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I've added the digg button to show up in all posts. I want to credit the source at:

http://testing-blogger-beta.blogspot.com/2007/04/testing-adding-digg-vote-button-to.html

Positive: Easy way for readers to digg your articles.

Negative: They navigate away from your page. Also, when I test on some pages, it just brings me to the digg page, but not necessarily my article linked back (even if I've submitted). Trying to iron out. I guess if readers like your content, they'll come back anyway, right?

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My first Prosper Referral!

On the Everyday Finance site, I'd been touting the benefits of Lending and Borrowing through Prosper.com and my personal experience with the site. Recently, they launched an affiliate advertiser program whereby members could receive $25 bonus checks for referring new members. I simply have an affiliate ad prominently displayed on the site. This is not a pay-per-post type entry, as I'm currently a member and genuinely believe in the system, so I have no ethical quandaries promoting it (I was doing so well before the referral program was launched last week for free because I love the diversification and potential to exceed market returns on a risk-adjusted basis). Regardless, I got an email this morning highlighting my first success, the $25 was deposited in my account immediately.

There are plenty of other great affiliate programs out there. You can see some of them on my site. I've also listed a link to one of the ones I use to the left, Linkshare. Feel free to click through and sign up. If you have a blog and want to advertise for anything from credit cards to web hosting, click through and check it out. It's easy to set up (and I'll get like a buck or something if you do so through here!).

You're not allowed to ask folks to click on Google ads, but affiliate programs want users to click through since content owners are ONLY paid when an actionable event occurs - i.e. purchase, sign up for free trial, etc.

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So, after a few months of generating content and attracting visitors through word of mouth and some link exchanges with relevant sites for the everydayfinance site, I decided to research some new ways to garner additional traffic. There are several legitimate outlets that will drive interested viewers to your site. I've listed a few below along with my experience and how significant the traffic generation has been for me:

EZINEs:
There are several online magazines out there. I heard about these from another blogger and decided to check them out. Essentially, if your posts are somewhat general and not too specific to you personally, you can submit posts to ezines for publishing after you publish on your own site. Depending on the ezine you choose, you relinquish certain rights to your material, but in general, other publishers pick up on your content and publish it elsewhere. If you embed your blog or site in your signature, interested readers will come to your site for more content.

Results: I submitted about a dozen of my previous posts to an ezine publisher a few weeks ago and right around submission time, I had a lot of visitors coming through at the same time. That's likely because my articles were appearing on the front search page as newest. I haven't submitted any articles in the past week or so as a control, to see how the traffic is when no active submissions are occurring. As measured by my sitemeter, I still get a couple visits a day. That's encouraging because it means people are finding my articles there later in time, presumably through searching keywords. Ideally, if I submit 10 times the content over the next year, I'll have perhaps 5 times the visitors on a residual basis from the ezines (I don't predict a linear trend since there are only so many readers interested in finance in particular). Here's a link to a particular post I did on the ezine I've tried out. If you use other ezines you're pleased with, feel free to post comments here.

http://ezinearticles.com/?Futures-Plays-for-Regular-Investors---Banking-on-Takeovers-and-Hedging-Your-Real-Estate&id=588677

Submittal to Relevant Popular Outlets
Just about all Blogger and content generators have heard of Digg.com. By submitting your content there, readers can search for it or submission is excellent and well liked by readers, it can make it to the front page which can totally alter the fortunes of a particular blog, propelling it from obscurity into the ranks of a highly publicized, high traffic site. There are other outlets in your relevant field to submit your content to though. In the world of finance, a popular investing outlet is seekingalpha. They review content submitted for accuracy, vet the writers, their website, and then occasionally publish content from specific writers on a routine basis. Over the past several weeks, I've had several posts published at seekingalpha and am now undergoing the process of becoming a certified contributor.

Results: Again, my content is now appearing on their site and presumably generating some income for them. But I'm getting a fair amount of traffic from their site as more readers are exposed to my research/analysis and style of writing. As is the case with blogging in general, a lot depends on continued, consistent posting. If you go cold turkey for a couple weeks, readers will start to forget about you, other posts will appear further up on the search list and before you know it, no more visitors. Here's an example of one of my posts at seekingalpha and how readers track back to my site by clicking on my name or profile:

http://biotech.seekingalpha.com/article/38329

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Today, I was pleasantly surprised to see my page rank for my everydayfinance site increased from zero to two out of ten. Admittedly, this is not exactly a herculean achievement, but it's an obvious improvement from where I started. For the first couple months, it was discouraging to see a zero appear during my sporadic checks. Then, seemingly overnight, it jumped to two. It's a little tough for me to specifically quantify the significance of this change, but I will say that my site now shows up on the front page of Google searches for much of the key content on the site. Presumably, these two events are somewhat correlated. Here's the main site I use to attain my page rank:

http://www.checkpagerank.com/

The subject of my next post will be some learnings and activities I undertook to increase my page rank and traffic to my blog.

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My last post highlighted the practice of listing your blog on the various blog ranking sites out there. To date, even though my main site, www.Everdayfinance.blogspot.com (EDF from this point on) has ranked pretty high on some of them, they're not sending a ton of traffic to my site. How do I know this? For one, many of the sites list a summary showing your web traffic (listed as "total out"), which primarily determines your ranking (some of them throw in an added twist with unique votes you've obtained which count as say, 10 visits each). But there are some great free tools out there which analyze and detail everything from how many pages your average visitor views to duration of visit and where your visitors are from (I have no incentives or affiliate ads related to these tools, I just think they're great free options for small-medium blogs/websites). As to why I'm not getting much traffic from these ranking sites, I'm still investigating which other ones are out there that I haven't yet subscribed to and whether the pay sites are any better than the free ones. To date, I haven't shelled out any money to have my blog listed, but if there were an order of magnitude difference in potential there, I'd consider. One thing to keep in mind when starting your blog is that there's a whole universe of payed services you could employ, but tread carefully, or you'll never get into the black. I didn't want to start off in the red, so I've been starting off small and cheap and building from there. To date, I don't pay for anything. In the future, perhaps I want that Site Build It experience (see prior post or check out link on this page) or that customized sitemeter reporting capability, but I'm starting small since this is kind of an experiment in the making.

Sitemeter:
If you notice, on the bottom of the Everydayfinance site, there's a sitemeter button. If I click on this, I can log in and view all my statistics. Other visitors can click on it and sign up for just visit their site directly (www.sitemeter.com). It's a great tool to track and monitor your traffic and it's free! The free version is somewhat toned down, as they offer a pay service which is more powerful and customizable, but for my purposes, the free one it just fine. The


Here's a screen shot of a typical report:




This shot shows you everything you need to know about recent traffic, duration, page visits, etc.




I'll just add one more, which shows where the traffic is coming into your site. This one is logical, since my more recent post was on international real estate investment trusts which trounce the returns of the major market indices. It's intuitive to assume that most of your traffic will come through you most recent posts (more later on how to promote those posts and get regular subscribers/readers of your content), but occasionally, I'll notice an anomaly where previous posts are garnering a surprising amount of traffic compared to recent posts. This is attributed to a few different things. First, it could be that an older post was particularly interesting to people and a few email lists went around discussing the post. That contributes to a bit of a lag (or prolonged performance) in traffic for an older post. Another thing I do occasionally is reference an older post (when appropriate, not ad nausea) in a current post. After reading the current post, some readers will go back and check out an older, related post.

Upside:

  • Very user friendly
  • Easy to read summary screen
  • Detailed info on who's visiting your site, how long, etc.
  • Can have site traffic reports emailed automatically daily
  • Can share all your statistics with site visitors if desired.
  • A site traffic predictor which will telegraph your traffic for the next week, month, etc. based on recent traffic patterns.

Downside:

  • The free version is a bit stripped down, limited reports/analysis
  • No ability to trend back in time (only recent data available)
  • Not customizable

    Google Analytics:

    This site is a little more complex, but also free. In my view, there are way more subcategories than are necessary; for me, some of them don't even return any relevant information. But I would say it's as good or better than sitemeter in several respects. Primarily, you can trend back to any timeframe desired with a handy calendar function. This is good when you notice an interesting trend and want to go back to a previous week and look for similar trends. There's a nice analysis on which of your pages people are most likely to exit from and similarly, which sites the traffic is coming from.

    Here's a screen shot of the traffic patterns:


The upsides/downsides pretty much contrast the sitemeter bullet points above.

Bottom line, I'd just sign up for both since they're free. Some days I like the quick summary page, so I log into sitemeter. Other days, I want a nice graphical trend of my traffic and a review of longer-term traffic patterns; hence analytics. Try them both out and report back in comments section on any neat tips/tricks findings.

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So, this week, I continued to seek out new ways to improve my site's utility to visitors and increase traffic by submitting my everydayfinance blog to several blog ranking sites (if they're not up here yet, check out my everydayfinance site linked on left). Anyway, there are several sites out there where you can submit your blog by providing your URL, then insert some code which they provide into your template. To do this, you simply add to the HTML option in your Blogger template screen. They provide it to you when you register your URL. The sites then track your traffic and rank your blog based on incoming traffic. For the most part, they reset each week to allow smaller new blogs to attain top rankings as they grow. I was pleased to see that the finance site when to number 1 on a couple of them during my first week. Some of the larger ones require 10,000+ visitors per week, so I'm not there at the moment, in 6th, 7th, etc. But regardless, when someone visits one of these sites looking for blogs on finance, it's neat to see mine right up there.

Which blog ranking engines should I submit to and where to I find them?
I simply visited some other successful blog sites and started clicking away at their links to the blog ranking sites on the side of their page. As I visited each one and registered, I had to go back an paste in the HTML they provided. I then ended up with a line of little buttons on the side of my blog. Some of them show your ranking right in the button. Anyway, for a listing of mine you can visit from my everydayfinance site. I'll have a bunch up here too when I get a chance, but for now, focusing on that as my main site and using this site and an outlet and imparting mistakes and learnings here.

Index your blog with the major search engine sites:
One of the first things to do when looking to increase your site's traffic is to ensure that the major search engines are presenting your site on the front page when relevant searches are applied. For a finance site, that's somewhat difficult with the thousands of them out there, so on my tests, I often don't make the front page, but do for specific searches like my tax software comparison posts and my alternative investment posts. To get your site indexed, visit each one and do a search for say "Index my site in Google" and follow the prompts. It's pretty straightforward. Don't be surprised if your site isn't indexed immediately, it can take a week or two. In order to check on whether it's indexed, in each search engine, type in your exact URL and see if it comes up.

Get linked with other sites:
Most of the search engines rank searches partially based on how many other sites link to them. By finding like-minded sites, friend's sites, etc. and getting them to add your link, you will increase your site ranking. I'd advise against just linking up with any cheesy site that simply trades links - there are a lot of them out there; it detracts from your site's legitimacy and may be something you regret later.

Tell Everyone!
Once you have a fair amount of content, and you feel like your site has some momentum, tell everyone about. Ask them to forward it to their friends and families. Admittedly, most of my traffic has come from other people interested in finance and I haven't completely exhausted my personal network list because I have a lot more to say before I start roping in people I know. But some of the few people who are actually interested in finance or just generally enjoy my posts are regular visitors. I would advise against providing details on the Adsense links and how revenue is generated from them. They may start altruistically start clicking away daily on your ads and end up getting you in hot water with Google. If people are genuinely interested in your content, they'll click through. I'll cover more on this during my Adsense/revenue post.

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OK, so it's been a while since I started this blog up and I now intend on posting regularly on my experiences with my main blog, Everyday Finance: http://www.everydayfinance.blogspot.com/. After researching several other sites, reading some articles and experiencing the ebbs and flows of traffic to my site, it's evident that it all boils down to content. The prevailing wisdom is that if you're going to dedicate X amount of time per week to your new endeavor, then initially, the vast majority of it should be dedicated to the development of content. Once you have a few posts up and you see some returning traffic and navigation throughout your site with monitoring tools (will discuss further later), it's time to get linked, get ranked in blog ranking sites, etc. An initial move though, should be to get indexed in all the major search engines (more on that later as well).

What is the Intent of your Blog?

First, you have to ask yourself, what are you getting into this for? Is it solely to make money, regardless of whether you enjoy or even know anything about the topic you're targeting? Amazingly, some people actually outsource content generation, build a site to target high pay keywords. These people are known as Giga Adsense earners, raking in several hundred thousand dollars per year. Some of this might be lore and I'm sure it's few and far between or everyone would be doing it (markets are efficient and so is easy money). Since this isn't my area of expertise, I won't be going into it much here. I will, however, research it a bit further and may give something like that a try on a smaller scale if I can demonstrate some limited success with my initial startup.

Should I use Blogger or something else?

So, the focus of this post will be on getting started with Google Blogger. Before moving on though, a word on this. I like it. It's real easy, and for now, I intend on staying with it since I've already started here and don't want the hassle of migrating all my content somewhere else. If I can continue to increase traffic and revenues and Google continues to add additional features, they've got me. For instance, this past week, they added video links to YouTube based on key words you hand-select, as well as real-time news links. In my finance site, I input some relevant financial terms and the news comes rolling in, which is an additional feature that visitors of the site enjoy.

Over Easter though, my brother in law showed me his site he's building on SiteBuildIt (link on the left, check it out). It's slightly more advanced than simply moving some boxes around like Google, but is much more effective. He showed me the setup screen and it's still pretty straightforward, limited HTML learnings required, but it's much more customizable. For a flat fee each year of $299, the site takes care of everything from hosting to helping you develop your site and get top rankings (which in turn translates into massive traffic and increased profit potential). SBI claims to get top 3% rankings for sites built using their system. There are several highly successful site owners owing their success to the system, including twelve year olds and senior citizens, each raking in thousands per month. The site has a good visual tour and the story's quite compelling. I'll report back on my in-law's success and perhaps, my eventual test of the site as well. But, for now, more on Google Blogger. Another cheaper option is to go via Go-Daddy or one of the other less formal sites; link on left as well to check out that option.

Starting your own Blog in Google Blogger

Immediately after reading this post, if you click on the blogger button, you can have your first post up on your own blog in under 5 minutes. It's the content and what you do with it that is time consuming and requires considerable work. Some tips for getting started are the following:

1) Pick a name that will stick. It shouldn't be something you'll think is cheesy later if your blog takes off. In many instances we'll discuss later, your site's name will drive particular types of traffic to your site. However, if you come up with a unique name that isn't cliche or generic, it may be a little trendier than say, money-investing-stocks.blogspot.com or something to that effect, just to try and target some popular search terms in your title.

2) Have a couple posts worth of content in mind. Once your first post is out, you'll want to keep moving and get a few posts up within your first couple weeks. I've been cutting our articles for months since I starting thinking about doing this. Then, I started a list in a notebook of topics in my notebook, ranked them, and am just now spending an hour or two each post in roughly the order I initially designated. There's an overall theme to the progression of each of my blogs. What I've found is that I may have initiated too many at once, so to stay current, I'll be primarily posting on this one and Everyday Finance. I do have some extra ones reserved for future use, but left them marked as under construction. I think the right direction is to try and demonstrate success with one or two that I have direct experience with first, rather than doing a shoddy job on several at a time.

3) Focus on your design and theme. Start off with a template you like. If you don't like the one you initially chose, it's OK, you can pick a new one later through the templates tab in blogger. It's easy to insert pictures now and then. I often hit the print screen function, edit the picture in MS Paint, then just insert via the picture function in the posting window. Decide where you want to place your ads, links, profile, archive, etc. I'm still refining my placement, but my current configuration is based on some readings to date and general observations of other blogs that seem to be pretty successful.

The next post will focus on one of the biggest drivers for even doing a blog...the revenue generation from AdSense ads. If you want to get started with Adsense now, click the link on the left and go from there or check back next post. I will delve into placement, size, how to target your content to draw the right ads, and which types generate the most clicks/earnings.

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So, I'm not sure what the actual catalyst was for starting a series of blogs, aside from my interest in Finance and Technology, but months ago I had started bookmarking interesting weblinks and cutting out articles I read on matters from hedge funds to asset allocation. I was in a bookstore one day and started reading up on HTML programming and web page design. I had taken some engineering programming classes before, but never tried out any web design languages.

Since I'm quite busy these days with work, school, family and other hobbies, I was a bit discouraged that there wasn't something more user friendly and less time consuming to be able to get started. Then, I came across Google Blogger when I was checking out their Apps. I was genuinely surprised by how easy it was to start up a blog. Fortunately, I had just started after they started the "New Blogger" application, so I didn't have to do any migration from their old system. Within the first 15 minutes or so, I had a name and my first post up. From there, I started adding posts and ultimately decided to add additional blogs (like this one!), which are all manageable from the same account dashboard page.

Google Blogger is a "wysisyg" or What You See is What You Get type application. There is no HTML programming understanding required. It's completely visual and quite intuitive once you pick your template and start arranging where you want your text, your ads, your links, archive, etc.

The intent of this blog will be to share my experience as a new blogger in everything from sharing mistakes I've made to recent neat findings and activities. A key driver for most bloggers, of course, is to make a few dollars doing something you enjoy. So, I will focus on the evolution of blog startup to generating traffic to revenue generation. There are a ton of good blog resources out there; I will add those links and descriptions as I come across them. For now though, there's no sense in reading on if you don't have anything to talk about. So, we'll start with the concept and startup phase of your blog: