March 22, 2015

Suggestions For Monetizing Your Blog

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I can’t think of many people who are blogging that do not want to make some money from their blog in one way or another. Monetizing your blog can seem like an overwhelming task at times so I thought a discussion about some common practices of adding advertising to your blog might be helpful, especially if you are just beginning with your blog.

One really easy form of advertising is through Google AdSense. You will need to set up an account with Google, if you do not already have one before you can create an ad block for your blog. The great thing about these ad blocks is that you can pick a size that will fit where you plan to place it. You can also customize the ad block to have the colors from the theme of your blog, too. But let’s talk about placement and how many Google Ad Blocks to put on your blog. Google’s TOS tell you not to have more than 3 ad blocks on your pages. Some will use all three, although personally, I think that is a bit of overkill. The most important thing to remember is to have at least one of those blocks “above the fold” on your page. What that means is place it so that it shows somewhere on the page before a reader needs to scroll down to read more. You can have the ad block show up at the top of your blog post if you like, in the middle of the post (although that could be below the fold) or at the end of your post (again below the fold). As long as you have not used your allowed 3 in the posts you can also put the ad block in your sidebar. I choose on all of my blogs to have 1 (yes only 1) ad block for AdSense and I always place it as the first ad in my sidebar. I also choose the option of text and text rich/image ads. What that does is give text ads when appropriate but will also show a banner type image ad sometimes, too.

Some people will have all 3 allowed ads on their blogs and they feel that it works well for them. Maybe it does but for myself I prefer the one block in the sidebar. For one thing that allows me to feel comfortable with having ads or banners from different affiliates that I work with on the blog, also. With Google Panda now looking harder at the amount of advertising on a page, I am a fan of the “less is more” tactic. Google is actually looking at the ratio of advertising versus content now so having too much advertising included in the sidebars and posts can hurt your placement in SERPS and might even cause Google to stop indexing your pages.

I like to have the AdSense block and three or four banner ads from affiliates in my sidebar. You can add those using the text widget if you are using WordPress for your blog.

By keeping those sidebar ads at a minimum, I then have the choice of having one or two ads within my posts. Typically I will put an image with an affiliate link along with a text link within my content. I try to place those in a way that will be appealing to the reader and possibly break up a long strand of text. Occasionally I will add an additional text link to a complimentary item to the one that I have featured in the post.

This is obviously not the only way to monetize your blog but it has worked consistently with me to earn AdSense money, affiliate commissions from the banner ads and commissions from sales from the links in the posts. I originally began to advertise in this way so that I did not overwhelm my readers with a bunch of advertising. Now, with Panda paying specific attention to the ratio of content and advertising, it seems that my choices are safe ones for now.


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Thinking About Traffic Flow

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TrafficWhenever I do anything online or offline for that matter, I think about traffic flow.  When it comes to my brick and mortar store, the traffic is actual people coming in to the store.  However, when I work online, I picture traffic in my mind as little feet walking in one direction.

It is much easier to picture traffic flow when you see actual people come into a brick and mortar store.  They are real people with personalities and needs, and you can ask them directly what brought them in, where they are from, and what they are looking for.  I do that often when I interact with new customers.  I come right out and ask them where they are from, and if they are from out of town, what brought them to Cleveland.  Most people are happy to answer your questions, and tell you what they have been doing.  I can then ask them what they are looking for in my shop, and how much they want to spend.  That will narrow down what I can show them for the gift they are looking for.  In sales, questions like this are called qualifying questions.  These types of questions help turn a prospect into a paying customer.

With real people, you might think that the more traffic, the more sales.  However, that is not always true.  It is more true to say that the more of the right traffic, the more sales.  While selling is a numbers game, and traffic is always good, it is better if the people who come in are ready to buy the type of items that we sell.

When I create content online, whether it be an addition to a site that I already have, a single page, or just a post, I picture in my mind a map of where people who land on that site are coming from, and where I want them to go next.  The next part is picturing why.

I think that when you do a lot of working online, it is sometimes easy to forget that we are dealing with real people.  We usually work alone, away from the people we are serving.  Most of us work out of our homes.  However, the people that respond to your work are real people, with real problems, needs, and wants.  And it is our job to figure out how to drive the right people to our door, and beyond to where we want to send them.

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Marketing and Advertising: Why Do People Pay for Services That They Can Get for Free?

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I have had many people say to me that they do not understand why people pay for services that they can do themselves.  I thought that I would discuss this issue.

Let me give you an example:

I am an author, and an expert on writing online, however, sometimes I pay someone else to write articles for me.  Why do I do this?  It all comes down to taking a look at the bottom line, and what activities bring in the most money in income.  Since I am one person, and there are only so many hours each day that I can effectively work, I need to decide which activities I need to do myself, which others can do, and if it is cost effective for me to pay someone else.  The cost analysis is not always how much I can earn today, but how much I can earn in 6 to 12 months time from that work.

This is how I look at the tasks that I do each day, and figure out if I can delegate them to another person.  I often delegate filing paperwork to an assistant because they can do a good job, and I can do a good job at a income generating task while they are filing.

Just because something is free, does not mean that it is truly free to you.  If an artist can create an ad in an hour that would take me 10 hours to create for free, that is 9 wasted hours that I could have been doing something else.  Unless the fee is extremely high, it is much more efficient for me to pay someone else to do that job.

The bigger your business gets, the more you have to delegate.  Sometimes the person you delegate to, does not do the job the same way you do.  That doesn’t necessarily mean that they do not do as good of a job.  Even if they do not do the job as well as you do, did they do it well enough to allow you the freedom to do what you do best?

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Marketing and Advertising: Word of Mouth

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Word of MouthThe old adage is that word of mouth is the best advertising.  That is true when the word of mouth is coming from satisfied customers.  Word of mouth is also the worst kind of advertising when it comes from angry customers.  Therefore, we should all aim to satisfy, please, or astound our customers over and over again.

The new term for word of mouth is “horizontal advertising” which Seth Godin talks about in his latest post here.  With the electronic ways of spreading the word, the word of mouth has turned into a very fast method of getting your message across, but only if people want to send it.  While you may have lost some of the control of your advertising this way, you gain satisfaction.  The bottom line is that the people who will spread your message are people who love your business.

It all comes back to pleasing the customer, and the power is in the hands of the customer.  But isn’t that where it has always been anyway?  Companies only fool themselves if they think that they are in control of their marketing and success.  The customer is spending their hard earned money on your product or service.  By making them happy, everyone wins.  And then they will tell their friends about you.

Therefore, you need to be able to clearly delineate what you can or cannot do for a customer, then follow through and do it.  When you think of how many times a vendor has disappointed you, you will realized how valuable those simple steps are.

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Marketing and Advertising: Cost of Doing Business

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Cost of Doing BusinessDoing business does not come free. There is always a cost of doing business.  The trick is to weigh the cost against the benefit that you receive.  One of the most difficult aspects of doing business to determine is how much to spend on marketing and advertising.  Because of the nature of marketing and advertising, it is often difficult to know exactly how much return you get from each piece of advertising.  And if you think that you are getting free advertising or marketing somewhere, think again.  There is a cost that you are paying, not necessarily in dollars.  Many times it is your time, your involvement, or the sacrifice of other business duties.

However, marketing is necessary to increase the scope of your business.  We cannot do without it, because we always need new customers, new traffic, and new prospects.  Customers leave us through attrition on a natural basis, (they may move away or lose interest), so we must at least replace our lost customers with new customers, and hopefully increase our customer base.

This is true with online business just as much as it is true for brick and mortar stores.  For online businesses, we often spend our advertising dollars getting people to click on our ads, links, and pages to draw them into our website.  Therefore, we need to examine the cost of our marketing in order to use the most efficient methods to drive business.

To give you a more concrete way of the cost of various methods of marketing and advertising, here are some ways that I market my business, and what the goal of each method is:

  1. Writing articles on Squidoo, Wizzley: Cost–my time, Goal–drive traffic to my website, and earn extra money
  2. Creating separate websites: Cost–time, minimal money, Goal–drive traffic to my pages, and earn extra money
  3. Blogging: Cost–my time, Goal–drive traffic to my website
  4. Email newsletter: Cost–$40 month, my time, Goal–drive traffic to my website and store
  5. Print ad in local hotel magazine: Cost–$180 month, Goal–drive traffic to my store
  6. Affiliate program on Shareasale: Cost–Initial investment of $550, then 10% of sales, Goal–drive traffic to my website

I have tried various forms of advertising and marketing, and part of the decision of using them is where I want to drive traffic, and is the cost worth the benefit.  Sometimes you cannot determine that without a trial period.  But no matter what you choose, there is always some type of cost to doing business.

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Marketing and Advertising: Why Do I Need To?

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Spreading the wordThe terms marketing, advertising, and promotion are words that we hear daily as writers.  We are told that we need to market or promote our writing in order to get people to read it.  This concept can be hard for some people to understand.  A writer that writes a new piece may think that once it is out in the public eye, people will find it automatically.

And while that is what many writers wish would happen, it is not reality.  Because people’s lives are so full, and there is so much competition for their attention, even if they are primed to read your work, they may not know it even exists or how to find it.

This is why we must market and advertise our own work.  Even famous authors, who have a very large following let their readers know when their next book is out.  So how can we, who are just establishing our audiences, not do the same.

This article is just the beginning of a new series of posts related to marketing and advertising your own work.  In each post, we will go into the whys and hows of going about spreading the word about your writing.  And we will determine which methods will work best for you.

There are a lot of overlaps between marketing, advertising and promoting.  All three are ways to spread the word about your writing, to invite people to read more, and to encourage people to follow you.  As you build an audience, you can refine your methods of promotion, by determining which methods your audience responds to the most.

Some of your marketing will be chosen by your budget.  Most authors start out with free marketing tools, and move on to paid tools later.  There is a lot that you can do for free as long as you are willing to put in some sweat equity to get your campaign off the ground, but at some point, you will have to shell out some money in order to get past a certain point.  There is only so much that one person can do.  After that, you need to hire people to help you.

Feel free to ask for posts on specific topics, and for examples if you have questions.  Let’s get some discussions started, so that all of us can have a very prosperous year.

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How to Place Effective Advertising on WordPress Blogs

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For those of you who are creating WordPress blogs, either as separate websites, or to promote your lenses, there is significant money to be made from Google Adsense.  Recently, the question has come up as to how to earn money from Adsense, and I will address that in this post.

I have had a blog for my gallery for at least 5 years.  During that entire time, I had an Adsense account, but for the first two years, I made almost no money from it.  I think in two years time, I accumulated about $12.  Google Adsense requires a minimum of $100 for a payout, so you can see why I was not excited about the $12.

However, in the last 3 years, I have learned a lot more about how to earn with Google Adsense, and while I am not a complete expert, I can tell that I have made well over payout month over month for about 18 months now.  That is a significant change, and I would like to help you achieve the same using some simple methods.

Adsense is totally free to sign up for, although not everyone gets approved.  To be approved, you need to have a website or blog of your own, but it doesn’t have to be on your own domain.  There is no question that newer Adsense publishers get less valuable ads, and you have to prove that you can send buyers to the advertisers.  So don’t be surprised at first if your clicks only get you a few pennies at first.  This is how you pay your dues as an Adsense publisher.

Adsense works best on websites that have a clear focus.  And this focus can change from post to post, but at least each post should be directly focused on one basic topic.  Adsense will try to match ads to your content.  However, depending on what your topic is, there may not be a good match.  If this is the case, then Adsense will not be the best advertiser for you.

Just like any other form of marketing, Adsense is a numbers game.  The more and better targeted traffic you have, the better Adsense matches you will get, and the more paying clicks will occur.  Adsense is a pay per click program, so people have to click on the ads for you to earn anything.  Never, never click on your own ads.  This is click fraud, and will get you banned from Adsense forever.  Google is extremely unforgiving about click fraud.  It is actually best not to click on any ad on a site that you write on.  That way, your behavior cannot be questioned.

So how do you get people to actually click on your ads.

The best way to do this is to put your ads in what I call an umbrella pattern.  That means a banner ad at the top of your page, and an ad block to the right and the left of your content at the very top of the sidebars.  One of these blocks can also be inside your content with the text wrapped around it.  This is sort of an upside down U shape.  That means that the introduction or first paragraph of your content is surrounded by ads.  You can match the colors of the Adsense blocks to match your site or blog, so that the ads look natural sitting there.

Depending on your blog or site’s layout, all these three positions may not be the best place to put ad blocks.  If you look at this example on Eco-Chic Green Fashion, you will see an ad block at the top and right, but nothing on the left.  That is because I decided that the pictures were more important here.

That is also what I am doing on Precious Metal Clay, here. On Cleveland OH Visitor, the sidebars move around.  Here is a page with ads on both sides. The primary spots for getting clicks are at the top of the page, above the fold, or above the scroll online.  This is where your best ads should go.

As your blog matures, and your entire portfolio of Adsense income matures, you will get better ads, and better paying clicks.  I have had clicks in the last year as high as $10, although rarely, but the average rate is usually around $1-$2.  These add up a lot faster than pennies.

As to how large of ad blocks to use, I like to use the largest ad block that I can in a given space, and prefer the square and horizontal ads over the vertical ones.  They seem to perform better for me.  You have to see what will work on your sites or blogs.  Don’t worry too much about readers being put off by ads.  If they are not interested, their eyes will just skip right over the ads, and go to the part of your page that they are interested in.  You are allowed to put a maximum of three Google Adsense blocks per page, no more unless you get special permission.

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