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How to Kick off a Great Comment Thread by Targeting Previous Commenters

CommentsDo you struggle to get comments on your posts?

This morning I was chatting to a group of b5media bloggers in our weekly internal chat about a strategy that I occasionally use to get more comments on particular posts.

This tip will only work on blogs that have had people leave comments before – but it doesn’t need a lot of previous comments.

The strategy is simple

1. If you have a post that you particularly want to get comments on – simply look at the last 10 or so comments on your blog and shoot an email to the people who left them.

2. In the email – thank them for their recent comment and invite them to check out the post that you’ve just written and to comment upon it.

I wouldn’t use this strategy too regularly – but on an occasional basis it can be great at kicking off a conversation as it targets those who are more likely to comment – because they’ve got a record of doing so.

An Example

This is actually a strategy that I used on this post at DPS.

As you’ll see in that post – it was a post that leant itself to comments in that it was asking readers to answer a question (this will definitely help). The reason that I used this strategy on this particular post was that it was the first of a new type of post that I was testing on the blog (community workshops).

The result?

I emailed 10 recent comment leavers from the blog and 7 of them left a comment (7 of the first 10). I believe that this created a sense of ‘action’ on the post and drew others into commenting also.

The other benefit of it is that it actually led to a few good email interactions with readers who actually appreciated me dropping them an email to thank them for their comments and who hopefully are now a little more loyal to the blog than they were previously.

A Word of Warning

As mentioned above – this isn’t something that you’ll probably want to do too regularly. You’ll also probably want to personalize your emails as much as possible (I sent each one separately, use individuals names, commented upon their comments and even linked to their previous comment) so that it doesn’t come across as a spammy group email.

Want more tips on getting comments? Check out these 10 Techniques to Get More Comments on Your Blog (one of the most commented upon posts on ProBlogger).

I’d like to Thank My First Grade Teacher…. My Parents….

Thanks to everyone who voted ProBlogger the Best Blog about Blogging in the 2007 Blogger’s Choice Awards. Congrats to BloggingBasics101 and Lorelle for coming in 2nd and 3rd.

Apparently there was an awards ceremony of sorts a few nights back in Vegas where it was all announced and I get a T-shirt as my award – not that I need any more at the moment :-). Anyway – thanks everyone for the vote. The 2008 awards have just started now – the Blogging about Blogging category is here and there are some great blogs listed already – quite a few that I’d not seen before.

WidgetBucks to Stop Monetizing Non North American Traffic – Interview with Matt Hulett from WidgetBucks

Logo-1-1Over the last couple of months there’s been a lot written about new ad network – WidgetBucks. As with any new player in this market there has a lot of varied opinions shared about them with some publishers reporting quite amazing conversion and others finding the system frustrating as the team at WidgetBucks hones their system into one that works both for publishers and advertisers.

In this interview with Matt Hulett (CEO of WidgetBucks – note: I previously had this as being an interview with Dean Jutilla – but didn’t realize that it was Matt who had actually written the answers – aaah email intervews) I ask him about the journey so far, get him to give us some tips on how to make more money with WidgetBucks and we get a glimpse at the future for this emerging ad network.

Also in this interview Matt announces a significant change to WidgetBucks which is going to significantly alter the performance of the network for some publishers – particularly those with non US traffic. I’ve included my opinions on this change at the bottom of this interview.

There are a real array of ad network options available to bloggers these days – why should bloggers consider WidgetBucks?

In a very short time, we seem to have struck a chord with bloggers who have been looking for both money-making widgets and a better, more lucrative option compared to traditional ad networks. WidgetBucks offers both to publishers, bloggers and affiliates who want to make money online.

I’m not sure if people recognize this but ours is the only ad network that uses eBay as a barometer of popularity within our widget. We also show best prices on products from at branded merchants. So your site visitors not only see what’s hot and popular based trends of over 100 million online shoppers, they also are offered the lowest prices on those products.

We’ve also showed we do listen to suggestions from our publishers — everything from real-time reporting to monthly account summaries to more widget categories and more.

Who is behind WidgetBucks? What did you do before this venture?

WidgetBucks was created by Mpire.com , the online meta-shopping service that brings together all the most popular online marketplaces such as eBay, Amazon, Shopping.com, Wal-Mart, Target, Gap, and thousands more — into one single site. We blend all that historical pricing information with our pricing analytics and other proprietary technologies to create what we like to call the “Kelly Blue Book” for online products. We are able to tell people what they can expect to pay for that product they are interested in — and then help them take the next step in buying it. Mpire has been around since 2005 — and after originally focusing on offering eBay selling tools, we turned buyer-focused just over a year ago. Today, Mpire.com is getting between 800,000 – 900,000 unique visitors a month. So WidgetBucks fits into our strategy of distributing our pricing analytics across the Web, almost like thousands of little mini-Mpire’s being hosted on publishers’ sites.

We’ve seen a lot of people calling WidgetBucks a scam and really questioning our legitimacy. Naturally, new services draw suspicion, so it’s not terribly surprising.

What I’m hoping comes across here is that we are a real company, backed by real investors, and around me is a talented and dedicated team. I suppose mob mentality and grabbing pitch forks makes for a better, more clickable headline than learning the facts sometimes. But people should know that Mpire and WidgetBucks are both legit, and publishers who have followed our terms of service (which I guess means they’ve actually read them) will get paid — in fact, likely to be paid sooner than our 45-day term.

Publishers are talking about a drop in RPC. What’s the latest on that?

Right now, the team’s sole focus is improving network quality and maintaining our competitive RPC, which we have seen drop over the last 4-5 days. We are taking steps to get the RPC recover, and should see an impact on that over the next seven days.

What I mean by improving network quality is raising the lead “value” for merchants, who will be willing to pay a strong RPC. The key factor is non-converting clicks from outside of U.S. and Canada, because the reality is that this traffic is dragging down RPC across the board. International users who click-through to a U.S. merchant’s site and highly unlikely to purchase from that merchant for various reasons, such as language barrier or shipping cost.

You mentioned taking steps to help raise the RPC. What are you planning?

Publishers will be seeing two things, primarily. First, merchants are no longer being charged for clicks from outside the U.S. and Canada on WidgetBucks widgets, and as a result, publishers will no longer receive credit for those clicks. While this may seem extreme, it will ultimately have a positive impact on RPC levels. This change does not affect earnings from October (just posted) or the first half of November, by the way.

So the next natural question is, where do these users get sent? International site visitors will be redirected to mpire.com, which was mentioned earlier in the interview and was on TIME magazine’s list of the 50 Best Sites for 2007.

Second, early next week, WidgetBucks will become a “gated” ad network that will require approval to join. For current publishers, this does not change much for you. You are “grandfathered” into the network; however, we will continue to review sites for Terms violations. By raising the bar of entry, we anticipate this will help eliminate a number of issues we’re facing.

Just to clarify – when people are redirected to mpire.com – will they earn anything for that traffic at all?

No. Merchants are not being charged for that traffic, and therefore publishers will not be credited for it. And to be really clear, Mpire/WidgetBucks does not get the credit either. We will likely evaluate re-adding specific countries over time and evaluate their conversions, but we want to take a position over the next few weeks to be very tight on click traffic to restore our RPC numbers.

What are you suggesting that publishers with a lot of non US traffic do?
We suggest implementing a geo-based ad placement service to determine when to display a WidgetBucks ad widget versus an Internationally applicable ad. Some examples include MaxMind, IP2Location, etc, and there are solutions available for OpenAds that do this as well.

What do you wish you did differently in the launch of WidgetBucks?

We may have underestimated how fraudulent accounts and non-converting traffic would impact our RPC levels in certain categories. As a result, starting later this week, we are moving to a “gated” ad network that will require publishers to get approval before they can join WidgetBucks. Should we have done this in the beginning? Perhaps. But we felt the low barrier to entry was important to offer from the beginning.

What types of blogs does WidgetBucks seem to be working on best?

As you’ve mentioned a number of times on Problogger, product-focused blogs are ideal for WidgetBucks. We completely agree. By nature, our categories are geared toward products, so a mom blogging about baby gear or a camera buff reviewing the latest point-and-shoot can use our widgets to enhance their editorial with relevant offers. This is also true when using MerchSense, our contextual algorithm. Some affiliates have complained that MerchSense isn’t returning the right products — and this isn’t surprising for that type of blog. It’s currently set up to snap to product buckets (i.e. product blog), but we’re making improvements to the system to expand the buckets.

Have you got any tips for bloggers wanting to maximize their WidgetBucks earnings? What do the best earners do that the rest could improve upon?

We’re finding there are a few universal practices that can help publishers maximize their earnings. These include:

  • placing your widgets above the fold, as well as varying your sizes depending on the content around it.
  • also, make sure the ads are relevant to the content, either through MerchSense or by hand-picking the category
  • we’ve also heard from publishers that unusual shaped ads, not the standard sized ads, actually convert better because they appear more as content.
  • others are integrating a 300 x 250 widget into their relevant content.
  • finally, with today’s news of the international traffic credit change, we’d suggest publishers adjust their geographic-coding for U.S. and Canada where WidgetBucks widgets appear.

Do you have any new features planned that you can tell us about?

Be on the look out for new widget creative — it’s currently being tested right now. We’ll also be creating more affinity-oriented creative, meaning a fantasy sports blogger or fashion blogger will have relevant skins to place on their widgets. Be looking for more interactive widgets as well. I know that seems vague but these new versions will let users engage more with the widget itself.

We’ve also already rolled out a few other features that have been lost in the shuffle of October earnings being posted and other buzz:

  • Real-time referral tracking. We’ve had a lot of publishers ask for rolled up referral totals so we’re looking to add that. Also, within the referral table, referred accounts are only listed by ID, not by email, unless the referred publisher proactively selects the “Share Referrer Information.” Otherwise, it will default to the ID only.
  • Show Deleted Widgets. This let’s publishers look at earnings from inactive widgets.
  • Hexcode colors. Publishers now have more control over the color of the WidgetBucks widgets on their site by using a 6-digit hexcode 0-F or go from the color palette.
  • Publishers can now determine the interval speed of how products are displayed on their widgets. It’s currently defaulted to three seconds, but can be adjusted between 1-10 seconds.

A Note from Darren

There’s lots of information in this post. My own personal opinion with the changes that were announced in it regarding non US and Canadian traffic – I’m not surprised (other publishers have done this), but it sucks. As a publisher who is running WidgetBucks on a blog which gets 70-80% Australian traffic (a country that I know buys extensively online from around the world) I’m very disappointed that yet again an ad network is changing the rules mid stream.

On a head level I understand the need for balancing the needs of publishers and advertisers and don’t envy the position that they are in – but as a publisher this will hit the hip pocket.

This happened with Chitika also (although they only limited some Asian countries and moved quickly to make partnerships with European advertisers to monetize that traffic better) and was one of the main reasons that publishers revolted against them. YPN have also excluded sites with non US traffic (although at least they did this from the start).

Even publishers with good traffic from the US will be impacted by this. For example I run the ads at DPS, a blog with it’s largest readership in the USA. However US and Canadian traffic only make up just over 65% of my traffic on that blog. So while on my Aussie blogs I’m looking at 80-90% less earnings – on my blog with good US traffic I’m still looking at a 35% cut in earnings.

One thing that confuses me about this is that when someone is redirected to the mpire.com site for not being situated in the US they are being redirected to store where that person can make a purchase – at least with some merchants. For example I just went to Mpire and did a search for the latest Harry Potter book – ended up at Amazon (which will ship that book to me here in Australia). I’m a bit unsure about whether Mpire earns either a commission or a CPC payment for that. I know that I do when I send an Aussie to Amazon and they buy something.

Matt advises above that bloggers geotarget and serve ads only to US traffic. The problem is that most bloggers don’t have the ability or resources to do this type of thing. It’ll be easier just to stop using WB altogether.

Perhaps one solution would be that WidgetBucks allows publishers to suggest an ‘alternate ad’ that they want to appear instead of the WB one when someone is viewing a page from a place outside of North America (in a similar way that AdSense allows ‘alternative ads’ to be shown when they can’t serve an ad.

Until they come up with an alternative I guess those of us with significant non North American traffic will be going back to other options to make money from our blogs. I’ll monitor WidgetBucks performance on my blogs for 24 hours but if the conversion drops by what I’m expected I’ll be switching all my units back to Chitika and AdSense pretty quickly (although with the AdSense changes revealed yesterday it’s not been a good week for publishers). For the slightly higher CPM earnings I was getting with WidgetBucks I’m not sure it’s worth my time to have to invest in geotargeting all my ads.

AdSense CTR – Has it Changed for You?

AdsenseYesterday it was revealed that AdSense were making the clickable portions of their Ad Units Smaller. Today we’re seeing these changes rolling out on different publishers sites. It seems that this means different things for different ad unit sizes. For example 468×60 and 234×60 ad units still seem clickable on the text of ads – perhaps because they don’t have a URL on these ads. All other ad units that I’ve seen just have the title and URL clickable.

So my question to you is – have you noticed any decreases in CTR yet?

We probably won’t see the full impact of the changes in today’s earning results as they’ve been rolling out during the day – but my own CTR is lower today than any other day for this month. Having said this – I’ve had lower days (2 were lower in October) – so I won’t really know what impact it’s had for a few days as things do tend to rise and fall.

How about you – is your CTR up or down today?

Movable Type Announce MT Community Solution

Picture 1-25SixApart (the company behind Movable Type) has announced a new product that extends MT4 called Movable Type Community Solution.

This new product looks like it takes MT into a social networking kind of direction and incorporates a long list of features including:

  • Member Profiles: Registered members of your community can create and customize profiles
  • Avatars or User Pictures: Members can upload an image of themselves to identify themselves on their comments, posts and profile
  • Favoriting, Recommendations and User Voting: Your community can vote for its favorite content, making it easy for your readers and authors to see what’s most popular
  • User-Contributed Content: Registered users can submit content to your site, and administrators have full control over what gets published
  • Community Blogs: Exclusive new community blogs designed to allow any site visitor to become a contributor to your blog
  • Forums: Powerful but simple full-featured forums completely integrated with your blogs, user profiles, and content management
  • Comment Feeds: Automatic comments feeds for your site and for each topic, blog post and/or profile.

MT community solution is not a service that is readily available to everyone – in fact to find out the price of it you need to email them for a quote.

It’ll be interesting to see where this all goes and to see how and if the team at WordPress responds.

How I Make Money Blogging

How I Make Money BloggingBelow you’ll find my latest update on how I make money blogging (this is something I post about every few months – although it’s been a over six months since I last did it ).

Also note – I go into a lot of detail on how I make money blogging in ProBlogger the Book.

How Much Money Do I Make from Blogging?

I get asked how much money my blogging makes me on a regular basis. These days I don’t go into specifics about it – all I will say is that it continues to be well over six figures per year (but less than seven figures). What you’ll find below are my top income streams – ranked from highest earnings to lowest.

Keep in mind that this is a summary of all of my blogs (not just ProBlogger). It does not include any income that I earn from b5media where I’m paid a salary as VP Training.

I hope you find it useful to see the mix and variety of ways that I earn a living from blogging.

1. AdSense

AdsenseDespite not using it here at ProBlogger any more I continue to use AdSense with real effect on my other blogs. While I do use AdSense Referrals and their search feature it is their normal ads that work best for me. I have them all set to show image and text based ads and find that 250×300 pixel ads work best (usually with a blended design).

2. Chitika

ChitikaLast time I did this sort of summary Chitika ranked #1. This time around it has been overtaken by AdSense – not because Chitika slipped in how much it earned but because AdSense went up and because I also replaced a few Chitika ad units with WidgetBucks ones. Chitika offers a range of ad units that I experiment with. I find their eMiniMalls work best and that Related Product Units are also good. Their Shoplincs product isn’t performing as well as it once did for me – mainly because I’ve been promoting it less and have driven less traffic to it. Over the time I’ve been using Chitika they’ve now earned me over a quarter of a million dollars!

3. Amazon Associates

Amazon-Logo-1
This has been one of my big movers in the last 12 months. I used to make a few odd dollars from it – however in recent times it has become a significant earner for me (as I’ve shared previously). This quarter it overtook TLA as my third biggest earner – largely on the back of me directing traffic to Amazon from my product related sites – mainly digital cameras. While the commission on cameras is only 4% this adds up when those that you refer buy higher ticket items.

4. Private Ad Sales/Sponsorships

private-ad-salesThis includes ad sales of the 125 x 125 ads here at ProBlogger as well as a couple of private ad deals that I did with sponsors on my camera blog (including sponsorships with Canon, Kodak and Adobe). This area has jumped up since last time also as a result of the new design here at ProBlogger and our expanded sales team at b5 who now sell ProBlogger’s ads for me.

5. Text Link Ads

TlaThe income from TLA has dipped slightly over the last few months simply because I took the decision to stop selling them here at ProBlogger and most of my other blogs. This was because I wanted to focus more upon selling the 125 pixel ads instead and felt that the ads I was attracting were not as relevant to this site as they could have been. As it turns out this might have been a good move because it seems Google has been penalizing blogs that run them lately.

6. ProBlogger Job Boards

Jobboardheader The job boards here at ProBlogger continue to grow each month in the number of advertisements that are being bought. This enabled me to invest most of the money that they’d earned a while back into getting a new back end for the boards and to redesign them. It hit me today that the boards are now bringing in around $1000 a month in revenue which is pretty nice considering that they are now so low maintenance to run! I’ve just given a development team a new brief to expand the job boards in the coming month so stay tuned for some new features coming soon which could see this revenue increase and more importantly for it to become an even more useful resource to readers.

7. Miscellaneous Affiliate Programs

miscellaneous affiliate programsI run a variety of affiliate programs on my blogs – most of which bring in smaller amounts of money that don’t really justify a category of their own. These include – - Digital Photography Secrets (a camera technique series), Pro Photo Secrets (a great photoshop product) , Yaro’s Blog Mastermind Mentoring Program, SEO Book (Aaron’s legendary resource). This area is set to continue to grow in the current quarter with me having had reasonable conversions from the promotion of the excellent Teaching Sells course.

8. Miscellaneous Advertising Programs

miscellaneous ad networksI also play with a number of other ad networks. Some I run as tests to see if I should review them here – and some are just advertising that run in the background on some of my smaller blogs. These include AuctionAds, Feedburner RSS ads, Vizu (a poll advertising system), Kontera and Bidvertiser. Together these don’t add up to major earnings for me – not because they are not good, but because I don’t use them heavily (a blog can only run so many ads on it).

I think that that covers most of it. Since last quarter I’ve also been experimenting with WidgetBucks as well as one other ad system that is still in a closed beta test. I’m certain that WidgetBucks will feature in next quarter’s list because I am getting good returns on that so far. In fact at it’s current earnings it’ll debut at at least number 4 on the list and perhaps even at number 3.

How Much do I Spend?

As mentioned last time – I don’t spend a lot of money in order to bring in my income. I do have some basic blogging costs (hosting etc) and play around with a limited amount of advertising (AdWords and StumbleUpon) but rely more heavily upon word of mouth and organic ways of drawing income into my blogs. I also have some costs in paying writers on a couple of blogs – but these don’t make up a massive part of the overall earnings each quarter.

Want to Learn More about How to Make Money Blogging?

Check out these resources that have been written specifically for bloggers wanting to make money blogging.

AdSense Make Ad Units Less Clickable

Important news arrived in my inbox yesterday from AdSense (as I mentioned in yesterdays post). I didn’t initially publish it because it wasn’t public – but other bloggers have done so making my keeping to my agreement with Google not to write about it fairly pointless (one of the problems with NDAs I guess). So here goes.

The short of it is that AdSense making changes to text ads so that instead of getting clicks when people click anywhere on an ad unit (including the background of ads) clicks will only work (and we’ll only get paid) when there is a click on an actual title or URL in the ad.

Adsense-Clickzone

No longer valid are clicks on the background and clicks on the text that isn’t the title or URL in the ad.

The reasoning for this given by AdSense:

“We’re rolling out a change to our text ad formats to help reduce accidental clicks and increase value for advertisers…..This new format will match the changes we’ve implemented on Google.com to help decrease the number of accidental clicks and increase the number of ad conversions. A reduction in accidental clicks will keep users on your pages, interacting with your content until they choose to click on an ad. This change will enhance the user’s overall experience with your websites and improve advertiser campaign value, but it’s likely that your click-through rate will decrease.”

This is going to cause some debate among publishers. On the one hand this has the potential to hurt publishers in the short term at their bottom line as it’ll lead to less clicks. I know some publishers who are already emailing to say that they are very disappointed that AdSense have changed the rules.

On the flip side – there are some good things about this in terms of readers accidentally clicking ads. Good for readers, good for advertisers – which indirectly could be argued to be good for publishers.

Reminds me of when Chitika made the images in their ad units not clickable (because they were getting too high a CTR and costing advertisers too much). The uproar among publishers at that time was not pretty!

AdSense acknowledge that this change ‘may result in a RPM decrease for some publishers in the short term’ but say that they expect it to lead to increased spending by advertisers in the long run.

Again – I understand it – but I suspect that many publishers will look to other alternatives if they see a noticeable decrease in earnings.

update: AdSense have now announced the changes on their blog.

ProBlogger T-Shirts – Get Yours Today

I’ve been hinting at it for a while now – but today I’m happy to announce that I’ve put together a few options for you to purchase ProBlogger T-Shirts.

You can see the ‘range’ at the ProBlogger T-Shirt Store over at Printfection but here’s a sample of some of them.

Problogger-T-Shirts

There are three sections in the store – Mens, Womens and Kids and there are a range of options in each section (both in terms of types of T-Shirt styles, colors and designs).

All of the designs are based upon The ProBlogger Logo. Prices start at $14.99 and go up from there depending upon the style and design that you choose. There are discounts for buying more than one. Unfortunately Printfection don’t accept PayPal at this point – so it’s credit cards only.

I’ve had a couple of T-shirts delivered to me already and the quality of them is quite good (better than CafePress which I used once before).

Do note that dark colors are said to be ‘in beta’. I’ve only had lighter colors delivered so far (I have darker ones coming) so I can’t vouch for them yet – but they look quite good in the images.

If you do order one – I’d love to see a picture of you in it!

Here’s some shots of the two that I’ve ordered so far (warning – I’m no model).

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New Job Board Model Launch at FreelanceSwitch

Bg LogoJob Boards have been appearing on a number of blogs lately (including ProBlogger’s blog job board of course) but most have had the same business model. That being that advertisers pay for the job listing.

FreelanceSwitch is experimenting with a new business model for their job board and announced it today.

What’s the difference?



To post and view jobs is free but to view contact details for jobs costs $7 p/month.

The theory is that there will be less people applying for jobs and more advertisers posting them. Interesting model and one to watch!