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4 Widget Ad Options to Make Money on Your Blog This Christmas

Lets continue the Christmas theme from the last post on increasing Christmas earnings with Amazon with a quick look at four widget style ad networks and affiliate tools that are great to experiment with in the lead up to Christmas.

Remember – this is a time of year where those using the web are in a buying frame of mind and are more likely to click on product ads that they might see. Here are four options that present products visually:

1. Shopzilla Publisher Program

This program has been something I’ve experimented with more and more of late and it’s producing quite good results. It presents publishers with a variety of widget type ads with a large variety of options in terms of design, sizes and types of ads.


2. Chitika

Regular readers know that I’m a big fan of Chitika. It’s my second largest earner from blogs (2nd only to AdSense) and performs brilliantly on product related sites – particularly at this time of year.

As with all of these types of ad units it does best when you can make the ads show products that relate to what you’re writing about (using the ‘keywords’ feature that they’ve built in). Payment for these ads is on a CPC (cost per click) basis (although premium publishers also get an impression based bonus).

Chitika offer a variety of ad units including their eMiniMalls, Linxx (in text ads), Multiple Product Units (pictured below) and more.


Also check out their ‘premium ad unit’ that shows special ads only to those arriving on your blog from search engines. The ads that these premium ad units show are contextually relevant to the keywords that people are searching for in the search engine – they are doing very very well for me.

3. WidgetBucks

This is another CPC based widget ad unit that many publishers have found to convert well. You again get a good range of options when it comes to design and sizes. Here’s how they look (I chose a Christmas theme).

Picture 1.png

The only downside of WidgetBucks is that not everyone will be able to see the ads – if your readers are not within geographic areas that they serve ads to they’ll get impression based ads instead.

4. Amazon Associates Widgets

The Amazon associates program has quite a few widget type ad units that will help drive people into their store and increase the chances of earning you an affiliate commission. Of course these differ from other ads featured in this list in that you only earn something if people make a purchase.

Some of the ad units include:

Deals Widget

Search Widget

My Favorites Widget

Carousel Widget


There are plenty of other types of widgets to choose from also.

When These Widget Ads Work Best

The above options won’t work equally for everyone. While this time of year increases your chances of earnings with all of them – they all work best when there is relevancy between what you’re blogging about and what is displaying in the ads.

Blogs with a product related focus (or posts with a specific product being featured) will always out perform putting these ads on a general focused blog.

How to Optimize Widget Ad Units on Your Blog

Stay tuned to our RSS feed because later today I’ll post 5 tips to keep in mind as you test and experiment with the ad units mentioned above in this post.

9 SEO Plugins Every WordPress Blog Should Have

Do you want to increase the search engine ranking of your WordPress blog? Check out these 9 SEO WordPress plugins that Shawn Jooste from Elite Blogger has pulled together for us.

seo-wordpress-plugins.pngThe best place by far to find traffic is from search engines. The art of Search Engine Optimization is often very daunting for new bloggers. Even some experienced bloggers just see SEO as a cloudy puddle of mud they would rather not play in.

WordPress by default is pretty decent at letting search engines see what’s going on. But there are a whole bunch of other things that can be done to make your blog rank better. Fortunately there are plugins available to help you get better rankings for your blog, so you don’t have to go digging into the code of your blog to get some results from search engines.

I’m not going to explain the validity or effects of each of these SEO tactics in detail. There is more than enough of that on the Internet already if you want to do some research. I’ll mention briefly what the benefits of each plugin is, and why you need it.

1. All in One SEO Pack

This allows you to set the basic SEO stuff for your blog. You need page titles, meta tags, keywords, and descriptions. This plugin allows you to configure them for either your entire blog or on a post by post basis.

2. Redirection

From time to time you make changes on your blog. Sometimes these changes end up breaking your Permalink structure. This often happens when you make a change to an old post, or do an upgrade to WordPress and make some changes to the permalinks. It’s very very common if you move your blog from one host to another.

Basically what happens is that each post has a unique URL, called a permalink. When this changes, visitors who go to that blog post won’t find it. The redirection plugin helps you fix these problems by redirecting the visitor to the new permalink. This reduces the amount of traffic you get to pages that don’t exist.

3. Robots Meta

By default search engines crawl and index ALL the pages on your blog. This isn’t ideal, because it creates duplicate content and you can get yourself punished by search engines without knowing it. What the Robots Meta plugin allows you to do is tell the search engines which sections of your blog to crawl. This means that you’ll get more respect from search engines, and likely more traffic.

4. SEO Smart Links

One of the key issues with SEO is your internal linking structure. The more you link to a certain page on your blog, the more important it is to your overall content. Search engines treat your internal links as an indication of how well structured your site is. The problem with this is that if you had to manually go and create links to relevant and important posts you’ll spend hours and hours doing it.

SEO Smart links allows you to specify a word, like ‘SEO’ and then link it to a post on your site. Then each time the word SEO appears on your site, it’s automatically turned into a link you specified.

5. SEO Friendly Images

Images also play an important role in your SEO strategy. So it’s important that you tag them correctly. SEO Friendly images allows you to do this, and saves you hours and hours of work. If, like most bloggers you use images in your posts, then this plugin is essential.

6. Google Positioner

It’s important to know your keywords. And this handy plugin allows you to track the keywords you’re getting searches for. It’s pointless selecting a few keywords, then writing some content for those keywords and hoping that the rest goes well. SEO is about being proactive and tracing what works and what doesn’t.

7. Permalinks Moved Permanently

A common mistake bloggers make is choosing the wrong permalink structure. When you start your blog you think you know which is best, and as time goes buy you want to change your permalink structure. The problem with changing your permalink structure is that your traffic will come to a standstill until your site is reindexed, and that could take months.

This plugin is similar to redirect but is an easier and better way to manage permanent permalink changes.

8. Nofollow Case by Case

The nofollow attribute over the last year or two has had a fairly large impact on the blogosphere. All comments in WordPress by default are nofollow links. This means that no Page Rank (PR) is being given via the link. This plugin changes that and makes comment links valuable again. There are a number of reasons you would want to give away link juice. It’s often used to attract people and encourage them to comment. It can be very useful for new blogs who need some exposure.

9. SEO Slugs

Stop words are ignored by search engines. So most of your post titles have them in, but they are meaningless to search engines. So when you have a post title like this: “What You Can Do Immediately For Higher Rankings” you have a permalink like this: ‘/what-you-can-do-immediately-for-higher-rankings’ but what you really want is for your permalink to look like this: /immediately-higher-rankings.

This plugin automatically removes stop words from the permalink, helping you to rank better.

Conclusion:

Getting better traffic from search engines will help you boost your blog. You’ll get better income, rank better, and be able to build a better brand.

Increase Your Christmas Earnings with the Amazon Associates Program

We are right in the middle of the ‘silly season’ when it comes to shopping for Christmas and as a result as bloggers wanting to make a little extra money from our blogs at the moment we are presented with a unique time of the year – many of our readers are in the mood for buying.

Here’s a very simple way to put yourself in a position to capitalize upon this and to earn a few extra dollars via the Amazon Affiliate program.

Get your readers into the Amazon Store – just get them in the door.

If there’s a time of the year to earn some commissions via the Amazon affiliate program – it is now.

Let me illustrate why it is important to get people in the door at Amazon.

Two days ago I posted about the new Huffington Post Blogging Book that has just been released. In that post I linked to the book on Amazon using a tracking id that enables me to see what people buy as a result of visiting Amazon with that link (#’s indicate how many were purchased).

Apparel

Books

MP3 Downloads

Office Products

Video Games

Electronics

Toys

When you refer someone to Amazon (an online store with established trust and brand that most people are familiar with) you earn a commission on anything that they buy within a 24 hours period after visiting from your link.

You can see above that the greatest number of people bought the book I referred to – but the biggest items with larger commissions were on other items.

Of course you don’t want to just lace all your posts with random and irrelevant links to products on Amazon – relevancy and useful links for your readers is key – but once you get people in the door you never quite know what they might end up buying (and earning you).

Speedlinking – 15 December 2008

A few links for you.

Create A Media Kit To Attract Advertisers To Your Blog

In this post Marko from How to Make My Blog takes a look at how to develop a Media Kit to attract advertisers to your blog.

Having direct advertisers is a very lucrative way of monetizing your blog. Ads are one of the few ways in which a blogger can capitalize on existing blog traffic without any additional work, such as developing products like e-books or providing services like search engine optimization. First step for a blogger to attract sponsors to his blog is to create an online blog media kit.

What is a blog media kit?

Your blog advertising media kit should give potential sponsors the chance to learn behind-the-scenes facts and stories to supplement the content on your blog. Think of the blog media kit as a resume for your blog. It is a package of information that introduces your blog to interested advertisers and answers their questions about it.

Why should I develop an online blog media kit?

A blog advertising media kit is a sales tool for selling advertising on your blog and it is a must-have for any blogger who wants to monetize his blog content via direct advertising contracts. Your blog media kit should be used to get potential advertisers excited about advertising on your blog.

I recommend developing an online blog media kit as a professional looking document that potential advertisers can download from your blog, that you can send out to companies that contact you, and that you can send out to companies that you contact directly.

How to write your own blog media kit?

Remember the key practices of writing blog content online. Employ scannable text by using these suggestions:

  • low word count
  • one idea per paragraph
  • sub-headings
  • highlight keywords and paragraphs
  • bulleted lists

What should I include in the blog media kit?

The blog media kit should provide your potential advertisers with immediate access to advertising rates, key demographics, blog traffic information and your contact details. It should include everything a potential advertiser might need to know to help him decide to buy advertising space on your blog.

Make sure your blog media kit information is accurate, consistent and up to date. Update your media kit regularly as your blog grows and expands.

Blog profile

Start simple by tailoring your blog media kit to describe your blog, define your blog values, describe your blog content and you personally.

Blog target audience/traffic

It is important to show the potential sponsor what they are buying. Your blog traffic and your blog target audience are two primary motivators for the advertiser. Keep working to build your blog traffic and be ready to share your blog traffic stats, number of RSS subscribers, and number of email newsletter subscribers.

Add credibility

Add credibility to your blog by including external, third-party references. Include links from popular blogs to your content and also include links of your guest articles on other popular blogs. Also include third party rankings of your blog like Google PageRank and Alexa Ranking.

Be prepared to back up your blog traffic stats with graphics from your Google Analytics account. You may also need to grant the potential advertiser the access to your Analytics report. Google Analytics features a very safe option to do that without giving away your username and password.

Search engine rankings

When people search the Internet for keywords relevant to your potential advertiser and they end up on your blog, you have a key selling point. One of the most powerful strategies of selling advertisements is to show the potential sponsor how you rank in search engines for their product / service related keywords. Compile a list of keywords that you rank for that you can include in your blog media kit.

Advertising options / rates

Let the potential advertiser know what kind of advertising options you offer on your blog. Include the position of ads, the size of ads, show it by including a screenshot which has the potential ad position marked. Do not forget to include pricing for each of these ads.

Contact details

Finally make sure to include all the contact details needed to get in touch with you.

What to do when I have collected all the information?

Compile all the information into a nice looking PDF or DOC file and provide access to it from your Advertise here page. When potential advertisers look for advertising options on your blog, they will be able to request you to send the media kit to them and find out anything that they might need to know.

Ten Ways to Keep Technology Savvy Readers Engaged and Coming Back for More

Writing technology, science and programming blogs, or simply writing for technology savvy readers can have unique challenges. They are often more critical, not as loyal to a single blog source, and are difficult to keep engaged. The ten tips I share here should help attract this finicky audience, and keep them coming back for more.

1. Write a Timeless Topic in Sync With Modern Technology

Mind mapping is a great exercise (read more on Mind Mapping on this previous ProBlogger post). Write a central key word on a piece of paper, circle it, and then start branching out interrelated ideas from there. You will find quickly that if you start with the word technology, there is a lot to discover. Not all key phrases and ideas will immediately appear to be related, but as you step back for a little introspection, some interesting topics should begin to surface.

One article I wrote that continues to drive traffic is interview questions for programmers. At the time of the posting it received a mild response, but now that more folks in the technology sector are being put out of work, they are looking for any advantage they can get. Similar posts on updating resumes, cover letters, and general self-marketing tactics specifically geared toward science and technology job seekers are on the rise.

Tips on resume writing have been around for decades, but syncing them up with technology during a recession is what gives you a boost in popularity. Uncover those relationships that others might not recognize, and you will have a wealth of information to publish.

2. Find an Already Discovered Niche, and Give It Some Much Needed Attention

One of the most popular tips that bloggers give out is to find a niche that you would enjoy writing about that no else has discovered. I would argue, find a niche that has been discovered, and give it the attention it deserves from a unique perspective.

Technology, even as broad a spectrum as it is, receives a lot of coverage. This means that there is a high level of saturation, but there are also a lot of not-so-great posts floating around as well. These could be anything from product and service reviews, to coverage of green technology. How much have you heard about a green, renewable, sustainable energy source?

Too much to be sure. It could be though, that there are technology micro-niches that have yet to be filtered through to the mainstream. Try to draw conclusions from several other articles, and find the hidden sub- topics they are afraid to touch that you know your readers will appreciate.

3. Discover Your Reader’s Technology of Choice, and Milk It Dry

Your reader’s predilection for certain technologies will unveil itself over time. Did you ever stumble across a Web site that covers a lot of Microsoft, Adobe, or Apple hardware and software? You wonder why they refuse to move onto something new and exciting. There is a reason for that. Their readers want more, and keep coming back for more. So they keep giving it to them. This is actually not a bad thing.

Novel authors often talk about how their characters develop themselves, and how the story begins to take shape around unexpected behaviors. I used to wonder how that can be the case — they are the ones writing the story, not their characters! However, if you run a blog you will soon understand that this type of thing happens naturally. The technology is like a character, and you are merely making it the protagonist in the plot line.

This is where analytics can also be a key factor in how your writing evolves around specific topics. Dig deep for search key terms in order to get a better sense for what search engines consider your area of expertise. For an indicator of what your readers think, check out a social- bookmarking service like Delicious, and see what posts are being bookmarked.

4. Understand That the Technical Aptitude of Your Readership and the Technical Aptitude Required to Read Your Posts are Directly Proportional to Traffic

Even if you have the technical chops to write about it, the more complicated a topic is, the less likely you are to draw in grassroots readers. This was a hard lesson I had to learn when writing about programming techniques and technologies. I always get a greater response, and an increase in readership, when I write about topics that have a broader appeal. In other words, HTML and CSS tips do well. A tip on outputting MySQL query results to an XML file from the command prompt does not.

Of course, you can still tackle the tough stuff, but it is better done in chunks, or a series of posts. A steady buildup where you can educate readers along the way will be helpful because it teaches while informing. Keep in mind though that if you decide to get nitty-gritty, you risk shifting the audience focus. The expectations will then be much higher.

There are also occasions when it is acceptable to tackle the tough stuff, keeping the focus instead on the human interest element. When Wired News posted an article on Dan Kaminksy, a security expert who found a flaw in DNS, many hackers claimed the post was soft on the technology details. Yet, it was still a great read for a wider audience because it was an intriguing look into the underbelly of the Internet.

5. Play Referee in a Game of Dueling Technologies

Remember the old saying, any publicity is good publicity? Some bloggers feel the same way about readership. The attitude is that controversy sells, and so any controversy is good controversy. With technology savvy readers this can backfire. Entire camps are formed around brands, services and products, and being purposefully mean-spirited can ruin future opportunities to pull in new readers.

A better approach is to critically compare two technologies, making sure that one of them is your reader’s technology of choice. This way you can play referee through the community, allowing discussions to form without explicitly taking sides. These one-to-one comparisons are advantageous because they encourage comments, and they educate simultaneously.

Around the holiday season this is a great trick to use for product reviews. Used in conjunction with an affiliate relationship and a solid review system, you are generating a “sticky” revenue stream. Dueling technologies do the work, and you get income in return.

6. Do Not Always Be the First to Discover New Technology, but Always Be the Best At Reviewing It

Traditional media outlets have one rule to live by when it comes to getting the news — get it first, and get it fast. Some blogs covering technology conferences or a new product release take the same approach. Engadget, Gizmodo and TechCrunch all do that well. They are a tough act to follow, and have an army of authors posting up to a dozen times per day.

Being first on the scene is a dangerous game to play for those of us unable to manage such a schedule. There are alternatives. Instead of being first, take the extra time to write an in-depth analysis. Being constantly barraged with half-baked statements and high-level coverage will only engage technology savvy readers for so long. Get into the details and give your posts personal attention.

You can even write follow-ups, or have a guest author cover the same technology from a different viewpoint. Post both articles at the same time, and let your readers decide. Magazines have been doing that for years.

7. Be a Part of the Culture, Not a Sellout for “The Man”

Are you in management, or even middle-management within the technology sector? You have your work cut out for you when it comes to convincing readers you are a part of the solution, and not the problem. Technology savvy readers are cynics, and are typically cynical of corporate entities. That includes managers who are expected to toe the company line. Be willing to expect this reaction, and address it clearly.

Never do product, service or conference reviews for the company you work for unless you fully disclose it to your readers. Most people know that employees, especially managers, are required not to publically speak ill of their employer. This can have a negative affect on how your coverage is perceived, and can cause you to lose credibility.

On the other hand, if you can identify with co-workers, are tapped into the culture, and become known as a bastion of hope, then you can really generate a solid following. Not only do you have the expertise, but you have the position to back up your statements.

8. Stick To What You Know, and Research Like Mad What You Do Not

Never pretend to be an expert. However, a humble and exciting review of technology can still garner a good deal of traffic. Actually, posting a new-to-the-scene article is a great way to benefit from commentary by experienced technology professionals. Exploring old concepts and ideas with wonderment can help to alleviate some of the dry material your readers may have come across on other blogs.

The trick is to use that energy and excitement to explore in greater depth those technical questions you have been meaning to answer. Do not be afraid to use age-old journalism tactics to make it happen. Call up experts, even if they are friends and family, and get quotes and data. All bloggers writing on any topic should be willing to pound the pavement to get a great story.

You should also have a long list of well organized research bookmarks and even hard copy papers. Do not be content with Wikipedia, or else you will only be scratching the surface. Your readers deserve an author who is detail oriented.

9. Put Together a Technology Review Like You Would a How-to Manual

Paid technology reviews are easy to spot, and are referred to by some as a fine bit of navel-gazing. They are self-absorbing, and until you read a more honest review elsewhere, you are simply distracted for a short time. Automobile magazines in the US are well known for this, and are criticized for softening critiques of poor performing cars and trucks. If they are to post a no-holds-barred review, they risk being black-listed by manufacturers.

Try not to fall into the same trap. Write technology reviews like you are a customer who uses the product or service every day of your life. If you want to know if others feel as you do, or if you are glossing over trouble spots, check out the comments from readers on other blogs. Read The Consumerist to get a better understanding of how real people react to real problems with technology. Write from that perspective.

If you do get paid, or are compensated for the expenses involved with a review, be sure to fully disclose that fact. It will help to strengthen your credibility with readers.

10. Take Heart in Knowing That Technology Savvy Readers Are Cynics, but Form a Great Community

As I mentioned in the introduction, technology savvy readers tend to be critical, and are even a tad cynical. Do not be disheartened if an above average number are unsympathetic to your hard work and effort to write quality material. Be respectful in your response, though, and learn to glean from comments exactly what improvements can be made. Remember, you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

This is the best way to learn what your audience is really after when reading about technology. Do they want to know more about the who’s who in the industries you cover? Do they want a barrage of alternate reference materials? Maybe they want the fine details and hard-science involved with the products you review? They might be inventors and entrepreneurs in need of information on being involved personally.

Find the time to answer these questions, and you will keep your readers engaged and coming back for more.

Easily Create Watermarks With Watermarktool

WaterMarkTool Logo
Those who dabble in photography or digital art work know the importance of watermarks. Watermarks consist of visible marks that appear on top of an image that can be identified by the source of the work. They are used to deter others from copying and reusing the image. Watermarks can easily be created in a photo editor of choice such as Adobe Photoshop but why use a program when you can use an online solution which takes care of the hard work for you. Introducing Watermarktool.

Site Info:

No user registration is necessary to use Watermarktool. Also, the service is completely free. Since January 1, 2008, over 28,000 watermarks have been generated.

Creating Watermarks:

Using the service is fairly straight forward. On the home page, there are a number of different configuration options from which to choose from. These include:

Upload: Watermarktool supports the ability to upload an image but it must be 100KB or smaller in size.

Text: Configure the text that is displayed via your Watermark

Font: Choose between a select number of fonts

Text Size: The size of your Watermark text

Repeat: Decide whether your pattern should repeat or not

Position: Choose which direction the watermark should repeat

Text Color: The color of your watermark text

Text Transparency: The lower the transparency level, the harder it will be to see the watermark

Box Color: This is the color of the watermark box

Box Transparency: How transparent the watermark box appears

Results:

Using the Problogger header logo as an example, this is what I was able to come up with. The first image is the configuration I used. The second image showcases a before and after image.

watermarksettings.png

beforeandafter.png

The results shown on the Watermarktool website appear as thumb nailed images. To view the full sized image, you’ll need to click on the thumbnail and then right click the image to save it to your desktop. Images are routinely deleted from the site to prevent hotlinking as well as keeping the site accessible for free. If you’re not satisfied with the generated watermark, simply click your browsers back button and make the appropriate changes, then click on the generate button again until you have something you like.

Final Notes

As you can see, the watermark I generated is not complicated but I feel it has enough complexities to deter others from using the image. The most common mistake I see with regards to watermarks is that, the watermark sometimes overpowers the image. Watermarks are not an end all be all to protect against others using copyrighted images but they certainly help. Also, if you use a unique watermark that only you can identify, spotting frauds on the net becomes pretty easy. While this generator doesn’t provide the same customization options as Photoshop, I think it makes for an excellent addition in your online blogging toolbox.

I Made Mistakes So You Don’t Have To

This is a guest post by Musing, cataloger of great blogger sayings

My blog is nine months old. You’d think I wouldn’t have had time to make too many mistakes. Wrong.

Though, overall, it’s been an awesome experience, if I could go back and do it again here are three things I’d do differently:

A helping of planning to go with that passion, please

When the idea for my blog first hit me I was 1010% excited. Which was great. But, it would’ve been good to match that enthusiasm with the same amount of preparation.

Instead, the timeline went like this: Saturday morning have the aha moment, for two days work like a woman possessed, Monday morning launch the site! I jest not.

I wish, now, I’d channeled some of that energy into planning—like setting a few goals first!

You can judge a blog by its cover

Black background, no real header, undefined layout. Could I have done anything more to create a poor first impression?

Now, I must say I actually like black backgrounds (I’m weird that way) but when readers told me it made their eyes twitch I got rid of it, along with a lot of other things.

I took my time with the new look, though (I’m learning!) and it was worth it. My readers love it and I do, too. Still, I can’t help but wonder how many potential readers I turned away with that first template.

Oh, another reason I should have given more thought to the design—that eye-crossing black template was shown on sites like Technorati for weeks (and is still showing on StumbleUpon), even after I’d updated the image through Snaps.com.

“If you build it, they will come”… Not

Though I’ve read ProBlogger for years and should have known better, I guess I thought that somehow I’d be the exception. My idea was so awesome, so original, so entertaining that it would naturally attract a huge following.

The first months have been encouraging, but I think the response would have been much greater had I introduced the site better. Like networking with other bloggers and putting social media in place…beforehand!

So, when you get that next great blog idea STOP

  • Think about your vision for the site. Write down some short and long term goals.
  • Create your design carefully. Looks really do matter on the web.
  • And consider how best to share your blog with others. Don’t just tiptoe in through the backdoor. Make the grandest entrance you can.

Musing a.k.a. QuoteHunter is a freelance writer who highlights great blogger quotes at Blogtations. She also got the title idea for this article from her friend JD’s blog.

How to Create Easy Audio Content for Your Blog [VIDEO]

Yaro and Gideon just sent me this video as a taster from their Become a Blogger Premium program. It’s on the topic of creating online audio content for your blog.

This is a taster of the type of content that is a part of the Become a Blogger program which many of you have enrolled in (Yaro tells me they have close to 600 who have joined in total). Just a note that the price of this program goes up tomorrow – so if you’re going to get it today is the day.

Here is a PDF version of this presentation (pdf) if you prefer to read it that way.