difference between the two is quite easy to understand when you break it down.
Simplification is about removing risk and making easy decisions that have a high probability of a known outcome. Conversely, optimization is the process of diving deeper into something, taking more risk to improve the return on your effort.
The best example is taking a shortcut when you’re driving somewhere.
I generally like to follow the route my GPS tells me to take to get somewhere but sometimes I might know a shortcut that will get me there ten minutes quicker. The GPS has a known route that most of the time will get you there in a well-understood timeframe.
The shortcut, however, might save you time, but if something goes wrong, it could take much longer – I get caught trying to go down backstreets in my neighbourhood all the time and finding that someone is moving house and blocking the road or a bus is turning a corner and has to go slow to make the turn then blocks the whole side street causing an interminable delay.
I’m someone that tends to gravitate towards the simplification path if at all possible. I like to look at things from a 30,000ft view and make smart choices, albeit sometimes with the full knowledge that the upside would be greater if I took a bigger risk and tried. I find I get in trouble producing very little if I deep dive and start optimizing – I overthink things and end up going in circles.
Other people I know are great at ringing out every last scrap of value from their leads – they build intricate funnels, craft clever offers, split test the buggery out of their copy and focus on getting the best conversion they can.
I just go get more traffic because, for me, that’s easier.
You need to play to your strengths and you need some balance. Part of the process I’m going through right now in the business is thinking about how in 2017, I can do some of what I’m doing a bit better instead of just doing more. I need to focus some energy on optimizing.
It’s the Ying and Yyang of business – Simplification vs Optimization. It works best when you do it in harmony so think about where you fall on the scale and how you can look towards rebalancing your efforts to get the maximum return for your efforts!