Creating an affiliate website

For fun and very little profit.

If you click this link, you'll find that it leads to an Amazon web page where you can buy Abelson and Sussman's "Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs". This link also links to an Amazon page where you can buy the classic computer science textbook, but I'd rather that you followed the first link if you're going to buy it. The URL includes a parameter telling Amazon that you came there from a site created by someone with the Amazon affiliate ID bobducharmeA, so they'll pay me a commission for the sale.

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Amazon is the most famous web site with an affiliate program, but there are many others. I started keeping a running list of these sites when I noticed online stores with cool stuff that offered such a program, thinking that some day I could create a "virtual" store of nothing but links to products that I liked on a collection of affiliate sites. Somewhere in that time, I saw that the domain name wasn't taken, and I couldn't resist parking it.

As a between-jobs project, I decided to follow through on this and created I wondered how little work and money was necessary to create a professional-looking website that would potentially make some money.

The main work was registering as an affiliate on each site, selecting the products to point to, and trying to learn exactly what URL would point to each product while giving me credit for any resulting sales. Looking through gag gift web sites and hip hop discount bling jewelry and clothing sites (two common categories out there of affiliate sites with a sense of humor) was fun, although I think my wife got tired of me pointing out products like Wu Wear Baby Shoes and fake bullet hole decals for cars. You won't see too many entries on my vendors page because applying to an affiliate program doesn't automatically get you in—for some, I apparently didn't make the grade.

I stored the product and link information in an XML file so that I could generate the web pages with an XSLT stylesheet.To make the website look somewhat professional, I found an open source CSS stylesheet on Open Web Design, which I've written about here before (note the last line of that weblog posting in particular). I even spent $25 to have design a hipstergifts logo. I'm not completely thrilled with the logo they came up with, but considering what I spent, it's fine and I have little right to complain.

To keep the main page from looking too static, I have a cron job run a stylesheet that picks a random product from each category to recreate the index.html page each morning. For publicity, I bought a few related keywords on Google adwords and Yahoo sponsored search, but the ads don't rank too highly. "Gifts" is an expensive keyword.

My fantasy was to set up this web site and then forget about it as money rolled in, but I doubt if my logo is even paid for in the two months since the site has been up. I could work harder at the search engine optimization part—there is an entire subculture of people who obsess over this, and some make very good money—but now that I have a real job again I have less time for that hobby.

If you need any fake bullet holes for your car, though, or gimmicky shooting toys or a backwards clock or a fake computer mouse that gives people an electronic shock, please remember Especially at holiday time.