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Chitika Shoplinc Review

Shoplinc
Chitika have just gone public with a new feature – Shoplincs – a CPC (cost per click) branded shop that you can host on your own domain and attatch to your blog/site.

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of a small (very small from what I can tell) beta test of ShopLinc and now that it’s public can tell you a little about it.

In effect what ShopLinc gives you is a shop for your blog where you are paid on a CPC basis (the same as eMiniMalls). Take a tour of shoplinc here.

The shop I’ve been testing is a Digital Camera Shop attached to my digital camera blog. You’ll see when going to it that it is customizable so as to integrate it to the rest of your blog (I’ve not done a brilliant job of this yet due to lack of time) and that you can have it on your own domain to further integrate it.

The four products featured on the front page of a shoplinc blog (in a multi-product eMiniMall and as separate products) are directly tied to the products you are writing about on your blog as they are driven via your RSS feed. This is a new approach that I’ve not seen anyone else doing to this point and ensures that people heading over to your shoplinc shop are seeing products that relate directly to the content you’re writing about (of course this assumes that your RSS feed is product specific).

Also on the front page of your shop are the last three recent posts from your RSS feed as well as a categories section that has links into other sections of the shoplinc. Categories include gadgets like Camcorders, Cell phones, digital cameras, MP3 Players and Printers but also include other products including Health and Beauty, Home and Garden and Clothing and Accessories).

Topping and tailing the central ‘shop section’ are customizable areas (a header and footer) in which you can put anything you like including banners back to your blog (as I currently have), other advertising (you can run chitika eMiniMalls here, AdSense ads etc) or you can leave them blank.

There is also a ‘search’ tool that lets visitors to your shoplinc search for products (from my initial analysis this seems to be being used quite a bit).

When visitors click on a product they are taken to a product page (here’s one for the new Sony Alpha A100 DSLR) which contains a number of elements. Firstly there is an eMiniMall unit, under that are a number of offers from different dealers offering the camera (a click on these is what earns you money) and to the left of this shopping area is a section for ‘research’ – firstly any related items on the product from your own blog (driving traffic back to your blog) and secondly any other research from other parts of the web.

To this point Shoplincs are not available to everyone – but there is talk on their blog of them opening up applications wider.

First Impressions

Chitika’s Shoplinc is still a relatively new product from Chitika and even in the past couple of weeks it’s changed a bit. I would think that it’ll continue to mature as a product over the coming months (and it should).

Earnings – I’m not sure at how much detail I can speak about what it’s earned me so far but I will say that it’s been a worthwhile addition to my blog. Three pages are tracked in Chitika’s statistics for Shoplinc, the front page, product pages and search results pages. Each page converts quite differently in terms of CTR and eCPM but overall it does quite well on an overall eCPM basis.

In fact in terms of eCPM (earnings per 1000 impressions) they do as well as any page I’ve ever had (if not better).

The challenge of course is getting traffic to the product pages. While they earn great money for every 1000 visitors you get there it’s not always easy driving traffic.

What I like

The set up – it was painless and just involved picking a template (there are three to choose from at this point), giving my server guy some instructions on where to point pages to and adding some headers.

Product pages are linkable – it’s possible to drive traffic to individual product pages directly. This is good for a number of reason but mainly because you can bypass the non converting front page by linking to specific product pages.

What I don’t like

Non Earning Pages - I don’t like that the front page and search pages have considerably lower earning power than product pages (note they have improved this since I started testing but they are still not converting as high as other pages). The front page in particular seems like a wasted opportunity as it will naturally have more traffic than any other page on the shop. While I’m happy that a lot of people do seem to find their way to product pages I’d love to see them add some way of earning income to the front and search pages also.

Research from the Web Section – I don’t particularly like that they link to other relevant pages from around the web on individual product pages. This is for two reasons – firstly it drives traffic away from both the shop and my blog (to other sites). Secondly, some of the results it’s come up with are junky and other shops. I’m not sure how they get them but today I followed a few of these links and some were spam blogs and other crappy sites – others were my direct competitors. I’d rather this section disappeared or at least was optional.

What I’m not sure if I like yet

Auditing – I’m yet to see an audit of shoplinc yet. Chitika audit once a month and I’ll reserve judgement on whether I’m totally happy with it until I see a month or two’s full figures.

Impact upon other ads – I’ve noticed a small drop off in earnings for other ads (most noticeably Chitika’s eMiniMalls and my AdSense earnings) on the blog. I guess this is largely because I’ve given readers another option to click on the blog which means that where as X% used to click on other ads that there are a slightly lower % clicking now as some are going to the shop instead. Time will tell whether it’d worth losing this revenue as I see what the shoplinc brings in.

Research from the Expert Section – the section on product pages that links back to relevant posts on my own blog has mixed feelings for me. On one hand it drives traffic back to my blog and gives readers some relevant content. On the other hand it sends people away from a money making page. In a similar way I’m undecided about having navigational links at the top of my page that link back to the blog.

RSS Feed Driving Products – I like the idea of my feed driving the featured products on the front page in principle – but in reality it can have some problems, especially when I’m not writing about products specifically. On my digital camera blog 90% of my posts are on products so it works well – but in some instances I will write a ‘tip’ or will write news that isn’t about a camera. In these cases the shoplinc makes a best guess and quite often serves something that isn’t really the type of product I’d want to have featured on my front page. This has meant I’ve been a little more aware of how and what I’m writing and what impact that will have upon my shop. I can see that bloggers with less product specific niches will be frustrated by this.

What happens when everyone can have one? – I am a little scared of what will happen when and if Chitika lets everyone have a shoplinc shop attached to their blog or site. The potential for them to be used by spammers to drive traffic to worries me a little and I really hope that Chitika keep this limited to a smaller number of reputable publishers.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Tim says:

    Darren, regarding “RSS Feed Driving Products”. I created a specific category for my GPS Shoplinc behind the scenes called “shoplinc”. Then anytime I write a post that should produce a good result in my Shoplinc I assign the post to the shoplinc category and any other applicable category. Then I don’t use my primary feed, but instead the shoplinc category feed, to power the shoplinc. There are options in WordPress to not include certain categories in category lists so the Shoplinc category doesn’t appear on my primary site in the category list.

  2. Motte Bonk says:

    Its awesome that Chitika is offering something like this to ordinary Joe’s like us. I always wanted something like this but the hassle of getting it from one of the big boys is a 3 month initiative.

    But I share Darren’s concern though: If this is offered to every Tom, Dick and Harry, then it could become a problem. I see that Chitika is doing the right thing and keeping this limited though.

    I also like that you can set your own domain. I can register a new domain and point it to this shop.

    Nice offering from Chitika before the shopping season. Looks like Chitika is getting it act right again.

  3. Darren, Great analysis thus far on the the service.

    “What happens when everyone can have one…” is more and more turning into a significant question with many parts of the Web due to the opening of services via APIs and standardization.

    As far as spammers, I think it is critical to keep a close eye on your publishers in any network (especially CPC based).

  4. Sylvanarrow says:

    Well, I’m not sure how this adds value to a site or to a visitor’s web experience. It seems like a souped up version of those Amazon affiliate stores that proliferate the web. I guess I’ll watch and see though.

  5. Rich Owings says:

    Darren,

    Have you seen any evidence that this has hurt CPA (Amazon) revenue? I’d rather get 4% of a $500 sale than a couple of bucks for ad clicks.

  6. Darren Rowse says:

    Good question Rich.

    I have noticed a small downswing in Amazon revenue over the last month – however I’d say two things:

    1. It happend this quarter last year too with the northern hemisphere summer (hard to tell whether its due to the shop or due to the summer thing)

    2. The revenue from the shop is higher than the downswing in my Amazon revenue

    Again – its a tricky thing to measure – but it seems to be bringing me out ahead of the crowd and will only improve as I intergrate it into more and more of my sites.

  7. Daren

    I tried asking Chitika if they would allow me to sell their products.

    They replied that since my blog is not getting enought hits, they won’t allow that (sigh). My blog is only 2 odd mnths old and it takes time to build the kind of traffic Chitika seems to want .

    So Chitika is not for all those guys with new blogs : ( which is unfortunate.

    Regds
    Sarang

  8. Rich Owings says:

    Thanks Darren. If I recall past posts correctly, Amazon isn’t your largest revenue stream. I’m in the US and it made up over 50% of mine last month, but I do think I’ll give Shoplinc a try.

  9. Rich-

    “I’d rather get 4% of a $500 sale than a couple of bucks for ad clicks”

    But your site/blog won’t always be able to convert on every click, and especially on a $500 item! Ad clicks do add up, but it depends on your niche and your audience.

    I would think more people reading non-product related blog like ProBlogger would more likely be at the shopping lifecycle of browsing rather than buying. If that is true then Ads (CPC) might make more sense.

    Darren-

    What kind of conversion ratio are you seeing for Amazon?

  10. I feel very lucky to have been approved for a ShopLinc, now if I could figure out how to make mine look as nice as yours, I would be very happy! ;)

    My font is too big/too bold and I can’t figure out how to get a header like yours. I have zero skills in the tech savvy department.

    I agree about the products that are shown on the main page. They have had nothing to do with what I wrote about on my blog even though it is all linked in through my feed.

    I would really like to see a way for us to customize these products like we do the mini malls, ie keyword specific products/brand names.

    ~Shannon

  11. Chi An says:

    Do you guys know how to use shoplinc with custom domain? Chitika guide is pretty short. I cant get it work for me :(

  12. I feel very lucky to have been approved for a ShopLinc, now if I could figure out how to make mine look as nice as yours, I would be very happy! ;)

    My font is too big/too bold and I can’t figure out how to get a header like yours. I have zero skills in the tech savvy department.

    I agree about the products that are shown on the main page. They have had nothing to do with what I wrote about on my blog even though it is all linked in through my feed.

    I would really like to see a way for us to customize these products like we do the mini malls, ie keyword specific products/brand names.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Interessant ist vor allem die fast nahtlose Anbindung an das eigene Blog. So schreibt zum Beispiel Darren Rowse in einer Review zu Shoplinc: The four products featured on the front page of a shoplinc blog (in a multi-product eMiniMall and as separate products) are directly tied to the products you are writing about on your blog as they are driven via your RSS feed. This is a new approach that I’ve not seen anyone else doing to this point and ensures that people heading over to your shoplinc shop are seeing products that relate directly to the content you’re writing about (of course this assumes that your RSS feed is product specific). [...]

  2. [...] CafePress WordPress PluginThis is the first WP plugin I know of to provide CafePress integration. It allows you to setup a virtual shop using WordPress (ala Chitika ShopLinc and the Pilkster.com Amazon Plugin) to sell other people’s goods on CafePress (affiliate-style) and/or sell goods from your own CafePress store. [...]

  3. [...] P.S.: If you haven’t been accepted, give Chitika ShopLinc’s publisher requirements and ProBlogger’s review a look before applying via your publisher panel. [...]

  4. [...] months there has been a lot of activity in the online shop space. We’ve seen Chitika’s Shoplincs, Zlio and Amazon’s [...]