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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3 Content Tips to Jump-start your January Revenue

December was a record month for online shopping, so you may be wondering how to keep your January sales strong.

Here are a few tips you can implement now to ensure your January revenue measures up!

Jump-start your Revenue

Tip 1: Help Readers Reach their Resolutions

Many of your readers have set New Years Resolutions for 2012 and many of those resolutions center around fitness and financial goals.

Help your readers achieve their goals by building content and sharing product tips that center around health and fitness, as well as financial planning.  A few easy ways to do this:

  • Share deals on gym memberships (as an example, 24 Hour Fitness, with locations across the country, is an eligible VigLink merchant).
  • Ask readers what their favorite ways to get in shape are — and the equipment they use to do so (this will encourage links to be shared).
  • Share your favorite financial planning books, and ask readers to do the same (be sure to include a link where readers can purchase each one).

Tip 2: Help Readers Keep up with their Favorite Teams

Weekends in January (in the U.S.) will be dominated by football in many homes. If your readers are some of the millions of Americans whose weekends will revolve around watching NFL playoff games, help them get the most out of it by building content around the following themes:

  • Gear for fans. NFL.com is a VigLink merchant and has fan gear for all your favorite teams. Share your favorite jerseys and other gear with your readers to generate additional clicks and revenue.
  • Memorabilia. eBay (also a VigLink merchant) has some great finds on sports memorabilia. Share your favorites with readers, and ask them to share their favorites as well.
  • Sporting equipment.  Why just watch when you can play? Share content that includes information on sporting equipment — special deals and favorite picks. DicksSportingGoods.com and SportsAuthority.com are both eligible VigLink merchants.

Tip 3: Test, Test … and then Test Some More!

Finally, be sure to use this month to A/B test content, landing pages, design, and ad options.  The risk of running an A/B test this month versus a month like December will be lower — and your wallet will thank you come the next holiday shopping season when your site is better optimized for engagement and revenue generation.

Here’s to a profitable January to each of our VigLink publishers!

eBay Shares the Hottest Shopping Trends of 2011

Late last month, eBay released it’s annual “Top Shopped” list for 2011. Below is the list in infographic form.

Billed as “the pop culture crazes that inspired shoppers the most over the past year,” at first glance several of the categories may not appear explicitly product-related (unless Charlie Sheen has released action figures that we don’t know about).  However, the list provides a great deal of insight into the keywords that eBay sellers were using to describe the products that were most frequently being sold.

We hope the list will provide insight into the areas of content your readers are interested in and provide a few ideas to jump start your 2012 content creation efforts!

image courtesy of eBay