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Tell Your Story and Highlight your Blog at ProBlogger

One of the pieces of feedback that I’ve had on ProBlogger when I asked for questions for me to cover in my blogging for beginners series a while back was that people wanted a few more case studies and stories of bloggers who were making money online.

The other thing I heard back from some bloggers was that they wanted a space to write about their own experiences of blogging but didn’t feel that their blogs (which were on niche topics unrelated to blogging) were the places to do so. They didn’t want to start up blogs about blogging for themselves but wouldn’t mind telling what they know.

I’ve wanted to incorporate some of this type of thing here at ProBlogger over the remainder of the year but over the next few weeks thought we could try it out to see if people enjoy it.

I’m actually going to be away on a two week break for the first week of April (our last getaway before we have the baby – we’re making most of every chance that we get) and have lined up a small number of guest bloggers to look after this blog while I’m away – but alongside their posts I’d like to feature the stories of some Pro Bloggers (and aspiring ones).

So if you think you fit into this category and would like to put a little time into writing your story up I’d love you to submit one in the next day or two.

Before you do (and because I know that there are likely to be a lot of people submitting) here’s how it will work:

1. I can’t possibly feature everyone’s story – this site is ready by up to 5000 readers a day and when I open things up like this I tend to get a good response – so I will have to be selective – please don’t be offended if I don’t use your submission and please factor this into the amount of time you put into it. I’m looking for 8 to 10 stories.

2. Submissions should be between 250 and 800 words long. I know good things can be said in under or over this – but this is what I’ll keep it to on this occasion.

3. I’d like people to write one of two types of posts (outlined below). These are the type of submissions I’ll be favoring when choosing.

4. I really need submissions in the next few days. I’ll make a cut off of Wednesday 29th March at midday (Australian time – so Tuesday evening for US based people) to give me a chance to make the selections and advance post them before going away. Sorry if this isn’t long enough – I’ll consider short extensions depending on how many submissions I get.

5. You’re free to link to your blog in your posts and to showcase them to a point. Part of this is about showing people how others are going about their blogging. Of course this is not just an opportunity for you to get traffic – while I’d love this to happen I’ll be choosing submissions that are constructive and helpful to the PB readership over ones that are just about self promotion. Feel free to briefly introduce yourself and highlight your blog (people will visit I’m sure) but people will be more likely to visit if you say something useful and write well.

6. Do be aware that in highlighting your blog that it could well be read by others who you might see as competitors. I guess this is part of the ‘risk’ of blogging about blogging (and something I face each day). My own approach to this is that the blogosphere is big enough for plenty of competition and I don’t get too stressed about it – but I don’t go into some details of my blogging in great depth simply because I don’t want replicas of everything I do popping up. Don’t tell us all your secrets if you’re nervous – but please try to share what you’ve learnt at least to some extent.

7. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to email me via my contact form. You can submit your stories via this form also.

Here are the two types of submissions I’d love to get:

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ecto for Windows 2.0 Beta

Blogging tool, ecto, has just released it’s 2.0 beta version at ecto for Windows 2.0 Beta. New features in this version include:

  • WYSIWYG editing.
  • Upload caching and setting presets.
  • Automatic download and installation of .Net Framework during ecto’s installation.
  • Many small UI improvement.

I can’t tell you much more than that (I use a Mac) except that they remind potential users that it is in beta and that publishers should expect some bugs.

If you give it a go feel free to leave a mini review in comments below.

Interview with YPN Manager

Sugarrae has posted an Interview with Josh Siegel of Yahoo Publisher Network (YPN).

Rae starts off by asking a good question about ad relevancy – a topic that I’ve heard quite a few YPN publishers complaining about (in fact I’ve done it myself after running YPN here at ProBlogger for a month or so and seeing pretty poor results). Josh doesn’t really admit to any problems:

JS: I’m glad you bring this up because we’ve found that the majority of our publishers have been very happy with the ads served on their site. We do find typically that sites that have little content are harder for our crawlers to find matching ads to serve. Additionally, if your site has terms that we deem sensitive then we will serve generally targeted ads. My suggestion to help improving the ads targeted in your site is to use our Ad Targeting feature (which allows the publisher to influence the type of ad category) and make sure your content is well described and updated regularly.’

The other question that interests me in the interview is one Rae asks about YPN’s absence from the international scene. The question is a good one but once again Josh’s answer is fairly much the standard line we’ve been getting – ie the US is the focus of the beta test so that they can hone the formula for a wider rollout… challenges in going global… can’t say when we’ll release more widely…

While I understand the mammoth task of rolling out something globally I’m starting to sense a growing bitterness among international publishers towards YPN at a grass roots level. I know every time I mention them I get emails and comments on this international issue. From what I can tell the international rollout seems to be some time away and and I do wonder if they are going to have to do something to appease the international publishing community who could well go on a cyber-riot if they don’t get some attention.

YPN tweaks system

I just logged into b5′s YPN account and noticed a few changes (this must be why I’ve been locked out of it today).

The first change is their new ‘messages’ feature (pictured below) which outlines the latest changes at YPN.

Ypn-Changes

Click on the ‘subjects’ of one of the messages and you get a nice little popup message that ‘greys out’ the background and highlights the message in white and tells you what the change is (see below).

Ypn-Message

The second change is – as the message says above – a new reporting feature that lets you delete and edit reporting categories.

All in all the changes are pretty minor – tweaks really – as they continue to hone their system.

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Free Studio Designed WordPress Theme

One of my favorite blog design houses, The Blog Studio, have released a second free theme for WordPress 1.5 and 2.0. It’s called Liquid Summer and you can see it in action here. It’s a three column design and has a nice feel about it (even though that green is a little hard on my retinas on my screen.

The cool thing about it is the ‘liquid’ content section that expands and shrinks depending upon how big your reader has their browser window.

Of course the problem with free themes is that they are not unique – but it might suit some bloggers who are just starting out and saving up for a unique pro design.

Liquidsummer

WorldBlogCenter Scam Update

Just a short update on the Pixel Ad Site Scam that I wrote about yesterday. On the page in question there have been a few changes. Some logos have been removed including Engadget’s, Boing Boing’s and Gizmodo’s. They’ve also added a note to that says ‘pre-approved – awaiting response’ to what pops up when you put your cursor over the logos of those who have not paid for listings (the majority of logos).

What concerns me is that some do seem to have paid for listings (a few don’t have the ‘pre-approved’ bit showing) and have probably signed up thinking they were a part of something legitimate. Also of concern is that the ‘pre-approved’ logos still give the impression that some very well known blogs are involved at a glance.

Jason Calacanis and Boing Boing have both written about it and have officially said that they were not a part of things. If I were them I’d be pretty peeved – especially Boing Boing who were featured in press releases that went out on some pretty big news services. I’m advised by friends who are in the legal business that they’d have a very good case for action against WBC for using their name in this way.

update: A few words of update….

Firstly – I’ve had emails and a comment or two from others who were targeted by this site. All were thankful for being alerted to it and some were close to signing up and paying money to be involved.

Secondly – the site in question has made some changes. They say they are not accepting applications…. that they are not charging any more for the service… (not sure how that fits with not taking applications) and that they did make some ‘mistakes’ along the way. I’m not sure how long the ‘no charge’ thing will last as they say they might start selling space again later but it seems that they’ve listened to the criticism.

Thirdly – I can’t believe the amount of criticism that this whole saga has brought. As I just commented on a site that was critical of my actions because it brought publicity to the site as some others linked to it (something I did not do):

‘Firstly – I couldn’t believe the site’s that linked to the scammer – stupid move in my opinion. I never did this in my posts.

Secondly – The reason I posted the post in the first place was that I saw what I considered to be unethical behavior that was targeting bloggers. The conundrum that I found myself in was that on one hand I didn’t want to give them any publicity that might make them bigger and on the other hand I wasn’t willing to let them rip people off by ignoring it.

What’s wrong with what they are doing?

1. They are getting cash out of bloggers by deceiving them (I’ve had emails from people who got sucked in and others who would have been sucked in if they hadn’t seen something about it on one of the sites that mentioned it). I don’t know how many people they were spamming with the offers to join but they claimed to be sending the offer to 5000 bloggers. From what I can see – what they were doing was at best ‘deceptive’ and at worst some have said it’s ‘fraudulent’. Look at the size of the page that they want to fill and you’ll see how much they stood to gain from it.

2. They were explicitly using the names and logos of companies for their own personal gain and implying that these blogs were a part of their system when they were not. I’m not sure if you’ve seen the press releases (that went out on all the major wires) but the headline of them was that Boing Boing had signed up to be a part of the network. I saw these releases on some pretty major networks.

So what’s a guy to do?

I had a few options. I guess I could have ignored it and let people get ripped off. I could have politely emailed the people behind it and complained (and gotten ignored myself), I could have emailed all the bloggers being featured and sucked in (but what could people do after the fact?) or I could use the fact that I have a blog that people read to warn them of it.

I took the last option – knowing that in doing so I risked others linking to the offending site – but at least knowing that some people would be protected.

The reaction to my post has been mixed. I’ve been thanked by some of those whose logos were being featured, thanked by some who were ripped off and by those who saw the story before signing up. On the other hand I’ve been attacked by some who see nothing wrong with the site and say I should encourage their entrepreneurial spirit and have been ridiculed for giving them publicity.

I still don’t really know what I should have done – perhaps it would have been ‘easier’ to ignore it and hope it went away – but sometimes in life you have to name things for what they are.

Lastly – all I’ll say is that the site in question has made some changes. I don’t know how long they’ll last or what it all means but they say they’ve closed applications, that they’ve made some mistakes, that they are now not going to charge for the program.

Perhaps…and I don’t know … the whole saga was worthwhile.’

Rules Of Smart And Successful Web-development

Vitaly Friedman (a German web designer) posted a mega list a few days back on 20 Rules Of Smart And Successful Web-development. Most of it is just good common sense that translates well into or from any language. Here’s how it starts:

1. Respect your visitors. Don’t try to force your visitors to read the content of your web-pages. Let them choose and decide what they want to read. For if you have someting to tell, you’ll find your listeners. Frankly, you are as good as everybody else. What would be your reaction to a dozen of pop-ups and the overflown ad blocks? My point exactly….’

Read the rest here.

Growing Your Business with Google – Preview Call

Dave-TaylorYesterday I came across an interesting course called Growing Your Business with Google (aff link) that I’m really impressed with.

It’s by two guys – Dave Taylor (pictured) and Steven Van Yoder. I know Dave’s work pretty well and respect him as a blogger after both reading his stuff and listening to him on various podcasts and interviews over the last year. I’m not familiar with Steven’s work but he’s written a book called ‘Get Slightly Famous‘ (aff link) which looks like an interesting read.

It was Dave’s name however that hooked me into the course’s sales page. On the page is a free downloadable preview call for the course that goes for an hour. I’d highly recommend you listen to it if you’re just starting out with blogging and are looking to get more highly ranked in Google and establish an online presence.

The course is not designed for bloggers specifically (and it’s not just about blogging – although Dave can’t help but talk about it) – but rather for businesses wanting to get their brand or company name in front of customers using the web and Google. Having said it’s not designed specifically for bloggers if the preview call is anything to go by it seems like a course that could be helpful for beginners (or business people).

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AdSense Blog Case Study

Scott D. Feldstein has written a post titled Blog Ads By The Numbers which talks about his experience with AdSense on his blog.

His conclusion is to remove it (in case he does move them here’s a screen cap of how he had them – click to enlarge).

Adsense-Blog-Positioning

I left a quick comment off the top of my head with some suggestions of how he might improve things. After writing it I realised that it might make a worthwhile post as I see many bloggers using a similar strategy to Scott with AdSense.

Having consulted with quite a few bloggers with similar issues here are the quick suggestions I gave to Scott.

‘you’ll probably find that your performance would improve a little if:

1. you changed the ad design to blend with your content (ie make the borders and background of the ads the same color as the background behind them and change the link colors of the ads to the same colors as your links)

2. had ads closer to your content. Having them in the sidebar and the banner position is found to be much worse than other positions. AdSense have come up with a heat map that has better positions in it (just search for AdSense heatmap and you’ll find it. Update: here it is – I’d suggest moving the ads on the front page to appear between posts and on individual pages would suggest a rectangle ad underneath the post and above comments).

3. your blog’s topic was more focussed. Sites which are fairly general in topic tend to do worse than those that target specific niches. Looking over your content I suspect that this might be part of the issue.

There are loads of other little things I’d recommend – but these are three of the biggies I suspect.’

Update: here’s another quick suggestion:

Change the title tags of individual pages - if you look at the title at the top of your browser when you look at Scotts post you’ll see they say – ‘Scott D. Feldstein >> Blog Archive >> Blog Ads by the Numbers’. AdSense looks at your page title when determining which ads to show, especially those words at the start of it. Having the title of your post as the title of your page is excellent practice (especially if you choose good keywords for your title) but having the blog’s title and ‘blog archive’ is just going to confuse AdSense. I’d definately get rid of ‘blog archive’ and consider making the title of the post first and if the Blog’s name is essential to move it behind the post title. This will also help considerably with Search Engine Rankings. Aaron wrote a post on how to do this a few days back here.

The long and short of it is that because of the topic breadth of Scott’s blog it may never be a big earner (the other consideration is his traffic levels which I have no idea of). However it’s worth playing around with AdSense in terms of design and positioning before giving up. Just slapping the ads on without tweaking them rarely works.