This Tech Thursday, Nicole is solo and talking about podcasts: one of her addictions. How do people make money podcasting? How has podcast popularity changed in the last few years? What are some of Nicole’s favorites? It’s all in this video!
Hi and welcome! If you are just hitting this post, have you seen Blogging 101: The Basics? If not, go there first. You can follow just what’s in basics for at least a couple months. During this time, you are going to figure out your writing style, which is honestly what will hold your audience.
It took me probably six months to find my voice. Was I funny? Was I informal? How long should my posts generally be? Writing online is different than writing a newspaper article, an essay… anything really. And the best way to get good is to practice.
Let’s say you’ve done that. You get what your blog is and isn’t, contentwise. You have a voice. You have three blog posts in your head (or drafted in your blog software itself) ready to go. Now it’ time to get into the more technical issues you’ve probably noticed, especially reading other blogs.
What ways do you want to make money?
There are some different ways to make money blogging and what you want to figure out at this point is what does and doesn’t feel sleazy to you.
I was confronted with this month 4 of blogging. I got an email from a potential advertiser. How much would I charge? What kinds of ads did I have available?
It was an excellent question, one I hadn’t even asked myself yet. After looking around at blogs, I realized I would feel comfortable with ads in the sidebar of my blog only. I didn’t like written ads in content (made it hard to read) and I wanted to have control over what ads appeared there. (Once this blog became a business itself, I yanked ads entirely.)
Now that was my answer. Yours may be different and that’s ok. You want to balance the making money part with the not being a sleaze part. Looking at what other bloggers are doing, you’ll see some things you like and some things you don’t.
Other things people will approach you with:
1) Sponsored posts. (Here’s a pretty comprehensive look at the concept.)
2) Getting sent products to ‘review’. (IE the sponsored post’s friendlier seeming cousin.)
3) Can someone write a blog post that gets published on your blog about X? (Sometimes people want this free, sometimes they seem willing to pay.)
4) Affiliate programs (where you get link(s) to share to a product online and, if someone buys, you get a cut. More here.)
5) Other things I can’t anticipate.
By deciding what you will and won’t do for money, you’re setting a precedence for your blog. And remember, saying no to something you don’t want means that when something you do want comes along, you can be ready.
(We’ve written in depth about some of these: Affiliate programs, Display Advertising, PPC Advertising, Ad Networks. Since I’ve never done sponsored posts, I linked above to someone who had looked into them more deeply. )
How big do you want to get?
Contrary to popular belief, seeing comments is not the only way to know your blog community is getting bigger. For example, on ours, we get maybe 1 comment for every thousand or so people who look at something something. Really! Below a screenshot of views from Google Analytics versus comments:
I will also say in our case, interaction is taking place more on social media for us so having comments on the blog itself is less important to me. To make this an anaology, I’ve built the internet equivalent of a small coffee shop in a small town.
But some people want to build the internet equivalent of a shopping center: a website with contributing members, product upsells, advertising revenue, etc. To become the go-to resource and community about X or Y. If you want to build the online headquarters for all base jumpers or the next HuffPost, you are looking at building an online community. (Yes, I like to feel Breaking Even has a small specific online community but we are intentionally small.)
If you want to create the large shopping center of a website, you’re going to need a few things.
1) Actively write in such a way that encourages people to leave the comments on your posts. This may include writing posts whose topics may be a bit controversial or even just opinionated. (Sometimes the term ‘click bait’ is used to describe sensational headlines that drive clicks.)
2) You need a robust commenting system. (My only opinion on this? Don’t make someone create an account on your site to leave a comment. Everyone hates one more password to manage. Let your commenters log in with Facebook, Google, Twitter, etc. to leave their comment. I use Disqus because it lets people use whatever login or create one just for my site, among other features.)
3) You need to respond to comments. If you want people in your community interacting, you have to lead by example. If you have any commenting standards, make sure they are enforced.
4) You need some way for these people to contribute in addition to leaving comments. (IE they need to be able to not wait for you to start a discussion.) It could be as simple as a hashtag people use to contribute photos to a curated page or as complicated as members having their own subsites on your site.
Will your community evolve? Absolutely. But will a bit of planning and intentionality on your part of the ‘mall developer’ make the evolution and growth go much smoother? Yes.
How do you want people to get your information?
You probably have die hard fans now that want to get ALL your posts. You may want to add the ability for people to subscribe, via RSS or email, to your blog.
Your blogging system will have a way to do this but I just wanted to put it on your radar. Now that you have a following, make sure those people can see posts easily. Here’s a lovely example:
Do you like your software?
Do you like the way at the bottom of all our posts we have five related posts? Do you wish you too could have an online store to sell your t-shirts? You are going to start having ideas (now that you’ve gotten used to the writing part) about how your blog should work technically.
You’re going to want more than you ever thought you would. Make a list of what you want, put it in order of importance even. Maybe the software you’ve been using is not up to snuff. Or maybe it is and you just need to learn how to do what you need to do.
Now I’m sure some bloggers will argue with me that it’s best to start where you’re going to end up. But who still lives in the first house they’ve ever lived in or has the first job they ever had? Very few of us. We grow, we change, and as we know more of what we want, we can move towards it.
Once you have the writing part down for your blog and you start thinking of the technical stuff, that’s the good time to make the software decision. And you don’t need to worry about moving your posts. A simple Google search of ‘moving from X software to Y software’ will tell you exactly how to do it. And if you hate the idea, you can pay some nerd to do it for you in a few hours of their time. In other words, no endless copying and pasting, I promise.
So to me, those are the big second level questions of having a blog. I have my answers to them, and you’ll have yours. But just a reminder, just start writing and think of this other stuff once your blog’s content has a clear voice. Also, please comment with your blog URL so we can see it.
The last few weeks, we’ve talked about a few different ways to make money online with your website: PPC (pay per click) ads, display ads, and ad networks. The idea, of course, is not to overwhelm but show you how some of your favorite people online make money when you visit their website. This post is the last in our series.
Affiliate ads, or basically selling a product or service for a commission, is not a new idea. Many people do this in real life (think of any sort of party at which you could also buy things: cookware, jewelry, adult toys, etc.)
Online affiliates are even easier as you don’t have to clean your house or have suitcases of product to do them. Sometimes an affiliate will pay when someone clicks on a link to their site from your website, sometimes only when a purchase is made. Fees paid out can be a commission (percentage of total) or a flat fee per customer, depending on the service. There are literally thousands of affiliate programs (and if you have a unique product or service, you can set one up. More info on setting up an affiliate program here: http://lkrsocialmedia.com/2011/09/how-to-create-an-affiliate-program-that-doesnt-suck/)
The most popular online affiliate program is Amazon. When you sign up, they give you a way to make special links to products on Amazon.com. Like the new desk chair you bought? Make an affiliate link. Like the sweet and spicy tea you keep in your office? Make an affiliate link. Then you post these links places: social media, blog, website, email newsletter, etc. If someone follows your link and buys your product, you get 2-3% commission (up to 10% if you sell more).
For fun once, I made an Amazon Affiliate account and shared a couple links on Facebook (to my personal profile) over the course of a few weeks. You know, I never did get that $1 and change from Amazon…
(I guess I just felt slimy doing this, which is why it ended up being a three day experiment without much thought put into it and yielded such unimpressive results.)
But I do know plenty of bloggers who post, say, links where you can buy books they are reading or write ‘affiliate’ blog posts linking to products. It’s possible, especially if the thing you want to sell isn’t made by you (ex: You want to recommend people buy a Seth Godin book but aren’t a bookstore or Seth Godin.)
Amazon doesn’t have high profit margins so they can’t give you, say, 50% commission. But that’s where working directly with a smaller distributor makes sense. The more directly you work with the company selling the product, the higher your commission.
Let’s take another affiliate example. I am a pretty big Rupaul fan but I also know that Rupaul mentions sponsors, etc. on his/her/not-sure-the-proper-pronoun podcast. So I went to the Shop portion of the Rupaul website:
I know the writing is tiny on my screenshot but you’ll see the ‘Glamazon’ shirt can be purchased on Rupaul.com but The other items (ex: action figure) can be purchased from other websites. Tell tale sign of an affiliate, you get redirected to another website (note the URL and website design change when I click on the action figure):
Point is, affiliates let you recommend stuff and get paid, without having to process the payment, ship it, or really do any kind of customer service. You are middle manning it. That said, if you have an audience and that audience trusts you to recommend products, your middle manning is worth something.
If you want to see if a product you like has an affiliate program, simply type in “company name affiliate” into Google. Typing “Constant Contact affiliate” into Google got me to the CC affiliate page:
Affiliate marketing, when done by those who genuinely enjoy a product and want others to experience its benefits (and, let’s face it, make a buck or two in the process), is a useful marketing tool. That said, there can also be a dark side. For example, if I am a financial advisor and I sell you the IRA plan where I make commission on but there is another IRA in the world that I know is actually better for you, that’s conflict of interest territory to me. I couldn’t sleep at night doing that. But as long as you’re straight-forward about what you make money on, I think affiliates can be perfectly ethical and potentially profitable.
Note: This post has no affiliate links in it. Click away, I will happily earn nothing while you do so.
Our previous posts about online advertising have covered pay per click and display ads. As discussed in those posts, PPC and display ads are different options in terms of types of ads (PPC means you pay when someone clicks your ad and hopefully makes a purchase, display ads offer general awareness and cost per 1000 or so impressions). This week is about ad networks, which offer a convenient method of getting your ad to a publisher. In other words, it’s less about display and more about the transaction between publisher and advertiser.
What is an ad network? An ad network is a solution to supply-demand in the world of online advertising. Ad Networks act as matchmakers that fill in the gaps for those trying to sell ads and those looking to display ads. So, you sell custom llama hats, and this llama farm is looking for advertisements, you have a 83% compatibility match! (Note: this is not literally how ad networks operate, and probably not how matchmaking works, either).
Ad networks, much like matchmakers, come in all shapes and sizes. For instance, some ad networks work specifically within certain niches (i.e. technology, home improvement, outdoor apparel, that sort of thing). Other, much larger networks are more concerned with “blanket coverage” (or, the leave no stone unturned model). There are also, as you may imagine, different options in terms of pricing and the amount of say you have about where your ad goes. Three common types of ad networks include:
Vertical/Representative: With this type of ad network, you’re allowed full control over what website(s) your ad goes on. You also might even be able to choose the position of your ad on any given website (while this sounds exhausting, it could make all the difference in avoiding unfortunate ad placements).
Blind: This is a riskier model, but they’re usually pretty cheap. As the name suggests, you have NO idea where your ad is going. This type of ad network would work for the light of budget, but not the faint of heart.
Targeted: This type of ad network uses data from a person’s browsing history and makes assumptions (age, sex, location, interests) in order to determine which ads to serve. (This article has more information on targeted ad networks and how they work).
Why would anyone be interested in ad networks?
As with anything, there are some pros and cons to explore. Perhaps the best thing about ad networks is that you don’t have to hustle your ad. It eliminates the whole door to door “Hey, can I put my ad in your window?” element to online advertising, which saves a lot of time and energy (and is great for those who hate doing this sort of sales thing in the first place). Working with an ad network may also get you in touch with businesses you wouldn’t have had access to otherwise (i.e. you’re an actor and the ad network is your agent who helps get your foot in the door with big production companies). You also don’t have to haggle over pricing with a publisher, the ad network does all of that for you.
The biggest con to using an ad network is probably the gamble. While you’re likely to save money by sending your ads to a network, you could also end up paying quite a bit. Another potential issue to watch out for is where your ads are actually going. Like I said before, some networks will let you control where your ad gets displayed, other networks won’t. If you like to have control over that sort of thing, then maybe ad networks aren’t the way to go.
Examples of Ad Networks:
YouTube Partners: If you’re a YouTube sensation, like Dom Mazzetti or Justin Bieber, you can enable your channel for monetization. This means that your video will display relevant ads “either inside or near the video” who will pay you to display on your video(s). Of course, there are some strict rules about what videos are eligible for monetization (the good news is, if you’ve filmed your cat and there is no background music, you could be in line to make some money). The amount you can make by becoming a YouTube partner depends on the ads that get displayed (which you don’t have any control over, but hey- money!).
BlogHer: Another real life example of ad networks in action is BlogHer. As the name suggests, this is primarily geared toward women bloggers, but it isn’t a “no boys allowed” situation. How does it work? Well, BlogHer has a vast network of writers (called Influencers) and certain marketers are encouraged to join in and have their products/services/brand talked about (or maybe just featured in some sort of ad. In the description of their services, BlogHer says: “Our Influencers share your brand with their readers- in the context of their lives.” So, someone might approach BlogHer with a new celebrity product launch or a custom video recipe series, and say “Make this popular” (but more eloquent and professional). BlogHer then connects the product or service with different writers in their network, and away they go.
There are hundreds of other ad networks out there, of all sizes, service and variety. Stay tuned next week for a post on Affiliate Ads!
So last week, we discussed PPC (or Pay Per Click) ads. Many networks have these now but the idea is you pay when people click.
But what if you don’t have an online store where people can make a purchase? What if general awareness is what you are after? What if you want the ads you serve up on your site to display depending on what people have been looking at. (Don’t act like you’ve never been freaked out where, after browsing for shoes, you’re on some complete other website and you see an ad for the very shoes you were looking at!)
Display ads started out as banner ads and they were typically wide (you know, like actual banners are). I remember when I too added my first banner ad on top of my Geocities website (if I could remember the URL of my site, I’d so go to the Wayback Machine and get the screenshot but alas, this one will have to do):
Got to love the Yahoo Geocities display ad!
Now, display ads are much more comprehensive. They can be videos, animations, pictures, etc. and they can be everywhere on a website, from pop ups to sidebar items.
For display ads, you pay a certain amount of money per 1,000 impressions. (I’m over generalizing clearly.) Up until relatively recently, like the newspapers of today, you put your display ad on a website and hoped people saw it/remembered it, as you paid whether they clicked on it or not. So these ads were being served up to a wide variety of people.
Google, however, has changed all this again with a concept called ‘remarketing’. The idea is displaying these ads to people who have already been to your website. (You setup a way to collect cookies from people who have visited your site, creating what Google calls a ‘remarketing list’.) It’s definitely sneaky but you can see where it would be more effective to display an ad to someone who has been to your site than someone who has never heard of you.
Just for fun, I went to Mashable.com and took a screenshot (I am a 33 year old woman):
I asked Kassie for fun to screenshot what she sees when she goes to Mashable.com:
The takeaway, besides the fact that Kassie is way more intellectual than I seem to be, is that display ads can now be different for different website visitors. And that’s pretty cool.
So display ads are just another way to do online ads. Many of the sites that have them (like Mashable) are quite large (they have pretty detailed specs for ads for example but since they don’t have pricing, I’m guessing you have to have pretty deep pockets to play with them).
Next week, we’ll talk about a solution to this problem of not having, say, multiple ad agencies and your own sales people to sell ads on your website: ad networks.
More on display advertising on Wikipedia (of course) and Google has documentation on remarketing. If you want someone to set this up for you, our friend Colin at Root Deeper Marketing is a Google certified specialist and could totally do it for you.
Back in November, we filmed a Tech Thursday video about advertising online (when it’s a good idea, as well as a brief sample of the more common types you may encounter). As we started filming, we realized, Hey, there’s kind of a lot to online advertising. Maybe we should give our people more info. Thus, Online Advertising 101 was born. There’s an overwhelming amount of information out there about advertising online, so we’re going to spend some time over the course of the next few weeks looking at the different types of online ads (and some best practices).
One of the ad types we discuss in the video is Pay Per Click ads. A pay per click ad is exactly what it sounds like: whenever someone clicks on your ad, you pay the publisher. A common example of PPC ads is Google AdWords (note: we don’t work with Google AdWords, but our friend Colin totally does).
How does it work? Say you’re a business and you want your ad to display on a certain website (also called the publisher). Here’s what you want to do:
1) Create an ad based on whatever you’re offering. For the sake of this exercise, you are a clothing store selling a bright pink woman’s polo shirt. The publisher will probably have some display guidelines (image requirements and size recommendations, allotted character restrictions, etc.), so keep this in mind as you construct your ad. Remember, make it pretty, but not obnoxious- your ad shouldn’t be the inflatable arm waving tube man of the internet. Take a look at your landing page (the page people land on after clicking your ad). Is there a clear call to action here? If not, do some tweaking. Once a person has reached this page, you want to keep him there to follow through with a purchase.
2) Research keywords. With PPC ads, only the people who type in certain keywords (in Google, for instance) will be shown your ad. Think about what words a person searching for your product would use. Keywords are in some ways the keys that unlock your ad, but you do want to choose them wisely. It’s not a “the more, the merrier” situation. Remember, you’re paying each time someone clicks on your ad. The more you specifically target it, the better your chances of turning that click into a sale. In our example, for instance, the word “shirt” is probably a terrible keyword. Thousands of people search for shirts online, but only a small percentage of those people are looking for your shirt. So, how do you know which keywords will work best? There are some free tools out there- if you have a Google AdWords account, for instance, you can use their free Keyword Planner tool.
3) Publish your ad. Again, Google AdWords is a common option in terms of publishing. With AdWords, you set up your campaign for free and indicate your budget (because, let’s face it- money is a finite resource and not all businesses have hundreds of thousands to toss into an advertising campaign). This also keeps your ad from running indefinitely. Of course, Google AdWords isn’t your only option for PPC. If you’re working with a different publisher, there may be a few differences with payment. For instance, flat rate agreements involve the publisher and advertiser agreeing on a set rate of cost per click. There is also bid based pricing, which gets a bit hairier in terms of competition and pricing (it’s based on an auction system, so if you’re a small business trying to keep up with a multi-million dollar company, this isn’t your best bet). You can watch the analytics and see how well your ad is performing (which is always recommended) to determine whether or not PPC is a good investment for you.
Why choose PPC advertising? One reason is that customers are more likely to not only see your ad, but actually pay attention to it. They are also less likely to be annoyed by it. If I’m in the market for a pink polo shirt and see an ad for that very shirt in my Facebook sidebar, I’d probably be stoked. It’d be as if Facebook read my mind! (Although, I’m slightly convinced that it does this anyway).
Another reason: it’s effective. As a business, you have to spend money to make money. Of course, money is (for most of us) a finite resource, so you want to invest it in the smartest way possible. Rather than tossing out a super expensive ad and crossing your fingers that it’ll somehow stand out from the horrific mosh-pit crowd, PPC allows you to display your product directly to interested people. The odds of people clicking on your ad and, as a result, making a purchase, are theoretically higher (as this article puts it, if you make a $300 sale on a $10 ad, you’ve more than made your money’s worth). As with any ad, the idea is that it will eventually pay for itself.
Next week, stay tuned for Online Advertising 101: Display Ads!