Found Money: Monetize Your Site with VigLink

A new company, called VigLink, seems certain to put a lot of "found money" into webmasters' and bloggers' pockets--without much work on their part.

If you or your company runs a site that includes links to online merchants, the new service makes it easy to get a commission when a visitor to your site then visits the merchant and makes a purchase, sometimes even days or weeks later.

VigLink is such a good idea that Google has invested money in the company.

The service is now running in private beta, but also accepting sign-ups and offering estimates of how much a site could earn using the VigLink service. I thank my friend, Rafe Needleman, for pointing me in VigLink's direction.

Here's the deal:

Many merchants (7,500 by VigLink's estimate) run so-called "affiliate" programs that pay webmasters and bloggers a commission when ads placed on their sites generate sales for the merchant. For example, I am part of Amazon.com's program and occasionally see a buck or two in commissions on books purchased by students in classes that I teach.

Because there are so many affiliate programs, it is difficult to join and maintain relationships with more than a handful of them (at least for me). Commission aggregators exist, but even dealing with them can be a chore, explaining why I pulled all the ads from several small sites that I run. And some affiliate programs that I wanted to be part of weren't interested in a site as small as mine.

Further, most of the time I write about products or vendors on my sites (which are not computer-related), all I do is post a link to the vendor's site. I don't like to have to fetch a special URL from an affiliate program just to earn the small amount I might earn from click-through purchases. Further, obvious "affiliate links" may be off-putting to readers.

This is where VigLink comes in. Stick a small piece of JavaScript on your site and when users click on outbound links, VigLink examines your links and on-the-fly turns them into affiliate links. When the reader arrives at their destination, any purchases will be credited to your VigLink account. The link the reader sees does not change, which may or may not present an ethical issue.

This means every link to a merchant site becomes an affiliate link, allowing webmasters to get paid for traffic they are already sending to merchants. No recoding is required.

VigLink takes a cut of the commissions earned, but also serves as an aggregator for the webmaster, sending a single payment regardless of the number of affiliate programs that paid VigLink on the webmaster's behalf.

If you are trying to maximize site revenue, VigLink may not be the answer. On the other hand, it operates completely in stealth mode, meaning sites can earn even without posting ads or including specific links to affiliate programs.

VigLink also claims to not interfere--or hijack--existing site advertising. That would appear to make VigLink appropriate for large numbers of sites and bloggers, if only as a backstop for their existing affiliate links.

Small sites can't expect to get rich of VigLink, but many business sites and blogs include links that could me monetized and if doing so doesn't cost anything, why not?

David Coursey has been writing about technology products and companies for more than 25 years. He tweets as @techinciter and may be contacted via his Web site.

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