That’s the Power of [Link] Love

Recently, Zemanta wrote a blog post titled Link Love Is the Way We Roll , addressing the concept of linking out to other (similar, even competitive) sites from your own content. This post immediately struck a chord with us here at VigLink, because we feel the same way Zemanta does about “link love.” It’s a best practice.

Blogger intuition doesn’t always work in favor of “link love,” though. You want readers to stay engaged with your content for as long as possible, right? For that reason, the idea of directing them to other, similar content seems contrary to what common sense would suggest. We would encourage content creators to try to overcome this false perception that “link love” is not in their best interest, for several reasons:

1) It exudes confidence
The fact that you’re willing to reference other, similar information shows that you believe your content is compelling enough to share some of the spotlight, knowing that readers will come back to you.

2)  It’s realistic
It’s joining in on an existing conversation, rather than ignoring the fact that the conversation exists. It’s acknowledging that there are varying points of view on a topic, rather than pretending there’s just one, which happens to be yours.

“The marketplace is going to sort things out on its own whether you would like it or not. If you’re blogging and not linking due to fear of competition, you may be surprised that you’re not even in the running.”
-Brian Clark, Why Linking Out to Other Blogs is Critical

3)  It’s authoritative
It is proof you’ve done the research and examined the topic from all sides. You’re prepared to make an educated argument about something.

4)  It adds value

“The more you send people away to more valuable resources, the more valuable you become to your target audience.”
-Kevin O’Keefe, Blogging About Competitors Blogs is Smart

5)  People will show you “link love” back
Owners of competitive sites you’ve referenced will be much more inclined to send you traffic. Some call it karma, others call it good old fashioned reciprocity. So give them the gift of traffic, and see what you get in return!

6)  It helps with SEO
The more you link out to credible, similar content from your site, the more credible your site becomes to search engines. It’s a practice that’s been going on for years and mastering it will push you up to the top of search results, resulting in more traffic.

“Sharing isn’t just caring – it’s networking,” argues Zemanta. We couldn’t agree more. At VigLink, we think about the power of the outclick every single day. While we work hard to make the hyperlink intelligent, actionable, and profitable, we love to see others acknowledging that links have an innate capability to do good for any content creator. So don’t undervalue the power of linking out – to products or similar content – and, certainly, don’t forget to embrace the concept of “link love.”

 

Whitney Smith, VigLink Marketing Communications Manager

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.

Publisher Spotlight: Audizine

About Audizine

Audizine was founded a decade ago by Anthony Marino, a graphic artist and avid car enthusiast.  He started the website as a place where he and his close knit group of friends could discuss all things automotive, namely their passion for Audi. 

The site steadily grew and several years ago Anthony decided to focus full-time on building the auto-enthusiast community he started as a hobby.  Today, the site boasts a comprehensive editorial section, photo gallery, video gallery and classifieds section, in addition to the forum component which was the initial draw. 

The site also sees a sizable amount of traffic each month.  Audizine has over 77,000 community members, and nearly 1 million readers visit the site each month, collectively viewing over 5.5 million pages

Anthony driving a rare Audi Sport Quattro (courtesy Audi of America)

 

The Challenge: Keeping the Focus on Readers

Anthony initially turned to Google AdSense banners and market-related sponsors to cover the costs of the site, but he chose to remain cautious when it came to other monetization methods.

“My number one responsibility is to the experience and safety of our members,” said Anthony. “While I do have costs to cover, I don’t want advertisements to impede on a reader’s ability to use the site effectively. Early on I made it a point to keep the site design clean and muted. I wanted the content to shine, and certainly not be filled with advertisements. I also went into it with the mindset that I didn’t need to be the biggest Audi-enthusiast site, but I did want to be the best.”

In regards to Google AdSense, that meant keeping ads below the site fold.  And in the case of his direct relationships with advertisers, Anthony was careful to check each one out himself to verify a fit for his readers before accepting them onto the site. 

Beyond AdSense and banner ads, Anthony is very careful about other monetization methods. 

The Solution: Unobtrusive Content Monetization

In late 2010, Anthony found VigLink. The solution’s seamless integration with content was appealing, but he was unsure how much revenue it would actually generate for his site.  Because the solution appeared to be so unobtrusive, he decided to sign up and test the solution.

“The VigLink implementation was probably one of the most seamless ones we’ve had,” said Anthony. “And once VigLink was live on the site, I was extremely surprised by the amount of revenue that was coming in, particularly from something that is basically invisible. It’s the proverbial win-win!”

The VigLink service automatically affiliates outbound links to merchants and advertisers on the Audizine site, and also weaves new links into the content when it detects references to products.  When a reader clicks on a link in the site’s content that goes to a qualified online merchant, VigLink ensures the site receives a payment or commission on the resulting sale, easily and automatically.

Today, VigLink comprises around 15% of Audizine’s monthly income.  VigLink helps Anthony to continue focusing on what matters most to him: keeping Audizine a free-to-use and easy-to-navigate website with great content.