My family is retail industry's worst nightmare.
We are not big on Christmas gifts.
For some reason, my five-year old daughter has a bit of a hard time with focusing on the real meaning of Christmas and not all the presents she dreams of all year long, but we are working on it.
Fortunately for our fragile economy, this kind of odd trend is not in vogue.
Are you ready to make the best use of the upcoming shopping frenzy?
Is your blog ready to go green? Profit green that is…
Mini Case Study
I am sure you've been in this situation once or twice yourself:
1500 views on a post of mine today that had cute pumpkin carving ideas – did I have the brains to include a link to a carving kit even though I saw the stats rising daily??
Ah well, will be fully prepared next year!!! ~ Lisa Melia, ShowMeSomeMoney.com
And after my truly brilliant advice to “add the link TODAY!!!” (and that's why I make the big bucks around here 🙂 ), Lisa reported back:
And THANK YOU for the advice – 174 click through's on the pumpkin carving kit, and a few sales!
Of course, had Lisa had Skimlinks enabled on her site, she most likely wouldn't have missed out on monetizing that initial traffic surge.
What Are Skimlinks?
Skimlinks is an affiliate marketing technology that converts normal product links from thousands of retailers into their equivalent affiliate links so you can earn a commission effortlessly every time a purchase is made.
Why I Like Skimlinks
- It's as hands-free as it gets;
- It gives you access to 18,000+ retail merchants that you otherwise wouldn't have qualified to be an affiliate for;
- You get a centralized “command post” for all your affiliate activity, as opposed to tracking all merchants separately;
- You add normal links to your content and Skimlinks will convert them on-click;
- No affiliate links to create or manage – they do the work for you;
- Centralized reporting makes it easy to see which retailers your readers love;
- they maintain a strict publisher approval process, which ensures quality on both sides.
How SkimLinks Works
It's as simple as it sounds.
Add normal product links to your content.
Your links look normal – your readers can see exactly where they are going and trust the link.
SkimLinks automatically turns your links into their equivalent affiliate links when clicked on, via a brief redirect to the SkimLinks servers.
Every time your readers click through a product link that SkimLinks is able to affiliate and make a purchase, you’ll earn a commission on the sale.
So for instance, I want to mention my favorite Nespresso coffeemaker in a post.
All I do is go to Amazon and copy and paste the product link (http://www.amazon.com/Nespresso-Automatic-programmable-Espresso-Machine/dp/B0041DNGVC/ref=sr_1_18?s=kitchen&ie=UTF8&qid=1352919255&sr=1-18&keywords=nespresso+machine).
I don't have to log into my Amazon affiliate dashboard and convert that link into an affiliate link – SkimLinks will do all the work for me.
So as far you are concerned, you see just an Amazon product link.
However, if you click on it, Skimlinks will automatically code your click with my Amazon referral code and, should you end up buying the product, I get the commission.
How Much Can You Earn with SkimLinks?
No, I don't have a crystal ball, so I have no idea.
I do, however, know that the potential is there.
For instance, there is barely any SkimLinks presence at Traffic Generation Café.
I bet most of you didn't even know I had it integrated here.
Yet, with as little as I use it at TGC, I still get a few sales here and there.
Here's the break down by merchants:
22¢ per click is not really that bad, if you ask me.
And that's without even trying…
Side note: if you'd love to see if you can make SkimLinks work for your site, I'd suggest you apply to be a publisher right away.
It can take up to 3 days for their approval process, and the holidays won't wait.
More Skimlinks Money Matters
Q: How much does it cost?
Skimlinks works on a revenue share model.
You don't pay anything to join or use the service; they just take a cut from the commissions you earn.
For SkimLinks, the split is 25/75 – they keep 25% and pay you the 75%.
For SkimWords, it's a little trickier.
They pay you a variable amount per click that is dependent on a number of factors, including how often clicks result in sales, the value of each sale and the cost-per-click rate negotiated with each merchant.
Bottom line: it pays to add your own links, but if you forget or are too lazy, SkimWords will still pay more than having no links at all.
Q: How do I get paid?
When you gain access to the Publisher Interface as an approved Skimlinks publisher, you will be able to enter your payment details and choose from one of three methods of payment:
- bank transfer,
- or PayPal.
Q: When do I get paid?
They make payments to their publishers every month.
If your cleared balance has reached at least $10 (or £7 in the UK), then they’ll send you a payment.
As Skimlinks works with more than 18,000 merchants through 43 affiliate networks, they are bound to their schedules on payment processing.
They have to confirm the sales, check that the customer does not return the item they bought and, only then, do they pass the commission on to Skimlinks to give to you.
Once these cleared commissions are collected, you get paid.
Q: Do You Earn the Same?
Many publishers ask “Will I earn the same amount I would earn if I created the affiliate links myself?”
The answer is Yes, if not more.
By using Skimlinks, you can earn up to 110% of what you would have earned if you managed your affiliate links yourself.
Of course, Skimlinks does take 25% of everything you earn.
However, they've got many of what they call “Preferred Merchants” – merchants who have agreed to pay Skimlinks their cut above and beyond your commissions.
So if you stick with promoting Preferred Merchants, you'll maximize your earnings potential.
Another thing to consider:
Even if you make just a bit less with Skimlinks, the amount of time it saves you, plus the automatic addition of affiliate links when you forget, pays for the difference above and beyond, in my opinion.
Once you are an approved Skimlinks publisher, integrating Skimlinks with your site is a breeze.
That's what I use at TGC.
2. For forum owners
If you use vBulletin for your forum, they have a dedicated vBulletin plugin.
3. For self-hosted WordPress blogs
Bloggers using WordPress can get going in a flash with the WordPress plugin.
4. For any other platforms
Skimlinks also offers a range of simple implementation guides for everything else in between, like TypePad, Blogger, and Tumblr.
5. For social media
Yes, you can use Skimlinks to earn some cash from your social media networks.
You'll find out how to do that in your Skimlinks dashboard under “Tools“.
I'll also be talking more about it later in the post, under “Creative Ways to Use Skimlinks“.
Just in case you are still dragging your feet: I suggest you apply to be a publisher right away.
It can take up to 3 days for their approval process, and the holidays won't wait.
18,592 active merchants.
43 affiliate networks.
Skimlinks works with “all major affiliate networks“, according to their FAQ.
What does it mean to you in practical terms?
No more multi-site tracking.
No more signing up for a bunch of different programs.
No more wondering if you made any sales you haven't been paid for.
Makes our lives much easier.
A while ago, I read a post titled Avoiding Lost Affiliate Earnings. Hiccups in Tracking Affiliate Program Commissions.
In that post, Sunil addresses one important issue: “shrink percentage“.
“Most of us blindly trust companies, big and small when it comes to joining affiliate programs and promoting their products and services in terms of receiving the correct amount of payment we are due. We do this because because we don’t know how to track affiliate earnings, or don’t want to because it takes time and effort.
Many of us simply give the vendor the benefit of the doubt. The rationale goes something like this: “if they have an affiliate program, they must have the sophisticated systems in place to track and remit commissions accurately and timely”.
If you are nodding your head to that, stop nodding because I just found out that one of my sources of affiliate earnings did not pay me over $3,000 in affiliate commissions over a 3 month span.”
I do understand and agree that if WE don't stay on top of this issue, our commission “shrink percentage” will be a lot more substantial than it would be otherwise.
However, there's not much we can do to make sure all the tracking of clicks, sales, etc. is done correctly.
Yes, we have to trust blindly that the affiliate networks we promote do a fair job at keeping track of our referrals.
Good news is I haven't heard of any problems with Skimlinks stat tracking.
Even better news is this: it's much easier to keep track of your paid earnings with ONE affiliate platform vs across several.
So it makes it a breeze to make sure that we get paid for all the sales made through our affiliate links.
By the way, if you are wondering why some sales don't get recorded, here are some of the reasons:
- As sales are accredited with the dropping of a cookie; perhaps your user is using an adblocking software that blocks cookies on their browser.
- Your site/link may not have been the last referrer to the merchant site.
- The user may have cleared their cookies before purchase.
SkimLinks and SEO
Is SkimLinks bad for SEO?
After all, you are adding a bunch of affiliate links to your content, right?
Here's the skinny:
1. Danny Sullivan says it's OK
I first learned about SkimLinks from Danny Sullivan's personal blog.
In case you don't know who Danny is, he's the one who oversee SeachEngineLand.com.
I think it's a safe bet to assume that if he uses Skimlinks, then we should rest in peace in regards to any potential SEO implications…
Well, maybe not.
Danny Sullivan can probably get away with a lot more than you and I can…
Let's keep digging.
2. Are affiliate links paid links?
The heart of the issue is this: does Google see affiliate links the same way it sees paid links?
Difficult question, no easy answer, already close to 2,000 words in this post…
Here are some quotes:
“VigLink (similar service) said it has talked closely with Google and been assured that its program will not cause site owners to violate paid link guidelines.
I’m also waiting for a longer statement from Google.
But Google also reassures me that it has seen the VigLink program, and it doesn’t pose any problems.”
“Shockingly, when asked point blank if affiliate programs that employed juice-passing links (those not using nofollow) were against guidelines or if they would be discounted, the engineers all agreed with the position taken by Sean Suchter of Yahoo!.
He said, in no uncertain terms, that if affiliate links came from valuable, relevant, trust-worthy sources – bloggers endorsing a product, affiliates of high quality, etc. – they would be counted in link algorithms.
Aaron from Google and Nathan from Microsoft both agreed that good affiliate links would be counted by their engines and that it was not necessary to mark these with a nofollow or other method of blocking link value”
“This is our summary of why Skimlinks is comfortably within Google’s guidelines:
- Our publishers are editorially focused. They care about writing good content and providing good services, that have relevant, useful information to users.
- Skimlinks is about helping publishers stay financially viable, not about helping boost other parties’ search engine ranking
- Skimlinks enables publishers to be rewarded if their content/service leads a customer to click through on the link and buy something on a merchant site. Publishers are not paid just to put a link on their site.
- Publishers are encouraged to provide disclosure that they might earn revenue if users end up buying something as a result of their content/service. We also encourage our publishers to retain their full editorial integrity and objectivity when writing about products/services. It may impact their short-term affiliate revenues, but long term their users will trust them more, and return more often.
- If the content that publishers write is of good quality, and they are an authority site, then it seems fair the merchant benefits via link juice for the publisher choosing them as being relevant to their subject matter.”
3. Use common sense
In the end, we are in business to make money.
Skimlinks makes money.
I am good with that.
Just make sure you don't:
- annoy your readers by bombarding them with product links;
- take the attention away from your priority conversion goal, like list building.
How to Use SkimLinks to the Fullest
It's time to get creative.
How do we make money with SkimLinks without turning off our readers?
How do we do it without taking the main conversion focus off other goals, like list building, as I mentioned before?
I squeezed my brain cells as hard as I could and this is what I came up with.
1. Find a good product match
Depending on your niche, this may or may not be an issue for you.
With over 18,000 active merchants, it might be a breeze for you to choose the right products for your audience.
However, after observing so many blogs trying to sell a burger to a vegetarian, “common sense” might not be all that common after all.
I've been there, ‘ve done that myself, to tell you the truth…
So how do we find the right products for our sites?
1. Go the D'OH way
If you are in a cooking niche, look up products under “Food, drink, and dining“.
If you run a mommie blog, you might want to go for “Babies, children, and parenting“.
If your blog is about fashion, go all crazy and pick the “Fashion and accessories” category.
Find that common sense and hold on to it, in other words.
2. Catch'em by surprise
Look for products that your readers might enjoy even though they might not be directly in your niche.
Have fun with it and go for curiosity factor.
For instance, even though my niche is pretty straightforward, there's a “Café” in the title of this blog for a reason.
So why not allow my readers to kick back and sip that perfect cup of coffee to keep themselves awake while sifting through hundreds of ways to generate traffic to their sites?
Here's another thought: most of us have a coffee addict in the family or among friends.
How's this for an idea of a gift for them:
Time Release Caffeine Capsules
Sometimes it is fun to drink caffeinated beverages or eat caffeinated candies to stay awake. They are tasty and fun.
But what happens, say, if you have to suddenly fly into space to deal with an alien invasion?
You won't have time to eat or drink on the flight because you'll be busy with strategies and counter-xenophobe planning.
Be lucky, then, that you have some Time Release Caffeine Capsules on hand. Just pop one in the morning, and you're alert for the next 8 hours.
Highly Caffeinated Brownies and Cookies
And we don't call them Highly Caffeinated Brownies and Cookies for nothin'!
Each one is loaded with 200mg of caffeine!
The hardest part of these is not eating too many, because they really are that good.
And because they are so tasty, you'll eat them fast – and that will get the caffeine in your blood with a powerful rush.
Trust us. Get some Highly Caffeinated Brownies and Cookies for a heaping helping of wake up for dessert.
Shower Shock Caffeinated Body Wash
Some folks like imbibing their caffeine in coffees and sodas and energy drinks.
Others like eating it in candies and mints and “magic” brownies.
But if you ask us, the most enjoyable way to get caffeine into your system is to rub glowing gel all over your body and let it seep into your pores.
And if you just happen to get cleaner in the process, even better!
And tingling (unless you are being electrocuted by mutant eels) is always fun.
How's this for “Catch'em by surprise”?
Has nothing to do with traffic generation, yet goes with TGC perfectly well, don't you think?
Now get your brains turning!
Where to Add the Products
Your imagination is the limit.
I'd use a free plugin like Datafeedr Random Ads.
It allows you to simply and easily show random ads anywhere in your template files or using widgets.
Just load the images, add the links, and you should be ready to go.
Sidebar would be the most common and the easiest place for ads.
I'd make them 300X250 and show them one per page load.
Other ideas on where to display your affiliate product links:
- Before a post;
- As a Hello bar type strip at the top of a page;
- As an exit popup;
- After someone leaves a comment;
- And many, many more…
Have you seen my Featured Product box on the blog home page? Yes, it's powered by Datafeedr Random Ads.
2. Create a “Shopping Page”
Check this out: http://www.trafficgenerationcafe.com/shopping/
Not too many people know this page exists.
It's mainly used by family and friends to make online purchases they'd make anyway, but now they are kind enough to add to my daughter's college fund while at it (it's either that or the military – guess which one I am rooting for? 🙂 ).
I am not sure if I am going to do anything more with that page in the future, but even the way it is, it's making me a little bit of money.
3. Use Pinterest
This idea flows seamlessly from the previous one.
Once you create a shopping page, you might as well add some product images to it and pin them to Pinterest.
Quite honestly, I don't trust Pinterest to honor your affiliate links if you add them directly to the pins.
So the best thing to do is to add the images to your site first, then add them to Pinterest.
4. Skimlinks widget
This is easy and hands-free.
This is how you can refer new affiliates to Skimlinks and get paid to do it.
A word about Skimlinks referral program.
What is the Skimlinks Referral Program?
You can promote Skimlinks to other affiliates and Skimlinks will give you a whopping 35% of what they earn for a year for each publisher you refer.
You can promote Skimlinks in any fashion you'd like, via disclosure badges, text, and custom Banner ads that they've created just for you.
All you need to ensure if that the person you are referring to clicks on your affiliate link before coming to the Skimlinks signup page.
So if you sign up for Skimlinks through my link, follow my advice in this post, and make a pretty penny to buy your family something nice, I'll gratefully accept a chunk of Skimlinks commissions.
5. Post about Deals
Sales, sales, sales!
Stay in the know on the latest sales by subscribing to Skimlinks Scoop at this link.
6. Use Social Media
Someone is making money on social media right now and I'd love it to be you.
Use the Skimlinks URL shortener to make money from links referenced outside your website, e.g. use it to make money from product recommendations in
- your email newsletters,
- RSS feed,
- even in print.
If someone clicks on your shortened URL and makes a purchase, it generates a commission for you in the same way as Skimlinks does on your website.
For instance, I can take that monster Amazon URL for my favorite coffee maker and shorten it to http://fave.co/QH1rSk with Skimlinks.
Now it's ready to be shared anywhere I want to.
7. Use Skimlinks as Forum Signature
“Smart Content Monetization“?
I know I'd be very curious.
Easy. Hands-free. Creative. Profitable.
Skimlinks Marketing Takeaway
There's a lot of money to be skimmed here.
If you don't have enough traffic of your own, use (but don't abuse!) social media.
At the very least, have your family funnel some of their holiday shopping budget your way.
After all… what is family for, right?
Off to experiment more with Skimlinks,