Universal Links

This isn’t the most profound or revolutionary advice–what I have to offer today–but let’s talk about universal links.

Recently, an author friend and I were talking about promos on social media, and I mentioned that a universal link is always important in every. single. post. It seems so simple–like everyone would just know this, right? Trust me, there are a lot of people who don’t even know what a universal link is.

Why should they? Most people don’t work in tech or fully understand most of the technology they use.

There’s absolutely no shame in not knowing anything. Almost anyone who has used the internet has clicked on a universal link at some point but they had no idea. They weren’t meant to know. There’s no reason for a website to indicate that any of their links are universal links. So…your average person, while maybe having a vague idea of how URLs and links work, doesn’t really give it much thought. There was a time that I had no clue about universal links.

So…what is a “universal link?”

A universal link is like a URL in that it directs an internet browser to a specific website, however, it matches a URL to a group of URLs and is coded to take the internet user to the site that fits their needs. For example, a book link I share on Twitter will take the person who clicks on it to the Amazon website for their specific country.

Why is this important?

Imagine that I go to the Australian Amazon site. I live in the United States. If I try to buy something from the Australian site, it will give me a message that a book I want is not available. Because I do not live in that country. I need to go to the U.S. site in order to purchase the book.

Amazon doesn’t give customers messages telling them they are on the wrong site.

So, if a customer sees that a book is unavailable, instead of checking to see if they’re on the right site…they might just give up. Lost sale. Sad author. Bad times.

But why would someone be on the wrong Amazon site to begin with? Who pulls up the Amazon site for a different country???

Good question. Many people looking to sell things through Amazon will simply cut the URL in their browser (from their product page) and paste it into their tweet or post. This link is for the product in their country because they are on their country’s version of that website.

So, it’s not the customer’s fault they ended up in the wrong place. It’s the person who made the post. The seller.

By having a universal link, this oopsie is avoided. An author/seller can simply paste a universal link (which is generally shorter and uses less of the maximum characters allowed) and they can rest assured that the potential customer is directed to the best place for them to buy their book/product.

I know you’ve been asking since the first sentence of this post: Well, where do I get a universal link for my book/product???”

Some of the more popular services to make universal links are:

Bitly

Books2Read

Booklinker

But there are tons of free and not-so-free options out there. A simple Google search will help you find the one that is best for you and your product(s).

Lastly, let’s talk about the psychology of this situation. And, by “psychology”, I mean facts that I’ve totally made up based on my experience as a reader and customer.

In my experience, if an ad for a book catches my eye and the author/publisher has drawn my attention with an amazing blurb or cover, it will make me consider buying it. I don’t buy every book that catches my eye (I don’t know what you’ve heard and I’m offended), but maybe 33% of the time, if an ad is great and the book looks interesting, I’ll click on the link and at least add the book to my wish list.

If the link takes me somewhere else…for example, another landing page where I have to search for another button to take me to a bookseller, I’m probably going to lose interest quickly. There are maybe two authors I would put that much effort in for, but someone I never heard of is probably not getting that courtesy. Does that make me a douche? No. It makes me a customer with a life. I’m not going to waste 10 minutes searching out a product I’m not even sure I want.

Make it easy for me to give you my money.

One of the reasons Amazon is a huge international business worth fuck-tons of money is that they make it easy for you to give them your money. One click purchase? Yup? Buy Now button? Yup. Saves your shipping and payment info so you don’t have to enter it each time? Yup. From a product page to having the product, customers sometimes only have to click a single button on the site to get their product. Want an ebook in your Kindle? Click “Buy Now” and it’ll be on your device in seconds.

Don’t make customers beg you to take their money.

A seller has to catch a customer’s eye…and then they have a set timeframe to keep that interest and make a sale. If you can get the person whose eye you caught to your product page in under 10 seconds by clicking a single link, you’re much more likely to get them to click “Buy Now.”

Some exceptions to this are – some customers prefer to buy from an indie bookstore. Or a brick and mortar store. Or they want to order from their local bookshop. These customers are GOLD and will put in extra work. You don’t have to worry about them. If your ad is great and they want your book, they will get that damn book. However, that is not how most internet shoppers (or shoppers in general) behave. They want what they have an interest in easily accessible and they don’t want to have their time wasted.

Some customers like to comparison shop as well. They’ll check every bookseller website to see where they can get it cheapest. These customers are amazing, too!

We don’t have to worry about these customers. As small-time authors or merchants, we have to focus on the customers who are used to what big corporations can provide–convenience, ease, rapidity.

I’m not proud of this, but just to give you more insight into how our brains work when we’re in “customer mode” – one time, I wanted a particular notebook. I was going to buy it from a stationary store that specializes in, well, stationary. I wanted to buy from them online because it was the pandemic, they were a small business, and I wanted to support small businesses when I could–especially when they were relying on online business so heavily.

However, I could not find where the actual purchase page was.

I kept getting redirected to the product description, product ad, blah blah blah. Finally, I gave up and bought it on Amazon. At a higher price.

I paid five dollars extra because time is money and I’d already wasted $5 of my time (in my mind) trying to buy from the stationary store.

So…in summation, universal links make it easier for customers to give you their money.

Use them. Customers will thank you with clicks and (hopefully) sales.

Tremendous Love & Thanks,
Chase