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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.

Blogging by Trimester

The other day, I saw something fun post on Pinterest (go figure, right?) that likened the stages of starting a business to the trimesters of pregnancy. I found that pretty clever, and it got me thinking about a similar comparison between pregnancy and building a blog:

First Trimester.

  • Building the foundation (domain, hosting, software)

The first trimester is where all the groundwork gets laid out. For a blog, this involves deciding on a domain name, hosting, and software. The domain name is your URL, one of the first orders of business when it comes to building a blog or any website (unlike in pregnancy, where you can until after the baby’s born to think of a name). The hosting and software components are the important structural/functional components that will lay the foundation for the actual blog. Unlike the first trimester’s structural happenings, you do ultimately have control over hosting and software. You can bundle the two together using something like Wix or Weebly, or do a separate hosting/software combination such as Siteground and Wordpress. We have a Tech Thursday video that discusses some of the different options — it really comes down to how much control and support you want in the process. For instance, if you’re just looking for a place to write online and don’t care about maintaining a whole website, something like Wix or Weebly might be a better starting point.

Second Trimester:

  • Building the framework & adding content (pages, design, menus, header/footer/sidebar).

After the basics are laid out, it’s time to start building the pages. This is where you go from the “bundle of cells” to forming the actual stuff of the website. Think about the features you’d like your website to have. Some common pages you might have on your website are an About page, a contact page, and so on. The content, organization, and layout of your blog are all up to you. If you’re feeling stumped or overwhelmed, take a look at a few different blogs to see what others are offering. This is the best way to get inspired, and you may get taken in a different direction than you’d initially planned. Other things to think about are menu structure, images, colors, and headers and footers.

Third Trimester:

  • Fine tuning, testing, creating a plan, and marketing

Once you’ve built some of the content, you’re in the “getting ready” phase. Basically, the “third trimester” is all about fine tuning. If you have forms on your site, test them out to see how they look. Make sure your images line up and look good. See how your website looks on mobile, too, because chances are you’ll have some people reading from their phones. Other things to think about include creating a content plan. A content plan is just how you plan on running your blog — how frequently you’ll be posting, different topics you’ll be writing about, etc. This is another one of those “there are no right or wrong answer” situations, but it’s important to choose something that allows you to be consistent.

The second part of this stage is thinking about how you will market your blog (if that’s something you’re thinking about doing). If you are going to do some marketing, now is the time to decide if/where you’ll share on social media, if you want to create a weekly/monthly blog digest that sends recent blog posts to your readers’ email, and anything else along those lines.

Postpartum:

  • Keeping things alive and growing.

The next phase of starting a blog is pretty much just upkeep. Check in with yourself — how is your content plan going? Are you able to stick to the schedule you made for yourself or do you need to re-evaluate? Something else to consider now is whether you want to make money (some different ways you can do this here). You may also want to check out is Google Analytics for your website to see how many people are reading, and get a better idea of your audience and what people are doing when they get to your blog.

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.

Marketing Monday: Vancil Vision Care

Every now and then, you meet a healthcare provider that you would follow to a new location…or perhaps on social media.

Vancil Vision Care is, for me, one of those places. Not only am I a fan of their services as a patient, but as a marketer I definitely admire their online presence.

A few years ago, I needed some new contacts, but didn’t want to drive all the way to Bangor for an eye doctor appointment, so naturally I turned to the internet for some help with researching a new optometrist. Thanks to Google, I discovered that the optometrist my dad used to see in Bangor had moved to Bucksport.

For those of you who don’t know me, I am not typically a fan of talking on the phone. Online scheduling is a dream come true for me, but websites often trick me with “Make a Reservation” buttons that simply lead to a phone number. When I saw this “Request Appointment” button, I was skeptical. However, I’m pleased to say that you are actually redirected to a contact form that lets you fill out your contact information, top three appointment choices, and what the nature of your appointment is.

Also, in the red banner area, they tell you exactly where to go for storm closing information: Facebook. This indicates consistency in where they have chosen to post, and that they are on top of communicating with their patients.

The follow up also came via email (I guess they assume that if you’re initiating contact online, that’s your preferred method of communication). However, they will call a couple days before your appointment to confirm.

In their website’s footer, they’ve included three content areas: Services, Make an Appointment, and Online Forms. The Online Forms was another selling point for me- all those forms that they usually make you fill out at the beginning of an appointment with a new doctor are available to fill out online, which cuts down on the time you have to spend in the waiting area. If you’re wary about sending sensitive information online (which, let’s face it, you should be), the “Online Forms” section will take you to a secure third party website which encrypts your information with 256-bit encryption keys (found on the fine print at the bottom of the page). If you still aren’t comfortable, you can just print out the forms and bring them in when you come for your appointment.

Their email marketing is also well constructed. I will usually only hear from them a handful of times throughout the year, there is always a purpose behind them, such as a limited discount, a reminder, etc. The image below came from one of these messages. Their main call to action is above the email signature, “Review Us,” but there are other actions below that you can choose as well.

 

However, their follow-up after an appointment template is a little bit different. Instead of “Review Us,” they have “Provide Feedback,” which is a quick survey about the overall experience. People are more likely to “Provide Feedback” following an appointment, so this is probably the best placement for that call to action.

 

In addition to smart and thoughtful email marketing, Vancil Vision Care has a pretty amazing Facebook presence as well. Not only do they post storm closing information, they have interesting/useful eye facts, featured products (like lenses), and a lot of fun posts like this one below.

Initially, you may not think of vision care or optometry as an industry that can thrive in social media or online marketing. However, Vancil Vision Care has proven that if you’re thoughtful about your customer and have a sense of humor, there’s no reason why you can’t rock your online presence.

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.

Distributing Your Instructional Videos

So you made an online course, congratulations!

Believe it or not, you did the hardest part already. Now it’s time to make a technical decision, which is what most people THINK is the hardest part. At this point, you’re probably asking yourself: Do I distribute/sell my course on my own website or on a third party website? Here’s how to answer that question:

Step 1: Compare fees vs. features vs. subjects of third party software.

Most third party software that allows you to sell courses is going to take a fee for making it easy for you. Also, you’ll notice some platforms attract certain types of courses. Sure, you can be the only cooking course on a mainly design/development tutorial website but why fight City Hall? Start with a list like this and narrow down to one or two options that seem to work best for you: http://www.learningrevolution.net/sell-online-courses/

Step 2: If you have a robust website, ask your website service person how much it would cost for you to add course registration software to your website.

In some cases, we can do this with a software license and a couple hours of integration. In other cases, your website may need to be rebuilt to handle it. Most web people can at least give you a ballpark range without doing a full quote. Never hurts to ask!

Step 3: Do the math for low enrollment and high enrollment scenarios for your two third party options and your own website.

In our example, we will pretend you’ve made a course and you want to charge $24.99 for it and your low enrollment goal is 100 and your high enrollment goal is 500 people. You are using a typical online payment processor like Stripe to take credit card payments (2.9% + $.30/transaction).

Let’s say your developer will charge you $500 to add course registration to your website and you are also looking at Udemy as your other option.

Scenario #1: Your Own Website

Low Enrollment Costs: $500 + 2.9% of $24.99*100 people + $.30/transaction*100 people = $500 + $72.47 + $30 = $602.47
Low Enrollment Income: $24.99*100 people= $2,499
Net: $1,896.53

High Enrollment Costs: $500 + 2.9% of $24.99*500 people + $.30/transaction*500 people = $500 + $362.36 + $150 = $1,012.36
High Enrollment Income: $24.99*500 people= $12,495
Net: $11,482.64

Scenario #2: Udemy
Since these guys have a different fee structure depending on whether you or they make the sale, we’re going to assume you sell half and Udemy sells the other half in our calculations.

Low Enrollment Costs: 3% of $24.99*50 people + 50% of $24.99 *50 people = $37.49 +$624.75 = $662.24
Low Enrollment Income: $24.99*100 people= $2,499
Net: $1,836.76

High Enrollment Costs: 3% of $24.99* 250 people + 50% of $24.99 * 250 people = $187.43 + $3,123.75= $3,311.18
High Enrollment Income: $24.99*500 people= $12,495
Net: $9,183.82

As you see, in the low enrollment scenario, the costs are comparable. But if you have your own platform and feel like you can market your course as well as an online learning platform (or nearly as well), you can make more money. More heavy lifting, more ‘risk’, more money. Makes sense.

Unless we know exactly how your course is going to do enrollment-wise, there is literally no right answer to your software question.

So don’t let this choice paralyze you. Pick something and go with it for your first online course. In using it, you’ll learn its quirks and what you like or dislike about it, so if you decide to do another online course in the future you’ll have a better idea of what changes to implement.

Step 4: No matter what, make sure your new course is easy to get to from your website, social media, and email newsletter.

Make giant ‘Captain Obvious’ buttons. Make a giant photo for your scrolling slideshow. Put a link in your email signature. You want to avoid ever hearing the phrase “Oh I didn’t know you had an online course” ever come from the lips of a customer, potential customer, or anyone you know (unless it is a person who doesn’t go on the internet at all).

Technology is your friend with online courses and there are lots of powerful third party options to get your course started. So put it out there and see who can learn from you (and what you can learn from this process). 

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.

Considering The Affiliate

This month’s theme is showing love to businesses and, much like we’ve formalized love with marriage, the formalization of business love online can be an affiliate agreement.

An affiliate is someone who reps/represents your company a mutually agreed upon way. They aren’t an employee but they’ve typically signed up to let you know they are interested in doing this. You may have terms for them, like they can’t use the product you are trying to sell in a certain way or can’t do certain things with product links. Once signed up, your affiliate can recommend your company and typically they get a financial kickback for doing so (ex: when someone becomes a paid member or upgrades their account.) In other words, they can recommend all they want but until your company gets a conversion, you don’t owe them anything.

By Googling “Warby Parker affiliate” I see what the terms are for me to recommend cool frames and where I can sign up. This brings down Warby Parker’s overall marketing costs while giving me incentive to share my love of them.

How do you know if an affiliate has made a sale for you or not?

Option 1: Give them a custom link.

For example, let’s say your name is Bob and you LOVE our blog and wanted to get people to subscribe. We talk about it and I say I’ll give you $1/person who signs up for email list. I could make a custom email newsletter subscription link like breakingeveninc.com/newsletter%bob that you can share. The people you share that link with are directed to a normal looking page; I’m just tracking it in a special, distinct way. In my website software, I could set up for it to track when someone who got to that link signed up for our email newsletter (filled out and submitted a form successfully). Every month, I sendBob a check for the amount of subscribers he sends.

The link makes things easy because the ‘customer’ doesn’t have to do anything. As the affiliate, you have to remember to use your special link and as the company, I have to set up tracking but the person clicking through is mostly unawares. Note: Bob could do something cool with his website like make bobswebsite.com/becrocks redirect to my fancy affiliate link. That gives Bob’s friends/customers something easy to remember and lets him use the affiliate link we agreed upon together.

Option 2: Give them a coupon code. 

The other way to do this, especially if this relationship involves purchasing, is to offer a code. Let’s say as someone entered their email into my website, I have a ‘coupon code’ portion where the person signing up is supposed to write ‘Bob’ for him to get credit for sending me a subscriber.

The good thing with this is it’s very deliberate coming from the customer… but most people aren’t going to take the extra step unless they get something for doing it. That’s why most coupon codes involve a discount code or free download or something for the customer for taking the trouble. Maybe by entering ‘Bob’ in the signup form, the people get a free ebook from me.

Whether option 1 or 2 is used, both Bob and I understand what is supposed to happen and what Bob will get when that agreed upon thing happens. 

Anchorspace is an affiliate for StandDesk which means when someone buys from our link, they save $50 and we get $50. So we’ve earned $150 just by recommending a product we already use and love and given people too far afield to come into Anchorspace a way to support us through their purchase. You can click on this photo and get taken to our affiliate link to see! http://go.standdesk.co/fHSGR

How do you set up an affiliate program?

You may think this seems complicated. Why set up something just for Bob?

If you think about the power of even having ten people like Bob as sort of un-salaried salespeople for your company, you’ll see that this can be a good idea for you. First of all, you’re only paying when you get what you want and second, by rewarding Bob and people like him, you’re incentivizing him to refer you more often, even if it’s a discount on your own products versus cold hard cash.

So you have two options with affiliate programs.

Option 1: Use an existing (third party) affiliate program. 

Websites like shareasale.com or Commission Junction offer a ‘plug and play’ option where you can set up agreements, have it automatically generate/track links, etc., which is perfect if the idea of DIY totally overwhelms you. If what is preventing you from doing this is the tech, please take that away as a concern. That said, Moz has an excellent point as these websites are creating links that aren’t as direct as you making the links yourself, which can detract from search engine benefits. Also these probably cost money since they are attempting to make your life easier.

Option 2: DIY on your own website. 

Tools like Google Goals and plugins like AffiliateWP Wordpress plugin allow you to set this up on your own website directly. So long as you are clear about how you want it to work, it’s totally doable to set up and even have it create cute reports and stuff. If you ask someone like us, we can get you an estimate at the very least and you can make your decision from there.

(Aside: Whenever people ask me about the difference between using something like Squarespace and Wordpress, I always say your website can ‘do more stuff’ with Wordpress and this is the kind of thing I mean. Here’s what Squarespace forums say about setting up affiliate programs.)

The best thing you can do to understand affiliates better is to try them out yourself as a referrer.

To become your own version of Bob, think of companies you already like. Visit their websites (the best first stop is the navigational menu that is  typically on the bottom of the page) and look for an ‘Affiliates’ link. If you don’t see one there, ask Google if the company has one, or write to the company via their website and ask.

Once you have a few affiliate links/codes, try them out with people you think would genuinely appreciate those goods/services. Are people receptive? Does certain language/certain websites seem to work better for you? Do certain things seem to make people take action? Use these experiences as the referrer when you make your own affiliate program.

Like any tool, when used sparingly and in the context of an overall marketing strategy affiliates can be an effective way for people to love your business and get rewarded for it. (Yes we are considering an affiliate program ourselves; contact us if you are interested.) In the meantime, let us know if you are an affiliate yourself or if your company uses affiliates to drive sales!

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.

Sharing is Caring

Leaving a review is one way to show your favorite businesses some online love. Another way is hitting that “Share” button (on Facebook, which translates to retweeting or reposting on other platforms, or just passing along information). As a business, there are ways to make it easy for people to share your stuff, which ultimately spreads your marketing to a greater audience than it otherwise would have.

There are plenty of ways to share on behalf of a business or organization you care about online. Some of the more common methods include:

  • Share as a status update, on a friend’s timeline, or in a private message.
  • Invite friends to an event on social media or share link to event registration.
  • Retweet (Twitter) or Repost (Instagram).
  • Forward a newsletter to a friend and/or tell them how to subscribe if it’s something they’re interested in.

Sharing as an individual is fairly straightforward. But as a business, what can you be doing to make your content more shareable? Besides being generally useful and interesting, here are some things to keep in mind:

On Social Media.

Whether you’re promoting a sale, sharing an event, or just doing general updates, there are a few things to keep in mind when considering “share-ability” of your post. Most shared content on Facebook includes a photo or video. If you have one or the other, consider quality (is it blurry or off-center? Is there unnecessary footage?) as you’re posting- fans want to help you promote your business but might not want to share a ‘meh’ visual. This goes for Instagram, too, since it’s an all visual platform.

If you’re making a flyer for an event, check out our post on How Not to Design a Flyer for tips on this particular type of visual.

Keep in mind that well over half of Facebook users are on their mobile devices, so double check your links (especially those that you share from your own website, if you have one) can be read on mobile. Test it on your own device or ask a friend to help!

On Your Website.

A lot of websites have plugins or extensions for sharing through email, social media, or even text messaging on mobile. Hubspot has an easy to follow guide for adding social buttons for Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest, and Instagram. This is an easy way to let people share your material on a channel of their choice, not necessarily one that you’re active on. If you aren’t automatically publishing blog posts on your social media accounts, social sharing buttons on your website makes it easy for others to share them on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.

We’ve talked about this before, but if your website is where all the “big” things happen (sales, registration, donations, etc), having a responsive/mobile-friendly site is something you really want to consider. If someone is getting to your website through Facebook on their phone on the train, they might not remember “Oh when I get home I have to sit down at my computer to follow through with this.”

In Your Newsletter. 

In addition to social sharing buttons at the bottom of your newsletter (example pictured below), you can also add options for “Forward to a Friend.” True, a person can easily hit “Forward” on their own, but the idea is to make sharing easier for people.

In addition to making it easier to share, you can also give followers an incentive to share. Some businesses offer a “Share this post for a chance to win” contest on social media, which is a fairly simple contest to set up. Encourage people to share your content, be interesting, and have fun with it!

 

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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