Archives for April 2007

Beginner’s Guide to Online Advertising Deals

Until recently, I was more than happy to simply have Adsense as my primary revenue generating stream for my websites.  I mean, it’s requires very little work to set up, even less work to maintain and you get paid just for people clicking links that show up on your site.

That being said, the more serious I become at trying to make a little bit of money running websites, the more I would like to become less reliant on Adsense as my primary revenue generator.

The reason being is because Adsense, while simple to use, can be pretty hit or miss, and for many non-niche sites (like all of mine) you pretty much have to generate a lot of traffic in order to generate any substantial amount of money.

Not only that, but despite the fact that I said Adsense was easy to set up and maintain, like anything else, it requires a lot of work to optimize the code for your site, testing different locations on your site to optimize click-thrus, all that fun stuff.

So, recently I decided to start pursuing individual advertising deals for my sites in the hopes of generating recurring monthly income, with the possibility of additional “affiliate” payouts.  Unfortunately, because I’m new at this sort of advertising, I wasn’t really sure where to start.

In order to get the ball rolling, I inserted dedicated advertising pages into my sites’ navigation, essentially to just let people know that I was now accepting private advertising deals for my site.

On these pages I listed out the following information:

  • That I was now accepting individual advertising deals. 
  • Where on my site I was selling advertising space.
  • Prices would be determined by advertising location and type.
  • My contact information.

The only information left to be added is my pricing structure for each of the locations, but because I’m relatively new at this, I don’t really know what price to associate with these spaces. 

For the most part, I trust people and believe they’ll offer me a fair and competitive deal.  If they don’t, they’re not worth doing business with.  However, once I get a better grasp of what’s going on and how much to charge, I’ll probably add a pricing structure.

Simple enough, right?

After getting these pages up on my site, I have received several advertising offers that I’m currently mulling over.  And the other day, I accepted my first deal, which is up on Daily Fuel Economy Tip, so that was pretty cool.

Anyway, for people like us who run small-time sites, we shouldn’t expect to fund our retirement with these individual advertising deals.  That being said, if you can get a couple of these up on your site, it’s a great way to supplement any other non-recurring advertising revenue streams (Adsense, Amazon Affiliate) that you might have.

Ways to Run an Environmentally Friendly Office

Whether you run an entire office or are just the king of your cubicle, there are some pretty easy things that you can do to help make your work space a more environmentally place.

Since it looks like being green is here to stay, it’s probably about time that you jumped on the bandwagon and took advantage of some simple ways to help reduce your office’s carbon footprint:

  • Turn off your computer when you leave for the day.  Unless you’re planning on coming back in the middle of the night and you absolutely have to have your computer already up and running, go ahead and power down for the night.
  • Turn off the lights in common areas once everyone leaves.  There’s no point in leaving the light on in the copy room if it’s going to sit unused for 13 or 14 hours each night. Same goes for every other common area in your office.
  • Get some small indoor plants.  If you’re lucky enough to have an office with a window, most any plant should do ok.  However, if you don’t have a window, make sure you do a little bit of research and check out which plants can survive in your office without lots of direct sunlight.
  • Use Energy Star certified equipment. From your monitor, to your copier to the vending machines in the lunchroom, make sure that all of the equipment you use in the office is Energy Star certified. Energy efficient 1st replacement windows are another alternative to save you money. Look for the AAMA Certification.
  • Start a recycling program.  Get some plastic, glass and aluminum bins for the lunch room, and put recycling boxes in printing rooms.  It’s pretty easy to do and it might even show that you have some initiative.  That being said, you’re going to want to make sure that you don’t recycle company sensitive information; you’ll definitely want to shred that instead.
  • Don’t print if you don’t have to.  The biggest use of trees is for paper, so theoretically, if we reduce the amount of paper we use, we’ll reduce the amount of trees that get cut down.  And if you have to use a ton of paper, go the green route and buy recycled office paper.
  • Bring in a coffee mug.  Instead of getting a new styrofoam or disposable cup each day, bring in a regular coffee mug from home and just rinse it out at the end of each day.  This is a great and simple way to reduce needless trash.

While this certainly isn’t the be all, end all of ways you can make your office more environmentally friendly, this list is a pretty good place to start.  And the best part is, doing many of these things won’t really put you out or force you to change too many habits.

I know it sounds pretty cliche, but if each of us would do just a couple of small things to reduce our impact, we could probably do a lot to help stave off the global environmental crisis.

Submission Sites Other Than The Big Guys

I think it goes without saying that using the big news submission sites like Digg, Reddit and Netscape is a great way to help bring traffic to your site.  That being said, because these sites are so big and so many submissions are sent in, it’s pretty easy to get lost in the crowd.

So, instead of putting all of your traffic generating eggs in one basket, it’s probably not a bad idea to take advantage of some lesser used news submission sites as well.  While individually they might not bring you as many hits as the bigger guys, collectively they can be a great traffic building resource for your sites.

Here are some lesser known news submission sites you should take advantage of when you’re trying to promote your site/articles:

  1. Shoutwire.  Shoutwire’s a lot like Digg, only it seems to have fewer users, less categories and appears somewhat easier to get up on the homepage.  For example, I’ve only been able to get one submission from my sites up onto Digg’s homepage, while I’ve been able to get eight submissions up onto Shoutwire’s homepage.  While it doesn’t provide nearly the same jump in traffic, Shoutwire’s a great place to start if you’re looking for alternatives to the big guys.
  2. Fark.  This one’s a little bit outside of the box because it’s geared towards offbeat news and what makes the homepage is left up to Fark moderators, however, if you can get on Fark’s homepage, you can expect a jump in hits equivalent to what you’d get on a slow day on Digg.  One thing I’ve also noticed, Fark users tend to be a little more click happy than what you might get from Digg, Reddit or Shoutwire, so you can also expect a pretty nice jump in earnings.
  3. Stumbleupon.  This one’s pretty interesting; essentially you sign up for a Stumbleupon account, download their browser tool bar and then use that tool bar to submit stories that you like.  I haven’t noticed a huge jump in traffic when I submit my own stories, however, when other people submit my stories, I have seen a pretty nice jump in the number of hits (usually about 300 or so on any given day).
  4. coRank.  I’m not that familiar with the traffic generating powers of coRank, as I just created my account with them last week, however it seems to have a lot of promise.  The cool thing about coRank is it allows you to submit articles on their actual site, but it also allows you to download a tool bar that will let you submit articles directly from your site.
  5. Hugg.  While I don’t submit much to this site because it’s a very niche submission site, it’s probably one of my favorite sites to just browse.  Hugg is a Pligg powered site set up for environmental news.  It’s been pretty fun to check out and has been useful in helping me keep abreast of current environmental issues.

Anyway, these five sites (at least the first four) should be a pretty good place for you to start to help subsidize your Digg, Reddit and Netscape traffic.

The Digg Effect – A Week Later

Exactly one week ago The New Business Blog was up on the homepage of Digg thanks to an article written about how impossible it was to get up on Digg’s homepage.  It was definitely unexpected and certainly not unwanted, but what lasting effects has it had on my site?

In terms of traffic, I’m still getting more hits than usual, however it’s pretty tough for me to gauge how much of this is residual Digg traffic.  From August through the middle of March, I had essentially stopped posting on The New Business Blog for a couple of reasons, namely I was focusing on other sites and I was coaching a basketball team and the Digg article was only the eighth post since I “rediscovered” posting on this site.

That being said, on Sunday and Monday I saw a huge spike in visitors (ended up being over 35,000 hits) and have seen the numbers continue to fall throughout the week, back down to about 300 or so.  Certainly I would have liked to see the number stay above 1,000 hits, but I wasn’t expecting many people to hang around.

In turn, I haven’t seen a dramatic increase in Adsense earnings.  It’s pretty well known that getting up on Digg’s homepage will bring a rush of traffic and very little increase in revenue.  I think on Sunday I made about $10 extra and Monday the figure was up to about $12 extra.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ll take whatever I can get, but it would have been nice to get some extra cash.

Finally, and most importantly, after being up on Digg’s homepage, The New Business Blog was able to get some much needed exposure, and due to the added traffic I was able to make several good business connections.  I believe these connections will have a lasting effect on The New Business Blog and will help me make this a much better site.

For example, I have been in contact with the CEO of an up-and-coming site and over the next couple of days I’ll get the chance to interview him and post the Q&A session here for everyone to read.  Hopefully this will become a regular thing, where I can branch out, contact several different CEOs and have them share their thoughts on running a business.

I’ve also been asked by several companies about permanent advertising on The New Business Blog, which is something that I wasn’t expecting.  Turns out this might make up the difference for the lackluster Adsense performance!

Anyway, getting up on Digg was certainly a pretty cool experience and despite the fact it appears that the “Digg effect” has worn off, I’m convinced that the experience has changed The New Business Blog for the better.

Gain an Edge and Get Lots of Traffic

Have you checked out your website’s stats recently and noticed that the number of hits on any given day is relatively flat and no matter what you do, no matter how many times you submit your content to Digg or Reddit, you just can’t seem to jump start your traffic?

It turns out your site’s traffic has probably got a lot less to do with how you market it and a lot more to do with the fact that you’re probably just too bland.

When it comes to creating or promoting your website you can essentially choose one of two paths:

  1. Be like every other “dime a dozen” website and have bland content, be very politically correct and essentially try to not rock the boat
  2. Be controversial, be different, get people talking and create a buzz

Of the two, which do you think is going to generate more traffic, both one-time and repeat?  If you said the different, edgy site, you’re probably correct.  However, if you said the vanilla, try and make everybody happy site, you need to get out and live a little.

Look at sites like The Onion and Fark, television shows like The Daily Show and businessmen like Donald Trump – all of them can attribute a vast majority of their success to their ability to create a buzz and, on some level, some controversy.  Love them or hate them, you know who or what they are.

I realize creating a buzz is a lot easier said than done, which is probably why so many blogs and sites fail.  That being said, it’s absolutely critical that you find something that gives your site an edge and differentiates it from all of the other sites out there.

Take my site, The New Business Blog, for example.  For a long time I struggled to get regular readers.  No matter what I wrote about, people just weren’t coming to my site.  Turns out, it was probably because I was writing about the same dull junk as every other business related site out there.

But as soon as I started to write about somewhat sensitive topics – like why and how Digg needs to be fixed – magically I start getting tons of traffic, offers for advertising deals, people asking me to write articles on their sites, etc.

Long story short, nobody wants to come to your site and read the same rehashed garbage they can get at any other site, but if you differentiate yourself, create a substantial buzz and stop trying to please everyone, I think you’ll be abosolutely amazed with the jump in your website’s traffic.

Is Owning a Business the Path to Riches?

If you were to look at Forbes’ list of the world’s wealthiest people, after a while I think you would begin to see a very common trait – a vast majority of these individuals are self made and generated their billions by owning businesses.

Just to make sure I wasn’t seeing things I recently had a poll up on The New Business Blog to see if other people shared my belief.  In the poll I asked people to respond to the following question: What is the most likely path to becoming wealthy?  Respondents were able to choose between owning a business, working a 9 to 5, investing and winning the lottery.

As I thought would happen, a pretty big chunk of people (53%) stated that they thought owning a business was the most likely path to becoming wealthy – followed by investing (34%), winning the lotto (10%) and working a 9 to 5 (4%).

It seems to me that owning a businesses is the path to riches for several reasons:

  • Many popular business structures provide protection for your personal assets.  Legal structures like the Limited Liability Company (LLC) or the S-Corp allow business owners to have limited personal liabilities for their business.  This means that as long as the owner stays on top of their paperwork and doesn’t make any heinous errors, all of their personal assets (their home, stocks, cash, etc.) will not be able to be taken if something should happen to the business.
  • The costs and burdens of starting a business are becoming less and less.  Back in the day, it used to take a lot of money and investors (or lots of debt) to get a business up and running.  Now, thanks to the internet, many businesses incur little to no overhead costs, require very little start up capital and recoup their initial costs shortly after start up.
  • “You don’t make money working for someone; you make money by having people work for you.”  When push comes to shove, you’re not going to amass a fortune by working for The Man, but chances are pretty good you’ll amass a fortune by being The Man.  In many cases, starting a business allows you to become The Man.
  • Self-fulfillment and pride.  I think this is one of the most underrated aspects of being a business owner.  Think about it, you’re working at something that you’ve started and poured your heart and soul into.  Even if it doesn’t make you wealthy, the experience alone is invaluable.

Anyway, this is just my “you should start a business” propaganda.  Granted, it’s not all sunshine and roses, it does require a lot of your time and there’s no certainty you’ll succeed, but if you want to become wealthy – like tens of millions of dollars wealthy – it’s almost a prerequisite.

Why Netscape Isn’t Worth Your Time

Despite my quasi-critical article about Digg and how it needs to lose the “high school clique” feel, I think I made it pretty clear that I still really enjoy Digg and think that it’s a fun and useful site.  Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for another high profile user driven news site.

Specifically, I’m talking about Netscape.  To be perfectly honest, I think that site is a piece of crap and is even more action packed full of issues than Digg.

There are two distinct issues that I have with Netscape:

  1. Users spam the hell out of each other in an attempt to get their submissions voted up to the homepage.  I recently logged in to my Netscape account to submit an article from one of my sites and I noticed that I had 58 new messages in my Netscape inbox.  I was kind of surprised at the number of messages so I decided to check it out.  I didn’t really have 58 new “messages,” rather I had 58 pieces of spam from people sending me links so that I would vote for their stories.
  2. These spammers are arbitrarily dealt with.  I told a buddy of mine about this and unfortunately, he must have thought spamming Netscape users was a good way to get traffic to his site.  Later that evening he went and sent a bunch of Netscape users a link to vote for one of his posts.  Low and behold, within the hour his account had been suspended and his site was no longer able to be submitted to Netscape.  After hearing this I went ahead and checked out who had been spamming me, and it turns out it was only a couple of users, but they had spammed me over the course of a week.  Amazingly, one of them was listed as one of Netscape’s top users.  Apparently spamming is okay for some users and not for others.

This is where I think Digg has actually done the right thing – they make it near impossible for users to directly contact/spam each other.  I know a lot of people would like Digg to create some sort of internal message system, but I think if they do they’re making a terrible mistake.

Anyway, I’m done with my user driven news site tirades.  Now that it’s all out of my system, I’ll get back to writing about regular old business stuff… until something else that irritates me comes along.

What I Learned By Getting up on Digg’s Homepage

To quote Chris Farley in Tommy Boy – THAT… WAS… AWESOME!  

Getting up on Digg’s homepage was completely unexpected and, unfortunately for me, was probably a one shot deal.  Not to say that I’m not grateful, because I certainly am, but I think I just happened to write a post about a topic that was of interest to a lot of people who use Digg.  As I told many of you who were kind enough to email me, I think I just caught lightning in a bottle.

After spending some time reflecting about yesterday/today (I know it sounds sappy and ridiculous, but it felt pretty freaking cool), I came up with a list of things that I learned by getting up on Digg’s homepage:

  1. It’s awesome.  I know I sound as giddy as a school girl, but getting up on Digg’s homepage was pretty sweet.  I got a lot of emails from people asking about my site, some potential partnership opportunities and hopefully was able to build some repeat traffic to The New Business Blog.  Needless to say, there was a reason I walked around all day with a big goofy smile on my face.
  2. If you’re running a WordPress based site, you absolutely have to use the cache plugin.  The nifty little WP-Cache plugin probably saved my site from crashing yesterday.  Essentially the plugin reduces the load on your server by storing your site’s pages, which allow them to load faster and reduces the amount of bandwidth you use.  Thankfully I had already installed the plugin on my site, so all I had to do was turn it on once I realized I had hit the homepage.  However, if you don’t have this plugin running and you’re up on the homepage for an extended period of time, chances are you’re going to cause your site to crash.
  3. Don’t expect a huge jump in Adsense or affiliate earnings.  I already knew this before I hit the homepage, but if you’re Digging for dollars you’re going to be left relatively unhappy.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed doubling a typical day’s revenue – it’s just that it took me a 4,000% jump in page views to do so.
  4. Be ready to deal with a lot of negative comments.  Getting negative comments comes with running a blog or a website; it’s just that they tend to be a little more frequent and a little harsher when you end up on Digg’s homepage.  Suddenly you’re an idiot with useless ideas who happens to run a terrible website.  Just tell yourself that these comments are coming from people who are jealous of your new found celebrity.
  5. Expect a lot of self imposed pressure to replicate your success.  I can’t tell you how terrified I am to write this post thanks to all of the comments and emails that ended, “Great post, I can’t wait to read your next one!”  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not delusional and expect that all of my posts will now be homepage worthy, but at the same time, I don’t want to write a crappy post and let people down.

Anyway, thank you to all of you who helped me get on Digg’s homepage, for all of the comments, emails, suggestions, etc.  I feel like I’m giving an Academy Awards acceptance speech, but it really does feel pretty good to be able to say, “I’ve made it up onto Digg’s homepage.”

And on that note, if you liked this post, please feel free to Digg it!

Is Digg Broken Beyond Repair?

Guest Post by Iva Marjanovic. Iva is a writer for TotallyMoney which is a website that helps you compare loans for bad credit and credit cards for bad credit. She also runs a popular personal finance blog where she shares money saving ideas and frugal tips.

Let me start this off by saying that I really enjoy Digg and I hope that one day, just one of my articles will make it up onto their homepage.  That being said, I think there are some things about Digg that need to be addressed before the site becomes useless.

The other day while I was visiting Digg, it kind of dawned on me that I was always seeing the same user names on the homepage.  I know this isn’t exactly an epiphany because I’ve heard many other people say the same thing, but I kind of either blew off the idea or just didn’t give it much thought.

If you look at Digg’s homepage over the course of three or four days, you’ll probably end up seeing between 25 and 30 users who dominate the homepage.  Seriously, it wouldn’t surprise me if Digg’s “top” 25 users accounted for 70% of what ends up on the homepage – meaning that us little guys have very little chance of making it up onto the homepage, no matter how good our articles are or how funny/creative/useful our submission titles and summaries are.

This leads me to believe that Digg is more like a high school social clique than it is the user driven news submission site it claims to be.

Does this mean that Digg is useless and we shouldn’t visit or submit articles to it?  Absolutely not.  I still think Digg is a great way to get traffic to your sites and overall is a great resource when you’re trying to find relevant topics to write about.  However, it still needs to be fixed.

To that end, I have come up with a couple of ways that us small users can take back Digg and force changes so that everyone has a fair shot of getting up onto the homepage:

  1. Reverse Digg.  What I mean by this is vote for all of the crappy, irrelevant spam sites and not for the sites submitted by the “power users.”  I think this will help in one of two ways: 1) it will force Digg to come up with a more stringent process for submission (having your site pre-approved for example) and 2) if Digg is afraid that spam sites will make it up onto the homepage, they’ll probably be more willing to cater less the “power users.”
  2. Don’t vote.  Continue to use Digg, read the stories, etc., however don’t vote for anything.  If nobody votes, nothing gets to the homepage.
  3. Create alliances.  Try and find other disenchanted and disenfranchised Digg users and create a strategic alliance and vote only for each others’ submissions.  If you can put together a group of 50 or 60 users (which I don’t think would be that difficult) you all stand a pretty good shot of making it up onto the homepage.
  4. Stop submitting to Digg.  If you’re really pissed with not ever getting up onto the homepage, stop submitting to Digg.  It seems to me that blogs and other small websites make up a pretty good majority of what’s submitted to Digg.  If all of a sudden the well goes dry, Digg’s going to have to change their stance on who gets up onto the homepage.  There are plenty of other sites (Shoutwire, Fark, Reddit, Netscape, etc.) what will make up for the loss in traffic.

Anyway, these are just a couple of ways I think us small guys can help to force Digg to share the wealth and not take us for granted.  

On that note, don’t forget to Digg this!