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Monetizing and managing your weblogs


Upgraded to WP 2.7.1!!

As embarrassing as it is to admit, this site was running on WordPress 1.5.2 up until earlier today. But now I’ve upgraded to WP 2.7.1, and I’ll be writing about the process here in the near future.

Vote on WordPress 2.8 Features

WP 2.7 screen

If you hadn’t noticed, WordPress 2.7 came out recently - and ahead of schedule from what I’ve heard. Personally, I love the slick, sexy 2.7, after being hugely disappointed with 2.5. It takes a bit of getting used to, what with the serious interface overhaul.  Now WP 2.8 is on the books for development, and if you want to have a say in what features go in, please go see Automattic’s WP 2.8 features survey on Polldaddy.

For those of you that have been planning to move your blog but weren’t sure how to go about it, check out this 20-point checkliist at Performancing. While it is focused on WordPress, much of it applies to nearly any type of blog move.

In this case, the move was both from one host to another and from WordPress 1.5.2 to 2.2. The only really worrisome part of the move is porting the old database tables to the new ones. If you’re not comfortable with your mySqlAdmin (or similar) database control panel, I suggest you get someone to do this for you. Because WP 1.5.2 and 2.2 have slightly different database structures, this is a manual port, done table by table. This is the main place you could have problems afterwards.

There’ll be more of these “how to move your blog” posts at Performancing, with the intent to cover different scenarios. The big one coming up is for moving from Typepad to WordPress. There’ll be a couple of free plugins as part of that feature.

March marks two years since I first used AdSense. This has been a relatively good month, and if the trends it showed continue, then there’s hope for my own sites :)

  • Traffic: Traffic was at least higher than February. That is, the average pageviews per day is probably the highest it’s ever been, despite that my hired writers and myself posted less than intended.

  • AdSense: Finally, after two years of of using AdSense, I finally cracked AdSense’s $100 payout in only two months instead of three. (I’m estimating that by June or July, I’ll be meeting that level monthly.) I also cracked past my old record of number of clisk in a day - three times in March. Unfortunately, on a couple of sites, someone was click-happy and the payouts per click were sometimes tiny.
  • Chitika: I don’t even bother checking my Chitika anymore. If I earn something, great. If not, there’s no need wasting time checking.
  • ReviewMe: A few requests came in, though I didn’t write any of them. I pass them on to whichever writer is available. It’s not that I don’t ever want to, but rather that I have a few good reviewers and I felt better giving them the reviews - which pay better than the few bucks I pay per post.
  • Text-Link-Ads: TLA has been my steady performer. I can’t live off the amount, but it’s a nice supplement, now cracking past $400/m and slowly increasing. Every blog I’ve registered but one has at least one sponsor. I have a few other sites I’m working to improve in hopes of registering them. I’ve also been getting the $25 referral fee - one in March and one in February. Though I wish there was a way to tell which site the referral came from.
  • Affiliate programs: I have never made a cent from affiliate programs in the past two years, despite my efforts with Amazon. I’m still trying to learn the “art” of affiliate marketing and even have what I think will be a cool site - waiting in the wings - that gives lifestyle advice about products, gadgets, and services. However, in March, I received an email from one affiliate program saying that I’m owed $37.50. I put up a few Web CEO affiliate graphic buttons up on only a couple of sites in 2005. A long time to payoff, but I haven’t done anything extra to deserve. What I did do is link those few buttons to a full page ad elsewhere on my site for Web CEO, an SEO monitoring package. I used copy written by the company. Now I imagine if I’d blogged about the tool more often, that would increase the CTR of ads, and potentially the sales.
  • Site purchases: I’m still working on overhauling the small network I bought in Dec 2006. For the time being, I’ve only been buying a few strategic domains.
  • Contracts: Some of my bigger contracts are on hold. However, that means more time to build up my sites. I also now have several smaller projects, including a guest blogger position on a very high volume website. Because I’m allowed to change my bio for each article over 600 words that I write, it’ll help build my brand and any sites linked to in the bio. This sort of activity is very important if you are planning to be a contract writer. Always stay busy. When paying contracts disappear - and they will at times - do what you can to promote yourself.

I’m crossing my fingers that March’s trends for my sites continues. I also tend to be more productive in Spring and Summer than in Winter, so that should bode well.

These posts are way overdue, due to being so busy with blogging projects. So I’ve combined them into a single post with two summary sections.

January

Wow, is it February already? I was so busy catching up all the work I couldn’t finish in December and January that I’ve not being staying on top of my own sites all that much. Them’s the breaks when you contract.

I have a large series of articles scoped out for this weblog, but no time to finish them all. I do have one ready, about buying and selling websites, which will appear shortly after this milestones post. [Soon, soon.]

February

While I’m starting to get a better handle on finishing all my contract work, I’m still learning to be more efficient with my time. AdSense went up and down on a daily basis in February, and ended up sub-$50 because of the short month.

ReviewMe requests trickled in quite often in Feb for several of my blogs (about 5 or 6 sites now), but I’ve pretty much reassigned all of them to other bloggers who write for me. I think they deserve more than $5 per post, so I pass on the requests to reliable, objective bloggers. There are only two sites I’d write the review myself.

Text Link Ads continue to perform well for me. Sign up (affil link) if you want to give it a go. (You’ll want at least PR4 for your blog before joining. Not all blogging platforms are supported yet.) I cracked $350 in TLA for Feb, and March will be better. I’ll keep improving my websites and registering them with TLA. (You also have to maintain them even after you get sponsors. That’s one I’m struggling with, as the number of blogs I have with at least one sponsor is growing.)

My personal plan is to focus on what’s needed for TLA success, and maintain that, with an aim for at least $2000/mth (for all my registered sites) in TLA sponsorship, which I will give to my mother, as she plans to retire soon and will have little income. (She’s a business owner that’s struggled for a paltry salary for 27 years.)

Other endeavours that I hope to get into more prominently is domaining, as well as going back to writing for my own blogs more often. To support the latter, I’m switching all contract work to Mon-Fri only. Weekends are for me, with only a bit of writing late Sunday evening for Monday morning’s posts. It’s a transition process, but it’s a financial security blanket. Now that I’ve gained some knowledge on how to improve my own blogs, I plan to do so. I’ll be revealing a lot of these details on my Internet UltraGeek - Chasing Internet Success blog, once I start posting regularly. (Just once per week for now, while I sketch out some content.)

Once again, I’ve been so busy that this “milestones” post is an afterthought. As with 2005, December 2006 was a weaker month for pretty much everything, compared to October and especially November. Here is a brief summary of my blogging milestones, mostly in the area of revenue/ monetization.

  • Traffic. Traffic was up and down in December, partly due to the holidays, partly due to a lack of posts on my sites. My writers (I have a few) either had other things to attend to, or I didn’t have time to edit them. It’s crucial to the success of a blog, for many reasons, to post regularly, even if it’s only 3 per week - but better if it’s three per day. Unfortunately, I don’t have time to write much for my own posts, and it’s the reason why most of them aren’t going anywhere.

  • AdSense revenue was oh so close to $100 in 2 months - the first time this has happened in just 2. Usually, it takes me 3 months to hit Google’s payout low watermark. That’s good, but also disappointing.
  • Chitika is still nothing to talk about, but my research shows that it works best on product blogs.
  • Performancing Partners is probably only good for high- traffic sites. There are a lot of people with Blogspot-hosted blogs who I think are going to be very disappointed.
  • ReviewMe requests were steady. However, I missed the deadline on a couple of requests by a few minutes, and couldn’t find a writer for a second request, which wasn’t suited to the site it was for anyway. [I assign reviews to some of my writers. If someone wants it, then I'm fine with that. If I have time, I might write a review.]
  • Text-Link-Ads (TLA) continues to work for me, with new sponsors increasing, but only on 2 blogs. (Though I still make less than US$300/m in total.) One blog is still maxed out. I’m waiting for Feedvertising for those sites, too. I have a bunch of new sites that I purchased (more in an upcoming article) whose Google PRs are 3-4. I’m hoping that in the 2-3 months I’ll spend  spend building PR ends with TLA adding support for the TypePad platform, as that’s what they’re running on.
  • Affiliate programs. I’m considering some for the sites I’ve purchased. Unfortunately, I know very little yet about how to promote this form of advertising. In a year’s time, I’ve made exactly $0 from programs like Amazon. Though it’s likely true that you need good traffic to succeed with affiliate programs, which I don’t have for my sites. (But the sites I’m paid to blog for do, though none of them run affiliate programs.) What little I do know says you have to write about the products quite regularly, and have your affiliate links in pretty much every post. I have not considered any other ways to earn revenue for these blogs.
  • Site purchases were a sort of gift to myself in December, and while I don’t think I made a mistake in the sites I purchased, I didn’t do my homework about monetizing. One site, a forum, has made maybe $3 in AdSense, but the other six were in a state of transfer to me. I don’t have a writer for the six, and I can’t yet afford a moderator for the forum. I’ll be continuing my series on buying sites in the near future.

As part of my New Year’s Resolution to be more productive and efficient than in December, I had to drop some blogs and consolidate some efforts. I don’t really lose money this way, as I wasn’t getting all my work done anyway. In fact, I earned about half what I should have in December because too much work made me feel guilty that one client project or another wasn’t getting done. As a result, even less work got done. Guilt is not good fuel for running a freelance business.

This past week, I either purchased or agreed to the purchase of 7 sites, to bring my tally to 8. Except in my eagerness, I ignored checking into a few things before forking over my money (or agreeing to barter freelance blogging work in one case). I figured that I’ve learned enough in the past 1.5 years of blogging that I can apply some plans to monetize these blogs.

For example, I purchased Songwriting Forums to supplement my low-traffic Sound Alchemy Online music blog, on the basis that the forum supposedly was receiving roughly 70,000 page views per month. It sounded high for a site with under 100 members, but forums do get higher pageview counts per visitor. Except when I looked under the hood of the statistics, I found that the of the 70,000 pageviews, about half of them belonged to a single IP address - that of the previous owner, I presume.

Still, 30,000 pageviews per month is nothing to sneeze at. Except traffic has dwindled. And the owner turned off the forum for two days, but with good intentions, in case a database backup was needed. That, plus the necessary domain transfer, seem to have affected daily pageviews even further, falling to all time lows since the site was orginally created in Jun 2006.

I still think I can do something with the song writing forum, but it’s been a couple of years since I’ve written any songs, and I’ll have to come up with some interesting and relevant forum content. Except that I don’t have any time. And I have the other 6 sites I bought this week. And that’s a story in itself. It runs on the Typepad weblog platform, which I really dislike immensely. But it generates static HTML pages with “.html” in the URL. So I can’t port everything to WordPress without losing all the PR (3-4).

What’s more, I had hoped to run Text-Link-Ads on the single PR4 site, but I found out after the purchase that Textpad isn’t supported yet. Since you shouldn’t run Google AdSense on this type of site, I’m left with few choices for monetizing 6 new sites. Affiliate programs could work, but I’m still learning how to do that. I haven’t made a single affiliate sale ever (referral signups not included).

So while the cost of most of these sites is bartered, I’ve spent or committed funds totalling in the early four digits for 8 sites in 5 months. That’s cash money I won’t have. One site does okay on Text-Link-Ads, which I’ve mentioned here previously. Half of it’s monthly revenue goes to paying for content. The other half will fund part of the cost of content for the other 6 sites. A moderator for the song writing forum will come out of my pocket.

I’m giving myself until June to show some revenue on the 7 new sites. If they don’t, I’ll probably sell them.

This is a summary of my personal and professional blogging activities, published with the intent of encouraging newbies to stick with it.

  • Content: My own content has had a dramatic decrease. I’ve been trying new writers, and they’re just getting up to speed with regular posting.
  • Chitika: Not enough revenue to warrant payout.
  • Clients: One new client (small monthly contract), 4 new weekly contracts from existing clients. Still learning to balance work on the fly. I’m going to write a small e-book on how to juggle too much work and give it away free on this site.
  • Google ad clicks: An interesting phenomenon is becoming more apparent. If you have multiple websites running the same contextual advertising, it’s obvious that there will be a range of earnings daily. But if you organize a list of your sites for a given day in decreasing order of total earnings, the number of clicks per site that day will show a bell curve. That is, in decreasing order of revenue, the sites in the middle of the list will likely have the most clicks. This isn’t a surprising phenomenon to anyone who has studied statistics in depth, but it’s interesting to see that it applies to blogging as well as nature. Overall, I set a new record twice in November for most clicks in a day on my sites, obviously.
  • Google Adsense: Quite a bit of variation, but more in the higher end, and higher lows. The low watermark on my daily earnings is rising. At least in November. Whether that’ll remain after December, I’m not sure. Last year, December revenue was lower than October and November. My 28-day MA (Moving Average) has been oscillating in low frequency for the past month, hovering around the same point, plus/minus. In other words, movement in daily revenue has been lateral. On the other hand, November set a record for payment for me, so things are still improving. What’s important
  • Google CPC: Average daily CPC (Cost Per Click, or in this case, pymt per click) is all over the place. But an average of the average over a long-term will likely show a steady but slow increase since, say, July, when my posting to my own sites decreased because of client work.
  • PayPerPost: Don’t qualify yet, as I haven’t maintained a posting frequency on the sites I would do this on.
  • Performancing Partners:
  • ReviewMe: In addition to the initial ReviewMe review, advertisers requested a total of 3 additional reiews in November (though one didn’t get submitted until Dec 1st - today). I wrote the first one, and had other writers write the other ones. So I should amend my comment. I’ll donate a percentage of the review money earned by me specfically, not other writers.
  • Squidoo: No payment yet since the very 1st one, but I set my “threshold” of payment higher and haven’t actively promoted the sites and groups.
  • Text-Link-Ads/ Feedvertising:
  • Traffic (pageviews): Overall, my own pageviews went down, but revenue still hit a monthly high.
  • Other (affiliate progs): No revenue from any affiliate programs such as Amazon, Linkshare.

General: Despite my decrease in posting to my own sites, my revenue and traffic hasn’t been overly affected. That’s partly due to miniscule increases in Google PageRank (my hypothesis) and normal Oct-November boost. I’ll have to wait and see if it continues in December and into the new year. Though I do except to have one or more writers posting.

I have enough contracts now that it’s equivalent to a full-time writing job in terms of pay, almost mid-four figures monthly, in US$, which translates to a reasonable salary for a writer in Cdn$. It won’t pay for a house, not yet, but I’m planning to see if in late 2007, early 2008, I can use future savings to buy a condo so I can move back to Toronto.

Though I don’t want to count my proverbial chickens before they hatch, things are obviously better than when I was dry soup noodles for my meals and Mr. Freeze for dessert just a few years ago. I just have to learn to balance the immense workload, which requires every single bit of my task management, project management, diplomatic, and organizational skills. If there’s any interest in learning some of these techniques, drop me a comment, and I’ll try to put together a small, free ebook on my methods for January.

powered by performancing firefox

[Disclaimer: I am being paid for this review of ReviewMe, but am not obligated to write a positive review. Furthermore, I was one of the beta testers of the site.] ReviewMe is a brand new site that launched Nov 9/06 and is essentially similar to PayPerPost in that it’s a means for advertisers to have bloggers write about their products and services. Bloggers do get paid, and in the case of ReviewMe, they must disclose that they are being paid for the review. They are not obligated, however, to write a positive review. Morally, bloggers should be honest and thorough.

Signing up is easy - just enter your name and contact info. Bloggers in the US must enter their SSN (Social Security Number) or business tax id. Everyone else does not have to enter anything further. Payment to you can be by check or Paypal, so make sure you enter the proper email address.

Now you can enter your sites: name of site, URL, web feed URL (go for your Feedburner version, if you have one), up to six category tags, and a description. The ranking system is transparent and I assume it’s similar to Text Link Ads/ Feedvertising. That is, you have to have achieved a certain Google Page Rank (PR), some Alexa rank, a certain number of backlinks, etc.

You can only register six active sites, but there’s no limit to the number of reviews you can write per site - unlike PayPerPost, which only lets you write one review at a time and applies a different criteria to qualify sites. Minimum payout is $20, max is $200. (That’s after ReviewMe has already taken their 50% cut.) There’s no referral program yet like that of Text Link Ads. However, Andy Hagans, whose baby Reviewme is, tells me that there will be a referral program.

My stance on ReviewMe and paid product blogging: Generally speaking, I see nothing wrong with ReviewMe’s structure. It requires bloggers to be ethical about what they are doing, and is more ethical than, say, product placement in movies and TV shows. At least, if the product or service is relevant to the blog in question, then an honest review will be helpful to some readers. Back when I was publishing a monthly print entertainment magazine, we ran reviews of books, film and music. On occasion, we would review something - positive or negative - and the next month, there might be an ad for that item. (Lack of advertising ultimately killed the otherwise popular rag, which made its way to 3 continents on its own.) Though we never sought an ad in return for writing a review. Never. I always refused such offers. I see ReviewMe along similar lines. I might have otherwise reviewed the product or service anyway, and since I’m allowed to be honest (though I want to be constructive), what’s the harm?

What I am doing with any ReviewMe review revenue: I plan to donate fully 25% of gross earnings from all of my ReviewMe reviews on all of my registered sites to literacy programs. It’s not necessarily going to be lots of money, but if you are with a literacy organization and are prepared to prove it, you can apply for some of these funds. If I get no takers through this site, I will seek some out on my own and reveal all such donations here on this site after the fact. [Send email and details to rdash001 #at## yaho-dot-ca#]

This is a shortened version because once I again I lost a crapload of writing by mistakenly pressing delete in my fave editor. Although now I no longer have a fave. I’m taking a different approach to these milestones:

  • Chitika: More clicks in a single month than since late last Fall. But still not enough to have had another payout since my first one. I have removed Chitika ads from some sites, and given them prominence on others.
  • Clients: More and more and more clients, and only 1.5 writers to help me. Actually, more like 2×0.5, because they both have other commitments. I acquired at least one more client, possibly two, this month, as well as started receiving higher paying writing gigs from existing clients. You know you’re busy when not only are you not doing laundry, but you’re also ordering delivery 3 times in the same week instead of going grocery shopping. If things go as planned, I can live comfortably off of my income, though I have no time to enjoy the earnings yet, until I learn to be more efficient with my research time.
  • Google ad clicks: CTR has been much better. Back into the early double-digit clicks per day again, and more times in a single month than ever before. I tied my one-day record, and also established a new 2nd place record (for my sites). Then that was followed up by finally cracking the record by one click. As well, on three separate days, including the high-click day, one channel or another received low double digits in clicks by itself. I’m not sure if this has been my highest-click month since adding AdSense, but it’s probably close.
  • Google Adsense: Hit more of my previous records for daily highs. Towards the end of the month, I had one day where two channels both had over a dollar or even two. But one channel took one click and the other several. Still, not a lot of money, but proof of how things improve over time. A lot of new territory.
  • Google CPC: A lot of high CPC clicks. But some days a few clicks will earn about the same as 5-6 times the clicks the day before. That is, there are are still days when I get just a few cents from some clicks.
  • PayPerPost: I’m not even bothering. ReviewMe (see below) is far better.
  • Performancing Partners: This bloggers’ ad network is too new for me to report anything just yet.
  • ReviewMe: I’m one of the beta testers, but it’s not up live yet, so no payouts just yet.
  • Squidoo: I do better on Squidoo, based on overall average, than with Chitika. Though one’s an ad network and the other a high-rank multis-site.
  • Text-Link-Ads/ Feedvertising: I lost one sponsor on my first blog, towards the end of the month, but gained my first sponsor on a newly added blog. (Newly added to TLA.) Feedvertiser still only supports WordPress 2.0+, and since my 2.0+ blogs are too new to rank, I have not yet used Feedvertiser. But WP 1.5x support is coming, and I’ll probably add it to 3-4 of my blogs. [Side note: It's Nov 1st, before I've posted this, and I now have four blogs that have TLA sponsors.]
  • Traffic (pageviews): No significant increases, but given that I haven’t posted much, I’m still doing okay. Some of my sites are getting more clickthroughs from the RSS feeds. And that’s without full-text.
  • Other (affiliate progs): I do have other affiliate programs running on select sites, but for the most part, they have not generated any revenue. Success in affiliate programs can be sweet, but they do take a great deal of effort to promote, as they require more specific content to be posted. And you have to push those links, which I don’t like to do. Amazon has had the best response (clicks) of all, but no sales.

General:
Overall, considering I have not been able to write for my own blogs like I used to (50+ posts per week) for several months, it’s uplifting to see that my average daily revenue is increasing. I also hit a monthly high in Google AdSense revenue as well as total revenue.

In summary, a god month - my best so far in problogging - and a sign of things to come.



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