Capturing the Value of Forums: Our Partnership with ProBoards

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014

Yesterday we announced a partnership with ProBoards. ProBoards is the world’s largest host of free Internet forums. Our partnership will allow any of their forum managers or creators to generate revenue from traffic with VigLink Insert. VigLink Insert is a service that scans forum posts for product mentions, measures context, and then inserts an affiliate link to an ecommerce merchant selling the product. A free service and a risk-free, easy way to make extra money.

Of course, it’s always nice to add a little revenue to an otherwise unmonetized website. But ProBoards doesn’t represent just any collection of websites. Forum traffic is some of the most valuable traffic on the web. While forums may represent a small portion of all Web traffic, forum visitors drive a shockingly high percentage of total ecommerce. In our own network, the average sale driven by a forum is worth 650% more than the average sale driven by editorial sites. When a forum visitor decides to buy something, their average order value is among the highest in our network. With VigLink enabled, especially our link insertion product, these retail clicks become real revenue for forum owners. Often this revenue trumps all other ad revenue combined.

We learned the value of forums early on at VigLink. One of our first customers was MySpace. We were very excited to sign them up. MySpace did generate a lot of traffic. However, that traffic resulted in less than $10,000 per month in revenue. Keep in mind, MySpace was the #7 site at that time. For a site that large, $10,000 per month is chump change. We were disappointed to say the least. We asked ourselves “If MySpace can’t drive revenue, is there really a business model here?” Then we acquired Driving Revenue and migrated their customers – leading automotive forum sites – over to VigLink. The relative amount of traffic from these forums was tiny compared to MySpace. But those forums drove more than 10x the amount of monthly revenue. This proved the model. Today, we’re proud to be working with the largest operators of forums, including Huddler, Internet Brands, and Vertical Scope. We also produce the leading conference on the business of forums, ForumCon.

As Google continues to beat down operators advocating sketchy practices to win long-tail search results, waiting in the wings are the forum operators who have real people posting real opinions and real advice about products and services. Search traffic landing in a forum is showing clear intent and interest in the topic at hand. So its not surprising that forum users click on merchant links more often, and are more likely to buy something.

These reasons are precisely why we are partnering with ProBoards. Their forum operators create real, authentic content primarily because they love the topic and the community they create. Now they can make a bit of money on the side. A handful might make thousands or tens of thousands of dollars per month.

The money they do earn is essentially free money requiring no additional effort. Non-technical forum managers can just check a box on their ProBoards dashboard to enable the service. VigLink Insert automatically links mentions of products, merchants and brands to relevant site destinations. For example, VigLink Insert would turn a mention of a Nikon camera in a photography forum into a monetized link to a relevant e-commerce page selling that camera. Forum owners get a portion of the sales as commission if the click results in a purchase.

This partnership is one more example of how we’re creating an entirely new marketplace for the Link Economy, where publishers sell their valuable traffic for what its worth and merchants bid for the traffic they want the most. We are grateful for the opportunity to work with ProBoards and their team on this partnership. If you encounter a link inserted by VigLink in the wild on a ProBoards forum or are a forum operator yourself, let us know what you think.

Posted by Oliver Deighton, VP Marketing

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