Friday, August 22, 2008

5 Blogger Books I Would Buy Today

Recently it seems as if there have been a number of bloggers getting deals to publish books. Last week Darren Rowse and Chris Garrett announced the release of their upcoming book. A few weeks ago Andy Beal from Marketing Pilgrim also published Radically Transparent following the success of his blog.

Blooger Books

Personally, I like the idea of bloggers that I recognize publishing books. I just ordered Darren and Chris’s book and I’m confident that it will be worth the price, because I’m already familiar with them and I respect and trust their insight and opinions.

As I was purchasing the book, it made me think about some other bloggers that I would like to write a book on a particular topic. Plenty of bloggers are selling informational products or giving away free ebooks, but there are a few specifics that I would like to see, and here they are:

Courtney Tuttle - Keyword Sniping for Profit

Over the past few months Court has been publishing a series of posts on what he calls “Keyword Sniping.” Court’s approach to making money online with this method involves finding a niche topic that will allow him the chance to get a #1 ranking with Google for a carefully chosen search phrase. Court gives advice for finding a search phrase that will produce enough traffic to earn a respectable amount of money from AdSense each day. Court’s strategy is not to make a killing from one site, but rather a smaller amount each from a large number of sites.

Before Court’s series I had no interest at all in making money with AdSense, but this is one of the best and most informative series of posts that I have read. Although there is already a good bit of content on his blog about the subject, and some more coming, I think it would be an ideal topic for a book because it would help readers to be able to put everything together into one place, plus it would allow Court to go into more detail than he can in a blog post.

Muhammad Saleem - Creating Buzz Through Social Media Marketing

Muhammad is one of the top users at a few of the major social media sites, including Digg. Recently he’s also been doing a lot of freelance writing and he seems to be posting about social media on all of the top blogs. I think the topic of social media marketing could easily fill an entire book, and who better to write it than Muhammad.

If Muhammad were to write this book he could cover the process of becoming a power user at different social media sites, and he could also go into detail about creating content that gets attention from social media users.

Cyan & Collis Ta’eed - Blogging as a Business

Cyan and Collis (Freelance Switch, PSDTuts, FlashDen) have already written a book on freelancing, How to Be a Rockstar Freelancer, and their blogs continue to grow and draw even more new readers. Their approach to running a blog is really a good bit different from the typical blogger. Cyan and Collis treat their blogs just like any traditional offline business, meaning they are willing to invest money and resources into growing a more profitable business. Due to the success of their projects, I think there is a lot that they could teach the rest of us about successfully building a profitable business through blogging.

Maki - The Ultimate Guide to Writing Web Content

Maki from Dosh Dosh really puts the rest of us to shame when it comes to writing compelling, effective blog content. Maki doesn’t attempt to publish everyday or to fill RSS readers with loads of content, but he is extremely skilled at writing unique content that you don’t see anywhere else. Everyone that reads Dosh Dosh recognizes Maki as a go-to source of information.

Actually, I think Maki could write a book on any number of topics and I’m sure it would be an outstanding book. The subject of content creation is what stands out to me because when I think of bloggers that produce top-notch content, Maki is the first name that comes to mind.

Daniel Scocco - Building a Profitable Network of Blogs

As most of you know, Daniel runs Daily Writing Tips and Daily Bits in addition to Daily Blog Tips, and he earns a full-time income from home. Building a successful blog like this one is hard enough, but Daniel has done a great job of branding and marketing his family of sites, and I think they have all benefited from the relationship.

If you subscribe to any or all of Daniel’s blogs, you know that he strives to consistently provide relevant and useful information to his readers, and I would like to see that go a step further towards showing more about how he has managed to build and maintain such a popular and profitable network.

What’s Your Opinion?

What bloggers would you like to see write a book, and why? Would you buy a book from any of the bloggers that I have mentioned above?

10 Essential Legal Points for Bloggers

Every day, millions of bloggers post content online. Millions more people read and comment on blogs. With all that communication, some interesting legal issues are bound to arise. This article looks at 10 major legal points that bloggers must know and offers some suggestions about how to work with them.

1. Develop a “legal consciousness” about blogging. Like any publications, blogs frequently create legal questions. However, there is no need to fear those issues. Instead, being aware of the possibility of such concerns will help you identify them and manage them effectively. This article presents some of the most common legal issues that arise.

As you read it, consider how those issues apply to your blog. Also, it is good to develop the habit of looking for legal questions as you post new content on your blog. Using the major points in this article as a guide, you can ask yourself, “Are there any potential legal problems here?” whenever you update your blog. This simple practice will help you identify important legal questions and resolve them before they have a chance to cause problems.

2. Read carefully and understand the agreements related to your blog. Depending on how you host, manage, promote, and monetize your blog, the exact agreements you enter will vary somewhat, but here are some common agreements that will affect most bloggers:

  • Web and blog hosting agreements, including terms of service and acceptable use policies;
  • content-sharing agreements and licenses;
  • syndication agreements; and
  • affiliate, revenue-sharing, and advertising programs.

You should assume that these agreements are valid, enforceable contracts that you must follow. Of course, if you have questions about any agreements or policies or their validity, you should consult with a lawyer to learn about your rights and duties. However, it is reasonable to expect that in most cases you will have to abide by these agreements as you operate your blog, so it is worth your time to become familiar with them.

3. Adopt basic legal policies for your blog. Most blogs can benefit from a “terms of use” agreement. This policy explains how visitors to your blog may use your site and its content. It is the fundamental agreement between you and visitors to your site. The particulars of terms of use agreements vary from one blog to another, but some common provisions include disclaimers of warranties on any of the content, limitation of the blog publisher’s liability, restrictions about how the blog’s content can be used, netiquette policies governing comments posted on the blog, and so forth.

A privacy policy is also an important document for blogs today. Participants in blog conversations are concerned about identity theft and the security of their information. Establishing and following a privacy policy for your blog assures visitors that their personal information will be protected and encourages them to join the discussions at your blog. Here at Daily Blog Tips, Aditya Mahesh recently outlined the basic points that all good blog privacy policies have. Following those points will give you a great start on developing a privacy policy for your blog.

User-generated content (UGC) is becoming an increasingly important source of potential legal disputes. Content-sharing sites may be the most obvious example of participatory media and UGC, but blogs allow users to generate content in the form of comments. A useful policy for UGC will answer the following questions:

  • who owns the content that users post?
  • how can the blog’s publisher use the UGC?
  • how can other users use the content?
  • do visitors to the blog have the right to change or remove their content?
  • how will you handle UGC that infringes upon another person’s intellectual property rights or is illegal?
  • how will disputes over UGC be resolved?

Please note that the questions listed above are just starting points. A complete UGC policy will answer those questions and several others that apply to the particular kind of blog you publish.

4. Protect your copyright in your original work. Unfortunately, a lot of blog content is being copied and used all over the Web without the permission of the content’s creators. Preventing copyright infringement and plagiarism can be difficult and costly, but there are some simple things you can do to address the problem.

  • display a copyright notice conspicuously on each page of your blog;
  • register your copyright in your blog with the United States Copyright Office or the copyright registration authority in your country;
  • license your work to your blog’s visitors (Creative Commons offers a number of standard licenses that you can use, if you don’t want to create your own from scratch); and
  • learn more about the problem of online plagiarism by reading authoritative information, such as Daily Blog Tips’ “Blog Plagiarism Q & A” and Jonathan Bailey’s PlagiarismToday site.

5. Respect others’ content and do not infringe upon it. You can avoid many disputes in the blogosphere if you respect others’ copyrights and trademarks. Here are a few tips to help you avoid infringing on others’ intellectual property.

For copyrights:

  • assume all content, whether online or offline, is protected by copyright unless you are certain that it is in the public domain;
  • get written permission to use copyrighted content and store that writing in a safe place in case you need it later;
  • always acknowledge the source of content and, if the copyright owner requests a certain format for the attribution, use it;
  • follow best practices related to copyright law; and
  • be extremely careful about “fair use” of copyrighted works. The legal factors that determine whether a given use of copyrighted content is a “fair use” may look simple and obvious, but they can be very difficult to apply in practice. If you are unsure about whether your proposed use is a fair use, consult with a lawyer. Even if you are sure that you are making fair use of a copyrighted work, you will still be wise to do everything you reasonably can to obtain written permission to use that work, to avoid the possibility of disputes later.

For trademarks:

  • show the trademark symbol (”®” for registered trademarks, and “TM” for common law trademarks) immediately after the trademark;
  • follow the trademark owner’s guidelines for using the mark in blogs and commentary (for an example of such guidelines, see the LEGO® Fair Play policy); and
  • do not suggest that the trademark owner approves of your content, endorses your site, or is affiliated with you. Instead, display a statement prominently that says you are not affiliated with the trademark owner and that the owner has not approved or endorsed your blog or its content.

6. Before you post statements of fact, be sure those statements are true. Obviously, very few bloggers will intentionally publish false information. However, in the rush to cover topics quickly, ahead of other bloggers and ahead of the mainstream media, bloggers face increasing pressure to “get it first and get it right.” Unfortunately, though, sometimes speed comes at the cost of accuracy. Sacrificing accuracy can cause at least three big problems for the blogger.

First, someone may accuse the blogger of libel because he or she misstated the facts.

Second, you and your blog will lose credibility. In the short term, lost credibility may cost you readers and advertisers. In the longer term, lost credibility may affect your ability to successfully publish other blogs.

Third, if you are selling goods, services, or information through your blog, misrepresenting certain facts can subject you to liability for fraud and violation of applicable consumer protection laws.

7. Consider special problems that can arise in the workplace.

Several disputes have arisen between employers and employees over blogging. Some bloggers have even lost their jobs. There are a few basic rules to follow in the workplace to avoid problems.

If you are an employee, don’t blog on your employer’s time or using your employer’s computer systems or network, unless you have your employer’s explicit written permission. Such practices are likely against the employer’s rules and you probably don’t have any legal right to use the employer’s equipment for personal blogging.

An exception to this general rule occurs when you are writing content for an official company blog that your employer sponsors. In that case, you have the employer’s permission, but you should verify that your blog postings comply with the company’s policies for online content. If you are not sure about the applicability of your employer’s policy, ask your manager.

If you are an employer, make sure your employees understand your company’s policies about blogging. Your blogging policies should be in writing and you should ask employees to sign a statement that says they have read and understood the policy and agree to comply with it. As with any other policies, you should enforce your blogging policies consistently and fairly.

8. If you publish a collaborative or group blog, make sure all the contributors know their rights and responsibilities concerning the blog and its content. The more people you have contributing content to a blog, the greater the potential for disputes. To avoid conflict, it is useful to develop a written agreement with the other bloggers that addresses, at a minimum, the following points:

  • who owns the copyright to the individual blog posts?
  • who owns the copyright to the blog as a whole?
  • can individual bloggers republish their blog posts on other blogs or in other publications, whether online or offline?
  • under what circumstances may individual bloggers remove their blog posts from the group blog?
  • do bloggers retain any interest in the blog’s content, including in their individual contributions to it, after they leave the blog?
  • who is entitled to revenue that the blog generates?
  • who is responsible for paying the blog’s expenses?
  • how will disputes among bloggers be resolved?
  • how will the various affairs of the blog be concluded if the blog ceases publication?

9. Blog anonymously, if your identity, reputation, or personal safety are at risk. In some cases, the only reasonable way to communicate your message–and to make it likely that you will be able to continue blogging–is to blog anonymously. While some countries, such as the United States of America, guarantee a legal right to communicate anonymously, exercising that right on the Internet is not necessarily easy because a blogger may leave various clues about his or her identity at numerous points in the blogging process. While a complete discussion of the technical means to blog anonymously is beyond the scope of this article, here are two resources that will help you navigate those technical issues.

10. Learn more about the basics of the laws that affect bloggers. There is much more to the law of blogging than a brief article can cover. Moreover, as blogging becomes more popular, blogging law is developing rapidly. Therefore, learning about the legal issues of blogging is an ongoing process.

Happily, there are several good resources available to help you stay up to date on legal matters. One source of information is bloggers’ conferences and conventions. Those meetings often hold sessions or workshops that present the latest legal developments that bloggers need to know. Additionally, there are several online publications that explain the law in much greater detail and provide a variety of examples to guide you through the legal maze. Here are a few samples of those texts.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Why Should you Join a Blog Network?

1. Relationships - today I did an informal survey of 10 bloggers from a number of blog networks (not just my own) on the topic of what they like like about being in their network and the most common response was that they enjoyed being a part of something larger than themselves and that it was the relationships both with network owners and managers as well as other bloggers that made the network experience most worthwhile. Many blog networks have some sort of internal communication systems (forums, wikis, email lists or even blogs, chat and VOIP sessions) - all of which can take blogging out of a space that can be a little lonely into one that is much more relational.

2. Traffic - when I started my first blog 3 years ago I did so as a complete newcomer to the blogosphere and had absolutely no connections to other bloggers or sources of traffic. The result was that finding a readership was a long slow process that took a year before I even had more than a few hundred readers a day (except for an occasional fluke day when I had links from bigger blogs). In contrast to this many new network blogs gather a readership much quicker. Of course this varies a lot from network to network (ie Gawker’s blogs can debut in their first day with tens of thousands of visitors where as smaller networks might start with hundreds of visitors). This traffic comes as a result of incoming links from announcement posts, just from the prestige of being in the network and from other blogs in the network. Many networks also have ways of cross promoting blogs via highlighting top posts of the week or clustering related blogs together into channels that cross link within posts.

3. Expertise - very few bloggers have all the skills needed to run a successful blog and networks can offer a large range of skills and expertise to help grow a blog. Most blog networks will handle all of the behind the scenes aspects of getting a blog up and running including design, SEO optimization, paying for and setting up URLs and hosting, finding advertisers, choosing a blog platform (and administering upgrades and plugins), optimizing ads, promotion etc. This leaves the blogger to simply write. Similarly when you’re in a network with many other bloggers and you come across a problem with your blog it’s amazing how quickly it can be solved either by those managing the network or others in it.

4. Administration - similarly to having a lot of the technical aspects of setting up and running a blog handled - a blog network often handles a lot of the administrative tasks associated with blogging such as the management of advertisers (it can get out of control when you have to collect income from numerous sources), book keeping and even (I’ve heard in one case) the moderation of comment spam.

5. Revenue - this is perhaps one of the more obvious reasons that some bloggers choose to join networks (although fewer than you’d think have it as a primary reason as I found today). As I’ll mention in the next post in this series a downside is that in most networks you split the revenue your blog owns with the network (there are many methods of determining this) but on the upside due to the increased traffic, SEO prominence and expertise that a network brings the overall earnings can end up being higher than if you blogged independently (a generalization but true in most cases).

6. SEO - one of the big upsides of being in most blog networks is that on the day your blog launches you are guaranteed to be linked to from each other blog in the network. Networks do this in their own individual ways but it usually happens in a sidebar or footer. The benefits of this are twofold - firstly there is an element of cross promotion going on and some traffic will follow the links but secondly (and mainly) the benefits are that being linked to by other blogs on other domains is one of the best ways to climb the rankings in search engines - which of course leads to traffic.

7. Prestige - of course this one will vary considerably from network to network but if you can get a gig writing for one of the top networks you could use if to your advantage in the building of your own profile.

8. Learning - another answer that I got in my questioning of bloggers today was that some of them said that they joined the network to learn how to blog on a more professional level so that they could use the skills they learnt in their own ventures. One of the best ways of learning is to watch someone else do something and then to imitate - being in a network can expose you to all kinds of learning opportunities.

Blog Design for Beginners

Step 1: Identify the site’s goals (what are you trying to do? How will you achieve it)

We’re designing this site to increase Fred’s profit. We’re going to do this by designing a flexible framework for Fred to experiment with ad placement, by increasing the attention grabbing aspect in order to capture more first time visitors, and by increasing the site’s stickiness, giving users more chances to see an ad that they want to click on.

While we’re at it, we’re going to use a plugin we recently developed that will give Fred control over the colour of the various elements of his site. This way, he’ll be able to keep things looking fresh.

Step 2: Identify your audience (who are they, and where do they come from)

Fred’s audience is made up of two groups: hardcore watch nuts, who read Fred’s site for news and reviews of the latest timepieces, and people shopping for watches, who come to the site via searches for specific makes and models.

Step 3: Identify specific needs (what functions does the site need to have in order to meet its goals?)

Flexibility with a minimum of fuss is key here. We want Fred to be able to move ad blocks around without having to mess with the code. We also want Fred to be able to change up the look of his site to keep things fresh, again, without messing with the code.

We also want to increase the site’s stickiness. We’ll do this by including a “favorite posts” listing and related links in the post’s footer.

We’ll show a category listing, to allow readers to explore the site in a non-linear way, and a search bar, so readers can search for specific makes or models. We also want to include a blogroll, to share the love. Finally, we want to show recent comments, so Fred’s regular site visitors can keep up with the overall conversation.

Step 4: Draw wireframes (rough sketches to experiment with element placement and layout)

Now the fun starts. I use a fabulous program called OmniGraffle (mac only) to play around with site layout and element hierarchy (more on this in a moment). I like to stay out of my graphics editor, since the potential to get sucked into designing visual elements is so strong. You really want to avoid jumping into the visual part of the design at this stage, since you’ll just end up getting lost.

What we’re doing now is building the terrain that we’ll lay our visual elements over. Skipping this stage is is the single biggest mistake newbie designers make.

Here’s an example of Fred’s site in the first stages of development:

As you can see, there’s no “design” per se present. What we’re doing though is figuring out the optimal placement of the various blocks that make up our site. We’re establishing the hierarchy of the page elements; deciding what’s most important, where we want the users’ eye to move.

This is a very rich area of study. I’m going to try to boil it down to it’s most basic (this data comes from an article by Peter Faraday. In essence we perform 2 functions immediately upon landing on a web page: search, and scan. The search function is our eye looking for a salient entry point into the page. We are attracted by the following (in descending order)

  1. motion
  2. size
  3. images
  4. colour
  5. text style (font choice, font weight)
  6. position

Once we’ve determined where we can start reading, we determine what to read by scanning the page. We look at groups of objects, and the proximity of individual objects to decide what is most important to read first.

Knowing this, we can make decisions in the layout and styling of our pages in order to increase the odds of generating the intended response (ie, clicking on an ad).

The eagle eyed among you may have noticed that we have more ad blocks than Google currently allows. We won’t be using them all at the same time, but we’re building them in so Frank has the ability to move the ads around.

Step 5: Make a mood board (a collection of images, colours, type, etc that give you the feel you’re aiming for).

On larger jobs, we collect a bunch of imagery that feels like the project at hand. We look through magazines (fashion mags are a goldmine), books, and the web for colours, textures, layouts, etc. We cut up the magazines or print stuff out and literally make up a board that summarizes the mood we’re aiming to create for the site.

For a smaller job, we go through the same process, but create a virtual board instead. This is basically a big document in Photoshop that we can paste a bunch of stuff into. These images become our starting place for creating a colour palette, exploring texture and form, and generally acting as inspiration.

Creating one of these things doesn’t take long - go and try it, you’ll be surprised how much it helps.

Here’s an example from a recent project:

Step 6: Visual design

Having completed all of the above, the visual design is a much more manageable job than had we jumped straight in at the outset. Now we can concentrate on the site’s balance, energy, and style.

One huge mistake web design newbies make is not leaving enough space around the individual elements. This is called “white space”. Note that it doesn’t have to be white! Rather, the term refers simply to empty space.

10 Tips for Using Affiliate Programs on your Blog

1. Consider your Audience

It almost goes without saying - but it’s worth putting yourself in your readers shoes and consider what they might be looking for as they surf by your blog. Are they shopping for specific products? Might they be looking for related products or accessories? What would trigger them to purchase? Start with your reader in mind rather than the product. If you take this approach you could end up doing your reader a favor as well as making a few dollars on the side.

2. Genuine Recommendations and personal endorsements always work best

There are literally hundreds of thousands of products and services for you to choose from to recommend to your blog’s readers but making money from them is not as simple as randomly adding links to them from your blog. Your blog’s readers come back to your blog day after day because something about you resonates with them - they have at least some level of trust and respect for you and perhaps the quickest way to destroy this is to recommend that they buy something that you don’t fully believe will benefit them.

The best results I’ve had from affiliate programs are where I give an open and honest appraisal of the product - including both it’s strengths and weaknesses. The most successful affiliate program I’m involved with here at ProBlogger is Joel Comm’s e-book which I reviewed here. If you read the review you’ll see that I not only tell readers who I believe the book is for but I also mention those it is NOT for. In a sense I critique it. On a surface level one might think that this wasn’t a wise move and that I should have given a glowing review - however the sales that I’ve had through the program have proven otherwise. People want to know what they are buying first and even if they know a product has limitations they will buy it if it meets their particular need.

3. Link to Quality Products

We all like to make sure we’re buying the best products money can buy - your readers are no different to this and are more likely to make a purchase if you’ve found them the best product for them. Choose products and companies with good reputations and quality sales pages. There is nothing worse than giving a glowing review of a product only to send your reader to a page that looks cheap and nasty.

4. Contextual Deep Links work Best

When I started using the Amazon Associate Program I naively thought that all I had to do was put an Amazon banner ad (that linked to Amazon’s front page) at the top of my blog. I thought that my readers would see it and surf over to Amazon and buy up big - thereby making me a rich man. Nothing could have been further from reality - I was deluding myself.

I always says to bloggers that I’m consulting with that they should learn something from contextual advertising when it comes to affiliate programs. The secret of contextual ads like Adsense is that a reader is reading a post on a particular topic on your blog and when they see an advertisement for that same product they are more likely to click it than if they saw an ad for something else. The same is true for affiliate programs. A banner to a general page on every page on your site won’t be anywhere near as effective as multiple links throughout your blog that advertiser products that are relevant for readers reading particular parts of your blog.

So if you’re writing a blog about MP3 players and have a review for a particular product - the most effectively affiliate program that you could link to from within the content of that page would be one that links directly to a page selling that specific model of MP3 player. This is how I use the Amazon program today. It is more work than contextual advertising because you’re not just putting one piece of code into a template but rather need to place individual links on many pages - but I find that it’s been worth the effort.

5. Consider positioning of links

One of the things I go on and on about with Adsense optimization is the positioning of ads. I tell bloggers to position their ads in the hotspots on pages (like the top of a left hand side bar - or inside content - or at the end of posts above comments etc). The same principles are true for affiliate advertising.

6. Traffic levels are Important

While it’s not the only factor - traffic levels are obviously key when it comes to making money from almost any online activity. The more people that see your well placed, relevant and well designed affiliate links the more likely it is that one of them will make a purchase. So don’t just work on your links - work on building a readership. Not only this, consider how you might direct traffic on your blog toward pages where they are more likely to see your affiliate links.

7. Diversify

without Clutter

Don’t put all your affiliate efforts into one basket. There are plenty of products out there to link to so there is no need to just work on one. At the same time you shouldn’t clutter your blog up with too many affiliate program links. If you do so you run the risk of diluting the effectiveness of your links and could disillusion your readership.

8. Be Transparent

Don’t try to fool your readers into clicking links that could make you money. While it may not always feasible to label all affiliate links I think some attempt should be made to let people know what type of link they are clicking on. I also think consistency is important with this so readers of your blog know what to expect. For example here at ProBlogger usually put a note beside or under affiliate links to simply let readers know that that is what they are. On my Digital Camera Blog I don’t do this because of the large number of such links make it clear by the text around the link that clicking on it will take them to some sort of shop or information where a purchase is possible (ie a link my say ‘buy the XXX product’ or ‘get the latest product on XXX’.

9. Combine with other Revenue Streams

Affiliate programs and advertising programs are not mutually exclusive things. I’ve come across a few people recently who have said they don’t want to do affiliate linking because it will take the focus off their Adsense ads. While there is potential for one to take the focus off the other - there is also real potential for both to work hand in hand as different readers will respond to different approaches. You should consider the impact that your affiliate links have on other revenue streams - but don’t let one stop the other.

10. Track results

Most affiliate programs have at least some type of tracking or statistics package which will allow you to watch which links are effective. Some of these packages are better than others but most will at least allow you to see what is selling and what isn’t. Watching your results can help you plan future affiliate efforts. Keep track of what positions for links work well, which products sell, what wording around links works well etc and use the information that you collect as you work plan future affiliate strategies.

Find a Sponsor for Your Blog

Today your task is to go on a hunt for a sponsor for your blog.

You might not think that your blog is big enough to find sponsors (and you might be right) but even if you’re unsuccessful in finding one you will hopefully learn a thing or two about finding sponsors and might even start a relationship that could be fruitful at some point in the future.

Getting a sponsor for your blog (or selling an advertising spot directly without relying upon an ad network like AdSense) is a great thing for numerous reasons - not the least of which is that you cut out the middleman and don’t have to share the revenue with a company like Google!

It’s not always easy to land a sponsor - but it’s a skill that bloggers wanting to make money from their blogs should learn - even in the early days.

A few tips for finding a sponsor:

1. Before you go out and start asking companies to sponsor your blog read these two posts - Finding Advertisers for your blog and 10 ways to make your blog more attractive to Advertiser. A big part of finding an advertiser is to get your blog in order first and to be prepared for what they might ask you.

2. If you have a smaller blog and haven’t had a sponsor before don’t aim for the stars straight away. It might be worth starting out by approaching smaller retailers, websites or companies in your niche and see if they’d be interested in some sort of partnership rather than aiming for the very biggest ones right up front. I did this a couple of months after starting my first digital camera blog and emailed 10 online digital camera sites to see if they’d be interested in advertising. 3 of the 10 bought small ads on my site (I think it was for something around $15-$25 a month). It wasn’t a lot of cash (and I didn’t have a lot of traffic to send to them) but I learned so much and made a little money in the process.

3. Target Potential Advertiser Carefully - before you start approaching potential sponsors think carefully about your blog and the topic that you write about and about who might want to reach your readers. Brainstorm a list of companies and websites that might fit the bill.

4. Wondering who to approach? Why not check out who is advertising on other websites and blogs in your niche. Quite often they’ll also be open to running a similar campaign with you.

5. If a sponsor isn’t sure whether to go with you or not - give them a discounted or free trial. I’ve done this a number of times and found it beneficial on three levels:

  • It gives the sponsor a taste of what your blog can offer
  • It can help get your readers used to the idea of advertising on your blog
  • I’ve found that having one advertiser (even if it’s a free one) can actually attract other advertisers (or at least make selling sponsorships easier)
  • You’ll learn a lot by getting the ad up, finding out how it converts and at a discounted rate you’ll even earn a few dollars

6. Find an Angle and Sell it - don’t just email a potential sponsor asking if they want to advertise with you - sell yourself. If your blog has a loyal community of core readers then sell this, if you get a lot of search engine traffic for certain keywords that the advertiser would want to have, sell it to them on this, if you have an audience who is researching to make purchases - this is a key selling point and if you’ve never had an advertiser before on your blog - turn this into a selling point. You need to give a potential sponsor or advertiser a reason to align their brand with yours.

7. If you can’t attract anyone - run a campaign of your own. Pick a part of your blog that you want to drive traffic to (perhaps a post, or a category, or a subscribe page) and develop a button or banner ads to drive traffic to it. I’m doing this here at the moment in the 468 x 60 banner position here at ProBlogger at the moment (there’s a number of different campaigns running there including some internal ones). The beauty of this is that you can test your conversion rates on different positions.

8. If you do manage to sign up a sponsor give sponsors as much value as possible. Do everything you can to over deliver on the campaign. Announce the sponsorship on the blog with a post, mention it any other newsletters or lists that you have, position it high on the page, consider throwing in a bonus text link in another part of your blog etc. The more traffic you can deliver to your sponsor the more chance of getting them to renew.

Finding Advertisers for Your Blog

1. Show them what they’re buying - one of the most powerful strategies I used in my early days of selling ads to people was to show them how I ranked in Google for their keywords. Compile a list of words that you rank for that you can pull out next time you’re talking to an advertiser. If when people search the web for information on products that they sell they end up on your site you have a key selling point.

2. Traffic is a Powerful Motivator - there’s no getting around it - to many advertisers traffic numbers are key. I hope that this trend is changing (what I saw at ad:Tech in Sydney recently confirms this as advertisers are looking to get more niche in their focus) but in the mean time it does count. Keep working to build traffic and be ready to share your numbers and back them up with graphs/tables etc.

3. Collect Demographics - every ad agency I ever spoke with about buying space on my blogs asked about the demographics of my audience. Do some surveys and collect this data as it’ll help sell your case.

4. Start with Small Advertisers - when I first started trying to sell advertising on my blogs I aimed too high. On my digital camera blog I went for Canon, Adobe etc. Of course I failed. So I decided to go to the opposite extreme and started approaching smaller digital camera stores and websites. The tactic worked - they bought up ad space at reasonable rates quite quickly. In time however traffic grew and the bigger campaigns started to appear - having advertisers already on board helped convince the big guys though.

5. Put together an Advertiser Pack - compile your stats, rates, advertising options (ie what you offer) reader demographics and any other relevant figures into a professional looking document that you can email to interested advertisers. Include your contact details and references from other advertisers if you can get them.

6. Sell the Niche Angle - the fact is that most of us will never compete with the broad publications that are out there - so don’t compete with them by trying to fool advertisers into thinking that you’re bigger than you are - sell the fact that you’re different and that you can reach a narrow and targeted group of people that makes the money an advertiser spends much more effective. ‘Spend $1 on a big site and you might reach a lot of people who are mildly interested in your topic - sell $1 on our site and you’ll reach people who are obsessed with your topic….’

7. Key Influencers - do other bloggers read your blog and pick up on what you write? If so - sell this too. You’ve got influential readers - not just passive ones!

10 Ways to make your Blog more Attractive to Advertisers

1. Have an “Advertise with Us” Banner on your site

This is the single most important issue. It should click to an Advertising information page and have an easy way to contact you for more information and rates. Key points: Make it a graphical image or a tab. Keep it above the fold.

2. Keep the ads on your site specific to your site

Don’t have smiley ads and wallpaper ads if your site is site is about mobile phones.

3. Show them the banners

If you currently have no paid placements on your site, put up house ads or partner ads in the same spot you would run a paid spot. (A house ad refers to banners for other products or sites that you or your company own)

4. Throw up a free bonus ad.

By putting a free advertisement on your site, you may not only encourage similar ads or competitors to that product, but the company you added for free may decide to advertise with you. Ask for full disclosure of the performance of the campaign in return. (Total clicks, total purchases etc. ) Key points. Put the free bonus up with a direct URL without tracking tags or affiliate tags.

5. Show your site stats.

You need to show at least the basics for site statical information: Monthly unique visitors and total number of impressions are the 2 key ones. Other less important can be Google PR & Alexa rank.

6. User demographic information. Know your audience.

The bare minimum is Male/Female % and average age of your readers. Other potentially useful information includes geographic, HHI, single/married, number of kids. etc. How do you get this info? You can do site polls, survey’s, or get more detailed stats from ComScore or Quantcast.com

7. Have an ‘About Us’ section.

Clearly explain who you are and what your site is about. And also why you are an ‘authority’ on what you are writing about, and why anyone should care about what you have to say.

8. Don’t use Google AdSense on your site.

OK, this could be the most painful one for most people especially if you are generating a few hundred bucks a month from it already. But Google ad sense devalues your site and makes it look unprofessional. You have to ask yourself, “Do I want some real revenue from my site or Google’s table scraps.”

9. Keep your blog on topic.

If you are all over the map in regards to topics about which you talk about, advertisers won’t know if they are a good fit for your site.

10. Keep your blog professional.

If you are talking about your cat, (Matt Cutts), ranting about your drive to work, swearing or bashing every product you can think about, it will scare away advertisers.

Blog Action Day 2008

Today the 2008 edition of Blog Action Day is launching. The goal is basically to get as many bloggers as possible writing about the same issue on the same day. Why? To raise the awareness about that issue and make people talk, think and act about it.

Personally I think that this is one of the best initiatives going on around the blogosphere. If it keep growing at the current pace soon it will be having a real impact on the life of many people.

If you remember, last year (topic was the environment) it was a great success with more than 20,000 blogs participating, and an estimated RSS readership of 14 million people. The global conversation that it fostered was so big that many mainstream media and newspapers covered the event as well. And that is good for all bloggers, because it shows the world the power and importance of this new media.

This year the issue we will talk about is poverty. Put a mark on your calendar: October 15 is the day.

When Is The Best Time To Start A New Blog?

Recently, while browsing through MyBlogLog and other sites, I’ve seen a lot of people with multiple blogs, usually more than two. There is really no problem with having more than one blog, but I always ask myself that if someone has more than one blog, than it must mean their first blog is doing very well. Wrong!

And that’s where I see a problem, at least in my opinion. When checking the stats on those multiple blogs, I found that in most cases all of the blogs were doing poorly to relatively OK, but nothing more. So, instead of having one poorly performing blog, many people have several poorly performing blogs.

It is hard enough maintaining one blog, let alone 2, 3, 4 or more at once. My opinion is that until your first blog reaches a certain level or status, you should hold off on creating a second blog. If you put all your resources into writing great content, building traffic, and building a large reader base for one blog, it will be much easier to create a second or third blog, but the first one has to be there as kind of a mandatory stepping stone.

So how can you gauge the “level” or “status” of a blog and know when it’s the right time to start a new one? Well, I don’t think it’s possible to have any clear cut formula for figuring something like that out, but from my own experience there are a few general guidelines I personally measure myself up against before thinking about starting a new blog.

1. Traffic – Again, there is no particular number that can be thrown out and used for all blogs, but there are some ways to think about traffic. For example, is your site mostly getting traffic from social media sites or from organic search results? My personal view is that you should judge whether to branch out based on your organic search results as social media can be very inconsistent.

If you’re looking at traffic numbers, you should analyze your current traffic to that of the top blogs in your niche. For Online Tech Tips, I might compare myself against Digital Inspiration, HowToGeek.com, Ghacks.net, MakeUseOf.com, etc. All of these sites are very well established and well respected tech blogs.

My favorite place to see traffic levels and compare my site to others is Google Trends, which can give you very very close estimates of daily unique visitors for websites:


Personally, if I feel I am within 10% of the top blogs in my niche, I might decide to go ahead and start another site. Of course, there are blogs like LifeHacker.com that blow away everyone in the graph above, but you don’t have to compare yourself to the top 1 or 2 sites as they are exceptions that are extremely difficult to ever reach.

My point is that if I am not matching other sites in my current niche, why the heck am I going to start a new site? There are still many aspects that need to be improved.

2. Financial Aspects – Another factor that you can consider in making a decision about starting a new blog is to look at your financials. How much money are you making from your site? Do you know how much the other guys are making? Sometimes asking them is the best way to learn and to determine whether you are doing things correctly or not. Are your earnings increasing every month or decreasing?

A lot of people will say that they want to reach the $100 a day mark in AdSense and that is their goal. So reaching that number might be a sign to start a new site. For others, it could be $200 a day. Again, my view is that you should ask other bloggers in your niche what they earn on a monthly or yearly basis and compare that with your own numbers.

3. Community – Even if you don’t have a ton of organic traffic, you might have a large reader base that can serve as a good measure of when to start a new site. Some sites like TechCrunch or Engadget don’t even really need search engine traffic to do well because they have a huge number of RSS readers.

For tech blogs that I compare myself too, a reasonable number to shoot for would be 25,000 to 40,000. I’m nowhere near that right now, so should I really be starting another site? Maybe my content is not as appealing or engaging as other tech sites? If I reach those numbers, I would feel confident that my site has the quality of a tog blog in that niche.

4. Ranking – There are a lot of services out there these days that rank sites. Technorati, Alexa, Compete, QuantCast, and Wikio are just a few that come to mind. Again, it’s good to compare your rankings with those of others in your niche.

Getting your blog into the Top 1K or 5K in Technorati might signify that your site has now reached a status where it can be given a little less attention so that you can focus on a new site.

5. Limitations/Restrictions - One last factor that came into my mind was the fact that it might be a good idea to start a new blog if you have certain limitations with your current site. For example, if you feel limited by running your site on Blogger or Wordpress.com. You may also have a site with a ban, or other sort of problems related to the domain name and so on.

I would agree that there are some circumstances where it might be better to start a new blog, especially if you are writing about a topic that you are not really passionate about.

However, if you write about something you know well or that you really enjoy and you are not competing well with other sites in your niche, it would be well worth continuing to work on the current blog than trying to start up a new one and becoming even more frustrated and time-consumed. A strong first blog will carry along other blogs much better than a weak blog.