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Simple Adsense Tips

Fin over at the Record Card has just posted a list of 16 simple Adsense tips. I say ‘simple’ not because they are simplistic but because they’ve been written in a very clear and concise manner. These are not highly technical tips but rather are a great primer with some solid general tips to keep in mind if you’re just starting out. If only someone had pointed me to a list like this when I first started with Adsense.

Here are a couple of Fin’s tips that particularly caught my eye for some reason:

Diversify your subject – don’t be afraid to expand and explore your niche.

One topic = one page – where you can, this will increase the targeting of the ads and make clickthroughs more likely.

Never think your at your highest - you might think you have it good, but there still might be another little change which helps your CTR or whatnot.’

Read more of Fin’s tips at The Record Card: Simple Adsense Tips

31 Days to Building a Better Blog – Day 4

Ok we’re flying now – 4 days in with just 27 to go in the 31 days to building a better blog project!

If you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed with this series you can get a quick overview of what we’ve covered so far at a new summary page I’ve just written which til the end of the month will be 31 Days Project Headquarters

My blog tips at the moment are focussing mainly upon the Declaring War on Blog Apathy Series of posts but readers are continuing to submit tips of their own which I recommend you check out and interact with. Keep writing up your blog tips and letting me know about them – I’d love to send you some readers.

Declaring War on Blogger Apathy III

This is post 3 on a mini series on combatting Blog Apathy

• Redesign – I always find a fresh coat of paint can really lift a room, a haircut can improve a mood and a blog redesign can get the creative juices flowing again. Tweak it, adapt it or completely redesign it – either way you might just inject a little more energy into something that’s grown tired and find that you’ve got more energy for your blogging.

• Write Posts Ahead of Time – this won’t help you now if you’re in apathy mode – but if you’re not and currently have some energy consider writing a few extra posts that are non time specific to keep for a rainy/apathetic day. When you’re inspired write more so that when you’re not you don’t have to.

• Keep an Idea Journal – this is similar to the previous point but just involves keeping a list of possible post ideas you could write on at a later uninspired point in time. It might include just titles of posts or even a few points that you could write about. I’m constantly jotting down ideas for posts or series and even new blogs all day everyday. Take your journal with you everywhere you go so that if inspiration strikes you can capture it.

Strategic Blogging

Over the past year I’ve been meeting with a business coach who has been helping me to look at my blogging as a business rather than just a job. One of the things that has become evident to me is that good sustainable businesses don’t usually just happen by accident.

Instead they take planning, strategy and intentionality.

So as part of our 31 days to building a better blog series I thought it would be wise to start by talking about some big picture issues. Whilst these first few posts may not be as practical as some that will follow in the coming weeks – I believe that thinking through the issues that they contain could be the difference between a good and a great blog.

I know that for some this type of talk will be frustrating – words like mission, vision, values and strategy are not where you’re at – but humor me please. You see I believe that if you get these things right you’ll find many of the other tips that I share later in this series to be much more powerful as you’ll be able to use them in much more focused and effective ways.

Over the next few posts I’m going to lead you through a strategic plan process that a friend of mine gave me to think through another (non blogging) project that I’m working on – I think it’s highly relevant for ProBlogging and hope you find it helpful.

In each post I’m going to give us a little homework, a few questions to ask that hopefully will help you to think through the issues at hand. Feel free to answer them in private or to even think out loud in comments after each post.

As I post each post in this mini series within the larger 31 days to a better blog I’ll post links to them here as a central place to see the whole process.

I hope you enjoy.

Mission

13 years ago when I started studying my Marketing degree the focus of many of my first year lectures was ‘Mission Statements’. I remember writing mission statement after statement – to the point where I started to dream about them. It was obvious that my lecturers through they were a pretty important starting place for any good business venture.

Whilst perhaps ‘mission statements’ are not quite as much of a buzz phrase as they were in the early 1990s I still see asking questions around mission as a worthwhile task – especially when it comes to blogging.

‘Why do you exist?’

This is the key question that my friend’s strategic process asks in the area of ‘mission’. I don’t think it’s asking us to ponder the meaning of life – it’s not quite that deep – but it does ask a business (blog) owner to try to get back to the basics of what they are on about.

‘Why do you blog?’

Take a few minutes (or better still a few hours or even days) to ponder this question. What is it that you blog for? What are your core motivations? Be honest as you answer this question because it’s important to nail it down as much as you can as everything else comes from this.

Some blogging ‘missions’ might include:

  • ‘I blog to make a living’
  • ‘I blog for recreational purposes – to help me relax’
  • ‘I blog as part of my plan for world domination’
  • ‘I blog to keep a record of the life and times of me’
  • ‘I blog because I want to help others’
  • ‘I blog to because I’m lonely and want to connect with others’
  • ‘I blog to pick up cute girls/guys’
  • ‘I blog because it’s fun’
  • ‘I blog because I want to build profile – I want to be known’

These are just a few examples that come to mind off the top of my head. Some of us will have simple sentences, for others our reasons for blogging might be a little more complex and combine a number of things.

One person’s blogging mission will be differnt from anothers – there is really no right or wrong here – behind each blogger there is some sort of mission whether it’s deep, shallow, silly, smart, selfish or altruistic. The task now is to name yours.

To identify these missions is very helpful because knowing why we blog then helps us to work out how we should blog to best reach our mission.

So what is your mission? Why do you blog?

This is not a question about measurable goals or strategies and your answer probably shouldn’t be too blog specific yet (ie don’t write one for each of your blogs if you have more than one) – rather get at your motivations and big picture hopes for your blogging.

Values

Having thought about our mission (or why we blog) it’s time now to turn our attention to the values that we have that help to shape how we’ll achieve our overall mission.

There are many means to an end and many ways of achieving a mission. For instance if your mission is to make a living from blogging you could do so in many different ways ranging from blogs that rip off the content of others, to blogs that are purely original in content, to blogs that explore topics of purely a ‘family nature’ to blogs that are quite explicit and ‘adult’ in their nature etc.

These decisions come out of our values as a blogger.

What values determine our behavior?

Our values will come out of many different places including our family, culture, experiences and perhaps even personality type. They are worth naming in the early days of our blogging as there comes times in the life of any Blogger when the temptation to step outside the boundaries of behavior that we believe in comes a knocking. Having previously named (privately or even more powerfully – publicly) these values helps us to resist the temptation in the heat of the moment. Values are also important in helping others understand how or what we blog.

So what are the values that shape your blogging behavior? What are the boundaries that you’d be not willing to cross? What are the topics you’d be not willing to blog about? How will you treat those around you (other bloggers, your readers, suppliers of information etc)? Take a few minutes to write a list of the values that you want to shape your blogging. These might include things like:

  • I value the work of others and when I build upon it I acknowledge them
  • I don’t blog about anything sexually explicit, gambling, drugs or concerning Harry Potter
  • I create an environment where everyone can have their say without fear of censorship
  • I respect the privacy of others in my blogging and don’t reveal private conversations or contact details
  • I only publish fact and will state if I’m speculating
  • If I make a mistake I publicly acknowledge this and correct it
  • I will always make it clear if I’m benefiting from something that I write
  • I value people and will not blog about them in degrading ways

Of course such a list will always cause discussion and debate simply because one person’s values will vary from another person’s values. In a sense we’re talking ethics here.

Perhaps it would be appropriate to write up a set of values like these as a public blogging value statement of manifesto to promote the type of blog/s you’re keeping and to give your readers permission to keep you accountable to what you’re on about.

With your mission and values in place you’ll be ready for the next stages of actually mapping out how you’re going to move forward in your blogging.

Vision

Having answered questions about why we blog (mission) and setting some boundaries for our behavior in doing so Values) it’s now time to be a little more concrete in our big picture thinking. Where are you headed with your blogging? More specifically:

What is your objective for your blogging in the next three years?

Now three years might seem a long way away (and perhaps one or two years might be a better time frame to set objectives for in the ever changing field of blogging) but look beyond the near future and ask yourself questions about vision.

We’re now narrowing down the mission that we have into some more measurable and specific things to aim for in the long term. Don’t get too specific (we’ll get there) but make it concrete.

For example – your mission might be to make a living from blogging but your vision for three years time might be to be a full time blogger that need not do any other work.

Make your objective/s (don’t come up with too many) big enough to be inspiring but realistic enough to be achievable. They should probably come out of or at least relate to your mission.

Take some time to plot some longer term objectives for your blogging.

Goals

For each objective that you’ve mentioned you now should be breaking things down into smaller achievable goals. Perhaps this strategic plan is a little pedantic here and adds too many steps (hence I’ve added Vision and Goals together) but the basics of what we’re doing with goal setting is breaking down the big picture into smaller achievable parts.

In setting goals you might like to ask:

How will we know we have achieved our objective (vision)?

For each objective there will probably be multiple goals that signal it has been reached. For example if the vision is to be working full time in blogging in 3 years the goals might be to ‘quit from current job’ (once a certain earning level from blogging is reached), be earning $XXXX per month regularly by a certain time.

In a sense we’re breaking down our objectives into bite sized parts that can be ticked off one at a time as they are reached as stepping stones to a larger vision.

Issues

If we want to design a strategy to help us reach our goals we need to identify the areas in which we need to work. At this point in the strategic plan we take time to break down the task of blogging into activities or issues that we face.

What are your main activities?

The answer to this question will vary from blogger to blogger depending upon their focus and current approach to blogging – but they will probably include some of the following:

  • finding content
  • writing content
  • blog design
  • marketing and publicity
  • administration (monitoring comments, processing cheques, book keeping)
  • finding and managing advertisers
  • managing other authors
  • search engine optimization

In a sense what you’re describing here are the areas that you need to achieve in to make your blog successful (the above list is only partial). The list may include tasks that you already do well, don’t do well or don’t yet do at all.

In identifying these issues or activities you define areas that you’ll need to consider some strategy in.

Present Position

Having identified each activity that you need to engage in to be successful in achieving your objectives and goals you now do a little analysis of how you’re currently performing in each activity. The question you want to answer with each are is:

Where are we?

What am I doing well in this area? What am I neglecting? What is working and what isn’t working? These are all good questions to ask. You may want to do a ‘SWOT’ analysis here (look at your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) and assess the current reality. Be honest with yourself – if you’re anything like me there are some things that you’re doing very well and other things that you’re ignoring.

Whilst it may not be pleasant to acknowledge current short fallings it’s vitally important as your blog will only ever go as far as your weakest area allows you to.

Future Direction

Now you’ve described the current reality you again should look in to the future in each of the activities that you’ve identified and ask yourself:

Where do I want to be in this specific activity in a year?

You know where you are now but what are you going to work towards? For example you might have identified marketing as one of your ‘activities’ an in analyzing it find that you’re great at marketing to other blogs in your niche but that blogs outside your niche and non bloggers have never heard of your blog. As a result you might say that in a year you want to be known outside your niche and be getting exposure in the wider media.

In a sense you’re again setting mini goals, breaking down your overall ‘vision’ into specific areas of your blogging.

Go through each of the activities that you’ve identified already and come up with some future direction. Be specific enough in each one that you can measure your success in each area. Don’t write how you’ll achieve this direction yet (that comes next) – rather try to paint a picture of the future in each of the areas of your blogging.

Below you’ll see a table that illustrates how each of the above three steps might look if you put them into some sort of spread sheet. Of course I’ve completely oversimplified the process here in order to illustrate the point. Each ‘issue’ is likely to have a multifaceted description of the present position and may in fact have a number of ‘future directions’ for each.

Strategic-Plan-1

Strategy

You’ve analyzed your current position and have looked into the future to how you want your blog to be in each of the activities of your blogging – now you basically need to compare one with the other. How does your current reality and future vision compare? Do they match up? If they do you’re either a brilliant blogger, you’re lying or you’re not aiming high enough.

For most of us the current reality doesn’t match what we want to achieve.

What major changes do you need to make to get to your future vision?

Albert Einstein defined insanity as ‘doing the same old things the same old ways and expecting to get different results’ (paraphrased). The only way you’ll see changes in your blogging is if you change your approach. Which of your ‘activities’ needs to change? How?

You might find that some of your activities are doing well and don’t need too much changing – but the reality will be that we can all improve in all areas – and that in some areas more than others we might need a complete overhaul if we want to really achieve something. Make a list of the changes you need to make.

Once again I’ve included a diagram that hopefully illustrates how this might look (in a very over simplified form).

Strategic-Blogging-2

Action Plan

We’ve reached the last step of the strategic plan and now we finally get to a time of planning (and doing) some action.

In each of the ‘activities’ break down your strategy into achievable tasks. You might like to break it down into some sort of a timeline.

  • what will you do in the next month?
  • what will you do in the next 3 months?
  • what will you do in the next 6 months?
  • what will you do in the next 12 months?

Your action plan should contain very specific tasks.

Some might be ongoing tasks like:

  • ‘post 10 posts per day every day for the next month’
  • ‘start 1 new blog every month until October’
  • ‘add 3 new affiliate links to my blog every day this month’
  • ‘write 1 press release to promote my blog each month’

Others might be one off tasks like:

  • ‘apply for Adsense program and integrate into blog’
  • ‘get to know blogger X’
  • ‘do survey of my readers to find out who they are’
  • ‘write a series of posts on <insert topic here>’

Once again these tasks need to be specific, measurable (you need to know when they’re complete) and achievable. In doing this you’re achieving the very big picture dreams and objectives that you’ve previously set one step at a time.

You’ll see once again below that I’ve filled in (in a very simplified way) how some of the strategic plan might build as you add your action plan. In reality each ‘issue’ could have multiple strategies – each of which could have multiple actions assigned to them. By this point you should be left with a larger list of ‘things to do’ that you need to prioritise for and then begin to work through. Once again these actions should be broken down into small enough parts so as not to overwhelm you. Make them measurable and achievable so you can begin to tick them off and create some momentum to your blogging.

Blog-Strategic-Plan-3

Declaring War on Blogger Apathy II

Over the next few posts I’m going to be posting a few thoughts on how to defeat apathy in your blogging – here’s a few to kick us off.

• Start a Series – it gets hard to constantly come up with new topics to blog about each day so why not pick a larger topic to break down over a week or so. I find that once I’ve got a topic to work on I often get the creative juices flowing – a series can fast track the process. The past few days have definitely lifted my own interest in ProBlogger (not that it was too low) – simply because I’ve been in ‘series mode’.

• Invite questions from your readers - get your readers involved in your blog by setting the agenda for you to write about over the next few weeks of your blogging. Once again this is about stimulating ideas for topics.

• Revisit old Posts – if your archives are anything like mine they are full of posts and articles that you’ve put hours of work into. Keep in mind that many of your newer readers would not have read your old posts and so from time to time it might be worth either reposting old posts, updating old posts or simply bouncing off old posts and continuing old streams of thought.

More posts to come on how to defeat blog apathy over the next day or so. Feel free to add your own tips in comments below.

Declaring War on Blogger Apathy

Ok so now it’s time to talk about something that has the potential to KILL your blog….

Apathy

A blogger can have the best strategic plan in the world but if they have no motivation, passion or drive for their blogging it will almost always amount to nothing at all. One of the keys to the success I’ve managed to have as a ProBlogger is that I’ve taken a long term approach to my blogging which calls for constant work over 2.5 years (so far).

Whilst there have been times where my spirit has been low and the drudgery of researching, writing, networking and dreaming has threatened to put a stop to what I do – I’ve continually pushed myself to find new and creative ways to beat down the blog killer of Apathy. I’ve seen other bloggers not been able to break through this and as a result their blogs today either don’t exist or have become something like the ghost towns of the Western Movie with breezes blowing around the tumbleweed of comment spam and out of date content.

So for the next couple of days I’m going to declare war on Blog Apathy and will post 10 or so of the things that have helped me keep my motivation up in blogging. Feel free to add your own experience and tips in comments or write your own post on the topic in your own blog and let me know about it so I can link up.

Read the rest of this series of post at:

Inside the Yahoo! Publisher Network Beta with Jen

Ypn Logo

I thought Jen at Jensense was very quiet about Yahoo’s Publishing Network Launch and suspected she must have had the inside word and now it’s clear she did as she’s announced she’s part of YPN’s beta test. I’ll say right up front I’m very jealous as I’ve been trying to get on the beta test group too (I’ve been chatting today with a couple of different Yahoo people) – but to no avail due to not living in the land of opportunity (USA) :-). I guess I’m just geographically challenged.

Jen shares a few of her initial observations of the program. Here are the things that I like the look of:

‘All the obsessive stat checkers will love a feature that YPN has implemented into their control panel. When you login, under the daily balance, it states “* Estimated as of Aug 2, 2005 at 7:45 PM PST” This will give publishers a very definitive look as to what time the stats are current until.’

and

‘Something that is very cool about payment options is that it appears publishers have the option of transfering their YPN earnings over to their Yahoo search marketing account, if they use the same login username for both accounts. This is something AdSense/AdWords customers have requested since the launch of AdSense, so it is nice to see this as a feature YPN is implementing for their publishers.’

Overall YPN doesn’t look as remarkable feature wise as what some had been building it up to be. I guess it’s early days and they don’t want to reveal all their cards to Adsense before it goes live with a wider group later in the year. They will also have some bugs to weed out I guess – it’ll be interesting to watch Jen and other’s experiences.

If you’re in the US you can sign up for the beta here (be quick). Once you do let us all know how you find it!

31 Days to Building a Better Blog – Day 3

It’s day 3 of the ProBlogger project to better our blogs in 31 days. I’ve just posted the last post in the Strategic Blogging mini series and am about to kick into a new series of posts on a topic that I sense a lot of bloggers (including myself) probably need to think through – Blog Apathy (stay tuned).

As well as the posting that I’ve been doing more readers have been submitting their own blog tips on a range of topics. Here are the ones I’ve been notified of in the past 24 hours (there are some quality posts here – I highly recommend you visit them and participate in the learning):

Thanks for those who’ve been submitting tips – but also to those of you who are visiting these links. I’ve heard back from a number of those who have participated that they’ve had quite a bit of traffic as a result and are making some good new friends. I’m also pleased to report I’m learning already too and am looking forward to what the community of ProBlogger comes up with next!

Strategic Blogging – Action Plan

This post belongs to the Strategic Blogging Series. It’s the last one!!!

We’ve reached the last step of the strategic plan and now we finally get to a time of planning (and doing) some action.

In each of the ‘activities’ break down your strategy into achievable tasks. You might like to break it down into some sort of a timeline.

  • what will you do in the next month?
  • what will you do in the next 3 months?
  • what will you do in the next 6 months?
  • what will you do in the next 12 months?

Your action plan should contain very specific tasks.

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