Have Yourself a Mobile Little Christmas

According to an eMarketer study, the amount of time people spend using their mobile devices for non-call purposes has gone up 52% since last holiday season. More and more, people are using their phones to browse the internet and to make purchases. This will, no doubt, spark a huge volume of holiday mobile marketing activity. Marketers, however, aren’t the only people who should pay attention to mobile.

Publishers can take a hint from marketers in where they focus their efforts leading up to Black Friday and Cyber Monday — mobile matters. Below, we’ll examine a series of challenges and opportunities you may encounter as a publisher when considering your mobile monetization strategy this holiday season.

Challenges:

1) Mobile optimized site design is particularly important with regard to display ads. According to eMarketer, “ninety percent of marketers don’t use responsive design, in which your creative knows it’s being viewed on a smaller screen and adapts.” Publishers can also do their mobile due diligence and make sure the ads they serve are optimized across devices. Select a display ad network that serves responsive ads, or even just has a large inventory of mobile ads.

2) “The key is consumer experience, from an affiliate marketing standpoint. You need to have an end-to-end consumer experience without any glitches,” argues Scott Allan, Senior Vice President of Global Marketing for Rakuten LinkShare. “If I go to a great mobile site that a publisher has, and get referred to an advertiser’s site, if that advertiser’s site isn’t mobile-optimized and I can’t check-out, I’m going to be annoyed and leave.” If you notice that a merchant you link out to often isn’t optimizing for mobile, consider linking to a merchant that is mobile-optimized.

Opportunities:

1) Optimizing for mobile now will help you earn loyal visitors.  Mobile optimized sites have lower bounce rates and longer average visit durations for mobile users than non mobile-optimized sites. That means that users are more likely to stay on your site if it’s optimized, and more likely to leave sites that aren’t.

2) Native monetization is especially important on mobile. When display ads take up prime real estate on a mobile device’s small screen, users can get frustrated. Alternatively, thoughtful, in-content recommendations to products can accrue revenue (with VigLink) without causing mobile advertising overload.

Thinking about the experience your users are going to have on mobile this holiday season is worth your time. Consumer spending is going to increase in the coming months no matter what, and anything you can do to get an edge on the competition could net you a larger slice of that holiday pie. Yum.

 

Whitney Smith, VigLink Marketing Communications Manager

Forum Monetization with VigLink

We built VigLink on the idea that site owners should be compensated for the hard work they put in starting, maintaining and growing their sites. Forum owners are no exception and that’s exactly why we’ve decided to address the unique aspects of forum monetization with VigLink. In this post, we’ll outline how VigLink monetization works for forums and some best practices for maximizing earnings.

Links posted on a forum can have significant earning potential – even if they’re posted by users. But turning potential earnings into actual money in the bank can be more trouble than it’s worth. That’s where VigLink comes in. VigLink technology works in two ways. First, we convert existing links into links that can make money. Your community members are constantly posting links to brands, products and sites they know and love. We make it easy to capture the value of these links. Most retailers are actually willing to pay for clicks to their site that turn into purchases. We automatically wire up your clicks to participate in these programs. Second, our advanced technology can automatically link references to products in forum posts. Often, forum members may simply forget or not go to the trouble of adding a link. VigLink conveniently adds the link so users don’t have to hunt for the product and you get credit for the click. To make this work well, VigLink has established relationships with over 30,000 merchants, more than any other link monetization service. Just about any link that can earn money will earn money.

Of course, as with any monetization strategy, there are some best practices that are worth keeping top-of-mind in order to help you take your earnings to the next level. Here are four simple ideas you can put into practice today:


  1. Log in to your VigLink dashboard often to monitor what content is converting the best within your forum. If, for example, digital cameras are converting well, expand upon that content by creating new threads about digital cameras and encouraging people to post about their favorite one. If a particular camera retailer is performing well for you, expand upon that retailer. The VigLink Dashboard is your roadmap to revenue.
  2. Create threads that are retail-oriented and encourage members to post links. “Great deals” and “show and tell” threads prompt members to link out to products. Try starting a thread called “Great eBay Finds” and see the links enumerate. Using specific, meaningful product topics never hurts either. Starting a thread called “Best Speakers under $1,000” prompts users to reference products specifically. Then, post a link to that particular thread to other forums, including competitive ones.
  3. See a particular member who posts a lot of links? Consider reaching out to them directly with encouragement. You could promote them to moderator or even consider a rev-share as a reward.
  4. Make sure the conversation keeps going. Threads will stall unless you or your moderators keep them going. Ask another question or share something new to foster the continuation of product-related conversation.


There’s a reason VigLink is chosen by top forums – our solution is easy to implement, is maintenance-free, and perhaps most importantly, has virtually no impact on the community’s experience. Rather than bombarding your users with pesky, irrelevant banner ads, VigLink integrates seamlessly into posted content, so the conversation members came to enjoy is not compromised for the sake of trying to make a buck. VigLink is not a pop-up ad company; our technology doesn’t pretend to link words only to open up an irrelevant ad as the user inadvertently hovers over a double underline. We take a totally different approach – one that’s far more natural and organic.

We encourage you to sign up and find the tactics that work best for your forum by testing some of these ideas. Let us know if you have any questions or feedback – we’re always just an email away at support@viglink.com.

Whitney Smith, VigLink Marketing Communications Manager

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

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

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

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Dan Gill | Huddler | Vertical Social Networks

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

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

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

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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 CrateAndBarrel.com 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.

Highlights from LeadsCon Las Vegas [Exclusive Video Interviews]

As promised, the entire LeadsCon video interview series has been posted as of today. Click here to check out interviews with all the key attendees, exhibitors, speakers and partners — and hear their exclusive tips on lead generation, and what they took away from the conference.

A few of our favorites are below.

Oliver Roup, VigLink Founder & CEO, chats with Steve Hall of AdRants.

Oliver Roup, VigLink Founder & CEO, chats with Natasha Aronov of Leadnomics.

Oliver Roup, Founder & CEO of VigLink, chats with Mike Rosenberg of Trafficvance.

March Spotlight on the Merchants: Get Ready for Spring Break & March Madness

Each month, we take a look at a few of our favorite VigLink merchants as part of our Spotlight on the Merchants series. In our March edition, we share a few of our favorite spring break suppliers, as well as gear for March Madness and summer concert season.

Each of these merchants is an eligible VigLink merchant, which means if you are a VigLink user and send traffic to any of these sites that results in a sale, you’ll get paid!  When you are creating content centered around themes like Spring Break and March Madness, consider linking to these merchants when you reference products and services.

GlassesUSA.com

For those of us that wear glasses or contacts, the right pair of prescription sunglasses can be difficult to find. GlassesUSA makes it easy to find just the right pair — right in time for a spring getaway.

Travelocity.com

If your readers, like us, are starting to get tired of the cold weather, consider sharing some of Travelocity’s amazing deals on your site — and help visitors plan just the right escape to warmer weather!

RealCyclist.com

As the weather warms up, your readers will be looking for ways to get outside more often. A bike can be an inexpensive / easy way to get ready for summer. Help your readers find just the right one this March using RealCyclist.com.

IrvsLugguage.com

When you’re sharing or creating content around spring break and summer travel, it makes sense to include an option for luggage. Irv’s Luggage offers a low-price guarantee, free shipping, and carries all the major luggage brands including Tumi, The North Face, and Samsonite.

TicketNetwork.com

The spring and summer concert season is almost upon us! As your readers begin to fill up their calendars, help them find great seats at all their favorite shows using TicketNetwork.

eCampus.com

Help your readers score their favorite sweatshirt, t-shirt, or cap from their favorite university at eCampus. Choose from 100+ schools and hundreds of items — just in time for March Madness!

Can Content Monetization Deliver a Better Website Experience?

Below is an excerpt from a guest feature by Oliver Roup, VigLink founder & CEO, on 5 Star Affiliate Programs Blog. You can check out the article in its entirety here.

Website publishers feel like they face a difficult trade-off: cater to their readers or cater to their revenue.  But, as any publisher or affiliate marketer knows, it’s a false trade-off.  The two are intimately related. Without strong readership and traffic, monetization is an impossibility. Without monetization, a site is tough to sustain.

So, how can you earn revenue without scaring off your readers? Or, better yet, how can you earn revenue while actually enhancing your readers’ experience on your site?

Publishers that don’t think through these questions may find themselves adopting a rather crude monetization strategy, plastering banners on every spare inch of their pages, or implementing the dreaded paywall. And while there is certainly a time and a place for both banner ads and paywalls, both overlook what should be a critical component of a site’s monetization strategy: the content.

Content is where your readers dedicate the majority of their time and attention on your site.  Why not leverage it?  By doing so, you’ll secure an important additional revenue stream for your site that is both unobtrusive and user-friendly.

Read on for  an overview of 3 of the best ways to get started monetizing your site’s content.

What’s the Value of a Hyperlink? Try $58,000.

This post originally appeared on MissyWard.com as a guest feature by Oliver Roup, VigLink founder & CEO.  You can check out the article here.

One morning this past November, as my team was reviewing highlights from the previous days’ customer metrics, something caught our eye: a purchase for $58,000.  After a few minutes of digging, we found that on an evening earlier in the week, an individual browsing an automotive site had come across a post that discussed a particular pontoon boat — complete with floating bar and tiki torches.  The visitor had clicked the link the site owner provided and ultimately purchased the item for a hefty $58,000.

We know that links within content have an intrinsic value, particularly from an SEO perspective.  They convey authority, build relationships, and generate traffic.  But, we often don’t pay enough attention to the revenue opportunity they present.  In the case of the automotive site owner, he generated tens of thousands of dollars in revenue for an online merchant.  In return (he was monetizing his content’s outbound links using VigLink), he saw his revenue on a per-click basis triple post-sale, soaring to over $1.20 per click.  And while a $58,000 purchase is certainly substantial, it isn’t as uncommon as one might think; we regularly see publishers generating sales for computers, cars, and pricey collector items from $1k to $100k+.

It begs the question: if a single link can generate tens of thousands of dollars in business, why aren’t we giving more thought to the links we include on our sites? We obviously want to maximize a reader’s time on our site, and for links to enhance a reader’s experience, but why can’t they also be sensibly integrated into a broader monetization strategy?

Here are three areas publishers can invest their time in order to get more out of the hyperlinks they include on their site.

Tracking Outbound Links

The first step to incorporating outbound links into your monetization strategy is to understand where you are sending traffic. And what value is created after a reader leaves your site.

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.

Practicing “Sensible” Linking

Think before you link.  Once you know where your readers are going when they leave your site (and even better, what they are doing), you are in a much better decision to decide what words to link and where to link them to.

A couple examples of what I mean by this:

  • If traffic sent to a particular retailer produces more actions (e.g. sales) than a comparable retailer, focus links on the former.
  • Links that never get clicked are just noise. Replace them with alternative text or remove them altogether and focus on adding links to other areas of the page.

When in Doubt, Link

It’s time consuming to determine what pieces of content on your site would benefit from an added link, but it’s well worth it.  When speaking with publishers, I recommend that they air on the side of generosity when linking.  If content references a product, service or brand, always include a link. And similarly, look for areas that indirectly reference these same products and consider weaving sensible links into those sections as well.

As long as you are careful not to rely on a link insertion service that adds only tangentially related links (which can negatively impact user experience), you’ll rarely encounter a reader that is turned-off by an additional link.

What’s Next for the Hyperlink?

In the near future, I wouldn’t be surprised to see links within content go the way of banner advertisements, with links being dynamically selected based on reader behavior and advertiser preferences. In the long-run, the shift will be a win for readers (fewer irrelevant links), advertisers (who will enjoy better targeting), and publishers (who will have better content and see a new revenue stream from their content). But first, publishers must realize the value they are creating with each hyperlink they add to their site.

Community-Building: Necessity or Nice-to-Have?

This post is a short recap by Oliver Roup, Founder and CEO of VigLink, of Affiliate Summit West. 

Earlier this month I was in Las Vegas to lead a session on the value of community-building and social behavior at Affiliate Summit West.  It’s no surprise that social media has transformed the way consumers are reaching purchasing decisions, but it’s less clear what that means for affiliate marketers and online publishers.

During the session, I focused on the ways website owners can leverage the monumental shift towards “social-buying” by including spaces within their site where purchasing decisions are made. Easier said than done, of course, but here’s a quick recap of the things we talked about:

  1. If you are doing something “non-social,” and it works — keep doing it.  So, if you are successfully purchasing paid traffic, sending it to a landing page, and earning revenue, great. Don’t stop. But do augment.
  2. Create a framework for interaction within your site. This could be a robust commenting system or a forum component.  Facebook pages are great, as are Tweets, but building a community goes beyond what you are doing on social media sites — it brings the community to your site.
  3. Don’t overdo it. The goal of a community is to create a richer site experience for visitors, which will in turn create additional opportunities to earn revenue (via banner ad sales and affiliate marketing). If you attempt to force the monetization piece of a community — by introducing excessive advertisements or overly commercial product content — you will not succeed.  Twitter, which was founded in 2006 and has an estimated 175 million users, has only recently begun to focus on monetization (of course, this is an extreme — for most sites there is no need to wait that long or for that many community members to start monetizing — but it’s an interesting point of reference).

An increasing number of marketers are succeeding at introducing a community component to their site.  But, similar to a decade ago when some companies still considered websites “optional,” today many still view community-building as optional.  Those that realize that shaping their user-base into a community is a necessity, rather than a nice-to-have, will be leaps and bounds ahead of those that don’t in terms of traffic, revenue and influence.

A few more details on the ins and outs of community-building and driving social behavior can be found in my slides below…

Oliver Roup | Founder & CEO | VigLink

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