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Friday, February 19, 2016

Short Links

Have you ever noticed when you click on a book link on Amazon when you are not signed into your account, the URL, or web address is different than it is when you are signed into your account? That is because after Amazon lists all the pertinent information about your book, it adds on information they use for their own records. As in, TRACKING. In other words, most of us unwittingly leave little bread crumbs that can tell Amazon all kinds of information useful to them.

Was the book purchased as a result of a search? If it was, it will have the information tacked onto the end of the basic URL (web address). Example:  ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1455387641&sr=1-1&keywords=Love%2C+come+to+me

Was the book purchased as a result of you finding it on the author’s Amazon author page? Example:  ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

Was the book purchased after you clicked on a widget embedded in a blog post or website page? Example:  ref=as_sl_pc_ss_til?tag=httpliviajwac-20&linkCode=w01&linkId=OMKOSSXT5XEDMDHP&creativeASIN=B01AOVVLZ2

Here is the big picture. The following are the Amazon links for the same book, Love, Come to Me, a boxed set of five novels in which you will find my novel, Family Secrets. First, I need to explain that I order all my books under my real name, Robyn Echols. I have an Amazon account for Zina Abbott, but I do not have billing information set up on it.

  • The first link for the book is from widget on the Fire Star Press release announcement blog dated January 19, 2016. You can reach it by clicking HERE
  • The second link is from a title search while I’m signed into my Zina Abbott account on Amazon.
  • The third link is from a title search while I’m signed into my Robyn Echols account on Amazon.
  • The fourth link is from a title search when I am not signed into any account on Amazon.
  • The last link is from my Zina Abbott Author Page. 
You will notice that everything up through the highlighted letters in green are the same. After that, Amazon’s tracking information begins, including a time and date stamp embedded in the highlighted letters in red.

Let’s take a look at that widget from the Fire Star Press blog: Note how the information after the highlighted green numbers includes more information than on any other link.

Why should we care about that tracking information? One possible concern about the bread crumbs being out there is the Amazon book review “police.” Amazon is cracking down on reviews of our books by those they can identify as close friends or fellow authors. They are also trying to discover who we have sent a book link to in order to solicit a book review. The tracking information gives them another tool for identifying who those people are to us.

As authors, part of our promotional efforts is sharing those links on blog posts, websites, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest and other media sites. Many of us grab that link when our book first comes out and save it to a Word document. Then, each time we put together a promotional effort, rather than look up the link on Amazon each time, we copy and paste from our Word document. (For more information about putting together online media kits, click HERE.) The only problem with that is, from the information embedded in the full Amazon book link, Amazon can tell if the link being used to purchase the book was a recent book search or one from years and months ago. And, who but the author who, in the minds of the Amazon book review "police," are soliciting book reviews as well as sales, would send a book link with a really old time and date stamp? If that purchaser turns around and does leave a book review, then that old time and date stamp on the book link could trigger Amazon to take a closer look at the review in order to determine if they should accept or delete it.

That whole scenario can be eliminated one of two ways. First, use Bitly shortened links. The one problem (or not…) with them is they are not consistent. I obtained a Bitly link for the five links above for the very same book. Not a one of them is the same. They look like this:

The other big problem with Bitly links is that they degrade over time. The Bitly link may be good for a month or two or three, but a year from now—who knows? Many book promotion sites will not accept Bitly links for that very reason.

There is an alternative. Look at the highlighted number in green on the Amazon links. Notice how on all the links, the information up through that number is basically the same. That number that I changed to green and highlighted is like an ISBN number for the book. It is unique to that book, and will not change as long as the same book is listed on Amazon without a break.
Look at the data after the highlighted numbers in green. That is all tracking information and is not necessary. It may be deleted. Copy and paste the following link into a new browser window and see where it takes you:

About those bitly links. Yes, they sure are handy when it comes to tweets and a host of other sharing. But, you can get away from their unreliability by creating your own shortened Amazon link. Once again, copy and paste this into a new browser window and see where it takes you:

Bitly links are slightly shorter, and you may prefer to use them. However, for only a few characters more, you may wish to save and use your customized shortened Amazon link—without the bread crumbs attached that tells Amazon what date and time and where it came from.

Zina Abbott is the pen name used by Robyn Echols for her historical novels. Her novel, Family Secrets, was published by Fire Star Press, and is now included in Love, Come to Me.

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Sweep away those Amazon bread crumbs with SHORT LINKS @ZinaAbbott #FireStarPress


  1. Thanks for this information, Robyn. I've been wondering how to shorten up that ling link. I'm going to copy this info and study it. Hope I can get this figured out.
    Also, thanks for using the LOVE, COME TO ME novel set for an example...a bit of promo on the side suits me right down to the ground. LOL

  2. Wonderful information, Zina! A group I'm in just talked about this yesterday so this is very timely information for me! Thanks!