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Some Assembly Required – Case Study

Some-Assembly-RequiredThe following post was submitted by Thom Singer as part of the ProBlogger Case Study Series

A year ago I attended a business lunch where the topic was blogging. I like to write, and was awaiting release of my first book, but did not know about blogs. The panelists spoke about how easy it was, how popular blogs were, the benefits of SEO and the ease of getting started. Later that night I started “Some Assembly Required: The Biz Dev and Networking Blog“. I used Blogger.com as my platform solely because that was what the panelist had recommended (and because it was free).

A year later I have learned a few things:

1. Traffic is hard to get. But with over 100 regular readers, I feel okay about my blog. If there are tricks to jumping to the next level, I am still looking for them.

2. Spam comments were ridiculous. They drove me crazy until I turned on the verification. People abuse blogs, and hide behind anonymity….that is bad.

3. SEO to my blog and my website went through the roof because I post 4-6 times a week. That has been a huge perk. Search engines like fresh content and regular posting is the key.

4. I have made some new friends with other bloggers who write on similar business topics. Bloggers have their own version of social networking. These people have become valuable resources for me and my career (outside of the book and the blog)

5. I have sold copies of my book to many who read my blog. (That makes me happy). That was the purpose of starting the blog…and so that part is successful. It also is an interesting topic when I do speaking events around my book.

6. It takes real dedication to keep a blog current. If you are not posting regularly, your blog becomes stale. A blogger must be committed to posting daily (or close to daily). People have so many choices they will tune you out fast if you are not providing new material.

7. After a year, I am still “new” to blogging. To gain real traction takes a long time. I hope to see the regular readership and traffic go up in the second year. I find I still have a lot to learn.

8. Sites like Problogger and the Blog Herald are important tools to read. They helped me learn without having to make some of the common mistakes. They also inspire me to keep going with their reports of others who drive their traffic, monitize their blogs, etc….

9. Blogger.com is not as flexible as I would like, but it would be hard to move at this point, so I just have to deal with the limitations.

10. Blogging has turned out to be a therapeutic experience. Writing everyday allows me to teach, vent and / or clarify thoughts. I am more focused at work and at home because of my regular writing.

The Story of Colblindor – Blog Case Study

Color-BlindThe following post was submitted by Daniel Fluck as part of the ProBlogger Case Study Series.

I am reading some blogs about programming for quite a while now but never ever thought about starting my own blog. Until two month ago where I stumbled across a talk of Robert Scoble at the LIFT06 conference in Geneva. His talk was about what blogging really is and what you can achieve through it. This fascinated me immediately. Deciding in this very moment that I have to join the blog community I didn’t have a clue on its implications.

As being a retired programmer I was keen on setting up my own blog site, which turned out to be the first hurdle to take. My first post was on February 15th 2006 on a programming topic. The second one the day after on some completely different topic. After a few days of “blogging what comes to me mind” I came across ProBlogger.net which taught me differently.

As a first conclusion I deleted all my posts and started from scratch. It took me quite a while to figure out on which area I want to settle my blog. The niche topic “Color Blindness viewed through Colorblind Eyes” made the race. In the beginning I asked myself: Is there really enough to write about and will I still be writing on this topic in one year? But this thoughts were gone after a few days of daily posting and browsing the internet.

The first days were quite difficult to manage because I still had to learn so much, adjust my blog site to my needs and in the meantime try to post some good stuff. Technorati, statistic services, the blogger community, blogs to keep track of and browsing the web for new ideas and maybe even some news. I am still struggling with this. It takes so much time and usually I am not done with my post in only fifteen minutes. And as I want to post every day this is still a big effort to me.

Right now I am redesigning my page. Up to now I used one of the standard themes but my ambitions grew. And as the design has to look “great” and reflect my topic this takes some more days of work.

After a bit more than one month of blogging I am addicted. At the moment my investment is around four to six hours a day. In return I count between ten and twenty visits each day. Some readers are coming back once in a while. Others just end up at my page through a google search and are not always satisfied with what they find.

As being a blogging-greenhorn I have these two questions:

Where do I find readers? I am searching the blogosphere for a few keywords and started commenting here and there. But how can I find good blogs from others and readers who might be interested in my topic? The top 100 are just to busy. I would prefer some blogs on niche topics with good content, but it’s hard to find them. Usually they are writing just about everything and that’s not what I am interested in. Is there maybe a niche top blog site or something like that?

Do you write in advance? As described above it takes me everyday quite some time to get my article posted. Is there a good technique about writing? Let’s say: I try to write a pillar article early in the week and some small ones ahead as well. Then everyday I can decide which one of those to post or get some news up on my blog. Or is writing every day a must?

For me this blogging experience already payed off. I learned so much the last weeks. And as I am not a native english speaker (I suppose you could tell) it pushes my language and writing skills a lot.

Robert Scoble’s talk – it started blogging experience.
Colblindor – my blog, if you like to visit.

Is Your Niche Nichy Enough? A Tale of Two Adsense Blogs

The following post was submitted by Lindsay B as part of the ProBlogger Case Study Series

Nothing is certain in the blogging-for-profit world. It’s hard to predict which sites will take off. Sometimes the blog you funnel twenty hours a week into has mediocre earnings. Sometimes the dinky little blog you spend an hour a month on suddenly starts paying the mortgage every month. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could pick winners from the start? Well, maybe we can…

By now, you probably know pro-blogging success (AKA making money) depends on finding the right niche. Focus on a specific topic, and you draw readers interested in researching and potentially buying something related to that topic. Whether you’re into affiliate programs or pay-per-click advertising, it’s easy to capitalize on a niche audience.

So, the question isn’t about whether you should be blogging about a niche; it’s about whether or not your niche is… nichy enough. Is it too big? Too broad? How do you know for sure? If you’re not earning what you think you should be earning, your problem may be you’ve chosen too general a niche. Let me use two of my blogs as examples of what works well and what (alas) works less well.

Home Improvement Ideas (henceforth known by the unassuming title of Blog 1)

In this blog, I write about all sorts of products and trends for the home, everything from granite countertops and wood floors to remote control range hoods and jetted bathtubs. I post at least twice a day, and it’s coming up on 1,000 entries. I put a lot of effort into finding neat things to write about, and many of my posts have received links from high profile gadget and luxury blogs. Despite that, the blog receives less traffic and makes less money than another blog of mine…

Fireplace Lowdown (henceforth known as Blog 2)

I started this blog on a whim because I’d recently researched gas fireplaces and had some potential content. Because this was an on-a-whim blog, I didn’t want to bother with a domain name and all that, so I set it up on Typepad, where I already had an account. I started posting once or twice a week, and it recently broke 200 entries (math whizs in the audience will note this is significantly fewer posts than Blog 1 features). Blog 2 hasn’t exactly been a link magnet, yet this small blog gets more traffic and makes more money than Blog 1.

Let’s take a look at why. I’m the first to admit there’s room for improvement with ad placement in both blogs (writer != designer), but that wouldn’t change the fact that Blog 2 gets more traffic than Blog 1, even though both are about the same age and Blog 1 has five times as many posts. so, what’s the big difference?
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LeftLane News – Blog Case Study

Header 02On September 26th, 2005, I started a new weblog called Leftlane News. It’s a blog all about cars and the automotive industry. It targets car enthusiasts, thus the name ‘left lane’ news. (Sorry Darren, I know in Australia the fast lane is on the right side.)

Anyhow, the site just turned six months and the traffic growth has been nearly exponential. There have been a few days where I’ve even had more traffic than my competitors from Weblogs Inc or Gawker. And I’m a relatively independent blogger (not part of a blog network), so this should be inspiration to anyone looking to take on the giants.

Traffic

I remember being inspired by Steve Pavlina’s growth chart. Now it’s my turn to hopefully inspire some other bloggers out there.

I’ve found the best way to bring traffic to your blog is by having some kind of unique content. This doesn’t necessarily mean “original content” in the traditional sense, but you need to have something that others don’t. Video has been great attraction for me. The reason video is good is it can’t be easily reproduced, copy/pasted, or whatever. Rather, it requires people to link to you. Photos are also great, especially if you have a large gallery that requires linking. It’s impossible to paraphrase video, audio, or photos, and that’s why those types of media are wonderful.

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Me my Coke and I – Blog Case Study

Picture 6-3The following post was submitted by ProBlogger regular, Allen Heat, as part of the ProBlogger Case Study Series

6th of May, 2005 – I decided I should find a place to showcase my graphic designs, by that time I didn’t know what PHP meant, all i knew is that i needed a website. I purchased a subdomain at http://heatmax.illusionfxnet.com, and asked my friend to set up wordpress for me; I didn’t know it’s a blogging CMS by then, I just found it cool and easy to use. Infinity Graphic Designs blog came to life.

30th of March, 2006 – I held my first adsense cheque at the age of 16, it wasn’t a $100 cheque, i decided I’m going to make my first cheque reach a lot more than 100 bucks, and let’s say i did reach a lot more =).

Many many things happened between those months that I’d love to share, but since I’m limited in words and you’re limited in time, I’d like to talk about one big change that really affected my blogging: Me, My Coke & I, this blog started as my personal blog, and since I wasn’t expecting anything from it, and wasn’t obligated to write about a specific topic, I just went with the flow.

At some stage I looked at my archive and said: “it’s not even personal”, I didn’t share any juicy secrets from my life, I was just writing about things I’m interested in, so I wrote 10 common mistakes in newly created forums, a post that gave my blog a huge traffic boost. Skipping some parts of the story, I then discovered I’m very interested in tech,gadgets and web, but I never really knew what all those technical terms mean, add to that the fact English is my 3rd spoken language (after Hebrew & Arabic), then why would someone want to read my posts about tech and gadgets???

Cause there are a lot of guys and gals like me, they don’t really care if the MP3 player has a DCME feature (that I just made up), it looks good, it doesn’t cost that much, good sound quality, and it’s 2GB, now i think that’s enough for the average brain to know about an MP3 player.

The fact that I write tidbits (less text, more images) makes it easy for me to write multiple posts a day, update multiple blogs a day, and talk to the audience that aren’t necessarily technical gurus; This is what brought me to the level of traffic I’m have today; There is a lot to improve in terms of traffic, but I know this blog has got the potential, content is king, and persistence is the apprentice.

I’ve managed to turn Me, My Coke & I from an average personal blog, to an online magazine that was mentioned in respected blogs not once, it raised my earnings, it helped me improve my English, and most importantly: it satisfied my passion and my need to blog about anything that interests me, that’s why I chose the motto: Daily tidbits of tech, gadgets and pretty much anything to interest the average mind.

As a 16 years old I’ve managed to see things others wouldn’t, I’m sure there are two implications for sharing my young age in this case: 1. People will start taking my blogs less seriously because I’m a teenager 2. People would look at my achievements as a blogger despite and maybe because I’m a youngster and start taking me more seriously. What you will choose to do is your own business, but I’ve got some deeds to share. As for my future plans, two more blogs are coming in 2006, I just need to find a partner as passionate as me, perhaps a network could be launched before the end of the year.

I learned that content is king, and persistence is the apprentice, I learned that in some cases blogging superficially is probably the right thing, after all the everyday gadget is superficial, we don’t need to respect it that much. I learned that with minimum money and maximum will you can do more than $10 in AdSense. I learned that passion is the key and patience is the door it opens to the road of success. Blogging has brought me too many things to count.

Lastly I’d like to thank the man and the blog – Darren Rowse for guiding me personally and through out his inspiring posts, I’d also like to thank my ego that always talked to me and said “you’re a loser if you give up”, and of course I’d like to thank you bloggers for being a role model at times, for showing me how I shouldn’t act to others, and for reading this long post.

Killer Sudoku Blogger – Blog Case Study

Sw1The following post was submitted by DJApe as part of the ProBlogger Case Study Series

In August last year I quit my full-time software developer job and decided to go back to Uni. Since I had more free time than before, I decided to start a blog and show the world a couple of shareware applications that I wrote. The first one was a Sudoku puzzle game. This is how my www.djape.net blog started.

Having read a few tips on ProBlogger, I decided to experiment so I signed up for every advertising program known. In early days, ads were everywhere – AdSense, Chitika, Amazon, CafePress. There were more ads than blog posts! But one tip that Darren posted worked out very well for me – ‘create controversy’ is what I remember from one of Darren’s posts.

So I did.

I created and posted one Killer Sudoku puzzle that was so difficult and pretty much unsolvable by a human, but people just wouldn’t give up. They kept coming and from double-digits number of daily visitors, in a couple of days it went to 5-6 hundred a day! Many Sudoku sites linked to my blog because of this puzzle.

I’ve come a long way since then. Daily unique visitors are around 1500 nowadays, although at one point there were some 2000 for a period of a few weeks. The income is significantly better from syndicating puzzles to newspapers than from ads, but I’ve learned a few things about ads, too.

I got rid of everything but AdSense, simply because it pays best. A few weeks ago I also decided to keep only 300×250 ads and remove all others! Why? Again – they pay much better. Skyscrapers and 728×90 leader-boards never paid almost anything, but I also removed 468×60 which were paying well, but nothing like 300×250. Further, I no longer show ‘Get Firefox’ and ‘AdSense signup’ ads, because they were not content related. My niche is very low paying, but since I made those changes, ad income has doubled!

When I started blogging I never thought that it would become a serious thing for me. It was an experiment and something that I thought would look good in my CV. But due to increasing popularity of my site which resulted from my quick reaction to the new Sudoku puzzle variation (Killer Sudoku), I have now published 2 puzzle-books and a couple more are coming. My puzzles feature in a number of magazines around the world. Not sure how long it will last, but I’m already extremely happy with it. This experience has convinced me in the power of the internet and shown me how the global marketplace works.

Help Martha Stewart Optimize her AdSense

Martha Stewart has added AdSense to her site and I think she could do with some serious advice on optimizing it (you can see an example of it here – screen cap below – click to enlarge).

I’m in the throws of packing but thought it might make a fun discussion – if you were hired as her AdSense Optimization expert what would you advise to get the most out of the ads. Think about colors, position, ad unit sizes….

Found via GrayWolf

Martha-Stewart-Adsense

Bleeding Edge and the Search for a Blog Business Model

ToadThere’s been an interesting progression of thoughts over at Aussie Charles Writght’s blog (Bleeding Edge) over the last week or so as they’ve searched for a business model for their blogging (originally spotted via Squash who has some thoughts on it too). Here’s the progression of posts on the topic over the last week or so:

Charles wrote on the 15th of this month that they were in the process of closing down the ‘Razor’ blog which he’d been writing for the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age – mainly because of the time it was taking and the low return in terms of income in comparison to other forms of writing that they could earn money from.

The following day he wrote that they were exploring a subscription based approach – ie charging $15 per year for an email version of the column. The responses from readers were mixed, although the positives outweighed the negatives (although there were only 19 comments in total which makes me wonder how many readers would pay $15 if they didn’t bother to give an opinion).

The next day the reports were that 12 or so readers had subscribers – and that some had gone above the $15 subscription fee and had paid up to $50 – that’s what loyal readers to a blog will do.

On the 21st there was another post with an update. Again it spoke of the generosity of some readers and talked about the possibility of a subscriber only section of the blog called the Blood Bank. Readers were then asked to consider what the blog had meant to them.

I’m finding the progression of posts most interesting. The search for a business model is not an easy one (I say this from personal experience). In fact it can be incredibly frustrating and is filled with all kinds of heart ache and angst. You feel like you’ve got something worthwhile to say and you’d like to put more time and energy into it – but you have to pay the bills and despite your best intentions it just doesn’t work.

As I read through the above posts today I found myself thinking along a number of different spectrums simultaneously. Let me attempt to get some of the thoughts out here – not as a critique but in the hope that it helps someone (and perhaps even me as I continue to grapple with my own business models for blogs).

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Blogging for Dollars Experiment Pays Off

Warning: Heart Warming Story Ahead

I was just contacted via IM with a blogger (I’ll call him ‘Geoff’ – not his real name) who owns and blogs at a reasonably popular and established blog (not an A-lister but he runs a nice blog that gets about 3000 visitors per day).

Geoff told me that about two months ago that he’d started to experiment with putting a few income streams on his blog. He did it after seeing something that I’d written here. He said:

‘I did it with the hope of paying for my hosting costs and perhaps even buying myself an Apple ibook to blog on’.

Geoff started out experimenting with Adsense and Amazon and then on seeing some of my success with eMiniMalls added those in the past few weeks.

Around 9 weeks after starting his ‘experiment’ Geoff tells me that he’s just reached the $150 per day mark. His hosting costs for the year are covered and today he placed an order for a powerbook instead of an ibook.

He said:

‘I can not believe that I am on track for earning over $50,000 in the next year for writing on a topic that I would happily write about for free! Why didn’t anyone ever tell me that I could make money from blogging?? :-) ‘

He went on to say:

‘I’m SOOO happy Darren! But I can’t help but think of the opportunity that I missed over the last 2 years of blogging, imagine if I’d put the ads on earlier!!!’

It makes me wonder just how many ‘Geoffs’ there are out there. People who already have built blogs and sites that could quite easily have income streams added to them but who have just never considered it. While I know many bloggers choose not to do the ad thing and that many blogs don’t have the earning potential of Geoff’s (he’s luckily in a good niche – one that he’s keen for me not to mention for fear of copycats) there must be many others in a similar boat.