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WidgetBucks Offer New Publishers a $50 Sign On Bonus – Baseball Card Promotion

Picture 2-16I’m doing a little promotion with WidgetBucks while at BWE this year.

They’re giving me some 70′s style ‘baseball cards’ with my face on them to give out (why they chose that picture I’ll never know) and are offering ProBlogger readers (whether you get a card or not) a $50 signup bonus if you sign up as a WidgetBucks publisher.

To get the $50 you need to sign up as a publisher and when you’ve earned your first $100 you get the bonus.

WidgetBucks is an ad network that give bloggers the opportunity to make money using their ‘widget ads’.

As with all types of ad networks WidgetBucks convert better on some blogs than others – but they’re worth a try, particularly if you have blog with any kind of products featured on it. They’re also expanding into more geo-targeted ‘travel ads’ (should be announced soon) which will have opportunities for a more international group of publishers.

PS: the baseball card picture is of me eating a New York Pizza while I was there last year. It’s not sweat dripping down my face either – I think it’s a ‘crease’ photo shopped into the card to make it look old (it’s a 70′s style card after all). The back of the card has a few of my ‘stats’ on it. You’ll have to find me at BWE to see it.

There is at least one other blogger with their own cards at BWE – collect the complete set and they could be worth something on ebay one day (or it could just be an embarrassing thing that my wife pulls out to show the grandkids in years to come)!

When to Publish Blog Posts – Timing Considerations

Timing-Blog-PostsOver the last few weeks we’ve been looking at important times to pause in the writing and publishing of a post. Each of these stages in the development of a blog post can contribute to whether a post makes it big around the web or not. Today we’re considering the time that you publish your post.

Image by SunnyUK

What Time Should You Publish Your Blog Post? – Factors to Consider

As I chat with bloggers I find that there are a lot of different opinions on when the best time is to hit publish on a blog post. Some pay a lot of attention to it and have studied what works best with their audience, while others go with a hunch and still others don’t think it really matters at all and just publish posts as they finish them (I’d love to hear your thoughts in comments).

In my own experience and in talking to other bloggers I find that timing issues vary quite a bit from blog to blog depending upon its audience and topic.

Let me explore some of the potential issues to consider:

Weekends

The day of the week that you publish can have a big impact upon how many people read it. While RSS feeds might mean some of your readers will read posts published when they are away from their computer I find that posts that go live on weekends tend to get a lot less traction than weekday posts. The exception to this is of course for blogs with a topic that is weekend specific (sports or certain TV shows for example). The other advantage of weekends is that I find it can be easier to crack the front page on sites like Digg as there seems to be less competition.

Mid Week

If I have a very important post that I want to get as much attention as possible I generally will publish it on a Tuesday or Wednesday morning (my time). This gives a few days after the post is written for it to be found, linked to, bookmarked etc before the weekend arrives (and momentum stops) – but means that those in catchup mode after the weekend have a little more time to digest the post.

Public Holidays

I tend to avoid posting anything important on public holidays days as web readership is lower (I’m thinking mainly of US specific public holidays as that is where my main audience is located on my two blogs). Having said this – I do find that sometimes posts on public holidays can do quite well as some readers have more leisurely type time on their hands.

On DPS I find ‘reader questions’ type posts and posts that have a more ‘fun’ nature do well on both weekends and public holidays. The main exception to the ‘avoid public holidays’ rule is when you have a blog that relates to one of them. For example I know a recipe blogger whose biggest day of the year is Thanksgiving (they have a lot of Turkey cooking tips that do particularly well).

Times of Day

My main advice with thinking about the time of day to publish posts is to test what works with your audience. My own daily posting schedule is to have something new up on my blogs at about midnight my time (which is first thing in the business day in the USA) – I try to make this my main post for the day, something that is teaching focused if possible. This means that those scanning their RSS feeds when they get to work (I know you do it) have something fresh to read and ponder during the day. I then usually have a post that goes live in the afternoon (US time) – but this post is usually a ‘lighter’ newsy post.

The key is to know where your readers are situated and watch how posts at different times of the day (and days of the week) are interacted with (both in terms of traffic but also comments and incoming links).

What I find is that it works best to be a little preemptive with your readers. ie if you have a peak time that readers come to your blog time your posts just before this time so there’s something fresh for when they arrive.

Give Posts Room to Breathe

Another tip that I’d give with regards to timing is to think about the sequence of posts and how often they go live on your blog. I think about this on two main levels:

  • Giving Important posts Room to Breathe – got a post that you really want people to notice? If so, I’d advise that you post it not only at a good time of day, but that you don’t post anything after it for a while. If it’s a really important post you might even want to not post again for a day or two so that it remains at the top of your blog.
  • Topics and Variety - sometimes too many posts on a similar topic too quickly can have a negative impact upon readers. Try to mix up different types of posts.

Social Media Campaigns

One occasion that ‘timing’ can be particularly important is if you want to do some sort of a social media campaign with a post. For example, if you’re looking to have a post do well on Digg it can be important to have the post go live, have it submitted to Digg and for a Digg This button to go up on the post all very quickly. This means that as soon as it’s live and the initial rush of new visitors to the post have the opportunity to Digg it.

Some social media experts that I know also advise you to time these posts that you think will do well on social media sites for early to mid morning (US time) so that the most visitors on Digg can be involved in promoting the post for you (again, I’ve heard a variety of opinions on this).

Less Can Equal More = Except When it = Less

Posting frequency is one of those topics that I get asked about a lot and it’s a tough one to give an ‘definitive’ answer on because like many aspects of blogging, what works for some won’t work for others.

Instead of a long section on the ins and outs of posting frequency – let me point you at a post dedicated to exploring the issues at – What is the Ideal Post Frequency for a Blog?

Further Reading on Post Timing:

When Do You Publish Your Posts?

  • Do you give consideration to the timing of your blog posts?
  • If so – when do you publish them – and why?

I’m looking forward to hearing your experience on this topic.

Read the Full Series

This post is part of a series on how to craft blog posts. It will be all the more powerful if taken in context of the full series which looks at 10 points in the posting process to pause and put extra effort. Start reading this series here.

Winner of the Reader Review Competition

Last week we ran a ‘reader review‘ competition where we gave you a link to a blog – Girls Just Wanna Have Funds – and asked you to leave a ‘review’ to help the blog improve.

Chitika came to the party and offered a Tomtom One LE GPS unit to the comment that Ginger (the owner of the blog) found to be most helpful.

Thanks also to the great advertising network – Chitika – for donating the prize. Do check out the range of advertising units that they have available for bloggers at the moment – their new premium ad unit is a great option for many bloggers.

51 people left comments and some of them were quite amazing both in terms of the quality and depth that you went into. In fact it’s one of the longest collections of comments I’ve seen on Problogger (almost 17,000 words between the 51 comments).

So Ginger has chosen her winner and has asked if she can also say a few words about the process of having her blog reviewed. In it she talks about some of the changes she’s going to be making to her blog and announces the winner (last paragraph).

Thanks to everyone for entering and Ginger for letting us review her blog! Now – over to Ginger.

From Ginger

Thank you to everyone who took the time to comb through my site and give me honest, constructive and most of all detailed feedback. I received many comments through my contact page in addition to the 50+ comments here at Problogger. I appreciate the time you all took to give me your feedback around the changes I need to make to the site.

Darren, thank you for choosing my site for the review, this has been on my wish list for a while now so thank you for this awesome opportunity as your readers have been thorough and helpful. Between reading your book and this review I’m certain I know what I need to do moving forward to improve my blog and take it to new heights.

I will be making changes around 85% of the consensus that was held amongst the comments. This includes:

Reducing the amount of Adsense that I use on the page. When reviewing the revenue programs, it turns out that I make more with Essence, Blogher and advertisement contracts and Adsense is last on the list in terms of amount of revenue.

Changing the color scheme: I went back and forth about this but I will work on a theme that is lighter and easier on the eyes. I definitely don’t want to alienate the male readers so I will take this into consideration. All said I love the theme layout and functionality as I think Solostream did a fantastic job with it. So while I may make tweaks to the color and layout, I don’t foresee changing the theme altogether. The jury is still out full posts instead of excerpts on the front page but I will see how it works out when I make changes this weekend.

Site Promotion: This is my top priority as you all gave really awesome ideas around how to do this given my niche. I’ve printed out all comments and highlighted the ones that spoke to this area and will be implementing those very soon, IE connecting with other sites such as Cafe Mom and Work It Mom. I don’t have children so I have often questioned whether or not I could really speak to and connect this audience but I am willing to give it a try.

I’m quite surprised to see that most of the comments liked my writing style, that made me smile as I often think I could do a lot better in this area. I do write from the heart and glad to see that most of you are able to glean some my personality based on what I write.

Special Note: The purpose of Girls Just Wanna Have Funds is for me to be able to write about personal finance from a SINKs (single income no children) perspective. I realize this is different than many of the mom blogs and other personal finance blogs out there but please try to understand that I write about personal finance as it relates to my life. There is no topic that I’ve written about that I havent considered or experienced personally. I will from time to time discuss financial challenges and there are times that I will look to readers for answers because I don’t know it all, so I’m OK with that aspect of the blog even though some commenters did not and thought it made me look as though I don’t have all the answers since I have my own challenges. Well, I do and that is the purpose of the blog, to write about those challenges and keep myself accountable as I move through them.

There was also a comment about my purchasing only organic foods and not writing about buying groceries around sale items. The comment also stated that working moms would just roll their eyes and keep it moving to Safeway. This stood out to me because I now realize that perhaps I haven’t written much to this reader group. However, I purchase organic foods because this is something I value just as other personal finance bloggers value traveling on leisure or collecting comic books. I realize this is something that all women/households aren’t able to do but it is my hope that readers won’t be turned off by this aspect of my finances. I am far from perfect in my quest for financial freedom. I shop way too much around hair and beauty products and let’s not discuss decorating our new home. I’d like for my readers to understand that much if nothing else about what I write. I write from personal experience and articles that hopefully inspire readers to take action. So while I may shop at Trader Joes and Whole Foods, this doesn’t mean that I don’t contend with the struggles of making your budget work with rising food prices.

That said, I will be adding a reader request section and reader questions answered section to make the blog more interactive and inclusive of all perspectives.

The Winner

The comment I chose that was most helpful in overall structure of how the information was presented and content is Ananda Palanisamy (no link left). This comment listed each area of improvement in addition to including more areas/issues to consider advertising and getting more readers. They were also VERY detailed in their response as most comments were, but I felt this comment was most helpful.

Note from Darren: Amanda, I’ll be in touch shortly with details of how to claim your prize.

7 Strategies to Invite More People Into Your Audience

Do you want to grow your blog’s audience? Today Chris Brogan shares some strategies on just how to do that.

It took me years to start figuring out how to grow my blog’s community such that it was steady and sustainable. A few years back, I figured out how to hit the Digg front page from time to time, but that never amounted to anyone sticking around. It was the equivalent of yelling, “Hey! Free beer!” and then the frat boys would show up, drink it all, and leave. Now? I’ve developed some methods by which I’ve grown my community at a steady but respectable pace. Leave the frat boys for the “get rich quick” crowd. I’ve got other plans you can work instead. Here are 7 strategies you can review, and see if any match your blogging goals.

  1. The Outpost Strategy – the simple plan is to locate the various places and ways you can point out your blog across the web. Add your RSS feed to your Facebook profile (and use some of the cool 3rd party apps that let you promote blog posts into the stream- I like Simplaris Blogcast)
  2. The Offering Strategy – provide free resources. Brian Solis builds great offerings all over the place, including ebooks, graphics, and more. Offerings keep people around, if only to add to their arsenal of useful things. See also Chris Pearson and his inexpensive WordPress themes.
  3. The Helpful Strategy – instead of being a consultant and asking “how can I help?” all the time, I like to imagine ways to be helpful, and then build posts that point out some starting point information. This gives me two benefits: it helps me find potential clients, and it grows entire populations of people who linger on my blog waiting for me to write about their vertical again.
  4. The Opinion Strategy – learn what others have to say by cultivating a culture of questions. Okay, I’ll admit that this isn’t as much a strategy of mine as a proclivity. I ask questions of people all the time. I know what I think. I want to know what YOU think. It’s one of the top ways I build audience, however, and I swear by it.
  5. The Media Engine Strategy – my approach for ensuring that you keep coming back isn’t that far off from Darren: make new stuff all the time. One reason this is useful is that it’s harder for people to copy cat. The other reason is that if we pump out decent posts all the time, you trigger other benefits because you bookmark the ones you can’t get to right away. If the bookmark is social (Delicious, StumbleUpon, Ma.gnolia, etc), you’ve just shot up a flare telling others that you think the piece is worthwhile. Either way, the tactics under this strategy are endless.
  6. The Timing Strategy – have you figured out when your best audience days are? Why aren’t you putting a “great” post in reserve for those days? And when you do that, when you get a post that you know is going to kill, write a post that will show up on the blog a few hours later (schedule it) that emphasizes subscribing to your RSS feed. Other tactics in this strategy including putting up an amazing post before attending a conference, so that people will check you out at the event and find some great material there.
  7. The Strategy Strategy – people love strategy, partly because most people get confused with which one is strategy and which are tactics. Strategy is the diet that helps you reach the goal. Tactics are ways to make sure the diet goes well. There, now figure out different ways to share strategy ideas with your audience, and they’ll stick around looking for other ways to feel smart.

As with all things, your mileage may vary. So far, my blog has been up in web-side visitors as well as RSS-side month after month. It’s working for me. If it doesn’t work in a few months or so of traffic, maybe dig into the content a bit and look for some fresh ideas there. Let me know which ones work best for you.

Chris Brogan is as surprised as you that his blog is in the top 20 of the Advertising Age Power150. He’s pleased as punch that he’s in the top 200 on Technorati. But more than anything, Chris wants to meet you in person at a conference, or on his blog at [chrisbrogan.com]

Where to Position Ads in Your RSS Feed

Over the past month since AdSense have released AdSense for Feeds to the wider publishing community I’ve noticed a lot more of the bloggers that I’m tracking each day are including ads in their RSS feed.

When they first started appearing I noticed most bloggers had the ads positioned at the bottom of their blog posts – but in the last week more and more seem to have shifted the ads to the top of their posts.

Obviously positioning them this way makes them more visible to RSS subscribers and is likely to lead to a higher click through rate – but what cost does it come at?

Let’s take a look at a couple of examples:

For starters – here’s how the ads look underneath content (taken from TechCrunch – click to enlarge):

RSS-Ad-Under-Content.png

The ads slot in quite nicely – particularly those in the 468×60 format.

Lets look at some ads above content (taken from Chris Brogan – click to enlarge).

This first one is of a 468×60 ad.

RSS-Ad-Above-Content-468.png

In the 468×60 format I think the ad actually doesn’t look too bad. It does interrupt the flow of the post a little – but because it is narrow it isn’t too much for the eye to slip over it to the main content.

However look what happens when AdSense servers a different size ad:

RSS-Ad-Above-Content.png

While the 468×60 ads interrupt the flow a little – larger rectangle ads can be quite intrusive and distracting from the content of the post.

The problem that publishers face is that they have no way of blocking larger ads unless they opt for ‘text ads only’ in the setting up of their ads. If you select ‘image ads only’ or ‘text and image ads’ you run the risk of getting served the larger ads if there is an ad that AdSense deems relevant and potentially profitable for your post.

As you’ll see below – at present in the setup of RSS ads the ‘size’ section says ‘feed units are automatically sized’.

adsense-feed-options.png

The problem with just going with ‘text ads’ alone is that they are not as profitable as image ads (as premium advertisers usually go with images).

What I’d like to See AdSense Do

A number of suggestions come to mind for how AdSense could improve AdSense for Feeds:

1. Allow publishers to choose ad sizes – this way they could select 468×60 ads at the top of their posts and still serve image ads in that format.

2. Rotating positioning – I’d love to see AdSense allow publishers to rotate the ‘top’ and ‘bottom’ option so that on some posts they’d be higher and some lower. This might help combat ad blindness.

3. In post ads – this is a bit of a wishlist but I have heard a few publishers mention that they wish they could insert ads inside their content – say after the 2nd or 4th or 5th paragraph. This would put them down the post but close to content. It wouldn’t be for everyone but I suspect it could convert well.

4. Ads that Wrap content around them – one possible solution might be ads that align content around them. This could be complicated when images are used at the top of posts – but might help feeds to flow a little more.

What Should a Publisher Do?

I see three main options for publishers wanting to include RSS ads in their feeds:

1. put them below posts – this is what I do on DPS at the moment. While I’d like to have them higher I’m not willing to disrupt the flow as much as what the larger ones do in the above illustration.

2. put them above posts but only with text ads – this will increase visibility and CTR of the ads but probably earn you less per click/impression

3. put them above posts with text and image ads – for those publishers willing to ignore the disruption.

Different publishers will come to different decisions on this and I’m not going to judge anyone for the one they come to – however I think if AdSense could add a few more options for publishers they could help us all meet our goals of optimal profits AND optimal readability for our readers.

What I Learned by Increasing My Forum Membership by 400 in 24 hours

Yesterday I challenged myself to grow my Digital Photography forum membership numbers by 500 new members in 24 hours.

I only got just over 400 in the end – but learned a few things a long the way about growing forums – some of which can be applied to blogging.

The Challenge

I like to set myself challenges and little competitions. Yesterdays was:

to grow DPS forums membership by 500 members – without spending any money on prizes or advertising.

This was a fairly ambitious task considering that at the start of the challenge the forums had 21,000 members and so an additional 500 is around a 2.5% increase in 24 hours (it has taken me years to get to 21k).

Here’s the two main things that I did:

1. Emailed unconfirmed members – this was a no brainer really. When someone signs up for the forum they need to confirm their membership by responding to an email that they get sent.

1400 people had not made this confirmation over the last 2 years – either they’d changed their mind about joining, had not seen the email (perhaps it was filtered as spam) or had been too busy to confirm.

So I sent out a simple reminder email to this group. So far around 200 of them have confirmed their membership – many have already become quite active.

2. Emailed my most active members – Vbulletin (the forum software that I use) lets you email members based upon a number of criteria. One of these is to be able to target members who have been active within a certain time frame.

I decided to send an email to the most recently active members (from the last month). There were around 3000 of them sent.

The email was simply to thank them for their involvement and to invite them to share DPS with a friend (or friends) either via email, IM, social media, on their Flickr account or on their blog.

I was a little unsure about this 2nd option – but was quite amazed by the hundreds of emails that came back to me since it was sent. Every single one of them was positive and in almost all of them were promises to tell a friend in one of the ways that I suggested in the email.

Not only that – there were suggestions and stories on how they’d already recommended DPS to others.

Member numbers are up over 420 in the last 24 hours – based upon normal days of subscribers I’d estimate that 200 of these new members came as a result of recommendations of others.

What have I learned and how this applies to Blogging

1. The Power of Reminders – For starters – sometimes people need reminders when they join something. I’ve written previously about how emailing unverified email subscribers to a blog can increase your subscriptions. That is a technique that I use semi-regularly on my blogs and it always helps to bump up subscriber numbers.

The key with reminders like this is to do it in a non intrusive, polite and helpful way.

2. The Power of tapping into loyal readers – Most advice that I hear around how to find new readers for a blog seems to be about going onto other sites (particularly social media ones) and getting people to come to those sites to your blog.

While this works – I think there’s a more powerful resource for finding new readers at most bloggers fingertips – their current loyal readers.

Those who have already subscribed to your blog, who read your stuff every day, who leave comments, who get your newsletter…. these people are already sold on your site. As a result they make great evangelists for you. Give them a nudge and the tools and some suggestions on how to ‘sell your blog’ to their existing networks and you can potentially unleash something quite significant.

Not only are your current readers powerful – the emails I got from readers today indicate that they want to be involved and are grateful for being asked. It is a strange thing – while I felt weird about asking them to share about DPS with friends – asking them to do it seems to have increased their ownership of the site and given them even more of a sense of belonging. This is an example of the power of giving readers jobs to do and how it can impact their sense of community on a blog.

update: as I’m about to publish this post the 500 new members mark has been reached, in fact it’s on 800 new members in 48 hours.

Google AdSense Reports to Appear in Google Analytics – [Screenshots]

Have you ever wished that you could get more details of how your AdSense performance is going and wondered why Google AdSense and Google Analytics don’t have some way of talking to one another to give you more effective metrics?

Well it seems that the time is coming soon where you’ll be able to read AdSense stats in your Analytics reports. The kinds of stuff you’ll be able to see:

  • Which pages on your blog get the most AdSense clicks
  • Which pages have the highest CPM
  • Which pages have the highest CTR
  • AdSense graphs/trends
  • Which traffic sources generate the highest income

Digital Inspiration has just published some screenshots of the new reports that we’ll hopefully be able to find in Google Analytics soon.

For example this ‘Top AdSense Content’ page looks at your different pages of content and how they perform (click to enlarge):

top-adsense-content.png

This is the ‘AdSense Overview’ page:

adsense-overview.png

The AdSense Revenue Page (which gives a graph of AdSense earnings over time)

adsense-revenue.png

‘AdSense Content’ Page

adsense-clicks.png

AdSense Referring Sites Page:

adsense-referring-sites.png

This kind of reporting is something that AdSense publishers have been asking for years. It is going to open up some amazing possibilities for optimizing your content for AdSense. The only question is – when will it become available???

Interestingly the AdSense blog is saying that AdSense will be down for maintenance this Saturday (13th) between 10am to 2pm PDT. Perhaps what they’re doing is getting this new launch ready?

Update

I’ve asked Google for comment on this and they responded with a ‘no comment’. However I’ve been hearing from a number of services that the maintenance this weekend is NOT to put this new functionality in place and that it’s probably a couple of weeks away before we’ll see this released.

How Do You Define ‘Great Content’?

Blogging advice articles all seems to include the matra – “create great content”. The theory goes that if you create great content people will come to your blog, link to it, pass it on to friends, bookmark it and your blog will grow.

OK – we’ve heard the ‘write great content’ thing over and over again.

But what is this ‘great content’ thing that we talk about? How do you define it (or can you at all)?

What is Great Content?

I’m interested in how you’d answer this question. Looking forward to seeing what discussion emerges. Feel free to answer as a comment below of if you want to take it up as a post on your blog – please leave a link in comments so we can track what everyone is writing.

Tips on Live Blogging an Event

Over the weekend I asked readers how they suggest Live Blogging an Event. The resulting comments were really helpful so I thought I’d collect some of them together into a post on the topic here.

  • Travis Prinzi suggests that you use the opportunity to promote your Twitter or Plurk account by using those social media accounts to do the bulk of your updates with a few longer posts on your blog.
  • Chetan recommends using a video camera to record as much of the conference as possible and then edit and upload sessions during breaks.
  • Becky and Alrady shared some thoughts on capturing the ‘mood’ of a conference rather than just the information shared – mood being something that is hard for those following a conference online to get a handle on.
  • Karen recommended using CoveritLive as a tool for Live blogging an event (as did a few others).
  • impNERD encourages those live blogging events to take their time and focus upon quality rather than focussing upon just being ‘first’ to post something.
  • Melanie asked a question that I’m sure others would be grappling with also – ‘My concern is how do you balance live blogging with absorbing the info and still being a part of the conversation?’
  • Ollie talked about two tools, CoveritLive (already mentioned) and Sidepodcast – both look like being worthwhile tools to explore.
  • Nancy suggests the most basic yet most important tip that any Live Blogging Blogger could want to receive – ‘double-check beforehand that you will have internet access! ‘
  • Chuck shared some of his experience and how he uses multi-media (‘Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, the AgWired Blog, Ustream.tv, 12seconds.tv, and lots of uploaded audio interviews’) to bring his live blogging posts alive.
  • Will coded his own system that tracks what other people are ‘tweeting’ about an event to update them onto his blog.

The big winner in the comments section was definitely CoveritLive which was mentioned by a quarter of all comments in the post as a recommended tool.