User Friendly iTunes Affiliate Links

This article has become obsolete. To learn about how to make affiliate links now please refer to this newer post.

Getting Started

If you do anything that includes linking to items in the iTunes Store you should sign up to be an affiliate. The iTunes Affiliate program provides a mechanism to earn a bit of extra revenue from your links. For this article I’m going to focus on the US incarnation of Apple’s program. The terms and practice may vary when used in other countries.

The iTunes Affiliate program covers links to products within all Apple online stores including:

  • iTunes Music, Videos, Podcasts & Audiobooks
  • iOS App Store
  • Mac App Store
  • iBookstore

In the US the program is structured so that the referrer receives 5% of all purchases made within 3 days of clicking on one of your links. For example, if you click the link to My Recipe Book on the sidebar of this page, then purchase it for $2.99 I would receive a commission of $0.15. If two days later you decide to purchase a copy of Instapaper for $4.99, assuming you haven’t clicked another affiliate link in the meantime, I would receive a another commission of $0.25.

Becoming an affiliate is pretty straight forward. The program is administered via a 3rd Party called LinkShare, so all dealings are through them rather than Apple directly. The steps for get started are:

  1. You register your site/company with LinkShare.
  2. Once you’re setup, open the “Programs” tab and then search for “iTunes”.
  3. Click ‘Apply’ next to the “US iTunes, App Store, iBookstore, and Mac App Store” program.
  4. Accept the Terms and Conditions.
  5. Wait a short while until your application is approved.
  6. Generate your links and you are all set.

LinkShare pays out commissions on a monthly basis via either Check or Direct Deposit. In the 2 years I’ve been an affiliate I’ve never once had a problem with payment timeliness or correctness.

There are a number of ways to generate links within this program. These are done using the ‘Links’ area of LinkShare. You go here and then select the iTunes program. From here you can generate links to all types of products, and if desired even get graphics and banners pre-made for your website.

After doing this for a while I have moved away from using the pre-baked links that LinkShare provides and instead use a custom link format instead. This format is easily created by taking the standard iTunes link for the item I want to link to and then appending my LinkShare ID to the end. If found this better in two ways:

1) I avoid inscrutable links that are not customer friendly. A typical LinkShare link will have the form of…

Links of this form do not provide a clear indication of what the customer/reader is actually clicking on. If they have spent any amount of time with iTunes, they will be familiar with the standard format which looks nothing like this. By using the custom short link method I can make links that are clear and legible.

2) I can avoid the annoying redirect that using the proxied links requires. Each time a user clicks on one of these links they will be first jumped to a holding page, then redirected to the actual iTunes link. This is annoying in a desktop browser, but is downright infuriating when done on an iPhone or iPad because the link first launches a new page in Safari, then closes that and launches the App Store. This is not a smooth experience for the customer.

The short link method I use is based on the outline given in “Using Affiliate Links Inside Apps” of the Advanced Affiliate Linking reference. Check here if you have any questions or concerns about using it. There is one main drawback to this approach. By not sending your links through the proxy you loose the ability to do click tracking analytics. For me that is a fair trade off for the reasons given above, but if that is important to you then you can’t use this method.

The process for creating a short, user friendly affiliate link is as follows:

  1. You will need to append two fields to the base link for this to work. The first is the partnerId, for LinkShare links this will always be 30.
  2. The second is your siteId. Your siteId is what uniquely identifies your links as coming from your account. To find this value open your LinkShare page and go to the “Links” tab.
  3. Find the “US iTunes, App Store, iBookstore, and Mac App Store” area and select it.
  4. Click the “Link Maker Tool” from the grey toolbar at the top of this page. (Note, if you have an ad-blocker installed you may need to disable it for this page to render correctly)
  5. This should take to you a page titled ‘iTunes Link Maker’. Below the search box on this page you should see a paragraph starting “Your affiliate network is:…” Within the link part of this paragraph is an item of the form …stat?id=IzE7m699rYo&offerid=…, find this and extract the 11 digit id value from here. In my case this is IzE7m699rYo.
  6. You now have all that you need to generate any affiliate link you ever need to any store.
  7. Open iTunes and find the item you want to link to. Click on its icon then on ‘Copy Link’. For this example I’m going to use My Recipe Book. For this app the base link looks like this:
  8. Append to this link the following string (note, if your base string doesn’t already include a ?, then replace the ampersand with a ?): &partnerId=30&siteID=<YOUR_SITE_ID>
  9. The result should look like this:
  10. Use this link wherever you want to link to this item. Any purchases made through it will then generate revenue for you.

Reporting takes around 3-4 days to show up in LinkShare. If you don’t see any sales after that period you’ll want to make sure you have set everything up correctly. Otherwise, enjoy this new source of revenue.


David Smith