Skype Affiliate Program Closing

Skype Affiliate

Skype Affiliate

Skype announced yesterday in an email that they would be closing their affiliate marketing program after joining Commission Junction in April 2005.  As a Skype Affiliate they offered upto 15-25% commission from customers who purchased one of the following with a 30 day referral window which made it quite profitable for affiliates.
  • Skype Credit - With Skype Credit, customers can make international low-cost calls to landlines and cell phones, send text messages, and much more.
  • Skype Subscriptions - Using Skype Subscriptions, customers can make international low-cost calls to landlines and cell phones, as well as send text messages at a savings per minute. You will pay a flat monthly fee- no long term contract required.
  • Skype Numbers - You will create your own number that anyone can call from their phone and you pick up on Skype wherever you are in the world.
  • Skype Credit eGift Card - Send a Skype eGift Card online and show friends and family the wonders of Skype Credit.
Who loses out when Skype program closes?It seems one of the biggest losers appears to be a number of affiliates based in New Zealand based on CJ affiliate data shown below. There is also a suspiciously high number of affiliates based in the Russian Federation, Ukraine and Pakistan.
Top 5 Countries Based on Conversion Data in the Previous Month

Top 5 Countries Based on Conversion Data in the Previous Month

The other big party to lose out will be the affiliate managers from FountainJump who ran the campaign on behalf of Skype.Alternative Solutions to Skype Affiliate Program?Skype was the dominate player in the online telephone space and was the dominate brand for that space which helped with conversion.  There are a handful of alternative CJ affiliate programs but none offer exactly the same services as Skype but several are quite suitable for businesses or replacement for landlines.






RingCentral Transcoder

Google continues it's push for mobile first world with the expansion Google is aggressively expanding their transcode process starting in Indonesia in April, India in June and it seems now starting to show up globally according to Ben Pfeiffer. Cheers to Saijo George for pointing out it's progress since April 2015 around the world. Google is pushing this for faster and lighter mobile pages for people searching Google on slow mobile connections.  Below you can see the comparison loading blogspot without on the left side and with on the right side which shows a fairly substantial improvement.Their experiments claim their optimised pages load 4x faster and use 80% less bandwidth which sounds great but what does it sacrifice?How to test transcoded view?If you have a search console account you can test how your website looks using their transcoder which will create a QR code you can scan with your mobile or use the Chrome device mode as shown in the screenshot below.
Transcoder Low Bandwidth

Transcoder Low Bandwidth

 Can I Opt-Out of Transcoding?Yes, if you do not want Google to transcode your pages you can add the following meta tag to HTTP header to your page and if Googlebot sees this page your page will not be transcoded.<meta http-equiv="Cache-Control" "no-transform" />Downsides of Opt-Out of Transcoding?If you do choose to opt-out Google will label your website results to indicate to yours that your pages may take longer and may use more data.  This will likely impact your CTR from mobile devices and could potentially include desktop devices on slow connections.  You can view more FAQ on their page.Ads and Revenue Impacts of Transcoding?As of May 2015 Google only supports a handful of Ad Networks including obviously AdSense but also Sovrn and Zedo but strangely still not supporting DoubleClick for Publishers (DFP). They do state that they will support more ad networks but no timeline on this yet. Transcoding also limits the number of ads showing on a single page and that limit is hardcoded to 3 currently.  Google selects ads requested in order by the original page, so if your high CPC or CPM banners are loaded last Google will load them last or drop them if you are showing more than 3 ads.Google also advises that they only support two ad formats for transcoding 320x50 and 300x250 if you want your ad network to be included on transcoded pages.Why Shouldn't I Transcode my pages?A big reasons to not transcode your pages is that some Proxy and CDN services encode your media.  This is not likely an issue if you don't use many features like images or music but could have implications if you do.  It can have a huge impact if you opt-out for most large websites that use CDN for images and media files.  If you are unsure if you are using CDNs you can use CDN Finder.
CDN Finder

CDN Finder

If you need more details on Proxoy Decision to Transform W3C Working group has some notes on the topic, but be careful if you opt-out you might find some elements might break and your CTR from mobile devices might drop. 

Marketing Mobile Apps

Photo by mikecogh/Flickr

Photo by mikecogh/Flickr

Most marketers and business owners can identify with the shift from web to apps based on their own mobile use. There is a trend for many users to consider an Apps Only world, This requires some adaption by businesses and investment in making your apps better and marketing them more.You can start by asking yourself two very simple questions:
  1. How many apps have you installed on your device? How many do you really use?
  2. If you already have the app, how often do you use their app instead of their website?
Smartphone use grows to 1.91 billion users in 2015 (28% of the population) making apps a key part in any digital strategy. But are you ready for an apps only world?It's not enough to just build an app and launch it into the app store, you need to make sure people actually download the app. That means you have to cut through the noise to reach your target audience.Over 1 million apps available. How do get people to download & use yours? During Apple's 2014 WWDC they announced iTunes has over 1.2 million iOS apps available. The Google Play Store has an estimated 1.55 million Android apps according to AppBrain. Remember when I asked you how many apps you have installed on your device and how many do you really use?

Free Or Paid App?

A big consideration is whether you market a free, freemium, or paid app. While technically the paid market is not dead and can still produce reasonable success, users taste preferences are changing. Hybrid models of in-app purchases, in-app advertising, or even subscription models can be much more lucrative for publishers if they get it right.If you have developed a premium paid app you better ensure it's amazing if you want user to buy it no matter if it's $0.99 or more. According to eMarketer research only 35.8% of US smartphone users will purchase an app. Do you still want to go premium? Evaluate how the app fits into your business model, review the competitive landscape, and don't be afraid to experiment with pricing or promotions until you find the sweet spot. Remember that most people love free stuff even if later they have to make in-app purchases to attain that upgrade for the next level...

Can Your App Win Their Love?

The big question you need to answer is: will your users place your app on their home screen -- and if not, it will they ever open it again if it's hidden away in a folder. There are only a handful of apps or companies that can win the prized placement of a user's home screen (Facebook owns 4 of them).You recall the question at the start about how many apps that you have downloaded you really use? I assume you probably have 2-3 alternative apps for most common apps so you can now see how much choice your audience has.There are now three points you should be able to easily answer:
  1. Does your app belong on the user's home screen? Do they use or value it that much?
  2. If you are not on the home screen, do you have a plan to recapture the user's attention?
  3. Is your app is good enough that the user won't un-install it to make space on their device for more selfies or another app?

App Marketing Considerations?

There are 5 core areas you need to consider when you market your app. Some of these considerations can be done at a minimal level but they all need to be done for your app to be effective.It's easy to throw money at Apps and hope it works but with some planning you can attain far better campaign results by looking at the following areas:
  • Measurement: How do you measure your app installs? How do you measure engagement within your app?
At the basic level you should have some web analytics installed in your app. There are plenty of options: Piwik, Countly, Flurry and obviously Google Analytics.If you spend a lot on paid promotion, want better ROI tracking or attribution analysis then I'd also suggest including a tracking SDK such as Adjust, Tune, AppsFlyer, Kochava, or Localytics.
  • Re-Engagement: It's not enough for your users to just install the app, you need them to be using the app; how do you encourage users back into your app? Daily bonuses, retargeting, Deep Linking, App-Indexing, Push Notifications?
  • Feedback Loop: There should be a continuous feedback loop. Listen to what your users are saying. Listen for improvement feedback and feature requests. Pay attention to reports about bugs and other problems with your app.
Places to get feedback include App Store reviews, listening on social media, but also platforms such as Crashlytics or Apptentive.
  • Organic Promotion: It's great that you have an app but are you actively promoting it? Are you linking to your app page from your website, social media or emails? Are you optimizing your App Store listing to get the most visibility in the App Stores?
There are hundreds of platforms you can use. To name a few: AppAnnie, AppData, AppFigures, and SensorTower. Most require a paid account for the full feature set.
  • Paid Promotion: Paid promotion can help you reach a new audience, allows for very targeted campaigns, and offers great insights into your potential market.
There are plenty of paid promotional channels, Bing Ads, Facebook App Ads, Twitter App Ads, Apple iAd, Yahoo, and even Google AdWords has a few app specific products.

Google Pushing For Apps...

Google is playing a bit of catch-up on apps. It lags Facebook in the quest for mobile app users. But now apps are clearly the focus for Google. Others will follow their lead or risk being left behind.Google sees desktop traffic stalling out and is doubling down on apps. They push to make apps more central and improve app discover by rolling out App-Indexing. The general idea of app-indexing is that when you allow your app to be crawled and indexed by Google mobile searches can be presented with results that can be opened within your app.Google has also gone one step further by actually rolling out a specific mobile algorithm with a ranking benefit to websites with indexed app for signed-in users who already have your app installed. This is important; as Google starts to shift users directly into apps instead of websites, Google also provides an advantage to websites that build a quality app to complement their website experience.With App-Indexing Google offers an SEO incentive to websites that integrate their mobile, desktop, and app experience.

The Growing App Ecosystem

There is a lot of focus on app marketing. Your digital marketing needs to be perfect for your Apps; they can be make or break your business.Apple saw a 50% increase in revenue in 2014 from iOS apps with over $10 billion in revenue for developers: proof that there is money in apps. Google Play Store distributed more than $7 billion to app developers.This highlights the huge potential audience and revenues you can attract. But understand that you also face incredible competition. You need to have your game plan in place.A few questions you need to answer when you think of launching an app:
  • Do we need an app? Can we use a white-labelled app or do we build from scratch?
  • Are most of our audience on iOS, Android, Blackberry, or WindowsPhone?
  • What is our time frame for building and launching the app?
  • Who is our competition? How pro-active or established are they?
  • What is the total potential audience or revenue we can generate?
  • How much can we invest in an app?
  • How much do we have to spend promoting the app?
So good luck and don't worry if you trip up along the way as long as you keep moving forward and learn from the experience you will succeed if you invest enough resources and energy into your app project.Editors Note: This was previously published this post on Search Engine People on the 17th June 2015.

Facebook Like Box Stops 23rd June 2015

Facebook has quietly announced on their website that with the release of Graph API v2.3, the Like Box plugin for pages is deprecated and will stop working on June 23rd 2015. They advise that you should use their new Page Plugin instead.
Like Box plugin deprecated

Like Box plugin deprecated

 Their page plugin in similar to the old like box but is a little more visual and allows you to embed a simple feed of content from a Page into your websites. If you want to add the new page plugin you can visit but you will required to remove the old code and add in the new SDK. The settings on the new page plugin is fairly similar to the old like box as you can see below. 
Facebook Page Plugin

Facebook Page Plugin

TripAdvisor Grand Budapest Hotel Stunt

It seems that even big sites like TripAdvisor can still get link bait right sometimes and remain on brand, get a ton of social shares and still build relevant inbound links for industry blogs and high authority news sites.  TripAdvisor have launched a fictional Grand Budapest Hotel listing located in the fictional Republic of Zubrowka but they have quickly grown from 20 to 50 reviews to the current amount of 124 reviews and will likely continue to grow.  The TripAdvisor listing already managed to be ranked #1 of 1 hotels in The Republic of Zubrowka so there is no stopping their chances of being the one of the top hotels in Hungary at some point soon, which might be interesting for visitors looking to book a real hotel.The Grand Budapest HotelWhile it was originally reported by A.V Club as a potential PR stunt for the UK DVD launch of Wes Anderson's film "The Grand Budapest Hotel" this seems to be something closer to link bait because the listing is on every localised version of TripAdvisor not just the UK version.  So that rules out the chances that this version is just setup to promote the UK DVD release and there is no mention of the DVD on the TripAdvisor page.So why would TripAdvisor be interested in creating a specific page for The Grand Budapest Hotel considering it's a fictional hotel if it's not related to the DVD launch? So I thought I would look at Google Trends data, what you can see is that the search volumes of "The Grand Budapest Hotel" & "Grand Budapest Hotel" look to be almost as much as the interest in "Budapest Hotel" and far far higher than "Budapest Hotels".  So it looks to be something of a smart traffic play by TripAdvisor if they can capture even part of this potential search traffic. I would assume that they would have tested the ROI on the head traffic terms listed in the screenshot below before they launched this content page.Google Trends So how did the link bait campaign work for TripAdvisor?I thought I'd play around with Moz Fresh Web Explorer to see if I can pick up what links the URL has attracted so far. In the screenshot below you can see the main URL has attracted atleast 16 web mentions since the 8th July 2014.  The localised versions and only attracted one additional mention each, showing won the battle for links this time around. I'd think that after a few months MajesticSEO and Moz will show up a far more detailed link graph of just how many links TripAdvisor built due to this campaign. grand budapest hotel fresh links How did TripAdvisor do with traditional media coverage?The fictional hotel stunt listing seemed to do ok with some mainstream media picking up the story, I found the a majority of the following sites in Google News that were providing some coverage from a short post for a full in-depth article and several more that were appearing on the first few pages of
  • PSFK
  • Curbed National
  • Daily Mail
  • Irish Independent
  • A.V. Club
  • Indie Wire
  • Bright
  • France TV Info
  • Glamour
  • L'Huffington Post
  • Huffington Post Italy
  • Best Movie
  • Bad Taste
  • InStyle
  • Styleite
  • JOL Press
  • Cosmopolitan
  • Marie France Magazine
  • Orgio
  • Travelo
  • Dalje
  • Métro Montréal
  • USA Today
  • RelevantMagazine
  • DesignTaxi
  • TravelFreak
  • Veooz
It's possible that there are a number of more media sites that might eventually pick up on this story over the next few weeks and a lot more that are not going to appear in Google News results.  I would say that this was a rather successful pickup by blogs and media sites as many linked back to TripAdvisor and pretty much ever single post feature TripAdvisor in the article name which is great for driving brand awareness.How did TripAdvisor stunt do with social media?It seems that the stunt did far better on social media with a total estimated number of shares on the main URL was 10,148 at the time of posting.  This number could easily continue to increase if more blogs and media sites pick up on the story and if TripAdvisor uses paid media to amplify the number of social shares.  The breakdown of social shares shows that Facebook (9650 engagements) is still the dominate platform followed by Twitter (364 tweets), Pinterest (100 pins), Linkedin (20 shares) and Google+ (14 +1s) coming last.  So I'd say that this stunt was semi-successful on social media but not what I would could a viral success based on the current number of engagements I could find.What's next?I assume that if this works based on TripAdvisor's past behaviour they will likely milk the hell out of this idea and expand it to cover any number of other fictional TV, movie and song locations such as the following....
  • The Overlook Hotel - The Shining
  • Fawlty Towers - Fawlty Towers TV series
  • Bates Motel - Psycho + Bates Motel TV series
  • The Dolphin - 1408
  • The Hyperion Hotel - Angel TV series
  • Hotel Earle - Barton Fink
  • Hotel Splendide - Casino Royale
  • Majestic Hotel - Dunston Checks In
  • Heartbreak Hotel - Elvis Presley
  • Hotel Babylon - Hotel Babylon TV series
  • The Hotel New Hampshire - Hotel New Hampshire
  • Hotel Splendide - Hotel Splendide
  • Hotel Transylvania - Hotel Transylvania
  • Kellerman's Resort - Dirty Dancing
  • New York Hotel - Maid in Manhattan
  • Pensione Bertolini - A Room with a View
  • Hotel California - Eagle's Song "Hotel California"
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