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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Twitter is the best source for users to engage with video

Twitter seems to be the best source of traffic for online videos, according to a new report from online video service Tubemogul (Found via Mike Arauz).

The average time spent viewing a number of 6,763,690 video streams linked from Digg, Facebook and Twitter, from six top video sites, showed Twitter users spending 1:58 minutes watching, compared to 1:14 from Facebook and 0:58 for Digg. (Graph from the Tubemogul report).

 

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As Tubemogul point out, Twitter allows one-sided (asynchronous) following, and therefore you can filter your incoming noise more effectively than Facebook or Digg.

But as Mike adds:

a network of relationships built primarily on information shared, and only secondarily on personal relationships to the other people, is a more potent information sharing network

And I think he has a very strong point – I’m connected to family and friends on Facebook that I might have a lot of love and affection for, but it’s balanced by a constant stream of invitations to install apps I’d never touch etc.

But in general the Twitter users I follow are people whose interests are of a relevant interest to mine, and are far more likely to post things I’d like. (Speaking of things I like, Mike’s got a very effective visual way of posting which I definitely recommend).

Some real proof of social media transactional revenue

Respected Venture Capitalist Fred Wilson often talks about the action taking place in the comments of his blog.

So I’m surprised more people haven’t picked up and reposted his comment from a post at the end of January.

fredwilsontransaction

If it’s a bit too small – Fred is revealing Twitter is the 3rd biggest referrer of transactional visits to handmade marketplace Etsy, with Flickr at number 2, and Facebook at number 4.

And Etsy is generating over $1 million a month in revenue, with $100 million worth of goods sold in 2008.

Now this might not convince everyone – after all, Etsy sales are by a large number of individual and small retailers who will be promoting their items individuals through Flickr, Twitter and Facebook – and the scale is the aggregate of those referrals – the ‘Long Tail‘, if you will!

So essentially there are 100s, if not 1000s of people handling social media marketing and customer service for their products, which doesn’t tackle the scale issue of large companies changing the way they do business, and utlising social media.

But there were 300,000 people in the California Gold Rush, and noone continued to deny there was gold in those hills.

Measuring marriage – and social media

I’ve been involved in a lot of discussion about measuring social media and social networks, particularly around readership, influence, and social media and community marketing. And I quite often hear the quote that such measurement is like ‘figuring out if you have a good marriage’, which comes from Ian Schafer of Deep Focus. The Adweek article in which is appears goes on to say: “Quantitative measurements will only get you so far. “You can’t assign a number to that,” he said.”

I’m no analytics or statistics expert, but when I thought about, it occurred to me that there’s actually quite a lot of quantitative measurement of marriages that does go on. And judging whether you’re in a good marriage certainly requires benchmarking in some quantitative or qualitative way. Just the same as social media measurement can go pretty far in indicating whether your audience sees you as their one true love:

Anniversaries: Wedding anniversaries have rules (Paper for the 1st year? Gold for 50) to indicate the length of time to all interested parties – because a general trend would be that longevity equals a good marriage. By the same token, longterm, loyal, returning readers indicate you’re doing something right!

Divorce rates: By the same token, you can watch trends on divorces to see if a group is happy in marriage. And you can watch single visit users, and definitely unsubscribers and users deleting their accounts to gauge the same thing for your site. And unlike general figures for splitting up, you’re able to easily isolate individuals to explore the reasons in more detail.

Holidays and presents: Whether it’s a dowry, or the amount your partner spent on the wedding/honeymoon/Valentine’s Day/Birthday presents etc, at some point even the most romantic soul has probably looked at how much is being spent as a guide to how much their partner cares. That’s why engagement rings are supposed to cost 3 month’s wages, for example. And a key metric in the website/user relationship is definitely click-throughs and sales conversions.

Romantic dinners: One of the big tips about marriages is to make time to go out and spend quality time romancing each other. You could see that couples in a good marriage enjoy this time, chat all night, gaze longingly at each other across the table, etc. By the same token, you can monitor the bounce rate and time on site of your visitors to see if they’re visiting several pages and enjoying your company – or splitting at the earliest opportunity.

Doing the housework: Does your partner invest time and effort in doing their share around the house? Do they help to make it a home? And do your users invest time and effort in submitting User Generated Content? Do they customise their profiles? Do they comment on stories and forums?

Are they faithful?: In the modern digital world, it’s highly unlikely a visitor will use just one site in any area of interest. But rather than sulking about their polygamous ways, it’s about following them and looking at who their affair is with. Figure out what is so attractive about the other websites they visit, and look at whether you can beat it, or use it in some way. Rather than seeing them continue to stray, inject some romance by dressing up your website in the RSS feeds of the other destinations, for example.

Talking about your partner: One of the big qualitative and quantitative benchmarks is seeing how often your friends talk about their partners, and whether it’s normally in a good or bad way. That can be with friends over a coffee or a beer – or in a survey by a magazine. Whatever the source, it’s what prompts you to go home and ask why your partner doesn’t treat you as well, or tell them how badly someone else is doing. And it’s the big one for social media measurement, because it’s all about the referrals and the recommendations. Recommendations and links are the equivalent of public displays of affection.

Now, if you combine all that information about two individuals in a relationship, you start seeing that actually, there’s quite a lot of ways you could build up a reasonable idea of whether a relationship is being enjoyed by the people within it, and then be able to compare it to other marriages. It’s not 100% accurate, and maybe they’re staying together for the children, but metrics never cover ever 100%

And by the same token, there’s a huge wealth of information already available on social media marketing, especially if you’re already tracking the normal metrics via a standard analytics package.

The trick is working out what to add to what is already available (influence of prominent couples/recommendations for example), and how to bring it all together into something that is understandable. That’s the alchemy.