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Feedvertising – Really Simple RSS Advertising – Text Link Ads

FeedvertisingText Link Ads have just launched a new advertising format called Feedvertising (aff).

Those of you who subscribe to my RSS feed will probably have noticed that some text links have appeared at the bottom of my posts for the past few days – they are the Feedvertising ads that I’ve been beta testing this past few days.

Here’s an ad from my latest post (click to enlarge):

Picture 1-16

At present these are my own personal ads to my sites and products (eg there is one for the job boards, another for six figure blogging, one for my digital photography site) but in the coming day or two there will be ad slots for sale so advertisers wishing to buy ads in my feeds will be able to do so.

There are two main ways you can use Feedvertising in your Feeds:

1. To promote your own products, services, affiliate products, key pages on your blog etc (placing ‘personal’ ads as I’m doing now)
2. Letting TLA sell ads for you in their marketplace

You can of course do a combination of both. You have 6 ad slots available to fill which are rotated as you write more posts.

Pricing (if you choose to sell them in the marketplace) is something I’m yet to get a figure on as I’m yet to sell any ads for my feeds but they are a flat fee (ie not CPM or CPC). You sell a text ad in your feed for a month at a time in the same way as other TLA ads. I’m told that the actual price of the ads is determined by the category of your blog (topic), it’s alexa ranking and bloglines subscriber numbers.

Feedvertising is available for anyone to apply to join – it’s free and pretty easy to use – you just use the same methods that you use to run your other TLA ads (ie as I use WordPress as a blogging platform it was as simple as reinstalling the WP plugin that WP users usually use to install TLA ads.

The ads themselves are pretty simple and clean to look at. They’re not at all intrusive and you can configer them to be called ‘Advertisement’, ‘Sponsored By’, ‘Sponsor’, ‘Thanks to our Sponsor’ and ‘Custom’ (choose your own).

I suspect that Feedvertising will also be pretty attractive to Advertisers as it will allow them to expose their message to a pretty targeted group of readers who wouldn’t normally see their ads on actual blogs (for example here at ProBlogger over half of my daily readers are RSS readers and wouldn’t normally see any advertising I run on the site).

It’s early days for Feedvertising – they’ve only just come out of beta and I’m sure they’ll take a little while to catch on but from what I’ve seen of them so far they’ll be a very attractive option for people wanting to monetize their RSS feeds and Advertisers wishing to get their messages into them.

Apply to join via their Feedvertising page here (aff).

New Features Coming Soon for aStore

Astore-Beta-Logo-AnnouncemeAmazon have emailed participants in the aStore beta test (my review here) with a sneak peak of what will be included in the next version of aStores. Here’s the list:

  • Build and maintain multiple aStores using a single Associate ID
  • Specify products to feature on Category and Sub-Category pages
  • Create multiple instances of individual categories and sub-categories (e.g. Beatles Music and Rolling Stones Music)
  • Feature up to 54 products on the front page of your store rather than the current limit of nine
  • Write longer custom product descriptions
  • Better control the layout and design for use in frames by providing the capability to remove the store header and category navigation

Looks like some nice improvements but what would those of you testing aStore like to see included?

Blogging for Chickens Update

Chickens LrgNon weekend readers might have missed the fact that this weekend I’m celebrating my 2nd birthday here at ProBlogger with a ‘Chicken-a-thon’.

Yes I’m blogging for Chickens in the hope of raising some money for Charity.

You can read about the project here.

So far donations total $240AU ($180US) and we’ve paid for 24 pairs of chickens. Thanks to everyone who is participating and who has spread the news of what we’re doing.

I’d love to see the chook-o-meter in the side bar get into triple figures by the end of the week – we’ve got a long way to go but I think that together we can do it.

A few points of clarification on the project:

  1. $10AU ($7.50US) buys a pair of chickens rather than 1 chicken.
  2. If you don’t wish to support Oxfam but have another charity you’d like to give your money to then this is fine. Some have given money through Heifer instead who also ‘do’ Chickens. Just send me a receipt or something and I’ll include your donation in the totals (if you’d like). Ultimately this isn’t about a particular charity – it’s about finding a way to make a difference with blogging.
  3. Don’t like the idea of giving Chickens? I’ve had a suggestion that it’s a gift that might be a little hard for some vegetarians and vegans to support. There are plenty of non animal gifts at the Oxfam unwrapped store. More than happy to include any other purchases in the count.

If you want to participate check out the original post for options of how to join in. Thanks again for your support.

Developing Focal Points in Blog Posts

Focal-Points-2One of the principles that I drum into my DPS readers that their photos need to have a point of interest or some sort of focal point that draws viewers into the image and holds their interest. I suggest that before photographers hit the shutter button that they as:

“What is the Focal Point in this Picture?”

Without a point of interest a viewer of an image will run their eye over it without letting it rest anywhere. Once they’ve done this they’ll quickly move on to looking at something else.

As I was scrolling through my bloglines RSS reader earlier today, letting my eyes run over hundreds of blog posts, it struck me that good blog posts needs a point of interest (or a focal point) also (in fact they might need more than one).

Without a point of interest your readers will simply move onto the next blog and won’t actually engage with what you’ve written.

Focal Points

As I’ve pondered this over the last few hours a number of types of points of interest (or focal points) come to mind:

1. Attention Grabbers – particularly as I scrolled through my bloglines I was struck by how uninteresting most of what I was viewing seemed. I estimate that I got further than the title of about 5% of posts in the feeds I follow. It’s not many – and the reason for it was quite simply because most of them seemed uninteresting to me. To shake me out of the zombie like scrolling a post had to hit the spot and do something to make me take notice.

2. Topical Interest – of the 5% of posts that I read beyond the title on I didn’t get past the first paragraph on quite a few simply because I quickly discovered that the topic didn’t interest me. Choosing good, meaningful, interesting and relevant topics is an art form. The topic itself can often be the point of interest – particularly when it has the potential to impact my life in some way.

3. Visual Points of Interest - once someone actually starts reading a post there are a variety of visual elements that you can use to draw them further into what you’re writing. Using images in your posts, bolding key words, using sub headings, avoiding long unbroken paragraphs, including bullet points and other visual elements help to draw your readers beyond your first paragraph.

4. Personality and Sensuality – I’m drawn to blogs that engage me beyond my brain and that make an emotional connection with me. Bloggers that inject personality into their writing, that engage my senses, that use story and that trigger my emotions are much more likely to hold my interest in what they’re writing.

5. Voice – as I think about some of the bloggers that draw me into almost every post I realize that they often have something about the way in which they are written that is intriguing. It’s not just about the blogger injecting their personality – it’s got more to do with the voice and style that they use. It’s one of those things that is difficult to put your finger on but over time and out of experience some bloggers develop a style all of their own that is in itself very interesting and intriguing. It’s not something you can just decide to do or have – rather it’s something that comes with time.

What other types of focal points or points of interest can a blog post have?

Can a Post Have Too Many Focal Points?

Sometimes I get sent images from readers asking for critique and one of the common problems is too many focal points. Their images end up looking quite cluttered and busy – to the point that anyone looking at the shots will feel overwhelmed.

Blog posts can also get a little like this. Try to cover too much ground in the one post and you run the risk of overwhelming your readers. While there’s nothing wrong with having multiple points in a post – I generally try to keep them to one larger idea per post.

103bees Adds Long Tail Analysis

103bees has added yet another new and illuminating feature to it’s search engine metrics package.

This time they’re giving publishers a visual representation of the long tail of search engine queries for their blogs. So for ProBlogger you’ll see the graph below (click for a slightly larger version) which shows the last few days search term distribution.

In that time there have been 4695 unique terms searched for at ProBlogger from 7253 visitors. Of the 4695 terms 4149 (or 88%) were searched for once only and brought in 57% of the traffic. This means that 12% of the terms search for brought in 43% of traffic.

The result is a classic ‘long tail’.

Longtail Graph

Of the four blogs that I run 103bees on this is a very typical result with all four having very similar numbers.

I’m still trying to get my head around how useful the information actually is but it does illustrate a couple of things.

  1. a small number of search terms (and pages) bring in a disproportionately high amount of traffic
  2. despite this there’s ALOT of other ways that people enter my blogs

WordPress.com offer VIP Hosting

WordPress have announced that they’re getting into VIP Hosting which allows some pretty major blogs to ‘piggyback’ on the back of their WordPress.com hosting infrastructure. Basically it’s for blogs that don’t want to use WordPress.com as a platform but who need reliable hosting for their blog. Here’s how they describe it as working:

  • You create WordPress.com accounts, import your content, and point your DNS at us.
  • We load balance your site across our dozens of servers.
  • You can have your own domain name.
  • All of your administration will be over SSL, which means no one can sniff your password.
  • People logged in to WordPress.com will also be logged in on your domain, which makes it easier for them to comment and link you. (Also gives you free integration with our My Comments, Tag Surfer, and avatar features.)
  • Included Akismet spam protection.
  • Inclusion in our top lists, which can drive a great deal of traffic.
  • You will have the ability to edit your templates via Subversion (SVN).
  • You can run most plugins (that don’t modify DB tables).
  • There are no restrictions on ads, javascript, etc.

What does it ‘cost’?

  • A “Powered by WordPress.com” logo on your site.
  • A few standard hooks in your template for our centralized stats.
  • Your tags go into and point to our Tags community.
  • $500 to setup your site and $250 a month.

It’s not for everyone – you need to do 100,000+ page views a month and have a high profile but it’s something I know some bloggers will be keen to explore. I particularly think it’ll be attractive to those bloggers who’ve been around a while, who’ve built up quite successful blogs but who are not technologically inclined. As one of these types of people myself I know that if I didn’t have some excellent people helping me out that I’d consider it.

Sure it’d not cheap (there’s quite a bit of criticism already going around about the price) – but I’m sure there are bloggers out there who would be willing to pay decent money for it all to be looked after by WP.

Starting An Internet Business Yaro Style

Yaro has written a post titled 8 Pitfalls To Avoid When Starting An Internet Business which contains some worthwhile advice (although i disagree with a couple in part). His points in bold – my comments after in normal type:

  1. Don’t start a business teaching how to make money online – very true. I see blogs start on the topic of making money online every week. Some of them are brilliant and work out well but many of them are gone as quickly as they start – often because the person doesn’t really know how to make money online or because the market is so saturated and in the scheme of things there are only so many people looking for that kind of information.
  2. Choose non-Internet related niches – I think there are a lot of reasons for taking this advice. While it is possible to do well with an internet related topic I’ve had better luck with more normal everyday topics that people are interested in.
  3. Don’t focus on making money – to a point I agree with this – although if you’re starting an internet business (the topic of Yaro’s post) you will want to consider how it will be sustainable from the start. Having said this – many successful online businesses are started as hobby sites and on topics that the entrepreneur obviously enjoys themselves. I’d much rather make a living from talking about topics that interest me than ones that bore me and suspect that the business will be much more sustainable if you take this approach.
  4. Don’t enter a tiny market - yes, in many cases this is good advice – although tiny markets can be quite good if you’re first in and if you have no real competitors. The thing about the internet is that it’s global and even small niches can attract enough readers to make them worthwhile (of course it also depends upon what your margins are and how you’re monetizing the space).
  5. Watch out for tiny margins – not something I’ve really had much experience in as I don’t really sell anything – but it makes sense. Pricing is crucial and if you’re going to have a small margin you want to know you can turn over a lot of product.
  6. Look for leverage points – working with others (and your readership) is a great way to take your business to the next level.
  7. Avoid self-employment thinking – this is something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently. It’s all very well to build yourself an online job – but building a business that you can step away from with others operating it is another matter.
  8. Be aware of your own limitations – focus on what you know how to do and find others to do the rest. I’ve yet to meet someone who is good at absolutely everything (I know a few people who think they are) – surround yourself with people know how to do what you can’t and you’ll be much better positioned to succeed.

What would you add to or subtract from Yaro’s list? Head over and let him know.

Techmeme Experiments with Feed/Content Advertising

Techmeme-AdsTechmeme has launched a new sponsorship section on their site in the last day or so. It’s called ‘Techmeme Sponsor Posts’ and is essentially a spot on their sidebar where three sponsors have the latest posts from their blogs show up with a title and excerpt (taken from their RSS feed).

This is one of the first times (that I can think of) when people actually place their RSS feed as an advertisement on someone else’s site.

You can see the launch post of the new sponsorship model here and get more information on sponsorship here. The cost is between $3000 and $4500 per month (it depends upon which slot you buy). Jeff’s got the calculations on what it’ll bring in ($132,000 per year if it’s sold out for 12 months solid) and the CPM is around $5-$8.

The ads themselves include a link back to the main site, the latest post and a logo of the sponsoring site (links back to the site as well).

I guess this will be something that could easily be rolled out on Techmeme’s sister sites (they have Memeorandum, BallBug and WeSmirch also.

It’s a fascinating idea – posts as ads on other people’s blogs and I could see this being picked up by other bloggers (although it’d have to be on pretty massive blogs with a highly targeted niche).

Some reflections:

On the Advertisers End:

  • will need to think carefully about how they use their blog during their campaign (not too many off topic posts or ‘spin’ type posts)
  • relevancy of posting will be key – not just any blog will benefit from such a placement (not just anyone could afford it either)
  • I guess the question for advertisers will be whether they can create enough interesting content for a month to actually keep readers engaged – there’s no point in highlighting your blog’s content if it’s not up to scratch (or things could backfire)
  • is a month too long? If I was buying ads to launch a product or site I’m not sure I’d want to have to write a post per day (or so) on my blog about it just to make my advertising relevant.

On the Techmeme End:

  • On challenge that I suspect Techmeme would have is the high rate of RSS readers they must have. For example today is the first time I’ve actually headed to their site in the last few months as I follow them largely on RSS but I’m sure that they do get enough traffic to make it worthwhile for advertisers.
  • could ads devalue the site? This is something all webmasters wanting to put ads on their sites need to ask – particularly if the ads are changing regularly. Some ad systems allow bloggers to block ads if they are not appropriate (for example TLA) but if it’s an RSS feed this would be difficult. I’m sure TM vetted the advertisers well and they’ve chosen a high caliber of advertiser but I could see this getting a little messy if they didn’t. This probably isn’t a challenge for TM but I’m sure other bloggers will take up this model and will need to consider it.
  • one further feature that could be offered to advertisers is a ‘subscribe’ button on the ad which allows people to subscribe directly to the feed. This might not help TM get repeat advertisers but would offer advertisers extra value.

I’ll be watching with interest to see whether the ads are taken up again in coming months and whether prices increase or decrease (sure to be an indicator to whether there’s demand). I think it’s definitely an idea with merit and am keen to see where it goes for TM.

How Do You Manage Your Blog? – Blog Administration

Over the past few weeks I’ve had a number of people asking me for information on how I manage my time as a blogger and as someone with a number of different aspects of business running side by side.

Here’s an example of one of the questions (from a reader who asked to be anonymous):

“Darren, I’ve been blogging for a year now and I’m starting to get swamped by the admin of it all. Between answering emails from readers, deleting spam, keeping track of the growing number of RSS feeds in my news aggregator and promoting my blog I’ve hardly got time to write any posts. How do you manage to keep your blogs running? What’s your secret? Do you have any tips or tools for me to try?”

This question is typical of the sort of thing I’m being asked more and more so I thought I’d have a go at putting together an answer.

Time – Firstly it’s worth saying that I work full time as a blogger. I’m able to put extended hours into it and as a result can manage a number of blogs at once and am able to be involved in a number of other related projects (a blog network and e-resource for example).

Constant Challenge - Even with the ability to work on my blogging full time I find the administration around blogging an ever increasing challenge. Like the questioner above has experienced – the longer you blog the more admin that seems to come along and the more blogs you have the more it multiplies. I’ll be honest enough to say that there are days I don’t keep up and have increasingly considered taking on an admin assistant or intern to take on some of the tasks that mount up.

Priorities – One of the things I’ve had to work on increasingly over the past few months is the setting of priorities. This has included ending blogs, cutting back the posting rhythm on blogs, changing the type of posts etc

Sharing the Load – I’ve already mentioned my temptation to take on an admin assistant but I have taken on others to help me on a couple of my blogs as bloggers. This has been really helpful to me (and I hope they’ve enjoyed it too). It’s definitely a challenge to find the right person but once you do it’s well worthwhile.

Tools – I rely heavily on some great tools in my blogging that help me manage the different aspects of what I do. I’ve mentioned them all numerous times on this blog so won’t go into them all and how I use them but among the most useful time savers are Akismet (for comment spam), Bloglines (for RSS feed management), Ecto (desktop publishing), Backpackit (I use it less and less – but it’s good for managing some of my data), Entourage (my email/calendar client) and Skype (for IM and VOIP communications with partners and readers). I don’t feel like I use the most ‘Web 2.0′ kind of applications to manage what I do but it seems to work reasonably well with just the basics.

Practice – With time and repetition at blogging I’ve gotten reasonably quick at blogging. I guess I’ve developed a rhythm of posting that works reasonably well for me. Standard ‘newsy’ type posts take me as little as a few minutes to put up and longer posts (like this one) have a workflow that has emerged over time (I talked about some of it here). I guess practice makes perfect (or at least speeds things up).

So ultimately I don’t have any ‘secrets’ to share. It’s a lot of hard work and is largely about time management and doing your best. There are days where things work really well and I feel on top of things – but then there are other days where it feels a little like I’m going backwards.

I’d really appreciate if others would share their experience of this. Perhaps you could help me improve what I do and help others who I know are asking similar questions to the one above.

How do you manage your blogging administration? What tools do you use? What lessons have you learned?

Update: As Michael suggests in comments below – another important tool in my blogging that is a massive help in keeping on top of things is tabbed browsing. I use Firefox and the ability to open new windows all in the one browser via tabs changed my life when I discovered it. Instead of having 20-30 windows open I now have one window with multiple tabs open. I keep things open as a reminder of things to do at times.

While I think of it – another thing that has changed my blogging in this way is to move away from using a 15 inch laptop as my primary blogging machine. 6 or so months back I moved to a desktop with a 23 inch LCD and also got a smaller 19 inch secondary monitor. I use the secondary monitor to run email and instant messaging and the larger screen for browsers and blogging aps. I find that this helps me to be much more orderly in my workflow.