AvantLink.com Affiliate Link Encoder (ALE)

Instantly Monetize Forum or Blog Archives with the ALE: Introduction, ALE Overview, TGR Forum Implementation, TGR Gear Reviews/Editorials Implementation, Conclusion

Introduction

Web site owners with large and sustainable online communities will find this case study particularly interesting. It highlights how an innovative line of javascript can instantaneously monetize years of archived web content and links. Likewise, those with an interest in Affiliate marketing in general will find this informative because there are many uses and applications of the AvantLink Affiliate Link Encoder (ALE). The ALE not only allows “on the fly” client-side conversion of existing links to any merchant on the AvantLink network, it also allows bloggers and content producers to efficiently link to retailers without retrieving or appending tracking URLs from the Affiliate network.

This case study demonstrates how Teton Gravity Research (TGR) immediately started earning commissions from thousands of archived forum threads that included links to web retailers like evo, Backcountry.com, REI, Patagonia.com and other outdoor merchants they are associated with at AvantLink. Most of these links were posted by TGR forum members during the course of a discussion thread. There is no doubt that over time these member-posted links resulted in new customers and sales for various online retailers. With very little effort TGR staff members were able to configure an ALE subscription via their AvantLink Affiliate account, and place the small line of javascript on a global navigation file within the forum. In the first day of doing so sales were credited to TGR via the ALE browser conversion script for existing direct-to-merchant (DTM) links.

It’s important to note that in this specific case these are links that existed already (in some cases for years) on archived forum threads. These links were never before tracked back to sale referrals, but the ALE now rightfully compensates TGR via the Affiliate platform powered by AvantLink. Said a different way, by installing the ALE to convert DTM links, TGR instantly activated Affiliate commissions from their existing content. In just minutes the ALE was configured and installed, with immediate results.

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ALE Overview

The Affiliate Link Encoder (ALE) automatically converts any DTM link on a web site, to an Affiliate tracking link. Of course the merchant must first be offering their Affiliate program through AvantLink. This subscription-based tool allows Affiliates to include a small line of code server-side, and then the web browser (on the client-side) converts a domain or keyword match for AvantLink merchants they are associated with. Search engines still see DTM links because the html source is not altered in any way. In the right context this instantly and effectively helps to monetize the deep archives of large web forums, and it also provides an efficient way for web site owners or bloggers to Affiliate link through their content and editorials.

Two ALE uses and applications for Affiliates:

  1. Web forums or other online communities can immediately start monetizing years of archived content, by way of existing direct links to web retailers. Because the ALE script finds domain matches to merchants using AvantLink, the conversion will happen on links posted by site administrators or community members alike.
  2. Site administrators or bloggers can install an ALE subscription once on a site-wide include or template, and not have to worry about linking through network tracking URLs in order to get credit for referred sales. For obvious reasons this is a huge efficiency tool for bloggers and other content producers.

From the other standpoint, web retailers savvy on link building will benefit greatly from their Affiliates linking directly to them rather than through a network tracking URL. Although it is ultimately up to the Affiliate on how they link to merchants, opportunities do exist to harness Affiliate link value in addition to new customers and sales. Merchants interested in using Affiliates for link building should consider offering a higher commission to those Affiliates who agree to use the ALE instead of standard network tracking URLs.

Interested in learning more about the ALE? Use the following URLs for articles and tutorials:

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Teton Gravity Research ALE Implementation – Forum

Getting back to the case with TGR, let’s look at several screengrabs to demonstrate how the ALE instantly created a revenue channel via the TGR forum. The first two screengrabs below (TGR_1.png & TGR_2.png) are from an archived thread (thread started December, 2010) about the Armada TST ski. It’s relevant to note that this thread generated a sale referral for evo on the day this was written (May 16, 2011). The last contribution to this thread is dated January 5, 2011, so the content is definitely stagnant and archived. Without the presence of the ALE, that referred customer would not have earned TGR a commission from evo.

Within TGR_1.png the white arrow points out how community member “DyingToLiveToSki” posted a link to “evo.com” within the thread/discussion. The URL at the bottoom of TGR_1.png is the ALE-converted link, which tracks through AvantLink. Remember this happens client-side through the web browser, so the html still shows the direct link to evo (see screengrab TGR_2.png for source code). Skis.com, another AvantLink merchant, is also linked up from that thread. Since TGR is an Affiliate with both evo and Skis.com, referred sales to either store would track and credit TGR with respective commissions.

Armada TST Screengrab

TGR_1.png – Armada TST Thread – Click for Full Size View

Armada TST Screengrab - HTML Source

TGR_2.png – Armada TST Thread HTML Source – Click for Full Size View

It is clear that established web communities like TGR can greatly benefit from the use of the ALE, so long as the stores their community members link to are active in the AvantLink network. Additionally, the ALE allows TGR site administrators to convert keywords to tracking links in the same way through the subscription configuration. For example in screengrab TGR_3.png below notice how the text reference in the thread to BC.com (thread started February, 2011) displays as a link which ultimately goes to Backcountry.com. Like TGR_2.png above, you will note while viewing the html source for that thread that BC.com is in fact only text. The ALE script converts the BC.com text to a tracking link via the end user’s browser.

BC.com Screengrab

TGR_3.png – BC.com Thread – Click for Full Size View

BC.com Screengrab - HTML Source

TGR_4.png – BC.com Thread HTML Source – Click for Full Size View

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Teton Gravity Research ALE Implementation – Gear Reviews/Editorials

Affiliates using the ALE have legitimate leverage to negotiate higher payouts. This is because the Affiliate, TGR in this case, can effectively pass link authority to merchants with their direct links. In a standard merchant/Affiliate relationship the traffic comes through a redirect, which records the click at the network. Obviously with the “network redirect” linking scenario merchants will not get link value from their Affiliate partners. Some web retailers recognize the added value of direct links from Affiliates so they are willing to pay more commission.

Note the following screengrab (TGR_5.png) where TGR is effectively helping evo’s SEO for the term “Drop Descent Pack“, while maintaining the opportunity to earn a commission on referred customer sales. The TGR_6.png screengrab then shows the html source for the same page, which clearly displays the direct link to the “Drop Descent Pack” product page at evo. Finally TGR_7.png displays a screengrab from the Google SERP for the term “Drop Descent Pack”, where evo effectively owns top rank with TGR not far behind.

Product Review/Editorial "Drop Descent Pack" Screengrab

TGR_5.png – Product Review/Editorial “Drop Descent Pack” – Click for Full Size View

Product Review/Editorial "Drop Descent Pack" Screengrab - HTML Source

TGR_6.png – Product Review/Editorial “Drop Descent Pack” HTML Source

Google SERP "Drop Descent Pack"

TGR_7.png – Google SERP “Drop Descent Pack”

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Conclusion

The AvantLink Affiliate Link Encoder (ALE) is a powerful way for web site owners to utilize existing content and archives for significant revenue generating opportunity. Web sites with large content archives should absolutely be compensated for sales referred to stores they partner with from any link, and this tool makes that possible with very little effort. Clearly the revenue earning potential the ALE offers established web forums, blogs, social networks and other online communities are enormous.

In the specific case detailed above, a popular and active skiing community at TetonGravity.com was able to instantly begin monetizing thousands of forum threads that included links to outdoor merchants on the AvantLink platform. TGR also effectively uses the ALE within product reviews and editorials, providing tremendous SEO benefit to the stores they link to. If you own a similar web forum or a popular blog related to merchant categories in AvantLink, you most certainly should activate an account and begin monetizing your archives using the ALE.

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  • Jeremy Curtis

    Good stuff!

  • mountainperson

    So, it is easy to see the SEO value of this for the etailer the publisher links to using the ALE. But if the etailer doesn’t appreciate it, any way to add a rel=nofollow to the links? That would give the publisher some power that they probably deserve, since after all, it’s their own website, their own content, and their own links.

    Also, when TGR was founded I remember some issues with how “commercial” they would make it despite its success as a high traffic forum. They didn’t even have any display advertising for a long time. It goes unsaid but I’ll say it, using ALE is a great way to do “stealth” monitization of online communities that are sensitive to commercialization. This latter point might actually be the most powerful aspect of ALE.

  • Hello mountainperson, thanks for the comment. Right now the ALE configuration does not included an option for a nofollow link attribute.

    I do see your point although in terms of monetizing existing archives, the links to stores would already be there.

    And yes the “’stealth’ monitization of online communities” is absolutely a good point, and something for folks to consider 🙂

    GM