One of the things I have become more and more infatuated with is testing and metrics. I have found that it is one of the most important aspects of running a successful business. Here at Profit Marketer we have been testing and tracking our Metrics for quite some time. Even now we are tweaking and making changes based on testing and what our stats and analytics tell us.
When it comes to blogs, most of you already know that I have a lot of them. One thing I have found via testing over the years is that most of my profits come from Contextual links inside of my content and not from Banners or Adsense type advertising. There are exceptions to this and those exceptions are normally due to the Niche. The Niche you are in can determine a lot. I have definitely found that there is no ONE way to do everything for every single Niche. If you test and tweak, you will see that some things work great on one site you have and fail miserably on another. This is going to happen due to different demographics, interests, age groups, etc.
Over the last few months I have been testing 2 very robust affiliate networks. You see, I found that I had a gap in my site’s income that I could fill in unobtrusively and still make money from it. I wanted to take advantage of each and every last inch of profitability I could from all of my sites.
What I found was (just like everything else) that these networks worked great for some sites and not at all for others.
Let me explain.
While doing research for one of our plugins back in May, I was introduced to a forum thread where people were discussing how they could take advantage of external links on their blogs which pointed to Authority sites. They then began to talk about working this in to turning Comments and other user generated content on their sites into Affiliate links. I was wary of this because when people leave links on your site, changing them could seriously tick people off and changing external links on your sites could seriously hurt SEO.
Then, later in the discussion, I found out what they were talking about. They were talking about 2 very large networks called Viglink and Skimlinks. On the outside looking in at first I would never recommend anything like this. What these networks do is turn the links on your blog into Affiliate links and then when a sale is made they keep 25% of the commission and you get 75% of it. Plus, they also do Keyword link insertion. Much like Cloak.FM, they will turn specific keywords into Affiliate links if words in your content matches Affiliate Products in their databases (but this isn’t something I was personally looking for).
I specifically looked at both of these services for one thing only. The ability to turn links in my blog content which were not monetized already into profitable links. Period. So I contacted both companies and talked to their support. I asked them about their technology and how it works. I wanted to know how using these services would impact my profits, but I also wanted to make sure using them would not hurt my SEO or turn off visitors.
The crazy thing is, both companies are heavily financed and owned by some of the biggest companies online. Viglink is actually a Google Venture with an incredible list of Advisors including the former Executive Vice President of PayPal (who is also the former CEO of LinkedIn) and Skimlinks has been invested in by huge investment groups and even a few countries in Europe. *See the Viglink Investors and Team here and the Skimlinks Investors and Team here.
The first thing I said to myself after discovering all of this was “There is a lot of money invested in this technology”. And there is. Over a Hundred Million Dollars to be exact. Plus, both companies are in direct competition with each other.
This appealed to me greatly as I have a large number of blogs with a large amount of user driven content. Both in the form of Comments and in Guest Blog Posts. I wanted to be able to monetize both, but do it discreetly. So what I did was I began a test last June. I added Skimlinks to 10 of my blogs and I ran it for the entire month. In July, I then ran Viglink for the entire month. I then split them up and have been running both across 5 similar sites each since the beginning of August.
The main reason for changing my test was because I found that both networks performed well on Physical Product related postings in my blogs. They did not do well on software or digital product type sites. One of my blogs was highly focused on Music and is a “My Favorite Band” type site. It did very well, but with Viglink only.
Overall, Viglink has outperformed Skimlinks by about 30%. Yes, that much. I made 30% more money with Viglink and I believe this is due to Viglink being more flexible and having more products. Viglink works with over 30,000 Merchants while Skimlinks works with about 18,000. I am USA based too. This seems to make a difference. Skimlinks is based in Europe and I have heard that European based sites do better with Skimlinks than with Viglink. The only way to tell for sure is to test.
I averaged more from sites with a lot of user comments which included links they recommended. This and my own posts in which I have content that was Curated from other sites have done very well. I made an average of 16% more Affiliate Cash, even with losing 25% to both the services. You also must note that they have worked out higher commissions for products through sites like Amazon and Ebay then you would normally receive, thus your actual commissions might be higher when using Viglink than using these services by yourself. They work together with all the big Affiliate Networks as well like Commission Junction and Linkshare just to name a few.
I made more money with Viglink specifically over a 5 month period than I did for about 1/3rd of my other Affiliate promotions. The important thing to note here is this was purely an augmentation of my monetization strategy on my sites and not meant to really make me any money. I truly did not expect anything more than pocket change from doing this, but across 10 blogs I made an average of over $200 per month.
If you could add $200 a month to your affiliate income just by adding a WordPress plugin to your blog or some code, would you do it? I would and have. I now have added this to all my blogs from which I see an ability to make extra money via physical products, books, and music. This is definitely not for all sites or for everyone. If you are curating content and would like to take advantage of some of the external links you are adding to your sites without removing the SEO power of those links, this is for you. If you have Auto Blogs and want something to monetize links being added to your content that you are not controlling, then this is it. If you are running any type of Community site where people talk about anything and everything, then you need to use this.
*Note: If you already have Affiliate links you have created on your blog, Viglinks and Skimlinks will NOT change them. They only change direct external links. You can also use the Keyword Insertion features of these services as well, but it is not something I did or have done so I cannot tell you how well that works. I use Cloak.FM to do this via targeted Affiliate Programs I want promoted on my blogs.
**Note 2: Another reason to like Viglink over Skimlinks. Skimlinks requires a site to be approved in their Network. Viglink does not. With Viglink I was instantly approved and able to start running. With Skimlinks I waited 2 days for Approval into their network.
***Note 3: These services also give you unlimited access to products and Vendors you might not otherwise be able to use. A lot of Affiliate programs require approval and with these services you sidestep that requirement. Payment can take up to 60 days, but the reporting is very good across the board.
As for a passive Affiliate Strategy you can use on your blogs right now, I highly recommend using Viglink.