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WidgetBucks Update – Speeds Up Loading Time, Removes Backlink and Removes Non English Sites From Network

Logo3-1WidgetBucks today emailed publishers using their system with a note to let them know that they’ve been working on loading times for WidgetBucks ad units. This has been one of the major complaints of publishers about the system.

The upside is that they’ve found a way to decrease loading times for publishers – the downside is that you need to update the code on your blog for the changes to come into effect (see below for instructions).

The other benefit of the update that they didn’t actually mention in the email is that the new code no longer has a backlink to WidgetBucks in it (something that has been criticized by many). Andy Beard has more on these changes and makes some suggestions on other changes they need to make.

Here’s how they said to make the update:

You will need to update code of your existing widgets for the speedier load times to take affect on your site, blog or network. Know that changing the code will not impact earnings for any of your widgets.

Here are the two steps you’ll need to follow:

1. Sign-in to http://widgetbucks.com and go to My Widgets

2. For each active widget, simply edit and re-copy the code block into your site or blog (the same steps you went through when you created the widgets originally)

Update to WidgetBucks Policies Regarding Non English Sites

Also announced today by WidgetBucks is that they’ve updated their Policies to exclude Non English sites in their program.

They explain:

“As we’ve continued to evaluate impression, click and conversion data during WidgetBucks’ first 3+ weeks, we’ve observed that a majority of non-English language sites are delivering a consistently low conversion rate. With our merchants and advertisers predominantly based in the U.S., this is not a surprising phenomenon. And as an advertising network, we have a responsibility to our merchants to deliver quality traffic that has the highest likelihood of conversion to sale.”

This is going to hurt for non english sites and already I’ve heard complaints – understandably so. Some have complained that they’ve seen good conversions on their non english sites. My response would be that by ‘conversion’ I suspect WidgetBucks is not talking about the ads getting clicked – but about the ads converting for advertisers. I suspect that the reason for this change is that advertisers complained that they were paying out for traffic that didn’t actually buy from them.

It’s a pity that WidgetBucks didn’t foresee this problem and learn from the pain of other ad networks who had the same issue.

PS: I’d be interested to hear whether others are noticing faster loading times. My initial feelings are that it’s marginally faster – but still slower than I’d like. I wondered whether it’s my location impacting speed and have put in an email to WidgetBucks to see.

WidgetBucks Review

Earn $$ with WidgetBucks!It has been a bit over two weeks since the new advertising network WidgetBucks announced it’s launch (here’s where I posted my first impression review of WidgetBucks) and as promised here is my update on how it has been performing for me.

For those of you unfamiliar with WidgetBucks – here’s a sample ad unit to remind you.

I’ve been testing it in a couple of places and to this point have found it to have had mixed success. A few comments:

The Good Stuff about WidgetBucks

  • All of the testing that I’ve been doing with WidgetBucks ad units have been on product related blogs where I think they have a much greater chance of performing well than on blog with other topics.
  • I’ve been running it in a ‘split test’ with Chitika ads in one position (ie 50% of the time I display a Chitika ad unit and 50% a WidgetBucks unit) and to this point the WidgetBucks ad is earning more on a CPM basis than the Chitika unit (it’s still early days on that test though). The CTR is higher on the WidgetBucks ad but the click value is higher on the Chitika ads.
  • I’ve also done split tests with AdSense and found that WidgetBucks out performed them also.
  • As a result of all this – I’m earning more with WidgetBucks than I would have with ads in the same positions as with either Chitika and AdSense (and considering that they are my two biggest earners that’s pretty good).
  • I suspect CTR is higher because of the animation in the ads which draws the eye to them.
  • WidgetBucks have been adding new ad unit sizes and categories. They’ve also announced that they’ll be adding more options in the weeks ahead.
  • Reporting is good (although having the delay/auditing does make it difficult to test and tweak ads)

The Bad Stuff about WidgetBucks

  • Despite WidgetBucks staff commenting that their ads load fast – I still see them loading slowly on my blogs. They are generally the last thing to load on my pages (which is good in that they let other things load first) but it can take 1-3 seconds for them to load (some report it as being longer). This isn’t really good enough.
  • Contextual Targeting doesn’t seem to have worked for me very well. I tested an ad unit in the contextual mode on my blog and it gave reasonable results in that the ads were on cameras and the site was about cameras – but I’ve rarely seen more specific targeting. What I mean by this is that if I have a page about a particular model of camera I’ve never seen a WidgetBucks ad actually served that mentions that camera. I think if they were more targeted contextually the CTR would be significantly higher – the ads would probably convert better for advertisers too.
  • Ads dominate pages too much for my liking. While they do give the option to use different color schemes, even the most subtle colors make it difficult to blend ads into a page. While this probably helps with CTR it isn’t great for usability – particularly with all the animation going on. While you can easily have 2-3 ad units of AdSense or Chitika on a page to run too many WidgetBucks ads on a page would probably be quite overwhelming for readers.
  • In my first impression review I said that the affiliate program sucked – they improved it which is great – however they don’t give any indication of what those earnings are until the first week of the following month. It’d be great to have some more immediate indications of not only the total number of referrals but how it’s performing. This would also give me a clearer indication whether others are earning good money from WidgetBucks.

So on an earnings from I like WidgetBucks – but on a design and reader usability front I still have some issues which hold me back from using them more.

Again – it’s worth emphasizing that different ad options will work differently on different blogs. WidgetBucks ads work well for me on product related blogs (as do Chitika) – while AdSense seems to work better for me on non product related blogs. The key is to test test test and see what works best for you.

I should also say that it’s another couple of weeks until payments come through from WidgetBucks. I don’t have any doubt that they’ll pay as promised – but while the initial earnings from it look pretty decent I can’t really review it fully until I see some cash hit my paypal account!

What’s Your WidgetBucks Review?

Have you tried WidgetBucks yet? If not click here to sign up. If so – what do you think now that you’ve had a couple of weeks to test them?

Are 125 x 125 pixel Ads Right for Your Blog?

125-Pixel-AdsOver the past 6 to 12 months the 125 x 125 pixel advertisement has emerged onto the blogging scene as a fairly common means of advertising.

I don’t know who did it first – but there are hundreds (if not thousands) of blogs using it. Some of the more prominent ones include TechCrunch, Read/WriteWeb, CopyBlogger and John Chow – but there are many hundreds others. In fact over at b5media we have them on all of our 250+ blogs.

Why 125 Pixel Ads Are Worth Considering

125 x 125 ads are an attractive option for bloggers and advertisers on numerous fronts:

  • Bloggers tend to like them because they fit well into sidebars (either in a single vertical line or side by side)
  • They give the option to sell multiple ad units in the space often reserved for one larger ad (four 125 x 125 ads fit nicely into either the position of a skyscraper or large rectangle ad). Generally selling 4 smaller smaller ads will bring in more than selling one larger one
  • Many medium to smaller level advertisers like them because they are cheaper than a larger ad and they can have their ad appear on multiple blogs for the same price as a larger one on one blog.
  • Increasingly affiliate programs are offering publishers 125 pixel ads – these can be run in unsold ad spots so that they can be monetized even when the full stock of ads are not sold.

Should you run 125 x 125 ads on your blog? Balancing the Arguement

There are some good reasons to experiment with 125 pixel ads – however it’s not all plain sailing.

There are a number of things to consider before moving to this format:

  • They work better in some industries than others – in my limited experience of selling advertising I’ve found that each industry has it’s own preference when it comes to ad unit size. I was chatting to an advertising agency last week about them buying a banner ad on one of my blogs and when I suggested 125 pixel ads there was silence on the other end of the phone. The rep had never sold a 125 pixel ad – his industry dealt almost exclusively in large banners, skyscrapers and rectangle ads. 125 pixel ads tend to be something that tech, web 2.0 type advertisers prefer – perhaps it’s expanding to other industries – but many still operate in more traditional sizes.
  • Mainstream advertisers are still catching up – similarly, I’ve found that even in the tech web 2.0 space, many larger advertisers prefer more traditional ad sizes and some are not set up to sell anything else.
  • It takes more work to sell four ads than one – While selling four smaller ads can bring in more revenue than selling one larger one – there are more costs involved in selling four – particularly when you consider your own time in making the sale and administering the ad. This is of course if you can sell any ads at all. Selling one ad and having three empty spots can be quite disheartening.

How to Use 125 pixel Ads on Your Blog

A few pieces of advice for selling 125 pixel ads:

Have some filler ads in reserve – if you set aside four ad 125 ad units in your design then be prepared to have some unsold inventory for periods of time. There are a number of options here:

  • you could run an affiliate program (if you can find one that fits with your niche)
  • you could run an AdSense ad here (they offer 125 sized ads (although a text ad might look odd next to other image based ads)
  • you could run a Chitika ad unit (again they might look odd)
  • another option is to run an internal ad (an ad that points to different parts of your blog/site)
  • you could run an ad swap here – arrange for another blogger in your niche to run their ad there in return for you running one on their blog (to swap traffic)

Prepare an ‘advertise here’ ad - another option for a filler ad is to prepare an ad that advertisers the opportunity to advertise in that position on your blog. Point this ad to an ‘Advertise page’ on your blog which has information on the benefits of advertising on your blog. It can also be worth to have another link or small ad near these ads that points to the same page for when all ads are sold out.

Look at who is advertising elsewhere in your niche - if you’re struggling to find advertisers for your blog a good idea is to keep track of who is advertising on other blogs and websites in your niche – particularly those advertising using 125 pixel ads. If they are willing to advertise on your competitors blogs then they are likely to consider yours too.

Positioning is Everything – on my old template here at ProBlogger I was forced to have my 125 pixel ads below the fold. I did this reluctantly because there was no other room for them and was keen to get them up in a more prominent position with the redesign (in fact it was one of the main reasons I did the redesign). Having them below the fold gave a poor conversion for advertisers which resulted in being able to charge less and struggling to get advertisers to renew their ads. Moving them up the page helped significantly.

Consider your Competing Ads and Affiliate Programs – one thing to carefully consider is how many other ads and affiliate programs to include on your blog. This is worth considering on three fronts:

  1. Too many ad units on your blog can be detrimental on two fronts. Firstly it can crowd out the content and disillusion regular readers while putting off new visitors to your blog. Some blogs have so many ads that their content is pushed way down the page and effectively hidden.
  2. Too many ads on a page dilutes the conversion that advertisers get. If an ad is one of four they have a much higher chance of being noticed and clicked on than if the ad is one of ten.
  3. Some blogger miss out on being able to sell ads by running affiliate programs or AdSense on their blogs. The problem with running an affiliate program on a blog is that the program you are promoting via that program might decide that they don’t need to advertise on your blog. This might be a good thing if the affiliate program pays out more than the advertising would have – but it could also be costly. Running AdSense on a blog where you’re trying to sell ads directly can also hurt you because in some cases it’ll be much cheaper for the advertiser to advertise on your blog using AdSense. Remember AdSense takes a cut of what the advertiser pays – so you could potentially be losing out quite a bit. This all needs to be monitored and you need to do some analysis of which monetization technique is best for you.

Feature Advertisers - one way to add some value to those advertising on your blog using 125 pixel ad units (or any type of advertising) is to give them a little extra attention by periodically featuring advertisers on your blog in a post. Disclose what you’re doing so that readers know that you’re highlighting paying advertisers – but do it both to give your advertisers extra value (increasing the chances of them renewing their ad next month) and as a means of attracting new advertisers.

Have Your Say on 125 Pixel Ads

What do you think about 125 pixel ads? Do you run them on your blog? Why or Why not?

WidgetBucks Update on Reporting Delays

Earlier in the week the WidgetBucks launched (read our first impression review here) with a fair bit of fanfare around the blogosphere.

Since it was announced I’ve had a number of readers ask me why they are not seeing any income in their reports despite there being clicks on the ads (it is a pay per click ad system). I shot WidgetBucks an email on this and the response was as I’d expected – they have an auditing process in place that means there is a 48-72 hour delay in seeing the actual income figure reported.

Why does it take so long? – The reason given is that it takes time to get reports back from their advertisers .

This is the same problem that most similar advertising programs have in one way or another. Chitika only updates all figures once every 24 hours and then audits them at the end of a month (reducing the earnings), AuctionAds have a delayed system too (where you see clicks on ads immediately but it can be days to see what you’ve earned on a given day as a result of it being based upon Auctions that happen over time).

As a blogger I find this frustrating. We’ve become used to systems like AdSense which show us not only impressions and clicks very quickly after they happen – but also the income earned. Of course AdSense is run by Google who have some serious resources to throw at the problem.

As someone who has talked with a lot of these advertising networks personally I also understand the challenge that they have. They need to balance the needs with publishers and the relationships that they have with advertisers (and the systems that the advertisers need to work with). After all – if the advertisers don’t get looked after then the whole system falls down.

I’m not sure what the solution is – but hopefully WidgetBucks can shorten the waiting time in conjunction with their advertising partners – or develop a predictive system that gives publishers an indication of how much they’ve earned to speed up the process. Otherwise I suspect that some publishers will become frustrated with it and give up.

How is WidgetBucks Performing?

I’ve been testing WidgetBucks on one of my blogs and while I’m yet to see any earnings reports I’m pleased to see that their CTR is very similar than other ads in the same position. I’ve rotated it through a split test with Chitika and AdSense in the same position and see both Chitika and WidgetBucks outperforming AdSense on a CTR basis in that position. The real test will be to compare earnings figures. I suspect these results will vary considerably from blog to blog and even based upon ad positioning.

WidgetBucks – A New Advertising Option for Your Blog

Earn $$ with WidgetBucks!I’ve just heard about a brand new advertising option for bloggers by the name of WidgetBucks that is launching as we speak. I’m yet to test it live on my sites as it is brand new – but from my initial looking over of the service I’d say that it has promise. The nearest thing that I could compare it to would be Chitika eMiniMalls as it is an interactive ad unit that flashes through different purchasing options for readers for different products. Here’s how one of their ad units looks (there’s another at the base of this post):


Widgets come in a range of sizes and can be customized to different colors. They will also let you target 13 different categories (each category has sub categories) if you choose to manually set them – but will let you run it in a ‘contextual’ mode (called ‘MerchSense’).

How Do You Make Money?

You make money on a ‘per click’ (CPC) basis and WidgetBucks claim that those who’ve tested them are getting $3-$6 CPM. Payment is via Check but you need to hit $50 before you trigger your first payment.

$25 SignUp Bonus

In fact this is actually easier than it might seem as they start every publisher off with $25 in their account as a signup bonus so all you need to earn is another $25 to get a $50 check.

WidgetBucks will allow you to run as many ads on a page as you like and you can use this system with AdSense according to their FAQ.

Tracking is on a Widget by Widget basis and the reports page looks pretty good.

What I like about WidgetBucks

Keep in mind that I’m yet to test it out and am writing this as a first impression review

  • I like the ad units – they are very clickable
  • There is a good range of colors and ad unit sizes to choose from
  • Reporting looks good
  • Reported CPM is reasonable considering you can run multiple ad units and other ad systems on your page
  • This strikes me as being a good system on ‘product related blogs’

What I’d like to see Added

  • My experience with these types of ads shows me that the more targeted the ads are to your content the better. If you’re writing about a particular model of MP3 player you want to see an ad for that MP3 player served. When Chitika made this available in their system my earnings skyrocketed – I hope that WidgetBucks has a way to do this shortly.
  • Referral system (which I’m using in this post) – it pays $5 when the person you refer earns their first $25. While this is ok – it is nothing in comparison to other referral systems that payout a % of the earnings of those you refer. While there is some incentive to get some sign ups there’s little incentive to help those you sign up to increase their earnings once they are signed up. update – great news, they’ve taken notice of this complaint and have increased this to 10% of earnings for 10% (something I’m proud to say that I suggested to them!).
  • The smallest ad unit is 468×60 – while the 5 units are pretty good to choose from it’ll be good to see if they add more later – particularly smaller ones.
  • I’ve never really been a fan of ads that have lots of animation. These could be annoying for some blog readers.

I’m sure I’ll discover more that I like and dislike about WidgetBucks as I test it more – but overall it looks like a system worth testing out to see if it works well on your blog or not. I’ll be giving it a go in the coming days and look forward to hearing how you find it too.


What do you think of WidgetBucks?

How Much Screen Real Estate do You Dedicate to Ads?

Serverdome has a good little survey of some blogs about blogging and how much of the space on their blog above the fold is dedicated to advertising.

Like I commented on the post – I’d love to see them do the same thing with the 10 Ten Blogs on Technorati’s Popular list – to see how blogs that are not about blogging do it as a comparison would be interesting.

I also noted that the banner ad at the top of ProBlogger only serves ads around 50% of the time. At other times I rotate banners pointing people to different parts of this site (in actual fact we were about to move that position to 100% internal banners to give sidebar sponsors exclusive run of the site and have just done so). I guess they are some sort of a combination of internal navigation/ads.

I’d be interested to hear how much screen real estate you dedicate to ads on your blog?

See the mini study at Serverdome.org

AuctionAds give $25 to New Publishers

AuctionadsAuctionAds have announced a bonus of $25 for new publishers signing up to use their system.

Sign up and your balance will automatically receive the $25 without you having to do anything. They do have a minimum payout of $50 so you’ll need to implement their ads to reach that mark before you get your money but it’s nice little incentive to get you using their system.

If you’ve already signed up with AuctionAds you will still get your $25 bonus if you’ve not had a payout previously.

AuctionAds Update Their Look

Auctionads-1AuctionAds has done an update in a number of areas of what they are offering publishers with what they describe as a new ‘Web 2.0 Ad Creative’ (new colors and a new design – see the example to the left).

They’ve also optimized ad images (much improved) and have updated their hardware which will improve uptime of the network.

I continue to hear from some readers that AuctionAds is performing particularly well for them – it does vary from niche to niche but if you have a topic that has a good second hand market attached to it where people sell products on eBay it can convert very well.

If you haven’t tried it yet signup today and get $5 for just trying it as a ProBlogger reader.

Find a Sponsor for Your Blog

Building-A-Better-Blog-2Today’s task in the 31 Day Project will appeal more to those who are looking to make money from their blogs. If that’s not you – there are plenty of other daily tasks in previous days of the project that you might like to repeat. This task might also be easier for more established blogs than new ones – although it’s not impossible for a new blog to land a sponsor so give it a go!

Today your task is to go on a hunt for a sponsor for your blog.

You might not think that your blog is big enough to find sponsors (and you might be right) but even if you’re unsuccessful in finding one you will hopefully learn a thing or two about finding sponsors and might even start a relationship that could be fruitful at some point in the future.

Getting a sponsor for your blog (or selling an advertising spot directly without relying upon an ad network like AdSense) is a great thing for numerous reasons – not the least of which is that you cut out the middleman and don’t have to share the revenue with a company like Google!

It’s not always easy to land a sponsor – but it’s a skill that bloggers wanting to make money from their blogs should learn – even in the early days.

A few tips for finding a sponsor:

1. Before you go out and start asking companies to sponsor your blog read these two postsFinding Advertisers for your Blog and 10 Ways to make your Blog more Attractive to Advertisers. A big part of finding an advertiser is to get your blog in order first and to be prepared for what they might ask you.

2. If you have a smaller blog and haven’t had a sponsor before don’t aim for the stars straight away. It might be worth starting out by approaching smaller retailers, websites or companies in your niche and see if they’d be interested in some sort of partnership rather than aiming for the very biggest ones right up front. I did this a couple of months after starting my first digital camera blog and emailed 10 online digital camera sites to see if they’d be interested in advertising. 3 of the 10 bought small ads on my site (I think it was for something around $15-$25 a month). It wasn’t a lot of cash (and I didn’t have a lot of traffic to send to them) but I learned so much and made a little money in the process.

3. Target Potential Advertiser Carefully - before you start approaching potential sponsors think carefully about your blog and the topic that you write about and about who might want to reach your readers. Brainstorm a list of companies and websites that might fit the bill.

4. Wondering who to approach? Why not check out who is advertising on other websites and blogs in your niche. Quite often they’ll also be open to running a similar campaign with you.

5. If a sponsor isn’t sure whether to go with you or not – give them a discounted or free trial. I’ve done this a number of times and found it beneficial on three levels:

  • It gives the sponsor a taste of what your blog can offer
  • It can help get your readers used to the idea of advertising on your blog
  • I’ve found that having one advertiser (even if it’s a free one) can actually attract other advertisers (or at least make selling sponsorships easier)
  • You’ll learn a lot by getting the ad up, finding out how it converts and at a discounted rate you’ll even earn a few dollars

6. Find an Angle and Sell it - don’t just email a potential sponsor asking if they want to advertise with you – sell yourself. If your blog has a loyal community of core readers then sell this, if you get a lot of search engine traffic for certain keywords that the advertiser would want to have, sell it to them on this, if you have an audience who is researching to make purchases – this is a key selling point and if you’ve never had an advertiser before on your blog – turn this into a selling point. You need to give a potential sponsor or advertiser a reason to align their brand with yours.

7. If you can’t attract anyone – run a campaign of your own. Pick a part of your blog that you want to drive traffic to (perhaps a post, or a category, or a subscribe page) and develop a button or banner ads to drive traffic to it. I’m doing this here at the moment in the 468 x 60 banner position here at ProBlogger at the moment (there’s a number of different campaigns running there including some internal ones). The beauty of this is that you can test your conversion rates on different positions. Run a heat map test and you’ll learn a lot.

8. If you do manage to sign up a sponsor give sponsors as much value as possible. Do everything you can to over deliver on the campaign. Announce the sponsorship on the blog with a post, mention it any other newsletters or lists that you have, position it high on the page, consider throwing in a bonus text link in another part of your blog etc. The more traffic you can deliver to your sponsor the more chance of getting them to renew.