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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.

The Weirdest Places We’ve Worked From

One of the cool aspects of our work is that it can be done remotely (I’ve talked about this a bit before).

While 90% of the time you can find Nicole or I in the office, occasionally we are working from…elsewhere. And with John and Alilia on board, we have an eclectic combined work history. You’ve seen our posts about working effectively on the road or from home, but today, we’re going to share the weirdest places we’ve worked from (so far).

In compiling this list, I feel like I’ve learned some interesting things about my coworkers here at Breaking Even… maybe you will too

Weird Places Where We’ve Worked

Nicole worked on a houseboat in Amsterdam. Let's say the house across the way was much nicer than the one she was in but hey, still cozy with coffee and WiFi.

Nicole worked on a houseboat in Amsterdam. Let’s say the house across the way was much nicer than the one she was in but hey, still cozy with coffee and WiFi.

Nicole

When I was in Europe two years ago for ten days. Because it was in July (our busiest time), the two hours daily of checking email wasn’t cutting it so I decided to have one work day while I was there to get a chunk of work done. My travel friend Sarah and I had rented this houseboat in Amsterdam on AirBnB. I wasn’t sure what to expect with the houseboat but it had better internet than any cafe… so I parked it at the kitchen table and left the screen door open while I watched the boats go by. There were also some very friendly ducks and a coffee maker that was relatively large for the size kitchen it was in, so I was pretty content.

On a different European trip, I actually went to Bosnia to visit a friend who started a web development company there. I worked from his company’s office and had a great time. When I work I need it 1) quiet and 2) some place where I can really settle in (get snacks freely, leave my stuff set up for a few hours)… maybe that’s why I’m so drawn to the idea of coworking spaces?

Alilia

I once was in California visiting my grandparents’ house where my mom and sisters also live, and I was in the middle of a software conversion project, so for one of the status call meetings, I was prancing around on my sister’s trampoline while on the project call. That was my best working remotely experience.

My worse  working remotely experience was on the same California trip. I had set my desk phone in Colorado to forward to my cell phone, and I had asked the front desk to please not transfer any customers to me without letting me know first. They clearly disregarded my request as evidenced by the customer call I received while shopping at Costco with my relatives. I had to take the customer’s name and number and get back to them when I could get in front of my work laptop back at my grandparents’ house.
John
I once tried working remotely from a hospital waiting room while my son was in surgery. This isn’t as callous as it sounds—-I was desperate to keep my mind off what was happening in the operating room, and working was as good a way as any to do that. It was either that or watch the Fox News program that was blaring in the waiting room. Everything turned out well in the end and the operation was a success, and I took a few days off to be with my son and watch our daughter at home.
Kassie
This past fall, I experienced a lot of unfortunate car problems. During one such incident, I worked from a VIP Auto while waiting for cylinders in my car to be replaced. It was actually awesome- no one else was there, so I got a lot done, until a lady came in with her dog who clearly didn’t want to be there.
One of the coolest places I’ve gotten to work was Gillette Stadium (also this fall). I was trying to write a blog post before a Monday night football game in a hotel room with my parents, brother, and brother’s girlfriend. The lobby downstairs was packed with fellow Pats fans, so I was stuck writing on a cot in the hotel room while The Godfather was playing in the background (which John will appreciate, I am sure). It wasn’t a great writing experience- fortunately I’m highly skilled when it comes to tuning out my family- but then again, I was getting ready to watch a Pat’s Game. You win some, you lose some (also…the Pat’s lost that game).
gillette
The internet lets us work weird places… and if you work online, I’m sure you have some fun stories too.
Out of curiosity, do you have any weird/interesting remote working experiences? Let us know!
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.

We All Can’t Be Seth Godin

5 Long Form Bloggers And Why It Works For Them

When I hear about people aspiring to blog, people usually mention Seth Godin. Seth Godin’s blog posts are often short and sweet (and if you don’t believe me or want to see first hand, here is a link to his blog).

Because people aspire to be Seth Godin, they aspire to be brief and profound.

For most people, being brief is harder to get right than it is to take a little longer to get to your point. It requires editing, drafts, and a lot of thought.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t do things because they are hard. I’m just saying people should stop trying to be like someone else and do what works for them, and in most cases, it means writing a blog that is more than two paragraphs.

I wanted some examples pointing out that long blogs don’t mean readers have short attention spans. So we have the same working definition of long form, I’ll say long form is anything you have to scroll when on a typical computer screen to see the entire blog post.

Here is a short form Seth Godin blog post:

sethgodin-shortformpost

Here is a longer form Medium blog post (screen made 50% size to screenshot and this isn’t even 20% of the whole thing):

mediumblog-longform

Here are our five bloggers in question:

Ramit Sethi, I Will Teach You To Be Rich
These meaty blog posts give you scripts, workflows, and other specific ways to execute concepts. It would hard to be brief while also being so instructional. (Also this makes you think, if this is what he gives away for free, how awesome can his programs be?)
Takeaway: If you are instructional and interesting, the right people will stick around (ie those who want to learn)

Darren Rowse, Problogger
A blog about blogging seems so meta but these longer form posts are more helpful than the average ‘write and share on social media’ articles about how to get started on blogging. The guy literally wrote the book on blogging. (Honestly, it continues to blow my mind to this day.)
Takeaway: If you have specific, niche knowledge in a field, people will take the time to read what either you or authors you have vetted have to say. 

Human Parts on Medium
Described as a group of storytellers who have since disbanded, many blogs on Medium are longer form pieces that get tons of readers. (Note: Nicole clicked through tons of Medium authors for this post and found most of them had written less than 5 total posts on the site – though most were long form. For this example, I wanted to give a Medium page with a deeper history but there are lots of Medium bloggers who seem quite successful at longer form writing.)
Takeaway: Medium writes at the top of every story how long they take to read, allowing people to either read now or save for later. 

Brandon Gorell on Thought Catalog
Like Medium, Thought Catalog allows publishers/authors to have their own blog that lives on the Thought Catalog site. I am using this author as an example, though I know he uses more photos in his long form blogs than the typical Thought Catalog writer (if you’re writing about the internet, things like screenshots are helpful). Most Thought Catalog articles are long form but of the ones I looked at, most used things like pull quotes and formatting bullet points to break up the text.
Takeaway: Being thoughtful about formatting breaks can make long form writing more digestable. 

Us at Breaking Even Communications
No one will ever accuse me (Nicole) of being brief. That said, I write this blog like I speak and try to use language and examples that are fun and easy to relate to. I will also say that, compared to the previous examples that have much larger audiences, Breaking Even also has readers and subscribers that seem to enjoy what we have to say. Who else is going to tell you that whitepapers online are like man purses in France?
Takeaway: Having funny/memorable examples that take time to explain will get you a small but dedicated following.

So be brief if you want to but if you’re a chatterbox, don’t let that stop you from blogging long form. There are plenty of websites and individual bloggers who encourage this style and plenty of readers who appreciate it too.

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.

Marketing Monday: Run, Eat, Repeat

A couple years ago, I started following some lady runner-bloggers just for fun. One of these blogs is “Run, Eat, Repeat.” Admittedly hooked by the title (it’s my life story in three words!), this blog has become one of my favorite reading materials. It’s not your average fitness/foodie blog. There’s a cool story about a girl (Monica) who struggled with her relationship with food and exercise (something that I think a lot of people find can relate to), and how running has helped her adopt a healthier, fun lifestyle. Her blog isn’t running-centric or wrapped up in any sort of health-craze. It’s more of a fun lifestyle blog with a focus on health related issues.

Here are some key things that keep me reading:

Quirk. There’s a down-to-earth tone in Monica’s blog posts that make her accessible to readers. She’s hilarious and self-deprecating, always trying new things and sharing them with her followers. She adds a lot of eCards, GIFs, and Real Housewives screen-caps to embellish her posts. We share a very similar sense of humor and would probably get along really well in real life… Some of the titles of previous blog posts include: “The Day I Almost Chopped Off My Toe,” “Do I Look Like Zach Galifianakis or Tori Spelling?”, and “If You Don’t Play Lion King with Your Pets What’s the Point?” Her Instagram is also one of my favorites, and it’s hardly about running. In fact, it’s mainly about coffee, food, and everyday struggles of the modern twenty-something.

An example of a recent blog post.

An example of a recent blog post.

Recipes. What I love about the recipes is that a) they’re pretty healthy and meant to keep you going throughout the day, and b) they’re actually simple. Nine times out of ten, I can whip up one of these concoctions without having to go to the store and get 5 different types of seeds and nuts and several different spices and expensive superfood powders that, let’s face it, I don’t have on hand. This girl knows that, while we all may have fantasies and lofty ambitions about meal preparation, the reality is that snooze buttons exist, late night Netflix binges happen, and driving (back) to the store after a day at work just isn’t going to happen. The recipes she shares are for “the everyday.” They’re boosts of inspiration that are totally attainable and delicious (oh yeah, and healthy).

RERbreakfast

This is just a sample from her “breakfast” section, mainly because I’m biased and love breakfast more than any other meal.

Running (and working out in general). I started reading this blog because of the running aspect. While the blog is less workout-centric than Hungry Runner Girl (another favorite), Monica does excellent race-recaps, shares her training plans, and isn’t afraid to talk about how hard, awesome, sweaty, rewarding and disgusting running can be at times.

But it’s not all running. I’m a one-dimensional athlete, but reading this blog inspires me to try out some other things. She’s tried a lot in terms of cross-training. These posts are awesome for me, because I tend to hang back until I know what I’m getting into with a new workout. She also encourages readers to join in on challenges, like last winter’s 25 days of Fitness (a 25 day calendar of circuits you can do at home-no running involved). You don’t necessarily have to be a runner to follow this blog. In fact, Monica frequently drops gems throughout her blog/Instagram/wherever just for her non-runner followers. This adds to her overall accessibility. And there’s a lot of inspiration throughout.

FullSizeRender

Product Reviews. Last summer, I got to learn all about Stichfix through Run, Eat, Repeat. This summer, it was Le Tote (similar to Stitchfix, but with accessories included). Every once in a while, she’ll write up lists like Best Gifts for Foodies, Playlist Ideas, or Favorite Fall Running Gear. She also writes flavor reviews for things like Chobani…and sometimes donuts. She was the one who informed me that Pumpkin Spice M&Ms are a thing this fall (sidenote: I have yet to find any of these for myself, but M&Ms are my all time favorite candy, and anyone who can help me find these will be my new BFF). She has also written a review about laser hair removal, lash extensions, and laser liposuction. It just adds to the idea that she’s willing to try things out and report back to all of us, which I definitely appreciate.

RERcross

Discounts and Giveaways. This blog is sponsored by a few different companies, but that’s part of the reason why she has giveaways! Race Registration can be a bit steep (especially out in California, where RER is based), but Monica does have discount codes for certain races that she shares. For non-runners or non -racers, she’ll sometimes offer a discount for a gym membership or class. For everyone, she offered a Le Tote Discount Code to the first 10-ish people. She also occasionally writes reviews for products, and as a result, has regular giveaways. There’s been FitBit, Northface, Pro Compression, Starbucks, and Lulu Lemon, to name a few.

Runner or eater, this blog probably has something in it that you will appreciate. Through her work with Run, Eat, Repeat, Monica has proven that she’s funny, hip, and benevolent. Also, I’m completely serious about those Pumpkin Spice M&Ms…

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.

Hey, What’s the Blog Idea?

Told with some help from Will Ferrell.

When people ask us if they should have a blog on their website, they aren’t usually expecting to hear “Well, it depends.” Do I think blogs can be beneficial to businesses and websites? Absolutely. But, not all businesses have the resources- that is, time- to blog consistently and run the business. Like anything, if you know that you don’t have the time/energy to commit, then it’s best to leave it alone. Sticking to a consistent schedule (even if it’s only once a week) is kind of important for followers. Recently, I’ve gotten hooked on this awesome podcast (it’s actually 70% of why I watch the Housewives in the first place), and it only took me a week to decipher the schedule (not that it was particularly difficult). Every Wednesday on my commute home, I look forward to listening to the podcast that discusses Real Housewives of Orange County. And, because Ronnie and Ben have a consistent schedule, it’s become part of my weekly routine. Wednesdays are my favorite days of the week. It’s going to be tough when the season ends.

But if you can commit to something consistent and relatively frequent (once a month probably won’t cut it), then yes, a blog can do wonders for you. Here are some unique ways that a blog can do wonders for your business:

Prove you know things.

"...People know me."

“…People know me.”

I don’t mean this in a “I’m kind of a big deal…People know me” way or by spontaneously shouting things like “I party with John-John Kennedy!“, to go back to the Housewives (get it together, Sonja). Sharing industry knowledge shows that as a business, you know what’s what (even if, like Sonja, you may not always know who’s who). Employ the Internet has an excellent, easy to digest article all about this subject. If you’re in the tech industry, sharing information about new releases, recalls, or innovative ways for people to use devices demonstrates that hey, you know a thing or two about this whole technology business. Plus, you’re even willing to share that knowledge with other people.

But hey, won’t people just take my information and do their own thing? There is always that possibility. But, most of the time, people will read your blog and feel a bit daunted about going out and winging it on their own. Or, feeling confident with the wealth of information they’ve acquired, they roll up their sleeves and realize “Oh wait…this isn’t nearly as easy as I thought.” Either way, they’ll most likely remember you as the original source of their information and contact you for help.

Who knows, you might totally blow people's minds with all your knowledge.

Who knows, you might totally blow people’s minds with all your knowledge.

They aren’t just a “one and done” deal. You may think that nothing on the internet is permanent, but as this lesson in Twitter shows, old content that you may thing has disappeared isn’t necessarily gone forever. A more relevant example comes from our own blog. The posts that gain the most attention are those that were written a couple years ago (and this is without any extra sharing or extra promoting on our part). Nicole’s 2010 post on Mailchimp vs. Constant Contact is still in our top 10 most visited pages. This particular breed of posts (referred to in this Hubspot article as “compounding blog posts“) are basically golden eggs of a blog. While they may not directly be making you any money, they have a snowball effect that picks up as time goes on. That being said, blogs are not necessarily the place to go for instant gratification. Compounding blog posts start off handheld snowball size- you aren’t coming out of the gates with a boulder sized snowball.

Not all of your blog posts are going to compound. According to Hubspot, 1 in 10 blog posts will compound rather than decay. Generally, a compounding blog post has a title that mimics something people would search for (think about it: people trying to decide between Mailchimp and Constant Contact are probably going to search for something like “Mailchimp vs. Constant Contact” in a search engine) and cover topics that are “evergreen.” There should be a balance between hot topic ideas (those that are highly relevant now but will probably fizzle out within a month) and those that’ll withstand the test of time.

Mugatu-So-Hot-Right-Now

But will he be hot next season?

People feel like they know you already. Curious people visit websites to do some research prior to making a purchase. In fact, according to this article from Forbes, 33% of millennials consult blogs before purchasing decisions (unclear whether this is a blog written within a business itself or by third parties offering reviews). According to this article from Hubspot, blogs are in the top 5 for trusted online sources. As time goes on, people view advertisements as quick stories or clips, while blogs are seen as more authentic, like a peek behind the mask. When in perusal mode, a blog is often something potential customers use to put out feelers for a business. Speaking from personal experience, I’m usually on the lookout for things like tone (Is it friendly or didactic? Does it match what one would expect for their particular industry? Do they seem like they’d be approachable in real life?), topics (Do they write about the same thing all the time? Are they providing helpful material?), frequency (When was their most recent post?), and of course, the writing itself (words, syntax, the whole nine yards).

bestfriends

I like to imagine that this is how people feel when they read our blog.

We’ve gotten emails from people saying “Hey, we’d really love to work with you on X. I read your blog, and you seem like you’re fun to work with!” Oh…and we know what we’re doing. My point is, many of these people have never met us in real life, so they went to our blog for recon.

No matter what your industry, blogs can bring in business. You just have to think a little outside the box…and be patient.

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.
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