Friday, December 19, 2008

Misbehaving: Delicious hijacks Firefox bookmark buttons

This is one of the many reasons why people distrust browser add-ons. One of the latest del.icio.us bookmark add-ons for Firefox hijacked the CTRL-D and CTRL-B buttons from Firefox for its own use.

This is BAD BEHAVIOR! I know that Yahoo is desperate, but this type of thing can only make things worse. They've already gotten a bad rep for sneaking a Yahoo Toolbar in a Java update, and now this.

Well, Delicious Firefox add-on, it was nice knowing you, but now you are getting UNINSTALLED.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Blog Tip #29: Thesaurus is your friend when desperately looking for unused names

We already mentioned in Tip #28 that getting into a creative mood can help you, but that's not enough, because a lot of the "good names" are either taken or have an unknown or dubious history.

So in order to accelerate your creative process, I highly recommend using an online thesaurus and dictionary combo. Start searching for words that convey what your new blog or website is going to be, and keep opening words that sound promising in new browser tabs. Repeat this process until you go crazy or your browser crashes :-)

This process may take an hour or two, but if you are able to concentrate during this process, you will end up with some really good names. Some you can use right away, others you can save up in the future. Or if they are too good, you can make some money on the side by using the new AdSense-for-Parked-Domains or perhaps sell them in the domain buy/sell market.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Subscribers dropped in Feedburner? Fear not, it's not you!

If you have noticed the last couple of days that your number of RSS subscribers in Feedburner has dropped below the usual weekend drop-off, it's not you! Don't worry! Cancel the panic! Your readers have not abandoned you!

Take a deep breath and look at your detailed statistics in Feedburner. There you will notice that Bloglines is reporting ZERO readers instead of your usual number of subscribers. If you factor in your typical Bloglines reader-count, you will see that your total subscriber-count is back to where you would expect it to be :-)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Blog Tip #28: How to pick a unique domain name

Yes, at first look, all the good domains are taken. Sure, if you want to grab profit.com, or money.com, or television.com, you betcha those names are taken. A lot of the good two word domain names are taken as well.

But hope is not lost. There are still plenty of combinations of two to three words, or memorable variations of, that you can come up with.

The trick is being able to come up with it. Sitting at godaddy.com and searching for domain names is one way to do this, but it's not very creative.

A better way to find creative and available names, is to take a break from the computers, turn off all distractions, or go to a coffee shop, take a pen and paper with you, and start writing down words that describe what your new blog is going to be.

Then start thinking of creative ways to combine 2 or more of those words, and come up with creative but memorable alterations. For example, money.com is taken, but how about themoneyist.com? It's not taken as of right now.

So the bottom line is, take a break, grab a pen and paper, and get creative!

And one more thing, be sure to check Blog Tip #18, keep your user name at 15 characters or less, because some websites, like Digg and Twitter, limit your username to 15 characters or less.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Blog Tip #27: Promote RSS feeds after blog outage

Think silver lining here: If your blog suffers an outage, whether it's 20-minutes or 2 hours or longer, your readers will be frustrated at some level. This is a good time to offer them an additional option, remind them that if they subscribe to your full-text RSS feed, they'll have your latest posts cached in their newsreader so they do have another option when your blog is down!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Special $25 bonus for new Widgetbucks members

If you have been thinking about joining Widgetbucks, but have not decided yet, there is a special promotion with a $25 bonus when you sign up for Widgetbucks and generate at least $50 in ad-revenue in your account. This special promotion ends at midnight pacific time on September 21, so don't delay!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Google AdManager goes in open beta

If you are looking for a free remote-hosted ad-management solution and you were anxiously waiting for Google's Ad-Manager or hosted OpenX to go live, you are in luck! Google Ad Manager is now in open beta. We don't know if OpenX has set a date, if you know, please let us know.

If you have an Adsense account, you can sign up for Google Ad-Manager and get started right away. As with all Google products, it has the spartan and lean Google user interface and the "Google way of doing things" interface (mentality). So you will feel at home (excited or frustrated) if you are familiar with how other Google-developed product look and feel.

Of course free service means no customer support, so if you want fast, efficient and knowledgeable service, you have to use a for-pay service. Adspeed is one we have been using for a few months and we like very much. The best way to get started is the 100,000 ad-impressions for $10 per month plan starting with the 10-day free trial. Here is our long AdSpeed review.

But FREE is something we love! As soon as we can set aside a few hours, we will experiment with the Google AdManager and post our first impressions. And once we become familiar with it, we may post a comparison between AdManager and AdSpeed. Time permitting.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Feedburner subscriber drops across the board today

Do not panic! The subscriber drops you may have seen on your Feedburner blogs appear to be all across the board. So it's not necessarily something wrong with your blog. Perhaps Feedburner is having technical issues, or perhaps they have adjusted their algorithms.

But either way, do not panic. You are not alone! For more be sure to check the discussions at the feedburner Google group.

Adsense for Feeds option in Google Adsense Setup page

Quickly! Drop everything and run to your Google Adsense Setup page! When I was just checking today, I noticed a brand new option, Adsense for Feeds!

This is what Feedburner mentioned in late May 2008. If you are running a feed ad network, you better start crying! Adsense is starting to move in like Godzilla!

Time for the feed ad networks to actually start responding to user's email questions and problems, if they want to have a fighting chance against the Adsense juggernaut!

For now there is a manual migration process from Feedburner to a Google account, but this is only temporary for those who can't wait. An automated process is coming later on.

Interestingly, the url will be feedproxy.google.com, which makes lots of sense since Google is not indexing the feed content, which is the right thing to do.

Will this mean the end of the Feedburner name? I hope not! This is one of the coolest names and logos on the internet!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

More blogging tips at the SEO Progress blog

For more blog tips, be sure to visit and bookmark the SEO Progress blog! They talk about search engine submission, meta tags, web site statistics and counters, and a lot more coming up!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Warning!! Latest Java update installs Yahoo Toolbar without permission!

Desperate times at Sun and Yahoo? So desperate that they had to force the Yahoo Toolbar on everyone getting the latest Java software update? An update initiated by Java itself by the way.

More on this at the Mozilla forum and the Sun developer forum.

A screenshot of the abomination at Flickr.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Blog Tip #26: Using the Flock browser to post on your blog

Flock is a browser that claims to be the most social web 2.0 friendly browser out there. One of the features is that it includes an editor for creating new blog posts. And unlike the fixed blogspot window, you can make this one as big as your screen! Nice if you are planning to write long or complicated posts.

You can also switch between editor-mode and source-mode, with source mode allowing you to do HTML, while the editor-mode does not require any HTML, you just use the different editor features to add links, change font size, add lists, and things like that. And you can switch back and forth any time you want!

It even lets you place labels at the bottom of the post. So, let's see what we created now :)

Blogged with the Flock Browser

Monday, June 23, 2008

Pepperjam affiliate network, a live review!

I mentioned the Pepperjam Blog in my previous post. Why was I reading the Pepperjam blog? Because I decided to give PepperJam a try as it appears to be a new and fresh affiliate network. And at the same time I will be posting a live on-going review of my experience with PepperJam.


Applying


I filled up the application page in just a couple of minutes. It asks the typical information you would expect. Please note that when you enter your website url, you have to enter http://blah.blah, it does not like just blah.blah.

After you complete and submit the application, you see a confirmation page that says:

Thank-you for submitting your application to become a part of Pepperjam Network. We are excited to see that you have realized a need is here for a new type of network that connects affiliates to merchants with a level of transparency like no other. You will be receiving a confirmation email shortly, and your application will be reviewed within 24 to 48 hours. We are excited to present you with this opportunity.


Next step, check your email and look for a welcome email for Pepperjam. This email serves to confirm your email address. Instructions are in the email. After you follow the instructions you get this message in a new page:
Success: Thank you! Your E-mail has been verified.


Next we wait for Pepperjam to review our application and accept or reject our application.


After you are accepted


After you are accepted into the network, you can login and get started! One thing you need to do is specify the payment method, and you can see the reminder in the screenshot below. Following is a portion of the screen you see when you login to your PepperJam account:



Setting up your payment method is easy. The payment options are PayPal, Direct Deposit and Check, which is all you can ask from an affiliate network! Well done!

Now off to find some affiliate programs...


Choosing Affiliate Programs


Pepperjam offers both "revenue sharing" and "CPA" programs, and when you are searching, you can filter them out or search for both.

Programs have different methods of approving, some are manual, some use what PJam calls automatic and advanced methods.

The most well-known program we saw so far at PepperJam is eBay, which has a very generous program, and it is similar to what you can get when you use the eBay program independently. But the program that will get PepperJam the most "geek-cred" is having StarTrek.com! Affiliates, jump in on StarTrek.com now, because when the new JJ Abrams movie hits the movie theatres in May 2009, there may be a feeding frenzy on Star Trek gear, old and new!

They also have an affiliate program for referring people to Pepperjam, with a $5 lead for new signees and a 15-day cookie.


Creating Links


Creating links is so easy, especially when you compare the process to certain other large affiliate networks that make creating links an exercise in frustration.

Sadly the affiliate links are not directly pointing to the retailer's domain, but rather use an intermediate/tracking url, which means these are not "high quality links", so I am giving them the "nofollow" just to be safe. Don't want to get the Google Bots angry ;-) But the good news is that you have an option to generate either encrypted or unencrypted links. So there is some flexibility for thosr who prefer encrypted affiliate links.

You can create banner or text links, but also use Google AdSense-looking widgets they call "pepperjamADs". You simply select individual links from your existing approved affiliate programs and create your own AdSense-looking ads. If you also use AdSense, be sure to make sure the two sets of ads look different (different colors, etc) so they don't violate the AdSense TOS. Here is an example of what your Pepperjam ads may look like by default. Click on the picture to see a larger version:



Finding banner ads and filtering them by size is very easy. You can see the Star Trek ad at the top of the page as an example. The ad went live right away. There was no waiting period. This is nice because some affiliate programs don't activate new ads immediately.

Deep linking is allowed, but the option for deep linking depends on each particular affiliate program. You will see that on the banner page. You can also create your own sub-id for tracking individual links. And the sub-id (sid) can be as long as 100 characters long.

Another example is the Text Link Ads (TLA) affiliate ad at the top right corner of the blog. There was a typo in the ad code, the proper width is 180, not 468, which it was easy to correct. Infact all the TLA banner ads show a width of 468 in their code, which is a mistake that needs to be corrected. TLA offers text-link-ads but does so in a Google-friendly manner, the ads are not delivered in a way that interferes with Google's Search engine rankings, so you don't have to worry about getting penalized from Google. At least that's my understanding, and I'm not an expert :)


Managing your account


You can see all your relationships with affiliate programs, pending, accepted and rejected under the "Account", "Manage relationships" menu. This is a nicely done website as you can quickly and easy see the status quo. From this page you can also re-apply to the programs that you were rejected, and you can also "revoke" your membership in programs you don't want to continue using.


What about payment?


Well, I just joined, so I don't know yet, but this is what the Pepperjam FAQ page states:
Publishers are compensated on a flat, cost per action (CPA) or percentage-of-sale basis. Publisher payments are made every two weeks and are processed on or around the 1st and 15th of every month. Publishers should allow up to 7 business days for processing of payments. Only valid leads or sales will be compensated once approved by each advertiser.



Reports


The reports page is smooth and uncluttered, which confirms the impression you get by reading the Pepperjam blog and FAQ that this is indeed a fresh approach to affiliate marketing.

If you want to closely track and optimize your affiliate links be sure to take advantage of the "SID report" and develop a system of creating meaningful SID names when you create links (up to 100 characters long, so lots of flexibility). With an organized SID naming system you can check your SID report and quickly get a read on your impressions and clicks.


Personal Opinion


While Pepperjam is a relatively young network and does not have as many "big names" as the big three networks (CJ, LS, Px), its user interface is a breath of fresh air. The user interfaces of the big three feel like they were designed by a committee of committees, they are cumbersome, inefficient and ineffective. And who at Performics came up with the idea of adding a second scroll bar? You know, every browser has a scroll bar! I'm sure Google will fix that when that user interface gets "googlified".

The Pepperjam interface on the other hand feels like it was designed by people who actually use the interface on a daily basis to do actual affiliate work. I think this is a big plus for PJam.

Pepperjam has been adding "recognizable names" steadily, and certainly eBay is a great catch, especially now that eBay finally decided to tighten things up and restrict some of the more "iffy" sellers with new buyer-friendly policies. Pepperjam has some big names from the world of entertainment, (internet) pop culture, and blogging, such as movie studios, Star Trek, Busted Tees, etc.

One area however that needs to get beefed up in order to lure in the lucrative high-tech webmasters and bloggers is technology, with affiliats such as recognizable high tech retailers, manufacturers direct, perhaps shopping comparison engines, and things like that as Arnold would say

More coming up later!

Excellent advice for those running affiliate programs

While reading the Pepperjam blog (more on this in a few minutes), we saw an interview with the owner of UberAffiliate. While reading their blog we noticed a great article advising people who run affiliate programs how to treat their affiliates. After using a number of affiliate programs and services, and interacting with a number of affiliate associates and customer service representatives, we couldn't agree more with what UberAffiliate wrote.

We saw some of the traits mentioned above in some of the efficient and effective affiliates we are using, and we also some of the things mentioned above missing from affiliate programs that we found ineffective or inefficient. A well-written article by UberAffiliate.

But the above list is also a good indicator for bloggers and webmasters using affiliate programs and interacting with the affiliate managers and associates. If half of your questions go unanswered, don't necessarily blame yourself for asking unimportant questions or for being "too small" to be worthy of their attention. You might just be dealing with an overloaded or poorly managed affilaite program instead.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Blogging Careers: Engadget is hiring, bloggers your chance for big-time!

If you love writing blog posts to be read by millions, this is your chance! Engadget is hiring for multiple positions, including US, Europe and Australia! Be sure to read all the requirements and job descriptions if you are interested.

Engadget is the busiest high-tech gadget blog and covers a wide spectrum of high-tech topics. If you already spend countless hours reading and writing about high-tech gear in forums and message boards, or your own blog, you can "make it big" by writing for Engadget!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Review of Adspeed, a remotely hosted ad-rotation and ad-management service

This is an exciting new post in this blog, it is an on-going review of my experience with the Adspeed remotely-hosted ad-managament service. This service allows you to rotate various ads and banners on your website or blog and use a number of sophisticated features, such as giving ads different weights, adjusting which ads are displayed by geography (eg Japanese visitors can see Amazon Japan ads, French visitors can see eBay France ads, etc), and a whole lot more!

The latest updates are at the bottom of the blog - it is posted in chronological order. Here is a quick navigation guide:

  1. The Options and Alternatives
  2. Decision to try Adspeed
  3. Day 1 with Adspeed
  4. Day 2 with Adspeed
  5. Day 3
  6. Day 4
  7. Week 1 continues
  8. Week 2
  9. Practical and Tangible Benefits so far


Disclaimer
This is not a paid review, and this is not a paid placement. The links to Adspeed are affiliate links.


The Need for an ad management service
I am participating in a number of affiliate and advertising programs, including CJ (Commission Junction), Linkshare, Google Doubleclick Performics, new eBay, Kolimbo, Amazon, AdSense, Chitika, and more. While some, like CJ and Linkshare and Kolimbo offer a way to rotate ads from their own service, there is no simple way to rotate ads from multiple programs on the same spot, especially if you are using a blogservice-hosted blog.


The Options: Your own ad server (hardware and software)
The most flexible option is to run your own ad-server. You can create your ad-server scripts or software, buy or license ready-made ad-server software packages or scripts, or use the free or shareware scripts and services. One popular option is the free ad server provided by the good people at OpenX (Open Ads).

However these options require a lot of IT resources, you need to run your own ad-server, maintain the ad-server, maintain and license software, and a slew of other webmaster tasks. While a good idea for bigger sites and blogs, if you are an individual blogger, or a small group of bloggers, even if you are tech-savvy and love configuring and maintaining computers, the IT work can eat up a significant chunk of your time you could otherwise devote to your blog content or your blog networking and promotion.

So for me, this was not an option! I do not have the time or the energy or the interest to play webmaster and IT guru. So on to the next option...


The Options: Remotely-hosted automated ad-service
Now if you are a hands-off person and you want no control over this process, and you don't mind handing over all the login information of your various affiliate and advertising programs to a 3rd party, then you can try the Rubicon Project or the other similar service whose name escapes me at the moment.

I have major objections to giving my login information to 3rd parties, plus I want to have control over which ads are displayed and which ones get a higher weight than others. There are various reasons for doing this, but that's another story. So while the Rubicon Project and other similar services may be a good idea for some, they are not for me.


The Options: Remotely-hosted hands-on ad-service
This is what is ideal for me. I don't have to worry about installing and running a server, I am not giving anyone my login information to all my affiliate programs, and I have complete control over the running and balancing of the ads.

If you have very low traffic there are a few of services that offer a free ad-rotation service in exchange for a portion of your ad-traffic. For example, they take 10% of your ad impressions and display their own ads, in exchange for the free service. AdSpeed has this option as well. The percentages and terms vary from ad-service to ad-service, so be sure to check them out.

The blog I am using this service on has around 100K page hits per month, so I wanted something that wouldn't eat my impressions and I am willing to pay a small monthly fee.

The problem is that there is a big gap between the free services and most of the professional-quality services. The latter usually start at $50 to $100+++ per month even if you have relatively low traffic (eg 100K monthly hits). They also charge a one-time high set-up fee (three to four figures) that significantly raises the starting price for small and medium blogs and sites.

Even worse, just to find more information (eg detailed features or prices) or run a demo, you have to talk to their old-school 1-800-toll-free sales representatives. As a blogger I'm not getting paid to talk on the phone for hours or play phone-tag all day. On the other hand, a sales rep is getting paid to talk on the phone for hours. Ouch! Way too expensive and time-consuming for my needs.

And in this gap between the freebies and the expensives is where Adspeed fits right in, since they offer a variety of scalable plans, for blogs and sites big and small. The lowest professional plan is $10/month plan for 100k monthly ad impressions. If you exceed that limit, they won't cut you off, but after about a month of being above your limit, they expect you to add an extra 100K ad impressions for another $10. Or jump to the 300K monthly impressions tier for $25 total per month. Do note that impressions refer to ad-impressions, not page impressions. Meaning that if you put 10 different ad-boxes on your blog, each time someone visits your website, they count as 10 ad-impressions (at least that's my understanding of it). Not sure how it counts if you put two or more ads in a single ad-slot.

So the idea is to start with one ad-box, pick your most visible or high profile spot. If the ad-server proves successful there, and improves your ad or affiliate revenues, then you also consider trying it in other ad spots as well. Or if you have two spots and you are not sure which one is better, set them both up and watch how they perform for a few days. This is what I am doing in trying to figure out whether the vertical skyscraper or the horizontal banner are to be the new premier ad spot on my blog.



The big two FREE remotely-hosted ad-services are currently in beta
That's right, both Google and OpenX (Open Ads) currently have their own implementions of FREE remotely-hosted ad-management services. Unfortunately both of these services are currently in private beta, so unless you are one of the lucky few that is in the beta, you cannot use these promising FREE services at this very moment.


The DECISION
I love FREE! However, neither OpenX nor Google's remote ad-services are available. So I had to chose between the limited free ad-services or the for-pay ad-services. Because Adspeed was one of the few sites that had a live ad-server demo running (so does OpenX), I was able to play with it and liked it enough so that it jumped ahead of all the other contenders.


AdSpeed Day Zero (May 2008)
As just mentioned, Adspeed already has a live ad-server demo running on their website. You can play with it, create sample ads and zones or look at what other people have created. You can also look at the code generation process, and play with just about everything the ad service offers.

This fully functional demo convinced me to give AdSpeed a try. Adspeed offers a 10-day free trial (maximum 50,000 impressions for the period), and also a 30-day money back guarantee.


AdSpeed Day One (June 7, 2008)
Signing up is fast and easy. I selected the 10-day free trial which has 50,000 max impressions, filled in a few entries and in just seconds, I received an email with my activation.

The user interface is mostly text-based with embedded help in the right sidebar, and also helpful links for most of the fields and parameters you chose. This is good! I do not like unnecessary graphics, and this looks like it was designed with a speedy workflow in mind.

Then next major step was to create a zone, a spot on the blog where the ads would be running. Once you create a zone, then you have to create ads that run in that zone.

Creating ads was fast too, you can use traditional HTML links (image and destination link), or cut/paste the ad code in a window, or text-links or for an additional fee upload your ad banner/media to the Adspeed server. I am not using that optional feature at the moment, nor I plan to.

You can have multiple size ads in the same ad zone (same ad spot on your blog), so you can mix and match 125x125 boxes with 120x600 banners and just about anything else. I like this freedom of choice. But obviously you have to be careful to use these in blog templates that are free-flowing. If you have a fixed template, you have to make sure that the ad sizes you pick are visually and practically compatible with your template. Also note that the generated Javascript code includes the ad-sizes, so it's a good idea to first add all the ads to a zone, and then generate the "serving code" that goes on to your website's designated ad spot.

Adding the ads was fairly easy to do as well. Within a few minutes I added four different ads, and added the zone code (choice of javascript or iframe) to my blog. And voila, without any waiting, the ads were up and running. I did a few reloads and sure enough I saw the different ads I had picked. I also tested them to make sure they work. Remember not to click on any of your own CPC/PPC ads though!

And there was no wait for the reports to start getting populated either. The main stats page automatically updates every 15 seconds. You can also drill down to a multitude of reports, the sheer volume and options of which was overwhelming at first sight. If you love reports, you will love this feature! They also have charts (area, line, column, 3d column), and the charts are generated using Flash. If you are running Adblock or Flashblock, you will have to manually enable the charts.

Adspeed also has an affiliate program for referring new clients, which I discovered while using their Help pages.

Overall I'm very impressed on Day One. I do have a small workflow issue though: When you create an ad, a new information page loads that says the creation was successful and if you want to do anything else you have to click on something again and load a new page. I think it would be more efficient if the confirmation happened in the previous page, or the confirmation page included direct action options. That would save an extra page load and speed up the ad data entry process.


AdSpeed Day Two (June 8, 2008)
The first stumble I had was trying to have specific ads run for specific regions, for example, eBay France for French readers. The restrictions page within the ad itself is way too long and overwhelming. Apparently you have to fill 20+ fields of information even if you only want to restrict an ad for one of the parameters. Or perhaps I don't quite understand how this feature works yet. This was a problem with my browser, namely Firefox 3 Release Candidate 1. I tried the same task with IE7 after talking to customer service, and it worked just fine as expected. You pick a restriction from a drop down menu, add the restriction rules, and add it up. Then you can add more restrictions if you like. This is a very nice feature actually. Hopefully Firefox 3 release candidate 2 will have fixed the issue. Will post an update after I download and retry it with Firefox3 RC2.

Another option for geo-dividing ads is to use Zones. Each zone has a backup zone, and you can daisy-chain zones. So for example Zone A restricts French viewers, and its back up, Zone B has an ad for French viewers. Similarly you could restrict Italian viewers in Zones A and B, and have an eBay Italy ad in Zone C. Of course in the case of eBay, you can just let the new eBay affiliate geo-tagging links figure it out on their own.

I also "discovered" Groups, which is only an organizational tool. You cannot use Groups to run ads but you can use it to run reports.

Speaking of reports, after a few hours of playing with them, they are no longer overwhelming. I'm not afraid of you reports!!! One very minor thing that is missing from the hourly reports under the "Basics" category is horizontal totals (line totals) for ad impressions. For example, you can see how many impressions per hour each ad had, but there's no total for each particular ad. Now if it's a small number of hours and impressions you can do the math in your head, but for a busy day, a horizontal total in the Hourly report would be great! Please note that you can get the totals if you check the Daily or Weekly or Monthly or Yearly reports. I am only "complaining" about the Hourly report. This feature has been added to the AdSpeed Hourly Reports - in blazing speed I should add!

Another thing that I'm not sure it can be done straight up is to give a specific ad different weights in different zones. For example if I want Ad #4 to have a weight of 8 in Zone A and a weight of 3 in Zone B, the only way to do this (as far as I can tell) is to create the ad twice. That doesn't take long to do, but if you are doing this for multiple ads, it may create some clutter and confusion.

For those who like to multi-task heavily, you will find the user interface irritating because most of the options when using the ad-service can't open in a new window. You have to continue doing stuff in the same window. If you are a heavy multi-tasker this is very annoying. If you type with two fingers and do one thing at a time, this is a non-issue, but if not, this feels like a roadblock.


AdSpeed Day Three (June 9, 2008)
I submitted a question to the customer support during the weekend, and had detailed and on-the-money answers before noon on Monday! That is very good!

And after the CS email, it looks like the issue I was talking above on restrictions per ad was a problem with Firefox 3 Release Candidate 1. I tried the same task with IE7 and works just fine! I have updated that area under Day Two to reflect this, see the Updated paragraph.

Added a second ad spot, a traditional banner which is served through Adbrite. Trying to figure out whether to use the banner (horizontal) or the skyscraper (vertical) as my feature ad-spot to optimize. Adspeed will hopefully be a good tool in figuring this out!

Also added a new segment below on the practical benefits so far.


AdSpeed Day Four (June 10, 2008)
I must say I'm very impressed with the speed of Adspeed's customer service. One of the items I mentioned in my feedback was that the Hourly reports did not have horizontal (line-item) totals. And now this feature has been added to the AdSpeed site! Well done Adspeed team and thanks! Details.

The ad server itself is going along, serving and measuring two different ad spots as mentioned above.


Week #1 continues
I was just amazed at how fast I was able to add an Amazon Father's Day last-minute gift card banner ad, give it a high priority so it would run through Father's Day, and see it go live, all in a manner of 200 seconds! The AdServer behind the scenes appears to be blazing fast! The web-based user interface is not blazing fast, but there's no need for it to be.


Week #2
Switched from the free trial to the Premium 100 plan (100K monthly ad-impressions for $10/month). Signing up for the plan is very fast and easy. They prorate the current month at the current rate (eg half of $10 for the remaining half of June) and then bill you on the first of each month for the new month.

I have already experimented with the traditional vertical skyscraper ads (160x600, 120x600, etc), and the traditional banner (468x60) ads. Next experiment will be the 125x125 boxes which seem to be very popular among the bloggers out there. Since Adspeed allows flexible ad sizes (assuming of course they fit into your blog's template), I will also try a few other sizes in the same spot, eg 120x90, 120x60, etc. More on these after the experiment gets under way.

The AdSpeed server has been very reliable, I have not seen an instance of a page load where an ad was not loaded. Not only that, but changes seem to propagate in mere seconds, which is quite impressing.

In comparison, when you make a typo in a url using Adbrite (this is the url displayed unless you have Adbrite ads that meet your minimum CPM rate), you have to wait for a few hours before the new new url is picked up by their system. And I have noticed that in some instances AdBrite misfires and does not deliver an ad (either time-out or nothing). Of course Adbrite is a different service, but the reason I am mentioning it is that one of my experiments was delivering the AdSpeed ads through AdBrite, which obviously adds an extra layer.

If you have any questions, please leave them as comments or send via email (email is the name of the blog at gmail dot com). Name of the blog before the blogspot.com in the url, and after the http:// :)

Stay tuned for more rumblings...



Practical and Tangible Benefits of AdSpeed so far
So what are the practical and tangible benefits for my blog with AdSpeed? It's too early to tell in terms of monetization, but here are the practical benefits:
  1. Able to mix in affiliate ads, traditional ads, and my own promotional ads with just a few clicks.
  2. Solid statistical data that lets me double-check what the individual ad and affiliate networks are reporting in terms of traffic and ad impressions. It's the old Trust but Verify.
  3. I am starting to see by looking at the AdSpeed data that the horizontal banner is more successful than the skyscraper/vertical block. Both above the fold. Without the data from AdSpeed, figuring this out would have been very time consuming as I would have to go through multiple ad/affiliate reports, and that's assuming that I tagged each one with a unique identifier. This was one of the big questions I was curious about, and it looks like Adspeed is providing an efficient way to answer this.
  4. Able to use Chitika and eBay as alternatives in countries I don't have affiliate/ad programs. So instead of showing them ads of retailers that don't ship to their country, I am using Chitika and eBay. Chitika's International program covers a number of countries including France, Italy, UK, and Australia. By eBay I am referring to the new eBay affiliate program ran by eBay, not the old one ran by Commission Junction. Apparently now eBay is also avaialble through Pepperjam. That's something else I may try and live-blog as well.
  5. Individual ad restrictions allow me to not show specific ads when a store is not taking orders or their website is down for maintenance or other reasons (even Amazon has an occasional hickup). Some stores are not taking orders at certain times for religious reasons, so showing an affiliate ad at that time does not help the affiliate.
  6. Flexible ad size allows me to create a more dynamic look in the sidebar, so you can get a tiny ad box or a giant 160x600 skyscraper. This of course assuming you have a blog template that is not fixed in size. Doing this for banner ads (horizontal) is more difficult, even if you have a flexible template, since screen sizes vary from computer to computer. I am keeping the banner ad fixed to 468x60 at the moment.
  7. You can serve multiple ads per slot. For example if you have a zone that is composed of lots and lots of 125x125 boxes, you could show two or three or four them.



This is an on-going review!
This is an on-going review, it will be updated frequently. I cannot promise daily updates, but I will try to post updates as often as I can.


Feedback and Questions?
Please leave your comments or questions or thoughts or thoughts in the Comments section right below.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

New Career Path: Chief Blogger!

That's right fellow bloggers! We now have a new career path option: To be the Chief Blogging Officer of a company! One of the big Dow companies, Eastman Kodak has created a new position, the Chief Blogger!

The first person to get this position is Jenny Cisney, and she is responsible for Kodak's two main blogs, along with Kodak's online presence and social media, a must these days as well as Web 2.0 continues to expand. Who is this very high profile blogging executive? Meet Jenny Cisney!

So dust up that resume, update your job search profile, and add "Chief Blogger" as one of the positions that you are interested in looking at!

Blog Tip #25: How to defend from typos costing you Amazon Associate sales

If you are using the Amazon Affiliates program, and you create links manually, you have to append your Amazon affiliate ID to the url in order to get credit with a sale. However, since this is a manual effort, no matter how careful you are, and how much you double-check, there will be times when you will enter the wrong affiliate ID, which means any sales generated won't be credited to you.

While there's no way to prevent this from happening, we do have a tip for you that can help minimize its impact: Every time you have a typo, add that mistyped ID to your Amazon Affiliate Tracking IDs.

Why? Because your typing style is likely to have created the same typo in the past, and will likely create the same typo in the future. So defend yourself from the same typo biting you over and over by adding it to your Tracking IDs!

Also, if you know that you are mistyping a word on a regular basis, and you use that word as part of your Amazon affiliate ID, add the mistyped name to your list of IDs!

Obviously we as affiliate users have no control over the "-20" part, so that you have to really be careful to type it right!

How will you know this Tip helped?
You can thank me later when you look at your Amazon Reports and see Clicks or even Affiliate Sales from the mistyped tracking IDs :-)

Monday, March 24, 2008

eBay to launch own eBay Partner Network (affiliate program), to partially drop Commission Junction

eBay is going to launch its own partner network (affiliate program) and it will depart from Commission Junction. This is only for eBay sites, some of the other eBay properties will remain with CJ. Details on the press release directly from eBay. More details on the new eBay Affiliates page. Registration on the new program will begin on April 1st, 2008. No, it's not an early April Fool's day joke. This is for real!

eBay has created a very simplistic blog, named the ePN blog that will hopefully over time provide more details. After all, April 1st is just a week away!

And if you read through the previous notes you may have noticed that there is a 5% incentive for people to switch over to the new affiliate program right away! So if you do have eBay sales, and it's not a big pain to switch over (we don't know how painful it will be yet), you can make some extra $$$. eBay on CJ will remain active until May 1st, to give bloggers and webmasters enough time to switch their links. Oh the pain!

Since eBay uses the rover.ebay structure for links already created via the eBay site, we can hope that those links won't be affected or at least can be easily edited, instead of having to be replaced. But this is only speculation! We have to wait and see what eBay says!

eBay is a good way to monetize your site, but don't expect cash to fall out of the sky. This also depends obviously on your content, readers and traffic. But for specific niches or product categories, people may be interested in taking a look at eBay listings and bidding/buying stuff. Please keep in mind the affiliate program is a PPA (pay per action) program, so you only get paid if people buy stuff on eBay or sign up for eBay.

If you don't want to deal with all the details, there's also the option of using Shopping Ads, formerly known as Auction Ads. They are basically building a shell around the eBay affiliate program, and all you have to do is create the banner ads and specify which keywords you want to use. Because of that, it is compatible with Google Adsense, since it is keyword-based, not contextual, which is what Adsense is allergic to when it comes to the competition. Achoo! Not sure if or how they will be affected with the transition of eBay from CJ to the eBay Partner Network.


Reactions on the Net
The story got some traction at various sites as you can expect since it affects eBay. For example, it made it to Forbes.com. And a short discussion of this at the WebMaster World forums.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Is a Google Page Rank Update in progress?

We have noticed that the page rank of some sites as reported by the SearchStatus status bar is different from their regular page rank. After doing a few page rank searches using various page rank checking websites, we discovered that different servers are indeed reporting different numbers for different sites!

For example, these websites report results from multiple data servers: PR Checking Tool (select the 30 Data Centers - slow method), iWebTool, and SmartPageRank.com (click on "All Data Centers" in the right side of the page).

The Chitika RPU is now open to all publishers!

Chitika has just made their RPU feature available to all their publishers! This is great news! RPU are pay per click ad units that are designed to go at the end of a blog post or a review or an article, and are low-key, and they provide readers related products to what are being discussed in the blog post or article!

The other good news is that RPU and most of the other Chitika products that don't use "sensing" are compatible and even complimentary to Google Adsense! Chitika has produced in association with five expert bloggers a mini-series on Chitika and Adsense. Enjoy! This is a nice read as it has helpful suggestions and recommendations in general! This is the RPU & Adsense specific tip.


Not a Chitika Publisher yet?
If you are not a Chitika publisher yet, consider signing up with Chitika! You can use the link in this paragraph and thank us for the tip at the same time :)

Get Chitika eMiniMalls

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Blog Tip #24: Don't forget to factor in Cookie Duration in your Affiliate programs

One of the parameters of affiliate monetization that sometimes gets overlooked is the cookie duration. After a recent conversation with an affiliate program representative, I decided to look into cookie duration in some more depth. Here are my thoughts:

There doesn't seem to be a cookie cutter approach (pardon the intentional pun) to deciding which affiliate programs to use based on cookie duration. There are many dimensions to consider. One of the most important ones is obviously your content. Consider these two extreme case scenarios: Assume you have a blog on chocolate cates and you have an affiliate link to an elephant biology bookstore. What are the chances that your readers will revisit the elelphant biology bookstore again? Probably slim. So whether the elephant biology bookstore has a cookie duration of 2 days or 2 years, it probably won't help much.

On the other hand, assume you have a blog on HDTVs, and you have an affiliate link to a popular retailer that specializes in HDTVs. The chances of your readers re-visiting that site are much higher. So a longer cookie duration increases your chances of a commission!

But things are never that simple. Usually you have to trade-off the commission percentage with the cookie duration. What do you do? Do you use a retailer with a 4% commission but a 3-day cookie, or do you use a retailer with a 1% commission but a 60-day cookie? How do you trade them off?

If your links are something short-therm, eg a weekend sale, or a clearance sale, or a while supplies last offer, you may want to take your chances on the higher commission percentage than the longer duration. But if it's a general purpose link, you have to do some thinking and experimenting to see what works better for you.

Yet another dimension to this are your readers. Are they "buyers", "browsers", "surfers", "bargain hunters", "techaholics"? Also is your blog or site a destination or a hub? This can also affect your strategy.

Another thing to consider is that the more popular a site is, the more likely other sites and blogs might be using their affiliate program, and if your readers are visiting multiple websites, then the chances of your cookie being overridden are higher, so perhaps a shorter cookie duration is not as much of an issue.

From my experience, the longer cookie durations are better suited for specialty retailers that are known and referenced by your readers, but they are not the super popular mass market sites that people visit and bloggers use as affiliates all the time. This increases your chances that your readers will go back to that site to look or shop, and decreases the chances of other websites having links to them.

You can also scale down the above example if your blog is covering a very specific market segment, and your readers are avid followers of that segment. In that case, replace the "mass market site" mentioned above, with the leaders in the field that are frequently used by other sites and blogs as affiliates. Instead go for the second tier in popularity for the longer term cookie duration. By second tier, I don't mean second tier retailers, but second tier in mass-market popularity.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Thanks OpenJason.com!

We'd like to thank OpenJason for adding this blog to their blog list. Open Jason is a great resource site, where you will find all sorts of handy and practical information to help improve, optimize, and boost your website and blog.

Here are some examples of helpful posts from OpenJason: 40 Open Source system utilities, detailed tips on how to improve your Technorati rank, something that I really need to do, a great list of online website and blog tools, and lots more.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Blog Tip #23: Free RSS feed buttons and icons to boost your subcribers



RSS feeds and subscribers are one of the areas of interest for those who want to expand their blog's reach and boost their measurables. The great Problogger site has 11 tips on boosting your subscription. For those not familiar with RSS feeds and such, Problogger has posted an RSS Introduction

So to build upon what ProBlogger is saying above, we have looked around the net to find some FREE eye-catching buttons that you can feature on your blog to advertise your RSS feed. The buttons are free, but it's nice to thank the people offering them, and give them some LL on your blog/site. The green button we use in this posted is provided by Nyssajbrown.net.

Here are four sites that have a large variety of buttons and icons of diferent sizes, shapes and colors:

  • Mouse Runner
  • Nyssajbrown.net
  • Garcya
  • Snap Objects

  • Thursday, January 31, 2008

    Blog Tip #22: Add your blog feed to Rating Burner

    Rating Burner is a relatively new website that can help get your blog and blog feed to and get some exposure. It was recently featured at the Daily Blog Tips blog.

    One of the extra benefits of Rating Burner is that you can post an HTML code on your blog with your ad-rate, and advertisers looking at blogs through Rating Burner can find blogs that they might be interested in advertising on. This may be a very good way to get your blog exposed to advertisers! This is very simple to, just follow the simple instructions at Rating Burner.

    Recent posts