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 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.

Illinois Affiliate Nexus Tax is No More

Thirteen months ago Illinois state governor Pat Quinn signed into law an affiliate nexus tax that forced 9,000 affiliate marketers either out of the state of Illinois, or out of a significant portion of their affiliate marketing revenue.  Shortly thereafter the Performance Marketing Association (PMA) filed suit against the state of Illinois challenging the constitutionality of the law.

We’re pleased to report that this past week a judge ruled in favor of the PMA — ruling the law unconstitutional and taking it offline.

You might recall that at the time the law passed we had offices in Chicago, which we chose to close as a result of the law.  We’re pleased today that so many affiliates that were unable to leave the state will be able to get back to business as usual — but more so, hopeful that this will push us closer towards a Federal solution that would address the issue of affiliate nexus tax laws nationwide.

Check out the full story here or via the video below, courtesy of ABC News.

Murray Newlands on the Evolution of Brand Trust, Social Media, and Enagement [Interview with Forbes]

Murray Newlands, advisor to VigLink, was interviewed by Forbes contributor Sarah Austin this past week and they discussed some of the key ways social media has revolutionized the way brands build and keep consumers’ trust and how brands can leverage social media to build stronger engagement. Check out the video in its entirety below and the full article here.

How to Successfully Create Video for your Blog [SF Blog Club Recap]

Great written content may no longer be enough to engage with your evolving readership — it may also require great video. Video, depending on the topic it’s addressing, can sometimes more easily communicate key points to your readership, while also being easier to engage with.

What this can mean for your site is more traffic, deeper engagement, and ultimately more revenue. At last month’s SF Blog Club we heard from professional blogger Murray Newlands on some of the in’s and out’s of building video for your blog or business. His slides in their entirety are below — glance through them for access to all the resources he shared.

Looking forward to next time — we’ll be shooting for a night without a Giants Game to ease parking problems. Baseball season is officially upon us in SOMA!

Anna Cunningham | Social Media Manager | VigLink

How to Make Image Monetization Work for You: Future of Publishing

In last month’s Future of Publishing episode, we caught up with Chas Edwards of Luminate and Rey Flemings of Stipple to talk image monetization: how to make it work for you, what to take into consideration when selecting a solution, and how much you can earn.

Check out the two part series below, and then read on to meet the guests!

Part 1: What are a Publishers’ Options When it Comes to Image Monetization?

Part 2: How Much Money Can Publishers Make with Image Monetization?

Meet the Guests

Chas Edwards | CRO and Publisher Development | Luminate

Chas joined Luminate in 2010 as CRO and head of publisher development. Before Luminate, Chas served as publisher and chief revenue officer at Digg, the site that allows readers to organize content from across the web by voting on what they consider to be the best. For the four years prior to joining Digg, he was the co-founder (with John Battelle), publisher and chief revenue officer at Federated Media Publishing (FM), a next-generation media and publishing company that connects the highest quality conversational content (eg, Boing Boing, Mashable, Inhabitat, Dooce, NOTCOT and The Pioneer Woman) with leading brand marketers.

Previously, Chas was vice president of sales and marketing for CNET Networks’s B2B Portfolio, managing the team representing, ZDNet and TechRepublic to business-to-business marketers. Chas also served posts as VP for CNET’s broadband & webcasting unit and as VP of business development for mySimon, CNET Networks’s comparison-shopping portal. Prior to joining CNET Networks, Chas was the National Sales Manager for TechTV, a 24-hour cable TV channel and Web site dedicated to computing and the Internet (now owned by Comcast and called G4).

Rey Flemings | CEO & Founder | Stipple

Rey, a repeat entrepreneur, investor and advisor, conceived Stipple in 2008 and has led the company since inception.

Prior to founding Stipple, Rey led the Justin Timberlake family fund and technology incubator, Tennman Digital leading investments in numerous startups including Tapulous and Particle. His career has included founding and senior executive roles in several leading technology and media companies.

How Do You Increase your Personal Value Online? [Blog Club Recap]

At this month’s San Francisco Blog Club we heard from Vincent Ha, CEO & Co-Founder of Gushcloud, on how to increase your personal brand online and where the future of blogging is heading.

While many of the data points and examples he walked the group through were centered around Asia (where his company’s focus was the bulk of last year), the take-aways apply internationally:

  1. Bloggers and other online publishers can drive real value online (popular personalities online can garner hundreds of “likes,” “shares,” and clicks — all in a matter of minutes after posting.
  2. But, it’s important that you crystallize what that value is (Vincent suggested gathering data on your site or other online profiles to package for potential sponsors/advertisers: think page views, followers, likes, etc.)
  3. And of course, capitalize on their value (Gushcloud is one way, but there are an abundance of online monetization options out there that can help you leverage your brand).

For the full story, as well as a few of Vincent’s insights on where he sees the blogging space moving in the coming years, check out his slides below.

And as always, thanks to those that could make it — I’m looking forward to next time!

Anna Cunningham | Social Media Manager | VigLink

View more presentations from VigLink

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.

[ForumCon Coverage] The Story Behind ForumCon & What’s in Store for SF 2012

This past week we caught up with our own Jack Bafia and Oliver Roup, two of the founders behind the upcoming ForumCon event, and asked them a few questions about how ForumCon got it’s start, what they enjoy most about the event, and what they’re looking forward to at the next event.

Check it out to hear from them in their own words…

“I wanted to provide forum owners with a venue to congregate, network, and get better at being an administrator … for me, ForumCon is just that … it allows me to meet new people, put faces to names, and learn new things.”

Jack Bafia
Forum Owner | ForumCon Co-Founder | Chief Monetization Officer, VigLink 

ForumCon TV: Jack Bafia from ForumCon TV on Vimeo.

In talking to [our customers, a lot of whom are forum owners] we realized there was no place for forum owners to meet [in-person], to hang out, to discuss the industry. And we realized a lot of leaders in the field had never met each other, so we though, ‘Let’s put together a meeting place for all these guys to get together and get to know one another.”

Oliver Roup
ForumCon Co-Founder | Founder & CEO, VigLink

ForumCon: Oliver Roup from ForumCon TV on Vimeo.

Las Vegas Never Disappoints [LeadsCon Recap]

I had the pleasure of spending Tuesday and Wednesday at LeadsCon in Las Vegas to participate in the event’s panel on how to tap into new traffic channels.

We talked conversion rates on LinkedIn traffic versus Facebook or Twitter traffic, and also the role publisher content can play in lead generation. It was a great conversation with Brad of General Assembly, Jon of Pontiflex, and Austin of GoChime.

But, I have to say one of the highlights of the event was having the opportunity to chat with so many other speakers, attendees, exhibitors, and partners as part of our LeadsCon interview series. We will have lots of great video to share with you in the next week or so, but in the meantime you can catch a preview of a few of our interviewees below…

Thank you to all who made time for an interview — I’m looking forward to next time.

Oliver Roup | Founder & CEO | VigLink