Monday, January 14, 2013

Hands on with Vidlinkr

Vidlinkr is a Wordpress plugin from the video affiliate company Coull. Coull, if you’re not familiar with them, provides technology that lets bloggers and other publishers turn YouTube videos (or uploads) into affiliate powered ads.

Coull’s tech adds a call to action layer over the video with a system that integrates with product feeds so affiliates can match up the best match products with the videos they are running.

Vidlinkr is a Wordpress plugin from Coull that automates the process – somewhat. The “auto” option actually results in Coull’s own team handpicking the best ad & product combo for the video. This results in a good match but, understandably, this does not happen in real time.

Vidlinkr is a beta product from Coull and I’ve been part of the test for a good few weeks now with one blog. We’re now approaching the 900 monterised video mark.

This blog post, which Coull have had advanced sight of (except the bits I’ve just changed), is a summary of my experience with the test and ideas for advancing the product. One thing seems certain and that is Coull is investing to advance their service, looking to carve out a niche for themselves before offerings like Kiosked look at the automation or text-only players like Skimlinks or Viglink look into video.

The big change


With 900 or so videos it is a bit of a non-starter to try and manually match all of them. It makes most sense to pick a strong default call-to-action ad layer and then manually override and customise as required. That may make sense but it changes my Vidlinkr experience from being about matching products to managing ads. That’s a big change.

With this big change in mind, I want to use Vidlinkr differently. I want to be able to link to pages rather than merchants – in typical; sales pages, search results and section pages.

I want the ability to create more than one default message and to be able to treat them like banners; especially with frequency capping in mind. In other words; after someone has viewed three videos on my site without showing an interest in the ad, I’d like the Vidlinkr system to try a new ad.

The big choice


I like the idea of Vidlinkr but it does detect from the video experience of the site. My main concern is that viewers cannot open full screen videos and that’s certainly how I watch my videos (although, on mobile, they can).

The risk, the choice hovering over Vidlinkr, is whether the revenue it generates is more helpful to the blog than the lack of full screen is harmful.

It’s not a choice I want to make and with a tweak or so I think it’s a choice that Coull can help avoid. The reason why full screen mode is disabled is because the advert layer (especially on the search results for a few of the comparison merchants) looks dreadful.

However, why not allow users to select full screen videos and simply drop the ads/layer when that happens. I don’t think this will mean less ad exposure for Vidlinkr because I believe more bloggers will be happy to install the code as a result.

Coull point out, rightfully so, there are still full screen limitations with YouTube's HTML 5 player.

Working with product feeds


Product feeds are always an issue in affiliate marketing – they can be a pain to manage.

I’ve found too many dead pages, out of stock products or out of date prices in the Coull system. This is very likely nothing to do with Coull and everything to do with who is managing those feeds. As I said; they can be a pain to manage.

A value add that Coull could offer bloggers using Vidlinkr is to help sanity check that feed data. Their system could help block out of date/sold out products from their search results or, better still, automatically find alternatives and help keep ads live.

This sort of feed management would make the Vidlinkr tech even more attractive to bloggers. This feels like a bigger ask and less important than the ability to run multiple “default” messages and rotate/frequency cap them, though.

Overall


I made money with Vidlinkr over the festive break and the shopping season. I made more money with Vidlinkr than I did with affiliate activity in Twitter and had a pretty constant run rate.

Vidlinkr is certainly a product I’d like to see expanded, enhanced and rolled out to more merchants (although I’m not sure how that conflicts with Coull’s business model).

Affiliate Window reported that nearly 15% of their sales came from mobile in in December 2012. After Christmas I think we’ll see even more people watching video on their tablets and the opportunity for Vidlinkr to make publishers and merchants money should be even higher.

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