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.
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.
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.