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The Secret of Product Blogs That Sell

One of the most effective ways to make money with a blog — and a method that is gaining steam — is product blogging. Essentially, your blog is built around selling one or more products, either directly from you or via affiliate programs and joint ventures with others.

There’s many ways to go about this. You could have a blog designed to promote information products that you have created — such as ebooks or audio/video products — that go into much greater detail about the subject matter than your free posts provide. You could do the same with other people’s information products via affiliate programs.

Or, your blog posts themselves could be designed to promote your catalog of software or hard goods directly. Some people like to call this catablogging, and again, you could do a catablog with affiliate programs if you don’t have products of your own.

And of course, there are endless combinations and hybrids that you can come up with.

Whatever your product blogging model, one crucial skill will determine whether you make an optimal amount of cash for your efforts. You’ll need to be able to craft words that sell, which is a nice definition of the art and science of copywriting.

In my next couple of guest posts here at Problogger, I’m going to do case studies on two different approaches to product blogging. Then I’ll follow up with a look at product blogs powered by affiliate programs, which anyone can start up quickly and, if done correctly, very profitably.

If you’re not familiar with the basics of copywriting, feel free to check out this introductory copywriting tutorial I put together over at my place. Copywriting skills are an essential element to the new conversational style of blog marketing, and this free tutorial should get you up and running in no time.

Controlling the Googlebot

How to control what gets indexed by Google and when? That is the question. Most of the time, we want Google to snarf up as many pages as possible. In my own experience, I can think of a few times when indexing was not something I wanted and I had to go back to Google to actually have pages removed.

In the immortal words of Darren Rowse, there’s a tangent to follow:
In my case, a church website I run inadvertently had information about missionaries that were in sensitive areas of the world and information about them actually placed them in danger. While I typically wanted information about the church and functions of the church indexed for people to find, I did not want this information indexable. While I spun my wheels to correct the sensitivie information, I realized that anyone in the world could find enough information about these people via Google that I had to resort to Google’s url removal tool.

Matt Cutts provides a concise and link-filled guide to information to control the Googlebot’s indexing. Though details can be found at Matt’s site, here is a short rundown:

  1. At a site or directory level, use .htaccess to add password protection.
  2. At a site or directory level, make use of a robots.txt file.
  3. At a page level, use the noindex <meta> tag.
  4. At a link level, use a nofollow attribute.
  5. If the content has already been crawled, use the Google url removal tool as a last resort.

I would add just a point on common sense and intelligent web concepts. There is a saying that says that nothing you do on the internet is anonymous. There is something to be said about thinking before you act. It’s harder to cleanup from a boneheaded mistake such as the one I made for the church whose site I ran, than it is to think before posting anything online. If you don’t want the world to see it, then don’t rely on the mechanisms listed above. Simply don’t post it.

Flat Fee Advertising All That’s Left?

If you go by the story from SEOMoz, there’s too much fraud in the advertising arena and the only format that makes sense for advertisers is flat-rate models such as Text Link Ads (aff).

The post writer, Michael Martinez, cites a staggering fact that 14% of clicks in the click-through variety of advertising is fraudulent. I don’t know where he got his numbers, but I have no reason to doubt that they are accurate.

I’ve thought for some time that contextual advertising is dead, and I see the argument about impression based advertising. But could his prediction be true? I sure hope not.

A Day in the Life of a Blogger – Vidcast

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Yesterday I got a new toy – an iSight webcam.What follows is a little video I made with it describing ‘a day in the life of me’.

It’s nothing to serious and not the best quality video I’ve ever made (it was a little dark in the room) – but it was a fun way to spend a lazy Saturday evening.

This video was originally shared on blip.tv by darrenrowse with a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs license.

PS: The music is Chemical Brothers – Setting Sun from the albumn Dig Your Own Hole (aff)

ebay AdContext Product Manager Sheds Light on Program

One of the product managers from ebay’s new AdContext contextual ad program, Ken, has just left a comment on my previous post about AdContext. As the comment was pretty long and quite comprehensive I thought I’d promote it to be a post of it’s own. Hopefully it sheds some light on AdContext for those of you considering joining the program. Keep in mind the information is from someone working on it so there is an element of natural bias there – but I think Ken’s done a reasonably good job. Thanks for stopping by mate. Here’s his comment:

I’m one of the product managers for eBay AdContext. I just read Darren’s post and everyone’s comments and I wanted to give everyone some information so you can decide if AdContext is worth your time (or not :). I’ll try to keep it factual so you won’t think I’m trying to pull some marketing spin here.

Payout structure: The payout structure for eBay AdContext is based on eBay’s affiliate program. In the US this based on a revenue share for bids, BINs as well as each new confirmed registered user (CRU) you send to eBay. Details are here. For other countries where eBay operates the compensation structure is not revenue share but pays out on each bid, BIN and CRU (for example, see the UK payout structure here).
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WordPress Plugin: Timecapsule

This post was contributed by Aaron Brazell, a regular ProBlogger contributor.

Update: A new version of the plugin has been uploaded.

I accidentally published this early and had to pull it back because it wasn’t ready-for-live yet. RSS subscribers, you got a sneak peek early but I wasn’t ready. Now we’re ready. :-)

Last week I passed my two year birthday as a blogger. Much fun and joyfulness were had by at least three readers. Such milestones tend to make me think about where I’ve come as a blogger and where I’m going. Though I have not always produced wonderfully excellent content, it’s really beneficial to highlight where I’ve been… especially as the really early stuff begins to fade away.

Finding a way to highlight older content adds a new dimension to your blog. Typically, a blog is single dimensional – that is, it is read from top down and unless some creative means are put in place to connect other aspects of your blog, readers may never experience them. Since I hate content to disappear into archive purgatory, I put a feature on my blog a few months ago called “The Timecapsule”.

I don’t know how it is in other parts of the world, but in the United States, folks looking to preserve historical moments and memories, will encase a “time capsule” in the cornerstone of a building when the ground is first broke for building. It’s the symbolic memorializing of “that which once was” which preserves memories for future generations.

As with memories buried inside a building cornerstone, a timecapsule on a blog can reveal to readers “that which once was” and can serve as a wonderful reminder of where you have come as a blogger.

I’ve taken the feature from Technosailor and wrapped it into a single WordPress plugin simply called Timecapsule – of course, notoriously, the first ProBlogger plugin release. :) This plugin was built on WordPress 2.x, but I don’t see any reason why it would not work on earlier versions of WordPress. I just haven’t tested it.

Instructions are really simple:

  1. Download (link fixed) and extract the plugin.
  2. Upload timecapsule.php to your plugins folder.
  3. Login to wp-admin and activate.
  4. Configuration can be made in the Time Capsule submenu under the Manage tab.
  5. Drop &lt;?php timecapsule(); ?&gt; where you want to display the timecapsule.

Changelog
2006-06-01
– Initial Release (1.0.1)
2006-06-01
– Bugfix release (1.0.2)
– Fixed Bug with Number of posts displaying incorrectly
– Added ability to customize ‘no posts’ message
– Added ability to turn off ‘no posts’ message

A Question about Comments and Permission

Amy (a ProBlogger reader) sent me a question this morning that I thought might make an interesting discussion question:

“A writer for a newspaper would like to quote some of the comments my readers have left on my blog. As the blogger, I’m not sure what’s appropriate–to give her my permission to use whatever comments she wants OR to insist she first tell me the comments she wants to use so I can contact each commenter and get their permission.”

What do you think? Do you (or anyone else) need to get the permission of those who leave comments on your blog if you’re using their comments for any other purpose than where they’ve left the comment?

I’m interested in your opinion.

ProBlogger Blog Case Study – Digital Photography School

Last week’s experiment with Vidcasting brought a lot of positive feedback so I’ve decided to make it a regular thing. This week I’m testing blip.tv (still in beta) to host my video. Let me know what you think in comments.

In this week’s vidcast (6 minutes and 23 seconds) I walk you through my latest ‘blog’ Digital Photography School. It’s an experiment on numerous levels and I talk you through some of the theories that I’m testing there.

By no means is this new project finished (it’ll take years to get to where I want to go) – I’m not satisfied with many aspects of it yet but as I say it’s more of an experiment than anything else and I’ll use it as a blog case study both in this vidcast but also in the coming months as I continue to develop it. In this way I hope to give a practical example from startup through to maturity (hopefully) on how I set up a new blog. I’m taking a long term view of this process so settle in for the ride.

Hopefully it will also be a useful blog for some of you who are interested in improving your digital camera technique – if that’s you you might wish to subscribe to it’s weekly email newsletter or RSS feed.

Of course any link love that you can give it will be much appreciated!

Here’s the Vidcast.


Blogs: Frequently Asked Questions

What are blogs anyway?

A blog is a regularly updated website consisting of regular article postings. Links to and from other blogs and traditional websites are a prominent feature of most blogs. A blog tends to be focussed on a single topic or issue, and usually invites comments from readers on the posted articles, starting a conversation between writer (called a blogger) and the readers. A blog usually reflects the personality of the writer, and is most often written in a personal and informal style.

Isn’t a blog just an online diary?

An online diary, or personal blog is only one type of blog. Along with personal blogs, there are many types of business, technology, and professional blogs. The personal blog was once the predominate form of blog, but that is definitely no longer the case.

Are there different types of blogs?

Blogs can be in the form of written blogs, hosted on a blog server or on the webmaster’s own site. Blogs can also be found that use audio postings rather than written posts. There are blogs for every type of business, profession, and technological concept. Writers, lawyers, accountants, real estate agents, search engine optimization experts, marketers, and public relations professionals are just a few of the professions making use of blogs in their businesses.

What value does a blog have for a business?

A blog opens up the lines of communication between the blog writer and the reader. By becoming accessible to the public, a business can be seen as more than simply a faceless company, but a group of real people. The blog provides a powerful element of personal contact with the reader, building trust and confidence in the business and its personnel.

What type of businesses could benefit from a blog?

Any type of business that requires communication with potential readers in the general public can benefit from maintaining a blog. The public can be current and potential customers and clients, the news media, other business or professionals in the industry, or simply casual readers interested in the topic.

What business uses does a blog have?

A blog is ideal for opening the lines of communication between the business and the current and future customers. Communications builds trust that goes far in the areas of marketing and public relations. The blog puts a human face on the company and builds the level of trust. People are far more likely to purchase products and services from other people who they know and trust. A blog is also a very powerful tool for improving search engine rankings because of the keyword rich fresh content and the abundant incoming links.

Are blogs a useful networking tool?

Because of the intensive personalization involved with writing blog posts, the blog is a natural networking vehicle. Readers interact with the writer through the blog comments and by e-mail. The contacts often lead eventually to many shared business opportunities. Successful business arrangements formed between two blog owners, and between a blogger and a reader, occur very frequently.

How could I start a blog?
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