31 May 2009

Making Sense of Google's Adsense Reports

I have been asked a few times about the meaning of some of the data in Google's Adsense reports, so here is a short list plus some strategies to increase earnings.

The basic reports page within Adsense gives numbers for Page Impressions, Clicks, Page CTR, Page eCPM and Earnings.

Page Impressions and Clicks should be fairly obvious. Note that Page Impressions shows the number of times your page or article has been viewed, not the number of ad impressions. So if you have three Adsense units on one page it will still count as one page impression, not three. The Adsense for Feeds data, however, gives the actual number of ad impressions.

Page CTR is the Click Through Rate and is simply the number of Clicks divided by the number of Page Impressions expressed as a percentage. Your Earnings are obviously the total value of all the Clicks and is the actual amount you will be paid once you have accumulated at least $100 in unpaid earnings by the end of a calendar month.

The value that seems to cause some confusion is the eCPM, which is the "effective cost-per-thousand impressions". I have no idea why they have called it this as a "cost" is to the advertisers whereas for publishers like us it is an "income". Anyway, to cut through the confusion, all this number really represents is the your Earnings divided by your Page Impressions - that's all! However, this raw number is likely to be in fractions of a cent so to make it look more meaningful it is scaled up by a factor of one thousand. So if you look at your Adsense earnings and have exactly 1,000 Page Impressions then your eCPM will be exactly the same as your Earnings. One direct comparison that can be made is with those revenue sharing websites that pay per page view. Associated Content pays $1.50 per 1,000 page views and Bukisa pays a variable amount but roughly $3.50 per unique page view. Your eCPM should be much higher than these.

One value that Google does not give in their reports but which I find useful is the average earnings per click. To keep track of this you'll need to download one of the csv files and calculate the figure within a spreadsheet: it is just the Earnings divided by Clicks. These earnings per click (EPC) can then be compared to the theoretical Cost per Click (CPC) published in Google's Keyword Tool, as well as to the Potential Earnings (PE) that I described in my article on finding the most profitable keywords.

So, what can we do with these numbers? The ultimate aim is obviously to increase our total Earnings but a quick look at some of these basic statistics can be a guide to what to do in order to drive up that income.

A high CTR but low eCPM shows that your articles are well-focussed with relevant adverts that people click but with low unit values: this would show up in your spreadsheet as a low EPC. Analyze your pages to see which keywords are being picked up then put these through the Keywords Tool to see whether there are higher paying keyword combinations within the same topic. It may just be a matter of adding more focus to the keywords or writing more articles about very specific areas within your broader topic.

A high eCPM but with low CTR shows that the articles are generating high-value adverts but few people are clicking them. Sadly, your article may be too good! Your article may be so good that readers don't need to look elsewhere, or you may have too many links within your text. Remember that people are more likely to click on a contextual link rather than an obvious advert. Try either taking out all the links or, alternatively, create quick bookmarks and link to those instead. Give people a good reason to want more and hopefully that extra is an advert.

A high eCPM with average CTR but low Page Impressions means having to focus on generating more traffic. Everything seems to be working well apart from the lack of readers. One thing is to link your articles together. This may be a link to your private blog, to an index page or contextual links to previous articles. The other thing is to start promoting your articles on social bookmarking websites. Sure, they don't in themselves earn money directly but they can be a good source of traffic. Don't spam them as they will ban you for it, but try to promote one of your articles plus one other site and you should be fine. One other trick is to do a search for your article's keywords and see which links come in the first two or three pages. Many will be blogs or forums or news sites; if there is an opportunity to comment then do so with a link back to a relevant article. Yet again, spamming can be counter-productive as your comment may be deleted and you will be banned from commenting again.

A very low eCPM is a sign that your articles are just not generating very much income. Writing about philosophy, life, the universe and everything may be personally enriching but it won't fill your wallet. If you're happy doing so then fine. If income is of secondary importance but you'd quite like to dine out at Google's expense every so often then think about mixing a few quick and tightly focused bookmarks to complement your longer articles.

The ultimate aim is to increase one's total Earnings. Hopefully I have shown that even with the basic report data it is possible to see which areas need some work to improve that all-important monthly income. Any other advice you feel I've left out then please leave a comment.

22 May 2009

Articles Wanted on Natural Weight Loss

Title: Natural Weight Loss
Description:I am currently collecting articles related to Natural Weight
Loss, Fitness, and everything related. This is for a holistic web site and
therefore I will only be considering articles written with such an
audience in mind. I'm ONLY buying full-rights articles!
Amount of articles:100
Price per article:$20-30
Length of article:any
Subjects:Natural Weight Loss
Fitness
Exercise
Dangers of "Bad Dieting"
Anything else you think may apply.
Date requested:2009-05-21
Other notes:I am limited to paying $25 for an article, and will accept
ONLY full-rights articles. Please don't waste my time or yours submitting
anything else, it's very annoying and will get you nowhere.

To find out full details please click on one of the links above. This freelance job is being offered by a third party and is listed here On Writing Online for the benefit of writers wishing to earn an income from contract writing. Please do not contact me directly as I have no further details. Thanks and good luck!

20 May 2009

Twitter Account Suspended? What to do next.

What To Do If Your Twitter Account Has Been Suspended

Your Twitter account has been suspended. You're confused and angry and want answers. You're not alone; this is becoming a frequent occurrence and Twitter admin like to hide behind some fairly nebulous terms of service.

The bottom line is that Twitter reserves the right “to refuse service to anyone for any reason at anytime.”. They can suspend your account for any reason without telling you why. If you know why you're account has been suspended then you probably won't need to read this and can merrily go ahead and create another account. If you're afraid of losing the network you have established and any reputation you feel you have gained then read on.

Twitter has gone from a lowly start-up to a major online presence in a short time, but their resources are just not keeping up with their new status. This seems to be affecting both their physical resources such as servers and bandwidth as well as their human resources such as their help system. If you feel that you need to use Twitter then you will have to protect yourself from account suspension and the consequences that arise from it, but that's for another article.

One example of this is that Twitter's help pages have a number of dead links. This look bad and means having to go the long way round to find out how to complain about your account suspension. There seem to be two ways to seek to get your account reinstated.

Twitter Support

Twitter Support currently uses the Zendesk platform to generate help tickets and (hopefully) answer them. This means they have two URLs that point to the same place:

http://help.twitter.com/entries
http://twitter.zendesk.com/entries

If they ever stop using Zendesk then the first URL should still work.

If your account has recently been suspended and has not been deleted then you can login to this helpdesk with the same details as your Twitter account. Some people have found it expedient to create another Twitter account and use those details to open tickets about their suspended account. This can be useful as some users have found they can no longer login to the helpdesk if their Twitter account was terminated. The downside is that if Twitter upholds the original account suspension then you may find your new account also targeted. This choice is yours.

Online companies often hide behind the anonymity the internet affords them and Twitter is no different. You will firstly receive an automated response, which merely means a human may eventually look at your case. Most people's reaction is to then send an angry reply. From reading some people's stories the best way to get your suspended account reinstated is to make a clear logical case that you have done nothing against Twitter's TOS.

Mistakes happen and there are unpleasant people out there who want to take you off the net just because they don't like your politics, religion, race, sexual orientation or whatever. There are also spam rings on Twitter and if you unfortunately follow one of them accidentally you may be flagged as part of the ring. Whatever the reason for your suspension you might, or might not, get to know and can then act upon it either with a new account or your reinstated account.

Get Satisfaction

The second place where you can complain about your Twitter account suspension is at Get Satisfaction. This is similar to Zendesk but has the advantage that it is also a forum and other users can comment on your case and share experiences. This means you're not alone in dealing with Twitter and can see who has been reinstated and who hasn't.

Get satisfaction also has a section of Twitter Known Issues. This lists known bugs on Twitter that have led to various account problems such as the inability to login, tweets or followers gone missing and accounts accidentally blocked. If you had a lot of followers you can try to get them to support your reinstatement here. That, however, assumes you've kept an offline list of your followers: how many people do that?

Will you get your Twitter account reinstated?
Maybe, maybe not.

How long will it take?
How long is an elastic band? They seem woefully under-staffed and have seen accounts reinstated after 2 months!

Is it worth the aggravation?
That really depends on how much effort you've put into your Twitter community. If you really feel you haven't done anything wrong then it is worth pursuing as otherwise you're likely to fall into the same trap with a new account.

Where can I find Twitter's Terms of Service?
Here are Twitter's Terms of Service and Rules Policies. The section that probably affects most people is their Twitter Rules page.

Good luck... just don't hold your breath waiting.

19 May 2009

Articles Wanted on Affiliate Marketing

Title:Affiliate Marketing Blog Post
Description:I am looking for folks with knowledge of affiliate marketing
to write blog posts on the subject. I am looking for exclusive rights to
this content under the unique content category. Again I want to be able
to have some go to writers I can rely on consistently.
Amount of articles:ongoing
Price per article:$40-50
Length of article:500-800
Subjects:The subject again is affiliate marketing and I'm looking for
quality content. I want to be able to review the article in full before
purchase.
Date requested:2009-05-18

Please note, this job is available at Constant Content; to see full details just click on the links and sign up. This is published here for the benefit of readers of On Writing Online and to show that there are freelance opportunities beyond revenue sharing websites, but please do not email me about this as the work is offered by a third party. Thanks.

16 May 2009

Make Extra Money Using Monetized Short URLs in Articles and Twitter

You've all heard of Tinyurl: the short URL service that turns long unwieldy URLs into short ones you can easily post on forums, chatrooms or micro-blogging sites like Twitter. Well, that's nice but now I've found two services that have monetized the short URL market - adf.ly and Linkbee.

How They Work

Linkbee and adf.ly work in very similar ways. Just as you would with Tinyurl, just input your long URL and the services will abbreviate them for you. The diference is that when someone clicks on your link there is an advert before they are taken to the actual website. You are paid for every click-through. As both systems are fairly new the rates tend to vary, but even so, it is an extra bit of income for your contextual links.

The adf.ly service just has interstitial adverts, which are monetized landing pages before automatically going to the actual link, with the user able to click directly to the target website if the advert is of no interest. Linkbee has both interstitial adverts and the option of displaying a banner above the website, which is within a frame. Indeed, Linkbee also has an option not to show any adverts at all so you can also use it just as you would Tinyurl, or any other URL shortening service. The other neat thing about Linkbee is that you can also pick your own link URL (so long as it is still available).

Short URLs in Twitter

If you're using the micro-blogging service Twitter then you'll know that any URL you may enter is automatically abbreviated. Now you can use your own abbreviated URL and make a bit of money out of your tweets. I've tried it and, so long as you keep your URL short then Twitter doesn't abbreviate it a second time. This is also useful in terms of branding your links, which is impossible to do with automatic URL shortening.

Short URLs as Marketing

Tinyurl has been around for a long time and although you can select your own short URL using, for example, your website name, the chances are that anything really good and meaningful has been taken a long time ago. However, both Linkbee and adf.ly are fairly new and there are many good keywords that are still available. So, even if you're not interested in monetizing your links you can still use these services to capture and keep those marketing keywords that are important to you. Once you have created a short URL nobody else can use it (otherwise complete confusion would reign) and you can also change the target URL whenever you want too.

Make Money from Short URLs

However, the main benefit from these services is that you get paid for people clicking your links. Remember that people are more likely to click contextual links than they are text adverts (unless they are really interested in the advert). The actual payouts vary a lot and you will need to check their current rates but are generally about one to two dollars per thousand clicks. This does not, at the moment, seem very high, but remember that this is now an additional revenue stream to any adverts you already have. Both Linkbee and adf.ly will pay via Paypal and have similar minimum payouts of about $15-$20. This means you will need quite a few thousand clicks before first payment but, as already stated, treat this as a nice little bonus. If you publish a lot of bookmarks then this will be a good source of traffic, although do read the TOS of each site as some will allow only the original URL to be posted.

Overall, this seems to me a welcome step forward. Will users be irritated with the adverts? Well, they are not pop-ups or pop-unders so they are really no more intrusive than many corporate websites that have adverts crawling across the screen with a well-camouflaged 'close' button. The links still go to where they are supposed to go, so you're not redirecting users to an altogether different website. It is best to experiment and see if you get any feedback. With Linkbee there is the option to have no adverts at all and it is simple to change this status to any existing URLs you may already have created.

One last thing is that both Linkbee and adf.ly have referral programmes so you can make a bit of extra money by getting your friends to join or promoting your affiliate link. In closing, I think these will be great for Twitter and contextual links.

12 May 2009

Email Me

I've had a few requests about this and, strangely, Blogger doesn't have an email facility without revealing one's email and therefore open to harvesting and spamming.

So, if you'd like to send an email to On Writing Online that isn't related to one of the articles or posts, then please send your message here as a comment. Include a reply email and I will respond directly.

Many Thanks

8 May 2009

Writing for Adsense Revenue: Miracles do Happen!

There has been a lot of recent chat on Xomba about writing online and how to earn a decent amount from Adsense advertising. This shows, firstly, that there are a lot of new members, and secondly, that the advice from older members should be more accurate as they themselves gain in experience. There are, however, a few points that I don't feel have been aired enough.

Do you feel lucky?

There are times when one article will earn hundreds of dollars in just one day. There have even been articles that have made thousands! These are rare, but they do happen. Luck plays a big role in this. But like many other things in life, you need to work at being lucky. I wrote a similar thing about getting a book in print - luck plays a huge part but so does working to generate your own luck. Some things you cannot control and some things you can - concentrate your efforts on those things you can control and prepare to be lucky. This isn't to denigrate those writers who've earned big, but I'm sure they were both very happy and very surprised when an article went viral. They couldn't predict what would happen but they saw the opportunity and worked towards being successful.

Most lotteries like to advertise the obvious fact that if you don't play you can't win. the other obvious fact that they don't advertise is that most people lose. Writing online is similar in that if you don't write you won't earn, that your jackpot is also largely out of your hands, but the difference is that you can actually win something every day.

One of the things that attracted me to Xomba was that I made some money on the very first day - if memory doesn't delude me was 27 cents! - but was more than I was seeing on some other sites. I also found Xomba by accident as a link from a Google search. So, I figured, these people have done their SEO and they know how to place adverts, and they have a layout that encourages interaction and further reading. Not many other writing websites have all of those elements together.

Mix and Max

I must say, I haven't hit a jackpot as yet, however, I have recently had some success with one article generating a few hundred dollars over a couple of week. Firstly, to show what I mean about luck, the same piece was posted in three places - only one of them grew, the other two went to sleep. Why? I think because the audiences are different. We can't control what happens to our writing - who posts a link where - but we can work at analysing what works where. The other thing is that this article isn't even an article: it's a simple bookmark! Again, work at what works and prune the rest.

Writing original content takes time and skill. Whatever you're interested in, try to mix your output in order to maximize it. I've written in my On Writing Online blog that the joys of revenue sharing bookmarking sites is that you can be making money before you've even finished writing your article, just by bookmarking your sources. Don't worry, the chances of anybody following the same trail and duplicating your original article are minuscule. If you can write one or two good articles a day and bookmark maybe half a dozen sites then that's probably a decent day's work.

Drop those dead donkeys

Use your Adsense account data and Google Analytics to see what is working and what isn't. Different writing websites will develop their own communities and styles and what is popular on one site may not be on another. There are only about a dozen revenue sharing writing websites at the moment so worth trying 2 or 3 at the start and maybe drop one that isn't working and try one new one on the list. Use the revenue sharing bookmarking sites to promote your own articles as well as your other bookmarks. Use some of the popular social bookmarking websites to promote your own writing - mix in some of your other bookmarks so you don't get flagged for spamming (you often won't know it, but you will be!).

On the subject of pruning what doesn't work, if you decide to stop writing for a website don't delete your account. Those articles will still be listed and could still be earning. There is one website where I stopped submitting work as it didn't seem worth the time. I'd login once a month just to see if anything was moving and to my surprise found that my earnings were slowly increasing to the point where it was worth putting some effort into it again. Some long tails are longer than others.

Waiting for Lady Luck may not seem much of a strategy but as you can see, I'm not advocating sitting back and waiting for the finger of fate to stab you in the ribs! All your work is slowly but surely loading the dice in your favour. The point I'm trying to make is that the social web is a complex system and that trying to push it doesn't always work - sure, if you already have an army of followers it's easier but if you're reading this then I'd guess you're not at that stage. A better analogy is to scatter your seeds across the social web and, miraculously, some of them will grow and you will reap the harvest. I don't think there are any magic beans waiting to be found.

Wag that long tail

Most sites will also tell you that this is a long-tailed game: the more you write the greater the probability of having some articles do very well while others provide a steady income. What nobody tells you is how long the tail is! I suspect some people just get tired of seeing a few cents here and there and get disheartened. I had to stop writing last December because of travel and having to sort out certain things. I was expecting income from articles already published to trail off, and it did. But what was more worrying was that as I started writing again it just wasn't picking up. Was I doing something wrong?

Well, looking back and looking at the trend the income was actually growing again and steadily. (There was also the issue of advertising revenues across the net falling so this didn't help.) I was just looking at it too closely and on a daily basis there can be huge variations. Download your Adsense data into a spreadsheet and calculate something like a 50-day average; that will give you a good idea of progress. Going from an average of $2 a day to $3 a day doesn't sound like a recipe for giving up the day job as yet, but that's a 50% increase. Another 50% increase did actually take it to $4.50 per day, on average, for the following month, and that means getting paid every month.

So how long has that taken? Well, I'd say if you can hit that within 6 months then you're doing well - perhaps other writers have done better, only they can say. It also depends how much time you're willing to spend not just on the writing but also marketing and analysis. If you hit on a jackpot then these numbers will get blown away and you can start thinking about how to turn this into a decent income - or splashing it all on some object of desire!

Being lucky takes work. Be prepared for it.



Key points

Success = Work + Luck

Write about what you enjoy

Mix your output - articles plus bookmarks

Analyse what works where

Prune what isn't working

Spread yourself on the social web

Look at your long-term income growth

Enjoy the challenge!