How Small Blogs Became 6-figure Income Generators (and How You Can Do the Same)

This guest post is by Patricia Rodriguez of Adsgadget.

From its early beginnings in 1993 to its inevitable rise in the last few years, blogging has become part of our daily lives. Almost everyone has a favorite blog, a blog that they read first thing in the morning while taking the coffee, or a blog they wonder off to after reading the front page of the New York Times.

I’m sure you’re familiar with the names Mashable, The Huffington Post, TechCrunch, LifeHacker, and the like. These are just a few of today’s biggest blogs.

Most people have probably heard, or at least can guess that most of the big names in blogging started in 10×10 dorm rooms, small bedrooms, or a corner in the attic at the family home.

What exactly did these bloggers do to turn a hobby into six-figure income generators and, ultimately, the most visited blogs in the world? Here’s a little insight on some of the biggest blogs on the internet today—and how they got there.

Catching the wave: choosing the right topic at the right time

In 2004, when he was only 19 years old, Pete Cashmore started blogging from his parents’ home in Aberdeen, Scotland.

Pete had an interest in new technologies and how social media was increasingly changing the way people related to one another. he was particularly amazed by how certain government and police websites were combining their in-house data with Google maps to learn information on certain areas and citizens.

Nice little story, right? Pete Cashmore never went to college; instead, he founded Mashable in 2005.

How did he do it? He decided to explore a subject that was changing the world in a time when it was at its peak. Social media exploded in the early 2000s and Pete was there to ride the wave. Not only was he a great writer, he was passionate about what he wrote.

How can you do it? When you start a blog, you do it because you love what you do, because it’s a hobby you like to spend your time on. Don’t lose sight of this just because you’re looking to make a buck. Be passionate through every word you write on your blog. Write about what you like and what you know. And remember that today’s news is what will happen tomorrow.

Pete Cashmore tapped social media networking at a time when it was making its world debut. See what your era has to offer—there are new discoveries and trends springing up every day. It’s all a matter of being here now, being passionate, and writing about it.

The ad factor: Once Pete managed to create a huge community of loyal readers, he went for the big profit makers: advertisements. He subtly included Google AdSense’s banner ads throughout Mashable and reaped his revenues automatically every month.

Now, since creating a site like Mashable is not a simple thing to do, my advice to newbies and beginner bloggers would be to start small. Find self-serve ad platforms that cater to long-tail publishers’ needs. Adsgadget, AOL ads, or Twitter’s new ad platform would be good places to start.

Be cool: the blogger’s guide to creativity

Interactive designer Josh Rubin was always looking for creative inspiration and a better understanding of how people functioned. Ever heard of CoolHunting? It’s one of the biggest blogs on new designer trends, technology, art and culture. It was founded by Rubin.

Originally launched in 2003 as a designer’s reference site, CoolHunting has become an award-winning blog with a huge international audience that’s growing every day.

How did he do it?  He combined creativity, beauty, and a great idea.

For those bloggers who think content is everything, think again. Yes, interesting and fresh content is super-important, but knowing how to present it is just as important.

When visiting CoolHunting, users are greeted by a colorful, visually attractive and engaging home page, full of great photography and designer breakthroughs.

How can you do it? Be visual. No matter what the topic, don’t neglect your blog’s design and aesthetic factor. Yes, write about what you know. Yes, write about a subject that fascinates you. But present it in a way that can’t be ignored, a way that won’t make visitors move their mouse to the upper right corner of their browsers and press on that “x” to close your page.

Let’s say you decide to open a blog on recipes that you have picked up on your worldly travels. Take professional photos and post them on your homepage. Make people go “Wait… What is that? Is that food?!” Include pictures, and step by step instructions with interactive ingredients lists.

Think of new blog visitors as being like yourself the first time you went to your favorite restaurant. Regardless of how you got there, I’m sure the first thing you noticed wasn’t the ingredients written on the menu, but the way the plate looked when they put it on your table.

The ad factor: Josh Rubin got to the point where his site was bursting with organic traffic, so he decided to implement advertising and make the most of his success. When you scroll down Josh’s page you can see fashionable ads from AdRoll or AdMedia servers. These ads are targeted to his specific audience, so you can just imagine how many clicks each one gets.

Have a voice, be aggressive and be ready for criticism

Once upon a time there was a woman called Arianna Huffington. She decided to start a small website called The website was a call for President Bill Clinton’s resignation and a place for conservatives to mesh together.

Needless to say, you need to be a very opinionated person and have quite a strong voice in order to even think of starting such a website. I’m sure she received her fair share of criticism but carried on nonetheless.

Ever heard of The Huffington Post? It was founded in 2005 by the same person.

How did she do it? By having a voice and not being afraid to shout it.

This is a blog with a very particular tone and a voice of its own. Though sometimes seen as being a bit too aggressive, The Huffington Post presents news in a different light. And people love it.

How can you do it? People like to hear opinionated minds, and they like well-written news with a handful of criticism on the side. They like sassy writing and bold ideas.

Find your blogger voice and shout it out. Don’t be afraid to get criticized. Learn to take in the bad, and spin it your way.

The ad factor: You guessed it—Arianna also opted for ad platforms when she started getting big on the internet. Nowadays she works with Google’s AdSense and DoubleClick platforms.

Advertising: a fast way to turn your hobby blog into a profession

Without a doubt, what pointed these internet enthusiasts in the right direction was their passion for what they were writing. Once they found their voice and attracted a good amount of loyal readers and steady site traffic, they turned to advertising.

Blogging isn’t easy, even when it’s done as a hobby. Turning that hobby into a full-time profession is even harder. It takes time, effort, patience, and most importantly, it takes passion. None of these bloggers started earning overnight. It took them a while before they found their voice and decided to go big and take risks.

All you need is to remember who you are, what you love, and go public with it. You’ll figure out the rest along the way.

Patricia is the PR manager at Adsgadget, a new self-serve ad platform for publishers worldwide. She has years of experience in the online marketing industry and has worked as a content writer for several media outlets.

My First AdWords: How to Trial AdWords Promotion for Your Blog

This guest post is by Kole McRae of Chilled Soda.

Many of you probably have AdSense on your blog. It’s a great system for monetization, especially for those with smaller blogs but how many of you have been on the other side?

AdWords is the system Google uses for advertising. It’s how you place ads on it’s search engine and on the huge network of sites that use AdSense.

Right now Google is offering $75 free to anyone that wants to try out AdWords. That’s a good chunk of change but it can easily disappear in a day on AdWords and give you nothing to show for it.

So I’ve written this little guide to help you out a bit. I wrote this with a few assumptions in mind: that you know how AdWords works in terms of buying clicks and that you have full control over your site. If you have never heard of AdWords you should probably start here.

I have also assumed you have made an AdWords account. If not, use the link above and make one.

Step 1: Keyword research

The first step to a successful AdWords campaign is research. I know what I’m about to recommend sounds really boring, but not only will it help your AdWords campaign but will also help you understand your niche better.

I want you to take ten minutes and write down every combination of keywords you can think of for your blog. What words do you want people to type in to find your blog. For example:

  • cool tech blog
  • tech news
  • technology news
  • Canadian technology news.

Write them all down and keep going until you just can’t go anymore. You should be able to put together a pretty sizeable list. Next sign into your AdWords account and click on Keyword tool, which is under the Tools and analysis tab. Paste your list into that tool and hit Search. Next, click the Keyword ideas tab.

This will give you a much larger list of keywords (usually in the hundreds or thousands). It also tells you about how many people a month search for those terms and how much competition there is. This can be invaluable data.

Take this new list and download an Excel copy of it. Then take the time to divide the keywords into different groups, or “themes,” and choose which ones to focus on. I’d go over just how to do that but it would take far too long. So I’ll simply suggest using common sense and your own judgement.

Try to find keywords that have low competition, low CPC cost, but high monthly searches. These are called low-hanging fruit. They tend to be the juiciest! Remove any words that are too generic. Single-word keywords that have millions of searches will not be helpful to you.

Another quick tip is to look up your competitors and go to their pages. Then right-click and select View source. Though Google has said they no longer use the Keywords meta tag, some people still fill it up, which might give you even more keyword ideas.

There are many other ways to get even more keyword ideas, so get creative and see what you can find.

You should also look for keywords in your lists that are not relevant at all. These you will want to add to your negative terms list so that people who search those terms don’t see your ad or cost you any money.

The most important thing I can teach you about AdWords is that it is not about getting as many people as possible to your site. It is about getting the right kind of people to your site. So make sure you remove any and all keywords that are not relevant. People searching for Python programming tutorials do not want to learn more about snakes and will only cost you money with no added benefit.

Step 2: Ad copy

Once you have put together your keyword lists and organized them into categories (or “adgroups,” as Google calls them) you need to write ads for each one. I say ads, not ad, because the most important thing you can do with AdWords is rotate and test ads.

I suggest writing two ads for each category or adgroup. Google will automatically rotate these ads and give you stats for both so that you can choose the one that works best for you and test it against an even better one. This means your ads will get steadily better as you test them against each other.

Your ad copy needs to be simple and to the point. Tell people exactly what to expect when they land on your site. Some best practices: Start Each Word With a Capital Letter. It looks weird in an article but in an AdWords ad, it stands out and looks professional. End each line with a period. Don’t cut sentences off halfway through because of character limits.

I’m going to reiterate a point from above. AdWords is about getting quality traffic to your blog, not just getting as many people there as possible. You want people that will become part of your community. This means your ad should be written in a way that will build a community and invite people to join it.

Step 3: Landing page

The final thing I want to talk about is your landing page—the page people land on after they click your ad. The first instinct for a lot of people is to land folks on your home page. This can be a bad idea for two main reasons.

The first is that it can be confusing, especially if your home page is just a bunch of blog posts. People may not know where to begin or what to do.

Secondly, it’s very possible that Google’s AdWords quality algorithm may not understand that your site is relevant based on the page it lands on. It may be searching for instances of “Canadian Tech News” but only find it once on the main blog page, so it will lower your quality score and may not show your ad as many times.

The best practice is to send people to relevant posts and guiding pages for each adgroup. If you have an adgroup for Microsoft technology news, send people to a page specifically about Microsoft that has a bunch of news for it. Or maybe to an About page or a category page. The more specific, the better.

This is only the beginning

I’ve written over 1000 words here and it hardly scratches the surface of AdWords advertising. It fails to mention local searches, conversion tracking, match types and a million other things that go into a proper campaign. The best part? This is all for Google search, I didn’t even bring up the content network.

Which reminds me: I suggest going to your Campaign settings and setting it to Google search only, as this will give you a bit more control over where your site shows up. The content network requires an article all on its own and has a habit of eating up all your advertising money without giving you nearly the quality of traffic the search network gives you. That is, of course, unless you do a lot of research and use it correctly.

Hopefully, I’ve helped you get more out of that $75—and maybe even inspired you to start learning more about advertising on Google in general so you can fully leverage any money you spend on it.

Kole McRae is an Internet Marketer for web design Toronto. He also runs a blog called Chilled Soda, which is about tea, music and all the chill things in life.

Facebook Ads or Google AdWords: Which One’s for You?

This guest post is by Alexis Thompson.

“The real fact of the matter is that nobody reads ads. People read what interests them, and sometimes it’s an ad.”—Howard Luck Gossage

The goal of advertising is not to gain the most visibility; it is to attract the most attention. The quote above says it all. How many people do you think really read the ads in their entirety? Not many I would say.

However, people do take their time to look further into whatever interests them the most—be it an article, a video, or even an ad. That’s why ads can mean more traffic for your blog.

The question of ad space

Advertising in the search network is totally different from advertising on display networks (that is, on ordinary websites). The former relies on the ads standing out among those of competitors who are also targeting the same keywords. The latter relies on attracting the interest of the websites’ visitors.

Chief among the search advertising platforms is Google AdWords (Note that Google still dominates the search game with nearly two-thirds market share).

Google ads for business courses

Google search advertising

On the other hand, social networks, such as Facebook, have added another dimension to display network advertising. Facebook is considered to be the social network, with nearly a billion accounts worldwide.

Facebook display advertising

There are other platforms but for now, let’s see just how Facebook ads fare against the ads from Google AdWords.

The advertising environment

Assessing the environment in which the ads run in is essential in determining which platform is best for you. Let’s say you’re an ordinary web user who wants to find cool Angry Birds games and information. You search for it in Google using the keyword “angry birds attraction.” Then you see this PPC ad below:

Sample search ad
(Note that this image is not a real advertisement and is intended for illustration purposes only.)

The ad above could be one of many similar ads that would show on Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs). Other companies promoting Angry Birds attractions are likely to bid for the same keyword as well. Google AdWords simply allows businesses to advertise to people who are already looking for a product or service. The ads are shown in response to a certain demand.

Facebook ads, on the other hand, are shown in a different environment from Google ads. They’re shown to people who aren’t exactly looking for a product or service but could be interested in it anyway. In other words, the demand is created by the ad. ON Facebook, ads are shown based on users’ attributes (determined from their profiles and network usage) and the language that’s used in the ad. The image below is an actual Facebook ad about the Angry Birds Cable Car.

Facebook ad

It’s important to note that the differences between these environments reflects the nature of AdWords’ search network ads and Facebook ads. AdWords also offers display network ads. The display network ads show on several partner websites based on the advertiser’s selected preferences.

Ad targeting on each network

Knowing how to target the right group of people using each network is essential if you’re going to spend only what is necessary to reach the right—and the right amount—of users.

Obviously, Google search ads are targeted on the basis of the keywords the user is searching upon, but you can also target users on the basis of other factors I’ll mention in a moment.

Google AdWords’ display network ads can be designed to target users based on their interests—data that’s collected from their user browsing history. So if the users have visited your website before, you can create ads to target those people as they browse through other similar websites. This is called “retargeting” or, on Google, it’s called Google AdWords Remarketing. Here you can set up a list of visitors to target and display your ads for those visitors on various sites on the web.

Facebook, on the other hand, relies on the data provided in their members’ profiles to target the ads you provide.

Both networks let you target ads based on the user’s geographic location, and using other demographic data (such as age and gender) that the networks have collected about users.

Know your goals

Before you can choose an option, you’ll want to list your goals for your advertising campaigns. Is it a short-term goal or a long-term goal? Are you selling a specific product or service, or are you trying to increase your brand awareness?

If your campaign aims to sell something specific, then Google AdWords is your best bet. People use the search engines because they are looking for specific solutions. All you have to do is meet that demand by bidding on the right keywords. Obviously, if you want a quick, short-term solution to your advertising needs, and you’re looking for specific conversion rates, then there’s no doubt AdWords is right where you should be.

If you want to increase your brand awareness and visibility, Facebook may be the way to go. Brand awareness is built by establishing lasting relationships. There’s no better place to do this than in social networks like Facebook, with its multitude of community members. It’s going to take some time, but once those relationships have been established, they’re bound to last longer than the impact you get from tactical, sales-focused ads.

Looking at ROI

How do the networks compare? According to this infographic:

This data reflects the average clickthrough rates for each network over the past couple of years. It would seem that results are stronger for Google ads. I mentioned earlier that brand advertising may better done in Facebook, but that doesn’t mean that it has no benefits when it’s implemented through AdWords. In fact, the total traffic for brand advertising through AdWords can reach up to 89%. Try it for yourself and see what brand advertising does for you—compare the results with your organic SEO.

On the other hand, since Facebook ads have a relatively low CTR, it’s recommended that advertisers aim for increases in comments, Likes, impressions, and active users through this advertising. In the long run, you will be able to build a solid fan base, thereby increasing your brand awareness and, consequently, sales.

Taking these differences into account, let’s try computing for an estimated ROI for both platforms.

For Google ads, let’s assume that there are 150 clicks over a given period, $2.00 is the cost-per-click (CPC), a conversion is worth $50.00, and conversion rate is 10%.

Google Ads ROI = (((Conversion Value x Conversion Rate x Number of Clicks) -
 (Ave. Cost per Click x Number of Clicks)) / Total Cost ) x 100
 = (((45 x 0.10 x 150) - (2 x 150)) / (2 x 150)) x 100
 = $187.50 (125%)

For Facebook ads, let’s assume that we get only a conversion rate of 2% and the CPC is $0.50, but all other factors remain the same.

Facebook Ads ROI    = (((45 x 0.02 x 150) - (0.50 x 150)) / (0.50 x 150)) x 100
 = $120.00 (80.00%)

In this example, we can see that Google ads provide a higher potential ROI than the Facebook ads. Take note that this is only an example and there are other factors that were not included, such as design labor costs for the ads, which you’d want to factor into your own calculations.

What’s the verdict?

At the end of the day, choosing the “best” network really depends on the advertiser’s goals.

By running ads on Facebook, you can cover the social media advertising aspect and effectively increase your brand awareness there. The goal is to generate interest in your business by targeting people that may have a need or want for your products and services in the future.

In addition, if you run ads on Google AdWords, you can target the people who are looking for your products and services at present.

If an integration of both internet marketing platforms can be done, all the better (as is recommended for SEO and PPC integration).

You might think that advertising’s too expensive—but that’s just how advertising is. It’s not bad to be aggressive and to take risks. In fact, taking calculated risks is highly recommended. So start crunching those numbers now and start building your traffic—and your business.

Alexis Thompson is a former Mountain Backpacker, Real Estate Sales Personnel and a 26 year old mother of 2 daughters, Sophie and Rhian. She is into almost all types of Music especially The Fray and Hillsong. She also has a passion in Singing and Scrap Booking. Follow her escapades on her Twitter.

Traffic Technique 3: Online Advertising

When bloggers think of online advertising, they usually think first of selling it, rather than buying it.

But buying ad space can be a great traffic-generation technique if you’re careful in terms of how you go about it.

There are really two types of advertising—brand advertising, and tactical or action-oriented advertising—and for traffic generation purposes, you’ll probably want to focus on the second type.

Making a traffic-focused ad campaign work depends on a few elements:

  • the audience
  • the ad space
  • the ad
  • what you do with the traffic the ad generates.

Your target audience

Last time, when we looked at content marketing, we saw how important it is to work out who you’re targeting with any traffic-generation strategy since, of course, not all traffic is the right kind of traffic.

So your first step is really to think about who you want to target with your advertising. If your answer is, “well, more of the same people who are visiting my site now,” that’s fine. If you want to target a specific sub-segment of that audience, that’s great too.

The important thing once you’ve identified those people is to work out a key need related to your topic that all of them share—and that your blog solves.

Buying ad space

Now you know who you’re targeting, you need to work out where they gather online. Broadly speaking, we can break down the options into three categories:

  • search engines
  • social media
  • informational websites.

Buying advertising space on search engines can be a great way to ensure that the people seeing your ads have expressed a need in your offer. Your ads will appear alongside search results for the keywords you target (there’s a range of other filters you can select too, like geographic targeting), so the users have already expressed an interest in the need your blog meets.

Buying ad space on social media also targets your ad to the right users—but depending on how closely you select your ad filters, this targeting can be less stringent, which means you could wind up paying for more “wastage” (the amount of ad impressions that are seen by people who aren’t in your target audience).

Also, social media advertising can automatically restrict your ad’s reach, since it only gets seen by users who are subscribed to a particular social media network. Pretty much everyone online uses search engines, but does your target audience use Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Twitter … or not?

By buying ad space on an information or entertainment website, you’ll be actively targeting the users of that site specifically. Whereas social media advertising can inadvertently restrict the reach of your message, on-site advertising lets you proactively target your ad’s reach—which is something that you can use to your advantage.

Of course, different sites sell ad space differently. On some, you can buy ad space privately, though the site owner; on others, you’ll go through a network like AdBrite, Kontera, or DoubleClick.

An example of an on-site ad is the in-page Genesis ad we run on ProBlogger. This ad targets ProBlogger users specifically in its headline.

Genesis ad on ProBlogger

So before you buy ad space, it’s important do your research: compare services and costs, and make sure your ads will be seen by as many of the right people as possible.

If you’re looking at buying ad space on an informational or entertainment site, check the rates and if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to speak to the site’s owner (or ad sales rep)—they should be happy to talk with you.

Your ad

You’re in a good place now: you had a target audience and you’ve bought ad space. You’ll have chosen ad ad format, too: when you buy ad space, you’ll need to choose a format, and the format you choose will likely be driven by your budget. If you can’t afford to have a designer create a banner for you, for example, you might opt for text ads until you can afford design expertise.

That’s all good, but before you race off to work up a catchy copy line or cool visual effect for your ad, backtrack to the first thing we discussed in this post:

Work out a key need related to your topic that your target audience shares—and that your blog solves.

For the Genesis ad, we can define the audience as ProBlogger readers who already use WordPress, or don’t mind the idea of using WordPress.

And we can define their need as being something like this:

I need (or want) to do more with my blog.

We could say this about every person who reads this blog. It seems like a pretty general need—what does “do more” mean, exactly?—but the thing is that when you hit on a need like this, in natural language that the readers probably use themselves, you can create an ad that cuts through and really speaks to them.

You can write copy that uses words that respond to that need, like:

  • empowers
  • build incredible websites
  • takes [you] places you never thought [you] could go.

Even the headline no the ad— runs on the Genesis Framework—implies something to our loyal readers: you’re reading ProBlogger because you want to do more with your blog … like Problogger has … and here’s the secret.

To write good ad copy, you need to think about who your target audience is and what they want, understand what your blog could mean to that need, and then tell them.

This will probably be easier for you to do if you have a specific offer to give the people your ad is targeting—like a free report or ebook. You could even make an ad for an especially great blog post on your site that specifically meets a felt need of your target audience.

Also remember that ads tend to be small (much smaller than that Genesis ad, usually!), so short copy is essential. If you’re not great at writing headlines or elevator pitches yet, practice getting better at those as a starting point for creating really engaging copy lines. It’s a good way to learn to hone a message with a small number of powerful words before you start spending money on advertising.

Responding to ad traffic

Even if you’re just starting out with advertising, it’s a good idea to track the return you make on your investment in ad space—whether you’re making money off that traffic or not.

If nothing else, track the return you get on your investment not just in terms of clickthroughs to your site, but in terms of responses to the offer you’ve included in your ad (e.g. downloads, signups, etc.). This will let you improve your ad content—headline, copy, images—over time to get better and better response rates.

Even if you’re not getting a direct return on the investment (for example, selling a product) it’s still worth tracking the return you make for your effort.

If you’re using an ad network of any sort, it will provide you with reports on how your ads are performing—impressions, clicks, and so on. Depending on how you’ve set things up, you may need to combine this data with tracking information from the landing page on your own site to get the full picture of the return you’re making on your investment, and find points upon which you can improve.

The bottom line

The best way to get a feel for online advertising, and what it can do for your traffic levels, is to give it a try. If you can, try a mix of at least search an on-site advertising through an ad network; if you want to go further, give private (or negotiated, non-network) advertising and social advertising a shot. In all cases, test and track your results so that you can improve your ad’s impact over time.

Later today, that’s exactly what we’ll be looking at, in a post that compares search and social advertising, and breaks down the numbers to help you choose which one’s right for you. But for now, let’s here about your adventures in advertising for traffic generation. Share your tips and advice with us in the comments.

Social Media Advertising: Should Bloggers Bother?

This guest post is written by Lior Levin.

Social media has proven its worth as a networking tool and a means of raising brand awareness, but the future of sites like Facebook and Twitter depend on convincing brands that that it’s worthwhile to invest in advertising on their sites in addition to interacting with customers.

Ads on Facebook usually appear in the right column, though Facebook has been experimenting with more socially-based ads that show up in the streams of users. With its simpler interface, Twitter relies on promoting tweets that show up in the tops of users’ update streams.

No one has any doubts about the value of social media marketing through engaging customers, running promotions, and creating company pages. The majority of doubts surround the ROI and overall value of paying to advertise on social networks.

Many brands are still engaged in social media advertising, and the data available changes from year to year. However, for bloggers, it can be difficult to decide whether social media advertising is worth it.

Here are a few of the current advantages and disadvantages of using social media sites for your advertising campaigns.

Advantages of social media advertising

Social helps campaigns go viral

According to Kelsey Jones of the Social Robot, “Companies and organizations can experience a large swell of website visitors, new customers, or Facebook fans all within a single day, depending on the effectiveness of their ads. This type of viral activity can be great for events and product launches.”

Brands are satisfied with the level of engagement

There’s no doubt that the right campaign can make a huge difference in driving visitors to a website. This spike in traffic for some major brands makes social media advertising worth considering.

The Wall Street Journal reports that “Companies that have bought Twitter ads generally say they are happy with the percentage of people who click on their ads or circulate them to other Twitter users. But marketers also say these ads haven’t proven they can convert people into paying customers.”

Disadvantages of social media advertising

The cost for national advertising campaigns is prohibitive

Kelsey Jones writes at Performancing, “For some targeted campaigns, competition can be very high, leading to high rates for clicks on social media ads or sponsored tweet impressions (views). For certain industries, the cost to run a viral campaign of this magnitude can be significant, up to thousands of dollars per day.”

While the cost of social media advertising can be quite steep for national campaigns, running an effective social media campaign through a free account on social media can produce similar results if managed properly. The opportunity to engage users through a free account may make it hard to justify the cost of Facebook or Twitter ads.

Social advertising can be perceived negatively

Unlike ads in magazines or on television, ads on social networks may prove to be ineffective or even a liability for brands, as customers may view them as an unwelcome intrusion.

One Forrester analyst mentioned to Bloomberg that injecting ads into a social platform is like interrupting a conversation among friends in order to attempt a sales pitch.

In fact, ads on a social network may be perceived as completely counter to what users are trying to accomplish. Some suggest that the success of social advertising hinges on whether brands can identify the purchasing intent of users and find the perfect point to introduce an ad into their social experience.

The ROI is difficult to measure on social media

Sean Jackson, the CFO of CopyBlogger, suggests that for all of the talk about being unable to measure the ROI of social media marketing in general, businesses should not be dismayed. Jackson says, “An investment is an asset that you purchase and place on your Balance Sheet. Like an office building or a computer system. It’s something you could sell later if you didn’t need it any more. Marketing is an expense, and goes on the Profit and Loss statement.”

Whether or not you agree with Jackson’s statement, the constant challenge of all marketing efforts over the years has been determining their ROI.

Is it worth it?

Social media advertising will undoubtedly produce greater brand awareness and user engagement with your brand, but the real risk is that brands may need to designate significant funds to their marketing efforts without necessarily receiving a guarantee that they’ll work.

That is a significant risk to take, but as brands seek to reach customers, we’ll see ongoing innovation among advertisers on social media platforms.

What do you think of social advertising? Have you tried it—or seen it? Let us know your take on these new ad media in the comments.

This guest post is written by Lior Levin, a marketing consultant for pre shipment inspection companies located in China and Latin America, and who also consults for a psd to html conversion company.

Google Publisher Toolbar—a Must-have for AdSense Publishers

This guest post is by Kevin Muldoon of WordPress Mods.

Google AdSense has been in the news a lot over the last month, for all the wrong reasons. Many top AdSense publishers such as Zac Johnson and Spencer Haws have had their accounts banned and their last month of earnings withheld. And Google won’t give a specific reason as to why any particular account—including either of these—has been banned.

Despite its critics, Google AdSense remains a reliable source of income for many bloggers and website owners across the world. Earlier this year, the developers released a tool that helps you check your earnings more easily and track the performance of your ad zones. The AdSense Publisher Toolbar is an official Google Chrome extension that adds a publisher toolbar to your Chrome browser. It also adds an overlay to your advertisements so that you can see exactly how they have been performing.

I’m surprised that Google hasn’t been promoting this extension more heavily as, in my opinion, it’s vital for anyone who makes money online using Google AdSense.

The Publisher Toolbar

Google publisher toolbar

Google publisher toolbar

Once you’ve installed the extension in your Chrome browser, you will see an AdSense icon at the top right-hand side of your browser (to the right of your address bar). Once you have authorised the extension to log in to your Google account on your behalf, clicking on the icon will display a menu that shows your AdSense earnings. (Note: I’m not 100% sure of Google’s policy of displaying earnings etc., so I’ve used its screenshot instead of taking one of my account.)

At the top of the box you can see today’s earnings, yesterday’s earnings, earnings this month, and earnings from last month. The bottom half of the box shows your top five performing custom channels and top Five performing URL channels. Your lifetime earnings via Google Adsense are also shown at the bottom of the box.

The Publisher Toolbar was obviously not developed as a replacement for checking your stats through the main Google AdSense website, however it’s perfect for anyone who wants to quickly check how their AdSense websites are performing without logging into the main site.

The in-site ad overlay

The second, and arguably its most useful, feature of the Google Publisher Toolbar is the in-site ad overlay. Once you’ve installed the toolbar and signed into your account, the extension will place an overlay over all Google Adsense and DoubleClick advertisements on your websites.

When you load one of your website pages, your Google Adsense advertisement will be displayed as it normally would.

The ad overlay

The ad overlay

Then, a second or so after the page has loaded, the ad overlay will be displayed. The overlay places a see-through black box over all of your AdSense advertisements. The name of the ad zone is displayed at the top of the overlay, and at the bottom you can see how much that particular zone has made today, yesterday, and over the last seven days.

Comparing performance between days

Comparing performance between days

What does this all mean?

In a nutshell, it means that when you are browsing your websites you can quickly see which ad zones are performing well today, yesterday, and over the last week. I’ve found this to be a really useful tool when optimizing the ad positions of my Google AdSense ads, as it highlights which zones are under-performing and which zones are making the most money.

The great thing about this feature is that you can see the performance of each ad zone while you are browsing your website—you don’t need to log in to some external location to view your performance.

If you make money online using Google Adsense, I encourage you to try Google Publisher Toolbar out as it makes checking stats a breeze. Unfortunately, the extension is currently only available for Google Chrome but hopefully in the future we will see this available for other browsers such as Opera, Fireox, Safari, and Internet Explorer.

Kevin Muldoon is a Scottish webmaster and blogger who currently lives in South America. His labour of love is WordPress Mods; a blog which focuses on WordPress Themes, Plugins, Tutorials, News, Modifications.

13 Ways for Bloggers to Make Money with Advertising

Recently, I posted my “How bloggers make money MindMap” on Google+. I’ve had a few people ask for clarification around the Advertising section, and what all the options there mean. Here’s a summary:

1. Ad networks

These are services like AdSense and Chitika but also smaller or more local ones like NuffNang (which operates out of Australia and Asia). They can probably fit in some of the other categories as well, as they use different models to deliver their ads.

2. Cost Per Impression (CMP)

This is where you sell space for an ad and get paid based upon how many times it loads. Usually you get paid per 1000 impressions of the ad. The rate varies a lot, depending upon topic. There are lots of very low, “remnant” ad networks out there that pay you a pittance per impression, but if you have a higher value niche you can get better money. I’ve been paid up to $40 per 1000 impressions.

3. Cost Per Acquisition (CPA)

These ads pay out only when someone takes some kind of action after clicking the ad. The action might be a sale but could also be them signing up for a service, leaving an email address, etc.

4. Cost Per Click (CPC)

This is what AdSense used to be: every time someone clicked your ad, you’d get a certain amount. Now AdSense do a combination of CPC and CPM ads—they mix them in.

5. Sponsorships

This is what I do on ProBlogger. I sell ad spots on a month-by-month basis to sponsors for a fixed amount per month.

6. Text links

When you sell a text link on your site, the person buying the link is usually doing it for search engine ranking purposes. As a result, Google frowns on these and you could be risking your own search rankings by doing it. I don’t do this, as I see it as a little too risky, but some bloggers still do. Proceed with caution.

7. Pay per post

Also known as sponsored posts (advertorials), this is where you’re paid to review a product or to promote it in a post. Bloggers have varied ethical stances on this. Generally these days you are required to disclose that you’re being paid for the post.

8. Job board/classifieds

If you operate in a niche where people are buying and selling products or there are jobs that people want to advertise this can be a nice source of income. You need to be able to attract both advertisers and those they want to see the ads to make it work, though—so you need traffic and profile.

9. Newsletter advertising

This is a growing area for me. Some advertisers love to have their brand included in emails that you send to readers. We find bundling some onsite sponsorship banner ads with inclusions in our newsletter is a good way to sell space to advertisers.

Some ad networks (like AdSense) have ways of doing this but you can also sell sponsorships in your RSS feed directly. We use a WordPress plugin called RSS Footer to add an advertisement in the RSS feed of ProBlogger.

Here are a few more ideas that I should add to the mindmap…

Ad networks like Kontera offer these, and I think Chitika and a few others do, too. They are ads that appear in your posts, turning certain keywords into little ads (they usually change the color of the word and/or underline it to make it look like a link). When someone hovers over the word a little ad pops up with a description of a product that they can buy. Some bloggers find these ads convert well, but others find them intrusive.

12. Video advertising

If you publish videos, you might be interested in Youtube’s integration with AdSense, which allows you to earn money from ads that appear in your videos.

13. Image ads

Yesterday +Scott Fitzgerald alerted me to ImageSpace Media, who have a system that adds advertisements into your images. These are similar to the ads you might see in Youtube videos that pop up and that can be minimized.

There are of course other typs of ads and ads that fit into multiple categories above. What types do you use, if any?

Boost Your Blog #3: Optimize Your Advertising Page

Continuing our discussion of things you could be doing right now to improve your blog, today’s tip is:

3. Optimize your advertising page

When I mentioned I was writing this post on Google+ (connect with me here), Nick Roshon suggested auditing your advertising page.

If monetization through selling advertising is part of your business model, then this one should be a task you build into your regular schedule of pages to update.

Keep your advertising page up to date with the latest options for advertisers to advertise, update your stats so that advertisers know what reach they’ll have, and make sure that this page is prominent on your blog so that they can find it.

Do you have an advertising page on your blog?

Advertising Your Blog: Go Viral on a Blogger’s Budget

This guest post is by The Blog Tyrant.

Until now you’ve been relying on organic methods to grow your blog’s traffic—search engine rankings, guest posts, social media and word of mouth. But now you are thinking about stepping into the league of the the big boys (and girls) and spending some money on advertising your blog to the world.

Where do you start? Where do you find the money? How much do you spend? And where?

photo credit: x-ray delta one

In this article I am going to show you the ins and outs of advertising your blog on a budget. I am going to show you how to raise the money and then where to spend it to reap the most rewards. And trust me, if you haven’t thought about spending money to promote your blog you really should. The potential benefits are mind boggling. You might even go viral.

Why you should start spending money on blog advertising

I’m not sure how it started (it is probably Old Man Rowse’s fault) but bloggers seem to be afraid of spending money on advertising. For over a decade now there has been a real aversion to spending money and instead people focus on organic methods only.

Now don’t get me wrong, organic methods are super important. They are the backbone of your blog promotion. But adding some paid advertising is like adding adamantine to that backbone and becoming the Wolverine (non-comic readers please ignore). With just a little bit of cash you can totally change the speed at which your blog grows, the audience it reaches and the income you earn.

  • You can go viral more easily
    One of the major benefits to spending some money on advertising is that you can go viral so much easier. Normally you’d write some amazing content and hope it gets Tweeted by some big shot but with a little bit of money you can give it a major kick start. All the big guys do this.
  • You can laser target the right people
    Forget about all the tire kickers, with modern online advertising you are able to promote your blog only to the right people; people who are interested, ready to interact and possibly pay for something that you might end up selling.
  • You bypass the beginner stages
    We all know the beginner stages. The first few months where no one visits your blog and you have no subscribers. With a bit of advertising you can totally bypass those annoying months.

Like I said, you should never forget about the unpaid, organic ways of promoting your blog. You need to continue with them as you have always done. But why not try something new and spend a little bit of money on kick starting your blog and potentially launching it in to a whole new category of amazingness?

Proof is in the Fortune 500

If you still need proof you just need to turn your attention to the biggest companies in the world. Do you think they just rely on free methods of advertising? No. They spend millions of dollars promoting their websites, blogs, and products. Even their viral campaigns have a lot of money behind them.

“But we don’t have millions of dollars, Blog Tyrant!” I can hear you say.

Well, neither did they. Or, if they did, those millions are a proportional spending to what they earn. And that is all I am asking of you. Spend an amount of money that you can afford. But I’ll get more into that in a minute.

The strategy, advert and landing page

photo credit: sarihuella

Please keep in mind that these topics really are limitless. If a marketing student came on here they would be able to talk for hours about these matters. My goal is not to educate you on every possibility that you could think of but rather to give you an idea of where you can start.

1. The strategy

So, to develop a strategy for your blog advertising you need to do a few things:

  • Solidify your goal
    What is the goal of this campaign? Are you trying to reach a certain number of subscribers, sell a certain number of books, etc. Make sure this is very clear before you start.
  • Know your target market
    Who are you going to pitch to and why? Is it stay at home moms who are looking to make money online? Is it 18 year-old students who spend all day on Facebook? Who is your target market?
  • Research the competition
    Spend some time finding out what your competitors are doing. What is working and what is failing? Where are they advertising and how are they doing it? Try to get a very detailed picture about what is going on.
  • Find a point of difference
    You want to find a way to stand out from the rest, something that will make people sit up and pay attention. This point of difference is very important for the viral aspect.
  • Solve a problem
    The best viral campaigns solve a problem. It doesn’t matter how trivial the problem might seem, chances are it is being experienced by millions. If you can solve that problem in a new, clever or funny way and then kick-start it with some paid advertising you are well on your way to going viral.

The goal here is to come up with an idea about how you are going to talk to these people and get them interested in what you are doing or selling. You need to get a complete picture of the environment before you jump in.

2. The advert

Once you have developed some sort of strategy you need to take a look at the advert itself. These has several components to it and it can be in the form of an image, some text or a mixture of both.

  • Use a call to action
    Your advert needs to have a strong call to action. This is where you tell people what to do next. It is important because people often get confused or forgetful and without a specific command they will fizzle out. Show them what to do next.
  • Show social proof
    Social proof is where you alleviate people’s anxiety by showing them that other people are doing this as well. No one likes to be first, make sure they know they aren’t. Amazon do this really well.
  • Develop scarcity
    Your product isn’t limitless. This offer isn’t going to go on forever. To encourage people to interact with your advert you need to make it seem scarce. This is extremely important for conversions because people hate to miss out on things. Here is how I use scarcity to get a huge amount of comments.

If you aren’t very good at crafting ad copy you should check out a lot of resources. If you are really crap at it you need to hire someone to do it for you. Small mistakes can mean huge losses of interest and/or money.

3. The landing page

We are not sending all this traffic to the homepage of your blog. Nope. We are sending it to a specifically designed landing page that is built perfectly to deal with these new visitors. It needs to be specific and it needs to address all of their concerns. It is here that you will do things like:

  • Pitch the idea and the benefits
    Tell them why they are here and what the benefits are. Now, I said benefits for a reason. We are not telling them about the features of whatever it is you are advertising. We want these people to know what will happen to their lives if they get involved. Will they make more money, sleep better at night, or progress towards enlightenment? Tell them the benefits.
  • Reiterate all the advert copy
    You want to reassure people that they are in the right place and reiterate what your advert promised. This is very important if you want to keep the people on the page. Make sure they know they are in the right place doing the right thing.
  • Give something
    Before you can get you need to give. So give them something free. It might be a video or an eBook, it doesn’t matter. The act of giving helps to establish trust, good karma and gives you an opportunity to hit them with a little bit more sales speak. Increase the pressure so to speak.
  • Convert your goal (virus)
    It is here that you need to convert the visitor so that they do whatever it is you want them to do. If you want them to sign up to your newsletter make sure that is strong. If you want them to just share on Twitter or Facebook then tell them and make sure they can do it easily. It is from here that you want the virus to start happening.

Your landing page is the thing that starts it all off. It needs to be tweaked, refined, changed, and improved constantly. Everything you’ll ever need to know about landing pages can be found right here on Copyblogger.

Where to advertise your blog

photo credit: Daveness_98

Now we need to get into some of the fun stuff. Where exactly should you advertise your blog? What works best? What is cheapest? Over the years I have tried all of these methods with varying levels of success. Hopefully I can save you all some time and money.

1. StumbleUpon Ads (Paid Discovery)

StumbleUpon Ads, which is now called Paid Discovery, is basically a platform where you pay for other Stumble users to view your page. Let me be clear from the outset, this does not work for every niche. In fact, some of the results I’ve had have been dreadful. But, if you do it right, you can get those paid viewers to give it a thumbs up and potentially send it on the hundreds of thousands of other users … for free.

How does it work?
Basically you just sign up, pay them $20 minimum and then show them which page on your site you want them to send traffic to. You can also set the demographic (age, sex, location, etc.) of the people or you can let them choose the best ones.

What works well?
The best thing to use StumbleUpon for is super cheesy link bait articles and interesting photos. Stumble is all about sharing so you have to find something that is both interesting but generic enough that everyone would want to read it. I have had health and fitness articles get

Check out the StumbleUpon Ads Blog, Darren’s tips on running a Stumble campaign and a good discussion from the Warrior Forum about the ads.

2. Facebook Ads

Years and years ago Google AdWords was the best platform. They allowed anything, you could get really cruddy landing pages approved and make lots of money really easily. Then they made things harder. Well, Facebook Ads are a bit like that old AdWords except they are now getting more strict and controlled. If you want to get in on the action with Facebook, now is the time.

How does it work?
Facebook Ads are done through your own personal page by clicking Ads in the left side bar and then following the prompts. Basically you just create a text or text and image advert and select a target group or set of keywords. You have much greater control over who you target as Facebook collects a lot of information about its users. You then choose whether you want to pay per impressions or per click (perhaps we can talk in the comments about which is best) and then they invoice you once week.

What works well?
Facebook Ads work really well for anything that targets young people. High school kids. Why? Because these guys aren’t completely blind to ads yet and they love to click on things that will help them through their high school days. I have also had success targeting women looking to save money but, for some reason, I haven’t done well with the male demographic.

Typically you want to send traffic to a well designed Facebook landing page as this allows them to like it and then send it on to their friends. Also, if you send people to an outside website you might get the warning “You are leaving Facebook” which can put people off.

Basically, if you can design a page or site that promotes something that is valuable and to do with pop culture you will do well with Facebook. Remember, people are paranoid about what will show up on their wall so they won’t look at anything even slightly confrontational or iffy.

Some great tips from All Facebook about how to improve your campaigns, an interesting step by step guide from the world’s most evil blogger, a good first time try and more goodness from Zac.

3. Google AdWords

Google AdWords is, for those who don’t know, the reverse side to Google AdSense. This is the part where you pay to appear in the paid section of Google’s search results, or on the ads that appear in people’s websites and blogs. It is the largest online advertising method and is extremely well evolved.

How does it work?
You sign up for an account, add your bank details and then develop a campaign. This means doing all the regular things like creating an advert, setting a daily budget (important), setting your keywords or target sites and your locale. Always run a cheap $5 campaign first to get the feel for it and learn some of the downfalls. There is a lot of room for error with AdWords as the speed at which you can spend money is immense.

What works well?
In my experience local stuff works really well. If you want to target downtown Melbourne in Australia you can do it. This is extremely good news for people selling things from a local shop or to specific group of people. Football shirts, for example, can be targeted by city.

Landing pages, squeeze pages, affiliate pages, etc. won’t get approved so don’t even bother. If you want to sell a product through AdWords you better make sure you have a whole site of useful information before trying to apply. The good news is that most blogs already have that.

AdWords is not great for going viral but it is very good for targeting people ready to buy. Don’t bother paying for ads on people’s websites, just go for search results. Those people are looking for solutions to their problems and have their wallets ready. If you can solve a problem quickly, Adwords will work well.

Shoemoney has a good one here about an arrow ad, a great post about improving your quality score, something about increasing conversions and a great Adwords guide.

4. Private Advertising

Private advertising is where you contact other blogs or websites and pay for a spot on their site. For example, all those small square buttons on the right hand side of ProBlogger are either private ads or affiliate programs. Yaro also sells space all over his blog.

How does it work?
Sometimes these blogs will be partnered with an ad network that does all the deals and payments for them. This can get expensive. Other than that, you simply send them an email and ask for a spot. Generally these prices are fixed but you should always try to negotiate because often they are pretty keen to just fill a spot. Try coming down on the price 40% and then bargaining up if needed.

What works well?
Directly relevant is the key here. If you are running a viral campaign about becoming a millionaire then look to get ads on pages, posts and sites that are directly relevant to that. Why waste money appearing on pages about dogs if your product is about Porches? Keep your advert simple (no flashing rubbish) and to the point. Ask people a question or introduce your scarcity right away and make sure your landing page welcomes them directly from that blog.

What doesn’t work well?
Don’t ever pay for in-post links because Google will ban you as soon as they find out. Sidebar advertising is about as far as I would go in this regard.

For this section I just want to give you an article on how to haggle. It’s where its at.

Raising the money for paid advertising

photo credit: Ed Yourdon

So how do you raise the money for paid advertising? Well, it is as simple as you want to make it. And it is all about reinvestment.

Reinvesting for advertising

Remember I talk about my millionaire uncle who told me to have various projects on the go? Well he also told me to reinvest part of everything you earn. You want to set aside 5% to 20% of everything you earn to put back in the business and part of that goes on advertising.

So, if you make $100 writing a freelance post you should put aside your tax, your savings, your spending amount, and your business reinvestment amount. It takes a lot of mental toughness but you have to (just like with tax) imagine that part of that cash is not yours, it belongs to the business.

This allows you to advertise and actually grow your business further. Soon you’ll be getting more $100 jobs or more authority and as such be able to raise that fee to $200 and above. This is how advertising works. If you can go viral with clever campaigns you will find that you will be able to grow your authority, Google rankings and sales figures all at once and the momentum from that campaign can carry through for a long time.

Tax deduction
Remember that almost everything you spend in the course of earning money is a tax deduction. Advertising is usually included in that so make sure you keep records and reciepts and talk to your accountant about it. The more money you can get off your next bill the better.

Will you spend some money?

I’d really like to know whether you are open to spending money on your blog. Have you done it before? Will you try it after reading this post? Please leave a comment and let me know, especially if you have any stories, experiences, or advice to offer. I would love to make this comment thread a resource-rich stop for anyone wanting to advertise their blog on a budget.

Lastly, if you aren’t going to ever spend money on advertising your blog, why not? I find that really interesting.

The Blog Tyrant is 25 years old, works from home full time and sells blogs for $20,000 plus. Subscribe to his feed for a free eBook on increasing your email subscribers by 120% overnight or follow him on Facebook and Twitter.