Affiliate Managers: Close the Gap on Mobile EPCs

April 2, 2014

Last month Oliver Roup, founder and CEO of VigLink, spoke at Affiliate Management Days San Francisco on the topic of mobile affiliate marketing. The audience was primarily composed of affiliate managers at large networks, agencies, and brands and Oliver’s talk came as a bit of a wake up call.

He began by providing context around e-commerce and mobile shopping: mobile shopping is mainstream, but actually buying from a mobile phone lags big time.

  • Overall, online sales are cannibalizing in-store sales: E-commerce sales are up 30%, while in-store sales are down 3.3%
  • Of all these online shoppers, 57% of them use mobile sometimes, and full 1/3rd use mobile exclusively.
  • Surprisingly, a full 50% of time spent shopping is done on mobile
  • Even more surprisingly, just 16% of online sales come from phones and tablets.

For affiliates and publishers, the net result is that mobile clicks are worth less than desktop clicks. On average, for every dollar earned from a desktop click, only $0.53 is earned from a mobile click.

mobile epc vs desktop

To explain why this a discrepancy exists, Oliver pointed to three main reasons:

Small screens are challenging 
Mobile phones and tablets demand a different user experience to really drive sales. The most successful retailers get this. They build intuitive, clean, easy to use, and fast mobile web shopping experiences. Some do this so well that they actually drive more sales per click on mobile than desktop. It’s definitely possible.

Mobile is, well, mobile
Much of the time spent on a mobile device is done away from the confines of a desk. By its nature mobile is wherever the user is and often, these environments are distracting. Waiting in line, watching TV, riding the train – these are not ideal moments to go through the 24 screens required to complete a purchase.

Mobile has tracking issues
It’s a difficult (but not insurmountable) technology challenge to track all the mobile clicks that lead to purchase. Clicks on mobile that lead to purchase on the desktop are hard to track back to the referring website. Clicks on mobile that lead to purchase via a retailer’s mobile app are also hard to track back. But since when was anything worth doing ever easy?

If retailers want to compete for mindshare among the content producers that drive commerce, they need to close the gap on mobile earnings per click before their competitors do.

Posted by Oliver Deighton, VP Marketing

Why Mobile Shopping is Broken

February 7, 2014

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

The Truth Behind SEO and Paid Links

February 26, 2013

Recently, another storm blew up around SEO, advertorials, and links. At the center of the storm were Google and Interflora, a popular UK-based flower retailer. In an effort to promote themselves in the run up to Valentine’s Day, Interflora sent bouquets to bloggers. The idea was simple: send bloggers flowers, bloggers blog about flowers, readers like, click and buy. Seems like a good marketing plan, no?

Not quite. Google decided the flowers were intended to boost PageRank and consequently annihilated Interflora’s search ranking.

Exchanging flowers for links is tantamount to buying links and Google has a long-standing policy against paid links that masquerade as “organic” links. I emphasize ”masquerade” because that part is all too often forgotten. Paid links are fine; Google earns a few billion dollars every month from paid links. The issue hinges on trying to pass paid links for natural links.

Was that really Interflora’s goal? I don’t know. What I do know is that their reaction was to call all the bloggers who got flowers and ask them to take the links down in an attempt to salvage their reputation with Google. That was the wrong move in my opinion – it’s throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

Interflora could have avoided this situation entirely with one simple snippet of code:

rel="nofollow"

By reminding bloggers to include this simple code in their Interflora links, Google would have rightly ignored the links for purposes of passing PageRank to Interflora and no SEO cliff-of-doom would have transpired. Here’s how it looks in HTML: 

<a href="interflora.co.uk" rel="nofollow">Interflora</a>

Instead of asking bloggers to delete the URLs entirely, Interflora could have simply asked bloggers to add the nofollow, keeping the links up and the clicks (and sales) coming.

Even better would have been to recruit these bloggers into their affiliate program. Google’s Matt Cutts is on record making it clear that the vast majority of affiliate links are handled correctly. This means Google’s PageRank automatically ignores affiliate links, and you don’t need to include a nofollow (though it can’t hurt). With affiliate links handled properly by Google, there’s no risk of penalty.

If asking bloggers to include nofollow in their links or signing them up individually to an affiliate program sounds too arduous, well, I agree. The whole notion of manually tagging paid links is antiquated. After all, that’s exactly the problem VigLink technology solves. And just like every other affiliate link, Google handles our links correctly.

Bloggers who use VigLink avoid these paid link SEO scandals, don’t risk their own search rank or that of their favorite merchants, and never lose another commission rightly earned. As of this writing, VigLink users earn $6 for every sale they drive to Interflora. That beats an SEO cliff of doom any day.

Posted by Oliver Deighton, Vice President, Marketing

 

Native Monetization and the Importance of User Experience

September 20, 2012

Last month in a post on our blog, we referenced a video interview with Jesse James Garrett, author of The Elements of User Experience. In this interview, Garrett points to a trend among technology companies in which they are now starting to invest heavily in developing and improving user experience (UX).  In that post, we shared that we often talk with publishers who are struggling to balance user experience with monetization.

Distracting, often irrelevant display ads have a way of pulling attention away from a site’s content and negatively impacting user experience. Some publishers maintain the false perception that they need to choose between either readers or revenue. While that may have been the case years ago, today there are monetization tools that fit seamlessly into a site’s content with negligible impact on UX and solid revenue generating potential. An example of one of these tools, of course, would be VigLink.

We weren’t surprised when we came across a whole slew of recent articles addressing what is now being called “native advertising” or “native monetization.” What we realized is that times they are a-changin’ when it comes to what readers expect when they visit a site. No longer are they willing to put up with things like pesky pre-rolls and flashing banners. For this reason, Choire Sicha argues in his article “The Pretty New Web and the Future of Native Advertising,” the internet has changed. “It’s an internet where [display] ads are considered no better than spam.”

How, then, are publishers going to make money off their sites, and how are advertisers going to reach their audience? As it turns out, “the hot word in advertising right now is ‘native,’” Sicha divulges. “All native means is that advertisers are now getting to come closer to presenting advertising that is less distinguishable from what they like to call ‘content.’” What does that mean for publishers? It means that many advertisers and merchants no longer want to pay a premium to be present around your content, but rather, they want to pay to be present in your content.

Thanks to this dramatic shift in reader expectations, “for the first time in digital ad history, a publisher’s revenue model is now aligned with user experience,” Dan Greenberg contends in his article “Why Native Ad Formats Are the Future.” “Instead of alienating viewers with ads they don’t want to see – and interrupting the content experience they came to the site to experience – now publishers can integrate sponsored content seamlessly throughout their sites.”

For publishers, this means you’re ahead in the revenue game by having chosen to implement VigLink. As you consider your published content, remember to focus on new user expectations, native monetization, and “the pretty new web.”

 

Whitney Smith, VigLink Marketing Communications Manager

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

June 14, 2012

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

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

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

An Innovative Objective / An Innovative Approach

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

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

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

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

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

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

Access Top Affiliate Marketing Programs

December 14, 2011

Ever find the process of enrolling in, or getting approved by, a new affiliate marketing program painful?  It can mean endless emails, follow-up and hoops to jump through. Not to mention that there are literally thousands of merchants with affiliate programs, and it is frankly impossible to manually enroll in all of them.

VigLink can help. We streamline the process of accessing new affiliate programs:

  1. When you create an account with VigLink you automatically have access to over 12,500 affiliate programs. Yes, AUTOMATICALLY. This includes all the big guys (Amazon, eBay, Overstock, Zappos, etc.).  If you install VigLink on your site and start sending traffic to one of these 12,500 advertisers, you will be immediately eligible to be compensated for that traffic.
  2. For those few merchants and advertisers that wish to approve which publishers send them traffic, we do the work of getting you approved. You send us an email, and we’ll contact the advertiser to get you approved by their program.

The end result: you maximize your affiliate revenue AND save time.  You’ll avoid the scenario where you add a link to an online merchant only to realize you haven’t been approved by their program yet, and you will never have to worry about having a link that is out-of-date or expired. Plus, with VigLink’s top-tier payouts, you’ll earn more as well.

Click here to get started — and then tell us what you think!

Back in Chicago [an ad:tech NY Recap]

November 11, 2011

Just getting back into town from a week at Ad:Tech New York and thought I’d share a few of the highlights.  The conference is one of the largest gathering of digital marketers and draws thousands of industry professionals. This year it was held at the Javits Convention center and over 300 companies exhibited. Lots of energy to say the least.

These types of conferences offer an opportunity for us to connect with many of the merchants in our network, learn more about latest happenings and also meet some of the newest merchants offering affiliate programs (ensuring VigLink is able to offer you access to a high percentage of the merchants you send traffic to).

I was able to get some great meetings set-up prior to the event with some of our top affiliate networks — allowing me to discuss current promotions, future optimizations and new additions to their networks one-on-one.  Got a lot of great take away points and looking forward to the many opportunities the meetings provided.

Along with my one-on-one meetings at the conference, walking the expo floor allowed me to learn about many of the up and coming technologies that are revolutionizing the industry.  With much of the focus on social media, cloud technology and mobile apps.  It was amazing to learn what some of the companies were up to.

I have to say, one of my favorites pieces of the event was the Ad:Tech NY mobile app.  I was able to easily download it and plan my conference schedule, search the exhibitor directory, get an Expo floor map (which was much needed), and stay updated on all the Ad:Tech party information.  Love this! I’m seeing more and more conferences offer these as a way to stay organized and it really helps each attendee get the most out of the experience. I hope we start seeing these more often.

Overall a great conference.  Glad to be back in Chicago, but already looking forward to next time!

Erin Mead | Affiliate Manager | VigLink

Meeting the Great Expectations of a New Breed of Shopper

August 2, 2011

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


Image Courtesy of E-Commerce Times

As recently as just a few years ago, consumers had a limited set of research options when they were looking to make an informed product purchase.  An individual may have done a Google search to learn who sells the product or noticed an advertisement and visited a store to speak with a sales rep about the product.  For larger purchases, they might have picked up a copy of Consumer Reports or asked their circle of friends if any had made a similar purchase.  As a result, the acquisition channels e-retailers turned to online were typically centered around a combination of search and display advertising.

Today, however, consumers who are researching a potential purchase can access an infinite number of online resources to learn more about any given product.  Many of these resources are social media sites of some kind where consumers can seek direct feedback from friends and other buyers who have made similar purchases recently.  As a result, we are now seeing consumers:

  1. Visit online forums to learn what other consumers think of the product, their experiences with the product and alternative solutions
  2. Ask their extended network directly what they think of the product and to seek recommendations via Facebook or Twitter
  3. Visit a blog that discusses or recommends the product

This research takes place before the consumer even visits your online site, or chooses an item and places it in a shopping basket.  What this means is that in addition to the traditional customer acquisition channels e-retailers rely on, there are a number of entirely new areas where retailers can interact with consumers who are looking to make a purchase.  Namely: social media sites, forums and blogs.

Uncharted Territory

So how can an e-retailer take advantage of these new consumer research venues to acquire new customers?  Display advertising on these types of sites is one option, but the engagement levels and ultimate click-through rates (CTRs) on these ads are very low (less than a fraction of one percent according to Google).

A more powerful alternative is called in-content advertising.  In-content ad delivery is tightly integrated with the content a consumer is most interested in (e.g. a post in a forum, an article on a blog, or a conversation within a social network).  As a result, these ads reach consumers when they are most likely to be interested in accessing product information, and they are more likely to be considered useful information (as opposed to marketing “noise”) by consumers.

In-Content Acquisition Campaigns

If you are ready to take the leap beyond search and display acquisition, here’s a quick overview of what to consider when you begin using in-content marketing.

There are two primary types of in-content ads a merchant can utilize:

1. Placed Links.  Placed links are added to a site’s content by either users visiting a website (called user-generated content), or by an author (usually in the form of a product review).  As a result, these links are very tightly integrated with content.  An advertiser thatwishes to leverage placed links as part of their in-content acquisition strategy will typically offer site owners an incentive to drive traffic to their site.

It’s worth noting that the best placed link campaigns will be those whose links are actively managed and optimized to ensure that the consumer who clicks on the link is taken to the appropriate page on the retailer’s website, thereby optimizing consumer experience and conversion rates.

2. Inserted Links.  Alternatively, retailers can purchase ads that are inserted in a forum, blog or social network’s content by a 3rd party service.  Link insertion services typically apply algorithms to the site’s content to determine when and where it would be appropriate and useful to the reader to insert a product link.  The service will then hyperlink pieces of text in those areas and direct the links to merchant sites. Link insertion services include VigLink (disclosure: I am the CEO there), Vibrant Media and Kontera.

A successful in-content acquisition campaign will utilize a combination of both of these ad types in order to maximize user traffic and revenue.

The Payoff

The potential payoff from in-content customer acquisition is huge.  In-content ads offer merchants an acquisition channel that has excellent ROI, a great deal of flexibility, and a platform for branding.

ROI

In-content ads reach consumers in the places they turn to when looking for product information, at the time they are most interested in taking action.  As a result, the purchase rates resulting from these types of ads can be quite high.

Flexibility

In-content acquisition marketing also offers a high degree of flexibility.  Similar to Google AdSense, merchants have a high degree of control over which sites they wish to advertise on.  But in addition, they also can usually choose the compensation model behind the advertisement, paying for either traffic on a per-click basis, or paying a commission on actual sales.

Branding Platform

In-content ads also offer merchants an important branding opportunity.  To illustrate, let’s consider a merchant that sells high-end watches.  It is very valuable (not only from a sales perspective, but from a branding perspective) for the merchant’s site to be the one every blogger, forum participant and social media user links to when discussing expensive watches.  In-content ads help make this a reality for the merchant by offering them the ability to:

  • Place their brand in front of their target customers, which increases the probability that they are the merchant selected when the consumer is ready to buy AND
  • Realizing sales from those consumers who want to make a purchase now.

Together, these benefits comprise an exciting opportunity for merchants.

Conclusion

There is no mistaking that consumers’ behavior is changing as online content becomes more social, interactive and collaborative.  In order to keep up, it’s critical that merchants adjust and augment the ways they reach consumers.  Implementing an acquisition strategy that targets consumers in the areas their attention is focused – in the content – will allow merchants of all sizes to take advantage of these new trends.

A/B Testing your Landing Pages

June 30, 2011

At this week’s Affiliate Summit Meetup we heard from Beth Kirsch, a consumer internet and customer acquisition expert.  She spent about a half hour talking about all things landing pages, specifically the whys and hows of A/B testing your landing pages.

Why It’s Important

If you aren’t already sold on the concept, check out this slide:

Audible, an audiobook company owned by Amazon, experienced a 25% increase in conversions as well as affiliate payouts as a result of A/B testing (and the increase in payouts didn’t involve an increase in commission rates).

If a marketer’s natural intuition was able to find the right combination of landing page elements on the first try, Kirsch wouldn’t have seen this lift in conversion rate.

In short: your gut isn’t good enough.  You have to test to see what works.

Resources to Help

Kirsch shared a number of resources (some totally free) that you can check out to get started A/B testing on your own:

  • Google Website Optimizer (free)
  • Visual Web Optimizer (easier to use than Google’s tool but there is a fee)
  • Which Test Won (features A/B test case studies)
  • Marketing Sherpa Landing Page Handbook (a comprehensive guide to landing pages, there is a cost attached)

Overall it was a great evening and Beth shared some really excellent insights.  I recommend you check out the full copy of her presentation below for additional A/B test examples.

Until next time…

Anna Cunningham | Social Media Manager | VigLink


An Overview of the Affiliate Nexus Tax Bills in CA

June 1, 2011

At last night’s Affiliate Summit meetup we were lucky enough to hear from Lisa Picarille.  She gave a great comprehensive overview of what is happening in the state of California in regards to the affiliate nexus tax, as well as how merchants and publishers can get involved.

Rather than pick and choose which pieces to share we decided to post the presentation in it’s entirety below.  This issue is so important — if you are an affiliate in the state of California and unsure what exactly is happening take 10 minutes to flip threw her slides to get up-to-speed.  She shares a few easy ways to get involved, including sending an email to the California legislature that takes all of two minutes.

While the affiliate nexus tax isn’t the most glamorous topic we’re glad Lisa took the time out to help educate the group about what’s at stake.  Looking forward to next time!

Anna Cunningham | Social Media Manager | VigLink

View more presentations from VigLink.