Summary:

Clicking around the Web, you’ve likely noticed links in articles that lead to ads or commerce sites. But LinkSmart, a Boulder, Colo.-based startup, has a plan to use in-text links to help Web publishers optimize traffic and improve reader engagement.

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Clicking around the Web, you’ve likely noticed those links in articles that lead to ads or commerce sites. But LinkSmart, a Boulder, Colo.-based startup launching Wednesday out of stealth mode, has a plan to use in-text links to help Web publishers optimize traffic and improve reader engagement.

Founded by former DailyCandy CEO Pete Sheinbaum in 2009, the company has raised $4.7 million from the Foundry Group and Sutter Hill Ventures. For the past few years, it’s mostly stayed under the radar while developing its product and reaching out to publishers.  But, in announcing the company and its new link management product Wednesday, Sheinbaum said LinkSmart has already been working with some of the biggest media companies for the past 18 months. (The company declined to name publishers at this point, however, citing their clients’ requests to keep the relationship private for strategic reasons.)

At DailyCandy, Sheinbaum said, he learned how valuable in-text links could be for driving traffic to certain sections of a website and keeping users engaged. But, for the most part, publishers’ only option has been to hand-code the links, which makes updating and changing the links in real-time a laborious, unscalable effort.

Pete Sheinbaum, founder and CEO of LinkSmart

“Nobody else was taking a publisher-centric view of the world, which is that I have traffic, but sometimes at the wrong place at the wrong time,” he said. “What we’re trying to do is give publishers an analytics tool to understand what’s going on in the text and provide not just data but insights into how to optimize their traffic based on whatever business goals they have. [We also make it possible] for them to dynamically update links in the cloud.”

For a monthly fee, LinkSmart provides publishers with a dedicated dashboard that helps them figure out the keywords and keyword phrases in their articles that drive the most traffic, as well as easily update the links depending on where the publisher wants to send readers. For example, if a site finds that a special section on the Olympics is under-delivering for an advertiser, the publisher can identify the most relevant keywords across their millions of pages of unique content and add links to drive traffic in that direction. LinkSmart’s Total Link Management platform can be used to shape traffic within a given site, between sister sites in a large media company or between partner sites, the company said.

Traditionally, publishers have “shoehorned more squares and rectangles” on to Web pages to influence how readers interact with their content, Sheinbaum said, but in-text links give them more granular ways of directing traffic.  According to the company, in early tests with pilot partners, LinkSmart software performed 15 to 20 times better than common traffic optimization techniques.

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