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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Give A Man A Fish, Teach A Man To Blog

Here is the second part of my article (temp posts) on Commercial Blogging. What I am trying to bring about here can be seen in my pieces about the local economy. What we are really talking about is micro economics regional integration of markets using new media. Of course I should have written that last line on toilet paper. I wish I had used that for my undergrad honors thesis. Damn I’m old; don’t think blogs existed then. You know two little grad school fuckers at 'SC and UCLA created My Space? That's Miamista's segue into thanking his good friend at USC Annenberg for the information used in this article. (Fight On!)

Anyway, I wish you all riches and (mental health). I really believe that some of you guys should be seen and bought by the world! The
GMVCB members sorely need local bloggers to assist them in advertising and promoting Miami. Ditto with realtors and property managers. I believe Miami is five years overdue for a Curbed.com sort of website. (Don't be surprised if Miamista starts one. Miamista has been thinking that his next two projects will be in community education and a commercial Miami focused blog. That could make him a semi permanent Miami resident.)

I’ve done enough in trying to convince you all that you can use blogging to sell services and content to the rest of the country. Anyway, hope it helps!

How to Make Money With Your Blog-
Advertising Programs: 1. Commissions, 2. PPC Advertising, 3. Paid Content 4.Grants
1. Commissions

Affiliate programs, such as Amazon.com's Associates Program, provided the first ways for early solo and small Web publishers to make a few bucks on their websites. In these programs, an online retailer will pay you, the publisher, a percentage on sales made after customers click through from your website to the retailer's site. Links can include traditional banner ads, search forms and links to individual products. (You can also make a big commission on referring others to commision or PPC programs, something Miamista doesn't do.)

Because you only earn money when sales are made, affiliate programs will work best for you if your site's readers are consistently looking to make high-priced purchases -- for example, if you run a product review site. If you're interested in affiliate program, browse through merchant directories like Commission Junction to find retailers that offer products that fit your site's topic and audience.

*1Once registered with a merchant's program, you can create an ad or product link on your site using a snippet of Web code downloaded from the retailer. Some merchants go further and allow you to create virtual storefronts that match the design of your site, but where the retailer still handles all the inventory and commerce. Be careful setting up such arrangements -- unless you want customers coming to you for return and refund questions instead of to the retailer.

You'll want to note what percentage of a sale the retailer pays back to you, as well as the length of time after a sale that you get credit for the purchase. Some retailers limit credit to sales made on the initial click-through, but others will give credit for any sales made within a day or so. Also, some retailers will pay a commission on purchases you personally make after clicking your own links; others may kick you out of the program for doing that. Check a retailer's affiliate agreement and shop around for what you consider the best deal before putting links on your site.

· Commission Junction (www.cj.com) They have around 1300 companies from which you may choose to promote. Most merchants offer pay-per-sale or pay-per-lead, many merchants offer performance bonuses. You also have the option of direct deposit for your payments. They tell you which companies are earning the most money for affiliates. Commissions are different for each company, some go as high as 50%.

· Linkshare (www.linkshare.com) is one of the oldest affiliate programs on the web. Linkshare's Statistics and reporting are very comprehensive. Top brand merchants make this program worth your while. It has a large number of Fortune 500 companies that provide the affiliate marketer with well known products to promote.

· Shareasale Shareasale (www.shareasale.com) is another popular program. It has around 1,700 Merchants to choose from.

· ClickBank (www.clickbank.com) is a little different in that it deals mainly in digital download products. The commissions from ClickBank are much higher, usually around 40% to 50% or even higher. You have stiff competition from the best Internet Marketers who have large contact lists. Top marketers will often offer a whole array of their own bonuses when marketing a high ticket item. Niche products through ClickBank sell better.

· Same principle holds true for all these programs, little known niches will offer quicker returns for the beginning marketer. It has many nicknames for the different products but you can buy software programs to solve this problem.

· Amazon (www.amazon.com) Amazon is another online company that also handles some third party orders. ToysRus is one of their merchants. Very good stats and easy links to place on your sites. For instance, an average priced laptop will bring in around $25 in commissions. A commission from Independent affiliate programs like Alienware or Rockdirect would be double or triple that amount. They are known for a high conversion rate at Amazon. Consumers feel comfortable ordering from Amazon.
  • Advice for Using Commission Affiliates
    -Keep your eyes open and watch carefully to see which companies are doing a lot of advertising (tv, radio, newspapers) in the real world! Pick those same products or companies from any of the affiliate programs listed here and place the affiliate links on your sites.-Pick companies that do a lot of advertising, are household names and very familiar to your website visitors. The Internet is still a very scary place in most people's minds.

    -Many publishers have found that links to individual products return more commissions than banner ads going to a retailer's home page. But the additional money those links earn might not be enough to justify the extra time that selecting and maintaining them requires.

-Many commission affiliates will not allow you to either use a free Blogger site

-Many don't allow "excessive" foul language ( you can explain to their sales folk)

2. PPC Advertising

Most news websites earn the bulk of their money through CPC often just referred to as advertising. But you don't need a sales staff to attract advertisers to your site. Ad networks can handle the sale and display of ads on your site. All you need do is drop a few lines of code into your Web pages where you want the ads to appear.

The most popular ad network for independent publishers is Google's AdSense program. AdSense is a "pay per click" (PPC) program, where you earn money each time one of your readers clicks on a Google-served ad. Since you earn money on clicks, rather than completed sales, PPC ad networks can provide a more reliable source of income for sites whose readers are not looking to make a purchase right away. Other notable PPC ad networks include the Yahoo! Publisher Network, Casale Media, BClick, Adsensor.

Traditional ad networks such as BlogAds provide an alternative to the PPC networks. BlogAds sells its ads on a more traditional site-targeted model. Advertisers do not bid on keywords or phrases, but instead pay for their ads to be displayed a certain number of times on selected websites or groups of websites. BlogAds has become especially popular on political blogs, where advertisers can buy across a group of liberal or conservative weblogs.

Most PPC ads are text, but some PPC networks also sell image and Flash ads. Ads are sold and displayed based on an auction system, where advertisers bid on selected keywords and phrases that appear on network websites. The ad network looks for webpages displaying its ad code, then matches what it determines the content of a webpage to be with the most appropriate keywords and phrases that advertisers have bid upon. The network then automatically weighs several factors in determining which ads to serve on the page, including the value of those bids; advertisers' remaining budgets for those bids; what percentage of readers have clicked on those ads in the past; and, in Google's case, the percentage of those readers who have made a purchase or read a designated number of pages on the advertiser's site.

Since PPC ad networks target their ads primarily by topic, rather than geography or demographics, that makes these networks work better with niche topic websites than with sites that target their readers by geography or other demographics, such as gender, education, income or political affiliation.

For the system to work well for you, the PPC network's spiders must be able to determine a topic for each of your webpages and then must match keywords or phrases that advertisers have bid upon. That means the advantage goes to websites where each page covers a distinct and easily identifiable subject. So if you have a blog that covers a mishmash of topics on a single URL, you won't elicit the targeted ads that lead to high-paying clicks. Think about making separate blogs linked as a magazine blog if your blogs are wildly different in subject matter (imagine for example Miamistanews.blogspot.com, Miamistarestaurants.blogspot.com).

  • Advice for using PPC advertising:
    -Organize your content to limit individual URLs to a specific topic.
    -Break long blogs into individual entries. Archive old posts and stories by subject matter, not just by date and author.
    -Stay active on discussion boards, keeping threads on topic and directing folks to more relevant pages should they stray toward other subjects.
    -Use keywords in headlines, decks and URLs whenever possible.
    -Spell out keywords, phrases and proper names on first reference, rather than using acronyms throughout the piece.
    -Well-organized pages on individual topics also show up better in search engine results, attracting Web surfers curious about a specific keyword, who are more likely to click on a targeted ad.
    -Create evergreen articles that are likely to attract a high number of links and clicks over time will do best in attracting search engine traffic to their ad-supported webpages. If you publish time-sensitive articles, which are not likely to have a long-enough shelf life to attract significant search engine traffic, consider swapping out or archiving articles on the same topic to a single URL, so that URL can get linked to and picked up in search results.
    -Do not even think about excessively clicking the ads on your site, or encouraging your readers to do the same. All PPC ad networks prohibit click fraud, and will boot from their program any publisher found to be inflating their number of clicks.
    -According to recent Google research, top performing ad formats include:
    Large box ads placed in the middle of your main content column;
    Skyscraper ads placed in a left-side column;
    Leaderboard ads placed at the top and the bottom of the main content column.
    -Customize the ads' colors to match the background, type and navigational colors of your site, too, to eliminate "banner blindness" and maximize their visibility to your readers.
    -To a reader, ads -- like anything else on your pages -- are part of the content of your website. If an ad network fails to deliver consistently relevant ads, dump it and try something else. Respect your readers by not bombarding them with irrelevant advertising and they will respect you by continuing to read your site.
    -Reader-contributed content can also help you meet your page view goals. Well-managed, thoughtfully organized discussion boards and wikis can add dozens of new content pages a day to your site, with much less effort on your part than writing that many original articles.
    - If your site naturally deals with “perishable” news content, at least publish each day's new news to the same URL, overwriting or pushing down the old content, so that URL can build the in-bound links and search engine traffic that will help you attract new readers you need each day.
    -Think twice before installing pop-up, pop-under and screen "take-over" ads, too. Many readers steer clear of sites that block their access to the content they're looking for with aggressive advertising. Build the sort of loyal following that will deal with the more aggressive sort of ads. I find that joking about these ads help people get beyond their annoyance. Avoid key word ads altogether.
3. Paid content

Given the variety and depth of information available on the Web, you have to provide truly unique content of high value to specific readers to get those readers to pay for it. The fact that a paid journalist wrote an article for you does not mean it's worth paying for to a reader. Detail-oriented publications such as Consumer Reports and Cook's Illustrated have had success selling the results of their independent testing online. It is often easier to sell some sort of interactive service in walled off content area too. An example would be access to a forum with information and moderator input from an expert.

If you are certain that your content is unique and valuable enough that readers would be willing to pay for it, you'll need to select a way to handle payments from your readers. The system could be as easy as asking readers mail you a check in exchange for your putting them on e-mail content distribution list -- a method which offers the advantage of not requiring any advanced Web server security set-up. Or you could restrict access to certain folders on your website to readers whom you assign log-ins after they buy a subscription. Such restrictions are relatively easy to set up on Apache webservers. Payment can be handled manually via postal mail or phone, or automatically through an e-commerce storefront. (Many Web hosting packages include e-commerce storefronts.)

4. Sponsorships/Grants

Supporting a website through sponsorship or grants requires the least technical skill of these options, but the most interpersonal skills. You'll need to play the role of a salesperson, in addition to journalist and editor, in convincing a individual or organization to give you money to put up your site.

In either case, you'll need to identify individuals, or individuals within organizations, who might be willing to commit their money, or their organization's money, to your site. You'll need to make a written proposal, and often, an in-person pitch, and follow through until you secure your funding. Grants typically require a more structured application process than sponsorships, which can be sold through a formal solicitation or over drinks at the dinner table, depending upon whom you are working with.

The University of Iowa provides some guidance and a collection of links on grant writing in general, including links to many organizations which grant funds to researchers and publishers. And don’t forget, Miamista is a grant writer!

*1 There are also options to sell your own branded merchandise not discussed here.

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