Archive for 2008

Blogging Tip: Four Free Ways to Bring Traffic to your Blog

There are probably people out there who want to read your blog--maybe thousands of them.  How do I know this?  Think about it—at any given moment, there are millions of people online.   Chances are, some of them are interested in what you have to say (or write, or post).  I’m assuming, of course, that you are posting high quality content. 

But what if you have no advertising budget for your blog?  No problem!  Here are some free methods you can use to get more traffic to your blog.   

1. Social Networks:

Most of you are members of social networking sites (such as myspace, facebook, friendster, etc).  If not, you should be.  This is one of the easiest ways to get your core group of readers started.    Just announce your blog or post your updates in shout-outs, bulletins, etc.  Those in your network already have some kind of connection to you (even if they are just “chat mates”), so many will take the time to read your blog.

2. Blog Directories

If you look down on the right side of this blog, you’ll see all of the blog directories I’ve registered with (such as blogcatalog.com).

Blog directories help you in a couple of ways. Your blog will get hits from those searching the directory (especially from other members of the directory).  In addition, adding your link to a directory helps improves your blog’s ranking in search engines (SEO).

Most directories only require a reciprocal link or banner.  The registration takes a few minutes, but it is a worthwhile investment of your time.  Once you get registered and put the banner on your blog, the work is over.  The directory does the rest—most of them will list your recent posts in the directory.


3. Forums/Message Boards

There are multiple online forums for every imaginable topic.  Find a few that are related to your blog’s topic and join.  Many forums allow you to put your blog address in your “signature.”  Many allow you to post links, especially if you post an article that is related to the discussion.  Just be sure to follow the forum’s rules and do not flood it with irrelevant links. 

4. Entrecard

Entrecard is a banner exchange program I’ve mentioned in a previous article. 

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Entrecard Review

Some of you may have noticed the little Entrecard widget that I’ve added to my blog (the “blog of the day” space over on the right). I’ve noticed these widgets on other blogs for quite some time, but only recently have I started using it.

What do I think? Well, I’m still using it, so I’m obviously satisfied with the results so far. Let me explain what Entrecard is and how it works. I’ll also give you my evaluation of the advantages and disadvantages of using it.

Entrecard is basically a banner exchange service. You earn and use credits which are used to buy banner ads on other user’s blogs.

Now, here are the pros and cons of Entrecard:

PROS:


Increased Traffic
This service quickly brings new traffic to your site, which is a major advantage for new bloggers. The traffic comes in three ways:

1. Through advertising your website on other blogs.
2. Through the “drop” system—when another user visits your site and clicks the widget, that user earns one credit and gives you a credit.
3. Through the Entrecard website. Users find your website while browsing places to advertise.


Networking
I’ve found several new blogs/bloggers through Entrecard. I’ve particularly enjoyed finding Christian and Filipino bloggers. This works mutually—other bloggers have found my website.

It’s Free
Once you sign up, Entrecard gives you 250 credits to get going. You can earn more credits by advertising your blog and by dropping/receiving drops. You can also buy credits if you want (through paypal), but it isn’t necessary.

Access to Statistics
You can access fairly detailed information regarding the traffic/hits you are receiving from the system.

CONS:

Time Consuming
You don’t need money to use Entrecard, but you’ll need time. You can earn 300 credits a day through dropping, but I’ve never come close to that—I just don’t have the time (or motivation) to visit that many blogs. I’d rather spend my time on high quality content. 

The Pricing System
The cost of advertising on a blog depends entirely on the number of ads already in that blog’s queue. The more popular the blog, the more expensive and the longer you have to wait to advertise there. It isn’t a complicated system, but there’s one problem—you don’t really know how many hits a particular blog receives. This makes it difficult to know how valuable a blog really is in terms of potential traffic (you can learn after you have advertised, but the credits have been spent by then).  

Conclusion:
If you are willing to invest the time, Entrecard is a good way to increase traffic and network with other bloggers.

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Blogger Tip: Making Money Online

As I've mentioned before, there is no guarantee your blog will make money.  Having said that, there’s certainly no harm in trying.  After all—we bloggers often put a great deal of time and effort into our posts.

When you think about it, online advertising is very exciting.  Having a blog is kind of like having a lottery ticket—if your blog somehow becomes a success, the earning potential is virtually limitless. 

As with SEO, there are thousands of websites completely dedicated to making money online.  I’m not trying to compete with those sites—I simply want to provide some very basic information. 

Here are the two most common forms of online advertising:

Basic Text/Image Ads

Most advertisers pay cost-per-click (CPC) or cost-per-thousand impressions (CPM).  This is the most common form of online advertising/money making.

Google Adsense is the reigning champion of online advertising.  You simply sign up, configure the ad, copy/paste it into your blog, and you’re all set.  Their ads usually match the content of your blog, which greatly increases the likelihood of clicks (and profit).  Based on my (limited) research, this is how most bloggers make most of their money.

I also use blogbank, which specializes in ads for Filipinos.  Blogbank pays CPM. 


Referrals/Commission/Affiliate Programs

Other advertisers pay when visitors do something, like buying a product or signing up for a service.  Amazon affiliates would be one example—if someone clicks one of my book links (recommended reading) and buys the book, I would get a commission.

If you want to advertise on your blog, go for it!   It probably will not bother your readers, since they see ads on most of the websites they visit.  Just keep this in mind—advertisements are a lot like piercings: a few are OK, but if you overdo it . . .

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Blogging Tip: Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Simple steps to more traffic from search engines.

Just in case you are a novice, I'll explain Search Engine Optimization (SEO) in simple terms: 

Part of your traffic will come from search engines such as google.  Search Engine Optimization means designing your website so that: 1) search engines easily “find” your website 2) your website is highly ranked when certain terms are searched.

Let me clarify a few things before I get into my SEO tips:

*SEO does not seem to be an exact science—multiple factors influence your search engine ranking.  

*There are thousands of other websites where you can get more detailed SEO advice.  My list isn’t exhaustive--I just want to give a few simple, easy-to-follow steps.  To be honest, I've found many SEO articles to be too long, technical, and hard to understand.  That's why I'm writing my own. 

*High Quality Content is still the most important factor to a successful blog.  SEO can help people find your website, but content keeps them there.

OK, here are a few SEO techniques that I use here on my blog. 

1. Carefully choose the title of your articles/posts.

The title of your post, especially the first few words, becomes the permalink—the url address of that specific post.  To see how this works, simply point your mouse at the title of this blog article.  You’ll see this article's address at the bottom of your browser.

The title/permalink seems to be one of the most important factors in SEO.  Look up “romantic martyr,” for example, and my article ranks #1 on google (article from KuyaKevin.com).  The title of my article is one of the reasons it is ranked so highly.

Be sure to give your post/article a title which is catchy and has keywords that accurately reflects post’s content. 

2. Name your pictures (image files).

This, in my opinion, is one of the most overlooked aspects of SEO.  Digital cameras give your images a generic file name.    Many bloggers simply post such images without renaming them.  The image’s name, however, can help people find your website (from google image search).  I get regular visits from those searching for  “faces of meth” pictures. 

Warning: do not give your pictures misleading names for the sake of SEO.  You will not keep visitors this way, and it may get you blocked from the search engine. 

3.  Consider the name/description of your blog.

If you already know what you plan to write about (your theme), give your blog a name and description that relate to the content. 

4.  Create backlinks.

Backlinks are simply links to your website posted on other sites.  The more there are, the higher your website will rank.  You can create backlinks by trading links with other bloggers, mentioning your blog when you comment on other blogs, etc. 

There you have it—SEO in four simple steps!

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Blogger Tip: Balance Quality and Quantity

I’ve already mentioned the importance of high quality content.  But  there is also something to be said for posting frequently:

*Imagine a blog with 100,000 posts.  It would probably get thousands of hits from search engines due to the sheer number of posts.

*The best blogs are updated fairly frequently—at least once or twice a week (some at least once or twice a day).  Readers get bored if you rarely update.

I want to write quality posts, but I also need to update regularly.  Here’s how I handle this dilemma:

"Hamburger" vs. "Steak" Posts

Some posts simply require more thought than others.
 
My relationship (for women; for men) and devotional articles are “steak” posts.  Such articles/posts are very carefully researched, prayed over, and edited.  I think about them for days (or weeks) before finally publishing them online.  These posts are the most important, most read, and deserve the most attention.

Other posts are “hamburger” posts.  I don’t care if my movie reviews look like something you’d read in the New York Times.  Mentioning some research or another website doesn’t take much time. 

Likewise, you may find some topics/posts that interest your readers but don’t require a great deal of work.  Pictures, announcements, quotes, and random thoughts may give you some “burger” content for your blog.  Nothing wrong with burgers, just don’t forget the steak. 

Diversifying

I’ve mentioned that it is good to have a few major themes for a blog.  Having said that, you may want to experiment with other subjects that interest you.

Take fitness, for example.  Weight training/bodybuilding is something I’ve studied for years.  I wouldn’t want to create a separate blog/website for it, but I occasionally make posts about it here.  Some readers find my blog when they look for fitness information.

Note: A few months after writing this, I indeed decided to create my own fitness blog. 

Maybe these tips will help you keep fresh content on your blog.

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Advice for Beginner Bloggers: Be Patient

Successful blogging is kind of like building a skyscraper--it takes time to do it right:

*It takes time to build an audience of faithful readers.

*It takes time to develop a collection of high quality posts.

*It takes time to improve your writing skills. 

*It takes time for word to spread about your blog (by word of mouth, links, etc).

There are exceptions—blogs that become popular overnight.  Even in these cases, such blog authors will have to keep posting in order to keep their readers interested.  Otherwise, they might turn into “one hit wonders” (borrowing a reference from the musical world).  They may fade away as soon as they appear.

Do some research—you’ll find that most of the top blogs have been around for at least two or three years. 

Be patient!  Good blogs take time to build.

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Advice for Beginners Bloggers: Tip#3 Content

What attracts loyal readers? High quality content.

What brings repeat visits to blogs? High quality content.

What separates good blogs from wasted bandwidth? High quality content.

What causes your blog to get recommended to others? You guessed it--high quality content.

Quality Content is the key to a successful blog.

Maybe you think your writing isn’t good enough to be considered “quality.” Good writing is important, but there are several different types of blog posts: pictures, videos, links, news, etc. Whatever direction you take, aim for quality.

Here are a few suggestions to improve the quality of your posts:

Check out other successful blogs. This will give you new ideas for design, content, etc. You can see what other bloggers are writing about. You’ll also be able to see if your posts are original. You might decide to publicly respond to another website/blogger, as I’ve done before.

Research. You can find a wealth of information online—do some research before you write. Become an “expert” at your chosen subject/theme. I have 11 books listed in the “recommended reading” section of Basta LoveLife. I read all of these books after moving to the Philippines—I read them in order to be a better minister to my students. I can think of at least three more relationship books that I’ve read in 2008.

Use word processors. Write your article in Microsoft Word (or a similar program) before posting. Word programs will catch some of the spelling/grammatical problems (but it won’t catch everything—don’t rely completely on the software). Save it, re-read it, and edit it. Sometimes it takes days (or weeks) before I decide an article is ready for posting. This step also keeps you from losing your writing if your browser crashes.

Practice your writing skills. The more you write, the more you’ll improve. Don’t wait until your writing is perfect—it will never happen. I make mistakes all of the time—it is part of learning.

Quote other blogs, books, magazines, etc. As long as it is relevant to your blog’s theme, your readers will appreciate learning about these sources of information. Be sure to give credit!

Watch the comments/feedback. Readers will let you know which posts they particularly enjoyed.

Write down your ideas. I keep my blog ideas on a “sticky note” software here on my computer. Some ideas get abandoned, others get developed, and some are put on hold.

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Advice for Beginner Bloggers (part 2)



Tip #2 Post with Passion; Develop Major Themes

I originally planned to write these as two separate steps, but they kind of go together.

Here goes:

I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do when I first started this blog. At first I was writing about some of the political issues happening in my religious denomination back in the States (yawn). Those posts were deleted. My first post (that I didn’t delete) was a movie review.

I eventually focused on two major themes: relationship advice (for men, for women) and devotionals. Once I chose these themes, the writing just flowed. It isn’t hard for me to find inspiration to write—I already care about these subjects. Over two years (and a book) later, I’m still writing regularly.

It’s OK if you only want to write about your day-to-day life (after all, this is just a hobby). People you know personally may be interested in anything that comes to your mind. Just remember that the masses probably won’t care to read about what you had for breakfast.

If you want a broader audience, write about subjects that will appeal to those outside your immediate circle of friends.
Relatively few of my readers know me personally. They read my blog because of the subject matter. In the same way, I tend to read blogs related to subjects I’m interested in (Christian issues, technology, etc). The Internet’s reach is vast—chances are you’ll find readers who share similar interests/passions.

Hopefully you can develop a few major themes. Some of the most visited blogs, in fact, are focused on one major subject (technology, making money, etc). It may take some trial and error, but try to find some general direction for your writing.

Write about things you care about, choose a general direction, and you’ll be one step closer to attracting a loyal reader base.

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Advice for Beginner Bloggers

Tip #1: Don’t Quit Your Day Job


Can you make money through a blog/website? Yes. Can you make a lot of money? Yes. Consider, for example, the story of Ashley Qualls. This teenager’s eight dollar website (whateverlife.com) turned her into a millionaire. Such success is theoretically possible for anyone, which makes the Internet a very exciting medium. Post something online and it could be read/visited millions of times, making you rich and famous (or infamous, as the case may be).

But this is the exception, not the rule. I think there’s some naivety regarding the amount of money a new website/blog will make. Maybe some people believe all they have to do is start a blog, post an ad code, and wait for the big checks to come.


Sorry, but it usually doesn’t happen this way.


Web advertisers generally pay pennies per click (“cost per click” CPC) or pennies per thousand impressions (“cost per thousand” CPM). You’ll need significant traffic to make money from CPC or CPM advertisements. There are other ways to make money (affiliate programs, etc), but all of them require traffic, and lots of it.

You’re probably not going to start out with this kind of revenue-producing traffic.

Take my first blog, for example. I started out with some major advantages. I had hundreds of students’ email addresses, which gave me an instant reader base. Since then I’ve subscribe hundreds more. I’ve been able to promote my blog through radio. I even advertise my blog online.

The result: KuyaKevin.com is now getting 500-1000 hits a day (this includes hits that I get through online advertising). And it still doesn’t make a profit. Advertising revenues do help me offset my advertising costs, but that’s about it.

My blog may never make a profit, and that’s fine with me. Why, then, do I blog? Two reasons: 1. I love to write 2. It is a way to minister to others.

That’s enough for me.

Here’s my point: consider blogging a hobby, not a guaranteed source of income. If it becomes profitable, great! It may help supplement your income, and you might even become a professional blogger. If not, you are expressing yourself and having a great time doing it (enjoyment is supposed to be the point of a hobby, right?).

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Adwords for Bloggers on a Budget

Last month I began advertising this blog through Google adwords. I’d like to share some of the things I’ve learned.

This article is primarily for those considering using adwords for the first time. I’m especially interested in helping those (like me) with a limited budget.

A few things to keep in mind:

*Your blog needs to be worth reading.
*Don’t count on recovering the advertising money through adsense. You need massive traffic (thousands of hits a day) to earn any significant revenue from adsenses.
*Be patient. It takes time to create traffic and build up your blog reading “audience.” Adwords can help, but it won’t happen overnight.

CPM vs. CPC

CPM—cost per thousand. You pay per thousand impressions, regardless of the number of actual clicks.

CPC—cost per click. You pay only for the number of clicks.

Never, never, never use CPM! This was my biggest mistake when I first started advertising. A few cents per thousand may sound cheap, but it will quickly exhaust your budget with little to show for it. Why?

Major websites do millions of page impressions—CPM works to their advantage, not yours.

Most of your impressions will not result in clicks. You will probably not even get a 1% click through rate. Think of how many ads you completely ignore every day. CPM is fine for big businesses with big money, but not for you.

You should be able to get your cost-per-click down to 5 cents or less (I’m usually able to get it down to 3 cents). This will require a little patience, because it takes the system a while to “find” places where your ads work.

Keyword vs Placement

You’ll have the option of advertising by keyword or placement. I would not recommend starting a keyword account. The major websites/businesses are also bidding on keywords, so it tends to be expensive.

I would recommend choosing other parameters for your advertising. Adwords allows you to choose certain topics or website for your ads. You can also choose to limit your ad to specific locations. Chances are you can find places that will run your ad for just a few cents per click.

Designing Ads

Text ads should be your primary strategy. They are cheaper to run than image ads, so they are usually more cost effective. Your text ad should be something that gets attention. Some of my ads, for example, have the same title as my blog articles (such as The Male Sex drive and Three Stupid Words that Women Say). These tend to get more clicks.

It usually requires a slightly higher bid to get image ads to run. You can use photoshop or mybannermaker.com to design an ad.

So, are you ready to start? If you decide to use Adwords, please click one of my banners in the right column.

Chances are I’ve saved you some money, so maybe you wouldn’t mind putting a few cents in my pocket.


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