October 25, 2014

How to Restart a Blog When You’ve Been on Hiatus for Three Years

Posted by: of Stephan on 05/14/13

I left my blog dormant for a few years, but I’m finally back in the saddle! I drafted up a post entitled “How to Restart a Blog When You’ve Been on Hiatus for Three Years” because it seemed fitting. Here are my main points to get you started:

1. Jump in and write something. No apologies. Or a lengthy explanation or justification for being off the grid.

2. Get some tools or processes in place that will make it as painless as possible to post. Like Dragon – which incidentally is available as an iPhone/iPad app.

3. Hire a virtual assistant if that will help you. (More on using VA’s in a future post).

4. Roll out a site redesign at the same time to let everybody know you’re reengaged and committed.

5. Don’t try to get all your readers all caught up on your life all in one post. You’ve got plenty of fodder for many blog posts – so save it for later.

6. Finally, silence the perfectionist in you. I have this bad habit of pouring over my blog posts – my articles even more so – trying to make them perfect. I put a dozen hours or more into articles on search engine land. That’s crazy. That’s not good use of your time. Much better to freeze all those great ideas and insights stuck in your head – share them with the world. It’s okay if the sentence structure isn’t always on the mark. It’s a blog post for Pete’s sake.

Warning: EU making anonymous comments illegal?

In case we don’t have enough to worry about as bloggers, it appears that the European Union is passing a new directive that makes it illegal for businesses to falsely masquerade as a consumer. Not just with fake blogs (also known as “sock puppet blogs”) but with comments on blogs too, reviews on Amazon.com and other review sites, and more.

It all sounds good in theory, but in reality I fear that this will prove to be a nightmare for bloggers if we are going to be held liable for verifying the identity of everyone who adds comments to our weblogs. I mean, let’s be straight here: identity is impossible to verify anyway, and even if you could, the nuances of identity are such that the system is trivially defeated anyway. For example, if my sister works at a company and I write a blog comment on someone else’s weblog that defends her firm, do I need to disclose that relationship?

It’s a curious law and I surmise that the EU won’t be able to enforce this new directive. But that’s just me. What’s your opinion of the new law that’s just starting to surface in the online world?

Tip: More details on this article can be found on my own blog, in a considerably longer article entitled: EU makes fake blogs and comments illegal: are all bloggers liable?

Scraped Blog Content and Google Adwords

There’s something rotten in the state of the blogosphere.

Like most neo-narcisists, I have a Google Alert going on my name, or more specifically, the name of my company. Every day, I get reports on posts I’ve done that mention “flyte,” or traffic reports involving people named “Flyte,” or updates on the Brideshead Revisited movie that may or not be made, or, more recently, seeing my work appear without my permission at other blogs.

These blogs have invariably scraped content from a post of mine, sometimes w/credit, sometimes w/o, and used the content w/o comment to sell Google Ads. Of course, anyone coming to the site will invariably click on one of those ads, because the scraped content is often incomplete and thus incoherent. For example:

Although there are several Web sites dedicated to organizing and promoting To start, I?d recommend using a hosting service that specializes in Podcasts. His podcast, flyte: Web strategies for small business, is available at

Yeah, I’d be proud of that.

Each time I find content that’s been scraped selling Adwords I report it to Google. Here’s how:

  1. Click on the link that says “Ads by Goooooogle.”
  2. Scroll down the following page and click on “Send Google your thoughts on the site or the ads you just saw.”
  3. Click on the “Also report a Violation?” link.
  4. Report to Google that this blog/site is scraping content from your blog (assuming they are.)

If it’s a Blogger blog you can also flag it for in appropriate content.

Unfortunately, I’m concerned that Google’s not concerned enough. After all, they make money every time someone clicks on one of these ads. While I like the people at Google, and I think they’re bright and they want to do the right thing, this may be a case of the fox guarding the chicken coop.

Recently, Search Engine Roundable reported that Google had a patent application named “Detecting spam documents in a phrase based information retrieval system,” so maybe they’re taking it seriously.

However, until they do take it seriously bloggers need to be watching that their own content isn’t being scraped and Adwords advertisers should probably require that their ads only appear at Google, and not on 3rd party sites.

FTC May Regulate Word-of-Mouth Marketing

Posted by: of Blogging Systems Group on 12/14/06

The Washington Post is reporting the Federal Trade Commission may regulate word-of-mouth marketing and require full-disclosure.

The Federal Trade Commission yesterday said that companies engaging in word-of-mouth marketing, in which people are compensated to promote products to their peers, must disclose those relationships.

In a staff opinion issued yesterday, the consumer protection agency weighed in for the first time on the practice. Though no accurate figures exist on how much money advertisers spend on such marketing, it is quickly becoming a preferred method for reaching consumers who are skeptical of other forms of advertising.

I’ve ranted about the PayPerPost, need for full-disclosure debacle a couple of times and have one more such rant in me, which I’m considering posting here later this week. However, if the FTC steps in, it may make my harangue moot. More to follow on this I’m sure.

Via TechCrunch and CopyBlogger

To Beg, Bribe or Comment?

Remember the brouhaha over Marqui’s Pay Bloggers program back in 2004? People were so incensed that a company would dare pay bloggers to blog about them. Oh how idealistic they were! Those were the good ol’ days, before PayPerPost and Pay Per Digg. Now with ReviewMe having just launched, I see this system, of paying off bloggers, gaining more and more legitimacy. Programs such as these infuriate many ‘blogging purists,’ but the fact of the matter is, it’s simply capitalism at work. Like it or not, it’s here to stay.

Offering bloggers cold, hard cash is quite different from sending them free swag. Personally I think free swag offers distinct benefits over the payola route. As a blogger, I feel cheapened by the offer of cash. But the idea of free swag sounds kinda fun. Especially if it’s cool stuff. And as long as there are no strings attached. Several months ago Dave Taylor discussed whether free swag will get you a positive review by the blogger you send it to. The answer is of course, “not always,” but you should be willing to take that chance. Even if it’s not a good review, any link juice that comes out of it is good for your search engine rankings. My preference would be to make up “care packages” for your targeted bloggers that include free product samples and a nice, since, handwritten letter/card. Now’s a perfect time of year to send out such packages, with the holidays coming up. You can send them under the guise of a Christmas/holiday gift. Of course not all products are suitable for bundling into a care package. National Business Furniture would have a much tougher time picking out goodies to send than Steve Spangler Science or Discovery Channel Store.

As a blogger, I’d love to receive some instant snow or a DNA extractor kit, not so much a gun cabinet or sewing table. ;-)

Then you don’t always need to invoke bribery either, to gain a link and mention. For example, a week ago I received a request from the folks at the wonderful association of online retailers Shop.org (of which my company Netconcepts is a member), asking for some coverage for their new shopping portal. It’s for a good cause, as all of Shop.org’s proceeds go to their Ray M. Greenly Scholarship Fund, for college students interested in e-commerce careers. So, here you go, Shop.org — Do your holiday shopping online and do some good at the same time. (Hope it helps guys, and good luck!)

In a case such as this, where it’s for a good cause, I’d say free swag could actually get in the way, and negate the emotional tug on the heartstrings with a rationalized economic analysis.

All of the above notwithstanding, the approach I endorse the most to ‘infiltrating the blogosphere’ is to build relationships with bloggers over time by commenting on their blogs (I’m talking about interesting/insightful/provocative comments, not empty throwaway statements like “Really useful post. Thanks!!”). Over time I bet you’ll start to capture their attention and interest. If you aren’t convinced of the value of commenting, you might want read this, this and this.

Edelman responds with a plan, will it be enough?

Posted by: of A View from the Isle on 10/21/06

I caught on Steve’s blog last night and via Jeff Jarvis this morning, Richard Edelman’s blog what is an interesting follow up to yesterday’s news about Wal-Mart (Walgate? Floggergate?).

From Richard Edelman’s blog:

  • We are undertaking a thorough audit around the world to ensure we apply best practice guidelines to every program in every market and specialty area.
  • We are requiring that all employees attend an Edelman University class on ethics in social media, hosted by members of me2revolution team as well as external experts. This will take place before the end of next week
  • We are establishing a 24/7 hotline so our me2revolution team can review, provide counsel and apply best practice guidelines on social media programs before their implementation. This ensures that programs adhere to the WOMMA guidelines or best-in-class standards around the world.
  • We are creating ethics materials that will be distributed to each office and all new hires.

This is just the beginning. We recognize we have further to go. You can and should be helping us. I appreciate all the invaluable feedback you have provided during this week–and we have taken action on at least of one of your comments. If there any other actions that you would advise us to consider, I would welcome them.

The question is then, is this enough?  On the surface, I’d say it’s a really good start.  Time is going to have to tell though.  I suggested in a comment on Richard’s blog that they need to tout some successes and start a blog with a client that really follows all the principles and ethos of WOMMA.  And hire some outside biz bloggers as coaches wouldn’t hurt either.

You can bet this is going to be talked about at Blog Business Summit next week!

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Nikon and eBay Get Hip to Social Media

Are you wondering how large companies can tap into the popularity of social media, Web 2.0, and other contemporary trends in the online world? Well, they could just pay $50,000 and set up a commercial MySpace account (no kidding, that’s the base fee for a fancy professional profile) or they could actually be inspired and tap into the popularity of YouTube or Flickr and do something really cool…

That’s exactly what auction giant eBay did when it created an admittedly cheesy 75 second introductory movie promoting an upcoming course they’re offering to the eBay seller community. They filmed the movie then simply uploaded it to YouTube and mentioned it on the eBay Chatter weblog to help drive more customers to the training course: check it out. Cool!

Nikon did something even more cool, though: it picked out a group of existing Nikon digital SLR photographers from popular photo sharing site Flickr and sent them brand new Nikon D80 camera setups. Their assignments? Take pictures, send us your best. The result? Stunning Nikon. A very savvy marketing effort!

I applaud both companies for experimenting – and succeeding – with social media and look forward to more companies tapping into the wisdom, enthusiasm and verve of popular social media.

An extended version of this article, with samples from Stunning Nikon and the eBay YouTube video, can be found at eBay and Nikon: Examples of New Media Marketing.

RSS, Blogs Head Up Holiday Marketing Plans for Etailers

Posted by: of Expansion Plus on 10/6/06

Nearly two thirds of adults intend to do their holiday shopping online this year. Take a tip from the major eTailers’ marketing playbook:-blogs, RSS feeds and viral marketing are what you need to drive all those eager online shoppers to your site.

Nearly half, 41.6 percent, of retailers will incorporate blogs or RSS feeds into their holiday marketing strategy, and 79.5 percent will use viral marketing at social networking sites, like MySpace and Friendster, says the 2006 eHoliday Mood Survey released Wednesday. The study was conducted by BizRate Research for Shopzilla and Shop.org.

And don’t be misled by the perception that these sites are only for teens. More than half the visitors to MySpace are now 35 or over–up from less than 40 percent last year, reveals new data from comScore Media Metrix. 

Of course they have to find your website – so 97.4 percent of eTailers invest in search engine optimization and marketing.

Since shoppers show signs of starting their holiday spree early in November, now’s the time to get your blog and feeds up and running.  Plan a holiday content strategy and create RSS Feeds that will raise your search rankings and distribute your content into the news aggregator sites, making it easier for the online holiday shopper to find you.

 

 

Will bloggers write about stuff you send us?

As bloggers and blogging has raised its visibility in the media landscape, and as us bloggers have become thought and opinion leaders, to a greater or lesser extent, it should be no surprise that we’re smack-dab in the middle of the radar screen for Public Relations firms and individual companies seeking to gain “buzz” or visibility for their products or services.

What clearly isn’t quite so obvious, however, is how to approach bloggers when you want to send them something to check out. Do you explicitly say “do you want to review this” or, even more blatantly, “will you say nice things about it if we send you one?” or is there a more subtle road you can travel, one that’s more akin to “thought you’d find this cool. Want one?” without any expressed desire to have one of us actually write about it?

I would suggest that it’s an unsolved puzzle and that when I was approached by a company that sells high-tech bean bag chairs to see if I’d like to review one, this all came to the fore because, well, because I’m a business writer, not a furniture reviewer or home decorating maven. (trust me, you don’t want me decorating your home! :-) )

The key revolves around disclosure, and instead of actually reviewing the chair, I decided that I’d write somewhat of a meta-review, talking about how the chair ended up in my office and its implications for both bloggers and PR professionals seeking to have us examine their wares.

Oh, and my review? Here’s an excerpt: “As it turns out, I don’t particularly like the chair because while the fabric cover is clearly tough and durable, the rip-proof nylon isn’t very comfortable and I really wish it had a cloth, cotton or even corduroy cover. But I’m in the minority. My wife…”

You can read more about this topic, including the email back and forth with Omni, the bean bag company, on my business blog: How to get bloggers to write about your product.

PR Firms Comment Spamming?

I’m really disappointed to see that PR firms can stoop so low as to comment spam us bloggers on behalf of their clients. Here’s a comment that came into one of my blogs (to this page) a couple days ago, from Connors Communications (yes, I’ve nofollowed the link):

HitTail is a site dedicated to helping you chase the long tail of natural search… the first of its kind http://www.hittail.com

Doesn’t this smack of comment spam to you? Clearly these folks don’t understand the blogosphere. Granted they didn’t make the URL a clickable link like most comment spammers, but that was probably just out of naivete.

Talk about a public relations strategy that’s bound to backfire!

I’ve heard of PR firms starting faux blogs, ghostblogging, posting fake posts to discussion forums, and emailing bloggers with untargeted, brazen pitches. But comment spamming? This is a new one on me.

Anyone else seen PR firms posting thinly veiled ads for their clients into your blogs’ comments?

Realtors Turn To Blogging For Sales

Posted by: of One By One Media on 08/31/06

Kate Kaye of ClickZ reports that spending for marketing budgets for real estate is waining in the regular newsprint of old. Realtors are spending more and more of their ad budgets online. Citing a study performed by Classified Intelligence she indicates:

So, if 58 percent of real estate agents surveyed are raising ad budgets this year, where is the money going? Where they are spending the bulk of the money online, in fact, is on their Web sites. Twenty-six percent spent 10 percent and 29 percent spent 20 percent of their budgets there. Just 6 percent did not spend at all on their Web sites.

Impressive numbers but where are they actually spending the money? Andy Beal believes he knows where the revenue is going and that is to blogs. In fact as Mr. Beal states:

While Realtors are reducing their offline spend, the report shows there is no clear winner for online ad spend.

But I know the answer. Want to know where real estate agents are investing their online efforts? Blogging! Yep, I lose track of the number of new blogs that I see each day that relate to the real estate industry. But don’t just take my word for it, take a look at these charts…

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Andy makes a good point about the discussion of real estate, but what is interesting to find are blogs about real estate that are being tracked by Technorati have reached nearly 1000. The reason I find this interesting is because less than a few weeks ago I did the exact same search for a presentation to a real estate agent and it turned up only half that number. Real estate blogs are popping up all over the blogosphere and Google shows that over 91,000,000 search results come from searching blogs for real estate. After doing some other snooping around it looks like some in the real estate businesses are spending huge amounts on pay per click campaigns and for paid search. Of these companies I was unable to find any of them working natural search through blogs. Being the investigator type, I was curious if I could find a blogger on Google that was in the denver area. Real estate always seems to be on the rise here in Denver so a realtor can be found on every street corner. I searched Denver Realtor. At the time of this writing, I was able to find that the number 2 search result turned up Kristal Kraft. It just so happens that Kristal is a realtor in Denver that has a blog. Today she has a beautiful picture of balloons being launched in the blue Colorado sky. I’ve not personally talked with Kristal but rest assured, if I was looking for a realtor in Denver, she may get my call only because I was able to find her easily.
Realtors in the real estate business are clamoring for a piece of the online pie, but those realtors that hop on the blog bandwagon will find themselves out ahead of those still trying to attract the home buyers and sellers via that thing rolled up on the driveway. A very small investment has given one blogger a leg up on the competition.

Hespos Knows Math And Offers Solution

Posted by: of One By One Media on 08/23/06

We have been posting a recent theme here about monetizing blogs and how to make money with blogs and blogging.  We have ourselves jumped into marketing and advertising on this blog with ads.  For the average blogger off the street, it is difficult to understand the math associated with the various models of payments, be it “pay per click” or “cost per page views” or the many other models available.

Tom Hespos takes a look today at the math behind the direct response model of advertising and earnings and he had me hooked with his opening line:

“Take it from a media buyer. The blogosphere will not be able to sustain itself on the direct response “buy my crap” model that large sites use to cover their costs. Let’s do the math, shall we?”

Being a professional blogger and a person that derives income from my blogs I was immediately interested in why Tom felt my business model was headed for the drawing board.  As he runs through the numbers, I find myself nodding in agreement with the formula and his reasoning.  Then he hits me with the reality of my situation:

“AdSense and other pay-per-click programs that cater to direct response advertisers tend to pay for beer money to all but the biggest bloggers.”

Actually I don’t drink that much beer, and although I am not what he considers a big blogger, I think I get the gist of his statement.  Unless you are one of the A-list bloggers, you are merely wasting your time if you want to have any return on your blogging investment. The investment of time, effort, and perhaps a little money. What Tom does offer is a solution:

“If you do the math, it becomes obvious that in order to support itself, the blogosphere needs to sell itself not on response-generating ability, but on something else.”

“To me, that “something else” is audience engagement. And not the audience engagement the advertising community has been struggling to define.”

Thanks for the wake up call and your shot at a solution Tom. 

When I speak to client’s, they always want to learn about “Return On Investment” or ROI.  They want to know how many eyeballs they get and how much it will cost to get their campaign noticed using the blogosphere.  They don’t seem to understand the conversation that takes place in a blog model.  Hespos is discussing exactly that model.  The PPC model will soon run its effectiveness and with everyone on the planet with a blog, real estate will be easy to acquire. 

What companies need to focus on in their campaigns are the “egagement” of their potential customer’s attention.  Once you have the attention of the customer, the ROI takes care of itself.  If everyone in the room is engaged in a discussion about your product, chances are you will have an easy sell and hence your return.  Now as a company how do I get them to talk about my product?  My obvious answer is to bring the conversation to them and allow them to engage and discuss your product or service.

I agree with Tom that their will need to be some changes in the way companies are using online marketing in their advertising campaigns.  The person that comes up with the best and most inspring model that can show some ROI will be the person out front.  For now, blogging is nothing but math to the companies writing those online marketing checks. They want the hard numbers and a bottom line.  Perhaps, as Tom suggests, we can influence the way they do business.

I’m not quite ready to give up my beer money just yet Tom, but you are on to something.

 

Content: The Gold Standard For Your Business Website

Posted by: of One By One Media on 08/22/06

Good quality content is like the gold standard to companies wanting to be found through organic search. Many SEO experts will all agree, after you have a website optimized for search there is nothing better than good quality, relevant content to make you successful. This is what drives the robots and spiders used by search engines to find information about you and your company and eventually to your site. If you don’t have constantly updated and quality content on your site, the spiders and robots will stop visiting and stop telling the world about your business.

Why do I continue to mention quality content? This question is often asked by my clients that want to merely throw up some stuff on their website about their company without really having a voice or direction to the content. The first thing a business should recognize is that their website is often the first chance they will have at an audience for a potential customer. The content on their site should be relevant to the customer’s needs. A customer wanting to look for a replacement battery for their latest gadget doesn’t want to come to your site to learn about the history of your company and why you started business, they want that battery and they want it now. If your company is on the cutting edge of that technology you should be talking about that gadget and why your company is providing the best replacement batteries for the best cost and can have it to them when they want it. This is what the search engines can root out and find for their searching customer.

My good friend and colleague Dave Taylor has coined the term (and I wish I had done it first) “Findability.” This may seem to basic and it is beyond simple, but many companies don’t understand the concept. Taylor describes findability in his latest speech during the Affiliate Summit in Florida thus:

 

“…findability is the concept of how easily can people find you when they’re looking for your service or product.”

The yellow pages in my home is taking up wasted space. I simply do not use them to find a business or product. I use a search engine like Google, MNS or Yahoo to get me what I want when I want it. Recently, my wife and I needed a plumber to take a look at our water heater. Where did I go to find this plumber? I went to Google and stuck in the search phrase “water heater, maintenance and plumber and Longmont, Colorado”. Within minutes of that search, I had a plumber on the way to my home and he was gone in 4 hours (I’m definitely in the wrong career option). Now imagine if you were the hot water heater guru in Colorado and every day posted a little something about water heaters, maintenance and plumbing, you could guarantee you would probably be very high on the list in the natural search results. You didn’t have to out bid that other company that came up in the paid search results. Your company was front and center on the screen because you provided that search engine quality content that was updated constantly and robots and search spiders where there waiting in line to gobble up what you have to say about your industry. Taylor in another portion of his talk in the affiliate marketing conference made me chuckle with:

“I don’t care whether you’re a marketing and affiliate program, or you’re marketing products as an affiliate, either way, if I’m searching for your product or service, and I can’t find you, you really have a problem. And for most small businesses, I think it’s absolutely the case that they’re already dead, and they just haven’t noticed yet.”

Thanks Dave and those of you that are interested in the rest of what Dave has to say about “Findability” you can see his whole presentation at the Affiliate Summit 2006 East and at his own site at The Intuitive Life Business Blog. 

Content is the gold standard of blogging.  Keep it fresh, keep it relevant, and keep it contstant.  You won’t be one of those small businesses out their walking around with the walking dead.

Why AdSense doesn’t suck for Bloggers

I’ve been part of the Google AdSense program for years now, and am still amazed by the criticism and hostility that bloggers have towards this method of monetizing your blog traffic. This morning, as part of a bigger discussion behind the scenes here at BBC about monetizing your weblog, we were considering Michael Arrington’s critical comments regarding the Federated Media network, of which his popular TechCrunch blog is a member. More to the point, however, we were also reading the rebuttal on ChasNote, a blog run by one of the Federated Media team.

In that posting, Chas (Charles? Did I mention that I really dislike blogs that don’t indicate their author’s name?) quotes Michael as saying “I consider the 40% I pay FM Publishing, my agent, way too high. But they are still a young service and I’m sticking with them” then responds with: “Outsourcing 80% of your cost structure in exchange for 40% of the revenue may not be such an unfair deal in the end.”

I’m still not sure about those numbers for the blogosphere, but we need to read just a bit further to find the snippet I found most interesting…

Chas cites Mike D., who apparently wrote on TechCrunch that “AdSense tends to make people believe that the entire advertising world is just a question of building up traffic and then letting the ads pour in automatically, but the reality is that a good sell through rate at a good CPM requires a dedicated sales staff, whether it’s internal or external.”

Ah, finally, you have enough background to join the discussion and see why my title refers to AdSense!

Let me start by quoting my own comment on this matter that I left at ChasNote:

“I continue to be fascinated by the gap between what people say about AdSense and my own experience with the program. I certainly don’t find that I need a dedicated ad sales person to figure out how to monetize my blog through the Google AdSense program, and with approx 5% click-thru rate and an effective CPM across the last 30 days of approx. $9.00, it works fine for me and can work well for other bloggers too, better than it’s probably working now.

“The key to any advertising is to recognize whether you have a unique proposition, however. TechCrunch is so darn popular because Mike and his team do have a unique angle on things so it’s always engaging and interesting reading. That’s something that can be leveraged by ad sales and monetized differently to, say, a “lots of links to gizmodo and boing boing” Blogger.com blog that someone does hoping to see a trickle of traffic and some ads.

“As long as Federated Media focuses on these blogs with unique profiles, it will indeed continue to raise the value of the real estate it’s representing on each site, and if you don’t think that 60% of something big is worth more than 100% of something small, Mike, you needed to have the experiences I’ve had in the startup world, where we learned pretty quickly that 100% of wishing definitely does not outperform even 10% of something big.

“Further, my understanding is that blogs that are part of the Federated Media network retain the right to sell their own ads, use AdSense, Omakase, Overture, whatever, in addition to the FM blocks being sold by their sales team, so if the % is a problem, why not just have less FM ads and delve into selling your own advertising blocks anyway?”

More about AdSense

The more I’ve thought about this discussion, though, the more I want to share some basic truths about the Google AdSense program that are directly related to whether you, fellow blogger, are seeing enough revenue each month to buy a can of Coke or pay your mortgage:

1. Hiding your ad blocks will never be an effective strategy for earning money.
2. Failing to give Google enough breadcrumbs to ascertain your page topic defeats the targeting part of the AdSense ad targeting tool.

I constantly talk with bloggers who are astonished by how much I earn through Google AdSense, and even the folks at some very large media networks can’t believe anyone sees CPM’s of greater than $1 for AdSense.

Why? Because just about every blogger I’ve seen who uses AdSense seems to have a love/hate relationship with advertising. They don’t really want to have advertising and so they set themselves up for failure from the get-go by having the ad block in the right navigational column four pages from the “top of the fold”, by using a color scheme that makes it glaringly obvious that the block is advertising and thereby teaching visitors to ignore it, by joining dozens of graphical ad networks and serving up visual overload instead of targeted advertising, or similar.

Worse, I have found that contextual targeting requires at least 200-250 words on a given topic to work. The more the ads are related to the blog entry topic, the more likely they are to be clicked and earn you a few pennies a click, right? As a result, I hope you can immediately see how the all-too-common “resource locator” postings like “Cool article in the NYT. Check it out: [link]” are anathema! That doesn’t make them bad blog postings, of course, but does mean that they’ll adversely impact your ability to monetize your traffic.

I was watching the final match of the 2006 FIFA World Cup again last night and was really struck by how the major advertisers had ads that were either about or related to soccer: they knew that context matching increases ad effectiveness. Google knows it and has built its empire on the ability to match ads to content too. Trust me, if you aren’t getting relevant ads on your pages after they’ve been around for a few hours, it’s Google’s way of saying your postings are too darn short.

So here’s the gauntlet I’ll throw down: let’s pick a blog or two that are part of the AdSense program and publicly redesign it to be more AdSense friendly. I will bet a copy of my book Growing Your Business with Google to each of the blog owners that we can measureably and significantly incresae their ad revenue by simply following the basic ideas presented here.

Really, AdSense doesn’t suck for bloggers. Bloggers who want to enjoy the benefits of a successful AdSense presence just need to rethink their design and blogging efforts, just a bit.

By the way, if you haven’t yet gotten started with AdSense, why not learn more here: Getting Started with Google AdSense?

Blog Advertising

Posted by: of Online Marketing Blog on 04/26/06

Over at ClickZ Kate Kaye presents the findings of a recent survey conducted by the Blogads Network that distinguishes blog audiences into four categories: political, gossip, mom and music.

CEO Henry Copeland points out that some political and entertainment advertisers grasp the idea of targeting specific types of blogs based on the unique audiences they reach, many advertisers “don’t get the degree to which these are self-contained universes…This is not a basket of eyeballs; these are very interwoven communities.”

The study also showed that hardly anyone from the four groups listens to podcasts:

“62 percent of music blog readers, 75 percent of political blog readers, 77 percent of mom blog readers and 80 percent of gossip blog readers said they never listen to podcasts.”

Along the lines of advertising, eMarketer reports a study by PQ Media that Blog, Podcast and RSS advertising rose by nearly 200% in 2005 and is expected to grow another 145% in 2006 to reach nearly $50 million.

“Blog, podcast and RSS advertising are being driven by some of the same factors boosting the growth of the overall alternative media sector: continued audience fragmentation, the perceived ineffectiveness of traditional advertising, and the elusive but coveted 18-to-34-year-old demographic,” said Patrick Quinn, president of PQ Media. “[They] have demonstrated an ability to reach younger demographics as well as influentials.”

And then there was this interesting quote about podcasting:

Looking ahead, PQ Media estimates that podcast advertising will be a larger market than blog advertising by 2010, when the blog segment will comprise only 39.7%, or $300.4 million, of overall expenditures. Podcasting, projected to grow at a compound annual rate of 154.4%, is predicted to reach a total of $327.0 million in 2010. These numbers are closely in line with eMarketer’s own projections, which recently put total spending on podcast advertising at a total of $300 million by 2010.

Perhaps Blogads CEO Henry Copeland and PQ Media President Patrick Quinn should get together and compare notes?

Is there money in blogs? The discussion hits the WSJ

Posted by: of A View from the Isle on 04/19/06

The “hot news” on the Blogosphere this morning is the interview between Alan Meckler and Jason Calacanis in the Wall Street Journal.  The discussion is geared more towards the individual blogger with the experience Jason has as the CEO of a major blog network.

The discussion (according to tech.memeorandum) is pretty diverse.  A lot of people are focusing in on the “if you hit this traffic level you make good money …” aspect of the article, however I think this is only part of the story.  Jason touches on it with this short comment:

The fact is that the “long tail” of sites is largely unmonetized. Over the next five to 10 years, Google AdSense, Weblogs Inc., Yahoo Publisher Network, AOL’s white-labeled version of AdSense, and Microsoft’s “AdSense killer” will enable the monetization of a lot of those smaller sites.

For businesses blogging, there might not be much, if any, interest in putting ads on their blogs.  However, if you are a small business or a solo pro … earning a little extra cash is a nice bonus.

Looking at the larger picture, though, most of the major ad networks recognize that there are a lot of untapped (un-added?) blogs out there.  Leveraging that potential real estate is going to be the challenge of 2006.

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Major Hotel Group Launches TheLobby.com

Posted by: of Thinking Home Business on 04/18/06

Preparing a workshop on blogging for people in the meetings and events industry, I went googling for hotel blogs. I found plenty of blog posts about hotel experiences, but not hotel corporate blogs, with one exception, the new blog launched by Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, TheLobby.com, which is claimed to be the first blog launched by a major hotel company.

Graphically attractive in a fairly understated way, the blog is apparently aimed at ‘Starwood Preferred Guests’ (SPGs), although there is no sign of any section reserved exclusively for that group (not that that would need to be evident to a casual visitor).

Several posts are not much more than chatty plugs for one or other hotel in the Starwood group, which I’m sure could be helpful if, for instance, you were planning a trip to Tirana, the capital of Albania and needed to know which of the two international hotels to stay at if you want wireless internet (it’s the Sheraton) – see post of April 18, and see below why this is not hyperlinked.

The blog is evidently written by a group of travel writers – Marc S., Mark (Editor), Thomas C., Nick L. and Philip S. It seems odd, and frankly I found it irritating, that we are provided with no more identification than first names and some last name initials, especially the lastname initial bit – is there a ‘guess the travel writer’ test here for the designated SPG readership?

Although the April 13 item from which I picked up this story in iMedia Connection  (acknowledging the Wall Street Journal) says there is no provision for commenting, there is in fact a comments function and some posts already have comments. A scan of the disclaimer/warning that sits above the commenting screen suggests that the lawyers have been busy. It’s the most daunting piece of work I’ve seen on a blog comments page to date.

I could not find a permalink function. In what presents as a more traditional website fashion, you can search for archived posts on categories of brand, category (type of hotel), city, or country.

There is a pretty unobtrusive feedback link in the dark gray background area on the right side of the screen. When clicked, this produces a pop-up with a detailed questionnaire that I suspect only dedicated survey-takers will want to stay and complete.

From where I’m viewing it, TheLobby.com is basically a pr blog or even an adverblog, designed to cater to the already converted guests of this group of hotels – and it’s not suggested the publishers are offering anything else, although if the writers were given some more latitude it could no doubt turn into a travel blog with a potentially wider appeal. Calling it a ‘corporate blog’ as iMedia Connection has done, in spite of the fact that the blog doesn’t really speak for the Starwood group as a corporation, raises the question of just what constitutes, or should be recognized as, a corporate blog.

Why Google is still far better than MSN Search

You know what “ego surfing” is, right? It’s when you look for references to yourself on various Web sites, in search engines, etc. What caught my attention today in this regard is that doing a wee bit of ego surfing on both MSN Search and Google really highlights to me the fundamental difference between the two search engines and shows why Google is still the clear market leader in this space.

Wait, don’t run away yet. The issue isn’t the search results, but rather the ability of the search engine to intelligently target advertising on the results page. If you do a random search, which site produces the best, most relevant, most contextually useful advertising and “sponsored links” for you?

I content – and demonstrate – that in this one instance, at least, Google far outshines MSN, with two out of the three matching adverts being very good matches, while MSN has a far worse result, with only two of its seven ads even remotely relevant for the search.

You can read more and see the specific advertisements here: Google still beats MSN on ad targeting.

Is BlogBurst a solution for new journalists?

Posted by: of A View from the Isle on 02/20/06

The question this weekend wasn’t if the Americans would win in hockey (the women just earned the bronze), but how BlogBurst (just in beta from Pluck) would compensate bloggers who sign up for their program to re-publish blog posts in MSM newspapers. A comment left on Techcrunch indicates that there will be a revenue share once BlogBurst leaves beta, so that is good news (sorta).

The larger question is, then, what will this mean for the MSM? Can newspapers re-build or reinvigorate their online readership with blog content? Blogs are certainly getting a lot of attention, and blogs, IMHO, are building and enhancing the ideas sparked in the MSM, seems to me that it would be a nice compliment to have blog posts related to a topic supplement online content.

It will remain to be seen, though, what the revenue model will be and how it pans out for bloggers.

More on my blog here

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Maximizing your Google AdSense results with “Channels”

I hear from a lot of different bloggers who are part of the Google AdSense program about their results, and it’s surprising to me how many say that they’re dissatisfied. Some even tell me “I earned $18 last month, so I’ve decided to just remove all ads from my blog and drop out of the program”. It’s their decision, but I have to say that a little bit of effort put into customizing your AdSense ad blocks and learning about how to fine tune your use of the AdSense system can really pay big benefits in terms of you truly understanding what is and isn’t working on your site.

A great example of this is Google’s “Channels” with AdSense. By using these channels intelligently, you can quickly differentiate between ad block layouts on your pages, different areas of your site, and even different domains if you’re running AdSense on more than a single site. And y’know what? It’s pretty darn easy to do, as detailed here:

    Maximize your AdSense Income with AdSense Channels

It’s well worth reading if you’re an AdSense participant, and if you’re not, well, maybe the figures in my example report could motivate you to sign up? Yes, it’s quite possible to earn some supplemental income – or more – as a blogger…

Power to the Porpoise

Posted by: of One By One Media on 01/17/06

Frontier Airlines recently launched a new ad campaign using a blog.  The blog is at FlipToMexico.com and it seems to be gathering steam with traffic and comments.  The premise is to sign a petition to allow Flip the Frontier Airlines dolphin to get a flight to Mexico, and they have gathered a number of signatures.

This campaign seems to coincide with the Super Bowl, so I would not be surprised to see it come to a final end there.  This is a great example of viral campaigns using blogs.  This blog by Flip, a character blog, is sporadic in its postings, but nonetheless I will be following the feed to see the final ending.  I wonder if this means Frontier is about to join in on the corporate blogging bandwagon?

 

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