Amazon testing paid search program

Amazon.com is testing a sponsored-links program for Web sites in its Amazon Associates program.

Amazon.com is considering adding a sponsored links element to its affiliates program, a move by the giant online retailer into the world of paid search, the ad market that has fueled Google's astronomical revenue growth in the past several years.

The point would be to give the more than 1 million members of the Amazon Associates program another option for generating revenue, Amazon said in a statement.

"We believe that by working with a third party to provide Associates with links to relevant websites, in addition to products on Amazon, that we can help them make more money from their sites," Amazon.com said in the statement.

The company is testing letting its associates carry on their Web sites contextual ads distributed by an undisclosed Amazon.com partner.

The trial is called Amazon Associates Sponsored Links Program, and testing began Jan. 27, according to an Amazon.com statement. Amazon.com is not disclosing the number of associates participating in the test.

It is being offered as part of the larger Amazon Associates program, launched in 1996, which is an affiliate program in which Web site publishers can earn commissions on Amazon.com products that they feature on their Web sites.

Associates participating in the sponsored links trial will receive compensation when a visitor to their Web site clicks on one of the contextual ads, according to Amazon.com. Associates will receive ads that are contextually relevant to the content and nature of their Web sites.

However, Amazon.com affiliates have been able to carry sponsored links on their Web sites from other providers of this type of online ad, such as Google Inc. and Yahoo Inc.

Chris Beasley, an independent Web site publisher based in East Lansing, Michigan, was invited to test the program and has had exchanges with Amazon.com about the trial.

However, so far he has decided not to participate. He already carries Google ads in his Web sites, and Google's terms forbid its associates from carrying sponsored links from a competing network in the same Web page.

"This is one reason why myself, and I'm sure others, are not sure if we will participate. If Amazon could guarantee a certain level of income I would participate. But as it stands, I make far too much with Google for me to risk losing by testing Amazon's program," wrote Beasley, founder of WebsitePublisher.net, in an e-mail interview.

Beasley is a longtime Amazon.com associate, and most of his more than 100 Web sites promote the program "in some way or another," wrote Beasley, whose most popular Web site is Online-Literature.com with 6 million page views per month.

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