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The traffic is great, but where's the money? I thought...
Enter affiliate marketing. the first affiliate program I signed up for was Amazon.com's. This was back when Jeff Bezos was saying things like:
We lose money on every sale, but we make it up on volume.
So I started pitching links to book, cds and videos. It wasn't all that lucrative, but it was a start.
On the bright side, there were alot of tools available for Amazon affiliates like Mr. Rats Amazon script and Cusimano's Amazon.pl which allowed you to display Amazon's products on your own website through their API program.
I think Amazon was the first online vendor to offer an affiliate backdoor via an API.
My affiliate quest soon led to Commision Junction (cj.com) which was the largest affiliate network at the time. This place was full of affiliate offers and one that caught my eye was eBay's.
They offered a tiered payout from $5 to $20 for every person that you could get to become an active user (they had to join eBay and then perform an action like bid on or list an item for the payout).
They also had a 30 day cookie, which meant that anyone you "tagged" with your cookie and went to eBay within that 30 day period and became an active user or bid on something you got paid for it. (Unless your "tag" got overwritten by someone else's cookie, then they would get paid instead, but more on that part of it later.)
One thing I noticed was that eBay wasn't allowing search engine spiders to index it's website, so they weren't even in Google (I think the eBay home page was all that was indexed).
All they offered affiliates for tools was a search box, banners and this thing called the Flexible Linking Tool. The FLT allowed eBay's affiliates to link to any page on the eBay site and it would be tracked through CJ.
I started with just a fancy "Looking for something? You'll find it on eBay" page with a couple banners and a search box. I was getting a few signups, but it wasn't doing much.
One day while searching "eBay flexible linking tool" I came across an eBay scraper written in PHP by a guy in the UK. He had a working site that displayed eBay search results on his pages all linked through his affiliate links, kind of like the Amazon scripts. I bought the script for like $10 and installed it on one of my websites.
The way it worked was you fed the scraper a keyword or phrase and it would fetch the search results page for that keyword from eBay in the background.
Then it ran a pattern match on the eBay page to scrape out the needed item info, toss the rest of the page and spit out the items from eBay complete with an image, the title description and the current bid or BIN (buy it now) price on your page with all of this content linked through the FLT and CJ's tracking links.
Read more: Scrape-o-Rama
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