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Search, Social and Direct Traffic – [TRAFFIC ANALYSIS]

This morning I spent a little time doing some analysis (using Google Analytics) of the traffic coming into my main blog – Digital Photography School.

My analysis was stimulated by a question from a reader who in response to last week’s two posts examining the place of Digg and Social Bookmarkingin a bloggers priorities asked me:

What role does Social Bookmarking traffic play in your blog?

I decided to dig into the metrics on DPS and find out the answer… or at least that is what I started out doing…..

As I began to analyze the stats I realized that DPS has four main referrers of traffic – each are quite different from the others and yet each are very important. What follows in this post is me thinking out loud on each source of traffic and what it means to my blog.

Looking at the big picture

Lets start by looking at the big picture of the traffic coming into DPS. For the purpose of this post I’ll go back to the start of 2007 with my analysis (the time I started using Google Analytics) and I will only be looking at traffic coming into the DPS blog (ie this doesn’t include data on the forums).

Here’s a snapshot of all traffic coming into the DPS blog since 1 January 2007 (click to enlarge all images in this post).

DPS-Traffic-Social-bookmarking-spikes.png

You can see over the last 22 months that the DPS blog has had steady growth. There have been 11.5 million visitors, around 25 million page views and they stay on the site around two and a half minutes per visit.

At 1 January the average daily visitor numbers were around 4,000-5,000 visitors. At present they average around 23,000-25,000.

Looking specifically at the main sources of traffic to the blog – there are four that are responsible for a little under 70% of all of the above traffic:

  1. Google (26%)
  2. Direct Traffic (RSS, Newsletters, Browser Bookmarks etc) (21%)
  3. StumbleUpon (11%)
  4. Digg (9%)

The next highest referrers are significantly lower in how much traffic they bring in and include Yahoo, many other blogs (big and small) and Delicious.

As you can see – Google is a fairly important factor in my blog. Add other search traffic from Yahoo, MSN, AOL and search traffic is responsible for around 30% of the overall traffic.

If I was to categorize all of the social bookmarking traffic (Digg, StumbleUpon, Delicious, Reddit, Popurls etc it accounts for around 24% of overall traffic (a little higher than ‘direct’).

OK – so this information is mildly interesting (to me at least) but when I dig down a little further and do some analysis of each type of traffic I find it more illuminating.

Digg Traffic

Since last week we were talking about Digg, lets start with that.

Here’s how Digg traffic to the DPS blog has looked over the last 22 months.

digg-traffic.png

Straight away we can see the nature of Digg traffic. It is either there or it isn’t. The spikes can be fairly significant (in most cases they range from 10,000 to 30,000 visitors) but between them the traffic from Digg rarely gets over 100 visitors a day.

Lets look at a few other stats on Digg visitors over this period:

  • They viewed 1.39 pages per visit (site average was 2.17)
  • They spent an average of 54 seconds on the site (site average was 2 minutes and 35 seconds)

So in comparison to overall averages Digg users are fairly fleeting (although note as fleeting as I hear some people saying).

One other thing worth saying about Digg visitors. I’ve heard a lot of people say that they don’t ‘convert’ to regular readers. So lets have a look at my newsletter signups for the latest ‘Digg Event’ on DPS (that last spike on the chart).

DPS-Subscribers.png

As you’ll see there was a definite increase in subscriber numbers on the day of my last Digg event (Nov 13th). Of course that day had 14,000 visitors from Digg to the site and subscriber numbers were only up around 150 subscribers – so Digg users don’t become loyal readers in huge numbers – but some of them do convert. I’d suspect that RSS subscribers would increase by a similar sort of rate after a Digg event.

I’ve noticed similar sorts of increases in subscriber numbers on other ‘Digg events’. They don’t convert massively but I always do pick up extra readers each time – the stats on the site tend to look like this chart taken from my post – How to Build a ‘Digg Culture’ on your Blog:

200612091300

This is actually one of the biggest benefits of social bookmarking traffic for me. While the actual spike in traffic is nice – the real benefit comes from those readers you’re able to convert to regular readers. 100 extra readers adds up to thousands of page views over a year.

One more stat on ‘conversion to loyalty’:

Over the last few months I’ve had a test running on Google Analtyics that analyzes how many visitors ‘convert’ to subscribers. I’ve set up a ‘Goal’ on Google Analytics that is triggered as achieved when people reach the thank you page for my newsletter subscription (meaning when they convert to verified subscribers).

Digg Users get to this page 0.48% of the time. This is in comparison to an average of 2.24% for the overall site.

Do Digg Users Click Ads?

One of the great things about Google Analytics now is that you can track AdSense earnings if you link your AdSense and Analytics accounts (they’re still rolling this feature for some).

While AdSense TOS prohibits sharing of too much information on earnings I’ll share some vague stats with you on how different readers ‘convert’ with ads.

  • The CPM (earnings per 1000 page views) has converted with Digg readers at about half the site average.
  • The CTR (click through rate) of Digg users is about a third of the site average.

So the common perception that Digg users don’t click ads is backed up – to a point. Some of them do click and when you consider that you can get 30,000 of them visiting your site in a day this can add up.

Keep in mind that Digg traffic can be useful for monetizing a site in other ways – particularly when you’re making money on a CPM basis where you’re paid per page view.

StumbleUpon Traffic

StumbleUpon actually sends me more traffic than Digg does over time. Here’s how the traffic from SU looks over the last 22 months.

stumbleupon.png

Here we see that the nature of Stumble Upon traffic is actually quite different from Digg. While both are ‘bookmarking’ sites they are really quite different. When a post gets popular on StumbleUpon the traffic it generates is spread out over days (and even weeks and months). There’s often no single day when you get masses of traffic but rather it’s more of a slow burner (I’ve written more about this in a post titled Why StumbleUpon Sends More Traffic than Digg).

You’ll see that StumbleUpon traffic has actually grown significantly over time. What I put this down to is that as I’ve written more and more posts on my blog there have been more entry points for SU traffic. While traffic grows and then falls off to particular posts on SU if you have multiple posts generating traffic you can actually see it build to significant numbers (like they were in the period of June/July this year where I had about 6-7 posts doing very well in SU simultaneously).

Lets look at a couple of other metrics on the SU traffic:

  • They viewed 1.62 pages per visit (site average was 2.17)
  • They spent an average of 1 minute and 7 seconds on the site (site average was 2 minutes and 35 seconds)

So StumbleUpon traffic is a little more sticky than Digg traffic. They view more pages and stick around longer.

Do StumbleUpon users signup for the newsletter and become loyal? My stats show that 0.51% of them have reached the thank you page on my newsletter subscription process. Slightly higher than Digg users but a lot lower than overall site averages.

Do StumbleUpon users click ads?

Interestingly StumbleUpon users seem to click on ads less than Digg users with the limited amount of stats that I have on this. The CPM that I’m seeing with SU users is very similar to that for Digg users but the CTR was about a third of Digg users (and about a tenth of overall site averages).

Search Engine Traffic

My number one traffic source on DPS is that from search engines. Google takes the lions share of this but I’ve added in the others into this analysis (interestingly Yahoo has been on the increase of late). Here’s how the search engine traffic has grown over the last 22 months.

search-traffic.png

Again – a very different shaped chart to the others. The two spikes in traffic are both to do with search traffic increasing for terms around ‘fireworks photography’ at around 4th July – but other than that it’s very steady growth with little weekly spikes and troughs in traffic but not much else to note.

This traffic has gone up over time for a couple of main reasons:

1. I’ve been adding content – the more pages you have the more entry points that search engines can send people to

2. The sites authority has grown over time – the longer you’re around the more links you have pointing at your blog and the more authoritative search engines begin to give you.

Lets look at a couple of other stats from Search Engine Traffic:

  • They viewed 2.55 pages per visit (site average was 2.17)
  • They spent an average of 3 minutes and 20 seconds on the site (site average was 2 minutes and 35 seconds)

Interestingly Google readers view 2.51 pages and spend 3 minutes and 16 seconds while Yahoo readers view over 3 pages and spend over 4 minutes on the site.

In terms of ‘conversion’ via the newsletter – 2.72% of search engine visitors have made it to the thank you page (again it’s better for Yahoo than Google). This is better than the site average making search traffic more sticky than social media traffic.

Do Search Engine Readers Click Ads?

The common perception is that search engine referrals are more profitable when it comes to CPC advertising programs like AdSense. My stats back this up.

I’m seeing the CPM of my search traffic as about 10% higher than the site average and CTR up by about 10% also. Interestingly I’m seeing Yahoo traffic as about 30% higher than Google.

Direct Traffic

The last category of traffic that I want to analyze is what Google Analytics classifies as ‘direct’ traffic. This traffic includes those coming in from desktop RSS subscribers, newsletters, browser bookmarks, type in traffic etc. Here’s how this traffic has looked over the last 22 months.

direct-traffic.png

Again we see a fairly steady growth in this area. The weekly spikes coincide with when I’ve sent out newsletters. The bigger spikes mainly coincide with when we’ve run competitions in our newsletters.

The reason for the growth in this traffic is largely that I’ve worked very hard on building a newsletter list for this blog (particularly over the last year).

Lets look at some more stats on this direct traffic:

  • They viewed 2.28 pages per visit (site average was 2.17)
  • They spent an average of 2 minutes and 55 seconds on the site (site average was 2 minutes and 35 seconds)

Both of these stats are higher than the site average but lower than search engine traffic. However considering that many of these visitors come to the site on a weekly basis and view hundreds of pages a year these averages are pretty good.

In terms of ‘goal conversion’ (or getting these people to my thank you page of the newsletter signup – they convert at 2.08%. This is slightly under the site average but considering many of them have already signed up – it’s pretty good.

Do Direct Referrals Click Ads?

This one interested me because I suspected that these highly loyal readers would become pretty blind to AdSense ads over time. However they are bang on average for the site with both CTR and CPM performance almost exactly on the site average.

Concluding Thoughts

I know this post has been rather long and so I will keep my concluding thoughts brief (I considered posting this as a series of posts but hope it’s more helpful seeing everything side by side).

All traffic has its place and serves different purposes.

One of the main things that strikes me about this exercise is that while some people write off different types of traffic – that together they come together in fairly significant ways.

For example – Digg traffic may not be that sticky or profitable – however as I think back to the early days of DPS it was the early series of Digg spikes that helped to get the blog going.

Even going back before January 2007 (before the charts above) DPS was on the front page of Digg quite a few times. Each time this happened the site step ups in loyal readers to the blog. This helped it grow even though at the time the site wasn’t generating much search traffic.

Overtime search has been increasingly important to the site in finding new visitors. The Digg spikes are handy and still draw people in that have not seen us before but in many ways they’ve served their purpose for the site and now our Google and Yahoo authority has kicked in we’re starting to see more benefits from there.

As I look forward I see both ‘search’ and ‘direct’ traffic as taking over even more from social bookmarking traffic. If things continue to grow as they are search and direct traffic will out number even the biggest spikes that the site might get from Digg.

This doesn’t mean I’ll not value the bookmarking traffic – but it’ll play less of a roll.

Social Bookmarking as an SEO tool

One last unproven idea that has been lingering in my mind lately is the importance of social bookmarking as an SEO strategy. I’m not sure how much of an impact it has had on the growth of search traffic on DPS but surely all of the links to DPS from Digg, StumbleUpon, Delicious, Reddit and other social bookmarking sites have had an impact upon the site’s search authority.

Even posts that don’t get to the front page of Digg that are bookmarked there must at least be getting some search engine juice from the bookmark.

More than that – getting on the front page of Digg or going popular on Delicious often has the flow on effect of being linked to by a lot of other blogs and websites that watch these pages. For example my last appearance on the popular page on Delicious stimulated at least 30 or so links from other blogs. Again – each link is adding to the search engine authority of the blog.

The First Week of My New Blog

1 week ago today I launched a new blog called TwiTip here on ProBlogger. In that launch post I documented some of the setup process that I’d already gone though (hosting, design, content, promotion etc). In a subsequent post I also outlined 10 WordPress plugins that I’d installed.

It has been 7 days since I launched it now and since I’m getting a lot of questions about how it is going and what I’m doing on the blog I thought I’d give a quick update on what I’ve done since and how the blog has performed.

Plugins and Features

While I’d already installed a few plugins over the last week I’ve added a few more including:

  • Outbrain – a post rating plugin. You can see it in operation on single posts (at the end of posts). It allows users to rate posts and also suggests other reading that readers might find relevant (from both your own blog and other blogs). I’m still testing it but so far reader feedback has been good. My only concern with it is that there’s no way to control what other sites it recommends (you can switch that feature off) and it has recommended posts from a site that I didn’t think was that relevant to my readers on at least one occasion. Hopefully this will improve in time. Outbrain also gives a ‘popular post’ widget which I’ve added to the sidebar as well as some useful internal reports on what posts on your blog are connecting most with readers (see below).

outbrain.png

  • RSS Footer – a plugin I’ve been wanting to test for a while. This inserts a link (or any html really) into the footer of each post in your RSS feed that allows you to add a link back to your blog. This is useful when scrapers take your feed and put it on their blog without any attribution. While most bloggers try to stop other bloggers doing this it means that at least if they do do it that there’s a good chance you’ll at least get a link back and some attribution.
  • FeedFlares – I’ve added a number of Feeburner ‘Feedflares’ to my RSS feed including a ‘Twit This’ and ‘Stumble it’ feature to help subscribers pass on the content to others.
  • Feedburner Counter – I mentioned in my launch post that i would wait til I hit 1000 subscribers before adding the feedburner counter to the blog. This happened a couple of days back (although I only noticed today) so I’ve added the counter to the sidebar. Hitting this milestone was faster than expected and largely due to my amazing Twitter followers spreading the word about TwiTip.

Content

In my launch post I mentioned that I didn’t think I’d be updating TwiTip more than 2-3 times a week. That has turned out to be wrong – I’ve published 12 already.

This is due to two reasons:

  1. I got excited – there’s something about a new blog that gets your creative juiced flowing.
  2. Reader Submissions – since launching the blog I’ve had 60 or so offers to write posts for TwiTip. I’ve had to say no to 40 or so of them simply because it would take me two months to publish them all if I did one a day. Having said this – some of the submissions I’ve received are great so there’s definitely enough content on hand for a post a day.

One of the things I’ve been working on over the last few days is a editorial calendar of sorts (or at least the beginning of one). One of the temptations when you start getting offers for guest posts is to just accept anything and everything. The problem with this is that you end up with a blog that doesn’t build momentum.

What I’ve been working on in the last day or two is a list of posts that I want to publish. This way I’m setting more of the agenda for where the blog will go rather than just letting guest bloggers do that (as great as they are in the long run I’m the one with the vision for the blog). Once I’ve determined topics I’ve gone in search of people to write them.

I’ve also been thinking through a few regular ‘types’ of posts that I want to feature. For example I want to interview some top Tweeters on how they use Twitter. I also want to try doing to do some user reviews. Having these consistent types of posts will hopefully help readers to know what they’re getting and will help develop a rhythm for the blog.

Polls/Reader Questions

poll.png

One of the things that has brought real life to the blog are the polls I’ve run so far. I installed WP-Polls early on and I love some of the options it gives to rotate numerous polls in a sidebar (as well as putting them into posts). The polls have been really successful at drawing people into the blog and getting things a bit more interactive.

Similarly I’ve made sure that each post has questions for readers (quite a few of the titles even have questions in them) and even had a post that was purely a chance for readers to have their say (this one on Twitter Tools). It’s important to me to build the most interactive and participatory blog as I can – it seems to be working with some great discussions so far.

Traffic and Promotion

So how’s TwiTip performed so far in terms of traffic?

One of the things that has been quite different for me with this blog is that I’ve spent very little time so far on ‘promotion’. Outside of a few tweets and two posts here at ProBlogger (three now) I’ve not really done anything for promotion.

The reason for this is partly that I’ve been swamped with work and partly because I’m fortunate enough to have a couple of other places of presence to leverage (my Twitter account and ProBlogger). Both of these have crossover with TwiTip topic wise and both are read by others who are willing to pass on news of the new site.

This is of course different to most bloggers starting out but illustrates a principle that is important – ‘leveraging any other online presence you already have‘ to promote your blog (something that gets easier with time of course).

In terms of actual traffic numbers to the blog in its first week Google Analytics reports the following (click to enlarge):

twitip-traffic.png

There was obviously a surge on day 1 and 2 when the launch happened and the last day is incomplete (still a few hours to go). Page views per visit should increase a little as more posts get added to the site and ‘new visits’ will obviously fall in time as people subscribe and become regulars.

In terms of where traffic has been coming from – let me give you a screen grab of the top 10 referrals from my WP stats plugin:

twitip-referrals.png

As you can see the biggest referrer was Twitter itself, ProBlogger’s launch post has driven some nice traffic, there was a little social bookmarking traffic over the weekend and a growing amount from Google Reader (and other feed readers).

Other Activities

Starting a new blog brings with it a variety of activities. I find that it is a bit of a hectic couple of weeks as you tweak, experiment, remember to do things and see what works. A couple of others things that I’ve done since last time I wrote:

Claimed blog on Technorati – TwiTip was already being indexed on Technorati but I claimed it as my own earlier today and set it up with some tags.

Secured @twitip – one of the things that I had been trying to do since before launching was getting in touch with the owner of the registered but unused @twitip twitter account. It’s hard to get in touch with someone who has registered an account but doesn’t update it. You can’t Direct Message them (as they need to be following you) and there is no real way of finding out who is behind the account (unless you know someone at Twitter). I did try to get in touch with Twitter but had no response but over the weekend I did a public @reply to the account and surprisingly the owner got back to me.

They were willing to do a trade on the user name. I gave them some of my time and they gave me @twitip but also @twittip (double ‘t’) and also a domain www.twittip.com (which I had previously tried to get but was already taken). I’m still not sure what to do with the twitter user names and at this point they just point people to @problogger (my main Twitter account). I’ll probably use @twitip to broadcast updates from the blog.

SEO TweaksThesis (the theme I’m using) is great to use and well set up by default – but there have been a few tweaks that I’ve been doing. These are partly around the All-in-One SEO plugin – particularly around how title tags and meta tags are showing up on posts (although nothing too major).

Interestingly there’s already a trickle of Google traffic coming into the blog. I don’t really expect much of this for some time now (and it’ll go up and down as Google works out how to index the site) – I take a long term view of SEO – no rush here and no need to push it faster than will happen naturally as I add content and as others link to the blog.

Next Steps

The next phase of TwiTip is really to knuckle down and keep developing great content. This includes writing a few of my own posts as well as editing and liaising with those doing guest posts. Outside of this not a lot will probably change with the way that the blog is set up in the short term (although I’m toying with the idea of getting a logo designed).

I will probably add RSS to email and email newsletter options at some point (although not for a bit) and will work towards a custom design – but I’m in no rush for these as I have a few other design projects to get done first on DPS. Really the main task for TwiTip now is about content, community and a little promotional work.

Watch Me Launch My New Blog – TwiTip

Yesterday on Twitter I ‘soft launched’ a new blog – TwiTip.

The idea for the blog has been ‘brewing’ in my mind for almost as long as I’ve been experimenting with Twitter but I never had the time to dedicate to starting it up. Late last week I realized that if I was waiting to ‘have time’ to start it that I never would – so I bit the bullet and got it going.

TwiTip is a blog about Twitter. It’s a place that I’ll be posting tips, news and reviews of tools for those wanting to improve their use of Twitter whether it be using it for personal reasons, to expand their personal brand, to promote their business etc.

Twitip

At this point TwiTip is firmly in ‘beta’ (if not alpha). It has a long way to go in terms of content, design and almost every other aspect of building a blog. I generally would get a blog in a much better state before going public about it (and I wouldn’t launch it on a Sunday night or on US election eve) – but I thought it’d be interesting for readers of ProBlogger to see the development of TwiTip from the ground up.

So far you have not missed much but let me give you a catchup on what I’ve done so far:

Hosting

I’ve set it up on a very basic hosting package (GoDaddy of all places – I just wanted to get it up quick and as it grows I’ll move it to a more reliable service).

Design

I’m using the Thesis WordPress theme (I’ve long wanted to test it on a live site and I have to say that it’s amazing).

My blog design skills are poor but Thesis is easy to set up and configure – it is also set up really well for SEO which is cool. I plan to give the design more personality in time (I’ll get a designer in to overhaul it) but in the mean time Thesis is a great option and will be a good basis for the design tweaks that will come).

So far I’ve developed a few WordPress ‘pages’ that take the design beyond the default set up. These include an ‘about’ page, contact page and a ‘write for TwiTip’ page.

Content

I usually would have at least 5 posts live on a blog before launching it but in this case have 3 (including one welcome post). I would normally also have a couple of posts in reserve for the next few days. Again – I’ve gone public early as a bit of a case study but will get another post up in the next 24 hours to keep a little momentum building.

My plan with content for TwiTip is for it not to be a daily update initially. I’ll start out with 3 posts a week and work towards more as I find my feet (and perhaps as I bring on other contributers). My focus in the early days will be quality rather than quantity.

Promotion

So far all I’ve done promotion wise is Tweet that I’ve launched TwiTip. That was a nice start because the audience on Twitter obviously have an interest in the topic and it was retweeted quite widely through the Twittersphere pretty quickly.

Other than the Tweet announcing the new blog (and now this post) my only other strategy for finding new readers has been more about on site ‘hooks’ – highlighting subscription methods and encouraging people to track with me on Twitter and RSS.

Analytics

I’ve set up Google Analytics on TwiTip. While it is a little slow and not great for analyzing stats as traffic events are happening on your blog in real time it’s such a solid tool that it was a no brainer of a choice.

Setting Up RSS Feed

The only other task that I’ve completed so far is to set up the RSS feed over on Feedburner. So now the feed is not a ‘TwiTip.com’ one but a Google/Feedburner one. I find that it is best to do this on day one to keep eveyrone subscribing to the same feed. I’m yet to see how many people have subscribed and don’t plan to add a feedburner counter in the short term (in the past I’ve waited until subscriber numbers hit 1000).

Things Still to Do

I’ve done a few other miscellaneous things including adding a ‘subscribe to comments’ plugin, a ‘tweet this’ plugin and adding a sidebar polling tool. There is still a lot to do to get TwiTip up and running to a point that I’ll be happy with it! These include:

  • RSS to Email Subscription Option
  • Email Newsletter Setup
  • Getting a proper design done (I won’t do a custom one in the short term but it does need a header/logo and some styling etc)
  • Monetization – I’m not going to monetize this straight away but it won’t be far off. I need to consider my options here.
  • Plugins – there are quite a few plugins that I want to get installed, test and use.
  • Writers – I’ve had so many offers for guest posts already that I’m at a point of saying no to more as I can’t process them all. Over the coming weeks I’d like to develop a system for accepting and managing contributions.

This is just the beginning of the list (and I’m sure many of you will come up with other suggestions in comments below). The more I do the more I think of. For this reason I’m going to take my time with this launch. I’ll continue to document my progress here on ProBlogger as I go.

Update – a few people have been asking how readership has been so far. It’s a little difficult to tell at this point, I’m yet to see an update of how many Feedburner subscribers there are. Google Analytics shows around 1600 visitors for day 1 (but that’s not finished updating for the day). The vast majority of readers have come from my tweets (and the retweets of others. There have also been a few visitors from facebook (where my tweets get republished) and a few others from StumbleUpon where there are a few reviews/stumbles already). I’m yet to see full stats yet and will update it at some point.

10 Innovative Blog Business Models

Keeping You Posted by Skellie.Skellie wrote this post. For more advanced blogging tips and strategies, visit her blog, Skelliewag.

When people think about making money with a blog, they tend to think about things like AdSense and affiliate links. You write good content, people come to your blog, people click on links, and you make a bit of money. How much money you make depends on how successfully you can multiply this process.

However, for some entrepreneurs this method of monetizing a blog is just one part of a larger business model that is much more lucrative than advertising on its own.

In this post I want to highlight 10 innovative and successful blog business models that do more than sell ad space or clicks. Is there room for one of these business models on your own blog?

(Please note that this particular post does not contain affiliate links.)

1. Teaching Sells / Blog Mastermind (Educational course)

Copyblogger sells TeachingSells.com

EntrepreneursJourney.com sells BlogMastermind.com

This business model involves selling an expert course on the back of a blog. Each blogger is regarded as an expert in their field and their free content demonstrates that they have plenty of useful advice to give.

These courses may only appeal to a small percentage of the host blog’s readership, so they are usually priced at the high-end to compensate. For this reason, courses must focus on sharing skills and methods that the reader values very highly.

Most commonly these are skills and methods that will–hopefully–yield more money for the reader than they spend on the course itself. If the course doesn’t have the potential to earn the reader money then it must impart a skill that has a very high non-monetary value. A Chess course might be worth $99 a month to someone who is passionate about Chess. A course in Mandarin might be worth $150 a month to someone who is relocating to China in three months and is determined to be able to hold conversations with locals as soon as they arrive.

The determining factor in success with this model is an understanding of what your readers value deeply, and providing them with that, either by providing them with great value or the means to achieve it for themselves.

2. IttyBiz (eBook)

IttyBiz sells Ninja SEO School

Naomi Dunford writes IttyBiz for online marketers and entrepreneurs who are ordinary people with a tight budget. She says her consulting clients were always curious about SEO and how to start using it for their benefit. In response to the demand she wrote the ‘Ninja SEO School‘ eBook. If you click the link you’ll notice that it’s no longer for sale, and I hope the ProBlogger mention hasn’t made Naomi regret the decision ;).

By making the choice to say the eBook would only be available for a limited time, readers who would have post-poned the decision of whether to buy the product until later (and then probably forgot about it) were forced to act quickly.

This is a very clever method to overcome one of the eBook’s weaknesses as a medium: its format makes it seem like the product will always be in unlimited supply, which can often provoke lethargy in potential buyers. Books in bookstores go out of stock, but eBooks technically never do.

If your eBook is expensive then it’s highly likely a potential buyer will think about the purchase for several days and talk themselves out of it. By creating scarcity you can motivate potential buyers to action.

Though there are many blogs funneling into an eBook, I chose IttyBiz as an example because of the clever use of artificial scarcity as a marketing tool. (Though if you emailed Naomi, I bet she’d still sell you a copy!)

3. ProBlogger / FSw / Smashing Magazine (Job board)

ProBlogger.net sells Jobs.ProBlogger.net

Freelance Switch sells Jobs.FreelanceSwitch.com

Smashing Magazine sells Jobs.SmashingMagazine.com

Vocation-based blogs like ProBlogger (bloogging), Freelance Switch (freelancing) and Smashing Magazine (design) are a perfect fit with the job board business model. These job boards that stem from blogs are usually monetized in one of two ways: advertiser pays a flat fee to post their job ad, which is the most common method and used at ProBlogger and Smashing Magazine, or job hunters pay a small subscription fee to have access to jobs, which is the least common model and is used at Freelance Switch.

Building a job board is likely to require development costs of at least several hundred dollars and possibly over a thousand, so it may be best to wait until your traffic levels are healthy before adding something like this to your blog.

4. PSDTUTS / SEOmoz (Premium content)

PSDTUTS.com sells PSDTUTS PLUS

SEOmoz sells SEOmoz PRO

These two blogs both offer members-only content for paid subscribers. At PSDTUTS $9 a month gives the user access to a large library of .PSD artworks and tutorials from well-known Photoshop artists. SEOmoz offers its ‘Pro’ membership at $49 a month, for which you receive SEO tools, guides and extra blog content. Both membership models are supplemented by a larger proportion of free content that serves to bring potential members into the blog and also as an advertisement for the content offered in the membership program.

While members-only blog content can be a lucrative business model you should expect to meet with criticism from readers who are struck by the double-wants of experiencing all your content while also not wanting to pay for it. The internet provides such an abundance of value for free that some people perhaps stop thinking about the creator’s need to be rewarded for their hard work. You should remind them of this and then focus on those customers who see ‘free’ as a privilege, not a right.

5. SpoonGraphics (Freelance services)

Blog.Spoongraphics.co.uk sells Spoongraphics.co.uk

Chris Spooner’s blog is a good example of a supported freelance business model. Freelance services are offered on a portfolio which is attached to his blog. The blog content deals with design and presents daily opportunities for Chris to demonstrate his own expertise as a designer to potential clients who might be reading his blog.

While it might seem counter-intuitive to write for other people in the same field instead of ordinary people who might be looking for a designer, many freelancers find good work covering gaps for other freelancers. For example, a freelancer who only knows how to code might hire another freelancer to create designs for him or her. As the web makes it easier to connect with freelancers across the globe this kind of collaboration is becoming increasingly common.

6. Remarkablogger / Muhammad Saleem (Consulting)

Remarkablogger.com sells Michael Martine

MuhammadSaleem.com sells Muhammad Saleem

Michael Martine writes a blog about blogging and offers consulting services as an off-shoot to the blog, targeted towards businesses who want a strong blogging presence. Muhammad Saleem is a social media power-user who also advertises social media consulting services from his blog. The premise of this business model is to build a profile as an expert in a specific area, give readers a taste of the kind of insights you can provide and then offer consultations to those who want to benefit from your knowledge on a deeper level.

The rates you can charge and the amount of uptake you get will depend on your topic as much as it does on your personal brand. People with entrepreneurial aspirations are more likely to need and be willing to invest in a consultant because they fundamentally expect to earn back more than they spend as a result of the knowledge they’ve gained. A life consultant or sports consultant or any other kind of consultant who might not be focused on helping the client earn money needs to provide immense non-monetary value instead.

7. Pearsonified / GoMedia (Digital products)

Pearsonified sells Thesis

GoMedia sells vector graphics and Photoshop brushes

The ‘Thesis’ theme has been everywhere of late. Probably because its creator’s blog has over 5,000 subscribers and he also seems to have made the right kind of friends. If you’re going to sell a product you’ve built then nothing will help your cause more than having a popular blog to back you up.

The GoMedia design firm does more. It uses a popular design blog (almost 10,000 subscribers) to sell both design services and products: the GoMedia Arsenal vector and Photoshop brush packs. Visitors are drawn into the site via the blog content and can then be funneled into either the branded services or products on offer.

8. LifeDev, Zen Habits and Web Warrior Tools

LifeDev and Zen Habits sell Web Warrior Tools

A blog can also be an excellent way to support your entrepreneurial projects and give them a kick-start. Leo Babauta (Zen Habits) and Glen Stansberry (LifeDev) partnered to create Web Warrior Tools to provide a platform for writers to sell their eBooks and have someone else market them. Both blogs link back to Web Warrior Tools and were able to promote it at launch. Instead of having to claw out an audience from nothing, the Web Warrior Tools website was able to launch with pre-existing hype and an immediate user-base.

9. NETTUTS (Magazine model)

NETTUTS.com

Based on the success of the Gawker Media network of blogs it’s becoming increasingly common to see blogs run like print magazines, with a team of paid writers and an editor, and with an entrepreneur or company behind them, using advertising and other methods to break even and, hopefully, making a profit once staff and running costs are subtracted.

This business model can be one of the most ‘hands-off’ as you don’t need to be involved directly in the running of the blog. That being said, paying writers and an editor can be costly, so most successful magazine-style blogs are quite highly-trafficked in addition to having the starting capital to run at a loss for some time, at least initially. NETTUTS is a web development tutorials site that runs under a magazine model, paying tutorial writers and an editor out of advertising proceeds.

10. Sitepoint (Branded products)

Sitepoint sells books and educational kits

Sitepoint is an exceptionally popular website for web developers and designers. Part of that website is a network of blogs featuring web development news, tips and theory. Former and current Sitepoint bloggers have gone on to publish books under the Sitepoint brand, which are then sold from the Sitepoint website or through other channels (such as Amazon). The books are prominently branded with the website and blog logo.

Your branded products don’t have to be books. Some blogs sell merchandiseprint magazines, audio books and courses, and other products.

***

I hope this post will show you some of the creative ways people are making money through their blogs. It can be easy to approach the challenge of making money online from a very narrow angle and blinker yourself to rarer possibilities that may be a better fit with your blog.

Most importantly, don’t be afraid to trail-blaze and invent a business model that is perfect for your blog, even if it doesn’t exist yet!

ProBlogger Reader Blog Review: Win a Tomtom GPS Unit

This week I’d like to run a ‘reader review’ competition here on ProBlogger. Chitika kindly emailed me last week to ask if I’d be interested in doing a giveaway with them and so instead of just running a ‘comment to enter’ competition we thought we’d do something that gave everyone a chance to win a prize by helping another blogger.

The Prize

tomtom.png

Chitika (the ad network that is my 2nd highest blog income earner – learn more about them below) have put up a Tomtom ONE LE – (Limited Edition) GPS unit (pictured left).

The Competition

To put yourself in the running for the Tomtom all you have to do is review the blog Girls Just Wanna Have Funds by this Friday at 9am my time (in Melbourne Australia).

The winner will be the person who leaves the most helpful comment in the comments section below (as judged by the blog’s owner, Ginger). I should note that this is not a paid review for Ginger – I simply asked my Twitter followers to let me know if they wanted a review and she was one of many who submitted a link.

So don’t just leave a comment ‘great blog’ – actually look over the blog, talk about what you like, talk about what could be improved, share how you’d suggest they work on different aspects of the blog like design, content, SEO, monetization – the more constructive and helpful your comment is the more chance you have of winning.

My hope with this review is that Ginger will get some good advice, that one reader will get a nice prize and that the rest of us will improve our own skills and knowledge on how to build great blogs both by giving advice and reading what others have to say.

About Girls Just Wanna Have Funds

I asked Ginger to share a little information on her blog with us to help those of you participating in this review to give quality feedback that will help her. Here’s what she provided.

girls-just-wanna-have-funds.png

Girls Just Wanna Have Funds is a personal finance website targeting women in the areas of saving, investing, debt reduction and frugality. Our articles aim to be centered around issues that mainly affect women such as balancing career and family within the context of personal finance, education and the glass ceiling, household budgeting and managing finances with a significant other/spouse. Our primary goal is to teach women how to be mindful of their spending and building their net worth by making careful choices around their money. Women are often socialized to use money to create a certain lifestyle, while men are socialized to utilize money to invest for the long term. We’d like to change that by educating women on how to build wealth long term by paying attention to the present state of their finances and the decisions they make. In addition to the blog, we also have a meetup through Meetup.com that meets primarily in DC but also have other meetups nationally in the US that meet in other states through Meetup Alliance where members are able to create state chapters and begin their own meetups centered around women and personal finance.

Areas for Improvement:

  • Content/writing: How can I improve the content to target women in a more efficient manner and increase commenting on posts
  • Ad placement: I am with BlogHer Ad Network which is great as far as revenue but not sure about the optimal placement that doesn’t become obtrusive as some of the ads are animated via Adobe Flash. Also I am aware of the ad at the top of the theme causing the theme not to work properly in IE. I am working on this with BlogHer and my theme designer.
  • Site promotion: Besides commenting on other blogs/forums, guest posting and blog carnivals, how can I increase readership that sticks? Ive been stumbled quite a few times and even featured multiple times this year on local and national media but would like to figure out how to retain the readers that visit the site as a result of the media exposure.

There you have it – if you address some of the needs that Ginger has mentioned above you’re surely putting yourself in a better position to win the prize.

About Chitika Our Sponsor

I’ve been using Chitika for 2-3 years now and in that time they’ve earned me well in excess of six figures – but I’m not alone. In that time they’ve increased their publisher network to a point where they now have over 30,000 publishers using their variety of ad units.

Their ad units traditionally suited publishers with product related blogs – but in more recent times they’ve introduced their ‘premium ad’ units which display a much wider range of ads and help those with less product oriented blogs monetize their blogs. They’ve also relaxed some of their publisher requirements over the last few months so even bloggers with smaller amounts of traffic will now be accepted into the program.

Update: this competition is now over and I’m just waiting for thhe winner to be selected by Ginger before announcing it. Thanks to everyone for entering.

Million Dollar Blogger Interviewed

Yaro Starak has just published an audio interview with one of his former students (and now a coach) from BlogMastermind Alborz Fallah.

Alborz is behind a car blog here in Australia – a blog that has enabled him to grow his blog to a point where it’s been valued at over $5 million – have a partnership with a major media company, take on investors and more. It’s pretty impressive since he only started blogging in 2006!

This guy is getting luxury cars to review, is competing with the biggest car sites in this country and employs 6 full time staff.

Here’s the interview (there’s a transcript too) – it’s a great story with tips on writing content, finding readers and more.

PS: having just listened to this for the 2nd time what shines through to me is Alborz’s passion for his topic and his believe in writing amazing content. I think these things are central in what he’s achieved – great stuff.

The Top 5 Recommendations for Vista Rewired

It’s time to summarize over 40 reviews of Vista Rewired as part of our ProBlogger community consultation.

Before we begin, congratulations must first go to our three winners!

  • First-place reviewer Troy has won our 1,700 visitor prize, plus a one-month featured link at Vista Rewired.
  • Second-place reviewer Jacob Share has won the runner-up 500 visitor prize, plus a one-month featured link at Vista Rewired.
  • Third-place reviewer TzuVelli has won a one-month featured link at Vista Rewired.

Here were the top 5 recommendations made by the ProBlogger readers who critiqued Vista Rewired:

1. Monetizing without overwhelming

Because the blog is well-targeted to a niche, ProBlogger reviewers were able to come up with some stellar monetization ideas, including:

  • Blending AdSense units to make them the same color as links, which will decrease ad-blindness and increase click-throughs.
  • Sell private sponsorships through an ‘advertise here’ page.
  • Review Vista-related software and sell these products through in-post affiliate links.
  • Sell Windows Vista! At least some of your search traffic will be from prospective buyers looking for more info on the OS.
  • Add an eBay or Amazon affiliate store selling related products.

Readers were divided on whether to place AdSense units on the left or the right of the content — the argument for the left being that people start reading from the left, the argument for the right being that people will ‘read into’ the right.

Lastly, one easy way to get away with more advertising without making the site looks spammy is to remove Kontera from within content. It might convert OK, but does it really convert well enough to be worth making your blog look spammy?

2. Which design?

Many of the design critiques from the ProBlogger community won’t be relevant in this summary because the blog was redesigned during the course of the review. The eagerness to make changes is understandable, but it does present the problem that reviews directed at the previous version of the blog no longer make sense.

One reservation I have about the new design is that there is no way to access a traditional blog-style layout, and without images and excerpts of posts on the main page, it’s a lot more difficult for visitors to become gripped by a particular article. It also means headlines are very small, and lose much of their impact.

3. Taking content to the next level

One very good suggestion from a reader was to differentiate content on the basis of difficulty in application. At first glance, a particular visitor might assume that all the tips are beginner level, or if they’re very new to Vista, that the tips are too tricky for them. Marking each tip or tutorial as beginner, intermediate or advanced will help to communicate that the blog caters to all levels of Vista users.

Another practical tip was to include more images earlier on in the post to attract the attention of social media visitors. It was also suggested that Albert (the blog’s owner) mix-up the how-to articles with list style posts and collections of resources and relevant links. If Albert can provide a unique tip for the Vista community, he may be able to get a link from Lifehacker. Unique or unconventional tips and tutorials would be the smartest way to attract the attention of services like Digg.

4. Boosting traffic and subscribers

My favorite tip in this area was the suggestion to guest-post on MakeUseOf.com. The content is largely driven by guest-authors and OS related resource lists and tutorials are popular. Exposure to 13,000+ subscribers wouldn’t hurt, either! In my experience, guest-posting yields some of the most highly targeted traffic you’ll find, and it’s ideal for boosting your subscriber count. Other than guest-posting, writing for Digg or StumbleUpon at least once a week is the best way to grow both your traffic and your subscriber count.

Another simple, practical tip is to add an email subscription option alongside the RSS subscription option.

5. Search Engine Optimization

ProBlogger readers provided two key tips for SEO at Vista Rewired:

  • Use the All-in-One SEO Pack to generate unique meta descriptions for each post, rather than one generic meta description for the entire blog.
  • Work ‘Vista’ or ‘Windows Vista’ into blog post titles as much as possible (where appropriate) to increase your search rankings for Vista-related keyword strings.

Concluding thoughts

Overall, ProBlogger readers were impressed with Vista Rewired’s design and content, but felt the blog was not making the most of all the monetization and growth opportunities available to it. One thing we also learned: it’s a lot easier to think of ways to monetize a niche blog than it is to monetize a blog dealing with several broad topics!

Want to Win 1,700 Visitors? Review Vista Rewired

This week’s community consultation of Vista Rewired gives you the chance to win something very good for your blog: 1,700 visitors! Leave a helpful review with some non-intuitive tips in your comment and you could win a stampede of 1,700 StumbleUpon users to your favorite post. If your content is good, those 1,700 visitors could grow into a much bigger traffic snowball as votes for your content pile up.

What we’re looking for: a thorough review of the blog answering all the questions below and containing some non-intuitive advice. That’s all you’ve got to do to be in the running. There will be only one winner.

UPDATE: Albert has offered a few prizes to sweeten the pot!

1. The Top 3 Reviews will win a sponsored link in the blog’s sidebar for one month. The blog is PR 5!
2. The runner-up review will win  500 visitors to their blog!

The blog’s owner, Albert, describes the blog like this:

Vista Rewired was designed to help Vista users get the full experience out of their operating system. There are numerous tutorials and tips to help them solve computer problems or make their life easier with Windows Vista. My ultimate goal is for the site to become the de facto site for Vista information.

The blog’s owner has asked for feedback on the following areas (you can answer one, some, or all questions):

  • How can I max monetization on my blog without filling it up with too many ads?
  • If you can, please tell me one thing my site is missing. (I don’t know if this question can be worded better.)
  • My returning visitors are less than 10%. Is this normal for a site such as mine? If no, how can I increase the rate of returning vistors other than writing more often?

And the standard five points:

  • Design — usability, visual appeal, readability, navigation.
  • Content — got an idea for a great viral post the blogger could write?
  • Promotion — how would you suggest the blogger promote the blog?
  • SEO — can you see areas for improvement?
  • Monetization — could this be done more effectively? Do you see any missed opportunities?

We look forward to your helpful and respectful advice. Good luck!

The Top 5 Recommendations for Furniture Fashion

It’s that time of the week where I try to shrink down dozens of in-depth reviews into five actionable points resulting from our community consultation. This week we held Furniture Fashion under the magnifying glass. You can head back to its launch post if you want to read the reviews in detail.

Before we start, congratulations must go to Bruce for winning our 1,700 StumbleUpon visitor prize for the best review. He asked an incredibly important question: what’s your focus? Are you a catalog, or an interior design blog? The answer will inform a lot of the steps John Cavers and his blogging partner take from here.

Here were the top 5 recommendations made by the ProBlogger readers who critiqued Furniture Fashion:

1. The interplay between niche and design

A number of viewers felt the design seemed messy and visually unimpressive. There is little padding between elements (making things seem squashed together), and the color scheme of green, white, red, blue and black doesn’t seem to mesh well. The blog’s niche makes this more of an issue. Interior design is an aesthetics oriented industry and I suspect most readers would question a design blog that doesn’t express a sense of the aesthetic in its own design.

Because of the blog’s magazine-style content, I’d suggest switching to an elegant magazine theme like Futurosity EOS. Having said that, if the existing design is working well in terms of monetization, a few simple tweaks would make it a lot better.

1. More padding between the content, sidebar and header, and more space between items. The lack of padding makes it difficult for the eye to isolate specific elements.
2. A simplified color scheme, without the bright blue (orange might work as a replacement).

2. New ways to make money

Some reviewers wisely suggested entering into furniture affiliate programs to sell items directly from your posts. Another option would be eBay or Amazon affiliate programs to sell homewares and smaller, more shippable decorative items.

Another common theme was the color and position of the AdSense ads in the sidebar. Most notably, that the ads were bright blue — a color not found anywhere else in the blog. My suggestion would be to pick a unique color that matches the theme (a reddy orange, perhaps).

3. Boosting your content

Even if the blog contains mainly catalog style content, it’s still possible to mix this up with posts that could do well on social media. For this niche, I’d suggest:

  • Top 10 lists of weird or cutting edge furniture.
  • Photographic profiles of famous interior designers and their work.
  • Collections of themed tips on interior design.

4. Boosting traffic and subscribers

Catalog-style content can be fantastic for generating well-targeted AdSense, but it usually receives a lukewarm response in terms of long-term loyalty and repeat readership. This type of content is unlikely to gather traffic through social media and links. I’d suggest focusing on SEO and keywords within posts and headlines. Without the hope of social media traffic on catalog-style content, there’s little motivation to write headlines with flair — just go for well optimized ones. Working the full formal product name into headlines is a great way to attract cut and paste searchers doing research and price comparisons.

As for increasing subscribers, I would suggest either not worrying about them (they don’t really aid on-site monetization), or creating more value-packed content. Catalog content attracts curious browsers researching items they’re interested in buying, but it’s not great for attracting long-term, loyal readers. If the aim of the blog is to serve as an online business, though, this might not be so important. The importance of subscribers will depend on your goals.

5. Building a community

Catalog style content works well for making money through PPC ads, but it’s lackluster when it comes to creating a community and comment culture on a blog. To change the culture among your readers, you need to change your content.

  • Give advice.
  • Provide opinions and analysis — something readers can add their thoughts to.
  • Post three items of furniture and ask readers to vote which one they like best.
  • Create discussion posts: i.e. “What was the last piece of furniture you bought?”
  • Take questions from readers and answer them in-post.
  • Write reviews with pros and cons. This will encourage readers to chime in with their thoughts.

Concluding thoughts

Overall, ProBlogger readers felt Furniture Fashion was monetizing well but remained unconvinced about the blog’s design and focus. We wish John a lot of luck in implementing the changes!