Industry Insights
VigLink on Monetizing In-Content Affiliate Links for Publishers


Tyler Stauss
Manager, Business Operations



Founded in 2009, Viglink is one of the pioneers of in-text advertising and affiliate monetization for publishers. Can you share a little more on your role as Manager of Business Operations at Viglink?

My role as Manager of Business Operations is to make sure our core business runs smoothly. I spend a lot of time working with the publisher, merchant, marketing and engineering teams to make sure that everything is as efficient as possible. It’s a huge operation running a business with 40,000+ retailer customers and another 2M publishers. Furthermore, we import revenue data from 50+ affiliate networks around the world. It is my responsibility to ensure we optimize our business to help publishers earn and drive sales to advertisers.


Publishers place Viglink revenue-generating hyperlinks in their content, and get paid as an affiliate whenever a user clicks through to purchase a product. How do you typically pay out publishers: on a CPC, CPA, CPS?

We pay our publishers using the same model that our advertiser partners pay us. A vast majority, perhaps 90%, pay on a cost-per-sale model. In turn, we typically pay out on a CPS basis. However, there are exceptions. Our Insert product, where we scan publishers’ content for relevant keywords and product mentions and insert revenue-generating hyperlinks, works best on a cost per click pay out. Our advertisers are finding they can maximize their clicks and earnings by setting a CPC bid to have their landing page be the destination of such keywords in publishers’ content.


For publishers, are you able to track, and do you pay-out on a conversion that happens a few days after a click-through to the product is made? (A user clicks on a Viglink, sees the product page, but buys only a few days after)

Absolutely. It varies on an advertiser by advertiser basis, but all have varying cookie lengths where the sale is still tracked back to the publisher who referred the sale. A very small percentage of advertisers don’t have cookies at all. They only payout if a purchase is made during the session after the referral click. Most have at least a day, and some as long as a month after click time that they will still pay out a commission.


Viglink partners with over 2M websites and apps, with 50,000 advertisers running campaigns through your platform. How was Viglink able to reach this scale on both sides of your network?

The two build on each other. The more advertisers we work with the more publishers want to sign up for our network as it allows them greater chances to earn revenue via their website, blog or app. As we get more publishers, advertisers want to sign up for our network to maximize their reach.

We’ve done a great job of integrating new affiliate networks into our network, especially internationally over the past few years. Each new network we integrate with has the potential to deliver hundreds to thousands of new advertisers our publishers can link to. In the last year we’ve integrated networks from dozens of countries including Russia, Brazil, India, Germany, just to name a few.

Our publisher team is attentive, reducing churn, and allowing us to help our publishers make money writing about their passions online. Our publishers are happy and stay in our network!


Are there certain verticals that work best for your advertisers? (Fashion, Technology, Automotive, Travel, others?)

With such a huge network of advertisers and publishers we touch on pretty much every vertical imaginable. Based on our publisher base, we do best in Automotive, Consumer Electronics, Sports & Outdoors, and Fashion, specifically men’s lifestyle brands. We have great premium publishers in each of those verticals as well as long tail publishers, so we are able drive sales and clicks at a high quantity in those verticals.


How do your affiliate links work on mobile? Are there a lot of purchases made on mobile websites – and if not – is there any sort of cross-device identification to ensure proper attribution and payout to the right publisher partner?

Our affiliate links work the same on a mobile browser as they would on desktop. We see a lot of purchases made on mobile sites, and that number is growing rapidly. The conversion rates on mobile are still lower than desktop. I think that’s the nature of people still browsing on mobile, while purchasing on desktop. It’s not an issue of using affiliate links to track and attribute conversion and payouts.


How do your Sponsored Influence campaigns work? Are these similar to Sponsored Posts or Branded Content posts on publisher sites, but at scale across many websites?

Yep, exactly! When advertisers come to us with budget saying they’re interested in sponsored posts, we are able to reach out to relevant publishers and find someone who can generate custom content that matches the advertiser’s budget. It could be a single post on a very high trafficked premium publisher, or numerous posts on smaller sites/blogs/apps.

We’ve also implemented a spinoff of sponsored posts, similar to sponsored keywords. For example, a retailer like Nike could come to us and say they are trying to drive traffic to their women’s shoes category. With our technology, we can work with premium publishers such as Runner’s World or Women’s Health and insert a link to every time we find the phrase “running shoes” within their content. We can do this on just a handful of sites or across our entire network.


What are your thoughts on programmatic buying, through a self-service Demand Side Platform or Trading Desk? What do you think programmatic means for the future of independent ad networks like Viglink?

I think programmatic is great. I’m all for making advertisements smarter, more targeted, and more easily accessible at scale and across devices. It also means independent ad networks need to evolve to become smarter by making it easier for advertisers to purchase ads with  positive ROI at scale.

The ads purchased through VigLink are quite different than the ads purchased through a DSP. We only deal with native, in-content text links at the moment unlike video or display advertising via the DSPs. We strive to be at the point where  advertiser can programmatically buy clicks at a competitive, affordable price.


Can you share more on the tracking, and measurement of conversions of these affiliate links? Is a publisher able to know what content, or anchor text on their page is driving the most sales?

Absolutely. We have a comprehensive dashboard that publishers can log in to and view numerous stats. They can see page impressions, earnings by page, by merchant, by link text, and can even see the merchandise they’re audience is purchasing. Furthermore, publishers can break down their statistics between our Convert and Insert products to get even more data insight. We have put a lot of effort into improving our publisher dashboard over the past year; we feel that providing detailed, valuable information to our publishers will encourage them to write more relevant content that will generate a higher yield.


Why do you think working with an affiliate hyperlink network like Viglink can be more profitable for a publisher, as compared to running with a regular CPM ad network?

I don’t think they are mutually exclusive. In fact, I think publishers should absolutely be working with Viglink and a regular CPM ad network. VigLink’s hyperlinks and a CPM network’s display ads do not compete, they occupy different real estate on a publisher’s page. CPM networks pays on impressions while VigLink requires at least a click through to earn revenue. CTRs on in text-hyperlinks within content are significantly higher than those on a banner or video advertisement.


Lastly, what is your take on the future of publisher monetization, and affiliate advertising?

I think affiliate marketing in general is getting much more intelligent. Just like in the NBA and NFL where teams are getting smarter by using data and advanced analytics to drive decisions, affiliate and publisher monetization are too. Advertisers are getting more intelligent; they are increasingly more unwilling to pay for non-performing advertisements. And in a day in age where we can track everything and know exactly how each campaign performs, there is no reason to pay for non-performing ads.

It means we will see fewer ad campaigns focused on driving brand recognition. Performance marketing divisions, such as affiliate, will be attributed more budget to drive real sales and conversions. We’ve already seen budget being spent in a more strategic ways, and the industry is going to continue to move in that direction.



Earn money from ordinary links.

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