This Week in Tech: Rise of the Entrepreneur, Oliver Roup by Zac Johnson

A few weeks ago Oliver Roup was featured on Zac Johnson’s “Rise of the Entrepreneur” Podcast. In their thirty minute discussion they covered the breadth of Oliver’s career and the ideas that were the driving force behind him founding VigLink. When Oliver started VigLink, he did so on the premise that if a publisher is connecting their audience with a product they want to buy, they should get credit for that. However, prior to VigLink, this was easier said than done.

this week in tech

VigLink erases the barriers publishers have when independently joining affiliate networks. Traditionally, to join an affiliate network one had to…

  1. Know that it existed
  2. Sign up
  3. Find the one with the highest rate
  4. Take the chance of missing out on higher commissions with other networks

This is clearly an exhausting and time-consuming process, thus taking time away from producing quality content that readers enjoy. Oliver wanted to provide publishers with a way to focus on genuine content by creating a service which does work on the backend that isn’t possible to do by hand. Oliver points out that not only does the technology get you the highest rate, but also computes detailed reports allowing publishers to find out what products are most popular to their audiences. Finding out what content is most appealing to readers is good for everyone in that it keeps the audience interested, makes the publisher money, and drives traffic to the advertisers site!

And how about the best advice Oliver has ever gotten?

Focus on the long game.

Written by Hanna Fritzinger


We have preliminary Publisher Roundtable feedback!

publiher roundtable blog image

Our second Publisher Roundtable is live!  This edition focuses on monetization. The survey is ongoing, but we’re eager to share preliminary feedback!

Findings show the most popular method for publishers to monetize their sites are ad networks. When choosing a network, publishers focus on traffic quality. And before engaging long term, general consensus is that publishers should test a network for 1.5 months.

Another interesting finding: content-targeted ads are used more frequently than either affiliate networks or brand sponsorship. These also generate the highest percentage of revenue for publishers. You might infer that publishers are therefore most satisfied with this format, but that’s not the case. Publishers are most satisfied with brand sponsorships.  This discrepancy begs a question: if people are most satisfied with brand sponsorships, why aren’t they using them more often?

Survey results suggest it’s not because they don’t want to, it’s that they don’t know how to do so effectively. The majority of publishers (40%) graded themselves a C at monetization.  Half stated monetization is harder than expected.

It’s critically important that information be accessible to publishers so they can learn how to monetize their content effectively without having to disrupt the user experience with other means of monetization such as content targeted banner ads.  Native advertising tools such as the array VigLink products allow you to monetize your site without interrupting the user experience. We hope you utilize the series of interviews to gain intelligent insights into your monetization strategy!


Written by Hanna Fritzinger

Why Mobile Shopping is Broken

We can all agree: shopping on smartphones is painful. Fixing that will go a long way to improving the value of publishers’ mobile traffic. As smartphone traffic buys more often and spends more each time, publishers earn more. The graphic below illustrates where smartphones shopping goes bad. This article in Wired from Oliver Roup, Founder and CEO of VigLink, offers practical fixes retailers can implement now.

Mobile Shopping Exp Infographic

Capturing the Value of Forums: Our Partnership with ProBoards

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

BabyList: Focus on the User and the Revenue Follows

BabyList makes creating a baby registry easy and fun. Expecting moms can add items from any store onto one registry, share their registry, and enable friends and family to buy those gifts. BabyList is dedicated to helping new moms figure out what they need. We caught up with Founder and CEO (and New Mom) Natalie Gordon to find out what’s driving their success.


On Building the Brand

Like any successful site, BabyList addresses a real need. In Natalie’s case, it was a personal one:

“I was pregnant with my son, and looking to register online. I couldn’t find what I was looking for, and just the thought of going into Babies R Us with a price gun made me feel overwhelmed. I wanted to register for help & favors from my friends/family. In addition to onesies, and cloth diapers, I wanted help paying for a diaper service, walking our dog, and wanted my friends to bring over meals. I’m a software developer, so I built a site that could do this myself. This February, BabyList will be 3-years-old, and with 3 years under our belt I have seen how much a site like ours is needed. All moms-to-be are overwhelmed with the baby product options before them. We help them find what’s right for them – because everyone is unique and building a baby registry should be fun!”

While there are a few other universal registries out there, BabyList stands apart. The common thread is a true focus on the user. BabyList is the only online registry that caters to new moms and babies. They’ve built their brand around the idea that no two families are alike, and every new family needs their own unique package of baby products — regardless of where it’s sold. As Natalie puts it, “we don’t try to sell you stuff, we want you to be yourself.”

To make this promise a reality, BabyList is hyper-focused focused on beautiful, functional design. When it comes to great design, Natalie tells us that simplicity is the key. And it’s paying off — having built a site that is truly easy to use they are seeing more registries created and more purchases made.

To further grow awareness and build their user base, BabyList draws from a number of channels. First, they’ve developed important relationships with a network of influential bloggers. These bloggers drive lots of users, and in-turn, BabyList works hard to promote those blogs and their content. It’s a mutually beneficial arrangement and it’s working. Second, it’s no surprise that BabyList do see a lot of users coming from Pinterest. After all, they do bear some resemblance to the way Pinterest works. Lastly, there’s the power of word of mouth and, of course, new moms talk. BabyList is often a topic of conversations online and off, in “due date” groups and baby showers.

On Building the Bond

By fulfilling a real need in an easy and fun way, BabyList finds that new moms naturally stick around. But there’s always more ways to engage users.

The BabyList community loves to hear about online deals and sales, even moms that now have their babies. Yet it’s style as much as substance that really matters. When engaging their audience, Natalie says BabyList uses the opportunity to bring their brand to life. “…we are always real, and always positive about pregnancy. We like mixing silly photos, with awesome DIY projects, useful tips, and inspiring stories. That mix is our sweet spot.”

We count BabyList amongst the growing number of sites that use their content, rather than the white space around their content, as the primary way to drive revenue. BabyList is a perfect example of a site that has sustained itself through truly native monetization – that is monetization so well integrated into the site experience that it essentially is the site experience.

Surprise, surprise, BabyList makes money through affiliate links. When users click and buy the items on the wishlist, BabyList earns a commission. And of course, users can add products to their registry from any store. While BabyList maintains some affiliate relationships themselves, they use VigLink to auto-monetize links to the rest of the retailers. Because VigLink Convert monetizes links to retailers around the world, Natalie has found VigLink to be especially helpful in expanding their monetization coverage as their user base expands around the world.

Meanwhile, is working to build brand-direct partnerships. As Natalie describes it, “we work with brands we love to get their products to our users that would love them too.” Making it easier to add great products to a registry only makes BabyList better and grows the number of new moms building registries, and, of course, revenue.

Focusing on the user from the site experience all the way through to the revenue model has really paid off. “When I started BabyList it was my side project. But after BabyList’s first year, I knew I needed to give it a shot and try to make it more than a side project.” BabyList now has a team of 6 full-time employees. We love what they’ve built and as the number of new moms and dads grows around the VigLink offices, we can’t wait to start building our own registries.

Posted by Oliver Deighton, VP Marketing

Introducing the New VigLink Click Report

Data matters when data drives decisions. For content publishers, some of the most important (and frequent) decisions faced are decisions that impact revenue. The new click report from VigLink helps publishers make informed content decisions that drive revenue.

The new click report is incredibly rich, detailing every single monetizable click leaving publisher’s site and provides actionable insight into how specific content drives commerce. For example, publishers can decide to link to merchants who earn the most per click, have higher conversion rates, or even have higher average order values. They can slice the data by page to see what sections of their site earn the most and use that for inspiration of new content. For sites with a global audience, they can see which countries have the lion’s share of clicks to merchants and start linking to relevant international merchants where sales (and revenue) will be easier to achieve.

To view a custom report, publishers sign in and visit their dashboard, where they will see a new report option. After selecting a date range, publishers can download their TSV file. For each click in the report, we include details such as when the click occurred, on what page, where it went, whether or not it resulted in a sale, and how much revenue that click earned. We’ll even report the country from where the click came. This level of detail into commercial out-clicks is unparalleled.

VigLink Click Report

We’re enormously excited to put such power into the hands of publishers. By taking the guesswork out of content-driven commerce, we’re empowering a new wave of content that’s more tailored to what audiences respond to, earns more for publishers, and drives sales to merchants. The way we see it, this is a win all around.

Posted by Oliver Deighton, Vice President of Marketing


New Link Optimizer Technology: Better Links, Higher Earnings

Hyperlinks are the defining feature of the web – the literal H in HTML. Yet for all the web’s progress, the technology and process behind them are largely unchanged since the web began. An author inserts links when they write a piece of text and then no matter how often they get clicked on, no matter who’s looking and no matter how the world has changed, they remain the same, as if frozen in amber. Until today.

Since the earliest days of this company, I’ve held fast to the notion that many links have potential substitutes. Take product links: An author mentioning a product has several merchants to choose from when inserting a link. Which they choose can depend as much on habit as anything. Yet, for a foreign reader, a link to a domestic merchant might be entirely useless. This is true inefficiency; a shot-in-the-dark, one-size-fits-all approach that has no place in the modern web. Meanwhile, publishers have no way to know who most values their organic traffic and would-be buyers have no way to get that traffic.

We’ve been quietly building the technology to address these problems and today we are announcing the first fruits of our labor. Link optimization technology is an optional feature of VigLink Convert that modifies organic product links to point to a different retailer when it means earning more. Links can (and should) change over time to ensure the destination remains valid, relevant, and high quality. Publishers can opt in by signing into their account and enabling link optimization under their account settings. With the click of a button they can earn more from their existing content.


VigLink optimizer - Learn more

Too often, content monetization comes at the expense of user experience. In my opinion, that’s not sustainable. At VigLink, we aim to create monetization solutions that also make the web better. Optimizing links? That fits the bill. Optimized links mean publishers earn more from their content, retailers drive more sales from more customers, and for all of us who use the web, it means we see relevant links that work. The best native monetization solutions add value to the user experience.

Think about where this technology could go. Should links always be the same for everyone? Do some merchants convert mobile users into buyers better than others? Are readers who have a history of shopping at a particular merchant likely to shop there again? Data- and market-driven linking promises to change the experience of the web. VigLink is unlocking an entire link economy by aligning advertiser demand to publisher inventory and user experience. The future is dynamic linking.


VigLink link optimizer example

As of today, we’re accepting new beta testers as capacity allows. With trillions of links on the web, most won’t change and our focus is starting with the optimization of commercial links pointing to products. During this beta period we will be expanding the universe of optimizable links, listening to feedback, and improving the technology.

If you’re interested in learning more, joining the beta, and providing feedback there’s more information on our site (and don’t miss Anthony Ha’s take in TechCrunch).

Oliver Roup, Founder and CEO, VigLink

A Blogger’s Guide to Earning More

You’ve built a following. You’re working hard to create unique, compelling, and engaging material that your followers love to read. So how do you grow your revenue? Surely it doesn’t mean resorting to plastering your blog with banner ads. Does it mean degrading your editorial integrity and selling your posts? It doesn’t mean either of these, we promise.

The old mode of online retailing – going to the store and figuring out what you want to buy – is increasingly outdated. These days it’s about finding and listening to your chosen and trusted experts – friends, forum communities, and, yes, you.  It’s bloggers like you who provide the most trusted advice: you are the muse and the inspiration. Indeed, it is your content that is increasingly driving sales (2x faster than overall e-commerce). So how can you capitalize on your value?

The solution is native monetization – a method of generating revenue in a way that’s organic to your site and maintains (or even improves) the user experience. This is the opposite of traditional monetization that degrades and distracts the user. Using the humble hyperlink and our technology, anyone can turn their content into revenue without having to wallpaper your blog with ugly, outdated and often irrelevant banner advertising.

In this guide, we lay out how you can take your blog from being average, to being a top earner. It’s all about the Three Bs: Brand, Bond and Business. We steer you through the key steps to develop and optimize your brand, the bond you build with your followers, and the business you aim to drive. The guide helps you leverage your influence and your audience to turn your click-throughs into commerce. In just 5 easy and concrete steps, VigLink can help you to earn more, much more, through what you do best – blogging.

Download your copy now

Content-driven commerce is changing the way consumers buy, merchants sell, and publishers earn. Make the most of it!


Need Content-Driven Commerce be So Complicated?

Two articles recently hit our radar that speak to the opportunities, but also the challenges, of capturing the real value created by content that drives commerce:

AdWeek dove into the recent efforts of some traditional publishers such as Harper’s Bazaar to drive e-commerce. Meanwhile, eMedia Vitals profiled Dwell’s efforts to move into “contextual commerce.”

In both of these articles, the reporters point to media companies taking some extraordinary steps to connect with shoppers and expand their revenue sources beyond traditional advertising. They cite Thrillist purchasing flash deal site JackThreads “after seeing the enormity of the JackThreads warehouse operation.” They cite Dwell partnering with AhaLife to make a fully “shoppable” magazine using a mobile app complete with augmented reality technology.

These are creative ideas, yes, but they are also remarkably difficult (not to mention expensive) to execute. Should media companies really start taking on merchandise inventory and the real estate to house it? Should magazines look beyond the reader adoption of specific smart-phone apps tied to a single retailer?

As you might have guessed, we think there’s an much easier way to capture the value of contextual commerce at scale: The hyperlink (as monetized by VigLink, of course). From QR codes in print to plain old webpages, the hyperlink is ready and willing to convert the purchase intent created by media into a sale, and a sale into a commission, across thousands of retailers.



Managing that January Slump

It’s right before the holidays. Consumers are frantically checking off the shopping lists, snagging last minute deals, and maybe buying a little something for themselves while they’re at it. Check your VigLink dashboard; you’re seeing the fruits of their spending too as November and December are up, way up, for many commerce-driving publishers.

In the midst of all this holiday spending, it’s easy to forget the impending fiscal cliff. No, I’m not talking about Ben Bernake, I’m talking about the January-retail hangover, which really starts December 25th. January is a notoriously slow month for Retail as consumers nurse their pocketbooks and transition overnight from spend happy to thrifty. What’s a publisher to do?

There’s plenty of opportunity out there in January. Savvy sites will know how to make hay when everyone else is blaming the “seasonality.” Hit the ground running with four tips to make this January your best yet:

Promote Yourself

What’s the hardest time to get a consumer’s attention? When everyone else is trying to get their attention. The holiday shopping season is as noisy as it gets. Smart marketers know that the best time to gain share of voice is when everyone else is laying low. January is your time to go loud, make yourself known, introduce new features, and grow your audience. While the audience you’re attracting may not be spending as much this month, keep them loyal and your investment will pay off over the long haul.

Health Sells

What’s everybody’s #1 New Year’s resolution? No, not eat more Christmas leftovers. Focus content on what matters to consumers so those that do spend, spend through you. You say healthy recipes? I think I need a new juicer. You say diet advice? I can think of a few good books. You say 2013 fashion trends? I think that shirt with vertical stripes makes me look thinner than I feel. You say five easy routines to get back into shape? I think I can’t do them without new shoes… You get the point. Behind every new year’s resolution article, blog post, or forum thread there’s a thing (or ten) to buy. Help your audience buy.

Talk About the Weather

January is cold and wet.* People might not be buying new toys, gadgets, or vacations, but they still need to manage the weather. Wiper blades, snow boots, winter tires, jackets, heaters, slippers–if it keeps the chills out and cozy in, people are buying.

*We realize VigLink is global, so if you’re in the southern hemisphere, think about things that beat the heat (and send us a blanket if you wouldn’t mind).

Take the year in review

As a new beginning, January is the perfect time to review, reflect, and react. Take stock of what worked last year. What content drove sales? Who got all your out-clicks? Do they deserve them? Check your VigLink dashboard, dig into your site analytics, talk to your customers, and see what lessons you can learn from 2012 to make 2013 even better.

This January, make your New Year’s resolution to turn January from s..l..o…w to GROW.