Trying out Skimlinks…

This is going to get slightly off topic when it comes to minivan camper conversions, but it has to do with the products on our site and is good information for anyone… especially of you are one of those who have been rejected by certain vendors because you live in a state that has a nexus law.

As I have said before, I am not doing this site out of the goodness of my heart. I have no great need to see my name in lights, or to share my thoughts with anyone. All I have is my Social Security and that’s all. This site is my “pension” to supplement my income. If I can’t make some extra money on the web, then I have better things to do than sit here writing all day. I make no apologies for trying to make extra income or to make sales in doing it. That’s the way the world works!

However, to those of you thought there were too many blue links in the free book, I do apologize. Those links have been removed from the next edition of the book. Only the main site URL and links will remain. In turn, we will make more specific recommendations with brands, model numbers, and even pictures of the products when we can acquire them. Recommendations on where to buy them, with a list of links to vendors will be in the back of the book.

That being said, let’s get to the the topic at hand.

With today being the last day that we will get Amazon Associate commissions through the normal channels we decided to try a new affiliate aggregator called Skimlinks (.com). This was recommended by a fellow affiliate marketer, Rosalind Gardner. From what we can see, Skimlinks is supposed to be an “aggregator of aggregators”.

I will go into more detail about this on our Heartland Web Training blog (http://blog.heartlandwebtraining.com), but they claim that they have access to over 16,000 stores through 28 of the “normal” aggregators that we would normally go through, such as Amazon, eBay, Commission Junction, Linkshare, LinkConnector and many others. But here’s the big difference…

Once you get approved by Skimlinks, you are automatically approved by all of these other aggegators and stores, which should save a lot of time sending in applications. Supposedly, it is a way to get around all the controversy with Amazon because Skimlinks is based in the UK, and therefore has no issues to deal with in collecting sales tax for the United States. But does it work?

Our initial application was rejected, with no reason given as to why. So I emailed their support link and asked “why” we were being rejected. What I got back was a letter of approval, followed shortly by a welcome letter with some basic instructions. In theory, all you have to do is copy and paste a short line of code script into the html on every page you want the links to show up on, and it will magically redirect any links on the page to Skimlinks (provided the vendor is already in their lists of vendors that they work with), which will then send it on to the affilliate vendor and to the actual store so the order can be filled.

Skimlinks keeps 25% of THEIR negotiated commissions (which may be higher than the affiliate would offer to you directly) and sends you the rest.

They also have a secondary program called SkimWords, which will take certain keywords of your text (basically “nouns” and product names) and automatically convert them to a product link.

Let’s say (theoretically) that a vendor normally pays out a 6% commission to affiliates, but yet Skimlinks was able to negotiate an 8% commission for themselves.  If they keep 25% of that, they would get 2%, while the other 75% would still be the normal 6% that you would get anyway. That doesn’t sound like a bad deal, does it?

However, if a vendor insists that they are going to pay the same commission to Skimlinks that they pay to everyone else, and stays at the 6% level, then Skimlinks is only going to get 25% of that, or only 1-1/2%, while you would get the remaining 4-1/2%.

On the other hand, they deal with a great many vendors at different commission levels. Let’s say that they have one that pays 12% that is “picky” about who they deal with. You may not be able to get approval to deal with that vendor directly, but because their arrangement is with Skimlinks, you now have access to them! And if Skimlinks keeps 25% of that commission (3%) and sends you the other 75% (9% to you) then you “could” make more on some sales than you would have made through Amazon!

Here’s the biggest advantages:

  1. You save time in not having to apply separately to all these individual stores, like you normally do through most aggregators.
  2. You can also get access to stores that may turn you down for various reasons when applying to them directly, as Skimlinks guarantees that you will not be declined by any of their vendors.
  3. You will have all administrative tasks in one dashboard.
  4. Many stores pay much higher than a straight 6% advertsing fee or commission, so on some sales from some stores, you may be able to do better than Amazon.

However, I see some problems with this method.  In our situation, I am trying to recommend some very specific products (in some cases, not all), and with Amazon banners, I could show the exact products I was recommending.  I see no method in Skimlinks to be able to do any individual product links, nor do I see any way to actually choose what store the link is going to send the customer to!

My wife tried it out on one of her sites (http://musicdecorandmore.blogspot.com), and it worked about half the time. Some banners were converted and some weren’t. It did convert the text “musical instruments” to a link, but it sent the reader to eBay’s musical instruments section. We have no control over that.  What if she would have rather sent to them to “Musician’s Friend” instead?

From what I can see, this Skimlinks program is no better than Google Adsense, which puts up ads on the site based on the keywords of the site. There is no control over what ads are shown or by what vendors. They could even put ads on there from a competitor. I don’t like that idea, and that is why you will never see Adsense on any of our sites. I don’t want just any “junk” shown on our sites. I want to offer very specific quality products of our own choosing from vendors of our choosing. There are too many “fly by night” vendors out there with poor quality products and even poorer customer service, and I refuse to deal with them.

As an example, on one of the 12-volt extension cords that we have seen on site after site, I found out by reading the reviews that the wire in it is too small to carry the full rated load without getting hot! That could damage equipment or be dangerous!  I WILL NOT (knowingly) sell junk!

Skimlinks appears to have a good deal going for them, if they would only let the site publishers choose which stores, and which products within those stores, that they want to offer on their sites.

So far, my inquiries have been answered within 48 hours, which to me, in customer service is too long. They should be able to get back to people within hours when they have a problem… not days. Better yet, they should have a chat provision.

There are too many questions left unanswered on their site, as to how their program works, details on how to set it up, how long it should take before it takes effect, etc. , etc.  Maybe they will improve the site as time goes on. They need more instructional videos.

But to give them a fair shake, I have sent off several important questions, and will be waiting to see how long it takes for them to reply, and how they reply. In the meantime, my Skimlinks code has been on my pages for nearly 24 hours, and I have yet to see any change in the links or the text on the site, even though my wife put the code on her blog after I put it on mine, and she is already seeing changes in the linking. I may be forced to leave the Amazon banners on my site until I get a reply from Skimlinks as to why it isn’t working.

I still have my own list of vendors, from which I already have approval and can deal with them either directly, or through an aggregator.  So if Skimlinks doesn’t pan out like I want them to, I do have alternatives. I still prefer to offer the products that I originally recommended in my ebook, along with a few alternatives that would still do the job. If I have to do away with the Amazon links and go to text links with brands and model numbers instead, I can do that, too.  But if I do, I don’t want those text links going to places that I have not approved! In order to use the stores that I choose and do “deep linking” to the products I choose, I may have to do a lot of research and a lot of my own code work to create those links.

Building a site or a blog where all you have is a lot of content (writing) and show “pretty pictures” is one thing. Anybody can do that!  But trying to get a site that does that as well as make money takes a lot more work!

So please be patient as this site grows. I will soon be inserting more pictures on the site, along with more content. If you have pictures of your own minivan project you would like me to show, please send them to me by email. I will take care of adjusting the picture sizes, and edit the content for spelling and grammar.  If you have any questions on anything, please let me know by commenting here, or contact me directly.

Thanks.