Tuesday, June 9, 2009

adsense makes cents

There's a bit of controversy around the following changes I want to do for my blog. But on this, it's every man for himself. Blogger allows you put Google ads on your blog in hopes of making a buck. So, for me, adding Google Adsense is the next order of business.

However, other bloggers will advise you to first build up your blog with a lot of great articles, and allow your audience to grow for a long time, then slap on the Adsense. But I have 2 problems with that method.

Number 1: In all the months of building up an audience on a blog with no ads, I am potentially losing money. With no ads around the articles, my readers will never even have the option of clicking on an ad. I can 100% guarantee $0.00 in ad revenue by using this method.

Number 2: I build up my blog, get a loyal following of readers, and then one day change the nature of the entire site by including advertisements. Will my readers think I'm a sell out? Will they think I'm somehow betraying them, having become used to an ad-free blog?

I think it's better to grow your readership with a site that is as close to how you intend it to be when it's successful, than to later change it around on your audience. No one likes change... look at Facebook and all the irate "customers" who have to create Groups in protest of the changes Facebook keeps making. I don't want a rebellion entitled "1 Million Strong for the Old MoneyRabbit"!

With those explanations in mind, I only need to go into my blog's customization area, click on the tab titled Monetize, choose how I'd like ads displayed and hit save. I then need to enter into the gadgets section under layout and click on the Adsense ads to change their background and text colors to make the ads appear seamless in my blog. Google has an entire section of information to help you understand the psychology behind what ads should look like to increase your reader's clicking on them. The less obnoxious your ads, the better.

Maybe someday, someone with a research bent will start up two identical blogs, one with Adsense put on immediately and the other with Adsense put on after accumulating readers to see which one makes more money over a determined amount of time. That would be interesting to me. But I'm a geek that way.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

which way should I go?

There comes a point in blogging when momentum picks up and you go from a slow jog to a sprint. It happens rather suddenly.

Now that I have this blog up and running and I've added Site Meter, there are a ton of other tools I can add in addition to posting articles. At this point I'll get into a routine of writing an article about every other day and doing maintenance, tweaking, checking analytics, more planning and adding site candy on days I'm not writing articles.

So, what to add next? One of the best tools to add to your site is a Google Search bar. Not only do people sometimes use it as a quick way out when they stumble on your blog and want to be somewhere else, but it can generate you money too.

For this feature, head over to Google Adsense (and I bookmarked this site because I come back often.) Create a Google Adsense account, so that you can begin monetizing your blog. After that, you sign in with the new info.

I click on the AdSense Setup tab and then on AdSense for Search. I follow all the instructions, read what I don't understand, click on all my selections and finally reach the code page. I copy the code that will place the search box on my site, and then jump back to my blog, customize, layout, add a html/java gadget, and paste the code into the body of the gadget.

I could give this gadget a title, but doing so makes it stand out more than I like. I click on save, and move the gadget box where I want it to show up on my page, usually top and left or right depending on which template I am using for my blog, but always at the top.

Part two of this search is to get the code for the results of the search. When a person enters words in the search box, the results will open in another location which I specified when creating the search box on Google. I like the results to open in a new window within my site, so visitors don't leave my blog. This is very convenient for a visitor, and I'll do anything to make them feel at home. They are a guest in my house. Why would I send them outside to get a drink when they're thirsty?

I go back to the Google Adsense page and copy the other half of the code (in the 2nd code box).

Then I jump back again to my blog, customize, layout, add a new different html/java gadget, and drop this new code into it. I do NOT name this box because I want it to appear seamless. After I save it, I move this box up under my header. While Google doesn't reveal it in the template drag and drop area, you can move gadgets to invisible places, and this is one of those places. Grab the gadget and slowly move under the header and over the sidebar gadgets, and a long horizontal "spot" will appear. That is my personal preference for where search results should show. It's right next to the search tool and all of that should be close together. But it doesn't add an empty "space" to my blog like it would if I put it on the sidebar.

One last step, which is just a pet peeve of mine. The background color of the Google's search box is always white, but if I change it to the same color as my blog's background, it looks professional. And I've tried changing it during the AdSense for Search setup, where background color says FFFFFF, but I've never had it stay the color I choose after that. It just seems to revert back to white (FFFFFF).

So, I go into my blog, customize, layout, fonts and colors, and see what color my background is. I write down that 6 letter/digit code (in my handy-dandy notebook) and click out, without saving, since I'm only looking, not making changes. From that same layout screen, I find the html/java box that pertains to my search box (not results). I open it - edit - and look for the line of text code where it says

div style="background-color:#FFFFFF;color:#000000".

I change the 6 Fs which equal white to the 6 letter/digit code I wrote down that is my blog's background color, save and view blog. The search box now looks integrated into my blog. I'm much happier.

Now that I've written about it, I'm off to do that for this blog.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

i always feel like somebody's watching me

The funny thing about being a blogger is how much you learn along the way, and how much you learn from other bloggers. In fact, bloggers check out other blogs, not to see if an article interests them (though that occasionally happens), but to find out what cool features other people are using on their blogs that they can copy! That's the truth. We're all copying each other, and sometimes adding our own spin to make it appear unique.

But one of the most useful features that I found a little late after already starting my blog is a traffic tracker, a simple tool to let me know how many people are viewing my site. It tells me where they come from, literally, like what state or country. It tells me what time they visited, which helps me learn when to stay away from working on my site so I don't disturb my visitors. And it tells me even what search terms they typed into Google to find me (if that's the case). I can see if they stumbled on my site from Google's "next blog" feature and a ton of other information which helps me in ways I would normally have to pay for.

The tool I use is free from Site Meter, and is very simple to set up. There are paid features of Site Meter, but I haven't needed those yet. Mostly I can get graphs of traffic information, but I can generate those myself if I'm so inclined, using Excel, so right now (while I have time), I use the free version.

With my other site I was able to learn that a surprising number of my visitors are international. How the heck would I ever have known that if I didn't use Site Meter? I wouldn't. And knowing that has helped me create articles tailored to my international "customers". I will post stuff that includes them, since I'm in the US and we tend to think only of our fellow Americans' needs. So it's opened up a new window to me - interesting. And the 2 followers I currently have are both international, one from Brazil and one from Russia. So in addition to a "window", it's opened up the possibility of marketing my site to the entire world (Wow!) ... with that big of an audience, I have much more potential to succeed financially with my site, don't ya think?

So, for this site, now that I have a number of posts up and perhaps I'm getting a few visitors already, it's time to put on the Site Meter...

What I hate about adding Site Meter is that it always starts out with a sad looking ZERO - no visitors. I can manipulate that number and change it to make my blog appear popular, selecting it to start at, say, 154, 612. That looks nice! But who am I kidding? I'd rather watch my blog grow the honest way. So, for now, I'll have to stare at a zero for a while.

Friday, June 5, 2009

where did all the crickets come from?

I created a blog, but no one's coming. But really, what did I expect? If a reader went to my blog now, there'd be one post. They'd leave faster than they got there. So this is a great time to plan my blog.

Many people will tell you to plan first. But I disagree with them. If planning first works for them, great. But it takes so long for a blog to grow up, and it takes many people even longer to move from planning something to actually doing it. And even the people who plan end up revising and changing that plan once they learn new stuff. And in blogging, you're constantly learning, because technology, as well as the Internet, is constantly changing. Want to plan some more first? Read this article.

So my method has me starting something and then planning, but I get my feet in the water! I'm also on the "books", so I've established an earlier starting date than I would have if I waited. And on the Internet when it comes to success, right next to good content, is longevity. How else can you begin attaining that if you never actually start? The rest will fall into place.

So, while it's quiet over there, I'll begin planning. And it will be quiet for some time. This is a plus and an opportunity rather than something for me to get impatient over, feel frustrated and give up. Here's how to keep busy:
  • Plan more articles. (If you need to brush up on writing skills, do that.)
  • Plan how to create money from my blog.
  • Start figuring out how to find traffic. (more info. on that to come)
  • Plan the look and feel of my blog. (Use another blog that I like as an example.)
  • You can go open a PayPal account for the money you'll make, if you don't already have one.
When you begin to see all that that can be done in the planning stages, you suddenly realize how important organization may become. How are you going to keep track of it all???

One thing that's worked wonders for me is to get a little spiral-bound notebook and keep it like a bible next to your computer. Every time I come across a good article, a useful site or the name of something I want to check into later, I write it down. When I come up with an idea for an article of my own, I write it down. When I join an affiliate company, I write it down (along with username and passwords - I've collected so many of these in the past few months that it made my head spin). Luckily, I used to be an Executive Assistant, so I live and breathe organization. If you're following along, I'm telling you to just dedicate a notebook right now to all the information that will begin pouring into your little head. If you want to maintain your sanity, this is the easiest way to do it. Once I'm done with something in the notebook, I put a red line through it. Task manager programs don't work for me because I hate to stop and open or find the program and then type in what I want. A good old fashioned notebook is always accessible, whether my computer is on or not, and especially if my computer crashes.

I used to think blogging for money would be a bed of roses. But I forgot about the thorns. But the sweet scent of success is still all around me. I just need to learn how to work with roses.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

geez! I thought we'd never get started!

Time to post my first article! This is when most people just sit staring at a blank screen for an hour. The first post is the hardest, it seems. I guess it comes down to building the momentum. And you've probably heard this a million times, but any blog of a thousand posts starts with the first story. After that it gets much easier.

So I focus on my niche. I think about what I wanted to cover in my blog. I need to figure out how to let readers know from the get-go what is unique about my blog versus all the others covering the same topic. I have to come up with a way, in my own words and style of "speaking" that explains sort of why I've started a blog and what I hope to achieve and why a reader will want to join the blog. After many months, when this first post gets buried under all the newer posts, I can use excerpts of it to create an About section. But this first article is a way to introduce myself to my audience. Intimidating? Nah. Just be myself. Be honest, and start delivering what I promise from day one.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

we all gotta start somewhere: creating a blogger blog

While I could go into setting up a blog in Wordpress, I will stick to discussing only Blogger because we're trying to make money, and as I've said, you can't do that in Wordpress, at least not the free online version.

Of course, I could have just headed over to GoDaddy and gotten myself a website, but that would cost money right away, and I don't have money to spare - which is why I'm here, because I'm trying to make money blogging, not spend it. Blogging is free with many providers, so starting out on the free-way is the fastest, cheapest way to get started building an empire. When it gets big and successful and I have more funds, then I can transfer it over to a dedicated website.

So to start a blog, head over to Google and grab an account and email if you don't already have them. You need a Google account in order to use Blogger - it IS Google's product, after all. Once you've taken care of that, go to Blogger.com.

Sign in using your Google info. and find the Create A Blog link. From there it's pretty self-explanatory. You need to follow these steps:

  1. Blog Title - this is the name of the blog as you want it to appear at the top of the blog, and can be changed at a later date).
  2. Blog Address/URL - This is the name that you'd type into a browser to take you to a site. But here you need to put your newly created name (remember to have backup versions and your patience ready). Type in the name you want using no characters except hyphens and underscores if you need to.
  3. Check Availability - After you type in the name you want in the URL area, click the blue link that will check whether that name is taken or available. If taken, try another variation of the name you want (and keep doing this until you find an open name). If available, you'll get a message saying "This blog name is available". Great! The hardest part is over.
  4. Word Verification - I said the hardest part was over, but I lied. Sometimes it's impossible to read those verification characters! Type in what you see in the box provided. Then go on. If you type in the wrong letters, all the blog information you just typed in will be saved, but you have to keep typing in those verification letters until you do it right.
  5. Host Your Blog/Import A Blog (Advanced Options) - if you're new to blog creating, these won't pertain to you, so just skip them and hit the Continue button.
Once you hit Continue, you'll be taken to a template screen. Choose the template, or look of your blog, and then hit the Continue button again. Now you're ready to start. At this point, you'll need to be a self-starter, check out all the tabs and how to get around your blog. It's pretty easy once you get the hang of it. Under "settings" you can change your time zone, add a description to your blog that will appear under your title, and a bunch of other things. Internet advice has it that using important search keywords in your description could help you in search rankings down the road, so consider doing that. You want to take advantage of whatever you can for free.

Later you can even change your template if you find you don't like it, but it's important to find a template you like and stick to it, because one downside of Blogger is that, if you change a template later, you lose any custom settings you set, like colors for links or background colors and text sizes, etc, which I found out the hard way. And that is time wasted. And as we all know "Time Is Money".

what's in a name?

What makes one site great and another one useless? Let's look at the example of a news site. In the case of information, a great news site will be the first one to get a breaking story out to the public, and can be counted on to be first every time thereafter. Maybe a 2nd site is, pardon the slang, "pimped" out with fantastic graphics, widgets and interactive material. But ultimately, if the stories aren't unique or new, visitors (after playing with all the site candy) will move on to the sites with more substance, and stay there. Yeah, they'll wish the better news site had some of the 2nd site's cool features, but they'll get over that. (this sounds like dating advice!)

And nothing's more important than visitors, my "traffic".

So I got what my site is going to talk about, my niche. And I've figured out how I will be the best in that niche - I know how to find or create content for my site that is unique. And I never stop looking for opportunities.

Now it's on to developing a site name.

It's funny that I can recite what to do properly, but I'm not always sure I've done it myself. I have about the most un-unique name for my other blog. And I know it's going to be challenging to get traffic my way with the current name, but it says what it is. The fact that it's a legitimate site in a sea of impostors will hopefully help to launch it up the search ranks, especially with Google's new search buttons where users can knock out sites that aren't what they want. I have to trust in the people that they can see something real when they find it - if they bother to look at the 87th page of a search!

It's my belief that a site's name should reflect the site's topic, but then again, so many new ones have cute or cool, completely unrelated names, and they seem to do fine. But I have to guess that in a search, when 2 company names pop up, most people will select, say "Home Finance Gurus" over "iFiHo", if you get what I mean.

Once you come up with a name - be prepared to create a few more. I spent quite a number of frustrated afternoons trying to set up a blog with a name I'd created (or thought I had) only to find out it was taken, years ago, by a guy who used it once and never came back. Uh, sorry to all you Wordpress users who might have wanted the 3 site names I abandoned. In fact, THIS blog was already taken as MoneyRabbit! But we're all guilty of something on the Internet. The real shocker came when my second choice was taken too - followed by my third! You'd be surprised.

But since I really loved the name I chose, I was just forced to hyphenate it. Once I decided on a name, however, I knew the fun could begin.