The easiest way to manage affiliate links?

Whether or not you’re trying to make money from publishing content online, most people have wanted to use affiliate links for products and services at some point. Either to earn money, or to raise cash for charity, for example.

Money pic by AMcGill on Flickr (CC Licence)

Money pic by AMcGill on Flickr (CC Licence)

The problem is that it can be a hassle to grab the affiliate links from just one merchant, and then implement them in a decent way, let alone allowing using several – and how do you know which shop someone prefers to use?

And although this particular site isn’t designed to make money, both www.140char.com and www.onlineracedriver.com are more conscious efforts to experiment with how online content publishing can work.

If you look in the bottom right, you’ll see a handy disclosure widget which reveals I’m now running Skimlinks on my main blogs. Put simply, it matches any links to merchants I post with the merchants in the Skimlinks database and tracks when anyone clicks through and makes a purchase, without me having to visit all the different sites, sign-up for all the different programmes, and find all the relevant affiliate codes.

Which is handy.

So far it’s only been live for a week or so, and the purchases can take a while to feed through as the affiliates need to report back to Skimlinks after users have paid the deals have been sealed. But already it’s been useful for seeing how many people are actually going through affiliate links on each site, and what links I’ve been using without monetising them, for example. And it’s all automatic.

So if you’re someone who isn’t going to micromanage every single affiliate link, then I’d highly recommend Skimlinks. They’ve also got some interesting additional products to use, and set-up is either as simple as installing a WordPress plug-in, or just pasting one line of Javascript into your page template (s). You can also specific pages and individual links it should ignore, for example.

The main alternative is Viglinks, which I’m also using on some of my other sites – so far it’s performed in a similar way, but the main difference is around reporting and tools which aren’t as comprehensive or detailed with Viglinks.

Interestingly Viglinks is backed by Google Ventures, and has a number of big names involved, including backing from Angel Investors such as former LinkedIn CEO Reid Hoffman.  Meanwhile Skimlinks also has significant investment, and CEO and co-founder Alicia Navarro is known as one of the few female tech entrepreneurs in London.

But putting patriotic loyalties aside – both services are well worth using rather than missing a load of links, especially for larger sites (And because they’re managing so many links, they can arrange comission rates which are still an improvement on the normal rates, even after they’ve taken a cut). And if you fancy trying them, I’ve love you to use the following links:

Skimlinks

VigLinks

And they’re both free and easy to remove/disable if you decide you don’t like them…

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Coming to terms with changes

One of my favourite sites, Problogger, changed the look and feel of the site recently.

I like to give any site redesign or change a little time, as it’s easy to just dismiss or attack the unfamiliar. But I’ve had a sense of unease since the redesign, and there’s a simple reason why.

The old design came across as a site created by someone (Darren Rowse) who had knowledge and passion for the subject, but more than that, it came across as a personal blog, which worked well for the content and subject matter. It felt like Darren was posting something just for an individual reader, despite the fact there may be thousands of them reading the same thing.

Now, however, the site has been optimised for expansion and cleanliness. Unfortunately it also seems to have lost a part of the personality from the design, although it’s still there in the writing and tips. One sign of this is that Darren’s profile info is now right at the bottom of the page, rather than up top.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a fantastic site and resource for bloggers, and it’s not like the new design isn’t attractive or useful in other ways. But it’s interesting that a more ‘professional’ or ‘corporate’ design can remove some of the charm of a site, particularly when it’s a blog…