BabyList: Focus on the User and the Revenue Follows

January 7, 2014

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.

stork_babylist

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

Revving the Revenue with NICOclub.com and VigLink

August 6, 2013

NICOclub.com (Nissan/Infiniti Car Owners) is the largest online resource for Nissan owners. The NICOclub community has been in existence for nearly 20 years, evolving from a mailing list, to an email list, then a Yahoo! Group and finally to the official NICOclub forum in 2002. Since then, the community has grown to encompass 6 million posts, 210,000 registered members, a network of over 30 car-specific sites, and over 3,000 unique tech, how-to, news and review articles.

NicoClub.com

 

Building the Brand

NICOclub CEO Greg Childs attributes the site’s long-term, successful growth to community engagement and moderator expertise. “As one of the few remaining independently-owned and operated automotive forums, we’ve always followed the simple premise that it’s not about the cars; it’s about the people. There’s a very ‘family-like’ atmosphere to our community, and our moderators work hard to make sure each member feels personally involved.”

In the competitive forum space of automotives, the caliber of NICOclub’s moderators is central to its success. Each NICOclub moderator has expertise and experience building, restoring, modifying, showing and racing cars. That passion, coupled with a commitment to continually foster member loyalty, has been NICOclub’s secret to competing (and succeeding) in its very challenging niche.

Overall quality and attention to detail is also key for NICOclub. The team makes it a priority to use accurate and descriptive thread titles and encourages users to check spelling and grammar in their posts. If terms are not spelled properly or worded correctly, NICOclub’s posts will not appear as they should in search engine results, hindering the opportunity for potential members to visit the forum.

 

Bonding with Members

NICOclub.com is one of the only forum communities that conduct events across the country, where members can gather and meet in-person. This unique differentiator promotes a true sense of community and is a source for fresh content and new discussions.  NICOclub also maintains an active presence on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and YouTube, where their social media efforts bring in new members and readers each day.

With a diverse audience ranging from the hard-core fabricator who wants to show off his latest automotive creation to the first-time owner looking for basic information on how to maintain her car, Greg and his team feel it is important to cater to both extremes. “We have a fairly strict ‘no-flaming’ policy, and we encourage long-time members and new users alike to get involved and answer questions. Unlike many forums plagued by arrogant long-time users telling new arrivals to ‘SEARCH,’ we feel that if everyone’s searching and no one’s communicating, it’s a library. And libraries are boring. New users find our approach non-threatening and welcoming, which leads them to treat others the same way.”

 

Driving Business Success

From the beginning, the forum’s revenue strategy has always concentrated on native monetization, deriving revenue from ads and links that are organic to the visitor experience.  Because readers aren’t interested in irrelevant advertising, Greg feels that every link and ad should increase the site’s value and convenience for visitors.

NICOclub works with direct vendors, TribalFusion and AdSense for display ads and VigLink for in-text monetization. “Implementation of the VigLink code was unbelievably simple and painless. It literally was a five-minute process. We’ve had remarkable success with VigLink Convert [which converts existing links into affiliate links] and Insert [which automatically links merchants, brands, and products to the most relevant and valuable affiliate]. We initially implemented VigLink in the hopes of generating enough supplemental revenue to fund a small monthly contest prize for members, but quickly found that it was keeping pace with our other monetization strategies, and in some cases, outperforming them.”

Accounting for approximately a third of the site’s revenue stream, VigLink has enabled NICOclub to automatically earn income from its original content, such as product reviews and how-to articles. “We don’t accept advertising or direction from auto manufacturers or recommend any product or vendor to our members that we (the staff) haven’t purchased or done business with, so our content is always objective and honest. Our visitors don’t want to be told what to buy, but they typically have an upcoming purchase in mind when they visit the site. As such, they welcome genuine, reliable advice from experts and people they can trust.”

 

Ad-free earnings at Indulgy.com

July 2, 2013

This post is part of our Customer Showcase series, where we profile successful online publishers. Our goal is to help publishers learn from the experts and grow their business.

 

Inspired by the traffic and feedback his wife (a food photographer and blogger) was experiencing by posting her photos on foodgawker.com, Eugene Strokin decided that there was a need for a site that took image discovery beyond food. And so he created Indulgy, “a place where one can visualize his perfect world.”

Indulgy

Building his brand

After Pinterest arrived on the scene, Eugene knew that his brand and site technology would be the key to attracting and maintaining a strong community. “While Pinterest dominates much of our space, Indulgy is the crème de la crème of image discovery. We select and present the best possible images for each through a special algorithm that combines human subjectivity and technological certainty.”

Through its smart discovery engine, Indulgy pulls users out of their typical “circles” to find inspiration in new things and from new sources. Direct visitors are the major source of traffic, proving that the unique experience of the site itself has cultivated a strong following.

Bonding with his audience

Eugene believes there are three key elements to engaging Indulgy’s user base:

  • Relevance, which helps users to move beyond their comfort zone without presenting images that are totally off base

  • User experience, so visitors truly enjoy the process of discovery

  • Speed, which encourages users to remain on the site and really engage with the content/images

“A person’s Indulgy page says a lot about him, without using a single word. It is a visual representation of his world and offers a glimpse inside. Visitors are engaged and merchants recognize the potential of reaching consumers through this medium.”

Driving business success

With a strong business roadmap and steady user and visitor growth, Eugene believes Indulgy will soon be a full-time gig for most of his team members. He initially discovered VigLink on other websites and felt it would be the perfect monetization solution for the ad-free site. “Indulgy is currently advertisement free and we believe it should stay this way. That’s why VigLink makes sense for us. It takes our users’ existing links and automatically converts them to affiliate links [using VigLink Convert]. So it plays a big role in our revenue structure without any additional effort on our part.”

 

VigLink: Monetizing a Musician’s Expertise at Menga.net

April 30, 2013

This post is part of our Customer Showcase series, where we profile successful online publishers. Our goal is to help publishers learn from the experts and grow their business.

 

Megna.net

In an effort to make guitar playing accessible to everyone, Rich Menga launched a blog of music information and educational articles for the budget-minded player at www.menga.net. Like many bloggers, Rich was challenged to find the time and motivation to keep his site content fresh and flowing. When he discovered VigLink and realized he could earn revenue from exactly what he was already doing – recommending the best guitar-related products and sites – Rich was reinvigorated. As a result, his content and fan base grew and he was able to build a brand, bond with his audience and ultimately drive real business accomplishment.

Building his brand

Through his blog, Rich has built a brand as an honest, straightforward voice for a focused, niche audience: readers who are just as passionate as he is about guitar playing without breaking the bank. “Compared to a few years ago, it’s a great time to be a guitar player. Leading guitar manufacturers – like Fender and others – have so many great models under $300. They are accommodating to the fact that people don’t have a ton of money these days. So my goal is to help people understand that they don’t need to spend $1000 on a guitar anymore – it’s cool to be cheap!”

Rich also credits VigLink for his inspiration to build such a strong brand. “Because I knew I could earn money through VigLink, I was blogging more often and producing more quality content. This enabled me to establish a strong site and a community that trusts my judgment.”

Bonding with his audience

For Rich, developing a follower base is not just about hitting “post” and closing down for the day. He not only responds to all reader comments, but truly encourages ongoing dialogue and sharing. “It’s so important to thank readers for contributing and support their guitar efforts.” This secret to his success goes beyond the blog to his Facebook page, where nearly 800 fans are regularly commenting and even sharing videos of their personal guitar performances – a sign of great trust and the audience bond.

“VigLink is also an important part of building my audience. Readers appreciate that I don’t need to beg them to do anything – buy a membership or click on spammy links – in order to sustain the blog. If they like the product I’m writing about and want to check it out, they can do just that through the link. No pressure at all.”

Driving business success

While Rich does maintain his “day job” as ghost blogger for a professional music site, he uses his VigLink earnings to pay the blog-related business expenses (such as web hosting) and advertising campaigns to expand his reach and revenue. Menga.net’s primary revenue source is VigLink and Rich has opted to personally build his links using his own domain and also uses VigLink Anywhere (which monetizes clicks from Twitter, Facebook, emails, RSS feeds, or the Tumblr dashboard) on Facebook and Twitter. “I find VigLink and overall fan engagement to be very successful on Facebook, where it seems people are looking for trusted advice about purchases. It’s more personal and linking to an amp or guitar with an image typically piques fans’ interest and garners at least a few comments.”

Offering some advice for bloggers just getting started with native monetization, Rich explains that it takes time to learn how to maximize revenue from your content. “Monetization is not a way to get rich quick; you have to work at it and learn what sort of merchants, products and link placements work best. I’ve tried AdSense and other earning methods, but VigLink is the only one with a good success rate. It’s so easy to use and the model of interest-based clicks just makes sense for today’s audience.”

 

Helping Money Crashers Earn Some Well-deserved Money

April 8, 2013


This post is part of our Customer Showcase series, where we profile successful online publishers. Our goal is to help publishers learn from the experts and grow their business.

moneycrashers

Driven by a “passion for learning how money and our society work and an interest in helping others with their finances,” twentysomething Andrew Schrage co-founded the informational website Money Crashers as a resource to guide readers to make financially sound decisions. Combining his knowledge gained as an Economics major at Brown University and experience acquired while working at a hedge fund, Andrew and his team strive to educate individuals about credit and debt, investing, education, real estate, insurance and spending.

It turned out his site idea was a good one: Money Crashers now has nearly 20,000 subscribers and has been featured in national media outlets, including The Wall Street Journal, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, MSNBC, Business Insider, CBS News, NBC News, and Forbes. So how did he do it? By focusing on the three Bs that drive success: building a brand, to bond with the audience and ultimately drive real business accomplishment.

 

Building the brand

The team at Money Crashers has a concrete and unique goal: to provide readers with high-quality, factual content based on 11 principles meant to guide financial decisions. They also ensure that guidance is truly part of the brand by focusing on the readers and their needs. “One thing that I believe sets Money Crashers apart from other websites in our niche is that we take a genuine interest in our readers and do our best to respond to each and every comment. Many other websites proclaim to do this, but we feel we do a phenomenal job of connecting with our readers.”

Bonding with the audience

By making comment responses a priority, the team at Money Crashers not only connects with readers, but also encourages further discussion that is often initiated and sustained by the readers themselves. Facebook, Twitter and video posts provide additional means of bonding with the audience, as do contests and giveaways that essentially reward readers for their engagement.

The site’s most popular articles include a feature on extreme couponing and a list of the best new bank account promotions. Because these topics are clearly important to the audience, Money Crashers publishes an update of the bank account promo article each month and tries to integrate coupon advice in other articles whenever it makes sense.

Making it a business

Hard work, focus and audience engagement has paid off: “Money Crashers is a full-time gig for me and I feel lucky to be doing it as my job. I truly love what I’m doing each and every day.” The site’s primary revenue sources include banner advertising and VigLink Insert (which inserts new links when VigLink technology detects a merchant, brand or product reference in content across the site).

For Andrew, VigLink not only provides an additional source of earnings, but it also helps his readers who are seeking more information or details about products mentioned in Money Crashers articles. “It seems as though content-driven commerce is the wave of the future. As long as the content is factual and the consumer is directed to a reputable e-commerce website, it’s only natural to blur the lines between content and commerce. In fact, we’ve had positive feedback from our readers about the direct product links inserted by VigLink because it helps them find exactly what they are looking for without spending additional time on a web search.”