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55 Blog Tools… and Counting

The list of Blog Tools that have been submitted by ProBlogger readers continues to grow. I just updated it with another 10 or so tools bringing the list to a total of 55 so far.

It’s a little difficult to define what is a ‘tool’ and what is just a helpful site but I’ve attempted to be as broad as I can in most cases. Feel free to leave more suggestions in the comments on that post if you know of more.

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The Two Most Important Words in Blogging

Brian’s done it again with a great post at Copyblogger and has written about The Two Most Important Words in effective Blogging. You really should read it because it’s right on the money.

Google Testing ‘Search this Site’ Within Search Results

Cybernet News reports that Google are testing a new feature that will allow it’s users to search specific sites from within search results:

‘The new layout will provide more information to users about a site simply by selecting the expandable arrow. Once the arrow is selected then more information will be displayed about the site, including a longer description/summary and a related image. They will also include related links to that site to help users find the information they are looking for more quickly.’

Googleexp1

This is certainly an interesting new direction for Search Engines.

More pictures at Screenshots Of Google’s New Search Results Screen

Found via John Battelle

FeedBurner Launch Email Subscription Service

Also from Feedburner today – the announcement of a new service called FeedBurner Email which allows you to provide a way for your readers to subscribe to your blog via email. It’s not a particularly new service (others have offered a variety of options to do it previously) but if the plug TechCrunch gave it is anything to go by it’s a good service. They list it’s features as:

  • Free
  • Daily emails
  • Blog Branding – Feedburner plugs are all at the bottom and minimized
  • Very good HTML/CSS rendering – posts look just right in the email (see screen shot below)
  • Blogger owns the email list and can export it at any time

You can subscribe to ProBlogger via email by filling in the following field with your email address.

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

It will mean you get one email a day with my latest posts. It’s not like my free weekly newsletter service which gives extra information.

If you subscribe to this new one let me know how you find it.

Feedburner Ad Network – First Impression Review

HeaderlogoI’ve just been accepted into the Feedburner Ad Network (FAN) program as a publisher.

With my moving to publishing full feeds you’ll now also see an ad at the bottom of each post in my RSS feed. These are CPM ads (ie I get paid per thousand impressions) and not CPC (cost per click) ones. I’m interested to see how they perform in comparison to the AdSense ads that I’ve previously shown in feeds with very little success. I found that with AdSense on the blogs I had that the ads struggled with relevancy but also that RSS readers are fairly unlikely to click them.

Feedburner’s Ad Network is not open to everyone at this stage but in a recent announcement on their blog they indicated that they are moving towards accepting more publishers. They are taking a fairly gentle and gradual approach to their expansion of the network which I know is frustrating some publishers who are waiting to be accepted – however in my limited experience of new networks this is a wise move as to accept everyone at once brings with it many problems.

My first impressions of the Feedburner Ad Network:

  • Sign up is simple – if you’re already using Feedburner that is. This system only works if your feeds are run through them.
  • Channels – publishers are assigned a ‘channel’ which will determine the type of ads that are offered to you. I’m in the Computing and Technology channel.
  • Ad Numbers – it’s too early to comment on this yet but to this point I’ve been offered three campaigns (and have accepted all of them). Each campaign has at least two ads that will be rotated through my feeds. To this point the ads are not highly relevant to my topic and are fairly generic computer/software type ads. I really hope that they work hard at bringing in new advertisers to the network as I’m sure people will get sick of the same ads.
  • Ad Settings – publishers don’t have heaps of control over how their ads appear. There is no control over ad design (apart from the ability to reject ads that you don’t like). The only control is over how often ads appear. Publishers can choose to show ads in every post in your feed or every 2nd, 3rd, 4th or 5th post. They can also choose to let a word count limiter that means ads don’t appear on shorter posts (ie you can set them to appear only in posts longer than 50 words, 100 words, 500 words or in posts of any length (I’ve chosen to show them in every post longer than 100 words at this point).
  • Ad Approval is Built in – publishers are emailed when new campaigns become available and they get complete control over whether ads are accepted or not. If the publisher doesn’t respond within 48 hours ads are automatically approved.
  • Reports – Once accepted into the program you find a new section in your Feedburner ‘Analyze’ page for ‘Ad Stats’ which gives you a couple of options to review your ad performance. It’s too early for me to see any results but the reports look pretty simple and clear. There is an ‘Ads Stats Dashboard’ which shows you an estimate of your earnings since last payment as well as a monthly history (by impression, clicks, CTR and Payment total for the month). They also allow you to view your results ‘By Date’ which looks like it will show a graph of earnings over the last month and will show you a total of your impressions for the month as well as clicks and CTR for the month. I’m unsure how often they update their reports – will update you on how they work when mine do for the first time.
  • Auditing – Like most new ad networks there is a process by which your earnings are only estimates until the end of the month when they are assessed. Feedburner explains this by writing – ‘Actual payments may vary from estimated totals based on reconciliation and collection experience with the advertisers.’ This is a similar process to that of Chitika (something they’ve had a lot of criticism for) which I’ll be interested to watch over the coming months. I understand why they do it but it’s a potential ‘issue’ that they will face on a monthly basis if the estimates and actual payouts differ by too much. There’s also an option to view earnings per blog (or property) if you’re running ads on multiple feeds.
  • Payment – This is a Net 90 Day period (quite long in comparison to what most other programs offer) and is via PayPal. The minimum earned before a payment is made is $25 according to their terms of service. I’ll let you know in three or four months how it works!
  • Feedburner’s Share of Revenue – The split of revenue between Feedburner and publishers is 35% (to Feedburner) and 65% (to publishers).
  • Support/Help - One thing I notice that seems to be missing is a help section for FAN. They do have support forums but to this point there is no section for the advertising network. The ‘welcome email’ that notifies publishers they are accepted is the only place I can see where information is given on how the system works and I’d suggest they at least replicate this on their site or better still develop a FAQ/Help page with more of the basics. It’s early days I know but things like this add real value to newbie publishers.

The success of the Feedburner Ad Network will largely depend on them getting the balance right between looking after Advertisers and Publishers. One of their biggest challenges in the early days will be finding enough Advertisers but once a decent inventory level is established I think the system has the basics of what could be a decent service to both sides of the equation.

Update: Just looking over the Feedburner Ad Network Terms of Service I notice a provision in the ‘payment’ section for 45 day payments for ‘Ads sourced by FeedBurner from Ad Partners’. I’m not exactly clear on what this means but it could indicate that they can set up specific advertising deals between you and an advertiser. If the people at Feedburner could clarify this (and they usually leave a comment on any post I write about them within minutes so I’m sure they will) that’d be great. This would be an attractive service especially if publishers had a way of promoting it with a ‘advertise in this feed’ type link.

More Speedlinking

I’m still wading through my unread RSS feeds (5000 unread items to go). Here are a few more links to things from the last week or so:

ProBlogger Moves to Publishing Full Feeds

As I mentioned buried away in my last post – I’ve just started a trial of publishing full feeds here at ProBlogger.

I’m not going to rehash my reasons for doing so but wanted to announce it in a post of it’s own so that everyone is on the same page.

This will mean that those of you who are used to and like the ‘excerpts’ are going to start seeing full posts which I understand will annoy some. Depending upon your News Aggregator some of you might have the option to subscribe to only see excerpts – others of you might need to get used to scrolling a little more.

As I say above – this is a trial. I’m doing it as a response to a poll of readers that I conducted a few months ago which said that the majority of you wanted it but also on a hunch that it might be worth the trouble. I will be tracking things on a number of fronts including:

  • RSS Subscriber Levels – currently at 5242
  • Blog Visitor Levels – currently averaging between 4000 – 5500 visitors a day
  • Content Theft – I currently find a few site’s republishing without in what I see as unethical ways each week

After a month or two I’ll make a decision as to whether to keep publishing full feeds or whether to return to partial ones.

I hope that this experimental transition does not cause too much grief for anyone.

PS: I’ve also taken the decision to experiment with Feedburner’s RSS ads in my feed now that it’s full feed. Another experiment which I’ll keep you up to date on.

Giving Content Away

Another thing that Cory Doctrow talked about last night that I’ve been pondering ever since is how he releases his novels for free online as well as in hard copy. He spoke how this has worked really well for him and is probably the reason that he’s sold so many books.

His theory is that the reason most authors don’t sell many books is because no one has ever heard of them. Giving their stuff away for free and encouraging people to share it actually works in favor of the author because it puts their work in the hands of more people – a percentage of which are likely to purchase it.

To put it another way – the biggest threat of an author isn’t piracy – it’s obscurity.

I’ve been pondering this as it relates to bloggers on two levels.

1. The failed Micro Payment Business Model - When I first started investigating how to blog for money I came across a number of bloggers who were talking up ‘micro payments’ as a way to make a living from blogs. Their theory was that they would charge many people a small amount to have access to their blogs. The theory was that loads of little payments would add up to a big pay cheque.

Of course this micro payment business model has been tried by many and has not succeeded in almost every case I can think of. One of the main problems is that people are unwilling to pay for information that they can get for free elsewhere unless it has some extra value added to it. Micro payments might work for some but it’s usually only the case when the person collecting the payments has something exclusive to offer.

What has ended up overtaking the ‘micro payment’ business model for most bloggers making money from blogs is a model that freely gives readers the content that they wish to view. In doing so two things of value potentially happen for the blogger. Firstly they have the opportunity to sell space on their blog (advertising) and secondly they have the opportunity to sell themselves (in a sense) on their blog.

It’s this second option that fits quite nicely with Cory’s theory and we are increasingly seeing bloggers explore ways of leveraging the profile that they’ve built on their blogs through book deals, consulting work, speaking opportunities, e-products etc

2. RSS Feeds – The second area I’ve been pondering Cory’s theory in is in the age old debate of full or partial RSS feeds. I’ve been wondering how it stacks up.

While I don’t think it’s completely transferrable into arguing a case for full feeds I have felt for some time now that the ‘ideal’ is to publish full feeds in most cases. Of course this is complicated by the fact that it’s becoming increasingly common for people to reproduce other people’s content as their own.

I’ve long expressed being torn over the issue but have decided to go with a hunch and switch ProBlogger over to full feeds on a trial basis. This is partially as a result of lots of thinking and partially as a result of the poll that I ran here a couple of months back that showed that of those ProBlogger readers who cared either way – the majority wanted full feeds.

I’ll be tracking the results of the switch on a number of levels and will make a final decision in the month or two ahead.

The Importance of Landing pages on Blogs

Nice post over at Seth Godin’s on “Landing pages” which coincidentally was something I was working a little on this afternoon on one of my blogs.

I’ll let Seth say it because he’s the master of this kind of thing:

‘A landing page is the first page a visitor to your site sees…..

A landing page (in fact, every page) can only cause one of five actions:

  • Get a visitor to click (to go to another page, on your site or someone else’s)
  • Get a visitor to buy
  • Get a visitor to give permission for you to follow up (by email, phone, etc.). This includes registration of course.
  • Get a visitor to tell a friend
  • (and the more subtle) Get a visitor to learn something, which could even include posting a comment or giving you some sort of feedback’

Landing pages on blogs are really important IF you have a desired outcome in mind with your blogs. If you’re blogging aimlessly with no real goals then don’t worry about them.

What I’d recommend bloggers consider are some of the following questions:

  1. What are the goals of your blog? What outcomes do you want of a reader visiting your blog (one or more of the above – or others)?
  2. What pages do most bloggers enter your blog on (most statistics packages will tell you this)?
  3. Are these landing pages optimized for your goals?
  4. If not how can you either change what appears on these landing pages to help you achieve your goals OR how can you get readers to land on other pages that have a better chance of converting?

Here’s a couple of case studies from some of the work I’ve done lately with blogs:

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