Affiliate marketing can be loosely devised as a method for those selling products and/or services…
Skimlinks Affiliate Marketing Tool: Effortless Monetization Or Commission Stealer? You Decide
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When it comes to monetizing your blog or website, there are many ways to do so.
One popular way to earn money through your website or blog without actually selling your own goods and services is via affiliate marketing.
Affiliate marketing is possibly due to referral links, which is where Skimlinks comes into the picture. Without referral links, you wouldn’t be able to earn money.
Affiliate Marketing 101
In short, affiliate marketing is where you, as a site owner, partner up with merchants to refer products to your viewers.
The merchant gains a new customer (or a sale, at the very least), the reader learns about a new product, and you earn commission for facilitating the new relationship between your reader and the seller.
What Does The Affiliate Marketing Structure Look Like?
There are four key players in affiliate marketing:
- The Merchant: the party who is selling the good or service
- The Network: the middleman who facilitates a relationship between the publisher and the merchant
- The Publisher: the person who markets the good or service to viewers of their site
- The Customer: the person who decides whether or not they want to purchase the good or service
How you earn your commission depends on the agreement you have with any affiliate networks (basically groups of merchants) or the merchant itself.
Amazon also has an affiliate program which Skimlinks competes with.
Skimlinks already has a network for you to dive into, of which the leads would otherwise require days, if not months of manual work to gather.
There are three primary categories of compensation methods, which Skimlinks allows to choose between (depending on what vendors are offering):
Revenue Sharing/Pay Per Share
Most affiliate programs today use this method, where you earn a certain amount for items your viewers purchase using an affiliate URL you provide on your site.
Cost Per Acquisition
The merchant places an ad and pays you only for a specific acquisition, such as a contact request, email list sign up, or account registration resulting from users arriving at the merchant’s site via the ad.
The specific acquisition for which you get paid is determined ahead of time by the merchant.
Cost Per Click or Cost Per Mille
Cost per click and cost per mille (or cost per 1000 views) is where you are paid based on the number of people who view an ad placed onto your site.
The options you choose depend on how hands-on you want to be when it comes to choosing the products for which you’re advertising on your site.
Where To Place Affiliate Links
At one end of the spectrum, you can use your site as a billboard and place ads for any vendor who is willing to pay you for space.
At the other end, you include only affiliate links for products that you have personally used.
Obviously, the more experience you have behind your advertisements and the more involved you are, the more you’re likely to earn, but that doesn’t necessarily mean there’s no space for generic ads.
Skimlinks is an affiliate network that helps you automate the affiliate marketing process.
Using the content you’re creating and publishing to your site, Skimlinks automatically creates affiliate links to share products relevant to your content to your users.
For example, if you’re a blogger writing about your favorite book and you provide a link to a bookstore selling that book, Skimlinks helps you change your ordinary link into an affiliate link.
What Problems Does Skimlinks Eliminate?
By using Skimlinks, you don’t have to worry about partnering networks to make sure you earn a commission for the referrals you make and you don’t have to negotiate with the merchants on how much commission you earn.
Overall, the manual process which Skimlinks saves you from doing looks something like this:
- Hire a developer
- Build a referral code system
- Configure affiliate links
- Gather/crawl lead data on vendors
- Separate relevant leads into groups
- Set up a CRM software or e-mail workflow
- Import leads and begin reaching out
- Negotiate a deal
- Set up affiliate links and requests marketing material
The above could take months since a system in place would require unique development workforce – it would be wasteful.
As a Skimlinks member, you have access to over 60,000 affiliate programs, but because of how Skimlinks automates the link creation process, you do not have to actively manage your site’s relationships with these programs.
Furthermore, Skimlinks helps you gather data and provides you insight into the products your users love and the merchants they like to buy from.
As a result, you can partner with brands that are most likely to be popular with your visitors.
While joining Skimlinks is free, they will take a 25% cut of the commissions you earn. Here’s a concrete example to see how that might work out for you.
Let’s say that your links earn you $100, and the merchant offers a 10% commission (note that the person must make a purchase for you to earn the commission).
|Commission You Earn||$10.00|
|Skimlinks Share of Commission Earned||$2.50|
|Commission You Receive||$7.50|
Getting started with Skimlinks requires two steps:
- Applying for a Skimlinks account
- Installing Skimlinks onto your website
Applying for a Skimlinks Account
To open an account, Skimlinks requires you to undergo an approval process. You provide details about yourself and the site onto which you want to install Skimlinks.
The Skimlinks team then reviews your application and notifies you via email if your application has been approved or not.
What If I Get Rejected?
If you have any issues with the application process, the Skimlinks support team is responsive and helpful.
When we first applied for an account, we were denied. After just one email explaining our situation to support, we were approved and able to finalize our account details.
Installing Skimlinks On Your Website
Installing Skimlinks on your website is a fairly easy process. If you’ve built your site using vBulletin or WordPress, you can use install the Skimlinks add-on for your platform.
Skimlinks will ask you to enter your activation code upon registering their plugin.
body of your HTML file.
The snippet of the code can be found on Skimlinks’ website.
Skisnippet sounds like a good option for someone who is:
- Interested in monetizing their site or blog
- Wanting to share products they’re willing to stand behind
- Don’t want to do much of the work associated with getting started in affiliate marketing.
The costs in terms of commissions withheld by Skimlinks are high, but they do promise to match you up with a large number of partners, do the negotiating on your behalf, and provide you with the data you can use to drive your future business decisions.
However, does Skimlinks actually live up to their promises?
We decided to sign up for an account, add some product links to our site, and try out the affiliate process in full. Here’s what we found.
Installing Skimlinks onto a WordPress site we’re self-hosting was super easy.
We simply navigated to the WordPress Plugins Directory, searched for Skimlinks, installed the plugin, and activated it (yes, it really did take all of four mouse clicks or so).
Skimlinks will provide you with your unique ID once you are registered and set up.
The only additional piece of information we had to provide to our app was our unique ID, which links our site (and the visitors we send to merchants) to our Skimlinks account.
Adding Product Links
What we liked most about Skimlinks was its ease of use. After installing Skimlinks, we didn’t have to do anything except add links to our blog posts anytime we mentioned something.
For example, we mentioned in one of our posts that we’re reading Don Quixote as part of a reading project. All we had to do to take advantage of Skimlinks was provide a hyperlink to a bookseller for that title.
The Skimlinks add-on did the rest of the work: adding the affiliate URL for the generic merchant link we provided and tracking users who click through, as well as their purchases.
At this point, there’s nothing left for you to do with regards to this particular link.
Skimlinks takes care of the work for you, so you don’t have to do anything after the initial installation besides linking to the products you mention.
However, if you’re like other bloggers, you’re already doing this.
Skimlinks makes it easy to see the data it’s gathered based on your website. The first thing you see upon logging into your Skimlinks account is a Snapshot, which presents data in form of reports about your account.
Perhaps the most underrated functionality of Skimlinks is it’s reporting feature.
Once your account is connected, Skimlinks provides you with the following sets of basic data to be expected:
- Revenue: the amount of money you’ve made
- Clicks: the number of clicks your links generated
- Top Pages: the pages that drive the most traffic toward merchants
- Top Merchants: the merchants your visitors buy most from
- Approved Merchants: the merchants with which you’re partnered
This information should be expected from most affiliate linking services out there, though we can’t take it for granted.
Further Data To Use
If you’re interested in more detailed reports, you can obtain this information from the Performance page of your Skimlinks portal.
The demo of Skimlinks’ report dashboard.
You can group your data and see your revenue based on:
- By Date – when your revenue was generated
- By Merchant – who the strongest/weakest merchants were
- By Page – highest/lowest performing pages
- By Link – highest/lowest performing links
- By Site – highest/lowest performing sites
- By Device – the ratio of users to device types
All of this data is designed to quickly give you an idea of what your users are interested in and like best in terms of products.
What Can I Do With It?
While Skimlinks doesn’t explicitly offer you information on why your viewership likes a given product over another, it offers you the hard data.
You need to make your own decisions and confirm any intuition you might have regarding product placement. Having access to raw data can help you make a constructive decision.
Resources and Support
Skimlinks’ website has a useful resource section. For anyone fond of self-help material, this will prove to be useful with categories like:
- Product guides
- Guides & Whitepapers
- Case studies
- General support
- In the world of affiliate marketing, a well-loaded resource center should always be appreciated and Skimlinks has just that.
Live support is unfortunately unavailable but you can contact Skimlinks via phone and email, along with posting questions via the resource menu.
In industries like affiliate marketing, familiarizing yourself with the likes can be beneficial and educational.
Pros and Cons
Before we wrap up, let’s take a look at the strongest and weakest aspects of Skimlinks as a service for those of you looking to monetize your blogs.
- Easy setup in just a few clicks
- Generous data and report sharing
- Easy-to-use interface
- Large reach of vendors
- Confined to working with vendors partnering with Skimlinks
- High commission of 25%
- No live support
If by chance Skimlinks doesn’t seem to fit the bill, you have other options.
Should you feel frisky and brave, you can simply reach out to vendors manually and get your referral links live alone – though if you have a large operation this can take a while.
The demo dashboard of the iDevAffiliate platform.
On another note, iDevAffiliate is another service we reviewed – they operate on a monthly subscription or one-time fee basis and refrain from taking a commission cut.
If this is something you prefer, check out our review of them and weight your options.
Frequently Asked Questions
Unsure about some of the basics we have covered or missed something? Here are a few frequent queries and answers to hopefully provide you with answers.
Is there a joining fee with Skimlinks?
No. Skimlinks is free to join but charges a 25% commission on all referral-earnt sales.
Can I see what purchases my users made?
As it stands, Skimlinks shares the overall statistics of your sales as well as how each link, page and vendor performs.
You can trace back to the link to determine what was purchased, but you won’t know the user who clicked it.
How long do sales take to track?
According to Skimlinks, can at times take 5-7 days to show up in the tracking reports, though in extreme cases it can take as long as two weeks. These are only estimates and most data is tracked almost immediately.
Our Overall Verdict
If you’re looking for a quick and easy, yet powerful affiliate marketing program, give Skimlinks a try.
While their cut of the commission you earn is quite high, you benefit from this by minimizing the amount of work you have to do that’s directly related to marketing; after installing Skimlinks, you don’t have to do anything except add in links to the products you mention.
You don’t have to facilitate relationships with merchants, and you don’t have to worry about negotiating commissions and billing the merchants.
All of this time you could spend on other aspects of your website or blog.
Image Source: Pixabay | Stevepb
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