So your book is available on Amazon. That is AWESOME! Congratulations! All your work as a writer is done now, right?
Not so fast. You have to share that link, so that everyone knows how to find your book! And I know how you’re probably going to copy the link too. You’ll enter your name and the title of the book in the Amazon search box.
So far, so good. Then you’ll click on your product in the search results, admiring the pretty entry for your book. I completely condone all of this behavior.
But here’s where you’ll probably go wrong. You’ll copy and share that link as is. It will look something like this (and yes, it’s so long I had to copy it in full below the screen cap):
Now I’m not usually one to judge, but I’m going to be honest. This is bad. REALLY. BAD. As in, it could cause Amazon to remove legitimate reviews of your book, it might hurt your book’s place in search results, and if nothing else, it proves to the world that you don’t know the ins and outs of how Amazon works.
So what’s the problem?
These extended links are known as “super URLS,” and independent authors and publishers all over are using them when they shouldn’t. The links are not only long and ugly, but also include a certain string of numbers that follows the letters “qid.”
These numbers mark the exact time you performed the search. At first blush, that doesn’t sound like a huge deal. So what? Your readers can track when you did the initial search. Well, the people over at Amazon can track it too. They realize that the dozens (or maybe hundreds) of people who click on your link after you post it couldn’t have all searched at that exact same time, especially if their purchases come days or weeks after this “qid” (which acts as the Unix time stamp, marking the number of seconds since January 1st, 1970).
So in a strange roundabout way, this can jeopardize your reviews. Ever hear about Amazon removing reviews because the reviewer knows the author? Well, these “super URLs” are likely one of the ways Amazon figures it out. As the theory goes, if the reviewer purchased a book from that “qid,” then Amazon knows the individual probably got the link from the author. So on the one hand, it’s nice to know Amazon isn’t going through our stuff when we’re out, figuring out which reviewers are our acquaintances and which aren’t, but it’s still somewhat distressing to realize how many writers (and publishers) are making this easily fixable error.
(If you want all the specifics on this, then I highly recommend this video. Thanks to Leslie Goodreid for sharing!)
There’s also at least some speculation that because the “qid” indicates a single session, the Amazon algorithm will count all the books sold from that URL as a single sale. Yes, you’ll get paid for each book purchased, but even if you sell a hundred (or a thousand) copies from that link, the algorithm might only see it as one session and one sale, thereby hurting your search results. Major bummer, right?
So what can you do to fix it? In the end, this turns out to be one of those great problems because the solution is insanely simple. Just delete everything after the ten-character ASIN (Amazon Standard Identification Number). That’s it. Really. It’s super simple and will take you no more than two seconds. A TWO-SECOND FIX. If only everything in life was this easy.
So you remember how we started out with this?
Now just highlight and delete all that extra information…
… and here’s your proper link!
That’s it! You’ve fixed the problem! Share that link with the world!
(As a caveat, you might find articles online expounding on the wonders of super URLS and how they can supposedly help your Amazon rankings. According to such articles, these longer links can still work, but only if you remove that “qid” and pieces of the “ref” number, and get what’s called a “clean” URL. This, in essence, is a bit of trickery to try to manipulate the keywords and push your product higher up the search results. However, given some recent policy changes, the truth is Amazon seems to be catching on, and this practice could potentially hurt you down the line. That translates to “do so at your own risk.” I’m not one to condone it, at the very least because if your book has a unique title and you maintain even a moderate following, your book will crawl up the results on its own anyway.)
So that’s my dissection of Amazon links. Hopefully, you learned something new and will pass it on to your writing friends!
Happy reading, and happy “removing the extraneous information from your Amazon links”!
Quick update: I’ve received some general comments on Facebook from writers who have read conflicting articles on why Amazon removes certain reviews. To clarify, there are many theories on how Amazon algorithms determine search result rankings and why Amazon removes reviews. Out of the theories I’ve researched, the ones I included in this post make the most sense to me, but because Amazon doesn’t give us precise insight into its process, there could be (and probably are) other methods used. However, across all these theories, one thing is pretty standard: almost everyone out there agrees that shorter links are best for book promotion. So whatever the reason, trim those URLs as described above (or use one of the methods detailed by commenters below)! Your book will thank you!