On my Traveling Geeks blogger junket to the UK earlier this month, one of the most impressive start ups I met was a company called Skimlinks. Founder Alicia Navarro‘s business model is solid and she provides a real value to publishers and content creators who want to easily include affiliate links on their site. Here’s an interview Alicia and I did as a wrap up for you.
Tell me a little about yourself and how you founded SkimLinks.
I have always yearned to run my own business, and had studied IT and worked in internet application product management in order to learn what I needed to achieve this. While in an interview for a job at Google that I didn’t want, I was asked to come up with a product idea. I started talking about a social decision-making tool, and I loved the idea so much I started Skimbit the next day. Skimbit didn’t do amazingly well on its own, and went through a few iterations, and during this process we came up with a way to reverse engineer affiliate marketing links from user-generated content. This technology became so popular we decided to change our business strategy and focus exclusively on this and other technologies that helped publishers monetise their content. Thus Skimlinks was born!
Note from Susan: The sign of a good entrepreneur is one who alters their business model until they find the right set of offerings and revenue. Alicia is proving she can do this.
Describe the SkimLinks service.
Skimlinks is a simplified affiliate marketing service for publishers. It automates the process of creating and maintaining affiliate links on your site. It aggregates 19 affiliate networks and 11,000 merchant programs into one account, giving publishers instant access to every affiliate program. Publishers just need to add one line of code into their site footer once, and their whole site, including all archival content is immediately enabled. Publishers do what they normally do: write posts and link to retailer products, eg. a review on a pair of shoes and then linking to the shoes on Macys.com. Then when a user clicks on this link to Macy’s, Skimlinks checks to see if the link can be turned into an affiliate link, and if it can, it automatically turns the link into its equivalent affiliate link on-the-fly. Its seamless to the user, and means all your archival content is monetised and kept up to date always, without any effort on behalf of the publisher.
Note from Susan: Though I can’t vouch for how easy it actually is for a publisher to integrate the “one line of code” on their site, I am very impressed with the way Skimlinks automatically changes a direct link into an affiliate link on the fly. This makes the user experience on the site much better.
Alicia Navarro, Founder, Skimlinks
What features are most used and least used of the feature set now?
The most used feature is to use Skimlinks on user-generated content, like social bookmarking, social shopping and forum sites. As we have a custom subdomain feature, we can make Skimlinks look completely internal to your site; and as we don’t rewrite the links until they are clicked on, there is no impact on page load, and the links don’t appear to be affiliate links increasingly chances of clickthroughs.
What’s the #1 reason publishers use your service?
Publishers use our service because they want to earn revenue from their site in an easy way. Rather than spend their own time working out the complexities of creating and maintaining affiliate links, they can focus 100% of their time and effort on their content and their community, and outsource their affiliate management to a company that can do it more efficiently and with the best technology.
What are the next features you hope to launch?
We are in the process of launching our innovative Global feed (one single aggregated global product feed and API) and SkimKit (editorial toolkit to help journalists and bloggers research products), both of which help publishers add more content that can be monetised on their site.
Note from Susan: I’d like to see Skimlinks integrated with Zemanta, another start up I met in London on the TG2009 tour. Zemanta is installed in my WordPress software now and gives me related images, links and online articles I can easily drag and drop into my blog posts. If I had Skimlinks as part of this, I could also easily add affiliate links into my blog posts. Putting more add ons into my current WordPress set up always worries me. I’d like to see more partnerships and wider integration, rather than a bunch of stand alone features from different companies.
Who are your competitors?
Our main competitor is a publisher doing their own affiliate marketing, although increasingly we are getting more and more existing affiliates using Skimlinks because it makes them more efficient and lets them focus on their core competencies: content, SEO, and community.
What do you need from the market to be successful?
There are changes afoot in Europe to force publishers to explicitly disclose if they use affiliate marketing – this would have a big impact on the industry. We are instead supportive of publishers retaining editorial integrity as they use affiliate marketing, and disclosing it within certain sections of their site.
Alicia Navarro, founder, Skimlinks at the US/UK Seedcamp SpeedDating Event
How are you doing on funding?
We are lucky to be funded by some great companies: Sussex Place Ventures, The Accelerator Group, and NESTA, plus some great Angels.
What is your business model? How will you monetize?
We retain a small revenue share of what we make the publishers, but above and beyond our technology, you get attentive account managers who help you maximise your revenues; you get access to our innovative research and optimisation tools; and we help publishers get voucher codes and discount information to offer their readers, so its a very value-rich service we offer.
Note from Susan: I like the percentage model of Skimlinks and they are smart to include a human optimization element so they increase usage of their features and become a must-have part of a publisher’s revenue model.
What kind of US partners would help grow your business faster?
We like to talk to all sorts of publishers that want to start earning money from affiliate marketing. We are keen to speak to publishers that already have a lot of retailer links, even in their user-generated content, but also from sites that want to create their own ‘related products’ widgets using our Global feed, as we can now help them too.