Amazon UK Test ‘Self-Optimising Links’ – Beware AdSense publishers

I’ve just noticed that Amazon UK’s Affiliate program is beta testing a new type of ad called ‘New Self-Optimising Links’.

They describe it as:

“Self-Optimising Links feature products chosen automatically based on the content of your site. To create Self-Optimising Links simply modify the template and appearance elements and copy the resulting code on to your site. With Self-Optimising Links, you do not need to chose which product, product line or even keyword that best fits a page. Our algorithm will take care of reviewing your site and selecting relevant product offerings. At present we are offering Self-Optimising Links as a BETA to our Associates.”

While this will be welcomed by heavy affiliate program users it is something to be careful of if you’re an AdSense publisher as using these ‘self-optimising’ links means you’re using a contextual way of serving ads – which from my reading of AdSense breaks their TOS.

Update – speaking of Amazon and contextual ads, David just sent me an email telling me about another service that will serve Amazon affiliate ads to your blog – contextually. It’s called TicTap Contextual Ads. in short – they scan your page and find Amazon products to match. They put their own code in the fourth ad and you get the others.

As with the Amazon UK beta above keep in mind that TicTap is contextual and in it’s default mode it cannot be used with AdSense (or YPN from what I can work out). There is a way of making it non contextual according to TicTap’s FAQ page by switching off the contextual nature of the ads (similar to what Chitika did before changing their default to non contextual) – but you might want to double check with AdSense.

Maintaining a Blog/Life Balance

Wendy Boswell has written a great piece over at Lifehacker on How to get things done working inside and outside the home where she talks a little about her approach to work life balance as a home based worker.

I think that what she has to say is great and would be well worth reading for most aspiring full time bloggers (and seriously addicted part time ones). It’s very easy to allow blogging to overtake one’s life – the computer just sits there in the corner of your home tempting you to come have a look at what’s happening on your blog:

  • calling to you to come see who has been commenting…
  • dangling the carrot of checking your latest stats…
  • making you wonder how much your earnings are up to for the day…
  • drawing you to it to write just one more post…
  • making you nervous about whether the server is holding up after that link on digg…

There’s something quite addictive about blogging that most full time bloggers have to face at one time or another. It’s probably some mix of the allure of being the center of attention, mixed with the excitement of the chase of the story and readership, mixed with way it can open up doors to new friendship and opportunities.

But there comes a point where many bloggers need to think about creating healthy boundaries around it in order to maintain other relationships, work on our physical well being and to just have a life.

I know many bloggers don’t struggle with the work life balance in the way I’m describing (in fact some are quite the opposite to the point that life crowds out blogging) but over the last 12 months I’ve met a number of bloggers who have seriously worried me in terms of their blog obsession (“blogsession”).

Creating a healthy blog/life balance is important and for me includes:

  • having days off
  • taking longer vacations
  • having times during the day that are set aside for family
  • setting time aside for exercise
  • prioritizing time for face to face interactions with people
  • developing other hobbies
  • setting limits on how late you’ll stay up and when you’ll go to bed

This all sounds basic common sense stuff – but as a blogger whose been close to burning himself out (and having seen a few bloggers who have) I think it’s worth saying. In addition to these things saving your sanity, relationships and health they’ll also help you to sustain your blogging.

Have you ever struggled with maintaining blog/life balance? What strategies do you have in place to keep things balanced?

Adsense Testing Ad Units Mixing Images With Text

Adsense-Ads-1A number of AdSense publisher have been reporting seeign a new type of AdSense ad over the last 24 hours or so.

The ads in question seem to be happening in the narrow skyscraper ad unit (120×600) and consist of normal text ads with a 90×110 image at the top (as pictured – image source).

I’m yet to see the ads live so am not sure whether the image is an actual ad or whether they are just an attention grabber (from the screen captures they seem to be just images/attention grabbers).

IF they are just attention grabbers then I’m a little confused as previously AdSense have asked publishers to ensure that images near ads be separated from the ads with a border but now they seem to be testing putting images in ad units – and images that don’t really have any relevance to the ad itself from what I can see.

Read about these new ad formats that AdSense seem to be testing at:

Update – it seems that these ads are also appearing in 120 x 240 ad units also.

Publishers are also telling me that the images do link to something but that they do not know what (as they are too nervous to click them as they are their own ads and don’t want to get in trouble).

Update 2 – I’ve just heard from another publisher that the images link to a separate page with a list of AdSense keywords on it. I’m not sure what this means exactly but am interested to see these ads in action.

Update 3Jen says these beta ad units are called vertical images and that the image acts similarly to ‘link unit’ ads.

A – Z of Professional Blogging

Just a quick note to thank everyone for their suggestions in the A – Z of Professional Blogging post earlier today. I’ve since updated the list with numerous more suggested blog tools and platforms and there are now over 130 listed. Keep your suggestions rolling in.

I’ve not added everything suggested as there are some I’m not completely sure of in terms of usefulness, relevance and recency (and a couple were emailed that I’m pretty sure are blog spam tools) but most look quite good and I’ve found a new new tools myself.

Thanks to for those who’ve linked to and bookmarked the post of different social bookmarking sites. I’ll try to keep the list up to date in the weeks and months ahead.

digg’s new AdSense Ads

By now most people have seen the new digg design and expasion of their categories beyond their traditional ‘technology’ one. But what interests me most about the redesign is their integration of AdSense ads into the design.

I noticed earlier today that they were a little different but didn’t think twice of it until Dave emailed me a few minutes ago and asked me about them – pointing out that they change color and have a darker border appear when you roll the cursor over them. They also have borders around each ad in the banner rather than one big one.


The reason Digg will have such different looking ads will be that they are a pretty big publisher and probably have ‘premium publisher’ status which means they have an individual contract with AdSense that means they have to serve a certain number of impressions and in return get certain concessions (including the ability to customize ads and a specially negotiated rate of income). Premium publisher deals are not for the average blogger as you have to have many millions of monthly impressions to get the deal (I think it was 20 million per month last time I heard – but it could have gone up).

The other thing I notice about Digg’s redesign is that they are rotating their own ads as well as some private banner ads into the banner position also. Their own ads are specifically designed to match the Google ones but are for Kevin and Alex’s podcast.

Bloggers and Money Session at BloggerCon

I am currently listening to a podcast of the Bloggers and Money session at BloggerCon. You can read a little about the session at ZDNet.

A few notes from the podcast:

Chris Pirillo made some good points about blogs being a branding tool to brand yourself – which is certainly one way to make money from blogs. Chis did write off CPA (affiliate programs) to some extent. I’m not sure I’d write it off quite as much as he would – it is an art but it’s certainly doable.

Tony Schneider from WordPress spoke about how blogs should be more about writing than making money. The most successful blogs are those that bring in big traffic according to Tony. Recommends not using AdSense but targeting your ads to your audience via sponsorship….

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Best standalone blog application? Poll

Lifehacker is running a poll on which standalone blog application is best – the results are no surprise – very similar to our ProBlogger’s poll on blog platforms.

ProBlogger Demographics – MSN adCenter Style

MSN’s AdCenter predicts that 60% of ProBlogger’s readers are male with the biggest readership in the ‘under 18 years of age’ range.

Hmmmm – the gender one might be right (my gender poll found that 72% of readers were male) but the age range has got to be out. I do know of a number of teen readers but from what I know they are in the minority.


Find out what demographics adCenter predicts that your blog has here. Found via Duncan.

The Pre-Launch Success Phase of a Blog

Scrivs has a good post on some of the things to consider before you launch a blog.

He talks through issues of:

The Design“For a blog a great design is good, but isn’t as key as the content that is already present on the site. For more web-based application sites, the design goes a long way into attracting and keeping those first customers.”

I’m with Scrivs on this – design is important but not the be all and end all what I’ve seen. My own blogs have all been launched with pretty basic designs and an emphasis upon content (including ProBlogger which didn’t have a custom design for months). Having said this – ProBlogger took off in terms of traffic once I got my design worked out!

The Content “People bookmark sites with great content. People add sites to their RSS feeds with great content. Not too many people can remember a site with one entry welcoming them.”

This to me is the key thing to be working on before you start a blog. Like Scrivs says, there’s nothing much more of a turn off than a a blog without content. At b5media we always try to have a week’s worth of posts (at least) up before we go live with them.

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