July 31, 2012, 5:00 am

Adsense Optimisation for PF Blogs

by: The Financial Blogger    Category: Make Money Online

 

Let’s Start this morning with a Bomb!

handgrenade

A while ago, I was chatting with Teacher Man, from My University Money and he was asking me questions about my business model. Beware bloggers, there is a serious player coming into the picture with PF bloggers who make money. And I’m doing everything I can to help him out, hahaha! One of his questions was regarding how to optimize Adsense.

 

I’m well aware that this won’t be the first Adsense optimization article you will have read in your life. However, this is probably the first one that is being written by a PF blogger for PF bloggers. Is the personal finance niche that different from other niches? Maybe, maybe not. But there is one thing I know for sure: I generate over $100/day with it and have tried several methods to get here 😉. I’ve separated the article in 3 parts: The Obvious, The Not So Obvious and the Smart Moves to try. Enjoy!

 

The Obvious for Adsense

 

Who See Ads Plugin

One of the very first things to do if you have a blog is to add the “Who See Ads plugin”. This plugin allow you to manage your Adsense code in a professional way. Imagine if you want to sell your blog one day (and it happens frequently these days!) but you have entered your Adsense code manually? OMG! The buyer won’t be happy… or you will have to spend hours to change the Adsense code across all your articles.

 

Who See Ads enable the blogger to include “in-content” Adsense blocks which is definitely among the most profitable ad spots on your pages. Most visitors will focus on your content and ignore your side bars. This is why adding ads within your content is a great way to make a few bucks out of your articles.

 

But there is more to this plugin. It also allows you to display different ad sizes depending on the “age” of your article. You can choose to not display Adsense code for the first 3 days after you publish your post. Therefore, your loyal and regular visitors are not bugged by your ads (they don’t click much on ads anyways!). I use this plugin with 2 different settings:

 

#1 a 480×60 block right away (to not bug too of many my regular readers) and a 336×280 ad 2 weeks later (for those who come from search engines).

 

#2 no ads for a week and a 336×280 after a week.

 

Both strategies have the same goals: keep my loyal readers on board by showing them as little advertising as possible and get new visitors coming from search engines to generate money. These visitors usually come to your blog to search specific information. There is nothing best than contextual advertising for them. Adsense does a good job at this.

 

Focus on Search Engine Visitors. Have you ever wondered who clicks on your ads? It’s a pretty good question, huh? The exact answer is impossible to find. Are they men or women? Young visitors or older? Loyal readers or first time visitors? It’s very hard to narrow them down to the portrait of the “perfect clicker”. But after 5 years in the business (wow… 5 years!) I can say that I’ve found a trend. Search engine visitors are more likely to click on your ads than others. Why? I can’t really tell. My guess is that they come on your site because they already clicked on your link from Google and they are searching for specific information. If they see an ad that is related to what they are looking for (this is the main purpose of Adsense), they are more likely to click on it and go to that other site. I’ve done several analyses on my sites and I noticed that the pages for which I rank well are also my best Adsense income earning pages.

 

 

The Not So Obvious for Adsense

 

The not so obvious part of Adsense comes from trial and error. I’ve tried several things so far with my sites and here are the conclusions:

 

Text-only sometimes work better. According to Google, text & image blocks are the ones that perform best. I constantly receive notes to that effect as I don’t always use images in my ad spots. I’ve noticed that more “serious” or “focus” sites perform better with text only spots. I guess these visitors are more interested in clicking on a link than on an image. As a matter of fact, I simply ignore all images published on any site I visit as my brain knows it is probably an ad! The only way to know if your site is part of this category is to try it. I can tell you that it had a huge impact on some of my site (like a 34% increase in income!).

 

Blend Advertisement. What is more ugly than purple on green? This is why you need to blend your color to the maximum. I usually try to take the same title color or link color of my page to design my ad blocks. I also use a pale color (light gray) for description and url. Therefore, title gets the most attention. On some sites, I’ve used a black color for the description part and that also works well. Here again, trial and error!

 

Bigger blocks do perform well. Unfortunately, huge blog such as 336×280 are among the most productive income ads. They are huge but they offer a great opportunity to show a good description of the site they are advertising. I notice that each time I use this big block, I get more clicks! I prefer the 250×250 in terms of design but it doesn’t pay as well! So if you have to plug an ad block somewhere, use the big ones! Small ads are completely useless most of the time so use them if an additional “ad” fits better than nothing in your design.

 

How to Focus on Search Engine Visitors.  In the first section of this post, I wrote that you need to focus on Search Engine visitors to increase your Adsense revenue.  Back in October 2011, I took off most AdsenseblocksfromTFB (you can read why I did this in that post). I mentioned that I was sacrificing $4,200 in annual income to improve my readers’ experience on my blog. 6 months later, I can say that my 20 Adsense blocks placed in specific posts are earning almost the same revenue:

 

Jan 2011 – Oct 2011

Nov 2011 – Apr 2012

Adsense Income

$4 672,03

$2 091,46

Average per month

$467,20

$348,58

 

As you can see, I am more losing $1,200 to improve my blog rather than $4,200. This also showed me that search engines are a big part of Adsense income! I basically used my Google Analytics and saw my top 20 pages viewed for the past 12 months (those who still get traffic after being published) and I added my Adsense code on these articles.

 

The Smart Moves to Make for Adsense

 

There is something I haven’t done yet but will do this month (and should have done YEARS AGO!) is to create channels for EACH Adsense block. Fortunately, I was smart enough to create an Ad channel for each blog so I can track which blog is better for click through rate (CTR) or $ per mile impression (previously the eCPM, now called the RPM). So, month after month  I can track which sites perform well and can figure out why. BUT I’m leaving a lot of info on the table by now narrowing my channels.

 

I usually use 2 to 3 spots (3 being the maximum Adsense allows you to publish on a page). Therefore, I have no clue if one of my blocks is generating 80% of my revenue on this blog! If it’s the case, I would probably be able to switch the low performing ads to another type of ad network (an affiliate link for example!). Or I could simply remove this ad placement and change it for another spot on the page (when you don’t make money, there is no use  publishing annoying ads, right?). The only thing I need to do is to go back into my Adsense account, create new channels and see it run. It’s not that hard, but it’s boring ;-). You have to look at your data a month after and see what worked well and what doesn’t. The month after, you have to work on modifications and track your new results. I will use a 1 month trial period for each modification in order to have sufficient data on each site. After all, you can get a $12 click that will change your data completely over 3-4 days. However, if you take the data over 30 days, the one shot click won’t weigh too much.

 

You Want More?

 

I’ve asked a few other bloggers to provide their tips too! Here’s what they have to say:

 

Kyle @ Amateur Asset Allocation

 

“you shouldn’t underestimate how well ad blocks positioned to capture exit clicks can be. At the bottom of the post and lower down on the page near the navigation (lower right sidebar on my site) can do well.

But adsense income is mostly about keywords in my experience. Certain topics just convert and others just don’t. The best tip is to just test, test, test. The best practices just might not work as well on your site for whatever reason.”

Phil @ PT Money

“A recent tip I was reminded of is to ensure your most effective ad (the one that gets the most clicks) is also the “first” adsense ad. Meaning, it’s where the highest bidding ads would go on the page. http://joelcomm.com/are-your-ads-in-order.html

Craig @ Free From Broke

“Take adsense “tips” with a grain of salt. They tell you to opt-in for text and image ads as well as tell you that you have more room on the site for ads.

Do what works for you and test.

Related, their heat map shows up top before your content as a great spot BUT the other folks at Google want you to put your reader first. Don’t hog up the ‘above-the-fold’ space with ads.

In other words, many people see this heat map

Click here

but really they should be following this:

Click here

 

Mike @ Money Smarts Blog

“My advice is that after the basic ad positioning/blending stuff – don’t bother with optimization until you have enough traffic/income to make small incremental improvements worth the effort.

Unless you have a sizeable income, there are too many other things which have higher ROI.”

 

Dough Roller:

 
1. It’s not uncommon to see folks place a large adsense unit at the start of a post. I took mine out some time ago because I didn’t like hitting my readers with a big ad right from the start. But my revenue didn’t go down. My clicks did. But I found that clicks form that ad unit didn’t pay nearly as well as clicks from ads in sidebars or at the end of the post. Google has gotten much better at evaluating the value of a click. My theory is that a lot of those clicks from the ad at the start of the post were low value clicks.

2. I recently changed my site from 3 columns to 2. That meant losing the ad unit in my left sidebar. I was sure my adsense revenue would go down significantly. It didn’t. Again, clicks went down, but revenue per click went up. I think the takeaway here is to test everything; don’t assume.

3. I recently added an ad unit at the end of my posts. Based on tests I’d run several years ago, I didn’t have much confidence that it would do well. I was dead wrong. Adsense revenue up about 40%.

4. Finally, I’ve always found it important to evaluate adsense revenue in the context of total revenue to your site. You can do things that may increase adsense revenue but lower overall revenue. In contrast, there have been times when I’ve made changes that lowered adsense revenue, but increased overall revenue to the site.

Readers, I have much more to say about Adsense and I thought of doing a complete eBook on Adsense monetization, would you be interested in reading it?

 

 

image credit

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July 30, 2012, 5:00 am

Carnival of Personal Finance #372: Olympic Sports I Would Be Good At

by: MD    Category: Financial Rambling

Welcome to the #372nd edition of the Carnival of Personal Finance.

With the summer Olympics starting, I wanted to think about Olympic sports that I would be good at. I was going to throw myself into the Olympics this year, but I was tied up with lots of blogging work and just couldn’t make it to the trials. I wanted to write about the sports that I was debating trying out for had I not been so busy with blogging.

Let’s break down the categories and sports that I would have done well in.

I would like to hear about what Olympic sport you think you would be good at. Are you a runner? Are you a jumper?

Editors Picks.

100m race: A hundred metres isn’t so bad. You finish the race in a few seconds and your job is over. Seems like something I would be good at. I might even do the 200m race.

Martin (me) from Start Freelancing Now presents How You Can Start Freelancing Right Now, and says, “the most detailed post on covering how you can make money through freelancing.”

Glen Craig from Free From Broke presents Best Gear to Rock a Mobile Office, and says, “These days you don’t need to be confined to a cubicle in order to get work done. More people are location independent. Here’s the best gear to rock a mobile office.”

FMF from Free Money Finance presents The 52 Best Money Saving Tips, and says, “There are hundreds of money saving tips available these days. The sheer number of ideas can be so overwhelming that many people just give up and do nothing. So in the spirit of applying the 80-20 rule to your finances — finding the best ideas that give you the most results for your efforts — I’ve taken a stab at providing a list of the BEST money saving tips.”

Credit.

Wrestling: I did wrestling in high school and have done BJJ the past few years. I could see myself going in there and throwing some people around. I would probably cut some weight to wrestle in a smaller weight class. I would have my own theme music and manager too — oh wait, that’s the wrong type of wrestling.

Lance from Money Life & More presents How To Pull Your Free Annual Credit Report, and says, “I’ve seen a lot of talk on personal finance blogs about buying credit scores and credit reports. If you don’t care what your credit score number is and just want to make sure everything on your actual credit file disclosure (commonly referred to as a credit report) is accurate this post is for you.”

Bethy from Credit Karma Blog presents How to Win the Gold Medal of Credit Card Management, and says, “The 2012 Olympics Games are upon us! For the next 16 days we’ll watch the world’s greatest athletes battle it out for those coveted medals. Just as these athletes have trained for years to perfect their sport, so should you train yourself to achieve good credit health.”

Ray from Squirrelers presents You Can’t Work Forever: 5 Reasons Your Retirement Will be Sooner than Expected, and says, “Many of us think that retirement is something far off in the future. The reality is that many of us many retire sooner than we expect to, as this post discusses.”

Money Management.

Rowing: I love chilling by the beach. I like to swim as well. Rowing at the Olympic level would allow me to enjoy beaches around the world.

TTMK from Tie the Money Knot presents A Prenup: Good or Bad Idea?, and says, “Money can be a great thing, but it can also cause conflict. Given how this impacts relationships, we ask the question: are prenups a good idea, or bad.”

Mike from Experiglot presents 10 Ways You Can Make More Money Now, and says, “Are you ready to increase your income?”

Miss T. from Prairie Eco Thrifter presents Who Needs Umbrella Liability Insurance, and says, “We went for years without having any umbrella liability insurance and didn’t have any trouble. We couldn’t really afford the premiums (heck we could barely afford the life, health, auto and home insurance) and didn’t feel that we had enough assets that anyone would want to come after us.”

CF from The Outlier Model presents Don’t donate to charity, and says, “Feel like donating your money to a good cause? Think twice before donating to your favorite charity – they might not be as charitable as you thought! Donating your time to a good cause is often more effective.”

Robert from My Multiple Incomes presents Improve Your Small Business Cash Flow, and says, “If you run a small business, cash flow can sometimes be an issue. If you’re working on a big project, income may not always line up with expenses. It is essential that you maintain a good reserve of cash. Here are some ways to boost your cash flow if you find yourself in this situation”

Roshawn Watson from Watson Inc presents Breaking Bad Financial Habits, and says, “Our financial lives consist of patterns. That doesn’t mean that the habits themselves can’t change.”

Saving.

Weightlifting: More weights equals more dates, right? I would go in there and just max out the bench press. My only concern would be that they enough weights for me to lift.

Myscha from Financial Highway presents Cheap Healthy Meals, and says, “Putting cheap healthy meals on the family dinner table can feel like a military operation on a good day, let alone on one where you have soccer practice, parent conferences and a traffic jam thrown into the mix. Here are ten recommendations, none of which require a tremendous amount of time.”

Dan Meyers from Your Life Their Life presents 12 ways I stay frugal, and says, “Here are 12 things I do regularly to stay frugal – and we’ve learned to make it fun!”

Jefferson from See Debt Run presents Six Ways To Listen to Music Online For Free, and says, “There are many great websites available that allow for you to listen to music online for free. Detailed are Pandora, Slacker Radio, Spotify, Google Play, & NPR.”

Taxes.

Cross-country mountain biking: I love going for bike rides. I imagine at the olympic level that this would be a pretty scenic route.

Peter from Bible Money Matters presents Buying Online To Avoid Sales Tax, And Not Paying Use Tax? Congress May End That Soon, and says, “For a while now some governors have resisted making changes to existing laws to require businesses to collect sales taxes on online sales. Now, however, many states are cash strapped and looking for ways to increase revenue. Requiring businesses to collect the sales tax would be one way to do that.”

Investing.

J.P. from Novel Investor presents How Often Should You Do An Investment Review?, and says, “Tracking your investments is more than glancing at those monthly statements. A regular investment review needs to be done.”

Mike from Do Not Wait presents Why You Should Focus on Skills in Retirement Planning, and says, “Why your skills are critical to increase your retirement savings.”

Eric from Narrow Bridge Finance presents Investing in Fine Art, and says, “On Saturday afternoon, I went to an art gallery and bought my first very high quality painting. I have graduated from the college days of posters to the grown up days of fine art. A lot went through my head before I handed over my credit card.”

Career.

SB from One Cent at a Time presents Top 5 Financial Aid mistakes students make, and says, “In an era of spiraling student loan debt, every student should avoid any kind of student aid mistake that can increase student loan debt further. This article lists 5 most common mistakes american students commit.”

Real Estate.

Earth and Money from Earth and Money presents Seven Reasons for Renting over Buying, and says, “There’s a lot of reasons to buy property, but sometimes its better to rent. Here’s seven reasons why renting is better than buying.”

Finance.

Bryan from Gajizmo.com presents Millionaires By The Numbers – Up Close and Personal, and says, “Meet the millionaires of the United States. With 8% of all U.S. households qualifying as millionaires, the million-dollar club is more attainable than ever with the right financial habits and attitude.”

Neal Frankle from Wealth Pilgrim presents How To Retire Without A Retirement Plan, and says, “People automatically think about retirement plans when they try to figure out how to retire. That’s because when it comes to having enough money to retire, the tax deductibility of qualified plans provides a significant boost to investment returns.”

Budgeting.

Henry Keegan from TotallyMoney presents Slush Fund vs Emergency Fund, and says, “Helpful tips about budgeting and how to keep your emergency fund only for emergencies”

Philip from PT Money presents Conquer Your Monthly Expenses, and says, “Tips for reducing and optimizing your monthly expenses.”

Other.

Martin from Studenomics presents How to Move on a Budget, and says, “This article will help you figure out how to move without breaking the bank.”

Sammy from Channel Positivity presents 45 Little Life Reminders, and says, “Sometimes you have to find the positive in a dark situation.”

Bridgette Stevenson from My University Money presents Packing for University, and says, “Preparing for university is a task which can be extremely stressful, time consuming, and comes with many new responsibilities. As I assume many freshmen students are at this time of year, I have begun anticipating the move to my new home come fall, in an on campus dorm…”

Paula Wethington from Monroe on a Budget presents When “full time” college class schedules don’t get you graduating on time, and says, “One of the topics that emerged when I looked into the student loan crisis was the amount of time it takes many students to graduate. One of the details that can delay graduation dates is not taking enough classes per semester. I did the math on that detail.”

Oh and I do realize that I would have absolutely no chance at any of these sports. Looks like I will be sticking to blogging. Take care!

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July 27, 2012, 6:05 am

Epicness Time (Free Rant Included)

by: MD    Category: Financial Rambling

I have to get a little rant out here this weekend. I really want to ask you guys something:

Why are so many personal finance bloggers broke?

Is this a common theme? How does this work in other fields? Are fitness bloggers out of shape?

I’m not going to throw anyone under the bus and I’m not trying to offend anyone. I’m just surprised that so many folks that are in debt start personal finance sites.

What do you think about this? Do you want to follow the journey as someone gets out of debt? Did JD Roth of Get Rich Slowly start a new trend?

The most interesting post of the week fits in with this theme:

$25,000 Paid Off, and How We’re Going to Fit in a Vacation: Joan’s Mid-July Financial Update @ Man vs Debt.

I have to give Joan HUGE PROPS for paying off $25,000 worth of debt. That’s amazing. I also give her so much respect for owning up to her real amount of debt owed and sharing it with the world. I love to see stories like this.

I just don’t get the interest in taking advice from someone in debt. I’ve worked hard my whole life to graduate from school debt free, send my parents on a few trips (because we grew up poor), and so that I would never have to owe anyone anything.

Do we like the underdog story? Do we just like to see others overcome a struggle? Why is it that there are so many broke personal finance bloggers?

Time for some carnivals…

Carnival of Financial Planning – Way Too Hot Edition #246 @ Wealth Pilgrim.

Carnival of Personal Finance #371: Proud To Be a 99%er Edition @ Sweating The Big Stuff.

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July 26, 2012, 6:00 am

The Argument Against Following Your Passions (Yes There is One!)

by: MD    Category: Alternative Income

Lately I’ve been pondering if you even need to enjoy your job. I mean, money is money, right? Shouldn’t your main priority be to put food on the table? Should you have to stress about how much you enjoy the actual work that you get paid to do?

Everyone is telling you that you must follow your passions these days. This seems to be the popular topic going around. You know the drill by now. It goes something like this:

  1. Quit your job.
  2. Follow your passions.
  3. Be passionate.
  4. Tell others to follow their passions.
  5. Go on Twitter and brag about how many emails you have.
  6. Brag when you get to “inbox zero.”
  7. Release random products.
  8. Repeat, while being passionate of course.

This seems to be the general follow your passions model that’s going around. Do you have to follow this process?

I don’t think so. As much as I love doing work that I enjoy, I definitely see the other side to the equation here. I understand why some folks don’t care about following their passions or pouring their heart into their work.

What’s the argument against following your passions?

Financial (aka we need money!).

If your current job pays you well and your hitting your financial goals, then what’s the problem? None. It would be nice to start an iguana grooming business that allows you to go rock climbing in Thailand, but it’s not mandatory. Sometimes you just want to make money to pay the bills, build your savings, and go on some trips in the process.

What about the freedom?

Being your own boss sucks.

I won’t lie. I love being my own boss, but it certainly has its downfalls. It really does suck compared to a regular job where you can just leave and not have to worry about anything else.

When I go to my part-time gig I love it. I put in my time and leave.

When you follow your passions you’re responsible for everything. You’re in charge of accounting, marketing, sales, content, communications, and anything else that you can imagine. For some this can be fun. For others this will feel like never ending torture.

You just want to put in your 8 hours.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to put in your 8 hours and then head home to do whatever you want to do. Some of us just want to put in our time at work and then forget about it. Not everyone wants to think about work all of the time. There are better things to focus on and keep you happy.

With your current job you can do your work and not have to worry about other departments or other areas.

This is the article for everyone out there that’s tired of being told to follow their passions. If you like your job, then stick with it. If you like reading personal finance advice, then keep on reading. Just ignore that articles that try to put you down for having a real job.

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July 25, 2012, 5:00 am

Are You Willing to Pay Too Much? Maybe You Should

by: The Financial Blogger    Category: Personal Finance

 

 

A few weeks ago, I read an interesting piece from Allen Tucker who says that it’s best to pay too much. After so many technological progress and the economic phenomenon of globalization, we all expect to pay less, not to pay too much. This concept is totally counter intuitive. Nobody wants to pay too much for something. When you compare what you have with your friends or your neighbour, you always want to be the one who got the deal.

 

I  Hate Paying Too Much

 

I’m the first one to be frustrated when I pay a premium on any goods. If I buy a TV, car or dishwasher, I have this stupid tendency to check flyers and rebates for a month following my purchase. When you think about it, I’m not adding any value by doing this. At best I’ll be wasting an hour or so checking for potential deals that I can’t even benefit from and at worst, I’ll find a better deal than I paid and be frustrated.

 

On the other hand, this “after the fact research” process is only the last step of a bigger process. Each time I have to make an important purchase, I take about a month to identify exactly what I want and establish what the market price is and what is a deal. So far, so good, I’ve been either lucky or just do a good job at researching the right deal in the first place.

 

But I Pay Too Much All The Time, Still…

 

Here’s an interesting twist. I truly hate to pay too much for something, but keep paying too much all the time. How’s that possible? Because I value things I buy and don’t want to go cheap. That was Tucker’s point when he says that he is paying too much for many goods he buys. It makes sense when you think about it: if you pay a higher amount for something, chances are that you are getting more quality and durability. What if you buy something and pay more than the average but it lasts a lot longer? Would it make more sense? I find that quality overcompensates for the price you pay Vs buying cheap stuff for the sole sake that it’s cheap!

 

Here’s a list of things where I really pay the price:

Suits – I’ve bought cheap suits and they don’t last and they look and feel like cheap stuff

Sporting Gear – I have had the same bike for the past 15 years

Electronics – I have the same TV for the past six years (my previous TV lasted 17 years!)

Food – It doesn’t last longer but I guess it will taste better!

Appliances – I have the same microwave for the past 15 years!!! My refrigerator is also pretty old and still running like a new!

Cars – I don’t go crazy with cars but I like them well equipped. It’s better for the resale value and way more comfortable!

Mattress – My sleep is not the same anymore since I paid $2,000 for a mattress!

 

Beware of Cheap

 

The hard part in today’s consumer environment is that some times, expensive is cheap and cheap is expensive. On the other hand, you can also go cheap on some stuff and end-up getting a lot more for your buck. For example, someone who knows how to invest, buying index ETFs or doing stock picking could do well and save a 2% fee charged on mutual funds.

 

There is no free lunch in life; if you save on something, it’s because there is something you are leaving on the table. If you take the investing example; you save on the management fee but you are also leaving professional advice and financial planning on the table. If you don’t get the advice along with the plan and you are still paying the 2%, then you are not on the winning team. If you don’t need advice and financial planning, then you don’t need to pay the 2% fee. I guess it’s the same thing if I was able to make my own clothes; I wouldn’t need to pay for higher quality suits! So I manage my own portfolio and buy suits 😉

 

 

I guess I’m more trying to optimize my money rather than save it!

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