The Link Economy: What You Need to Know

Link Economy

The humble hyperlink — a staple of the Internet, the veritable “H” in “HTTP” — is ubiquitous yet often taken for granted. At least at first glance. However, upon closer inspection, we find the little old hyperlink holds profound economic power. In fact, the link is so powerful it is revolutionizing e-commerce, making a once highly inefficient marketplace dynamic by driving sales to retailers and increasing publisher earnings.

“I understand there are links, but where is the economy?” we hear you cry. The link economy has buyers (merchants, retailers, or advertisers) and sellers (such as publishers or affiliates), but this isn’t as straightforward as your local farmer’s market, where buyers and sellers can easily find each other and prices are clearly marked. The young link market is much more complex, fraught with friction.

So, we have produced a detailed yet easily digestible paper on the link economy designed to equip you, publishers, with all the necessary knowledge needed to navigate this new market. The guide establishes who are the key actors in the market, outlines how links actually earn, and enumerates the best-strategies for you to maximize your clicks and earnings per link.

Get your copy here!


VigLink Named LinkShare’s Innovative Publisher of the Year

Earlier this month we mentioned that VigLink had been nominated for one of LinkShare’s Golden Link Awards for Innovative Publisher of the Year. The winner was determined by a panel of judges including Andy Hoar of Forrester Research, Rebecca Madigan of the Performance Marketing Association, Geno Prussakov of Affiliate Management Days, Scott Silverman of Scott Silverman Associates, and Missy Ward of Affiliate Summit & FeedFront Magazine.

We’re honored to announce that VigLink was selected as the winner in its category and named Rakuten LinkShare’s Innovative Publisher of the Year. The announcement was made at the Golden Link Awards luncheon yesterday at LinkShare Symposium New York.

A very very big thanks to the judges and LinkShare for thinking of us when they think “innovation”! And for those that couldn’t be there in-person, below are a few snapshots from the event.

Oliver Roup, Founder & CEO of VigLink, accepting the award.

The award itself!

ForumCon 2012: The Presentation Slides

We’re still hard at work packaging up the video presentations from ForumCon, but in the meantime, we’ve compiled speakers’ slides for those of you that have been asking.

In order of their presentation…

Oliver Roup | VigLink | Welcome + VigLink Update

View more presentations from VigLink

Kris Jones | KBJ Capital | Make More By Ranking Higher on Google

Jamie Vondruska | Vortex Media Group | How I Scaled My Forum

View more presentations from VigLink

Dan Gill | Huddler | Vertical Social Networks

View more presentations from VigLink

Joe Rosenblum | Internet Brands | Getting to One Billion Forum MAUs

View more presentations from VigLink

Tyler Tanaka | PostRelease | Creating, Curating, and Putting Great Content to Use

View more presentations from VigLink

Neal Sainani | Internet Brands | Zero to Mobile in 60 Seconds

View more presentations from VigLink

VigLink Makes the Shortlist for LinkShare’s Innovative Publisher of the Year Award

LinkShare, one of the world’s most recognized names in affiliate marketing program management, has just announced their Golden Link Award Finalists for 2012 and we’re pleased to have been short listed for the Innovative Publisher of the Year award!

VigLink is not your average publisher — we are partnered with thousands of forums, blogs, social discovery sites and editorial sites focused on everything from coin collecting to Volkswagon cars. It provides us with a unique opportunity to help a network’s merchants reach highly-targeted audiences that it can be difficult to market to via traditional affiliate marketers.

For those interested, below is a little bit more detail on how we partnered more deeply with LinkShare and our innovative approach to increasing revenue for their merchant partners.

An Innovative Objective / An Innovative Approach

Our objective with LinkShare over the past 12 months has been two-fold:

  • Introduce publishers to the LinkShare network that would be unlikely to partner directly with the network on their own (due to technical or time limitations).
  • Ensure these publishers successfully promote LinkShare merchants and drive incremental revenue on behalf of the network.

Our strategy centered heavily around recruiting a very specific type of publisher, one that wasn’t already working with LinkShare, but could still be a value add to the network.

Publishers were typically non-affiliates, whose sites were focused on a niche topic and whose site format was either a blog or forum, rather than a traditional affiliate site.  The long-tail strategy was implemented via the customer success, marketing, and business development teams at VigLink.

The results have been great so far: VigLink is on track to drive a 240% increase in the revenue we generate for LinkShare this year versus last year!

We can’t wait for the awards ceremony on June 26, 2012 in New York City to see who wins. Our CEO, Oliver Roup, along with our merchant relationship manager, Mika Uehara will be on hand to root on the other finalists in-person at the luncheon (and are looking forward to seeing and catching up with some of you in New York!).

VigLink Announces Double the Merchant Coverage. vBulletin Unveils vB5 Connect. Chooses VigLink for Content Monetization. ForumCon 2012 is a Wrap.

Ten sessions, three ground breaking product announcements, twenty-five speakers, two-hundred attendees, hundreds of cups of coffee (and hundreds of cocktails) later, ForumCon 2012 is a wrap.

We’ll be sharing all the pictures, presentations and interviews from the event with you in the next couple of days, but didn’t want to wait any longer to share the three pieces of news that came out of ForumCon: vBulletin premiered their first product release in 2+ years, selected VigLink exclusively for content monetization, and we announced that our merchant coverage is now double that of any competitor. We now monetize traffic to 30,000+ merchants!

Here’s the blow-by-blow of how each of the announcements went down.

vBulletin 5 Connect Makes its World Debut

The morning kicked off a little bit early with a special event for both press and attendees: the unveiling of vBulletin 5 Connect.

While a press release with a few key details went out on the wire just as John McGanty, General Manager of Internet Brands took to the stage, the audience was certainly anxious for a more detailed overview. John’s preview definitely delivered, and we saw what vB5 Connect had to offer:

  • Sleek new UI with extensive social integration
  • Category-leading mobile optimization
  • Simplified site set up, customization and management
  • New core architecture for improved search, better performance and easier modifications
  • Dynamic tools for content discovery
  • Expanded photo and video sharing capabilities

In total, there are 125 new features and enhancements in vBulletin 5 Connect.  And the audience was buzzing throughout the rest of the day about which they were most excited for:

vBulletin Chooses VigLink for Content Monetization

One of the enhancements available in vB5 Connect is VigLink content monetization available out-of-the-box. With the upcoming release, vBulletin will be replacing its previous content monetization solution with VigLink.

Bambi Francisco of Vator News chatted with both John McGanty of Internet Brands and Oliver Roup, our Founder & CEO, on Monday evening and shared details on the partnership early Tuesday morning in the lead up to the formal announcement.

And after the dust had settled, Murray Newlands, an advisor to VigLink and correspondent for Performance Marketing Insider caught up with Joe Rosenblum, CTO for Internet Brands, for his thoughts on the newly announced partnership (check it out below).

We’ll be sharing more detail on the partnership as the vB5 release date nears, but are happy to announce now that we’ll be offering both current and new VigLink users a 5% revenue bonus when they upgrade to vB5 (more detail in Oliver’s full presentation at the bottom of this post).

VigLink Announces Double the Merchant Coverage

After vBulletin’s press session wrapped, Oliver formally kicked off the day with a few ForumCon updates, and also a pretty big announcement: VigLink now monetizes traffic to over 30,000 merchant sites.

Over the last six months, we’ve been hard at work forging a set of relationships that not only represent double the merchant coverage of any competitor, but will also deliver higher payouts for our publishers than any other entity can.

The end result: using VigLink is easier than ever (thanks to partnerships like that of vBulletin) and we’re not only earning you more than ever, but more than anyone else.

If you’re interested, you can check out Oliver’s full presentation below. And be on the lookout for full video and the rest of the presentation decks very soon!

The Best is Yet to Come

The section title here is a homage to our concluding panel of the day, focused on the future of forums (video to come!). The VigLink team had such a great time spending the day with so many of our users, partners, and other industry leaders yesterday — and we are beyond excited for next year. The best, really is, yet to come.

Hyperlinks are Dumb and Bleeding Money; How to Ensure Yours Aren’t

The article below originally appeared on TechCrunch as a guest post by Oliver Roup, VigLink Founder & CEO. 

When an email hits our inbox, we know not only who it’s from but their entire web imprint. LinkedIn canpoint out the profile of the woman you interviewed for a sales role last week and the gentleman you spoke with earlier in the year at a conference.

And rest assured that the dining room set you checked out over the weekend at will haunt your online experience for the forseeable future.

Data — its collection and manipulation at scale — has revolutionized how we interact online. Homepages, banner advertisements and what we see in our Facebook timeline are all tailored-to-fit the reader, and we don’t give it a second thought.

But the hyperlink, the key feature that distinguishes hypertext from text has remained largely unchanged since Sir Tim Berners-Lee invented the web.

Websites generally, and search and online advertising specifically, would be barely recognizable today by their younger selves. But hyperlinks — their structure, how they’re authored and how we use and track them — have barely changed in 20 years. Consider:

  • Inserting links by hand is a labor intensive process and has few tools. How about a recommendation engine to augment our own efforts? (Note: companies like Zemanta are a first step in this direction.)
  • If a link is never clicked (i.e. 0% of the world finds it useful), why does it remain in content, distracting from meaningful / useful links indefinitely?
  • Keywords in referrer logs have been mined to great effect by companies like BlueKai. (Although Google is slowly but surely taking that information away.) Isn’t where a user clicked out to just as informative? Why are we almost always ignoring it?
  • Why do website visitors in Asia see links to online merchants in North America they are unable to purchase from, let alone access?

Hyperlinks, in many ways, are dumb. And as a result, harming your user experience and potentially bleeding money from your company — when they could be a tool for better engagement, increased revenue, and deeper analytics.

Now, there are a cluster of companies innovating by recognizing the power of the link — OmnitureVibrant Media and Yieldbot, to name a few. But, this isn’t a problem companies can hold off on thinking about until the perfect tech pops up to solve it. There was a time when SEO was considered a “pro-tip” — a way for startups to get ahead of the game. Today, it’s standard best practice — and companies that don’t think strategically about the way search engines view their sites are at a strong disadvantage.

Hyperlink optimization is similar. While link optimization might be a “pro-tip” now, it won’t be for much longer. Companies that aren’t thinking strategically about link placement, closely tracking results, and taking subsequent action, will find the companies that ARE doing these things at an advantage.

The most critical areas to spend time on are tracking outbound hyperlinks, building a linking strategy, and refining it based on results. Let’s briefly dive into each.

Track your Outbound Hyperlinks

The first step to optimizing a site’s outbound traffic is to understand what that traffic looks like. Where do visitors go when they leave your site? What do they do on those other sites?

While there is still a lot of room for growth within the outbound analytics space, Omniture (paid) and Google Analytics (free — but requires a modification to the standard Analytics code you add to your site) both offer tools to help you understand what happens when a reader leaves your site. VigLink (disclosure: I am the CEO there) also offers an outbound analytics suite as part of its content monetization solution.

Build a Hyperlinking Strategy

What do you want your outbound hyperlinks to do for you?

Do you want them to earn you revenue? Do you want them to serve an SEO purpose? Be purely informational? Should they be scarce (keeping readers on your site)? Or abundant (allowing readers to exit as it is helpful)?

Once you’ve answered these questions, you’ll have a plan for when your team includes a hyperlink, and when it does not — opening up opportunities for a better reader experience, and deeper engagement.

Refine, Refine, Refine

Combine a plan with data to track that plan’s performance and you’ve got a gold mine on your hands.  Notice a link that is never clicked and your plan requires that links must be useful to readers? Take it out. Or, a heavy percentage of links pointing to non-eCommerce properties, and your goal is monetization? Incorporate fewer links to those non-commercial sites. Refining your hyperlinks will improve reader engagement and overall site performance.

Do It, and Make the Web Better

Hyperlinks should make the web better — more connected, easier to navigate, and intelligent. Hyperlinks should make your site better — more actionable, insightful and profitable.

Today, hyperlinks are falling short. They’re static and largely untracked. Sometimes useful — but often not. As the web becomes ever more crowded, and an organization’s site optimization toolkit begins to produce diminishing returns, the hyperlink is obvious low hanging fruit.

What that means to site owners:

  • It’s time to plug the outbound data leak. Implement a tool today that will track your outbound traffic.
  • Choose a hyperlinking strategy and share it with your team. This is at least as much a human problem as a technology one – deciding what you want is always the first step.
  • Be on the lookout for technology that addresses these issues. There are already solutions to track your outbound clicks and the value they deliver but 2012 is going to be the year the hyperlink gets smart.

Maximizing Click Revenue: 2 Billion Clicks Analyzed [Affiliate Summit Central Recap]

We had a great time at the inaugural Affiliate Summit Central event this past week. Our own David Gorcey, VP of Customer Success, lead a session focused around maximizing click revenue, based on some of the clicks that we saw pass through our network in 2011.

We spent a little bit of time talking about the “high performing” clicks as well as the “low performering” ones — and what the differences between the two were. For those that are interested, check out the slides in their entirety below!

Maximizing Click Revenue: 2 Billion Outclicks Analyzed

View more presentations from VigLink

How to Make Image Monetization Work for You: Future of Publishing

In last month’s Future of Publishing episode, we caught up with Chas Edwards of Luminate and Rey Flemings of Stipple to talk image monetization: how to make it work for you, what to take into consideration when selecting a solution, and how much you can earn.

Check out the two part series below, and then read on to meet the guests!

Part 1: What are a Publishers’ Options When it Comes to Image Monetization?

Part 2: How Much Money Can Publishers Make with Image Monetization?

Meet the Guests

Chas Edwards | CRO and Publisher Development | Luminate

Chas joined Luminate in 2010 as CRO and head of publisher development. Before Luminate, Chas served as publisher and chief revenue officer at Digg, the site that allows readers to organize content from across the web by voting on what they consider to be the best. For the four years prior to joining Digg, he was the co-founder (with John Battelle), publisher and chief revenue officer at Federated Media Publishing (FM), a next-generation media and publishing company that connects the highest quality conversational content (eg, Boing Boing, Mashable, Inhabitat, Dooce, NOTCOT and The Pioneer Woman) with leading brand marketers.

Previously, Chas was vice president of sales and marketing for CNET Networks’s B2B Portfolio, managing the team representing, ZDNet and TechRepublic to business-to-business marketers. Chas also served posts as VP for CNET’s broadband & webcasting unit and as VP of business development for mySimon, CNET Networks’s comparison-shopping portal. Prior to joining CNET Networks, Chas was the National Sales Manager for TechTV, a 24-hour cable TV channel and Web site dedicated to computing and the Internet (now owned by Comcast and called G4).

Rey Flemings | CEO & Founder | Stipple

Rey, a repeat entrepreneur, investor and advisor, conceived Stipple in 2008 and has led the company since inception.

Prior to founding Stipple, Rey led the Justin Timberlake family fund and technology incubator, Tennman Digital leading investments in numerous startups including Tapulous and Particle. His career has included founding and senior executive roles in several leading technology and media companies.

Future of Publishing: Affiliate Networks, Tracking, and Optimization

Thanks to Ad:Tech SF — and having lots of familiar faces in town — we were able to squeeze in a few additional episodes of Future of Publishing this month. Below is one of the “bonus” episodes that touches on affiliate marketing and how networks operate.

Check out the 3 part series below, and then read on to meet the guests!

Part 1: What is Affiliate Marketing and How Can I Make Money?

Part 2: What’s the Relationship Between SEO & Affiliate Marketing?

Part 3: What Lies Ahead for Affiliate Marketing?

Meet the Guests

Bret Grow | President & Co-Founder | LinkTrust Systems

Bret Grow is a co-founder and the president of LinkTrust Systems. Bret’s interest in creating an affiliate management and tracking platform began with his own need when Bret was working to build an ad network with Frank Ouimette in 2002. As their network evolved, the requirements for tracking also changed. In his search for a platform, Bret realized that he and Frank had the understanding and skill set to build their own tracking software that was more robust than any of the options on the market.

LinkTrust is widely recognized by affiliates, networks and merchants as the most reliable, accurate platform with the best customer service. This reputation has been built over time through Bret’s tenacity in creating collaborative relationships with customers and building a team of employees that shares Bret’s vision of going the extra mile to take care of LinkTrust clients.

Gary Warnes | Director of Client Services | Rakuten LinkShare

Gary has several years of experience in account management and team leadership roles at agencies covering retail, technology and entertainment.  At Rakuten LinkShare he currently manages a team of account managers who run some of the largest, most successful affiliate programs in the industry.  He also spent some time working at Yahoo and was the Director of Marketing at Ebates.

Phillip Kidwell | Director, Business Development | eHealth

Phillip Kidwell is Director of Business Development for Mountain View, CA based eHealthInsurance, the leading online source for individual and family health insurance. He built the affiliate program for the company in 2001. Phillip is an active member in the affiliate marketing community and co-founder of the Bay Area Affiliate Managers Coalition ( In 2004 he was recognized with the Commission Junction Horizon Award for People / Relationship Building. Phillip has also been mentioned as an expert in his field in publications such as Inc. Magazine and Harper Business Book, “Go It Alone” By Yale Faculty Fellow Bruce Judson. Prior to eHealthInsurance, Kidwell managed a partner marketing campaign between World Championship Wrestling, Capital One Bank and MasterCard. He holds a B.A. in Marketing from the University of Houston.

Publisher Spotlight: PCMech

About PCMech

PCMech was founded in the late 1990’s with a singular goal: to make technology understandable to the every-day user.  Its owner, technology enthusiast and professional blogger David Risley, launched the site initially as more of a hobby than anything else. “I enjoyed writing and creating the content,” said David. “But, slowly the site grew and I built out a larger team of writers to manage it.”

Today, the site’s blog and forum receive a combined 300,000 unique visitors and 479,000 page views each month. The site’s forum boasts nearly 55,000 members.

The Challenge: What Else is There?

David tested a multitude of monetization options before settling on a combo of direct advertising deals, AdSense, select affiliate relationships, and paid membership (which provides access to additional content, advanced forum privileges and premium newsletters).

But, like many publishers, he continued to wonder what else he could be doing to maximize the value of his content and community.

The Solution: Content Monetization

In May of 2010 David heard about VigLink and decided to test it. He added VigLink to his site and immediately began to see results.  By the end of the year the site was earning several hundred dollars each month via VigLink.

“What is great about VigLink is two-fold: 1) the solution doesn’t require any time on my team’s side to work as it should, and 2) it opens up opportunities for us to optimize our content and earn even more,” said David. “For a site that is all about making technology easy-to-use and understand, it’s been an ideal approach to monetizing content. VigLink does the heavy lifting and we get to focus on content and audience.”

VigLink gets PCMech paid for clicks from it’s content by automatically affiliating links to eligible online merchants on the site.

“Before VigLink, we had to make a special point of adding affiliate links to the site, so it just didn’t happen on a regular basis,” said David.  “Now, it’s not even something we have to think about. We focus on creating content that attracts readers that are in a buyer’s mindset and VigLink does the rest. It’s opened up a lot of possibilities for the site, in addition to a new revenue stream.”