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Introduction to Blog Carnivals

Blog Carnivals are one way for bloggers to get their name out there and make connections with other bloggers.

Over at fivecentnickel today nickel has posted Five Questions (and Answers) About Blog Carnivals which some bloggers will find useful.

“For newer sites, the biggest reason to participate is exposure. It’s frustrating to pour your heart out on the pages of you blog if nobody notices. No matter how good your stuff is, you won’t attract a readership until people know that you’re out there. One possibility is to network with other bloggers. Exchange links, leave (on topic) comments on their posts, link and use trackbacks, etc., etc.”

I’ve not really participated in any official blog carnivals – but when I first started blogging did interact with different bloggers running similar sorts of projects and found them to be well worthwhile and a great way to practice my blogging as well as finding new readers.

Blog Credibility – Where does it Come from?

Eric asks a question that caught my attention today – How Does A Niche Blogger Gain Credibility?

He suggest a number of possibilities including:

  • The number of comments
  • Technorati ranking
  • Bloglines ranking
  • Alexa ranking
  • PageRank
  • Quality of the posts

I’d agree that the most important of these is the quality of posts but think there might be a few more. I was going to write a post on it but somewhere in the back of my mind I wondered if I already had so I had a dig around my archives and found I’d actually written a whole series on the topic (and it was only six months ago – my memory is terrible these days).

Here’s the links to my series.

What would you add? What bloggers do you see as having credibility? Why?

Elite Retreat

I was a little dubious when I first heard of the Elite Retreat but as I’ve been pondering it for the last 24 hours I’m convinced it is a good idea.

What is it? Well in short – it’s an opportunity to spend a couple of days with a group of experienced web masters. Only 30 people are going to be there so it’s a small group environment (with a 1:6 ratio of leaders to attendees).

The people involved will be familiar to most ProBlogger readers – Dave Taylor (from numerous blogs), Jeremy Schoemaker (from Shoemoney), Aaron Wall (from SEO book) and Lee Dodd (from earners forum). Each are experienced webmasters making a good living online from a variety of web mediums.

The cost of the Elite Retreat ($4850) will exclude most people (intentionally) and even if you can afford it you are not guaranteed a spot and need to apply. The cost includes the two days, one on one coaching afterwards, an iPod Nano with all the content on it etc.

I can just hear the critiques of Elite Retreat already. Price, name, exclusivity etc… but there’s something about the idea of spending such an intense one on one time with experienced webmasters that makes sense and I’m quite jealous of all who will be there.

As I said to Lee this morning when we chatted about it via IM – while I wasn’t thinking of something quite this expensive – I have been toying with the idea of a similar concept for 2007 with a few key bloggers. Funnily enough – some of those involved were on my target list.

I don’t expect the majority of ProBlogger readers to run off to sign up for this one – but I thought it was worth including as I know it will interest a few of you both as something to consider attending and because it is an example of bloggers leveraging their expertise and profile to indirectly make money from their blogging.

AdSense Testing Ads in Password Protected Areas

Dave Taylor posts that AdSense are testing with a select group of publishers a program called ‘Site Authentication’ where they allow publishers to run their ads on password protected sites – something not previously allowed. He publishes part of an email that AdSense sent to testers:

‘”You are one of a select group of publishers that has been chosen to try out our new Site Authentication feature. Site Authentication allows publishers to give our crawler access to login-protected content so that users can receive targeted ads. While there is no obligation for you to try out this new feature, you may find it helpful if you have pages of your site protected behind a login screen.

“As an example, an online newspaper site may protect content behind a login for premium readers. Without Site Authentication, the publisher can’t show readers targeted ads on those premium pages because our crawler has not been able to access the content. Using Site Authentication, the publisher can now specify details for our crawler to pass the login screen and reach the protected content, allowing AdSense to serve relevant ads to the readers.”‘

This probably won’t impact too many bloggers but membership sites, forums that need registration and newspapers will be interested to see if this is a test that becomes available to others.

Read more at Dave’s post at “Can I use Google AdSense on password-protected areas?”

10 + 9 Ways to Find Great Post Ideas for Your Blog

Randfish has a useful post over at SEOmoz with 10 Web Tools to Help Generate Blog Content Ideas. In it he lists a variety of tools including Google Groups, Technorati, Craigslist, Del.icio.us, StumbleUpon, Google/Yahoo News, Keyword Tools, Wikipedia, Digg/Reddit and Yahoo! Answers.

I’d add to the list Topix.net (which offers some similar tools to the above) as well as Bloglines ‘search’ feature which lets you set keywords that will show blogs talking about those words in a folder.

Having said that – the majority of posts that I write these days come from other sources. Here are 9 more idea sources to add to randfish’s 10:

  1. Conversations – it’s amazing how many ideas come from the chats I have with other bloggers, co-workers, readers, friends and family both in real life and via IM or email.
  2. Reader Questions – related to this is responding to questions asked by readers
  3. Reader Comments – similarly, the comments left on your blog can be a treasure trove of ideas for future posts
  4. Other Blogs - like this post, I find the writing of others often stimulates posts that build on, extend or bounce off their ideas. Don’t forget to dig around in other people’s archives also as it isn’t only current posts that are places where you’ll get ideas. Of course always give credit to the source of your ideas.
  5. Books, Newspapers, Magazines – I’m increasingly finding inspiration in offline sources of information
  6. Mad Ideas – ever been laying in bed at night and get a crazy idea! I don’t just chuckle to myself when they come – I get up and write them down. It’s amazing how many of them end up being key posts for me later.
  7. Experience – a fairly large proportion of my post ideas come directly out of an experience that I’m having on the topic. Problems, achievements, challenges and mistakes are often the best source of useful posts as you’ll find readers relate well to them.
  8. Brainstorming – I take time out each week to specifically come up with ideas to post about. While most of my posts ‘just come to me’ through my day to day rhythm – I’m a big believer in working hard on story ideas also and have a folder permanently on my desktop filled with text documents that have little else in them except for a topic idea and perhaps a few jotted down notes – all to work on later.
  9. Archives – dig around in your own blog’s archives and you’ll be amazed at the opportunities that you’ll find. Look for half finished ideas, opportunities to update your ideas or even topics that your newer readers wouldn’t have seen before.

Where do your ideas for posts come from?

AdSense Referrals Program – 1 Year Review

It’s time for another earnings update on AdSense referrals.

It’s now been almost a year since they were introduced (I think it was 4 November 2005) and so we’ve all had plenty of opportunity to test them. Referrals are Google’s first venture into CPA (cost per action) advertising and I’m interested to get some discussion going over whether it’s been a good first year?

How have they gone for you?

I’ve concentrated largely upon using the AdSense referral system (and in more recently the AdWords one – coinciding with my own experimentation with AdWords) and link to them both at the base of each ProBlogger post.

I started using the AdSense referrals on the first day that they were released. I’m not sure I’m allowed to disclose actual numbers but in that time the AdSense ads have had several million impressions – several thousand clicks, several hundred sign ups and several (a handful) of conversions to the $100 payments. The total payments have just tipped into the ‘four figure’ range.

Now I could probably improve the CTR rate by positioning them more prominently – but I’m reluctant to do so knowing that the eventual conversion rate is so low.

My AdWords Referrals are on a similar track but really it’s too soon to tell (I’ve only been using it a month or so) as there are no actual conversions.

I also played around with the Picasa referral program for six or so months but the CTR and eventual conversion rate was so low (plus the earnings was just $1 per download) even when I linked to it prominently on my Digital Photography blogs that I gave up on it completely – it was wasted space really.

So all in all – my own experience with Google’s AdSense referrals is pretty poor.

I’ll hang in there with the AdSense and AdWords ones for a little while longer (at least they have a higher payout) but in comparison with other similar programs (like that of Text Link Ads and Chitika for example) I’d have to say that the conversion is simply too low to justify hanging in there much longer.

How have you found Google’s referrals program?

PS: Of course the advantage of systems like TLA and Chitika is that they are new systems – however their terms are also more generous and achievable in my humble opinion (ie the reality is that many (most?) new AdSense publishers don’t earn the $100 required to trigger a payment in their first 180 days and that most new AdWords advertisers don’t spend $100 in their first 90 days).

Give Brian 5 Minutes and He’ll Give you a Killer Headline for Your Next Blog Post!

Brian is at it again with 7 More Sure-Fire Headline Templates That Work over at Copyblogger.

Performancing Partners Sends First Payments

Masthead-EarnI just received my first ever Performancing Partners (aff) payment (read my first impression review of the ad network here).

It wasn’t a massive amount (in the mid ‘three figure’ range) but not bad for a first month. I’m not sure exactly how much of it was from advertisers and how much was from the affiliate program (they say there will be better reporting next month) but it was a nice little bonus to get for the month.

So far ProBlogger has had two advertisers sign up (you can see them midway down my sidebar) and I’ve left the pricing on ‘auto’.

I will be interested to see how PP goes over the coming months. From what I can see in the advertisers section – there are hundreds and hundreds of publishers signed up (no shortage there) so there is a great base for advertisers to buy into. However the numbers of advertisers is yet to match it (of course it is very early days).

What does interest me is that Nick from Performancing is asking publishers to comment on what to do with unsold inventory. Some of the suggestions in the comments there are quite interesting and could open up all kinds of possibilities.

Social Bookmarking Icons – Are they Worth It?

37 Signals has a post on a topic I’ve been pondering a lot lately also – those social bookmarking buttons at the bottom of blog posts that so many blogs have. They write:

“Given the Ebola-like spread of these things they must be really effective, right? Not so much. Zero out of Technorati’s top 10 blogs feature those icons. And only two out of the 15 entries in the current crop at Digg’s Top Today page offer “Digg me” icons.

This focus on campaigning over content seems like a classic case of misplaced priorities. The reason posts wind up at Digg, Delicious, or elsewhere isn’t because the authors made it easier to vote for them (it’s already easy). A post winds up at these sites because people respond to its content and quality.”

I’ve been pondering these icons lately too for a couple of reasons – to be honest I’m a bit torn by them.

I’ll come out and admit to having a digg icon on the individual pages of my digital photography school blog. It only appears on individual pages where the item is actually dugg first by a reader – but they do appear (and pretty prominently).

The reason I’ve been pondering them is that on some posts (like this post on polarizing filters) the Digg count is pretty small (15 at the time of writing this). Not many people dugg it and the post didn’t really climb digg’s rankings. I suspect that a few of the 15 diggers dugg it after seeing the icon, but it didn’t really capture people’s attention. I think the post was of a good quality – but obviously it wasn’t viral enough.

On the other hand a post that I wrote last night on how to choose a DSLR did much better with Digg (sitting on 631 at the time of writing this). It made it to the front page of Digg today and brought in 20,000 or so visitors. Now I have no way of telling how many of the readers dugg the item as a result of the icon – but I do know for a fact that when I went to bed it was sitting on 4 diggs and I woke up this morning it was sitting on 25 diggs. However this morning when I linked to the post from my forums and sent some readers to it – within minutes the digg counter went up and the ball started rolling. I suspect that it was a direct result of the icon that tipped the post over onto the popular page of digg.

I guess what I’m saying is that on the majority of my blog posts the icon doesn’t do anything (in fact some would say it might cheapen the look of the site – especially when the counter is low) – however on the occasional post the icon might just give a quality post that doesn’t quite have the legs to go viral a lift that creates a digg-a-lanche.

I guess the question is – is it worth having the icons there for that occasional benefit?

The other thought that comes to mind is that Digital Photography School has a reasonably healthy readership each day that might make the icon’s use worthwhile. On a blog with a smaller readership the numbers of readers who see and click it would probably be too small to have any/much impact.

  • I’m in two thoughts – what do you think?
  • Do you use social bookmarking icons on your blog?
  • What impact have you noticed that they have?
  • What suggestions would you have in using them?