Where’s the Content?

Sometimes its easy to get so carried away with earning money on your blog that your content can become secondary to everything else.

I’ve had (and probably fallen for) this kind of temptation myself – but think its probably the blog and your readers who suffer most for it.

I was just surfing by this blog and was struck by the layout there (screen capture above – click to enlarge).

The screen capture is of an individual archive page that I surfed into from an RSS feed. When I got to the actual site I found myself asking ‘where’s the content?’ (it reminded me of one of those ‘Where’s Wally/Waldo books’). Perhaps its just my screen size (15 inch) but as you’ll see from my screen capture the content’s heading was the only part of the content to show above the fold – the rest of the page was almost completely affiliate links (hidden as recommended reading), cross promotion to other parts of the network and ads.

Once again – I too feel the temptation to smother some of my blogs in ads and on some of them could be accused of similar tactics – but I wonder what it does for building a loyal repeat readership? To be honest coming to a page like this doesn’t inspire me to come back – not because of the content (they often have good stuff there) but simply because it is so hidden amongst the rest of what the page has.

My recommendation to bloggers is always to work on content – provide relevant and useful information for your readers – put it in a clearly identifiable and easily found position and don’t fall for the temptation of the quick easy buck.

Why Adsense is Not Suitable for All Blog Topics

One of the most striking things that hit me in my analysis of the 30 most visited blogs at Truth Laid Bear was the small number of blogs using the Adsense program. Only 8 of the 30 (26%) had any Adsense ads on their pages – most instead opting for BlogAds as their income stream of choice. A number of you have also emailed me or commented on this after my previous post (remember these 30 blogs are not THE most visited blogs – just the most visited ones with sitemeter stats tracking them).

As someone who uses Adsense extensively in my blogging this was initially a somewhat shocking finding. My Digital Camera blog is down at the bottom of the list at number 30 with 12518 daily visitors – I use Adsense extensively there and make over $200 per day from doing so on that blog alone (it is my highest earning blog to date). It would be easy to assume that a blog like Daily Kos with 35 times the daily traffic should earning 35 times the money if they used Adsense ($7500 per day).

This would be a false assumption.

Why? Its simply about Topic.

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Google AdSense for RSS running at Weblogs, Inc.

Jason writes that they have been accepted into the testing program of Google Adsense ads in RSS feeds. Lucky things!

I’m not bitter though after my own rejection – sniff sniff. Well not too bitter.

thanks to Mike for the tip

Update: in spotting some of their ads in their Engadget feed I’m wondering about the relevancy of the ads – all I see to see is ads for filling in surveys (below) which don’t seem to have anything to do with the content. Perhaps Google has a few bugs to weed out still.

Fastclick add Text Ads

Yesterday Google announced it was going into CPM advertising and expanding opportunities for advertisers to use banner ads – today one of the big banner ad providers, Fastclick, add to their website that they are getting into Text Ads.

Found via Thread Watch

How the Most Highly Visited Blogs Earn Money

update: How to blogs earn money? For more information on this topic check out ProBlogger the Book.

Yesterday I spent the afternoon wading through some of the most highly visited blogs going around at Truth Laid Bear’s Traffic Ranking page which ranks those blogs with Sitemeter statistics. I quite often head over there to keep track of who is doing what. Whilst it doesn’t track all blogs it does give you a hint at what blogs people are reading in terms of topic.

Today I was surfing through the top 30 of these blogs and I started to keep track of how many of them have some sort of income stream (whether it be ads, affiliate programs, donation buttons, merchandise for sale etc). I did the same exercise informally about 12 months ago and found that just over half of the top blogs had income streams. This year I found that things have changed – the Blogosphere is becoming more commercial (or at least the most highly visited blogs are). I’ll outline what each of the top 30 are doing to earn an income below – but let me first share some initial findings:

  • All blogs in the top 30 have an income stream. Only one blog had no advertising or affiliate programs (it did have a donation button though).
  • The most popular Income Stream on these Blogs is BlogAds – 23 of the top 30 have them.
  • The next most popular income streams were donation buttons and Amazon links (mainly to books).
  • Also popular were AdBrite text ads.
  • Only 8 of these blogs use Adsense.

There are plenty of other observations to be made from what I found but I’ll let you chew over them a little and make your own remarks below in comments. Here are the notes I took on each of the top 30 blogs in the list:

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Adsense RSS Ad Testing Rejection

I thought I’d try my luck and drop the team at Google’s Adsense an email to ‘offer my services’ as a tester for their RSS ad program. Of course I wasn’t expecting an affirmative response but thought I’d test my birthday luck. The response was to be expected:

Hello Darren,

Thank you for your email. The feature you’re referring to is one of several new features the Google AdSense team is currently testing for a very limited number of publishers. At this time, we are not able to offer these features to other publishers. Should we offer this feature to additional publishers in the future, we will be sure to notify you at that time.


The Google AdSense Team

Oh well – it was worth a try I guess. I wonder how one gets selected for these testing roles?

Adsense Ads – Which Position Works Best?

Google have added a heatmap to their Optimization Tips page to give publishers a few clues as to what positions on your site might be best for Adsense Ads (darker colors are best performing positions).

Nice how they designed this in ProBlogger Colours by the way

You’ll notice from the heat map that ads close to content obviously do the best with left hand side ads performing better than those on the right of the page. Google also give the following advice on this page:

‘Certain locations tend to be more successful than others. This “heat map” illustrates these ideal placements on a sample page layout. The colors fade from dark orange (strongest performance) to light yellow (weakest performance). All other things being equal, ad placements above the fold tend to perform better than those below the fold. Ads placed near rich content and navigational aids usually do well because users are focused on those areas of a page.

While this heat map is useful as a positioning guideline, we strongly recommend putting your users first when deciding on ad placement. Think about their behavior on different pages, and what will be most useful and visible to them. You’ll find that the most optimal ad position isn’t always what you expect on certain pages.

For example, on pages where users are typically focused on reading an article, ads placed directly below the end of the editorial content tend to perform very well. It’s almost as if users finish reading and ask themselves, “What can I do next?” Precisely targeted ads can answer that question for them.’

As I always advise those I do Adsense consulting with – its worth keeping in mind that every page is different. Whilst the above positions are a good general guide there is always an exception and its worth moving your ads around a little, changing design and size and tracking the results to see what works best for your blog.

Using Bloglines – a Tutorial

I was speaking with someone yesterday via MSN and they asked me about how I could possibly follow so many trains of thought to keep 20 blogs on such a variety of topics updated. My answer was quite simple – Bloglines and the RSS feeds that I track there are one of the keys to my success.

betterdays has a helpful tutorial on Using Bloglines (or How to keep up with dozens of blogs everyday) which should give beginner users of Bloglines some helpful tips on how to use it in keeping up with many sources of information at once. It goes right from the sign up stage through to subscribing to feeds through to integrating it with other services like Flickr and Feedster.

It’s not rocket science – but for those who don’t know where to start with Bloglines this is a great starting place and will teach you the basic skills you’ll need to get the most out of the tool.

Business Week Does Blogging – An Incomplete Picture?

I’ve been looking over the online version of Business Week that this week focusses upon Blogging. The articles that I’ve read are well written, insightful pieces – but I can’t help feeling a little disappointed that they tend to focus largely upon businesses who blog rather than blogs that are businesses. Articles like Blogs will Change your Business, Six Tips for Corporate Bloggers and the case study of Stonyfield Farm’s Blog are all going to help build the overall profile of blogging – but I wonder if an article highlighting how bloggers are using blogs to directly make a living might have given a fuller picture.

The article on Lockhart Steele’s blog was probably the closest to this in the articles they’ve posted online (are there more in the hard copy edition that give a fuller picture?) – however the article wasn’t really explicit or an inspirational piece on the power of entrepreneurial blogging.

Perhaps I’m being a little hard on Business Week and asking for something that was beyond what one edition could possible deliver – but I’d like to see them take another look at blogging at some point and hopefully explore blogging AS business rather than just blogging as a support to business.

What do you think?

Google TrustRank

Search Engine Watch notes a few new trademarks from Google – including one interesting one ‘ TrustRank’ which they speculate that it could be an indication that Google are cooking up some new ranking system (like PageRank?) that is for combatting web spam.

Also trademarked by Good are the terms:

  • ‘Advertise On the Neighborhood World Wide Web’
  • ‘Its All About Results’
  • ‘Picture Simplicity’