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Is Your Niche Nichy Enough? A Tale of Two Adsense Blogs

The following post was submitted by Lindsay B as part of the ProBlogger Case Study Series

Nothing is certain in the blogging-for-profit world. It’s hard to predict which sites will take off. Sometimes the blog you funnel twenty hours a week into has mediocre earnings. Sometimes the dinky little blog you spend an hour a month on suddenly starts paying the mortgage every month. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could pick winners from the start? Well, maybe we can…

By now, you probably know pro-blogging success (AKA making money) depends on finding the right niche. Focus on a specific topic, and you draw readers interested in researching and potentially buying something related to that topic. Whether you’re into affiliate programs or pay-per-click advertising, it’s easy to capitalize on a niche audience.

So, the question isn’t about whether you should be blogging about a niche; it’s about whether or not your niche is… nichy enough. Is it too big? Too broad? How do you know for sure? If you’re not earning what you think you should be earning, your problem may be you’ve chosen too general a niche. Let me use two of my blogs as examples of what works well and what (alas) works less well.

Home Improvement Ideas (henceforth known by the unassuming title of Blog 1)

In this blog, I write about all sorts of products and trends for the home, everything from granite countertops and wood floors to remote control range hoods and jetted bathtubs. I post at least twice a day, and it’s coming up on 1,000 entries. I put a lot of effort into finding neat things to write about, and many of my posts have received links from high profile gadget and luxury blogs. Despite that, the blog receives less traffic and makes less money than another blog of mine…

Fireplace Lowdown (henceforth known as Blog 2)

I started this blog on a whim because I’d recently researched gas fireplaces and had some potential content. Because this was an on-a-whim blog, I didn’t want to bother with a domain name and all that, so I set it up on Typepad, where I already had an account. I started posting once or twice a week, and it recently broke 200 entries (math whizs in the audience will note this is significantly fewer posts than Blog 1 features). Blog 2 hasn’t exactly been a link magnet, yet this small blog gets more traffic and makes more money than Blog 1.

Let’s take a look at why. I’m the first to admit there’s room for improvement with ad placement in both blogs (writer != designer), but that wouldn’t change the fact that Blog 2 gets more traffic than Blog 1, even though both are about the same age and Blog 1 has five times as many posts. so, what’s the big difference?
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LeftLane News – Blog Case Study

Header 02On September 26th, 2005, I started a new weblog called Leftlane News. It’s a blog all about cars and the automotive industry. It targets car enthusiasts, thus the name ‘left lane’ news. (Sorry Darren, I know in Australia the fast lane is on the right side.)

Anyhow, the site just turned six months and the traffic growth has been nearly exponential. There have been a few days where I’ve even had more traffic than my competitors from Weblogs Inc or Gawker. And I’m a relatively independent blogger (not part of a blog network), so this should be inspiration to anyone looking to take on the giants.

Traffic

I remember being inspired by Steve Pavlina’s growth chart. Now it’s my turn to hopefully inspire some other bloggers out there.

I’ve found the best way to bring traffic to your blog is by having some kind of unique content. This doesn’t necessarily mean “original content” in the traditional sense, but you need to have something that others don’t. Video has been great attraction for me. The reason video is good is it can’t be easily reproduced, copy/pasted, or whatever. Rather, it requires people to link to you. Photos are also great, especially if you have a large gallery that requires linking. It’s impossible to paraphrase video, audio, or photos, and that’s why those types of media are wonderful.

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Blogs Are About Being Elite

There is nothing like a good controversy, and have I got controversy for you today. Since this is the first guest post while Darren is gone, it seems appropriate to make things necessarily volatile right from the start.

The subject today is elitism and its place in blogging. You see, it all began over on my blog with an entry observing that Technorati had begun indexing MySpace blogs.

I was Rubel-bombed which brought another breed of commenters to this topic. My argument was that by Technorati indexing MySpace blogs, the quality of Technorati results would be diminished. One commenter responded that the internet is not for elitists.

As a matter of fact, when content production is at play, the internet IS for elitists. Perhaps we don’t like to use those words as “elitism” has a negative stigma to it. However, don’t we all try to get higher pagerank? Don’t we all try to optimize our entries for the best SERPs possible? Doesn’t scoring high in Technorati bump our profile up in general?

In other words, it’s a good thing to be in the elite and it’s highly unfair to those of us who work hard to position our blogs in strategically excellent positioning to have the pool of content thinned by less than excellent content.

What are your thoughts?

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Me my Coke and I – Blog Case Study

Picture 6-3The following post was submitted by ProBlogger regular, Allen Heat, as part of the ProBlogger Case Study Series

6th of May, 2005 – I decided I should find a place to showcase my graphic designs, by that time I didn’t know what PHP meant, all i knew is that i needed a website. I purchased a subdomain at http://heatmax.illusionfxnet.com, and asked my friend to set up wordpress for me; I didn’t know it’s a blogging CMS by then, I just found it cool and easy to use. Infinity Graphic Designs blog came to life.

30th of March, 2006 – I held my first adsense cheque at the age of 16, it wasn’t a $100 cheque, i decided I’m going to make my first cheque reach a lot more than 100 bucks, and let’s say i did reach a lot more =).

Many many things happened between those months that I’d love to share, but since I’m limited in words and you’re limited in time, I’d like to talk about one big change that really affected my blogging: Me, My Coke & I, this blog started as my personal blog, and since I wasn’t expecting anything from it, and wasn’t obligated to write about a specific topic, I just went with the flow.

At some stage I looked at my archive and said: “it’s not even personal”, I didn’t share any juicy secrets from my life, I was just writing about things I’m interested in, so I wrote 10 common mistakes in newly created forums, a post that gave my blog a huge traffic boost. Skipping some parts of the story, I then discovered I’m very interested in tech,gadgets and web, but I never really knew what all those technical terms mean, add to that the fact English is my 3rd spoken language (after Hebrew & Arabic), then why would someone want to read my posts about tech and gadgets???

Cause there are a lot of guys and gals like me, they don’t really care if the MP3 player has a DCME feature (that I just made up), it looks good, it doesn’t cost that much, good sound quality, and it’s 2GB, now i think that’s enough for the average brain to know about an MP3 player.

The fact that I write tidbits (less text, more images) makes it easy for me to write multiple posts a day, update multiple blogs a day, and talk to the audience that aren’t necessarily technical gurus; This is what brought me to the level of traffic I’m have today; There is a lot to improve in terms of traffic, but I know this blog has got the potential, content is king, and persistence is the apprentice.

I’ve managed to turn Me, My Coke & I from an average personal blog, to an online magazine that was mentioned in respected blogs not once, it raised my earnings, it helped me improve my English, and most importantly: it satisfied my passion and my need to blog about anything that interests me, that’s why I chose the motto: Daily tidbits of tech, gadgets and pretty much anything to interest the average mind.

As a 16 years old I’ve managed to see things others wouldn’t, I’m sure there are two implications for sharing my young age in this case: 1. People will start taking my blogs less seriously because I’m a teenager 2. People would look at my achievements as a blogger despite and maybe because I’m a youngster and start taking me more seriously. What you will choose to do is your own business, but I’ve got some deeds to share. As for my future plans, two more blogs are coming in 2006, I just need to find a partner as passionate as me, perhaps a network could be launched before the end of the year.

I learned that content is king, and persistence is the apprentice, I learned that in some cases blogging superficially is probably the right thing, after all the everyday gadget is superficial, we don’t need to respect it that much. I learned that with minimum money and maximum will you can do more than $10 in AdSense. I learned that passion is the key and patience is the door it opens to the road of success. Blogging has brought me too many things to count.

Lastly I’d like to thank the man and the blog – Darren Rowse for guiding me personally and through out his inspiring posts, I’d also like to thank my ego that always talked to me and said “you’re a loser if you give up”, and of course I’d like to thank you bloggers for being a role model at times, for showing me how I shouldn’t act to others, and for reading this long post.

Killer Sudoku Blogger – Blog Case Study

Sw1The following post was submitted by DJApe as part of the ProBlogger Case Study Series

In August last year I quit my full-time software developer job and decided to go back to Uni. Since I had more free time than before, I decided to start a blog and show the world a couple of shareware applications that I wrote. The first one was a Sudoku puzzle game. This is how my www.djape.net blog started.

Having read a few tips on ProBlogger, I decided to experiment so I signed up for every advertising program known. In early days, ads were everywhere – AdSense, Chitika, Amazon, CafePress. There were more ads than blog posts! But one tip that Darren posted worked out very well for me – ‘create controversy’ is what I remember from one of Darren’s posts.

So I did.

I created and posted one Killer Sudoku puzzle that was so difficult and pretty much unsolvable by a human, but people just wouldn’t give up. They kept coming and from double-digits number of daily visitors, in a couple of days it went to 5-6 hundred a day! Many Sudoku sites linked to my blog because of this puzzle.

I’ve come a long way since then. Daily unique visitors are around 1500 nowadays, although at one point there were some 2000 for a period of a few weeks. The income is significantly better from syndicating puzzles to newspapers than from ads, but I’ve learned a few things about ads, too.

I got rid of everything but AdSense, simply because it pays best. A few weeks ago I also decided to keep only 300×250 ads and remove all others! Why? Again – they pay much better. Skyscrapers and 728×90 leader-boards never paid almost anything, but I also removed 468×60 which were paying well, but nothing like 300×250. Further, I no longer show ‘Get Firefox’ and ‘AdSense signup’ ads, because they were not content related. My niche is very low paying, but since I made those changes, ad income has doubled!

When I started blogging I never thought that it would become a serious thing for me. It was an experiment and something that I thought would look good in my CV. But due to increasing popularity of my site which resulted from my quick reaction to the new Sudoku puzzle variation (Killer Sudoku), I have now published 2 puzzle-books and a couple more are coming. My puzzles feature in a number of magazines around the world. Not sure how long it will last, but I’m already extremely happy with it. This experience has convinced me in the power of the internet and shown me how the global marketplace works.

While I’m Away…

My bags are packed, the house sitter has arrived, the tickets are in my pocket and we’re about to run out the door to the airport.

I’m going on vacation for a couple of weeks. I know it seems like I do this a lot but V and I are in ‘do it while we can’ mode on the advice of friends in the lead up to the birth of ‘Mini-Rouse’.

The next two weeks will not be a dead patch at ProBlogger though.

Previously when I’ve gone away I’ve tried a number of strategies (blogged about it here) but this time, in addition to a couple of advance posts that will go off I’ve got two things in store for you:

1. Guest Bloggers - the last couple of times I’ve been away I’ve tried a variety of ways to include guest bloggers here at ProBlogger. This time I’ve invited a small group to participate. I’ve chosen them because they are each experienced in an aspect (or two) of blogging and should bring a wide variety of expertise and perspectives to ProBlogger.

They are Toby Bloomberg (from Diva Marketing), Rachel Cunliffe (from Cre8d Design) Aaron Brazell (from Techno Sailor – and regular ProBlogger columnist), Wayne Hurlbert (from Blog Business World), Brian Clark (from Copyblogger) and Peter Flaschner (from the Blog Studio).

Some of these bloggers will blog a number of times while I’m gone – others will probably only post once or twice – but between them I’m confident that ProBlogger will continue to do it’s thing (in fact most times I get guests on board things improve).

2. ProBlogger Case Studies Series – earlier in the week I asked bloggers to submit their ‘stories’ of blogging. This was in a response from readers asking for more case studies and wanting to see examples of how others were developing commercial blogs.

The result was that over 40 people submitted their stories. I was amazed to see the diversity of submissions and have chosen 14 of them to feature over the next two weeks. Each day one story will be posted from a different blogger.

You’ll notice that there is real variety in terms of experience level, grasp of English (I had quite a few submissions from bloggers for who English is a second language), blogger age etc. I could have only published the more polished, experienced bloggers stories but wanted to showcase a real variety of stories.

The point of these stories is that they are case studies – this means that they are incomplete without your participation. After reading each story you are invited to reflect upon it and the blogs mentioned. Feel free to make suggestions, ask questions and interact with the blogger.

Please do this constructively - while you might not agree with each blogger’s approach or may not connect with their topic, they are putting themselves out there both in the hope of helping others and in the hope of improving their blogs. I respect this and hope you will also.

Another 25 or so stories were also submitted by other readers. At this point I’m not able to publish them all – but depending upon the feedback I get from readers to this initial series I’ll consider posting more on my return.

Hopefully between what the guest bloggers have to offer and the case studies ProBlogger will meet you where you’re at. Have a good couple of weeks.

So without further ado – let’s get into the first case study….

Help Martha Stewart Optimize her AdSense

Martha Stewart has added AdSense to her site and I think she could do with some serious advice on optimizing it (you can see an example of it here – screen cap below – click to enlarge).

I’m in the throws of packing but thought it might make a fun discussion – if you were hired as her AdSense Optimization expert what would you advise to get the most out of the ads. Think about colors, position, ad unit sizes….

Found via GrayWolf

Martha-Stewart-Adsense

“Should I flame jerks who send me hostile email?” – Dave’s Response

Dave Taylor has a post where he answers the question (as he does) – “Should I flame jerks who send me hostile email?”. He writes:

‘Years ago, I’d just go on the attack and give as good as I got, which of course just spiraled into this terrible scene where I wondered every time there was a knock on the door. Trust me, there have always been weird psychos on the ‘net and it’s awful hard to differentiate between a 15yo boy who pretends he’s in his mid 20′s from the bored 38yo testosterone laden guy who might just get in the car and drive 300 miles, on “low burn” the entire time, to confront you when you least expect it.

>Life’s just too short.

>Nowadays I either just delete hostile messages or actually respond by asking them why they’re communicating in that fashion and whether we couldn’t communicate in a more civil voice so we can try to resolve the situation. Not to get too “crystals and tarot cards” on you, but I do believe that positive intention can do a lot to improve the world.’

He goes on to give an example of an exchange that he had.

All in all I think Dave’s approach is pretty decent and as I track my own blogging experience I’ve probably gone through a similar progression from angrily defending every attack through to something similar to what Dave does.

Of course occasionally it all gets too much and I bite – and usually regret it later. When I do this it’s generally a signal that I need a holiday.

Daylight Savings and the International Blogger

Well Daylight Savings has finally finished here in Australia and while I do enjoy it from the perspective of enjoying our summer evenings, I don’t enjoy it in terms of my blogging because it puts me on a wacky time schedule when connecting with my North American blogging friends.

Negotiating time zones is difficult enough but the combination of us putting our clocks forward and hour and others putting their clocks back an hour makes chatting via IM with Canadian and American bloggers all the more difficult. I can’t remember the last time that Jeremy and I had a meeting when one of us wasn’t bleary eyed from having just gotten up and the other wasn’t exhausted from a long day and was ready for bed.

The next 6 months isn’t much fun in terms of weather here in Melbourne (that’s why I’m escaping it tomorrow for a couple of weeks) but means some of those blogging relationships that have quietened lately might just take off again.