Forums Rock and Our Report Proves It

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At VigLink, we obviously love forums. We operate ForumCon, the largest conference for forum owners. Part of why we love forums is, plainly put, they deliver. In our Q4 Content-Commerce Report we found the only type of content site that outperformed forums in terms of EPC (earnings per click) was deals and coupon sites. Forums outperformed blogs and editorial sites by more than 50%. They even beat out pin boards, which is one of the fastest growing content categories and highly focused on shopping.

As people who have spent a lot of time with forums, we weren’t surprised by these numbers. Forums consistently deliver clicks from users who have sought out a recommendation for a product or who trust the posters to provide unbiased, relevant product guidance.

What makes us even more excited about forums is that we see a huge transformation taking shape in the space. The general (and somewhat correct) view of forums is that they are something of an Internet dinosaur, well-loved but a bit crusty. Many forums are running on archaic software. Too many forums in the past have opted for saturation-style advertising that overwhelms the discussion threads.

Many of our savvy forum customers have been reducing the display ad pollution to make their sites more friendly. Some have stopped subjecting registered users to display ads of any shape or form, opting to monetize those loyal visitors only through affiliate links on products mentioned in native content. That behavior is actually being echoed by large publishers who have steadily reduced the number of impressions and ad units available on their sites after remnant firesales made it hard to sell ad inventory at premium rates.

The forum category itself is enjoying an exciting wave of innovation. NextDoor, the red-hot hyper-local online community and social network, is growing like crazy. Quibb, Quora and other modern QA sites are reinventing the old forum as something more general yet more interesting.

You also have Jeff Atwood, co-founder of Stack Exchange and founder of the new startup Discourse.  His new company is about to release its 1.0 version of a new type of open source software designed to power forums. Discourse aims to radically improve the user experience and social interactions by allowing forum visitors and posters to focus on what’s most important – civility, participation and high quality discourse. Atwood is explicitly aiming to replicate the success of WordPress by creating a vibrant ecosystem of services and tools around open source forum software. Then there’s Huddler, which truly represents the next generation of forums with a compelling mix of expert editorial and community engagement.

In fact, we think forums will perform even stronger as a category as we route more traffic through the VigLink Exchange via broader product and merchant coverage. Since we launched our link optimizer technology (which allows merchants to bid for traffic on links to product mentions), EPCs for these exchange-priced clicks have roughly doubled.

As we continue to invest in the platform, we are connecting more merchants to more publishers more often. The total number of optimized and auctioned links is growing. Total revenue is rising for our forum owner customers, even though they already generate some of the most valuable clicks on the web. That’s great for forum giants like Internet Brands, ProBoards and Huddler as well as smaller but vibrant online communities like AskAndyAboutClothes. We can’t wait to see what the next quarter and next year brings for our friends in the forums.

Posted by Oliver Deighton, VP Marketing

Sears Days: lowest prices of the season

sears blog post

Don’t miss the lowest prices of the season during Sears Days starting today! Tell your readers about Sears’ biggest sale of the year on thousands of items in Tools, Outdoor Living, Electronics and more plus 2 Day Super Buys.

Now all VigLink users will earn 7% commission on Sears. Help your readers save big and start linking today to earn more.

 

 

Affiliate Managers: Close the Gap on Mobile EPCs

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

Facebook Bests Twitter in Traffic Quality

The latest findings from Publisher Roundtable show that Facebook ranks #1 when it comes to how satisfied publishers are with the quality of traffic. That’s the good news. The less good news is that only 40% of publishers are actually satisfied with their Facebook traffic. The next best was Pinterest with a discouraging 31% satisfaction rate.

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The current Publisher Roundtable interview probes questions around how publishers build their audience. Over 250 publishers have already joined in. So far we’ve learned a lot about which channels drive repeat visitors (Social), which channels drive first time visitors (SEO), and which channels don’t help much at all (SEM).

To see more results, check out our press release. If you haven’t yet, join Publisher Roundtable and see where your numbers stack up compared to publishers of a similar size and type. It’s totally free and takes about 15 minutes.

 

The VigLink Q4 Content-Commerce Report

Littlewoods is the leading online performance marketing advertiser in terms of earnings-per-click (EPC) rates. The most lucrative categories for publishers are housewares, jewelry, and flowers. Clicks from mobile devices are worth 53 cents on the dollar compared to clicks from desktops. These are just some of the surprising findings of VigLink’s inaugural Content-Commerce Report.

Because we are tracking over 10 billion monthly page views across more than 300,000 sites and enable the automatic monetization of clicks to more than 35,000 participating merchants, VigLink has a unique position to observe, aggregate and analyze trends in the emerging Content-Driven Commerce marketplace.

So what, you ask, is Content-Driven Commerce? It’s a category with roots in affiliate or performance marketing but is rapidly expanding into something entirely new – a marketplace and exchange for content that drives shopper intent (traffic) and the merchants who want those shoppers (sales). Simply put, Content-Driven Commerce is the seamless, automatic monetization and insertion of links to e-tailers in native content. Content-Driven Commerce is the most native form of advertising, with zero interruption to the user experience. All the secret sauce sits on VigLink servers including advanced contextual logic that automatically finds and links mentions of products and brands to the highest bidding relevant merchant.

In June 2013, VigLink opened the first Exchange for Content-Driven Commerce, the last frontier in online advertising that did not have RTB capability. The VigLink Exchange (VLX) allows publishers to accept multiple bids for a click in near real time from different merchants and send the click to the highest relevant bid. These clicks are coming from publisher properties that are using VigLink Insert and Convert, two of our revenue optimization technologies that automate link insertion and monetization for publishers. Publishers that submitted existing links to the Exchange for optimization increased their EPCs between 200% and 300%, on average (this is one of the key findings of our report).

EPC of clicks priced through the VigLink Exchange

To document all the happenings in our network as well as the transformation of Content-Driven Commerce in general, we are now compiling metrics across a wide variety of categories and topics. This matters to merchants, publishers and anyone else who wants to better understand how content is shaping the world of online commerce. For example, our look at the Top 50 Advertisers in terms of EPC gives publishers a glimpse into which merchants are paying the most. Similarly, merchants can benchmark their own EPC offerings against those of peers and better understand whether they are paying enough to change publisher behavior and drive real traffic and conversion. We are also tracking the impact of mobile device usage on Content-Driven Commerce, looking at conversions and the ultimate payout from merchants for clicks coming off these devices (including smartphones and tablets). Mobile is the future of the Web, but it still lags desktop in terms of retail performance. We aim to track this over time and point out who’s making the most headway.

Our goal with this report is to provide the industry with more transparency, to help publishers create shoppable content that is as valuable as possible, and to focus merchants on the metrics and benchmarks that will help them win more sales from these publishers. Please look for this report to come out on a quarterly basis. As we ramp up, we’ll be adding new metrics and new findings. Also, as the VigLink Exchange grows and pulls in new publishers as well as more clicks, you’ll get a bird’s eye view of how a new, more liquid market is driving competition, performance, and profits. Please read the report and shoot us your feedback. It’s a work in progress and we look forward to your comments.

Posted by Oliver Deighton, VP Marketing

Don’t Make These 5 Blogging Mistakes

We seem to always share things you should do when it comes to your blog, but for every “do” there is many a “don’t do” if you want to make your blog successful. Jessica Berger,  @JezzDallas,  iFabbo‘s* Content Developer, shares the top 5 mistakes we are all inclined to make and the top tips for what we should do instead to avoid future hiccups in our path to blogging greatness. 

Writing from the Noun Project by Juan Pablo Bravo
Writing from the Noun Project by Juan Pablo Bravo

 

There is no one-size-fits-all recipe for the ultimate blogging success but there are most definitely a few mishaps every blogger should avoid in order to move in the right direction. Here are the 5 major mistakes that you can avoid to get the best out of your blog.

The top 5 blogging mistakes to avoid:
1. Stop wanting it all on the spot!

You already know, blogging success doesn’t come overnight. Growing an audience, creating meaningful content and keeping a consistent presence up does take time! Most bloggers aren’t even full-time bloggers yet they want 1000 followers within a week and get that sought-after sponsorship the day after tomorrow. It is as they say: Do what you love and the success will follow. Stop thinking too much about analytics, subscriber numbers or how to connect with those PR agencies.

Instead:  Focus on your content! Create interesting and captivating content to drive traffic and genuine followers to subscribe. Once that happens, everything else will fall into place. Also things like tracking your analytics will feel much more rewarding and insightful if you take a look once a month instead of every day. That way you have more time to focus on your goals and specializing on your niche.

Tip: The fashion and beauty blogosphere is growing and you might feel pressure to keep up with everyone else. Don’t bother looking at other blogs and websites when it comes to numbers and sponsorships.  All that matters is your personal goal, not what others have done. Find here more tips on how to deal with blogger jealousy.

2. Stop the blogging cluelessness!

You may have just started your blog or have been working at it for a couple of years, yet here you are still feeling as if you have no clue what you are doing. Again, there is no one-size-fits-all blogging tip that will get you on the right track. However, in today’s world there is no reason why you shouldn’t be informed about how to set up certain accounts and how to improve on your blogging skills.

Instead: Think before you blog. Take a moment to really elaborate on your blog. What is your blog about, what do you want your blog to represent, goals etc. Then, create a main outline of your schedule and connections. Think about setting up an editorial calendar, how to brand your blog or how to better your writing skills or how better time management could benefit your blogging routine.

Tip: Besides platforms like iFabbo, Google and Youtube, you have tons of useful how-to tutorials on all kinds of topics available. Photoshop basics or how to set up WordPress for SEO are no problem once you find the right one.

3. Stop the blog design madness!

Yes, you have all the right in the world to design your blog just the way you like it. However, if you look around how other blogs are designed and what their layout offers, you might discover some common denominators your blog is missing. Color overload, crazy pop-ups and zero navigation help are certainly not one of them.

Instead: It’s ok if you don’t want to create yet another black and white blog design but you might have noticed that a clear and easy to read blog attracts more readers and more importantly, keeps them around longer. Having to look for the mute button on your background music app, the comment section or your social media handles isn’t going to turn visitors into subscribers. Take a look at your blog with a fresh pair of eyes. What do you really need on your blog to showcase your personality and what is truly just distracting from your content? Create a concise, clear and easy to use space for users to enjoy and to remember.

Tip: Find more tips on how to choose the right blog design.

4. Stop ignoring your subscribers!

What is it about popular bloggers and vloggers that made you fall in love with them and ultimately come back over and over? It’s most likely their likeability and their ability to interact with their audience! It’s hard enough to get people to comment on your site or to sign up for your newsletter, don’t let that go to waste by never commenting back and replying to questions or post suggestions.

Instead:  Interaction is the number one key to keeping people interested and engaged. How long do you think people will leave a comment on your site before realizing you don’t read them or never reply, never leave a comment back on their blog? Appreciate the effort of someone else stopping by your site, taking the time to read your post and then to leave a message behind. Even a short reply such as a small “thanks” can go a long way. The more you interact the more people will remember you and will come back to your blog for more.

Tip: Engaging with your audience helps you understand your readers and lets you create even better content. Imagine knowing what your readers want before they even ask for it! Comments, emails or social media feedback will give you much insight on that.

5. Stop focusing solely on your blog!

Your blog is your baby, your little project that takes up a lot of time as is. You want to take photos on time and include the newest trends from this years fashion week before everyone else? That is completely understandable. However blogging these days is much more than just writing on your very own site. If you are focusing too much solely on your blog, you might lose touch with what is going on in the outside world. Don’t miss out on the possibilities other channels might have to offer.

Instead: Consider being more and more active on social media and guest posting on other blogs. Build your audience on a few channels other than your own blog and not only drive more traffic to your site but also establish yourself as an authority in your niche. Some people might just want to follow you on Twitter for quick updates, others prefer to follow you on Google+. Whatever the social platform of your choice is, work it consistently and efficiently.

Tip: Don’t just tweet about your newest shoe score but rather connect with other bloggers, companies and brands and show off that fashion knowledge or that beauty insider in you. Discover companies and people on a more personal level, connect on newer platforms before everyone else and you might just end up with that sponsorship after all.

*More info on iFabbo: Founded in 2010, iFabbo™ is a leading international organization for fashion and beauty bloggers and publishers. iFabbo focuses on quality, engaged and vocal influencers who are at the forefront of online publishing and content creation.  iFabbo’s innovative product placement platform, The iFabbo SHOP, allows brands and technology companies to selectively seed their products to highly targeted influencers they want to reach. With thousands of quality members worldwide, iFabbo works with brand marketers, agencies and publishing partners to harness the power of social influencers through targeted, content-driven campaigns, events and conferences. Brands immediately garner a stronger online presence within the blogger community quickly and effectively, while members gain access to some of the most coveted beauty and fashion and technology items.  In addition to iFabbo’s product placement platform, the organization is a premier education provider by introducing new and emerging technology, tools and resources to its members so they remain informed and up-to-date in ways to enhance and develop their publishing career.  For more information on iFabbo visit www.ifabbo.com.

Happy Valentine’s Day… To Us!

We didn’t get flowers and chocolates today… We got something even better!

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Yes, that’s right. We receieved our very first “Kick Ass” award from FootSmart.com. Even though, they normally only share this to their internal employees! So, how did we get to such a honor? I’ll  let them explain:

“Our company gives out ‘Kick Ass’ awards to employees that go above and beyond! We thought this award would be perfect for our affiliate partner that has done the same. We don’t just recognize top sale partners, but also those that put in time and effort to grow our business.”

Needless to say, we are delighted to have received this award! Thanks FootSmart!

Written by Lucy Bartlett, Marketing Manager

Introducing Publisher Roundtable

Today we are excited to introduce the Publisher Roundtable, a brand new platform designed to help online content publishers learn from one another about what really drives success.

Publisher Roundtable

While anyone can start a site, growing and maintaining one successfully is the real challenge. With Publisher Roundtable, we aim to combine the experience of thousands of publishers and form a collective intelligence that makes everyone better.

If you run a site large or small — a personal blog, a multi-voice editorial site, a forum — really any site focused on original content — we invite you to join the Roundtable. The first of a series of short online survey-style interviews will examine how publishers build an audience. Comparing satisfaction with the quality of various channels used to acquire audience — including SEO, SEM, and social media, the interview will identify which of these channels are the most effective and what makes them effective.

Publishers who participate gain access to exclusive data to inform decisions around marketing, monetization, and content creation. After the interview, publishers can easily compare their answers to those of their peers. Responses across all publishers are anonymously aggregated, analyzed, and packaged into “Tips” reports available exclusively to participants.

All of this is made possible for free through a collaboration between VigLink and Netpop, a leading market research firm.

If you’d like to learn more, please visit us at PublisherRoundtable.com, where you’ll find more information about the project, how it works, and answers to FAQs.

Ready to join in? Get started here.

Posted by Oliver Deighton, VP Marketing

T – 2 days to CMX Summit 2014

 CMX-Summit-Black-Square

The first CMX Summit is taking place this Thursday, February 6th, and I am excited to say I will be going.  I will be reporting live from the event via our facebook and twitter. If you were still on the fence about joining, let me tell you why I am attending. I mean beyond the our amazing and exclusive 25% off discount we have to share! To snag yourself this special discount just follow this link and type in forumcon25. Tickets are quickly selling out, so act fast to secure your seat.

Onto the real reasons why I am attending – CMX Summit is a new conference, which is focused entirely on community building. This year CMX is bringing together unique perspectives from fields and companies like psychology, behavioral analysis, habit analysis, Apple, Lyft, AirBnB, Facebook, 500 Startups and more. I have been promised in the audience will be the industry’s leading community professionals and startup founders, who will be sharing their best tips on how to build, scale, and sustain healthy communities.

This will be a great day of learning in the long wait to this year’s ForumCon and I can’t wait to share some of the top forum and online community tips I learn on the day.

Watch this space forum owners and community managers! Expert knowledge from those in the know on way!

Written by Lucy Bartlett, Marketing Manager

 

Join us at Affiliate Management Days & Save $600!

Thanks to our friends at Affiliate Management Days we are excited to share a superb discount for their up and coming San Francisco conference, March 19th – 20th. Use the code VLNK15 to get a very special 15% discount, saving you around $600 (!!) for the full conference.

Our very own CEO and founder, Oliver Roup, will be attending and speaking on the topic of “Mobile Affiliate Marketing: Why it is not Reaching its Full Potential.”

If you are not familiar with Affiliate Management Days (AM Days) it is the must attend event for any affiliate managers who are responsible for their company’s affiliate marketing strategy, management and operations. Whether you have an existing affiliate program or you are creating a new initiative, AMDays offers you the most valuable insight into how other online retailers are successfully implementing and managing their affiliate programs.

AM Days covers a vast range of topics including:

  •  Affiliate program set up
  •  Affiliate recruitment techniques
  •  Communication with affiliates
  •  Affiliate marketing fraud
  •  Role of affiliate network(s)
  •  Affiliate automation tools
  •  Landing page & conversion optimization
  •  Compliance policing & enforcement
  •  Legislative issues & challenges
  •  Innovations in affiliate marketing
  •  Tracking & multi-touchpoint attribution
  •  M-commerce in affiliate marketing

AM Days is the place for affiliate marketing teams and executives to come together and share case studies, insights and the latest tools and techniques to effectively and successfully manage their affiliate programs.

Make sure you get the best bargain possible by registering TODAY, before the early bird ticket price runs out.