What is SquidUtils? It's a site run by TheFluffanutta (freelancing lensmaster, now a volunteer on the Squidoo team due to his years of entirely independent bug squashing and tool developing) that provides several additional functions, and a range of fantastic Amazon link tools. The Hidden Catch
(That is written all over the site) is that he gets 10% of all impressions. Not sales; he redirects all links through Squidoo and siphons off a few for himself, he has no way to know if someone actually buys something.
If you're on Squidoo and considering your own Amazon affiliate account, I cannot recommend using the banners at SquidUtils highly enough. While my selling and linking has improved vastly since I first started adding my own links, SquidUtils is still a major driver of sales through my lenses. Initially, when I first started adding my own links, almost all my sales were through SquidUtils.
My Squidoo module sales have been consistently higher over the first year of using both, evening out in the last few months; this wasn't surprising at the start, as I was having to add in my own links, and looking back, they often weren't very well designed, or targeted, or... well, there's an art to adding links that people will actually click on.
Squidoo's modules do well at that. And so do the banners. Adding your own image code is often very messy, especially when you aren't sure what you are doing. Becase of the way I like to vary my links, it's fairly easy to see which links are doing well, and which ones are selling.
Modules sell. SquidUtils Posters sell (the big ones). Text links of my own sell a lot more now, but they used to be pretty crappy. But looking at my clickouts across lenses, I get equal clickouts on my SquidUtils banners, and generally better conversion, than my plain links.
Amazon Associates Tools at SquidUtils
Amazon Links < replicates the iframe image and text links that Amazon builds, which don't work on Squidoo. I generally don't use these as I can build them on my own, but they're very good for tucking into corners in with text. Look the same as the dual nationality links, which are the type I usually use, as it gives me an advantage I can't get when making my own.
Amazon Posters < truly awesome. The big version is just so clickable. Always take the time to find a product with a lovely discount showing, and it complements a standard list module or similar very well. The smaller versions aren't as effective but handy in some situations. It also produces a text link, which I usually don't use, see below for more on that.
Amazon Banners < look pretty, but I don't really use them. Too generic to generate sales in most cases. But I appreciate the option. Some categories will work better than others.
Amazon Feeds < I haven't really explored this. I have tried it out a couple of times, but I don't think I ever had any sales from it. Like the banners, they're focused by category, rather than search terms, so again, depends on the niche and the lens as to how well it would work.
Amazon Stats < handy summary of clickthroughs; as I pay attention to the Squidoo site, I don't check these much, but they're very handy to see which products and lenses are a) popular, b) actually working and c) placed well enough to get clicks.
Broken Links < fortunately, I've only needed this once, but it was REALLY useful. Downside is that it can be a pain to find the broken link in your lens, but at least it tells you which lens!
And I love the dual UK/US Amazon link tools. I only used it on one lens initially, because of product availability (I needed those Amazon UK links) and because it was quite intensive to set up, but I'll be using it more often going forward. Even though I messed up the code initially (turns out you're supposed to include the -20 on the end, I thought it added it on its own!) and missed out on a tonne of sales over Christmas. But when I fixed it, I started seeing sales, and plenty of them (I did make some sales but they were through the direct links of my own that I'd been using).
So one lens has been responsible for an extra fifty pounds over three months, and about the same in US dollars.
SquidUtils is best for:
- awesome graphics and buy now images that a) show a current price and b) are pre-coded to look good, giving you extra flexibility in layouts and more effective Amazon links.
- dual UK/US links
- handy back up stats
- creating links when you aren't really sure what you're doing with Amazon's links or don't have access to the associate account.
With the SU tools all you need is the ASIN of the product and the affiliate tag you are using from Amazon. This means you can use Squidoo's module affiliate tags, or you and a friend (or minion, or someone you paid to build you a lens) can pool sales in order to get a higher commission, or if one of you has trouble receiving the earnings, by using different tags to track sales (which means that you don't have to share the log in details, though you can add secondary users on Amazon).
I don't really use...
- plain text links, unless it's a dual nationality link, because I can do that just as easily myself (I lose access to the stats and broken link info, but I can track most of that on Squidoo and Amazon itself, when I pay attention)
- the more generic category banners and feeds, because selling works best if you link specifically to products
- the stats. Mostly because I forget about them. They tend to be best for long term data, not day to day tracking, and I'd like lots more data, but they work fine.
"I'm not making any sales from them though!"
It's not a magic trick that's guaranteed to make sales. If you aren't seeing sales look at:
1. Are you making any sales? You may have a wider problem of traffic, or approach, or choice of products. Are you getting clickouts through your links? Are you getting visitors? Are they searching for stuff you're actually selling, or just looking for something related?
2. If it's just the SquidUtils links that aren't selling, then are your links built right? Again, are people clicking on them? They may be too low on the page, or you may have too many, or your layout may be confusing, or your product choice uninspiring or too random.
3. If you're seeing lots of clickouts, then they're effective. If nobody is really clicking on them, then they aren't really right for your lens somehow (whether in placement, product, appearance or just attracting the wrong audience).
And you can always take them off again and see if you work better with just modules and your own links!
Can You Trust Fluff?
Much as I'd love to answer this one with snark.... Yes. He has a great deal invested in Squidoo and making sure his tools work; many lensmasters use them, and I certainly wouldn't keep using his stuff if it wasn't selling things for me.
He is easy to contact through his lensmaster account or on the forums, and I suspect makes quite a bit of money from his share of impressions. It's in his best interests to keep people happy with them!
The SquidUtils site is completely separate from Squidoo itself.
Is It Worth It?
Yes. Using your own links is definitely worth it. While I sell as much or more via the modules, my earnings are much higher from Amazon itself, due to the higher commission (made even higher by the fact that I sell a lot elsewhere now, across assorted sites), but factoring in the occasionally higher lensrank payment (from sales boosts), I'm not too bothered. The gross comparison is an additional 2.75% (4.25% vs. 7%; I always hit 7% now but haven't made it to 7.5%), and the lensrank payments probably won't even it out entirely (as the clickouts may still boost most of the sales lenses into their higher tiers, and many don't actually make it into a top tier anyway), but brings them a little closer together.
My earnings from SquidUtils are minus the 10% of impressions (which probably evens out to 10% of sales over time! I've seen nothing to indicate otherwise). So, 6.3% vs. 4.25%; still higher. Still worth it, especially considering a higher conversion rate than the straight 7% links (which may even make the difference between the 6.5% and 7% tiers!).