Saturday, February 21, 2009

The blogging course - should it be something else?

My little company runs a blogging course which is very popular with those who take it. The problem is, not enough people do take it. I can think of two ways to broaden the course's appeal.

1. Get more serious about educating people who want to blog for a purpose such as supporting a business, a non-profit, a cause, or to make money. The blogging course was conceived of us a writing course. The idea is that creative writing courses for adults have traditionally been very popular and now it's time for creative writing to take a new form. No longer poetry or short stories or novels are the hot creative force. It's now blogging. That's where we started. But, it appears that another approach would be to do more for these more purposeful, less creative, type bloggers. We could expose them to blogs of these sorts for starter such as:

- business blogs:

- non-profit blogs: One blog, Making Waves,

- blogs for a cause:

- journalistic blogs

- blogging for profit:

2. Shift the course from being a how-to-blog to being an introduction to web 2.0 in which each week, we get people started and involved in:

a. A blog - which they keep through the course as a way of keeping notes

b. A forum

c. Facebook

d. Twitter

e. Wikis - wikipedia & a more modest one

f. Youtube

g. Linkedin, Flikr, Myspace, Friendster, Livejournal

h. Technorati, stumble upon, diggit,

Now that would be a very cool eight week course!

3rd Variation on the course - Include much more on concepts of how blogs integrated with twitter, facebook, and blog communities.

4th - Focus on wordpress and it's amazing capabilities to create a variety of websites with no programming.

Of course, we could accomplish most of both of these by slightly changing the course focus and curriculum and positioning. For instance, blogs seem to work well when supported by a facebook and twitter accounts

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Blogging and Making Money

While this course is about writing a blog and gathering an audience, many people have questions and aspirations relating to their blog and money. To be blunt, many fantasize about earning a living from their blog. Is such a thing possible? Well, if you believe, then anything is possible.

OK, now trying to be helpful, here are some points to take on board at this point in the course. We'll circle back to financial possibilities, how to understand them, and how to pursue them later in the course.

1. Traditionally, 7 out of 10 new business ventures fail or are abandoned within the first two years. If you think of your blog as yet another business venture, the odds are 30% that in two years, you could still be at it. Hopefully in the black and harvesting cash flow.

2. There are success stories of people who got very rich through blogging. It's about as likely as you'll turn out to be the next J.D. Rowling (third richest woman in the world, author of Harry Potter). But it does happen and some people do strike it big. (examples: John Chow or Ree Drummond)

3. You won't make any money with your blog unless you have an audience. It's a good strategy to first find something interesting to say, then to win an audience, then to try to figure out how to monetize it.

4. Many bloggers with some talent and dedication, do make some money from their blogs. It can be $25 per month or $25 per day and sometimes much more. Your results will vary. Sometimes it's just enough for "shoe money" (BTW, there's a famous and profitable blog by that name), sometimes it's enough for you to quit your day job. Sometimes, it can be combined with your day job.

5. When you pick your blog topic, if making money is eventually on your mind, you might what to consider the potential financial implications as you pick your focus. I'm deviating slightly from point 3 here by suggesting that you think ahead about financial implications, even as you pick your topic and personna.

The rest of this article will help you consider how to factor this in.

Do you have an existing business which could benefit from increased exposure across the net? If so, supporting and expanding the existing business is a good way to monetize your time spent blogging. Many small businesses and charities have started blogs which integrate stories about their professional work with whatever aspects of their private life that they want to share. And they've effectively won new supporters and deepened their relationships with others. (eg Making Waves, One blog)

Let me share a discussion I had with a hypothetical friend of mine name Mike. Mike wanted to start a blog. He was a poet by nature, a paralegal by day, and he has a messy personal life caused in part by what he calls his "poetic" nature which could not be constrained by social norms such as honesty, living monogomously, and oh yes, living within his means. His initial desire was to write about poetry, something that he lived for and had great insights into. He was thinking: "Metaphysical Poetry & Lyrical Reflections." But, as we discussed it, it turns out that Mike was thinking that this would be a profitable effort and we concluded that pure poetry might be pure poverty. There's just not that many people reading poetry or advertising to people interested in poetry.

We also considered him writing about his personal life but it presented a number of problems and no particular financial hook.

After some reflections on the likely financial implications, he shifted towards: "This poet's unfolding tale of Love, Lyrics, and Looming Foreclosure." This allowed him to both indulge his poetic vision with lyrical reflections on his dilemma while also airing his ongoing lessons on how mortgage companies react when you stop making payments, how a "short-sale" works and whether 'tis better to default on your credit card bill or mortgage. He soon had a readership and some lively informative discussions by people with similar problems, many of whom appreciated his poetry: "Whether 'tis nobler to...etc". Then one day, he posted an "advertise here" button and a rate sheet (traffic count and advertising rates) and several credit lawyers responded.

The other part of the discussion with hypothetical Mike was whether he should bring his messy personal relationships into it but, given how truly messy it was, we all agreed that he should be less public, even in an anonymous form, which his irresponsible ongoing escapades.

Yes, Mike is not real, but it's food for thought to provide you with some thoughts on direction.

You'll hear more form us later in the course about how advertising works on blogs. You'll hear about PPC, CPM affiliates, widgets, Adsense, and rate sheets.


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

This page is not in the webmaster tools as having links

It's weird. Google does not count the internal or external links to this page. I'm pretty sure that it has external links but to be extra sure, I'm placing one right here.

It's a link to a Grade by Grade Curriculum Overview .

Now this page has a link from our site map and a link from each of about 30 pages on our site which deal with scope and sequence. The page has been up for about three months. Yet Google webmaster tools do NOT show any internal or external links to this page.

Why? Is it too short of content? That's my guess. But my previous research on why pages languish in the supplementary index do not support that.


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Ad Sizes for spellingcity

I'm working on redesigning SpellingCity's internal pages. We are going to do some internal promotion. So each school, teacher, and spelling list page will have internal ads explaining features and games. I'd like to build the spots in standard formats in case I ever want to place other types of messages. For instance, why not Time4Writing promotional efforts.

So, I'm revisiting ad sizes:

Current hot sizes for CPM Vendors:

728 x 90 - leaderboard
160 x 60 - wide skyscraper
300 x 250 - preferred

I had thought the banner (468 x 60) was the standard but it's apparently a has-been.

So far, our model page has:

300 x 250 - check
two 300 x 60ish ? What do I do with them?

Also, while I'm at it, I thought that I would make a random test of whether google will count a spellingcity school page as having an external link. Did I mention that I have friends who went to an elementary school in Alabama called VESTAVIA HILLS ELEMENTARY CENTRAL SCHOOL ?

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Do tracking codes screw up Google's link tracking?

I'm in a process (apparently never ending) to improve our SEO techniques. This time, I'm working with an external consultant, a guru if you will, having him in for a few hours every week or so. We use him entirely for advise and instruction and staff training, not for implementation. So his upscale rates (btw, he has been worth every penny of it) do not affect our low-end financials. (We offer a low cost online educational service and live on thin margins).

Joe Laretro is his name. He's great.

When I first engaged him, I said that he might learn a few things from us. He's a nice guy so he gave no external sign of what I'm sure he felt inside. "How could a self-taught marketing guy teach anything to to a guy with a bright mind, years of experience, insider contacts, and regular attendence at all the big industry get-togethers?"

Well, one reason is that I'm a total skeptic and I never really believe much that I can't prove myself (ie in terms of seo stuff).

So Yoda (Ie Joe) told me the other day that all the tracking links that we were putting on our links from other sites where preventing the google juice from flowing. Well, I can't prove that google doesn't discount links with tracking codes. It would make some sense since a tracking code more or less proves that the link is not a pure third party link situation and highly suggests a commercial relationship.

But I can prove that these links get counted by showing that in my webmaster tools, the incoming links are properly grouped by page irrespective of whether they were burdened or not by tracking links.

Joe seemed to think that this was cool.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Kid Safe Email - Gmail Rules

My kids, like me, seem to have an afinity for the computer. I found a great thread on how to provide them kid safe email using Gmail.
Gmail is convenient, free, and has all sorts of great features. The built-in spam features are the best. And making it kid safe is definitely the thing to do for younger children. BTW - I believe in telling them they are being monitored.

The sooner they get use to the fact that privacy in the digital world is an oxymoron, the better they will be.