Websites

Thoughts on Google AdSense

After starting up my own personal blog, I started thinking about ways to make it a bit of a side hustle (oh, and Side Hustle School was inspiring as well). One of the ideas that kept coming up was Google AdSense, a way to display ads on your website.

The whole moral dilemma of whether or not to place ads on my blog is something I’ve grappled with and is ultimately a personal choice. Maybe someday I’ll decide to go back to being ad-free, but for now, I’m intrigued to see how lucrative this might be (for a fairly small website, I’m not anticipating a full paycheck but some rainy day funds would be cool).

The thing about AdSense — as with a lot of things pertaining to Google — is that a) it changes every so often, and b) you don’t necessarily have a lot of control over it.

To get started, you need a website, a Google account, and to visit Google AdSense. Fill out some preliminary information (name, website, etc), and Google will give you a code to copy and paste in your website’s header (don’t worry — they have some tutorials to help). Then, Google will ask you to confirm that the code is ready so they can “review your site.” Although Google tells you the review process can take up to 3 days, I heard back within day 1.

After that, you get taken to this lovely-looking dashboard.

So Google AdSense offers a few different displaying options for the ads. The relatively easy ones to add are Text & Display ads, In-Feed, and In-Article.

In-Feed and In-Article Ads are the ones you’ll see in between a list (feeds) or paragraphs (article). Arguably these are less distracting to your readers, but I have been confused by them before.

My first ad was a Text & Display Ad. This type of ad is probably the easiest with which to get started since all you have to do is copy and paste the code and add it … wherever! I chose to put my first one in my site’s sidebar, but I can play around with it or add more ads later. Sure, you could shove an ad in your footer, but the point is for people to see/click on it, so placement is important. It’s a fine line between putting it somewhere that isn’t completely annoying but remains somewhat attention grabbing.

This is what it looked like on the front end of my site. Yay Birchbox!

Other types of ads are Page Level ads. Anchor ads appear at the very bottom of a mobile screen, while vignette ads will appear while pages are still loading on your website. Quickstart ads are for both desktop and mobile. This cluster of ads will only appear on your website or a page on your website a) once you have added the code in the right spot and b) whenever Google thinks it’s a good time to show them. Meaning, Page Level Ads appear entirely at Google’s discretion.

Some things to keep in mind if you’re considering using AdSense:

  • If you’re a control-freak, this might not be a good option. While you can limit where the ads appear, you don’t necessarily get to control what’s being advertised (you can set up some restrictions, but this is another “Google decides” thing).
  • You may have to deal with code. Getting page-level ads to display on my website was a bit of a hassle because I had no idea where I was supposed to add the code. Fortunately, there are plenty of people who have decided to share their wisdom with the internet, so I figured it out with some research.
  • Once it’s set up, it seems fairly easy. Like anything, I’m sure I could do more, crazier things to optimize my Google AdSense. If you’re just looking to set something up and “coast” for a bit, that’s totally an option as well. (Keep in mind, Google likes to change things up every now and then so you may have to revisit every so often).

 

Kassie is a distance runner and a distance reader really. She lives in Ellsworth Maine and, while she might be quiet when you meet her, will throw out something witty when you least expect it.

How to Write a Good “How To”

It was 11 p.m. on Christmas Eve, 1997. My Dad embarked on a solo mission to the garage to assemble a basketball hoop for my brother and I. Armed with a tool kit, a set of instructions, and the kind of confidence you get from a neighborhood Christmas Eve party, he was ready…or so he thought. Around 1:30 a.m., he had assembled the entire hoop. Backwards. Next steps were taking apart the hoop, waking up my mother, and reassembling. They finished in time (4 or 5 a.m.) to get about an hour of sleep before we woke up, and Santa got all the credit.

Have you ever been totally frustrated by a how-to, online or offline? There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to follow instructions or a tutorial that doesn’t do a great job of explaining how to do something. You may even end up abandoning the project, and worse, harbor a bit of resentment towards the people/company who made such terrible instructions in the first place.

To avoid being the target of someone’s wrath because you’ve written poor instructions, this post is here to guide you through creating a how-to that guides people from start to finish with minimal frustration. Remember, most people “read instructions when they are impatient, fatigued, or even terrified” (see above Christmas Eve anecdote).

Consider your audience. If you’re writing a how to for the general public vs. a specific task for an employee, your instructions will probably look a little different (assuming the employee has some industry/insider knowledge, compared to a random person on the street who probably has no idea what you do).

Introduce the objective/end goal. What is the end result a person should have at the end of these instructions? This can just be one or two sentences, nothing crazy.

List all materials. This is the place where it’s important to be thorough and organized. For instance, if your product is a model airplane, include a list of a) materials included and b) additional materials needed before starting the project. If there’s something that would make the project easier, but isn’t necessary, include it in a “recommended materials” list.

Write instructions as commands. I’m guilty of slipping into passive voice, but when it’s time to give instructions things like “and then you will want to…” or “it should look like…” don’t instill a lot of confidence. People are looking to you for direction, so don’t be afraid to sound bossy.

Don’t get jargon-y. You know what people hate, especially when they’re trying to figure out how to do something? Feeling dumb. If you’re writing instructions that include a lot of jargon or words that people who don’t work in your industry will understand, it’s probably going to be more frustrating than helpful. If you do need to use industry terms to explain something (or name a part, for instance), include a picture showing what it is exactly (you may be surprised how many people find this helpful).

Speaking of visuals, these can be a great thing to include in your how-to (especially since we’re assuming you aren’t using video here). Even in your list of materials, depending on what they are, could include a visual next to each item showing what it looks like. If it’s an assembly project, showing the progress after each completed step assures people as they’re moving through the instructions that they aren’t just blindly going about things and hoping it comes out the way it’s supposed to at the end.

Have someone else read through. Chances are, if you’re writing instructions about something, you are already fairly good at it. Having someone who’s less familiar with the process, or at least some degree of separation, could provide a bit of insight toward where your instructions are unclear. If you can’t get an extra set of eyes, wait a day or so and try to follow your own instructions from scratch, taking notes on areas that could use more clarification.

Although the Christmas Eve basketball hoop incident was mainly user error, it’s an experience we all want to avoid giving to customers if possible. Keep in mind the toughest audience is people who are going to have the hardest time generally: those who are “busy” and/or “grouchy.” This additional resource below can help you cater to that particular group:

 

Instructions: How to Write Guides for Busy, Grouchy People

 

 

Kassie is a distance runner and a distance reader really. She lives in Ellsworth Maine and, while she might be quiet when you meet her, will throw out something witty when you least expect it.

Finding And Using Niche Social Media Websites

We’ve all at some point heard the adage of ‘quality over quantity’. Usually, we are not hearing it for a good reason, but as a reminder to ‘be happy with what you have.’

In the case of niche websites, however, it means something a little different.

We know about the giant social networks: LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc. like we all know about big cities like New York, Chicago, and San Francisco. But let’s say you LOVED cheese. Sure, you can probably find tons of good cheese in most big cities, but Madison, Wisconsin is near lots of local cheesemakers and may be a better destination for you if you are looking for all things cheese.

Niche social media websites are like Madison for cheese seekers; they are small places enthusiasts of [fill in the blank] are most likely to be. If you sell something to these enthusiasts, you are also more likely to talk to a potential paying customer on these websites than some of the larger websites.

What are some examples of niche websites?

If we think of something we want to connect about, we can probably find a niche website for it.

So here’s my random list of things (yes, I made this up with no reference to Google when I did):

microbrew beer
amateur woodworking
gymnastics coaching
first editions of books

Hey look what I found:

Untappd gets points for reminding us all there are still people with Blackberries.

I appreciate that this social network didn’t spend a ton of time on design. Hey, it gets the job done!

I bet if I made a login (and was actually a gymnastics coach), I could find other gymnastics coaches.

Two million people doesn’t seem like a lot compared to Facebook’s one billion but, hey, it’s still actually a lot.

OK, you made your point, there is a social network/niche website for probably everything. How do I find them?

Well, you aren’t gonna find many with an attitude like that! Kidding.

Google searching whatever term plus ‘social network’ is a good place to start. Thinking of some synonyms may actually help, as well as thinking of things a little more broadly (ex: I bet Library Thing has at least a group or forum for bestseller enthusiasts.

Another place to check is blogs in the same arena. Back before social networks, communities of frequent commenters were established on blogs. In some cases, in particular if there’s already a good group hanging out on a blog but not a giant enough group to go set up a whole new website, the comment section of a cool industry blog can lead you to where those people are hanging out. In some cases, it may be the forums of a woodworking website and in others, it may be a private Facebook group.

You can also look at big websites/blogs and see what drives traffic to them on Similarweb.com. For example:

Tools like this can help you see interlinking websites and the overall landscape of a particular industry/topic. Note: websites like this only seem to track websites that have a lot of traffic so this won’t provide you a complete list so much as a way to find more sites.

Why spend time on niche websites if there is less people there?

Because 1) even though there is a smaller group, they are more likely to be engaged 2) because if they are more engaged, they are more likely to buy what you are selling and 3) because there is less activity, your presence is more likely to be noticed.

Am I trying to give you more to do? Of course not. But I am trying to say, give niche a chance, as a participant or a more ‘commercial’ user. You may find yourself saying that quality is better than quantity after all.

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

The Importance of a Shortened URL: The Sasquatch Defense

Before we get into this blog post about the use of customizable URL shorteners, let’s clear the air about one other thing: Big Foot is real. Without a doubt. I know, because I’ve seen him in various documentaries, most notably, 1987’s gripping “Harry and the Hendersons,” http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0093148/ which recounts a failed attempt to integrate a Sasquatch into a typical suburban American family. A Big Foot even landed a sweet endorsement deal with Jack Links Beef Jerky, and yet the lamestream media all but denies the existence of this gentle, pungent creature.

What does this have to do with customizable URL shorteners? If you’re like me, you probably have hundreds of online articles, videos and other Sasquatch-related media bookmarked. You cite that media when you give your annual Big Foot Power Point presentation, hard copies of which you give to attendees.

The problem is, many URLs are long, cumbersome, difficult to remember and hard to retype in your web browser.

For example, The Atlantic posted a great story titled “Why Bigfoot Sightings Are So Common Across Cultures.” But no one want to retype: http://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2016/10/sasquatch/505304/.

That’s when you use a service such as Bitly to access the URL “theatln.tc/2eJycC.”

Note that The Atlantic’s website appears to include a plug-in that integrates its name into the shortened URL, but also limits the customizable options of Bitly.

I also like Tiny URL, a free service that allowed me to generate this customized link: tinyurl.com/BFcommon.

Shortened links are also useful for directing print readers to sites with additional data, such as a videos  or interactive slideshow that augments the print experience.

Shortened URLs also means it’s easier for your audience to access public documents, such as the government’s top secret 800 page spreadsheet chronicling Big Foot sightings in Acadia National Park for 2016. Obviously, you can’t reprint the entire thing to include in your Acadia Big Foot Society newsletter. But you can post the report online and provide a short, snappy customizable link in your mailer that will make it easier for folks to access the raw data.

Shortened links makes it easier for your audience — whether live or print — to access any content with a URL, and to pass that content on to others. And using a clever, succinct, shortened URL will really set you apart from those UFO nuts. Believe me, those guys are cray-cray.

Next: We’ll show you the how to use shortlinks online, and give you a look at the tools offered by Bitly to help you gather analytics.

A Crash Course on Google’s Link Shortening and Tracking Services

There are a few jobs in the world where a keen sense of tracking is necessary. These include bounty hunters, meteorologists, storm chasers, wildlife biologists, Sasquatch enthusiasts, and marketers. Unfortunately, unless you’re a marketer, this post isn’t going to help you a whole lot. If you’re curious about the kind of tracking marketers partake in, then you should stick around for a bit.

We’ve explored the idea of short tracking links before with services like bit.ly, owl.ly, and tinyurl.com. and (spoiler alert) have more posts coming about those services. These services are perfect if you have a URL you want to shorten, but don’t have access to the website or it’s analytics. Google now has a link shortening service that is more or less a stripped down version of Bitly, so between this service and Google Analytics, Google is more or less a one-stop shop for your link shortening/tracking needs.

Google Link Shortener

This service varies slightly from Google Analytics (which I will also discuss in a bit), but it’s basically Google’s version of Bitly. You can copy any link and shorten it, then measure it’s progress (who shared it, where they’re from in the world, that sort of stuff). It’s completely free, meaning that you don’t get to customize shortlinks, and anyone can view the shortlink stats. The URL format is goo.gl/[random letters and numbers] . Below is a look at the different bits of data you have access to with a Google link shortener (my sample link was from a random blog post, I haven’t actually shared it anywhere so that’s why the data looks a bit empty).

googlshortener

Google Analytics

Google Analytics gets you the nitty-gritty information, but doesn’t shorten any links. It’s a free service that requires a bit of setup to start collecting data, but it’s something that only you can look at for your own website. Doing this gives you much more in the way of statistics- you can see things like how people reached your site (Facebook, email, Google search), average length of visit, most popular page, and more. The amount of information at your fingertips with Google Analytics can be overwhelming if you aren’t sure what you’re looking for. Nicole wrote this great post a few years ago that will point you in the direction of metrics to begin with.

An example of Audience Overview statistics for one month (as you can see, there are a ton of options for viewing preferences)

An example of Audience Overview statistics for one month (as you can see, there are a ton of options for viewing preferences)

Unfortunately, not all the information is 100% accurate (sometimes “users” includes the same person visiting your website on a different browser). But, if you are a website that has user ID’s (like eCommerce sites where you create an account), you can set up User ID tracking to “zoom in” on individual user activity. It takes some time and light coding to set up, but if you’re really serious about that sort of thing, check out this article that explains the set up.

If you don't care to follow individual users, you can get a "clumped together" look at how people move around on your website with the User Flow feature.

If you don’t care to follow individual users, you can get a “clumped together” look at how people move around on your website with the User Flow feature.

One thing you can do is set goals (and then track them), so if you have a page in particular that you want people to get to, setting a goal in Google Analytics can help you focus your marketing techniques.

Although shortening links and tracking links are two separate services, sometimes you can get both in one service, like Bitly or Google’s link shortener. But if you want an in-depth look at tracking, you’re better off using Google Analytics to set goals and make more informed marketing decisions. Stay tuned for more about link shortening throughout the month!

Kassie is a distance runner and a distance reader really. She lives in Ellsworth Maine and, while she might be quiet when you meet her, will throw out something witty when you least expect it.

Fun with Keywords

If you’ve ever done a Google or any type of online search before, you may have encountered something similar to the above post. How does Google generate these suggestions? According to Search Engine Land, there are a few components. These include overall searches (things people around the world have typed in), your own search history, and regional suggestions.

So, Google and other search engines have methods for anticipating what people are looking for and delivering relevant results.

How do you get your website to show up in searches? That’s where SEO and keyword research comes in. According to Techopedia, a keyword “is a particular word or phrase that describes the contents of a Web page.” Having the right keywords on your website helps get your material to the right people when they search for certain words/phrases. How do you know if your words/phrases are “right”? There are a few pieces to that puzzle.

One part, which may seem like common sense, is that you want keywords that match the content on your website. For instance, it wouldn’t make a lot of sense to use “Barnum & Bailey Circus” on our Breaking Even Contact page. It’s not accurate and probably won’t get us any traffic. (Spammers tend to use popular words to get traffic to their spammy sites so search engines will penalize you for what they consider a mismatch between what you say is on your website and what is actually there.)

Once you determine what’s relevant, another piece of a “right” keyword is what your target audience/people who are interested in what you’re offering. Just because you think people are using certain search words doesn’t necessarily mean they are actually using those words. A lot of times, business owners have more industry knowledge and might assume others are using more jargon-y terms to reach their website. To reconcile these potential discrepancies, keyword research comes in, and that’s where things can get a bit…silly.

Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of doing keyword research using a website called SEO Profiler. This is a paid service that has several tools, including keyword research. The keyword suggestion tool lets you type in a word or phrase, and then suggests other search terms based on number of local searches (based on an area you pick out, ‘local’ for us is United States) and  competition (how many other websites are using the keyword). One of the more interesting words that I discovered was ‘whales.’

The results for ‘whales’ was very similar to some of the aforementioned Google autofill fails. Since SEO Profiler (and other keyword research tools) are basing their information on what people are searching for, this yields some pretty interesting results. My top 10 (there were HUNDREDS of hilarious results):

  1. Prince of Whales
  2. Whales the country
  3. Why do whales beach themselves
  4. Whales with legs
  5. Blackfish
  6. Why is a humpback whale called a humpback whale
  7. Do whales fart
  8. Do killer whales kill
  9. Can whales drown
  10. whales tale (<–apparently this is a water park in New England)

So, when you’re thinking about keywords, remember: relevance (is it on your website and a phrase people are actually searching), accuracy (is it what your people are searching for), and value (are people looking to ‘buy’ what you are selling when looking up that word).

The fun factor was one of the pleasant surprises to be found in keyword research, but entirely optional.

Kassie is a distance runner and a distance reader really. She lives in Ellsworth Maine and, while she might be quiet when you meet her, will throw out something witty when you least expect it.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22