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9 Tricks I Used To Triple My AdSense Earnings In 30 Days

Guest post by Daniel Scocco from Daily Blog Tips.

I have been using Google AdSense to monetize my blogs and websites for as long as I remember. In fact it was the first method I ever tried (I made a whooping $15 on my first month… back in 2005). Over the years I migrated to other methods (e.g., direct sponsors and affiliate marketing), which made AdSense become merely an inventory filler. I was still making around $1,000 monthly from it, but whenever I could I would use other methods over it.

Then some months ago I started noticing an upward trend on the CPC of my sites, and I figured that I should give AdSense another try. I started applying some tricks here and there, and the next month I made over $3,000 with it (that is combining all my sites). I was pleasantly surprised, and I decided to keep using it actively on some sites.

In this article I want to share with you the tips and tricks I used to triple my AdSense earnings in one month.

1. I added units to my Big Websites

Daily Blog Tips and Daily Writing Tips are my largest websites in terms of traffic. They are getting close to one million monthly page views (combined). Despite that I was not using AdSense on them, mainly because the direct sponsorship model was working relatively well.

Some months ago I decided to load some AdSense units on the sites, however, and the results were very positive. Around 70% of the boost I generated to my earnings came from these two sites. At the same time I managed to keep the other monetization methods working fine, and no reader ever complained about the new ads (more on that later).

Even if your blog is already making money with direct sponsors and affiliate marketing, therefore, you could still manage to increment your earnings by strategically adding some AdSense units.

2. I added units to my Small Websites

As many webmasters do, I have a bunch of small websites scattered around the web. Some are on free hosted platforms like Blogger, and others are self hosted sites that I abandoned along the way. Most of these sites still get traffic, however. Not much, but combined the numbers get decent.

I figured that adding AdSense units to all these sites could yield some money, and I was right. The main reason is that, since these are abandoned sites and don’t have loyal visitors, I can place the units very aggressively. The result was a very high CTR (Click-through rate), which compensates the small traffic levels.

Don’t underestimate the earning potential of small websites, especially if you are willing to place AdSense units aggressively.

3. I used the Large Units

If you want to make money with AdSense you’ll inevitably need to use one of these units: the 336×280 large rectangle, the 300×250 rectangle, the 120×600 large skyscraper or the 728×90 leaderboard.

Whenever I tried to use smaller units the results were disappointing. Even if I positioned them aggressively the CTR was just too low.

All four units mentioned above can produce good results, but the best performing one is by far the 336×280 large rectangle, and that is the one I used to boost my earnings.

4. I placed the Units above the Fold

My first trial was to place the 336×280 large rectangle between the post and the comments section of my blogs. The results were OK. I then decided to try placing them below the post titles for one week, and the CTR skyrocketed. In fact I still need to find a placement/unit combination that will beat placing a 336×280 unit below post titles.

I knew this rule, but I guess I needed to test and get confirmation. The rule is: if you want to make money with Google AdSense, you must place your units above the fold.

5. I Focused on Organic Traffic

My main concern with adding a large AdSense unit right below my post titles was that some of the loyal readers could get annoyed with it. At the same time I knew that loyal readers become ad blind quite fast, and that the bulk of my money would come from organic visitors (i.e., people coming via search engines to my posts).

To solve this problem I decided to display the large rectangle only on posts older than seven days (using the Why Do Work WordPress plugin). It worked like a charm, as loyal readers don’t even notice the ad units when they are browsing through my recent posts, and organic visitors almost always see the ads because they usually land on posts older than seven days.

6. I started using AdSense for Search

I was not sure how much money I would be able to make with AdSense for Search, but I was not happy with the search results provided by WordPress, so I decided to give it a shot anyway.

Currently I am making around $60 monthly with AdSense for Search. It is not much, but if you sum it over one year we are talking about $720. On top of that the search results are as relevant as you’ll get, so it is a win win situation.

7. I started using AdSense for Feeds

Another AdSense product I decided to try was the AdSense for Feeds one. I opted to display the ads below my feed items (you can also place them on top, but this would be too intrusive in my opinion). The results here were pretty good, both in terms of CTR and earnings.

You obviously need a large RSS subscriber base to make this work, but I am guessing that even with a couple thousand subscribers you could already make $100 monthly from feed ads.

8. I played around with section targeting

Section targeting is an AdSense feature that allows you to suggest specific sections of your site that should be used when matching ads. You can read more about it here.

I found that on niche and small websites section targeting can help a lot. Often times Google was displaying unrelated ads on these sites because there weren’t enough pages. After using section targeting I managed to increase the relevancy of the ads and consequently the CTRs.

9. I tested with Different Colors and Fonts

If you enabled both image and text ads on your units you should be able to customize the colors and fonts. I did some testing with both of these factors, and it helped to increase the numbers. Nothing dramatic, but it was definitely worth my time.

You just need to track your CTR for a couple of weeks. Then change the color or font and track it for another week, seeing if you can beat the original CTR. If you can, keep the new format. If you the performance decreased, try a new color or font and track the CTR for another week, until you find the optimal combination.

On my sites the best results came from making the ad units merge with the look of the site, but on some sites contrasting colors perform better, so testing is a must.

Daniel is the owner of Daily Blog Tips. He is also the author of the Make Money Blogging ebook, which you can download for free by signing up to his newsletter.

Want a Popular Blog? Put Your Ego Aside

ego bloggerIn this post Daniel Scocco examines personal branding vs blog branding.

When creating a blog, you need to decide if you want to build the brand around the blog itself or around your person.

While doing both things at the same time is possible, it will make achieving either of the goals a harder task.

Additionally, if you want to maximize the traffic and growth potential of the blog (for making money directly with it), I think that you should opt for building a brand around the website itself, and putting your personal brand as the second priority.

There are two main factors that come into play in this decision: the domain name and the layout of the homepage.

The Brand Around The Author

Blogs that have the goal of promoting the personal brand of the author (not exclusively, but to a large extent) will usually have a domain name that is equal to the name of the author, and will feature a section on the homepage with a small bio and picture of the author.

Such blogs can grow and become popular too, but usually this happens when the author was already a known figure on his industry before he started blogging. Examples include Guy Kawasaki and Seth Godin.

Notice that most of those bloggers also have another profession, and they don’t need to earn money directly from their blogs.

The Brand Around The Blog

Blogs that have a brand around themselves, on the other hand, usually have generic domains and don’t display personal information about the authors on the homepage.

Examples include Mashable and Gizmodo.

Now the founders of those two blogs (Pete Cashmore and Peter Rojas) also have strong personal brands, but that is a consequence of the huge popularity of the blogs they founded in the first place.

Should they have started their blogs on petecashmore.com and peterrojas.com, publishing the same content, I doubt that they would have had the same success.

Why Personal Branded Blogs Are A Tough Sell?

So why do I think that it is harder to make a personal branded blog popular (excluded the case where you already have a celebrity status on a certain niche)?

For two main reasons. First of all because when people visit a personal branded blog, they will inevitably face both the content and your person, and both of those factors will need to convince the visitor if he is to return a second time.

In other words, he will need to like both the content AND the person. The inevitable reaction some people will have is the following: “Hmm, who is this guy anyway?”

The second reason is connected with how we are used to consume our information. Mainstream media used to be the source of all credible and reliable content until some time ago, and those sites were never branded around their authors.

Having a blog that mimics that style, therefore, can lend you credibility.

Facts and Figures

Want some evidence?

Take a look at the 30 most popular blogs in the world according to Technorati. Out of 30, only 2 use the name of the author on their domains and display a picture of the author on the homepage (Seth Godin and Perez Hilton).

All the other blogs have a brand around the website itself and not around the authors.

Some of those bloggers have a strong personal brand nonetheless (e.g., Michael Arrington), but as I mentioned before, this is a result of the huge popularity of the blogs they created.

Other authors are not as popular on a personal level, but their blogs fly high all the same. For instance, could you name the founders of Smashing Magazine or Ars Technica from the top of your head? I bet most of you couldn’t, and those are among the 10 largest blogs in the world.

Conclusion

Now there is nothing wrong with using your name as the domain for your blog or placing your picture and bio on the sidebar. Perhaps you are a web designer or an affiliate marketer, and the purpose of your blog will not be to generate direct revenues but rather to strengthen your personal brand. This is a sound strategy.

If you want to create a blog for web publishing purposes (i.e., to generate a lot of traffic and revenues from advertising or from selling products), however, I would focus on branding the blog itself and not you as the author of it.

Daniel Scocco is the founder of Online Profits, an Internet Marketing and Online Business training program.

When Should I Put Advertising on My Blog?

In this post Daniel Scocco answers to a question by Warren:

I started a blog about Professional Lifestyle a little over a month ago. It already has gotten 16,000 visits, has almost 100 subscribers and has a google page rank of 4 (somehow). Should I put up advertisements at this early stage?

Ah, the ever controversial question of when should one start to monetize his blog. If you ask 100 bloggers what they think about it, I am sure you will get 101 different answers.

Instead of trying to come up with a definitive answer, or a fixed number of months that you should wait for before bringing up some ads, let’s just evaluate the Pros and Cons of monetizing a blog early in the game as opposed to waiting a longer period.

Before getting on with the arguments, though, we need to define what is early and what is not, right? I would say that an early monetization strategy is one that inserts ads on the blog from day 1, up to 6 months of its existence. That is, if you plan to insert ads after 5 months, that would still be considered an early monetization strategy for the sake of our discussion. Anything over than 6 months will be considered a long term monetization plan.

Pros of Monetizing Early

1. Your readers will know what to expect
If you bring ads early in the game, all the readers will know that apart from the joy of writing, you also expect to earn some money along the way.

2. Might contribute to the credibility
If you manage to get some respected companies as sponsors, or if your banner ads look really professional, the credibility of your blog might increase. All the major portals and mainstream websites have ads around, so a first time visitor might even think that your blog is more established that what it really is after seeing the ads.

3. Increased motivation
Different people get motivated by different factors, but you can’t deny that getting some money for expressing your ideas and sharing your knowledge on the Web is pretty exciting. Sitting in front of your computer day after day with the need of coming up with quality content might become a burden for some people, and the money factor might help them to stay consistent and engaged with the blog.

Cons of Monetizing Early

1. Some readers will get annoyed
Whether you like it or not, most Internet surfers hate ads. Sometimes they will bear with the annoyance: if the content is really good, and if they have been visiting a site for a long time. Guess what, with a new blog you probably don’t have that many loyal readers, so the ads could actually make you lose potential ones. Even if your content is top notch, some first time visitors will not give you the benefit of the doubt. As soon as they see the ads jammed around they will go somewhere else.

2. Might hinder your success with social media
Users of social media sites like Digg or StumbleUpon can sniffle a “let me load this with ads to make some bucks” websites from miles away. If you are planning to use social media to promote your website on the early stages, the presence of ads, especially too much of them, might hinder this strategy.

3. More difficult to find your voice
Blogs are all about conversations. Many people read blogs, as opposed to traditional mainstream media, because they want to see the facts from a different angle, with some clear opinions mixed once in a while. That is, they want to see the voice of the author of the blog. Defining your own voice is particularly important on the first few months, and bring advertisements might work against this objective. Some people, for example, might conclude (wrongly or not) that because you are running ads right from the start, your goal is mainly to make money, and that you will write whatever you need to in order to achieve this goal.

Pros of Monetizing in the Long Term

1. Focus on growing the blog exclusively
As soon as you bring sponsors or AdSense on your blog, you will start spending time and energy tweaking the ads, thinking about how to increase your earnings, managing the advertisers and so on. If you decide to go ad free for the first few months, on the other hand, you will be able to focus exclusively on the content of the blog and on its promotion.

2. More time to figure what monetization method will work better
If you start playing with advertising and sponsors after 6 months or so, you will be in a better position to evaluate which monetization methods will work, and which are not suitable for your audience or content type. Bloggers that start with ads early in the game, on the other hand, constantly switch between AdSense, CPM ads, direct sponsors and what not, mainly because they don’t know their audience well enough.

3. More monetization options
Apart from having more time to understand your audience, a long term plan will also open the doors to more and better monetization options. With a new blog that has small to average traffic levels, for instance, it would be difficult to find direct sponsors or to get accepted inside high paying ad networks.

Cons of of Monetizing in the Long Term

1. Some readers might react down the road
If you start your blog without ads and keep it that way for a long time, some readers might think that they finally found a pure soul that does not to want to get corrupted by the bloody moolah. Guess what, once the ads start popping in they might consider that you sold out, and some criticism will appear (Robert Scoble knows a thing or two about this…).

2. Money left on the table
If you decide to go without ads in the beginning, and after a while your traffic starts to grow consistently, you will inevitably wonder how much money you are leaving on the table.

3. Design problems down the road
Bloggers that start using ads from the beginning will probably design their blog or choose a template that is suitable for their monetization strategy. Bloggers that use a long term monetization strategy, on the other hand, might find down the road that their layout is not really compatible with ads. As a result they will either be forced to redesign or be limited in the monetization options.

Over to the readers

When do you think a blogger should start monetizing his blog? Is there a rule of thumb for all blogs, or it must be evaluated on a case by case basis?

Daniel Scocco is the author of Daily Blog Tips, and he is currently running a Blogging Idol contest. If you want to compete with fellow bloggers to increase your RSS count, check it out.

How Much Free Content Should I Put in My Blog?

In this article Daniel Scocco answers to a question by Jana:

Where does a blogger draw the line between putting up free content versus releasing an eBook? I’m all about an informative blog with great articles…but an eBook seems to be a good revenue point. So, should an eBook have exclusive information in it that you don’t share on your blog? Or is the value of an eBook found in it being an edited and formatted compendium of your blog?

Considering that Jana talks about revenues, in this article we will cover only paid books that are created (mainly) with the purpose of generating money for the author. In other words, we will not cover the cases where someone writes a free eBook to promote his website, to build an email list, to offer a bonus to RSS subscribers and so on.

The first question that one needs to answer is the following: is my blog established as an authority in its niche, or am I established as an expert in this niche?

Notice that the two parts of this question do not walk together necessarily. One can have an authority blog or website without being a well known expert. Consider Sitepoint.com for example, they are one of the most respected resources for webmasters on the Internet, and yet the site is not associated with any particular person (but rather with a group of authors).

The opposite can happen as well. Muhammad Saleem is a social media guru, and yet his personal blog is not very well known. This is because his strategy involves mostly guest appearances on high profile blogs, as well as on the direct interaction with the communities of the various social bookmarking sites on the web.

Now going back to our initial question, if you answer is no, you probably should keep putting free and quality content out there.

Do not think about this free content as money left on the table, but rather as an investment.

Whenever you create free and high quality content, and publish it on your blog (or on other blogs and websites), you are both building your credibility and making prospects enter your sales funnel. That is, they are getting in contact with your material and ideas, and over the time they will become more inclined to take that relationship to another level (by purchasing your eBook, for instance).

If, on the other hand, you think that your blog or your person already have enough credibility to get an eBook on the market, then you have three main possibilities as far as the origin of the content is concerned.

1. Blog into book

The first possibility is to use completely the content that is already published on the blog. As Jana correctly pointed out in her question, there are many people out there willing to spend money into freely available information that comes edited and formatted.

This editing and formating, and the fact that the information will be contained in a single, easily searcheable document, will probably save people time. And time, is money (sorry for the cliché).

The advantage of this method is obvious: the content is already written, so the author will just need to gather, edit and format it. The downside is that you won’t be able to charge a lot (else people would just go to the trouble of finding the information themselves).

Leo Babauta had a good success with this strategy. He turned his most popular articles into an eBook titled “Handbook for Life,” and started selling it for $6.95.

2. Almost unique

The second possibility is to use some of the free content on your blog, and then to build on top of that to create a more complete and appealing eBook. This is the strategy that I used on my eBook.

It was a natural process, and it all started with a single post. The post was titled “The 7 Characteristics of Good Domain Names,” and it attracted a large amount of comments, links and traffic.

The buzz that it generated was a signal that people were interested on the topic. After a small research on the web I discovered that there was no eBook focusing completely on “how to find domain names,” therefore I decided to write it.

That initial post became the first chapter of the eBook. The rest was unique.

3. Completely unique

Finally, you can also write an eBook from scratch. It might even cover points that you wrote about in the past, but you would need to rewrite them under the framework of an actual book and not of a blog post.

The obvious downside of this strategy is that it will take much more time than the other two. The advantage is that all your current readers and prospects are potential buyers. Even the ones that have been reading your blog for a long time will have a reason to the eBook. It comes with fresh content, after all.

Conclusion

There are no rules defining how much content you should give for free, and how much content you should charge for. The first corner-stone is to establish your blog or yourself as an authority in its niche, and from there, depending on your availability of time, you should decide what kind of eBook you want to publish, if at all.

Another interesting question is the following: are ongoing training programs the new eBooks? But this is for another article!

Daniel Scocco is the author of Daily Blog Tips. You can stay updated with his blog tips by subscribing to his RSS Feed.

What Are The Unspoken Rules of Social Networks?

Bruce Simmons asks:

Social Network sites like Digg and StumbleUpon and what not seem to have unspoken rules about who can promote a blog. What I mean to say or ask is: OK, with Digg, one cannot submit their own blog. But Twitter, you can chest thump all day long.

Do have a list of what sites you can ‘chest thump’ on and other sites that you are reader dependent on?

What are social networking sites?

This is an interesting topic, and I feel that we should start with some very basic information. Contrary to what some people might think, social networks were not born online with Friendster and MySpace. Social network, in fact, is a very old term used to describe any social group where individuals and/or organizations form a specific structure with nodes and connections. Here is the Wikipedia definition:

A social network is a social structure made of nodes (which are generally individuals or organizations) that are tied by one or more specific types of interdependency, such as values, visions, idea, financial exchange, friends, kinship, dislike, conflict, trade, web links, sexual relations, disease transmission (epidemiology), or airline routes. The resulting structures are often very complex.

The Internet completely changed the way people used to communicate and interact, so it was a natural step to create virtual social networks, or social networking websites. Back in 1979 Usenet, a global Internet discussion system, was already attempting to accomplish this.

Then in 1995 you had perhaps the first online social network as we known them today, ClassMates.com, which the purpose was to allow school mates to connect.

What about social bookmarking sites?

While websites like Digg and StumbleUpon do have a social factor, I don’t think we can classify them on the same level as MySpace or Friendster. Mainly because they have different scopes: the first two aim to let people share and discover new websites and online stories; the second two aim to let people with similar interests connect online.

You could consider Digg and StumbleUpon a sub-category of social networking sites, for example. Social bookmarking sites is what I would call them, but you have many other definitions floating around, including community bookmarking sites and social news aggregators.

Centralized vs. Decentralized Social Networks

Now that we have a clear understanding of social networks and social bookmarking sites, let’s get back to the central question. What are the unspoken rules of these websites? When someone can promote his own content directly, and when one should refrain from doing so?

In order to draw the line that divides the accepted and unaccepted behaviors, I think that we need to classify those social networking sites under two different groups: centralized social networks and decentralized social networks.

Note: That is a classification that I came up with, so I am not sure if it has being used in the past or not, and if with the same meaning. Feel free to suggest other interpretations or to disagree with my theory in the comments below.

Centralized social networks are those where the actions of the single elements will inevitably affect the whole community. That is, all the actions flow to the center.

Digg is an example of a centralized social network. Every time you submit a story, digg or bury a story submitted from another user, ask for votes or try to manipulate the system in your favor, your actions are inevitably affecting the whole community.

Centralizednetwork

That is because all members of Digg use the front page of the different sections to stay updated with the hot stories around the website.

The same principle applies to StumbleUpon. The central part of their system is the “Stumble!” button on the toolbar. Virtually all the members use that button to discover new and interesting websites. As a consequence, whenever you give a thumbs up or a thumbs down to a particular story, and whenever you share the stories you liked with friends, you are affecting the experience of all the other members of the community.

Twitter, on the other, is a decentralized social network. There is no central or core location where the actions of the single elements flow to. The system allows you to create you own micro communities, and your actions inside those communities will not affect people outside of them.

Decentralizednetwork

That is, you can decide who you follow, and other people in turn will decide if they want to follow you back or not. Suppose someone starts using Twitter solely to promote his own website. Users that are not following that person will not even notice what he is doing, and the ones that are following him can simply remove the follow to stop receiving his messages if they find them annoying. Finally, if someone likes to receive the promotional messages about the website of this person, he can keep following him.

Now you might ask me: so are all social bookmarking sites like Digg or Reddit centralized, and all standard social networks like MySpace and Facebook decentralized?

That is a good rule of thumb, but it is not always the case. Most social bookmarking sites are centralized, including Digg, Reddit, StumbleUpon, Mixx and Propeller. Some, however, are not. Del.icio.us is an example of a decentralized social bookmarking site. Provided you use the service to save your own bookmarks or to share them with friends, the actions of other users will not affect your experience.

As for standard social networking sites, I would say that most of them are indeed decentralized. Of course you have people trying to spam and manipulate those websites nonetheless, so the action of abusive users can end up affecting the whole community. But that is the exception and not the rule.

Conclusion

By now you should already know the answer to the original question. Whenever we talk about decentralized social networks, you can use them in whatever way you desire (well, excerpt for spamming). You can promote your website, yourself, express your opinions and what not. You will create your own micro community on those sites, and your actions there should not affect the other members, so they will hardly care.

Consider Twitter again. There are people who use it as a micro blogging tool. Others use it as an instant messaging utility. Others yet use the tool to promote their websites, and some people are even trying to sell their Twitter accounts on eBay! It is all good though, because each user has the autonomy to decide who he will follow, who will be able to follow him, and what micro communities he will join.

As for centralized networks like Digg or StumbleUpon, you will need to play under the rules of the community. Usually these rules will encourage you to be active in the community and to actually help it grow. Self promotion and system manipulation are frowned upon.

Practically speaking, can you get away with the occasional submission of your own stories? Yes. Can you use it over and over again solely to promote your own stuff? No.

Over to you

Do you agree that some social networks are centralized, while others are not? Do you think people should avoid completely promoting their own content, or there are exceptions?

Daniel Scocco is the author of Daily Blog Tips. You can stay updated with his blog tips by subscribing to his RSS Feed.

How Do I Get a Professionally Designed Blog?

In this post Daniel Scocco answers a question from Reader Mar Joseph who asks:

I would like to have my site professionally designed as my lack of code knowledge is really holding me back. What are the best avenues to find designers?

First of all let’s identify the goal behind this question: to have a professional looking design. The reader is specifically asking about avenues to find designers, but that is not a necessary step to achieve the goal.

There are several ways to obtain a professional looking design for your blog. Some of them will cost you nothing, some will cost you a couple hundred bucks, and some may even cost thousands of dollars.

How much you should spend and when you should do it are question that you will need to answer by yourself. If you are just starting a blog, for example, a free solution could work well for the first months. After this initial period you will be in a better position to evaluate the potential of the blog (in terms of audience and revenues), and to decide how much you should spend in the design.

If you have a clear business plan for your blog and know where you are going to take it, on the other hand, you could invest $100 into a premium theme right from the start.

Part time bloggers might also want to wait the blog to generate some revenues, and then to reinvest that money into the design. This method would not touch one’s personal finances.

Once your blog is established and healthy, you could consider hiring a professional web designer to create a unique look for it. This solution will cost a significant amount of money, but it should be worth it in the long run.

Obviously the more you spend, the higher the quality of the final product, but the idea is that there are solutions for all pocket sizes. Below we will cover each of them.

Free solutions

Provided you are using WordPress, you will have literally thousands of freely available themes to choose from. You might need to spend some time looking for a professional looking one, but I am sure you will be able to find a theme that looks clean and professional, and that matches the content or niche of your blog. Here are some places to get started:

Even after finding a professional looking theme, however, you might want to learn the basics of HTML and CSS. In a matter of hours you should have enough knowledge to customize and tweak the selected theme a bit, as to make it different from other blogs that might be using it as well. Here are some resources that will help you with that goal:

Low cost solutions

If you have some money to invest into the design of your blog, you could start by purchasing a logo. A logo can be easily integrated into any theme or design, and it will give a unique look to your header and more strength to your brand. If you don’t want to spend a lot, head to the contest section of online forums like Digital Point or Sitepoint (now called 99Designs) and create a contest. You should already get some entries for a prize as low as $50.

If you have more money to spend you could consider hiring a professional logo designer or a company. Prices will be higher, but most of them offer several mock logos where you can choose from, and they will revise the work until you are 100% happy with it. Here are some places where you can get a quote.

An alternative low cost solution is to purchase a premium WordPress theme (which could also be used combined with a custom logo). Those themes are created by professional designers, and they sell anywhere from $30 up to $100 in some cases. Other people might purchase the same theme that you will be using, but this number should be significantly smaller than with a free theme. Secondly, most premium themes are high quality, bug free, and they come with some support from the designer. Here are companies and designers that sell premium WordPress themes:

High end solution

If your blog is already running strong, or if you have a clear business plan for it, you might want to get a professional designer to create a custom theme. Tailor made designs tend to cost at least $1,000, and this figure can jump to $5,000 and more in some special cases.

If you have the budget, however, it should be worth it. First and foremost because you will be able to make your design work around your goals and priorities, improving greatly the user experience in your blog. Secondly, a custom design will also fit your monetization strategy, probably improving your revenue streams (sometimes even creating new ones).

Here are is a list of renowned blog designers that you can consult with:

How Much Should I Charge for my Advertising Space?

In this post Daniel Scocco answers to another question on the Problogger Question Box (and a question that I get asked a lot). Brian Auer asks:

What about [direct advertising] pricing? Are there any good ballpark price structures? What do we base rates on?

As soon as a blogger decides to play with direct advertising, the question of “how much to charge” emerges. If you charge too much, you might end up with no advertisers at all. If you charge too little, on the other hand, you will be leaving money on the table.

Unfortunately, as Brian wonders, there are no standard pricing structures across the Internet. You will need to take a look around, do some research, and experiment on your own site to find the rates that will maximize your revenues.

That being said, that are some methods that you can use to draw an initial price tag, and some specific places where you can look to cross check the numbers. Below we will cover them.

Defining the metrics: The CPM

Notice that talking about advertising prices in absolute values is useless.

Suppose there are two blogs. One charges $500 monthly for a 125×125 banner spot above the fold, while the other charges $1,000 for a similar spot. Could we say that the first blog offers a much better deal for advertisers?

Obviously not, because the value that the advertiser will get for its money depends on a myriad of factors, above all the traffic that each of the two blogs receives monthly.

If the first blog generates 100,000 monthly page views while the second generates 500,000 monthly page views, an advertiser would be better off by purchasing the advertising space of the second blog for $1,000.

As you can see, the answer to our question comes from a very simple ratio: cost of the advertising space divided by the traffic that the ad will receive.

Several metrics could be used to define traffic, from unique visitors to visits and page views. Most publishers tend to use page views though. Moreover, it is a common practice to measure page views by the thousands, so one should talk about cost per 1,000 page views or impressions. CPM is the term for that, and it stands for Cost Per Mille (Mille being the Latin word for 1,000).

Just to conclude our example, if you do a small calculation you can see that the first blog has a $5 CPM while the second one has a $2 CPM.

Now, we are not suggesting that you should tie your ad rates to the number of monthly impressions of your blog. Offering a flat monthly rate to advertisers is usually the best (and simpler) way to go. Just keep the CPM numbers in mind because they will enable you to compare your prices with those of other bloggers.

What do other bloggers charge?

Like it or not, the Internet behaves like a giant market place, and all websites are subject to the laws of supply and demand. In other words, if you set a price that is significantly higher than the one used by other blogs on your niche, the advertisers will go somewhere else.

The first thing you should do, therefore, is to take a look on blogs that sell advertising space to evaluate what rates they are asking.

The format of the ad (e.g., 468×60, 120×600, 125×125) and the position (e.g., header, sidebar, footer, blended with content) are factors that will directly influence the final price, so in order to be consistent through out your research you should pick a format and position that is popular.

Among blogs selling direct advertising space the 125×125 button ad on top of the sidebar is arguably the most used format, and it should fit our research purpose.

Let’s see what popular blogs on the online marketing sphere are charging, for instance. If you visit the Advertising page of Copyblogger, you will find that the blog generates over 1,000,000 monthly page views, and a 125×125 spot on the sidebar costs $1,500. Divide $1,500 by 1,000 (remember that 1,000,000 is equal to 1,000 times 1,000 page views) and you get a CPM of $1,5.

Similarly, if you visit JohnChow you will find that the 125×125 button add costs $500 monthly, and the blog generates 300,000 page views. Again just do $500 divided by 300 and you get a CPM of $1,66.

As you can see a CPM of $1,5 for the 125×125 buttons is a good average. Even TechCrunch charges a similar rate ($10,000 for 6,5 million page views monthly, converting to a CPM of $1,53), so let’s keep that number as a starting point.

Adapting to your own situation

All the blogs mentioned are viewed as authorities on their niche, which affects how much advertisers are willing to pay to get exposed to their audiences. If your blog is new or if you are just beginning to experiment with direct advertising, therefore, you probably should start with a lower CPM.

Start asking a $0,5 CPM, for example, and as your blog grows and more advertisers come along you can gradually raise it. If you have a blog generating 100,000 monthly page views this would translate into $50 monthly for each 125×125 button placed on your sidebar.

If you are going to use other ad formats or position the ads on other locations of your website just estimate how these factors will affect the traffic that an advertiser will end up getting. Placing a 300×250 banner on the sidebar, for instance, is similar to having 4 125×125 ads, so you could charge 4 times the price of the 125×125 ad ($200 monthly if your blog generates 100,000 impressions, converting to a $2 CPM).

Similarly, increase the CPM if the ad is on the header or blended with the content, and decrease it if the ad will be displayed below the fold or on the footer.

Keep in mind that you should consider real page views for these evaluations. Most web stats programs and software tend to over estimate the traffic on your site. Google Analytics is usually the most reliable one.

Cross checking the numbers and experimenting

In order to cross check the numbers with an external source you could join an advertising network (either CPC based like Google Adsense or CPM based) and use it on the spots where you plan to sell direct advertising.

If you are planning to sell a 300×250 banner spot below your posts, for instance, you could firstly put a Google AdSense unit there and measure the CPM that it will give. Most direct advertising deals should bring you more money that what advertising networks do, mainly because you are cutting out the commissions and negotiating directly with the advertisers.

Finally, remember to experiment endlessly and draw your own conclusions. What works for one blog may not work for another, and vice-versa.

Over to you

Defining optimal advertising rates is a tricky business, and I recognize that the methods and strategies described above might not work for everyone.

What other methods have you used on your blog? How did they work?

This post was written by Daniel Scocco from the wonderful Daily Blog Tips.

Let Other People Do The Talking

In this post Daniel Scocco gives some tips on letting others do the talking about you.

Example 1

Aaron Wall is one of the most famous search engine optimizers on the Internet (and consequently in the whole world). His book on the topic has sold thousands of copies, and he is able to pull a $500 hourly rate when he has time to run consulting projects.

Quite a mouthful, huh?

Yet, if you visit his website, you will not see the words “expert,” “guru” or “rockstar” anywhere. Here is the first paragraph of his “About” page:

SEO Book.com is a leading SEO blog by Aaron Wall covering the search space. It offers marketing tips, search analysis, and whatever random rants come to mind. ;)

Example 2

Copyblogger, with over 35,000 subscribers, is the leading authority when it comes to online marketing and copywriting advice. Brian Clark, the author, has created several successful websites in the past (some of which sold for big bucks), and he also performs consulting work.

With these credentials you could expect an epic “About” page, right? Well, not quite, here is the how he described himself:

Brian Clark is an Internet marketing strategist, content developer, entrepreneur, and recovering attorney.

I could go on with dozens of examples, but you probably got my point already. In one sentence: let other people do the talking. Do not brag about your achievements, do not highlight your qualities excessively, do not claim to be an expert, guru, rockstar, popstar or similar. Even if you really are!

If you are a real expert or guru, other people will do the talking for you. They will let others know the depth of your knowledge or abilities. They will call you with these terms, and the praises will be genuine and valuable.

Again, even if you really are an expert or celebrity on your niche, I would refrain from self-proclaiming that. It might sound that you are trying too hard to convince others, having an overall negative impact on your credibility.

Faking to be an expert or star when you know you are not, on the other hand, is almost guaranteed to result in failure. Some people argue that the “fake it till you make it” strategy works. It might in some cases, but it might also end up damaging your reputation for good.

What is the takeaway from this post? Stay humble and focus on doing your thing, regardless of how successful you might think that you already are. If your work is to be praised, other people will do it gladly.

Daniel Scocco is the blogger behind Daily Blog Tips .

Can Poor Writing Skills Overshadow Good Content?

In this post Daniel Scocco answers to another question from the Problogger Question Box. Vivienne asks:

Can poor writing skills overshadow good content?

Considering that I am not a native English speaker, I wish that the answer to this question was “no.” Unfortunately the opposite seems to be true; poor writing skills do can affect your otherwise witty and useful content.

Grammatical mistakes, misspelled words, incorrect punctuation and poorly structured sentences can make your content confusing, if not utterly unreadable. If you then consider the fact that we have hundreds of blogs on every niche these days, you can see that the writing quality could be the difference between a loyal and a lost reader.

Now one could say: “well, but I know a blogger that has thousands of readers and makes thousands of dollars monthly, yet he does not have superb writing skills and his content is often crippled with grammatical mistakes.”

Similar cases do exist, but they are the exceptions that prove the rule. Additionally, if you pay attention to these bloggers, you will notice that their blogs do not represent their main business, and that they are seen as experts on their niches. The authority factor over-weights poor writing skills.

Suppose you have an online marketing guru that is able to generate thousands of dollars in revenues from his activities. People would be interested in his ideas and tips, regardless of how they are presented.

If you are a superstar on your niche, therefore, perhaps you could get away with frequent grammatical mistakes and poor writing skills (and even in that situation improving the writing quality would only benefit you). If you are in the middle of the pack like most of us, however, you probably should pay attention to your words and sentences more closely.

Don’t get me wrong here; I am not arguing that one should be able to write Shakespearean novels to be a successful blogger. But at the very minimum you want to respect the basic grammatical rules and avoid misspelled words.

How does one improve his writing skills, though? Below you will find 3 points that can help you with this task.

1. Avoid the common mistakes

The Pareto principle states that for many events 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. This principle holds true to writing as well. I would say that 80% of what people write incorrectly come from 20% of all the possible mistakes. That is, we are talking about a small number of common mistakes that people repeat over and over again.

What are these common mistakes? Its for it’s, alot for a lot, your for you’re, their for they’re, affect for effect and so on. Copyblogger is a wonderful resource for this topic, and the three links below should get you started.

Related links:

2. Proofread

I would say that over-emphasizing the importance of proofreading would be a very difficult task. I try to proofread twice all my articles and text pieces, and still once in a while a typo appears.

Sure, proofreading is not what one would call a pleasant activity, but it is necessary. Additionally, if you make it a habit and adopt some clever strategies, you will see that it will consume less time and it will become less of a pain.

On the links below you will find several strategies and tips that you can use to make your proofreading and editing sessions more effective.

Related links:

3. Expand your vocabulary and master the grammar basics

Regardless of your profession, the ability to write and communicate in a clear and concise fashion is essential. In order to do so, however, you need to have a vast vocabulary and a solid understanding of the basic grammar rules.

There are several resources and books that you can use for that purpose. On the links below you will find a newsletter that delivers one word every day to your inbox, the BBC resource website dedicated to people that want to learn the English language and the Wikipedia page for English grammar.

Related links:

This post was written by Daniel Scocco from the wonderful Daily Blog Tips (a blog on my daily read list that should be on yours too).