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Speedlinking – 12 December 2007

A few quick links:

Why AdSense Might NOT be Best for Your Blog

AdsenseYesterday I published a list of reasons why AdSense is an advertising network worth considering if you want to make money blogging.

Today, in the interest of balance and fairness, I wanted to share the flipside and point out a few reasons why AdSense might not be best for your blog.

Hopefully somewhere between these two posts will be enough information for a blogger to make an informed decision. My personal opinion is that AdSense can be a great income stream for bloggers – but not on every blog. As always – it’s about testing different income streams on different blogs and going with works best.

Here’s some reasons why AdSense might not be the best money maker for your blog:

1. Sharing Revenue

Lets start with the bleeding obvious, AdSense takes a cut of any revenue that Advertisers pay to have their ad appear on your blog. There have been lots of educated (and not so educated) guesses at what percentage of ad revenue that AdSense keeps for themselves – but whatever it is you are not getting everything. Of course this isn’t unique to AdSense (almost all ad networks take a cut) but compared to selling advertising directly to advertisers yourself you’re losing money (of course for what they bring you this might be worthwhile).

2. Lack of Control Over Ads Appearing

One of the problems that using AdSense can bring with it is that you lose some control over what appears on your blog. Because AdSense draws ads from many thousands of advertisers and because these ads are targeted to readers of your blog differently in different parts of the world you can be largely unaware of what ads are appearing on your blog at any given time. Ads could be appearing on your blog for anyone from your competitors, to ads for dubious products or services or even for products and services that are quite the opposite of what you would recommend on your blog. While AdSense allows you to ‘filter’ advertisers by adding certain URLs that you want blacklisted – this is only ever going to help you blacklist advertisers that you can see in your part of the world.

3. Underselling to Advertisers

I was chatting to one advertiser recently who told me that he was able to run ads using AdSense on a particular site for 20% of the CPM cost than they were willing to sell ads for if he went directly to the advertiser. AdSense do their best to maximize the amount that you earn per click – but there is no way for you to have any input as to what your ads might be worth. As a result AdSense might sell your ads at a CPM of a dollar or two – but you might be able to sell the same ad unit for significantly more if you went directly to advertisers (this will vary from topic to topic).

4. Cheapen Your Site

I’ve chatted to some mid to upper level advertisers who have refused to advertise on a blog that has AdSense ads on it. The reason that they gave was that it cheapened the look of the site and they didn’t want to be associated with it. I don’t know how widespread this is – but it’s an argument that I’ve heard numerous times.

5. Not good for Political, Religious sites

AdSense is fairly good at working out what topic you are writing about and then serving up relevant ads to it (thus increasing your CTR). However some topics are more difficult to serve relevant ads for than others – particularly topics where there might be two opposing views. For example you might have a political blog and argue strongly for one political view point but use a few keywords in your post that trigger an ad for a completely opposing point of view. The same is true for other topics – like religion.

6. Distractions from Clicks on other Objectives

While AdSense can definitely be the primary way of monetizing a blog – it can also be a distraction from other income streams. The more options that you give a reader to click something on your blog the less they will click on any one thing. For example this can be a problem for blogger’s whose primary objective is to make money from affiliate programs – adding AdSense can distract readers from your affiliate links and decrease the chance of them converting. Similarly if you’re wanting to sell yourself as a consultant – when you add AdSense as a way of supplementing your income you could be sending traffic to other sites – some of which may be your competitors. It should be said that this isn’t just a problem with AdSense – any ad network added to a site can act as a distraction and send people away from your primary objectives.

7. Minimum Payout a Problem for Small Bloggers

As some pointed out in yesterdays post on why AdSense is good – a problem that some small bloggers face is that the minimum amount that you have to earn before being paid ($100 USD) is a big ask when you’re just starting out. Many small bloggers who earn just a few cents a day can take years to hit this mark. While it’s nice that AdSense accepts these publishers with little traffic (some ad networks don’t) the reality is that some bloggers give up before hitting this mark. I wonder how much money AdSense makes out of this.

Let me emphasize again – this is not a definitive list or one that should persuade a new blogger one way or the other on whether they should use AdSense. My personal opinion is that it’s worth testing numerous money making options for blogs to see what works best – including AdSense.

What would you add to today or yesterday’s list of reasons to use and not use AdSense on blogs?

Why You SHOULD use AdSense on Your Blog

AdsenseIn this post I’ll explore some of the reasons why bloggers should consider using AdSense as a way to make money from blogging.

I recently released a video post which explained some of my reasoning for stopping to use AdSense as a means to make money from ProBlogger. The post got a lot of attention – however some readers thought that it meant I was giving up on AdSense altogether on all of my blogs. A couple even called me ‘Anti-AdSense’.

This is not the case – while I don’t use AdSense any more on ProBlogger – I do use it on some of my other blogs and it continues to one of my biggest income earners.

In fact since I started to use AdSense it’s earned me just under $400,000 USD.

That’s not bad considering that I’ve been using it for 4 years and it started out earning me just a dollar or two a day.

With earnings like that I’d be a little silly to be Anti-AdSense.

Like every method of making money for blogs – AdSense isn’t always the best choice – however there are plenty of good reasons to test it out. In the remainder of this post I’m going to explore when it IS a good option. Later in the week I’ll share the other side of the coin – when it ISN’T a good option.

Hopefully between the two posts we’ll have a good balanced look at AdSense:

10 Reasons Why You Should Consider Using AdSense on your Blog

1. International Traffic – if your blog has a considerable amount of traffic that comes from outside of North America it can be difficult to find an advertising network that will allow you to participate (particularly if your traffic is from some parts of Asia). Some ad networks will simply not accept you as a publisher, others will not serve their ads to non US traffic and others will serve other less relevant and lower paying ads to this traffic. AdSense does none of this. The beauty of AdSense is that they have such a large supply of advertisers using them that there is almost always some advertiser who wants traffic from your your reader’s part of the world. Of course there is more competition for some traffic than others (which drives up prices) but I know as someone who has a large Australian readership of some of my blogs that it is one of the best ways that I’ve found to make money from that traffic.

2. Easy Implementation – when I first started experimenting with making money from blogging just over 4 years ago I experimented with a number of options. The reason that I stuck with AdSense was that even as a complete technical idiot I could get an AdSense ad unit up and running on my blogs within minutes. Of course since that time AdSense have made implementing ad units on blogs even easier (particularly in the last couple of weeks with server side ad management). While other ad networks have followed in the footsteps of AdSense in how they let publishers design and add ad units to blogs – I still find AdSense one of the easiest to use. This makes it ideal for the beginner wanting to experiment for the first time with an advertising network.

3. Massive Advertiser Base – AdSense has had years to establish itself in both it’s back end but also it’s presence in the Advertising community. The result is that they’ve managed to build up a very large base of advertising clients. This increases the chances of them being able to serve relevant ads to your blog (see my next point). There’s no way that an individual blogger would be able to have access to such a wide array of potential advertisers.

4. Obscure Topics – one of the issues that some publishers face when starting a blog on a tightly targeted niche is that it can be difficult to find ways to make money from it either through finding a sponsor for the blog, finding an ad network that is relevant to the topic or by finding an affiliate program that relates. While AdSense is better for some topics than others (read on for more on this) I’m constantly amazed by just how targeted ads can be on even obscure topics. The myriad of advertisers using this system are competing by bidding on millions of keywords on virtually every topic that you can think of.

5. Make it Easy For Advertisers to Target Your Blog – AdSense servers ads from advertisers to your blog in a couple of ways. Firstly there’s one that is completely contextual – they look at your content and then serve ads from their system that they think will relate to that content and have a good chance of earning you (and them) money. The second method is where advertisers specifically target your blog to have their ad appear on. This all happens without you really having to do anything – but it’s good because it is often used by advertisers to test your blog – which can lead to other things. Every few weeks I get an email from a potential advertiser who had been testing ads on my photography blog via AdSense and then wanted to further the relationship (whether by going with private ad deals, sponsorships, affiliate programs etc).

6. Set it and Forget it – many bloggers just want to write content. They don’t have the time or expertise to approach, pitch, negotiate with and then collect money from advertisers. AdSense takes a lot of this work away from you and many bloggers simply add the code to their blogs and then forget it. Of course for best results you should pay it a bit more attention than that and experiment with different design and positioning of ads – but it does take a lot of the work out of things.

7. No Minimum Traffic Levels – if you are just starting out and don’t have much traffic yet it can be difficult to find advertisers or an ad network to take you on board. Some networks have minimum traffic levels before they’ll accept you into their program – but not with AdSense. While your blog may not earn you much – even with small amounts of traffic you can begin to make a few dollars over time.

8. Able to be Used with Other Ad Types – when I first started experimenting with AdSense there were fairly strict rules in place as to what other types of advertising you were allowed to have on a page that had an AdSense unit on it. However in more recent times it has become a little more relaxed and you can run many different types of ads on the same site and page as AdSense.

9. Multiple Ad Formats – one good feature of AdSense is that you’re not just restricted to one type of ad with them. Not only do you have many ad unit sizes to choose from – but you have the ability to serve Text Ads, Image Ads, Video Ads, Adlink units, referral ads (CPA) and use their ‘search’ tool which also is monetized. Many other ad networks just major in one or two of these different formats – in a sense AdSense is something of a one stop shop.

10. Reliable Payment - one of the questions that I’m regularly asked about new ad networks coming onto the market to compete with AdSense is ‘how do we know if they’ll pay up?’ The reality is that most ad networks do pay up – but you do occasionally hear stories of publishers who are not satisfied with this aspect of some ad networks. AdSense has had a few problems over the years with individual publishers – but considering the vast numbers of publishers that they must have – they’ve done pretty well. My payments come in like clockwork and the one time that I did have a check go missing it was promptly replaced.


Of course this post has only argued one side of things (and I’m sure others will give more reasons why they love and use AdSense). So to give a well balanced view on whether to use AdSense on your blog – later in the week I’ll take a look at the flipside and explore some reasons why AdSense might not be the best option for making money from your blog.

Hypebot.com — a ProBlogger Community Blog Consulting Project

This week a new blog awaits your feedback as part of the Community Blog Consulting 2.0 project.

If you’re new to the project, it’s recommended that you read the launch post. This week, there’ll be another chance to win an iPod Shuffle, in addition to some special bonus prizes.

In this post we’ll be looking at Hypebot.com. The blog’s owner, Bruce, says that its main goal is to cover how the internet and technology are changing the music business as a news source, guide and commentator.

Bruce has provided the key questions he is hoping to get some feedback on.

  • Without loosing my core music industry/tech audience (which in itself could be much larger) how do I increase my readership?
  • I’ve recently been approached by more than 1 of the established blog networks. Would a niche blog like this benefit from such an alliance or be hurt by a perceived lack of independence?
  • Since my current audience is specialized, but small, do you think I could/should sell ads? If so, how do I get an idea of what to charge?
  • Am I achieving the right balance of news vs. commentary?
  • I recently simplified the design and may have gone too far. How can the design be improved to encourage more time on the site?

I’ll now throw it over to the ProBlogger community to provide your advice, suggestions and constructive critique. The commenter who provides the most useful feedback for the blog will win an iPod shuffle from ProBlogger and 5 CDs from the artists at Bruce’s booking agency, Skyline Music — a prize that will be provided by Bruce.

5 runner-up commenters will also receive a CD of their choice from Bruce’s roster of artists.

A summary of the community feedback (with my own commentary) will be posted in 4 – 5 days, so make sure to get your comments in soon.
Hypebot.com

We’d love for comments to be as constructive, helpful and practical as possible, and will be taking all these factors into account when deciding on the winning commenter.

Win a Copy of WordPress for Dummies

Wordpress-For-DummiesOver the next five days I’m going to run a little daily competition here at ProBlogger.

The prize – each day from Monday through to Friday I’ll be giving away an autographed copy of WordPress For Dummies by Lisa Sabin-Wilson.

I’ve seen some parts of this book already (the full thing is winging it’s way from the US as I write this) and it is a great read and well worthwhile the purchase for those starting out with and wanting to extend their knowledge of a blog platform that more ProBlogger readers use than any other.

How do you Win a Copy?

It’s simple – all you have to comment on ProBlogger over the next week. Each day of the week I’ll choose one random comment left on that particular day (on any post on the blog). That commenter will win a copy of the book – it is as simple as that.

The comments do need to be legitimate (ie – on topic and adding something to the conversation) – but you can enter as many times as you like – each comment that you leave is an ‘entry’.

I’ll announce the five winners at the end of the week.

What do You Miss about the ‘Good old Days of Blogging’?

Good-Old-Days-Of-Blogging

A recent survey here at ProBlogger showed that 9.4% of you have been blogging for more than 4 years and that almost 25% of you have been blogging for more than 2 years.

So there are some experienced bloggers in our midst who can remember ‘the good old days of blogging’.

Here’s my question to those bloggers.

What do you miss about the ‘good old days of blogging’?

What do you miss about the way the medium was back then? What do you miss about the way you used to blog? What’s changed for the better and worse?

Where’s the Content? – Positioning Ads on Your Blog

Here’s a quick tip on ad placement that I’d like to pass onto bloggers – particularly those experimenting with AdSense.

Ensure that your content can be seen above the fold.

That is – ensure it’s above the fold if you want readers to keep coming back to your blog.

One of the important choices that faces many bloggers is how to place Ads aggressively enough to get click-throughs but subtly enough that the rest of the page doesn’t suffer as a result.

One of the trends that I’ve seen increasingly on blogs is to place large AdSense ads in the center of pages right above content.

In doing so they content it self is quite often pushed down so far the page that scrolling needs to happen in order to read it.

I totally understand why bloggers do this – in fact it probably comes from the advice of AdSense themselves in two ways.

The advice from AdSense:

Ad Heat Map1. Ad Placement – AdSense have produced a ‘heat map’ which shows where they have found that ads perform best (see left).

The more orange that a spot on the page gets the more attention it will get from readers.

Obviously the best place for an ad on this heat map is right above content – dead centre on the page.

2. Rectangle Ads – The other advice that AdSense gives repeatedly is that rectangle ads (either 300×250 or 336×280) tend to perform best. They do well because of their size but also because they come in text, image and video ads.

ProBlogger Advice:

AdSense is completely right with both of the above piece of advice. Ads close to content work great and rectangle ads do perform really well in comparison to some other ad units.

However – take these two pieces of advice together and put them into place on many blog designs and you set your readers up for a problem.

The result is that quite a few bloggers end up with pages that look a little like the image to the right:

Ad Positioning

I’ve even seen some pages with two (and once three) rectangle ads above the content. Depending upon the size of the screen that your readers are viewing your site on there might be a little content viewable – but the majority of it is generally below the fold.

While this does give you a decent chance at a good CTR it also gives you a decent chance of having a visitor to your site head straight for the back button on their browser and never return.

While I’ve talked numerous times about how placing ads prominently on your blog increases the chances of someone responding to those ads – the same principle applies to content. Hide it away at the bottom of a page and people are unlikely to respond to it which will lead to:

  • few loyal/repeat readers
  • few incoming links from other bloggers who like your content
  • few people bookmarking your site on social bookmarking sites
  • low comment numbers

So what’s a blogger to do?

In the end bloggers need to make a choice. Which is more important to you – high CTR from readers who never come back or high reader satisfaction?

Which comes first and to what extent?

I’m not going to put push my own preferences upon readers – in fact for me on different blogs I have different priorities – however this is an important issue to grapple with if you’re going to run ads on your blog.

Some Alternatives to consider might include:

  • Smaller Ad Units – prominently place but smaller units might allow more room for content
  • Single or No Sidebar – having just one sidebar, or even going without one altogether allows you to have a wider content area and still have a prominent and large ad unit
  • Wrapping Content around Ads – one of the good way to get both ads and content prominent is to inset ads into the content and allow the content to wrap around it

How prominent are your ads? How prominent is your content? Which takes the prime position and how did you make the decision? I’d love to hear how you place your ads.

Blogging vs Social Networking

Blogging-Social-Networking
Hugh McLeod writes:

“So that’s why I have a blog, I suppose. I like the control. I write something, I post it, it gets read, hopefully good things happen as a result, somewhere on this small blue planet of ours. Unlike a book or a movie or a TV commercial, there’s no waiting around for somebody else to greenlight it. The only light is the greenlight….

I guess my point is, if you’re one of these people considering giving up on blogging in exchange for paying more attention to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and MySpace, or whatever they throw at us mere mortals, bear in mind you are giving up on something rather unique and wonderful.’

Hugh’s onto something with this. I chatted with an ex-blogger recently who lamented that he ended his blog 12 months ago to spend more time exploring social networking. His words still ring in my ears (paraphrased):

“I was offered a job through my blog….
I have 9000 ‘friends’ at facebook and myspace….
I used to know most of my readers by name and knew that they all knew mine – even though there were only 200 a day….
I know a lot more people see my profile on facebook – but most of them just are hunting for friend bait….
I used to spend hours writing things that meant something on my blog….
I now spend hours updating people on the lattes I drink and people I meet on Twitter….
I had a brand of my own on and on my own property on my blog….
I now have a brand on someone else’s property….”

His ultimate reflection was to wonder what he could have achieved if he’d invested the amount of time and energy into this blog as the time and energy he invested into his social networking.

My own opinion with social networks is that they’re not all bad (and you don’t need to choose between blogging and social media) – but that I see them as a secondary and supportive strategy to support my primary activities – those being my blogs. Social networks have been useful as ‘straws’ in the overall ‘nest’ of my brand.

Social networks (as well as other social media and web 2.0 sites) have the ability to reinforce your brand, drive traffic, introduce you to new audiences and open up new networks – but in my own business the primary vehicle that I use at present to drive forward what I do remains my blog.

Further Reading – Blog Bloke wrote on a similar topic a few days back. I don’t know that social networking will die – as he does – but rather think we’ll see it gradually integrate more with blogging and hopefully see the pendulum swing back to a more balanced view of these types of sites.

Moved

Just a short note to let those readers who have emailed to ask how our house moving has gone that we’re in our new home successfully.

Yesterday (the day we had to be out of our old place and in our new one) was a long day (I started carrying boxes at 7am and stopped carrying them at 9pm) and I’m tired, bruised (you should see the purple bruise on my arm which I dropped a couch on) and battered – but we finally made it (despite some lawyers delaying settlement on our new place for 4 hours and costing us a small fortune in ‘waiting fees’ from our removalist (I’ve never seen anyone earn so much money for sitting in a truck smoking).

The only other hiccup – I won’t have broadband in our place for the next 10-14 days – ouch! What’s a ProBlogger to do!?

Luckily I have a mobile broadband account – slower and less bandwidth but enough to get me through a couple of weeks. I’ll be posting as normal (hopefully) – but email replies could be a little more sketchy than normal for the next week or two.

Anyway – I don’t usually blog about personal things – but seeing as so many of you asked after last week’s video post I thought I’d give an update.

Now – back to some blogging.