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The Costs and Benefits of Running a Competition on Your Blog

Blog-Competition‘How do I run a successful competition on my blog?’

Competitions on blogs have become increasingly common in 2007 with an increased number of high profile blogs running them. As a result many smaller to medium sized blogs are considering them also.

The problem is that a competition can actually hurt your blog if you don’t do it right. There are some serious benefits and costs of running a competition on your blog and in this post I’ll take a look at the upsides and downsides.

With the benefits and costs of running a competition in mind tomorrow I’ll publish a post that gives some practical tips on how to run a successful competition on your blog (subscribe here to ensure you get that update).

The Benefits of Blog Competitions:

The benefits of running a competition on your blog will vary depending upon the type of competition that you choose to run. However there are a number of reasons that I see bloggers running them.

1. Finding New Readers – the most common reason that I hear from bloggers running a competition on their blog is that they want to find new readers. The hope is that the lure of prizes will draw readers in and that those new readers will like what they see and stick around. While this post isn’t the place to fully discuss it – this objective is actually harder than it might seem. Simply announcing a great prize to giveaway is not enough to draw in new readers – but more of that in tomorrow’s post in this series.

2. Rewarding Loyal Readers - most blogs have readers that have been a part of a blog from the early days. I know that here at ProBlogger there are a number of long term readers that have almost religiously read every post I’ve written (a fairly impressive task since there are now 4000 posts in the archives here). It’s easy to take these readers for granted – and a competition can be a way of giving a little something back and giving the readers you already have a little incentive to keep coming back for more.

3. Increase Reader Participation – with the rise of RSS feeds as a means of following a blog it’s not uncommon for a blog to be ‘read’ mainly by people who rarely actually visit the blog (ie people who read it in News Aggregators). While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing (at least people are reading you) RSS subscribers can be a more passive audience than those who actually visit your blog as they are less likely to comment, participate in polls etc. A competition can be a good way of drawing readers into your blog to take some sort of action.

4. Increase Page Views – depending upon the type of competition that you run, it can be an avenue to increase the pages viewed by readers. Asking readers to comment to enter or sending readers on a treasure hunt through your archives to find a hidden ‘key’ are two examples of this.

5. Good ‘Buzz’ – in addition to the above benefits – there are a number of others that are difficult to put a name to – so I’ll call it ‘buzz’. I’ve found that on my most successful competitions that there’s been an increase in the general positive ‘vibe’ on a blog as readers become energized and momentum is created. This can potentially happen both on the blog (among your blog’s readership) but also off your blog (on other blogs). This buzz impacts your brand, community and can even impact your own energy levels and motivation levels.

The Costs of Blog Competitions:

While there are numerous potential benefits of running a competition on your blog – there are also a number of significant pitfalls and risks that a blogger wanting to run a competition must take into consideration:

1. ‘Costs’ outweighing the ‘Benefits’ – let me share a scenario that I have heard from a number of bloggers in the last few weeks. The blogger decides to run a competition. They put up a reasonably expensive prize out of their own pocket believing it will attract new readers to their blog, they announce the competition, just a handful of regular readers enter the competition, the blogger sees no new readers but has to shell out for an expensive prize. This scenario plays out time and time again on blogs. I’ve seen it force bloggers to ‘go out of business’ and have seen bloggers attempt to cheat their way out of the situation and give prizes to made up readers. Sometimes the investment a blogger puts into a competition can far outweigh the return on that investment. Competitions can be risky.

2. Time Management - another ‘cost’ that many bloggers fail to take into consideration before a competition is that it can be a very time consuming exercise. This is increasingly so the bigger your blog gets and the more participants you have – but even on a small blog a competition can suck up every spare second that you have. Administering sponsors, writing announcement posts, answering reader questions, moderating entries, picking winners…. all of this takes time.

3. Sponsors Problems – almost every time that I’ve run a competition I’ve raised the prizes by asking sponsors to provide them. This is good in that it means I don’t need to outlay a prize myself – however it doesn’t always go smoothly. Sometimes you’re not able to give sponsors the attention that they want, other times their expectations don’t match yours, sometimes they just disappear and winners don’t get prizes, some need more hand holding than others…. While the majority of my sponsors have been great over the years – a handful have caused problems that took both time and money to fix.

4. Distractions from Your Core Business – when you run a competition on your blog it is good to keep in mind that the competition itself is not what your blog is about. A key element of a successful blog is that it produces regular quality content on it’s topic – this is your core business and a competition has the potential to take your attention away from it by taking your time away from writing content and by the competition being mentioned too regularly in posts over too long a period. Getting the balance right between running a successful competition and running a successful blog can be tricky.

5. Reader Disillusionment – one of the costs of being distracted by a competition is that a certain percentage of your readership can become disillusioned with your blog. There are ways to combat this – but even when you manage to do everything you can, there will be some readers who won’t like competitions. The other disillusionment with readers can be among those who don’t win anything. I don’t find that this is a major factor – but you will find that some readers can become quite obsessed and demanding around competitions – particularly if you have problems with administering it in some way.

6. Bad ‘Buzz’ – in my section on the benefits of competitions on blogs I mentioned that you can get ‘good buzz’ from a competition. Similarly you can end up with bad buzz – both on your blog (among readers) and off your blog (on other blogs). A poorly administered blog can end up giving your bad publicity, hurt your reputation and end up losing you regular readers.

So how does one run a competition on their blog that brings more benefits than it costs?

I’ve probably written enough today to give those considering running a competition on their blog something to think about. So tune in tomorrow for a post exploring “HOW” to run a competition on your blog.

In the mean time – feel free to share stories of successful and unsuccessful blog competitions that you’ve run and seen others run. You’re welcome to share a link to your examples so that we can all learn by seeing how you approached it.

Image by Kaptain Kobold

Don’t Just Have a Blog – Learn to Think Like a Blogger

Think-Like-A-BloggerLast week I was chatting to a new blogger and he asked me

“how do you manage to keep coming up with post ideas for my blogs?”

It’s a question I get a fair bit – and one I’ve struggled to answer… until recently.

It sounds odd that I don’t know how I keep ideas coming – but I’ve never really understood how I’m able to do it – it just seems to happen quite naturally.

What clicked for me was a conversation with my personal trainer who said something that switched a light on for me.

Learning to Think Like a Fit Person

He told me that what we’re trying to do in this early stage of my new training routine (I’ve been at it a month now) is really to establish new patterns in the way that I think.

I’d been thinking about my training as exercising my body – but what he’s helped me to see is that we’re actually working upon my mind as much as anything.

It’s a process of retraining my mind and how it thinks about numerous aspects of my life including what I eat and the activity that I do each day.

In the early stages of this process I’m being quite intentional about it (keeping a food diary, recording the amount of exercise that I do, having a weekly plan of exercise, learning about food portion sizes etc).

To be perfectly honest, a few weeks, the process doesn’t feel at all natural. My body feels sore and I feel like I’m thinking of nothing other than food and exercise and how they fit into my day.

It doesn’t feel natural at all – but what’s gradually happening is that I’m having a mind-shift.

Danny (my trainer) explained to me that in time the food diary will become less important because I’ll just start to ‘get it’. The exercise plan will be less central because I’ll be thinking like an active person and incorporating activity into my day in a more natural way.

Learning to Think Like a Blogger

Today blogging is a very natural part of my life. On most days I can sit down at the keyboard and start typing – a post appears. Sure I need to ‘work’ at it – but more often than not it’s relatively easy.

However it wasn’t always like this.
In my early days of blogging the process was far less natural. I sometimes forget how challenging it was – but when I force myself to think back:

  • I remember a period where I had to set an alarm on my phone to remind myself to post
  • I remember times where I’d sit down to write an nothing would come
  • I remember times where I’d write and rewrite posts and then hit delete – not publishing anything at all
  • I remember at times being quite structured in setting myself goals (posting targets, the number of comments I wanted to write on other people’s blogs etc
  • I remember times where it would take me hours to come up with a satisfactory opening line to a post or where I’d write 20 or so titles before finding one I liked
  • I remember struggling to find my ‘voice’ – wondering if I should be more professional, more personal, use humor, write as an expert etc

This process wasn’t always easy and as I think about it I realize that what I was doing in these early days was as much working on my mindset as I was working on my writing skills.

In a sense I was teaching myself to think like a blogger.

In time things began to change – in a similar way to the way Danny explained the process that I’m going through with my diet and exercise. The blogging process became more natural, it began to flow, the ideas came, I found my voice and I began to see some progress.

So what helped me to not only have a blog but to think like a blogger?

1. Goals and Planning – one of the main things that helped me in the early days was to sit down and think strategically about my blogging. As I mentioned above I had specific goals in the early days – particularly around how many posts I wanted to write per day. In a sense this was my exercise plan but instead of how many pushups I needed to do or what weight I needed to bench press the goal was XX posts per day.

This planning and objective setting went beyond the number of posts – but got as detailed as the days that I’d post, the types of posts that I’d write and even down to the time that I’d hit publish (I found giving myself specific deadlines helpful).

2. Structure and Routine – out of this objective setting I could then structure a routine for my blogging. You can see some of this routine in my posts A day in the life of a ProBlogger and Another Day in the Life of a ProBlogger (note, these posts are now 2 and 3 years old, my routine’s changed quite a bit – I’ll do another one in the new year). While you’ll see in those posts that my routine did change from day to day – there were specific tasks that I needed to achieve each day and I did develop a rhythm that repeated itself over time.

These routines changed over time and at some stages I didn’t feel the need for them at all – but in times where I hit a slump I’d revert to them to get myself back on track.

3. Spending time with other Bloggers – one of the reasons that I’ve started seeing a personal trainer to help me get fit lately is that I recognized that I’d be more effective in achieving my goals of fitness if I spend time each week with other people who already are (and think) the way that I want to be. Danny is (and thinks) like a fit and healthy person and spending time with him means some of this rubs off on me as we talk, and as he models what he asks me to do.

In my early days of blogging I gravitated towards other bloggers who’d been doing it longer than me. I particularly spent quite a bit of time interacting with Rachel from cre8d design. Rachel taught me so much about blogging – sometimes quite intentionally and sometimes just by me watching what she did.

4. Education – in my early days of blogging i was quite intentional about being a person who was constantly learning. I bought books about html (you wouldn’t know it), I asked other bloggers to teach me how to do things, I bought books on blogging (there was only one or two back then) as well as books on other online ventures and even did some online training courses. Some of what I learned I didn’t really use – but in time I grew in my knowledge of online activities. While I know not everyone has the budget for self education – I would highly recommend bloggers who are serious about learning more about their craft consider investing in themselves in this way.

5. Experimenting – over the last 5 years I’ve written many thousands of posts (on this blog alone it’s now over 4000). In that time I’ve tried so many types of posts, experimented with different voices, tried so many ways of promoting my posts and used hundreds of different types of blogging tools. The result of this is that much of the blogging process has become natural to the point where I sometimes forget what I’ve learned and find myself making decisions quickly that I used to have to think carefully about (for example knowing when a good time to post a particular post is – something I used to agonize over).

6. Making Mistakes – perhaps the best way to learn how to think like a blogger is to make mistakes. There’s nothing like falling flat on your face, making a fool of yourself, or doing something stupid that can’t be reversed to teach you how something should be done. I’ve made more mistakes than I can remember – each one has shaped me.

In time as I did these things (and mainly as I just practiced blogging) my thinking changed. As it did so did my blogging itself.

Image by minifig

7 Types of Blog Posts Which Always Seem to Get Links and Traffic

Keeping You Posted by Skellie.Here’s a really good question: what kinds of posts should I write to get more links and traffic?

It’s a question every blogger asks themselves. I want to answer it here by outlining 7 content methods that seem to work wonders on social media while also generating a lot of grassroots in-bound links.

Can you bring these powerful post types to your own blog?

1. Resource lists. The useful list of resources requires two ingredients: time and a good eye for quality. If a resource list seems useful many readers will bookmark or vote for it on face-value alone. If your blog is struggling, a useful resource list can be an effective way to spark up your traffic and links. Here’s an example of a well-done resource list:

Productivity Toolbox: 37+ Tools for Taking Action and Getting Things Done

2. Lists of tips. Quantifiable lists of tips are really attractive to readers because they explain in just a few seconds what a visitors stands to receive in return for their attention. You see them everywhere — and that’s because they work. Here’s an example of a good list of tips:

Nine Factors to Consider When Determining Your Price

3. Good advice. A quality advice-post generally sticks to one topic and provides in-depth info on it. In order to maximize the benefits, you’ll need to provide advice people are hungry for. Avoid over-saturated topics and try to work out what your audience wants to do but doesn’t yet know how. A good advice post can bring you a lot of success. Here’s an example of one such post:

A Guide to Creating a Minimalist Home

A taxi in Hong Kong traffic.
Photo by Steve Webel.

4. Arguing a popular point of view. People like to have their world-view affirmed. If you can articulate something a lot of people agree with, those who agree with you will champion your post. Those who disagree will probably still link to you, because their response won’t make sense otherwise.

This method works best when the topic isn’t too divisive. A reader won’t abandon your blog simply because you like Facebook and they like MySpace. They might abandon ship if you argue that capital punishment is necessary and that view is something they strongly disagree with. Make sure you’re not going to lose as many readers as you gain. Here’s an example of this method done well:

Ding Dong, Digg is Dead

5. Anything with a killer headline. When others link to you, it’s usually done in the space of a paragraph or even a single sentence. Bloggers don’t want to have to spend too long explaining what a post is about. Your headline should do most of the work for them. Sometimes a really outstanding headline is all it takes to get traffic and links. Of course, you’ll receive much greater rewards if the headline is matched by a great post. Here’s an example of this method in action:

The Web 2.0 World is Skunk-Drunk on its Own Kool-Aid

6. Q&As with high profile people. Interviews with well-known bloggers always seem to get links, comments and traffic. The nice thing about this method is that the only work involved is writing questions and approaching bloggers. The success rates for getting interviews are pretty high as most bloggers love talking about themselves! Here’s a clever example of this method in action:

Bloggers Face-Off: Darren Rowse vs. Jeremy Schoemaker

7. Best-of lists. At this time of year you’ll see a lot of ‘Best of 2007′ round-ups, though best-of lists seem to work well at all times. They’re effective because people are constantly searching for the ‘best’ of everything. It’s a term that promises high quality. It also generates interest because ‘best’ is subjective — what’s best for you might be mediocre for others. Ranked lists always seem to generate links, traffic and debate. Here’s a good, recent example:

Best Blogs of 2007 That You (Maybe) Aren’t Reading

Can you think of any other types of blog posts which always seem to get links and traffic?

Read more posts like this one at Skellie’s blog, Skelliewag.org and track her posts here at ProBlogger by subscribing to our RSS Feed.

Give Your Readers Room to Participate in Your Blog

One compositional technique that I teach in Digital Photography is to give your portrait subject space to look into when framing your shot.

You can see it in the image below – but the basic principle is that if your subject is looking to one side of the frame – position their head so there is more space on that side of the frame – giving them ‘space to look into’.

Here’s an example (source image):

Space

OK – now the reason for this ‘rule’ (and remember rules are meant to be broken) is that when you leave space like this you not only give the subject space to look into (which gives an image compositional balance) – but you also give the viewer of the image room to participate in the shot.

When a subject looks out of frame like this the viewer of the image is left wondering what they’re looking at, it adds a little intrigue to the image and it can add an unseen point of interest to the photo. Don’t you just wonder who or what the old guy in the shot above is looking at?

In a sense this technique draws the viewer of an image into it – evoking their imagination – engaging them in the photo.

OK – so what’s this got to do with blogging? Have I finally published a post for his photography blog on the wrong blog?

Leaving ‘space’ in your Blog posts for Readers to ‘look into’

As I pondered the way that including ‘space’ in an image can draw those who see it into that image I realized that a similar principle can apply in writing a blog post.

In my first year or two of blogging I worked under the assumption that the more comprehensive my blog posts were the better they would do. As a result I worked hard on providing my readers with every single piece of information that I could come up with on a topic before I hit publish. This resulted in very comprehensive (and often long) posts.

However in time I began to notice that it wasn’t these longer and comprehensive posts that got the most interaction from readers – sometimes it was the quick, half baked ideas and less comprehensive posts that actually seemed to engage readers the most in terms of generating comments and incoming links from other blogs.

In a sense what I was finding was that more comprehensive posts left less room for readers to add something to the conversation – so they didn’t – whereas posts that left room for others to add from their experience and knowledge drew readers to do so.

How to Add Space for Readers to Participate in Your Blog

Now I’m not suggesting that we all only write posts that are rushed, ‘half baked’, not thought through and second rate simply to get more comments – but I do think that there are ways that you can be more intentional about creating space for readers to participate. Here’s a few methods to try:

Reveal What you Don’t Know – sometimes as a blogger it is easy to fall into the temptation of presenting yourself as someone who knows everything there is to know on your topic. While expertise is a good thing to have – I find that readers actually respect you when you admit what you don’t know on your topic. This makes you more relatable and enables your readers to feel that there’s room for their own experiences and expertise on the areas you’re not so good on.

Ask a Question – the simplest way to create space for readers to interact with your posts is to ask them a direct question. This can be tied to something you don’t know (see above) or be a question that focuses upon their experiences, asking them for examples of what you’re talking about, asking them to add points that you’ve missed etc. We’re all wired to answer questions – so include them regularly in your posts and you’ll find you end up with a more dialogical blog.

Run a Poll – polls are a great way to get reader interaction because they allow readers to respond and participate – without having to really put themselves out there in a public way. I find that the polls here on ProBlogger are responded to by a larger number of people than those who comment and I suspect this is because many readers do want to have a say – but like their anonymity.

Invite a Response – there are other ways that you can engage readers than questions and polls. Call your readers to some other type of action including to write a post on their own blog, submit a guest post or to enter a competition and you involve your readers in the activities of your blog. Every time they participate they become a little more loyal to your blog – having invested something of themselves into it.

Create a Space for Interaction – one of the lessons that I’ve learned over the last year or two at Digital Photography School is that sometimes your readers are just waiting for you to create a space for them to take their participation in your blog to the next level. I discovered this when I added a forum to the blog. In adding it I found that a community sprang up almost overnight. I didn’t need to promote it heavily, people just wanted to connect, share and have a say. They could have done this in comments – but they wanted more and when I gave it to them they responded.

As you’ll see from the above – none of these things mean you can’t write comprehensive posts that show off your expertise. To me it is more of an attitude or an issue of the ‘voice’ that you use in blogging. Some bloggers come across as being more closed and unapproachable than others.

I’d be interested to hear examples of how you’ve worked at creating room for readers to participate in your blog.

Lessons for Bloggers From The ‘Death of 2007′

Death
The following guest post was submitted by Dr.Mani Sivasubramanian from Money.Power.Wisdom.

And so another year draws to an end. The ‘death of 2007′ sparks off a line of thinking that will add value to your 2008. It’s about burying the dead past – after learning every lesson possible from it, and using each one to make the future better.

And this applies also to the way you and I blog.

Death Focuses You On The ‘Here & Now’

We often sacrifice today for a brighter tomorrow. We postpone gratification and enjoyment so that we may multiply it in the future. Sadly, sometimes, we put off the important things – until it’s too late.

Death reminds us to live in the here and now. Do the things that matter today. Be wary about what you give up for a pay-off down the line… it just might be something far too precious to risk.

Blogging for influence might lead you to focus too much time and effort on your online activities. As you plan your strategy for future world-domination, ask if you really are willing to pay the price. Family, friends, social networks – all cannot be put on hold for long without damaging relationships permanently.

Death Shows How Insignificant Many Things Really Are

We obsess and worry about many things. We blow up many minor misunderstandings and shortcomings into earth-shaking disasters. We live our lives in a frenzy of self-created crises and emergencies.

Most, if not all, don’t matter as much when viewed in the cold light of hindsight. How many of these ‘terribly urgent’ things will matter some years from now?

As a corollary, this also draws your attention to the really essential things – and adds meaning to your life by directing your actions to where they will be most effective, not merely most efficient.

Look back at the hot, emotional and intense posts and ensuing discussions that have happened on your blog. Does what seemed ‘oh so vital’ then still remain as central or focal to what you do? Are you blogging about what matters – or just chasing rainbows?

Death Creates Urgency

All of us procrastinate. Many of us do it most of the time. “I’ll just get to it tomorrow/next week/when I have time,” we assure ourselves – and rarely manage to get things done.

But what if there was no tomorrow? Would you let these tasks go unfinished? Or would you hurry, re-organize and prioritize differently to get to them right now? Urgent things get done. Important things need to get done. Death can be a beacon that shows up the difference.

Is your blog on track to get you where you want to go? Are you caught up in trivia and detail, being forced to delay growth-oriented activity? Have you done things you need to do today – before wasting time on incidental stuff?

Death Recalls Pleasant Memories

Towards the close of 2007, what remains brightest in our minds are the nice, pleasant, joyful things that happened over the last 12 months. That focus helps energize and rejuvenate us to prepare for the challenges of the year ahead.

Taking time to relish success, enjoy rewards, bask in the glory of achievements is something you may not have thought important or essential. Truth is, it is vital – to happiness, to success, to accomplishment.

Look at what’s great about your blog. The top posts. Your best feedback. Your audience and the attention you’ve got in the blogosphere. Relish and take pride in what you’ve done. Promise yourself you’ll repeat it more often next year. And then, make that promise come true.

Death Makes You Pause & Reflect

In the mad, mad rush towards an ephemeral goal and a vaguely defined set of targets, we often lose direction or engage in unproductive effort. A time-out to rethink the direction you are moving in can get you closer to where you want to be than intense, but unguided, activity.

The end of a year (or month) is a good time to review your goals and targets for your blog. What landmarks did you reach? Which numbers did you make? Are they the right numbers? Why? How else can you make it better?

An hour of analysis and brainstorming every month about where you’re going with your blogging can make a world of difference to where you’ll reach by this time next year.

Death Provokes Gratefulness

We all have a lot to be thankful for. Most importantly, for being alive. Healthy. Rich. Happy. And a lot more.

But we hardly ever think about it that way. We are obsessed over what else we want, how much more we have to achieve, what else is left to attain – and the ambitions, dreams and aspirations drive us on relentlessly.

The calming holiday season before the hustle and bustle of a New Year begins is an excellent time to reflect, feel gratitude and express thanks to the Universe for all you have, enjoy and dream about.

And above all, be grateful for the wonderful online world of opportunity you (and I) enjoy, one that lets us blog, make money, and be happy!

Death Makes Way For The New

This year is almost gone. In many ways, I’ll remember it as a year of loss.

Many special people in my life died… my father, my dog, my professional partner, another team member, and my neighbor. Some deaths were natural, others accidents. Some came in the fullness of time, others destroyed enormous potential and promise.

And the year taught me many precious lessons about life, and about blogging. I’m sure yours did too. Let’s use those lessons to make a difference in the months ahead.

Here’s to a glorious, prosperous and joyous 2008. Happy New Year.

Dr.Mani Sivasubramanian is a heart surgeon using his Internet marketing business to fund heart surgery for under-privileged children in India. He blogs at Money.Power.Wisdom

How to Maximize the Benefits of Guest Posting

Keeping You Posted by Skellie.Publishing guest posts on popular blogs is a tried and tested way to get inbound links and traffic. There are certain things you can do to make this experience even more rewarding.

In this post, I want to share a number of methods you can use to maximize the rewards of any guest post you publish.

A note: This post will tell you how to get the most out of guest posting once you’ve got a blogger who’s willing to publish you. If you want more information on getting to that point, I’d suggest you read Darren’s tips on pitching to bloggers.

Do your research

A little bit of research is essential before you submit your guest post to be published. It will help make sure you’re properly rewarded for your work and that you produce something that will be well received by the blog’s audience.

Does the blogger give adequate credit to guest posters? If the blog you’re writing for doesn’t allow an in-post byline for its guest-authors, don’t bother. If you write a post including a byline for this kind of blog, the author will most likely remove the byline and publish your work without it. I’ve had this happen to me before — it’s not fun!

What kind of posts work well on the blog? Take a look at some of the blog’s most popular posts to get an idea of what worked well. Could you create something with similar elements?

Are there any gaps waiting to be filled? I wrote my first guest post for ProBlogger on drawing StumbleUpon visitors into your blog because I noticed it was something that hadn’t been covered much before. It went on to become one of this blog’s most popular posts. Ask yourself: how can I use what I know to bring something unique to the blog?

A stunning albino peacock.
The ideal guest post will show off your skills and impress. Photo by lightgazer.

Optimize your post for greater rewards

What you write and how you present it can influence how rewarding your guest posting experience will be. Here are a few tips to help you optimize your posts.

Link to yourself and others. If you’ve written something that relates to the guest post on your own blog, find a way to work in a link. You can link out to other sources as well if you’d like to take a more democratic approach. A note: if you haven’t written something vitally on topic, don’t link out just for the sake of it. This will look like you’re putting self-promotion above relevance.

Put in a real effort. It’s easier to have social media success with your post on a popular blog because there’s a bigger pool of readers to vote for what you write. More traffic to the post means more click-throughs to your site. In other words, it’s not actually worth it to write the minimum required just to get a link back to your blog. Writing a great guest post will drastically increase the rewards.

Participate in the comments section. One of the metrics whereby bloggers judge the success of a post (as you know) is the comment count. You can raise this and make a good impression on those who’ve commented by responding to questions and feedback on your guest post.

Call in favors. Use your connections to bump along the success of your guest post. You can contact social media users you know, link to the post from your own blog, or pitch the link to other bloggers.

Crafting your byline

The byline is where you’re credited for your writing. You can see an example at the bottom of this post. Most bloggers will give you the freedom to put whatever you like in your byline (within reason) — as long as it’s not too long. The byline is the place where people will decide whether or not to click-through to your own blog, so it’s important to get it right.

Create a byline to suit your goals. If you mainly want feed subscribers, include only a link to your feed. If you want feed subscribers and traffic, include a link to your feed and your site. If you only want traffic, drop the link to your feed. If you want to sell a product, mention it instead.

Appeal to your target audience. If you write for a certain type of people (for example: bloggers, dads, Zen Masters), include that information in your byline. It will capture the attention of the kind of people you want reading your blog.

Explain the benefits. If you want people to visit your site or subscribe to your feed, explain what they’ll get in return. Useful advice? Hints and tips? Free stuff? Give people a reason to do what you want.

Points to review

  • Take the time to research the blog you’d like to write for.
  • Write with the blog’s target audience in mind.
  • A quality post can help you just as much as it helps the blog’s owner.
  • Craft your byline to compliment what you want to get out of guest posting.

Skellie is a regular writer for ProBlogger. Subscribe to her feed for more useful blogging advice.

Why You SHOULD use AdSense on Your Blog

AdsenseIn this post I’ll explore some of the reasons why bloggers should consider using AdSense as a way to make money from blogging.

I recently released a video post which explained some of my reasoning for stopping to use AdSense as a means to make money from ProBlogger. The post got a lot of attention – however some readers thought that it meant I was giving up on AdSense altogether on all of my blogs. A couple even called me ‘Anti-AdSense’.

This is not the case – while I don’t use AdSense any more on ProBlogger – I do use it on some of my other blogs and it continues to one of my biggest income earners.

In fact since I started to use AdSense it’s earned me just under $400,000 USD.

That’s not bad considering that I’ve been using it for 4 years and it started out earning me just a dollar or two a day.

With earnings like that I’d be a little silly to be Anti-AdSense.

Like every method of making money for blogs – AdSense isn’t always the best choice – however there are plenty of good reasons to test it out. In the remainder of this post I’m going to explore when it IS a good option. Later in the week I’ll share the other side of the coin – when it ISN’T a good option.

Hopefully between the two posts we’ll have a good balanced look at AdSense:

10 Reasons Why You Should Consider Using AdSense on your Blog

1. International Traffic – if your blog has a considerable amount of traffic that comes from outside of North America it can be difficult to find an advertising network that will allow you to participate (particularly if your traffic is from some parts of Asia). Some ad networks will simply not accept you as a publisher, others will not serve their ads to non US traffic and others will serve other less relevant and lower paying ads to this traffic. AdSense does none of this. The beauty of AdSense is that they have such a large supply of advertisers using them that there is almost always some advertiser who wants traffic from your your reader’s part of the world. Of course there is more competition for some traffic than others (which drives up prices) but I know as someone who has a large Australian readership of some of my blogs that it is one of the best ways that I’ve found to make money from that traffic.

2. Easy Implementation – when I first started experimenting with making money from blogging just over 4 years ago I experimented with a number of options. The reason that I stuck with AdSense was that even as a complete technical idiot I could get an AdSense ad unit up and running on my blogs within minutes. Of course since that time AdSense have made implementing ad units on blogs even easier (particularly in the last couple of weeks with server side ad management). While other ad networks have followed in the footsteps of AdSense in how they let publishers design and add ad units to blogs – I still find AdSense one of the easiest to use. This makes it ideal for the beginner wanting to experiment for the first time with an advertising network.

3. Massive Advertiser Base – AdSense has had years to establish itself in both it’s back end but also it’s presence in the Advertising community. The result is that they’ve managed to build up a very large base of advertising clients. This increases the chances of them being able to serve relevant ads to your blog (see my next point). There’s no way that an individual blogger would be able to have access to such a wide array of potential advertisers.

4. Obscure Topics – one of the issues that some publishers face when starting a blog on a tightly targeted niche is that it can be difficult to find ways to make money from it either through finding a sponsor for the blog, finding an ad network that is relevant to the topic or by finding an affiliate program that relates. While AdSense is better for some topics than others (read on for more on this) I’m constantly amazed by just how targeted ads can be on even obscure topics. The myriad of advertisers using this system are competing by bidding on millions of keywords on virtually every topic that you can think of.

5. Make it Easy For Advertisers to Target Your Blog – AdSense servers ads from advertisers to your blog in a couple of ways. Firstly there’s one that is completely contextual – they look at your content and then serve ads from their system that they think will relate to that content and have a good chance of earning you (and them) money. The second method is where advertisers specifically target your blog to have their ad appear on. This all happens without you really having to do anything – but it’s good because it is often used by advertisers to test your blog – which can lead to other things. Every few weeks I get an email from a potential advertiser who had been testing ads on my photography blog via AdSense and then wanted to further the relationship (whether by going with private ad deals, sponsorships, affiliate programs etc).

6. Set it and Forget it – many bloggers just want to write content. They don’t have the time or expertise to approach, pitch, negotiate with and then collect money from advertisers. AdSense takes a lot of this work away from you and many bloggers simply add the code to their blogs and then forget it. Of course for best results you should pay it a bit more attention than that and experiment with different design and positioning of ads – but it does take a lot of the work out of things.

7. No Minimum Traffic Levels – if you are just starting out and don’t have much traffic yet it can be difficult to find advertisers or an ad network to take you on board. Some networks have minimum traffic levels before they’ll accept you into their program – but not with AdSense. While your blog may not earn you much – even with small amounts of traffic you can begin to make a few dollars over time.

8. Able to be Used with Other Ad Types – when I first started experimenting with AdSense there were fairly strict rules in place as to what other types of advertising you were allowed to have on a page that had an AdSense unit on it. However in more recent times it has become a little more relaxed and you can run many different types of ads on the same site and page as AdSense.

9. Multiple Ad Formats – one good feature of AdSense is that you’re not just restricted to one type of ad with them. Not only do you have many ad unit sizes to choose from – but you have the ability to serve Text Ads, Image Ads, Video Ads, Adlink units, referral ads (CPA) and use their ‘search’ tool which also is monetized. Many other ad networks just major in one or two of these different formats – in a sense AdSense is something of a one stop shop.

10. Reliable Payment - one of the questions that I’m regularly asked about new ad networks coming onto the market to compete with AdSense is ‘how do we know if they’ll pay up?’ The reality is that most ad networks do pay up – but you do occasionally hear stories of publishers who are not satisfied with this aspect of some ad networks. AdSense has had a few problems over the years with individual publishers – but considering the vast numbers of publishers that they must have – they’ve done pretty well. My payments come in like clockwork and the one time that I did have a check go missing it was promptly replaced.


Of course this post has only argued one side of things (and I’m sure others will give more reasons why they love and use AdSense). So to give a well balanced view on whether to use AdSense on your blog – later in the week I’ll take a look at the flipside and explore some reasons why AdSense might not be the best option for making money from your blog.

Where’s the Content? – Positioning Ads on Your Blog

Here’s a quick tip on ad placement that I’d like to pass onto bloggers – particularly those experimenting with AdSense.

Ensure that your content can be seen above the fold.

That is – ensure it’s above the fold if you want readers to keep coming back to your blog.

One of the important choices that faces many bloggers is how to place Ads aggressively enough to get click-throughs but subtly enough that the rest of the page doesn’t suffer as a result.

One of the trends that I’ve seen increasingly on blogs is to place large AdSense ads in the center of pages right above content.

In doing so they content it self is quite often pushed down so far the page that scrolling needs to happen in order to read it.

I totally understand why bloggers do this – in fact it probably comes from the advice of AdSense themselves in two ways.

The advice from AdSense:

Ad Heat Map1. Ad Placement – AdSense have produced a ‘heat map’ which shows where they have found that ads perform best (see left).

The more orange that a spot on the page gets the more attention it will get from readers.

Obviously the best place for an ad on this heat map is right above content – dead centre on the page.

2. Rectangle Ads – The other advice that AdSense gives repeatedly is that rectangle ads (either 300×250 or 336×280) tend to perform best. They do well because of their size but also because they come in text, image and video ads.

ProBlogger Advice:

AdSense is completely right with both of the above piece of advice. Ads close to content work great and rectangle ads do perform really well in comparison to some other ad units.

However – take these two pieces of advice together and put them into place on many blog designs and you set your readers up for a problem.

The result is that quite a few bloggers end up with pages that look a little like the image to the right:

Ad Positioning

I’ve even seen some pages with two (and once three) rectangle ads above the content. Depending upon the size of the screen that your readers are viewing your site on there might be a little content viewable – but the majority of it is generally below the fold.

While this does give you a decent chance at a good CTR it also gives you a decent chance of having a visitor to your site head straight for the back button on their browser and never return.

While I’ve talked numerous times about how placing ads prominently on your blog increases the chances of someone responding to those ads – the same principle applies to content. Hide it away at the bottom of a page and people are unlikely to respond to it which will lead to:

  • few loyal/repeat readers
  • few incoming links from other bloggers who like your content
  • few people bookmarking your site on social bookmarking sites
  • low comment numbers

So what’s a blogger to do?

In the end bloggers need to make a choice. Which is more important to you – high CTR from readers who never come back or high reader satisfaction?

Which comes first and to what extent?

I’m not going to put push my own preferences upon readers – in fact for me on different blogs I have different priorities – however this is an important issue to grapple with if you’re going to run ads on your blog.

Some Alternatives to consider might include:

  • Smaller Ad Units – prominently place but smaller units might allow more room for content
  • Single or No Sidebar – having just one sidebar, or even going without one altogether allows you to have a wider content area and still have a prominent and large ad unit
  • Wrapping Content around Ads – one of the good way to get both ads and content prominent is to inset ads into the content and allow the content to wrap around it

How prominent are your ads? How prominent is your content? Which takes the prime position and how did you make the decision? I’d love to hear how you place your ads.

Are Affiliate Programs with Small Payouts Worth It?

Today this question about affiliate programs landed in my inbox:

“Darren, could you answer a question for me? I notice that a couple of weeks ago you promoted Leo’s Zen to Done ebook with an affiliate link. I was surprised that you did this because the commission from it is just a few dollars – loose change really. Wouldn’t you be better off promoting high value products? Do you really need the few dollars that a sale brings? Doesn’t it all get too bitsy?”

Blogging-For-Loose-Change
Photo by Aytena

This is a good question and one that I’ve seen a number of bloggers arguing over the years when given the opportunity to go with income streams with small dollar values associated with them.

I could probably write a long answer to the question – however I think the best answer is to say that there’s a lot of businesses going around that make a lot of money out of lots of small payments (micro payments).

Micro payments add up over time.

Let me illustrate with some real analysis of part of my online income from the day after I promoted Zen to Done. Here’s some of the income that I earned that day from a few of the affiliate programs that I run:

So the total income from these affiliate programs for that day was $287.78 from 65 sales. That’s just $4.43 per sale.

$4.43 per sale doesn’t sound a lot to be earning – but when you have 65 of them in a day it makes a nice supplementary income for a blogger. I say supplementary because I also run advertising and other larger affiliate programs on my blogs (see below).

Of course to get the 65 sales you need a good volume of traffic and you need to find quality affiliate products that relate to your blog’s topic (read more on how to make money from affiliate programs on a blog) – it’s not just a matter of sticking an affiliate program on your blog with 17 readers and expecting the sales to roll in.

PS: I should point out that I only included in this list some of the smaller affiliate programs that I promote. Not all affiliate programs have small payouts. I work with a few affiliate partners with products that pay out more than the ones in the list above also (for example promoting AdSense through their referrals program can bring in $250 for a full conversion). Why wouldn’t I just promote these? It’s simple, these tend to be fewer in numbers in terms of conversions – but together with a higher number of small affiliate conversions they can add up to a nice income.