blogging

Online Ads: Display Ads

onlineadsdisplayadsSo 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):

If you are also slightly nostalgic for Geocities websites, please visit this lovely blog: http://code.tutsplus.com/articles/top-10-reasons-why-the-closing-of-geocities-is-long-overdue--net-7393

If you are also slightly nostalgic for Geocities websites, please visit this lovely blog: http://code.tutsplus.com/articles/top-10-reasons-why-the-closing-of-geocities-is-long-overdue–net-7393

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):

My Mashable experience includes a 'website in 3 minutes' post (I've been doing research on a blog post about these 'automatic' website builders) and one for Old Navy (I've been looking for some staple clothing items to fill in gaps in my closet).

My Mashable experience includes a ‘website in 3 minutes’ post (I’ve been doing research on a blog post about these ‘automatic’ website builders) and one for Old Navy (I’ve been looking for some staple clothing items to fill in gaps in my closet).

I asked Kassie for fun to screenshot what she sees when she goes to Mashable.com:
kassiesmashableexperience

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.



Why Doesn’t Anyone Read My Blog?

So, you’ve set up a blog. You post consistently, your topics are relevant and helpful to your readers, and hey- you aren’t too bad at this whole writing thing. So why does it still feel like the only person reading is your mom?

It may be a matter of accessibility. People won’t look at your blog if they don’t know how to find it (or worse, if they don’t know it exists). You’ve already done the grunt-work, now it’s time to add a little hustle to the mix. Here are four places you can apply said hustle:

1) Can people find your blog within your website? If you’re blogging as part of a business or a larger website, is there clear navigation to the blog portion of the website? Many businesses will link their blog right from the main menu, but there’s more than one way to get from A to B (with websites, anyway). Take a look at your sidebar, it’s another important piece of navigation real estate. Could you put a Recent Posts section in there, like Stonyfield does below? Or, maybe it’s a matter of creating a button or image that directs people to your blog home page when they click on it.

Problogger has their blog as menu item 2, pretty hard to miss.

Problogger has their blog as menu item 2, pretty hard to miss.

Take a look at other pages on your website- are there ways you can link to your blog on these pages? I got to this article about Organic Farming on Stonyfield Farm’s website  by clicking a link in their About page.

Stonyfield_Blog

If you look closely, they’re using the sidebar for additional blog posts AND linking in the menu. Way to hit the trifecta, Stonyfield.

If you’re having a hard time critiquing your website, have a friend take a look. Adding an unbiased brain to the mix  can only help, after all! Giving people alternate routes and clear signage is a great starting point. Now, let’s forge beyond your own territory.



2) Are you sharing on Social Media? Sharing a link to a blog post, old or new, lets people know that your blog is active and ready for readers. It also guarantees more eyeballs are going to see it- Facebook has over 1 billion users, after all. This could be a status update on Facebook or a quick tweet on Twitter. If it’s industry-related content, share it on LinkedIn. Think about where your people hang out online- those should be your target places. Facebook may have a bigger audience, but if your particular audience is hanging out on Google+, don’t turn your back on them!

This step can be accomplished in a few different ways, depending on your preference. If you’re more comfortable with the simple write and post, and can’t be bothered to remember to share on Facebook (or wherever else), you can automatically post to social media once the post is published (that link is for Wordpress users- there are other ways to do it if you have a different kind of platform though!). That means less remembering for you, and more readers for your blog! However, if you aren’t keen on automation and/or don’t want to share every blog post, you can always manage it yourself.

You don’t necessarily have to be the only one sharing your content, either. Wouldn’t it be great if people could share your posts once they’re done reading? You may have noticed some places have social sharing icons at the bottom of articles. You can have that, too! After finishing your latest post, all readers have to do is click the little bird icon and presto! your article just got shared via Twitter, my friend.

Not only does The Hungry Runner Girl share updates on her Facebook Page, she has a link to the blog in the handy dandy sidebar.

Not only does The Hungry Runner Girl share updates on her Facebook Page, she has a link to the blog in the handy dandy sidebar.



3) How about email? Do you have a list of e-mails? Maybe you have an e-mail newsletter that goes out once a month. This is yet another opportunity to promote your blog. If your newsletter for the month focuses on car maintenance, and you have an old blog post that ranks different brands of windshield wipers, go ahead and link to it. Readers will ideally click on the link, read the blog, and it’ll be in the back of their mind. Depending on what type of software you’re using, you can also integrate a feed that pulls in links to recent blog posts within your newsletter, or create a separate email altogether. Using an RSS component within your email management system pulls your recent blog posts into an email, and automatically sends to subscribers weekly, monthly, or whatever period of time you choose. Again, depending on what software you use, is customizable, so you can play around with formatting (i.e. title and featured image, title and a blurb, title, blurb and featured image- whatever boats your float).

The benefit of RSS is it brings your blog to the people. Let’s face it, we can all be a bit lazy at times, and may not feel like checking a website X number of times just to see if there’s a new blog post. Other times, we just forget. Having your posts delivered once a week/month/whenever is like having the paperboy deliver to your front step as opposed to going out, starting the car, driving to the store, buying a paper, and coming back home. It’s easy for you to set up, and it’s easier for your audience to read.

4) Can search engines find you? Just to clarify, this is not to say you should bend over backwards for the whims of SEO, but there are a few things you can do to make your work SEO friendly. No matter what game-changing rules come down the pipe (like Google deciding to nix authorship), if you are consistently creating relevant, meaningful content, you’ll be just fine. The rest is just detail.

A few details that might help get your blog some attention: creating compelling headlines (somewhere in between chapter in a 1950s textbook and linkbait for easily distracted people), tagging keywords when applicable and relevant, and renaming your images (i.e. instead of IMG_05948.jpg, use spidermonkey_fights_mastadon.jpg). To reiterate, these changes are not going to move mountains for your blog, they’re simple things that can give you a little boost. For more on headlines, wording, and other content related issues, check out this article from ProBlogger.

Writing a blog shouldn’t feel like shouting into the void. If you have great content, share it with the world (or, at least, the internet) more effectively so that content you spent hours on will get more eyeballs on it!

Stay tuned, we’ll be launching a product for bloggers like in March that involves setting a lot of this up. Get on our email newsletter and you too will be the first to know when it’s launched. (You can also subscribe to our blog via email there. Boom.)



Tech Thursday: How to Get More People to Read Your Blog

This week, we’re going to discuss a topic that is near and dear to us: blogging. We spend a lot of time reading blogs, and writing our own blog posts, and have encountered some interesting material out there.

If you spend any time at all writing blogs (or content for the internet in general), this video is for you!

After you’ve written your blog post, there are a few things to keep in mind that may affect the number of people who are going to read your blog (and ideally, keep reading it!)

As a bonus, we break out into song this time around (it was bound to happen eventually…).



What I’ve Learned Writing 1,000 Blog Posts

1000-blog-postThis, my friends, is the 1,000th blog post on Breaking Even.

Now you may argue that other people have written blogs on this site but I have also guest blogged (that’s to say posted on someone else’s blog with a link back to mine) and ghost blogged (that’s to say written blogs on other people’s blogs as them without credit) so I figure I’ve personally written at least 1,000 blog entries over the course of the last seven (!) years since I began my personal finance blog in 2007.

As you’ve imagined, I’ve learned a few things about blogging, mainly by doing and watching other people doing. In summary:

1) A blog post is any coherent idea, from start to finish, written online.

So I could write a two paragraph blog about treating people with kindness or I could write a detailed analysis about why health care is so expensive that covers over 25 written pages.

A blog post isn’t the length of something or what software it’s written in or how many people read it. It is the start and end of an idea, in online form. Don’t listen to anything else anyone tells you about it. If you are writing regularly online in a place where other people can see it, you’re a blogger.

As a rule, my blogs tend to be longer than people recommend them being, but I kind of don’t care. When you know the rules, it’s kind of fun to break them. Also that brings me to…



2) A blog post is your own voice.

I have no dillusions that I’m saying anything amazing. Other people have likely thought (and said) ideas that I am saying, on this blog and elsewhere I’ve written online.

But what makes a blog a blog is your perspective. If you want celebrity gossip, there are any number of places you can go online but you go to Perez Hilton because of his point of view (and maybe snicker at how he reworks photos in Microsoft Paint.) So I’ve never worried about saying something original or so amazing/ridiculous the paparazzi would stalk me outside my house. I just write what I want and don’t care if they like it. No one can fake my point of view.

3) A blog post should be written in such a way that strangers or friends can read it.

I have very good friends and complete strangers who read my blog entries. When I write, I assume that the person reading is reading this blog post and nothing else I’ve ever written. So I will mention ‘My dog Gidget’, I won’t just say ‘Gidget’, since that would lose the strangers.

By the same token, I don’t just blog about Gidget existing because that’s barely interesting to me. I instead blogged about what it was like to get her from an animal shelter, which took my hassle and made it into a (hopefully) useful article animals shelters or people who are considering adopting dogs from out of state shelters. It’s a post a stranger or a friend could read or get something out of, which is always my aim.

If you are Oprah or Gwyneth Paltrow, please ignore this. You can write about you, you, you. But the rest of us need some kind of topic, however general.



4) A blog only gets better with practice and most people are either afraid to practice or lose interest before they get good.

I kept all my old blog entries on this site for a reason. If you want a good laugh, go back and read how seriously I took myself in 2007 when I first started.

Blogging is about a progression. It takes time to find your voice, your style, your point of view. But you can only get that by producing and often. (More on this idea here about how I’m taking this same ‘It’s gonna suck but get way better’ attitude and applying it to videos.)

 5) A blog won’t make you rich unless you are very very lucky.

Most great bloggers I know (and I think even the now financially or otherwise successful ones) started blogging because they love to write. And most of the time, it took them years to get noticed. Yup, YEARS.

If you come at it with an unpure motive, people can sense it. You won’t be passionate and you won’t stick to it.

The most my blog ever made me was $15/month in ad spaces. Sure I was blogging daily and I could have written ‘sponsored posts’ endorsing products or stuck ads in more ridiculous places but point is, don’t do it for the money… because it’s not going to work out except occasionally make enough cash to buy you lunch. It’s like enrolling your kid in Little League and expecting they’ll make the pros: it’s sad and vaguely mean to put that kind of expectation on a person, even if that person is yourself.

I’m sure I’ll write 1,000 more blog posts (and likely more) in the course of my life… and if I printed them all out, it would be a couple small books! But I do hope I keep getting better and remember to keep loving it. Because that’s the best part.



Is Someone Copying Your Blog?

contentscrapingandyourblogAs a blogger, I’ve long had my eye on content scrapers, which are people who steal content from your website and, with little or no changes, put it on theirs.

Search engines love blogs so in an effort to get fresh website content that people are looking for, content scrapers hope to take the work that someone else put into writing and use it for their own gain.

I used to pay attention to this when I was a daily blogger but have since stopped, in small part because it made me mad that someone copied my work but in larger part because I realized the people who were doing it were desperate and probably not going to get very far. I have bigger fish to fry.

Matt noticed a few weeks ago that some websites, when he copied a snippet from them, added a URL back to the original post. Of course, I hadn’t noticed this so I immediately looked into it.



Here’s an example of what I mean.

Let’s say I go on the Time’s website and find this article:

articleintime

And in this article I found something I wanted to save, somewhere. I highlight and copy the text:

articlewithquotehighlightedtime

 

When I go to paste that text, here is what happens:

If you want some insight into why the Department of Justice put a gate hold on the merger between American Airlines and US Airways, here’s a number to ponder: 13 million seats—gone. That’s how many airplane seats have disappeared over the past year—seats removed from the system by the airlines as they reduce capacity.

Read more: http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2150624,00.html#ixzz2dw7wHcn4




As you see, the quote is preserved but an attribution link with tracking code is automatically added.

I thought this was kind of neat so I installed Tynt on my site.

Something I didn’t think of when I did this was the fact Tynt could now track when content left my site:

tyntreportcontentcopying

 

Now as you see most people who copied text from this site (26 this week) just deleted the tracking link when they copy… but 6 didn’t and people got to my site from it. Interesting.

What’s my most copied article you ask? Here it is: http://breakingeveninc.com/the-pros-and-cons-of-google-apps/ (At least 2-3 copies a week, who knew it was that good?)

So what’s my point in all this? If you write online, there is a pretty good chance someone is using your content (at best, getting information and attributing and at worst, stealing). But there are tools that can allow you to not only measure this but to make it a little more annoying to do so.

Have you created a pdf or some other piece of content people can download? Put your watermark on the bottom then have some fun like my friend Peter did:

someonecopyingpeterswork

If you really want to go after an offender, this blog post is a pretty detailed how to: http://blog.kissmetrics.com/content-scrapers/

This blog post, however, is more to tell you that it can be an amusing past time to watch where your ideas go… and that I’m going to keep my eye on Tynt for awhile longer.



How To Be A Prolific Blogger

When I say prolific bloggers, we might think of people like Seth Godin or Heather Armstrong.

These people blog full time and have thousands of people reading every word they say, the moment they say it.

Being a famous blogger is that part recognition for a talent, part interaction with adoring fans (and not so adoring ones I’m sure). It’s what we all kind of want to be when we start blogging: fame without the paparazzi.

Being Seth or Heather though is kind of like being John Mayer or Etta James. These people have reached the top of their field and are making lots of money excelling. But there are only x number of people who get here and it’s part work, part timing, and part luck.

I know plenty of working musicians who are not household names with million dollar contracts. There is plenty of room between destitute wannabe and internationally known rock star.

And many prolific bloggers  fit in an in between category. Not famous. Prolific.

While not everyone who blogs can be famous, I encourage everyone who blogs to at least try to be prolific. I try. I might not always get there but I try.



What are my guidelines for trying to be prolific, you ask?

  • Is what I’m saying new? There are a million blog posts about, say, the birth of the royal baby. I’m not going to regurgitate the same basic information that’s on every news site if I have a lifestyle blog. A comparison of the royal baby to Kim Kardashian’s new baby? Or an interview with my friends Mike and Lynne who had their baby at the same time as the royal baby about how the coverage affected their birth? That’s giving the royal baby story a new angle. If you are a blogger, you are not trying to be The New York Times or CNN (unless you are breaking a crazy story you have firsthand knowledge of, in which case go for it!). You are trying to say something new. So make it new, somehow. If you can’t, there might not be enough of a story there.
  • Is what I’m saying helpful? The other thing I try to do, even if I am writing some silly first-person story,  is have some message or universal truth. I ask myself, can a stranger learn something from this? If the answer is no, there is always some framing I can do. The story about my father’s birthday can be tied to Youtube (they have the same birthday) and how much the internet has changed in such a short time since he passed. See, it’s still a personal story but it’s one a stranger who didn’t know my father can now read and get something out of.
  • Would I link to this blog post? This question implies the blog post is interesting, not completely self centered,  and also that it follows the ‘rules’ blogs have. The first two ideas there are self explanatory but what do I mean by blogging rules? I mean writing a blog in the style of a blog. Blogs people link to are as much about good formatting as subject. I’m kind of long winded for a blogger but I try to help my reader out with bold text for the important parts and at least one image per post to keep things fun and kicky.
    Kicky (from kamibashi.com)

    Kicky (from kamibashi.com)

    See I told you I could show you fun and kicky on this blog. 🙂

  • Is someone not like me reading this? So I don’t like overalls or Family Guy (actually I feel like more than dislike I just don’t ‘get’ either of those two things). There are other things I feel ‘meh’ about. But by writing negative blog posts about either, all I’m doing is making fans of those things angry or making the people who think ‘who cares?’ go elsewhere to be entertained. By thinking of people not like myself, I am thinking about not being 1) negative or 2) inaccessible. Inaccessible meaning trying to be too intellectual, using too many cultural references without explanation, and other things that make people read your stuff and not ‘get’ it. If someone with completely opposite religious/political/overall-wearing beliefs can read my blog, that’s a good thing.

I use these questions as an informal checklist I ask myself before I press publish on each blog.

Is there anything else you feel prolific bloggers do that I might not have included in my list? If so please share in the comments!



1 2 3 4 5 6