Marketers love to talk about their “channels” and they spend a lot of time, energy, and money maximizing the return for the SEM and email dollar. There’s another channel they won’t readily brag about: their organic traffic; their “free” traffic; the traffic they get from you.
The hyperlink is the defining feature of the web, the literal H in HTML. Every time a reader clicks one of the links in your content, you’re delivering value to the destination. Those destination sites value your traffic but in most cases you’re not getting paid for it and if you are, it’s almost certainly less than it could be.
The demand (and supply) for clicks from content links is mature enough now to be called an economy. Many, however may not know enough about the link economy to prosper from it and help it flourish. Recently, my company VigLink, a link monetization and optimization company, released an in-depth whitepaper that uncovers the link economy—what it is, how it works, and why it’s so important for Internet marketers and publishers. Today, my aim is to help you better understand the link economy so that we can all help it grow and increase the value of links overall.
What is the link economy?
The link economy is essentially the phrase used to refer to the buying and selling of commercial clicks (usually to Internet retailers) from links embedded in published content. Merchants seeking more sales can choose to pay for performing links to point to them. Publishers who drive those sales seek fair compensation. A financial and editorial dance ensues and a link economy is born. VigLink, for our part, specializes in finding and creating the most lucrative merchant links and connecting them to the highest eligible bidder. Because we know exactly how much merchants are paying for specific clicks, we can use that information to maximize earnings across our publisher network. By ensuring that our clients are pointing their links to maximize their revenue, we’re not only helping them earn more money, but we’re also stimulating the link economy.
Who determines the value of a link?
As it stands today, merchants and brands have nearly all the pricing power. It’s like they walked into a car dealership and decided what they were willing to pay for a car. It’s actually worse than that, because they don’t even need to tell the dealer what they paid until long after the car is theirs. The truth is, more often than not, the seller (the publisher) has no idea what prices they get for clicks from their links. They simply take what they can get.
There’s hope for publishers. The best part about the link economy is that as soon as there is competition and a well-lit marketplace of links, sites will start seeing real value from links and the clicks they drive. That can begin today. Publishers can create competition for their links by using tools to help them target those links to maximize revenue. When publishers optimize for revenue, lower paying merchants or brands must compete or risk losing traffic.
What’s holding the link economy back?
There are reasons the link economy hasn’t yet truly flourished and showered publishers with higher payouts. The fact that the link economy is a rather new and complex concept doesn’t help. It’s safe to say that many publishers don’t understand the value of their links. In the traditional brick-and-mortar world, the prices for goods and services are fairly well established, whereas online, the value of a link can fluctuate immensely from one merchant to another and one click to the next. The other issue is that it takes real software to make targeting links efficient and effective.
While in its current state the link economy is inefficient and convoluted, for publishers it’s a worthwhile investment to learn about it, find tools that can help you optimize your links, and start earning top dollar. Targeting your links at the highest paying merchant will lead to more money in your pocket, plus it will stimulate competition among merchants, and ultimately help grow the link economy overall.