Advertising Choices

I have a little bit of traffic on my blogs. So I want to monetize this traffic with pay per click ads. There are a lot of choices of companies that will help me serve up ads. But I am finding that none of them have all the features I am looking for. The standard I am comparing them all to is Google AdSense.

Recently I signed up to try AdBrite. There seemed to be minimal configuration of how the ads look. For example, I was not able to choose a color for the background of my ads. In turns out that the ads match the background of the place on my web site where I put them. There was also limited choices on ad format. I want to text ads of different size and shape. All AdBrite allowed me to choose was banner or skyscraper. I could not specify the size. So far I have placed AdBrite ads on about half of my blogs. If they earn me money, the lack of customization will not matter too much.

This is in sharp contrast to Bidvertiser. It allowed me to specify ad details. And their reports show a lot of details like the daily page views. However I put their ads on all my blogs, but I continue to get zero earnings. This is strange since I put the ads above the fold in a prominent location on my blogs. I think Bidvertiser has some strange policies where they do not count every click. If they don't start earning me some money, I will have to drop them.

Finally I am very pleased with Adster. Although their reporting makes it impossible to tell which of my web sites are generating the income, at least I am seeing payments credited to me on a daily basis for clicks on the Adster ads on my sites. So far I have increased the number of Adster ads displayed on my blogs. And now I have given them the topmost position on my pages.

One common issue I am finding with all of these ad providers is that the ads do not seem highly targeted to my web site content. I do choose a general category for my site. But I do not think any of the ad solutions scan my web page to match keywords with the ads they have available. This may impact the click through, and therefore the money I make. I shall continue the search for the best advertising solution for my web sites.

Ads by ADster

I have been looking for ways to monetize my blog other than Google AdSense. Although I have put Bidvertiser ads on all my blogs, nobody has clicked on any ads. At least that is what Bidvertiser is reporting. Recently I added ADster ads to some of my blogs. And I have already started earning money from visitors clicking on the ADster ads.

So I proceeded to put ADster ads on all my blogs. I am hoping for good returns on this effort. One nice thing I like about the Pay Per Click (PPC) ADster ads is that you can have a lot of them on your page. I am setting the maximum amount of ads to 10 or 20 per page. So far 10 is the maximum I have see ADster serve up on any given page.

I am contemplating looking in Project Wonderful advertising. It is a new concept in advertiser pricing. Everything is bid oriented. And you get paid per day, not per click. This sounds very interesting to me. Plus there is no way you can get in trouble if somebody click bombs you.

Good Business

Last Monday the Netflix site was down. I tried logging in, but gave up rather quickly. Today I got an e-mail from Netflix apologizing for the problem. They stated what the impact from the downtime would be for me. In addition, they said they would credit my account to make up for the problems.

I thought the response from Netflix was a good example of how to treat your customers in the midst of adversity. It looks like they did all the right things. Perhaps they have high priced consultants running their damage control. I hope to take these lessons to heart for my own small business.

It is easy to shine when things are going well. But if you can shine just as bright when the chips are down, you are probably going to win my business for the long haul. Congrats Netflix for a job well done.

Bidvertiser Enabled

Today I signed up for a Bidvertiser account to add advertisements to my blogs. It was really quick. I got an e-mail back with a code, entered the code, and created an account in seconds.

This is one thing I have noticed with Bidvertiser. Updates happen immediately. If I add or change an advertisement layout, the effects take place immediately.

Unlike some other restrictive advertising programs, Bidvertiser lets me open the ads in a separate window from my blogs. This is nice in that it allows the user to continue to see my blog pages.

So far I have noticed that ads match the categories that I have chosen for them. However they do not seem to track the content on the pages where they are served up. Perhaps it takes some time for the ads to read my page content. Or maybe Bidvertiser does not strongly correlate page content with ad content. The bottom line is that I will see how this affects ad click through.

I am hoping for good things from these Bidvertiser ads. Wish me luck.

Wealth Building

I continue to read diverse books to help guide me through the early years of my business. The latest book I am on is Wealth Building 101 from the Trump University. The subtitle of this book is "Your First 90 Days on the Path to Prosperity". Legendary Donald Trump is the editor of the book. The chapters are written by various experts in their field.

There are some thoughts in this book which are new to me. For example, one of the chapter authors stresses that you need to be doing activities which are highly lucrative. Are you cleaning your house? That's a minimum wage task that a millionaire would not waste time doing.

Some common themes are also reviewed in the book. Many of the authors state that you need to spend money to make money. But they take it a step further. Instead of worrying about the cost of doing business, they advise you to think more about what the profit will be. In that way, even if an initial cost may be high, you only judge the investment in terms of the end payout.

I definitely plan to read through this whole book. You know if Donald Trump is the editor, the selected authors are most likely first rate. In addition, I want to put the lessons learned into practice. Just today I wrote a program that I could write about and release on one of my blogs. I must have spent a few hours thinking and planning the software. And it took a few hours to write the software. However there has been no direct payout to me for developing the program. I posted it for free with the long term goal of attracting readers and monetizing that blog. We shall see if this was a wise investment of my time.

iWoz : The Book

I just finished reading the book iWoz by Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple Corporation. It was very interesting to get another viewpoint about the origins of Apple. These guys had a dynamite product in the Apple I computer. However they were struggling even when they had huge orders to fill. It took money to make money. I am pondering how this may be relevant to my own small ISV.

Steve hammers home some lessons he wants readers to take away in the final chapter. One is that you might truly need to think outside the box for product development. And this will cause all kinds of people to doubt you. But you should stay true. Another interesting point he stressed was that, for engineers, it is sometimes better to be a one man show to get a great work done. Well I am in that boat.

I initially read the book out of curiosity of Wozniak. However I ended up learning some things about business from the book. Even though there are a number of things I don't really like about the Woz, I have to admit this was one enjoyable read.

Black of Hat Blog

I have decided to conduct a new experiment with my ISV. The steps are being documented in a new blog called Black of Hat. The goal will be to write small applications with "questionable usage". In other words they shall be Black Hat or hacker type progs. I am going to start out providing them for free.

The first program I have released is called Click. It launches Internet Explorer and navigates to sites of your choosing. I imagine you can figure out some good uses for this kind of program. Depending on your mood, they can be used for good or evil.

Speaking of evil, I have decided on this change of venue as a result of being kicked out of the Google AdSense program. Who knows? Maybe they will have given me the wake up call that inspires me to great deeds. We shall see. I am already planning out my second free program. My goal is to do rapid application development and release it in a couple days.

The Success of Ashley Qualls

I want to talk a little about Ashley Qualls. She is the CEO of whateverlife, a site that gives out free Myspace backgrounds. There are two amazing things about Ashley: (1) her company makes around $1 million a year, and (2) she is only 17 years old. How do you like those statistics?

My own ISV was started a long time ago. But after an initial failure I stopped working on it. However when I read Ashley's story, I was inspired to pick up the pieces and give it a go again. Ashley had the power to overcome adversity and become successful. So I figured I had no excuse not to forge ahead as well.

One funny thing is that in 2006, she got an offer of $1.5 million to buy her company. Luckily she declined. She is well on her way towards making $1.5 million a year I think. And who knows? She may be able to make even more. Mad props to you Ashley. Check out her site Whatever Life.

AdSense Disabled

I tried to log in to check up on my AdSense earnings. My login was denied. Apparently my account had been disabled. So I checked my e-mail. Google sent me an email stating this my account was disabled. Here is the main text from that e-mail:

While going through our records recently, we found that your AdSense account
has posed a significant risk to our AdWords advertisers. Since keeping your
account in our publisher network may financially damage our advertisers in the
future, we've decided to disable your account.

Please understand that we consider this a necessary step to protect
the interests of both our advertisers and our other AdSense publishers. We realize
the inconvenience this may cause you, and we thank you in advance for your
understanding and cooperation.

This is all Google's was to nicely say I have been kicked out. I knew something was up when my statistics showed click on my AdSense ads, but no earnings. I figured it was just invalid clicks and that Google detected them and adjusted my account balance appropriately. These were not "click bomb" style attacks with 10,000 clicks on my page or anything. They were seemingly random clicks such as 5 click on this blog with a $0 payout.

I have heard about other publishers being disabled or banned. Although there is a method to appeal the Google decision, I have decided against this. It is time to regroup and find another way to advertise on my sites without involving Google. That is too bad since Google is the 800 pound gorilla in the paid advertising business. But sometimes you have to forgo working with the devil to keep your conscience clean. So much for Google attempting to "do no evil". I have already pulled the AdSense code from all of my blogs. Next step is to go through all of my web sites and do the same.

Lessons from Entrpreneur

Entrepreneur Magazine has used its publishing arm to produce a book titled "Start Your Own Blogging Business". This topic hits close to home as I am in the middle of running such an operation. I found a lot of gems packed in this book which is less than 100 pages total. In this post I hope to share some relevant thoughts from the book.

One trick that I had never thought about is as follow. Apparently some popular blogs change their page layouts to prevent readers from tuning out. At first I would be afraid to do so. It might mess up the search engine optimization I have done. But on second thought, this activity is for the readers, not the search engines. Now that I think about it, I suspect some sites that I visit do this to keep me on my toes. Maybe I will try it with a smaller blog I run to check the results.

The book I read also gets down to the heart of the blogging business matter. And that is how to best profit from a blog. It mentions one technique of selling an ad-free version of your blog. However the book recommends against trying to solicit donations from your readers. It strongly recommends that you join an affiliate program. An affiliate program is where you, as a publisher, earn money when readers click through an advertisement on your site and buy something on the retailer's site. Apparently you can earn around 10% of the sale using this method.

Gettings Conversions

Suppose I actually want to get some volume to software sales. How could I do this? I suppose this would require some initial investment on my part. But I could take the profits for one month and reinvest them in the company. How would this all work out?

I guess I could try to target some low cost Google AdWords. But the users would have to click through to a landing page optimized to complete the sale. Don't know the most compelling way to write that copy. And I guess I need all kinds of flexibility on that page. Should I allow payments by PayPal? Do I have to accept credit cards? And what about purchase orders?

It feels like I am getting a little ahead of myself. My real focus is to determine whether I could recoup an investment for placing Google AdWords ads. I am worried about things such as click fraud. Don't want to spend my hard earned money on somebody not interested in my product. And even if I can get interested users to my site, I would want to maximize the conversion rate of those visitors.

There are many unknowns here. I imagine I could start out on a very small scale and see what happens, see what works. These details are what running a small ISV are really all about.

Super Sale

I got an e-mail from a company. They claimed somebody was selling their $176 software for only $4.95. Oh the humanity. But here was the deal. They decided to offer me the same low low price that some thieves did for their software. So I could get myself a copy of this software worth $176 for only $4.95. On the surface this sounds like a greater value.

OK. So what does the software do? Apparently the software made the owner of the software a profit of $200,000 in only 2 weeks. And I could get this tool for only $4.95 for a limited time. Can anybody tell me what is wrong with this picture? That's like trying to sell a machine which produces $100 bills for only 25 cents. Ha ha.

There is only one real question in my mind. Why does somebody who makes $100,000 a week want to sell me a program for $4.95? Two conclusions come to mind: (1) he does not really make $100,000 a week, or (2) he is so rich he can sell me a great tool for next to nothing. My gut is telling me this is a case of reason #1. However if this was really a reason #2 scenario, why not just give away the software?

Heck I am making a measly $75 a week myself. And I give away free software. Shouldn't a millionaire do the same? And therein lines the dilemma. I tried to e-mail the author of the software. However I just got an e-mail auto responder that basically told me not to bother him. LOL!

SEO Elite Tactics

I recently read an ebook written by the author of the SEO Elite software program. So I googled him. Then I decided to Google the "SEO Elite" product. I was not surprised that the top paid link in the search results was the maker of SEO Elite. However the second paid link was surprising. It was "SEO Elite 4.0 Is a Scam".

Now who would hate a software product enough to pay for ads in a campaign against the software product? Inquiring minds want to know. So I clicked through to see. The page looked surprisingly like the real SEO Elite web site. But there was a whole argument why you should not buy SEO Elite. After reading some of the copy I realized that this was a sarcastic rant against SEO Elite. In fact, it appears this site was done by the makers of SEO Elite as well. Brilliant. They got me to their site.

For now I do not plan to buy SEO Elite. The thing costs $167. I could buy Microsoft Office for that amount of cash. But it was an interesting education in off beat marketing.

Driven to Scams

I am always on the lookout for additional means to make money online. So I have been reading up the barrage of free ebooks that I have found. These books also provide me with a source of entertainment. The latest such book I read was called "How I made $2734.79 in 7 days!". Don't you think the 79 cents was a nice touch for the title? I had a bad feeling about this book after skimming through the introduction. The author did not know how to use a spellchecker, and also did not know English grammar rules. He confessed that English was not his first language so I cut him some slack.

The claim from the introduction is that you can make $500 daily with no out of pocket costs. The good news is, having read the whole ebook, that I think the author is telling the truth about no out of pocket costs. This is actually quite amazing. Normally you need to pony up some money so the author can give you the rest of the secret. The bad news is that, to make this large daily profit, you have to scam your customers. Hopefully karma is taking care of the evil propagators of this scam.

Here is an overview of this dude's scam to make the big bucks:
  1. Join an affiliate program that pays for click through
  2. Create free e-mail accounts
  3. Configure you free e-mail accounts to auto respond with the click through URL
  4. Masquerade as a hottie on free advertising sites, tricking people to e-mail you
  5. Sit back and watch as suckers get tricked and click on your link

I felt dirty even reading this technique. But here is the morbid part. The author of the plan showed no remorse in these tactics. He even coached you on how to make your victims think you are a real girl who wants to meet guys. Oh the sleaze. The real sad thing is that this guy probably makes some good money on this scheme.

There has to be a better way to make good money online. I am really hoping my next ebook is better than this one. Its title is "Search Engine Optimization Made Easy". Let's hope for a better book report next time.

Book Positivity

In contrast to the last ebook I had encountered, I read one that had an encouraging message. It was create by Daniel Turner and Marc Lindsay at PLRPro. You know it had to be good stuff if a link stingy guy like me is willing to link to their website.

The book had a lot of good tips on Search Engine Optimization. However it also had a number of gems related to running a business. Here are some highlights:
  • There are a lot of bad ideas out there regarding making $$$
  • Essentially there are 10 key business activities
  • 80% of small businesses fail in the 1st year
  • What you do today won't have an effect for another 30 to 90 days
  • Maintaining focus is key in business
  • You have to choose to work on the right things
  • It takes 28 days to build a habit

The ebook was free but was a whopping 445 pages long. I only read the first 45 pages. But I feel like I have already gotten a lot out of the book. I don't think I will be using the book's plan specifically. However it has planted the seed of some new ideas into my head. Thanks go out to the authors Daniel and Marc. Good job guys. Someday I hope to be able to put out a book on the subject of making money.

Scare Tactics

So I got myself a free ebook called "The Truth" which was supposed to help me become successful online. I am all about becoming successful. However I got no further than the copyright page of this ebook. Here is an except from this page:
If you try to steal, copy, or distribute any part of this book ... we will have our legal counsel contact you and make you wish you had never done such a stupid thing in your life.

Hey. I understand that content creators like to copyright their work. I create original work myself and don't want it stolen. But this ebook's copyright notice was just plain crazy. It also seemed a bit unprofessional. Well to each their own.

The other funny thing about this whole situation was that after I skipped to the last page of the document, it stated "Over the next 10 days you will be receiving our additional free report". LOL. Maybe so. But over the next 10 minutes I am going to figure out who sent me this free ebook in the first place, and put an e-mail rule in place to forward all e-mails from these people to my trash folder.

I don't need any more comical threats about unleashing their legal department on me. Even if their legal department is cousin Larry, the whole tone of the pitch was ruined on page 2. I will try to take this experience to heart, and try not to turn people off early with my own copy. And if I gain at least 1 lesson learned from this ordeal, it will not have been all for waste.

High and Low Profit Ads

Now that I am starting to get visitors to my blogs, and more importantly clicks, I am busy analyzing the results. The sad thing is that some of the topics I like writing about the most make the least amount of money per click. Luckily I also tend to get more of those clicks so it might even out in the end. Two example of this are blogging and running a software company. I can't help but generate a lot of new posts about these topics. But the Google AdSense profit per click for ads on these types of blogs are quite disappointing.

I have some other niche interests. These include software maintenance and development with Oracle databases. I don't get as many visitors to these sites. The click through is low as well. But when I do get clicks, I get a lot more money per click from Google for them. The problem is that it is hard to write a good blog post about Oracle development. So far I have not taken in enough data. But I am starting to spot the trends in advertising with AdSense.

There is one more interesting fact about the ads that get served up on my blogs. The ones on the poorly paying blogs look like more interesting ads anyway. Maybe that is why I get more clicks on them. I suspect there is a whole science as to how Google decides which ads to place on my site. But I don't worry about that or take that into account when determining what to write in my blogs.

Coaching Program Proposition

I was reading a lot of posts in a forum about Google AdSense. The forum itself had AdSense ads on it. Most of these ads were not of interest so I ignored them. However one ad claimed that somebody made $220,000 a month. Of course that sounds too good to be true. But it also sounded interesting. So I clicked through to hear the spiel.

Apparently some guy claimed to have made $220,000 in December and January. Now that a lot of green. He was now offering a limited opportunity to coach a maximum of 250 people. All you need to do is pay him $57 a month, and he will coach you. OK. Let's do the math. Suppose 250 people actually sign up and pat the $57 per month. That will be revenue of about $14,000 a month. Not bad. But here is the fundamental question: If he can make $220k a month, why would he step down to only making $14k a month?

So what is the logical conclusion? This dude did not make $220k a month, or even $220k a year. He just wants to get my 57 bucks. I will give this guy some credit. He wrote some good ad copy in his AdSense ad. Out of all the ads displayed on the forum, I chose his. But he lost his AdWords fee for my click through. You got to lay out a story that is at least a little believable and makes sense. Nice try guy.

Word of Mouth

I have been diligently trying to get my blogs to show up higher in the Google search engine results pages. This has been an uphill battle. For some specific phrases I can come up on topic. But when using the main keyword or two in a search, my blogs are nowhere to be found. Users still somehow end up at my blog. But the traffic had been low low low. I actually don't care about the traffic stats per se. However I do care that my AdSense click through profits have been disappointing.

Then I started taking a new strategy. I have been mentioning my blogs to other software developers that I know. And I bring up the work that I am doing on the blogs and promoting the blogs with them. The result is that some small portion of people I know want to check out my blogs. And then I have found that some ads interest them and I get some click through. Now this isn't making me rich or anything. But at least the results are better than before.

I am not sure how to proceed. My original goal was to show up at the top of the SERPs and get a lot of traffic and clicks. I would still like that to happen. However I am finding a better payoff by promoting my blogs through other means like networking. Perhaps it is time for a shift in strategy. I will continue to network with other software development professionals to see if word of mouth advertising can scale up. As usual, I will keep you posted on the results.

Professional Appearance

I had been clicking around the web. Landed on a site for database performance monitoring. This topic was interesting to me. But since I run a company myself, I wanted to determine how well this site's marketing was.

So I checked out the sites FAQ web page. They required that I have an Oracle database to collect information about the performance monitoring. This was so even if I was trying to monitor a different type of database such as Microsoft SQL Server. Not encouraging.

Then later in the FAQ page I spotted a grammatical error. Now I see errors like this all the time, so I was able to decipher what they meant. However misspellings or grammar problems make me think that care was not exercised when creating the web site. And if care was lacking there, it makes me wonder if care was lacking in their product.

I ended up not even downloading a trial of the product. The thing that most swayed me was the database requirement. I don't want to have to install a database just to try out a product. Perhaps they had no choice to introduce this dependency. But they lost a potential customer.

The important thing is to take this lesson to heart with my own products. So far I have strived to make my applications easy to install and run. In fact, my applications do not even have a separate install step. You just run the executable. No environment setup is required. Considering my potential customer base, I wanted it to be as easy as possible to run my application. Let's hope this pays off in the end.

Marketing for Sale

I got an e-mail from a new software download site. They said that they offered a full line of features on their site to help highlight my software. Here is cost for assorted services:
  • $6.00/week : screen shot
  • $15.00/week : download page
  • $9.00/week : top in category
  • $18.00/week : premium search
  • $24.00/week : hottest download
  • $22.50/week : highly recommended
  • $45.00/week : premium listing
  • $75.00/week : header spotlight
This is quite amusing. I guess these guys are trying to make some money. But I don't even pay for services from the big download sites like or Tucows. So I do not think I will be taking them up on their offer.

What I wonder is whether anybody is paying for these services. Maybe I should visit their site to check out who is taking advantage of the extra services for pay.

Web Host Closing Shop

I got an e-mail today from ZendURL. Apparently they are going out of business and cannot do web hosting any more. They will close up shop in 4 days. To tell the truth, I did not even know I had an account with them. Must have set it up when I was trying out free web hosting. But this got me thinking. What is my current web host shuts down? They serve up all my applications to the public. Maybe it is time to have a backup plan before any real emergency starts up.

The funny thing about the e-mail from ZendURL was that they tried to spin the bad news by saying they were doing me a favor by informing me about the shut down. What??? If I actually hosted my files on their server, and they wanted to do good, they should stay in business. However I understand that sometimes you have to call it quits. This was the icing on the cake though. The e-mail was signed "ZendURL Admin & Support Team". Classic. Got an e-mail from a nameless team saying they were doing me a favor. I guess in the end you get what you pay for.

Sad Spammers

I am sure you all have heard about the Nigerian bank scam e-mails. However I continue to be amazed at the spin offs of this scam. The real funny thing is the return e-mail provided in the latest spammer scams. Here are my two favorites:

(1) Got an e-mail from a member of the sub committee of finance in South Africa. They want to send me some left over money from their Olympics fund. OK so far. But guess where I need to send my correspondence?

(2) It gets better. I get an e-mail from the UK Online Lottery stating that I am a winner. In fact I have won 450,000 pounds. Not sure how many US dollars that translates to. But to claim my prize I have to e-mail

Can't these spammers get something more respectable looking that a free Hotmail or Yahoo e-mail account? LOL. I almost want to e-mail these people back. Maybe if they are that dumb they can be tricked into giving me some free links to build page rank.

Boom Boom

Recently I discovered the SEOmoz web site. There is a lot of good stuff in their blog. Seems they have a staff which frequently posts entries of interest. I like reading up on Search Engine Optimization. In fact I want to use some of those techniques to increase my ranking of the SERPS.

One such SEOmoz post was by Rebecca. Her posts are interesting. It helps that she always has a picture of herself next to her posts (and it is a good picture of her). Anyway she was reporting about the feud between founders of RocketBoom. Yeah. Never heard of it either. But after seeing a picture of Amanda Congdon, host of RocketBoom, I understand what the "boom" was about.

So now I think I need to get more boom in my web sites, blogs, and products. I already have a couple applications which download and display images of starlets. However pictures of Britney Spears only bring you so far in the business world. Check out the picture of Amanda I had included in this post. She is an unknown, but is looking good. How can I harness that image or video power for my business? This is a good question to ponder.

Writing Books

In the past, I have given some thought to authoring a book. This seemed like a time intensive task. However the best selling authors must be making some bank. How do you get a book published? And how do you make money on such a venture?

These days I suspect it is easier than it seems to publish a book. You can probably get low volume runs of books for small initial costs. Or you could pay to get the books published on a copy by copy basis. This is how Lulu works I believe. And this method was good enough for the book "Getting Real" by 37Signals. So it appears to be a legitimate avenue.

Currently I am pumping my thoughts into a number of blogs as opposed to books. We shall see where this goes. One warning that made me doubt the ability to make a living on books was some comments from author Charles Petzold. I consider him the father of Windows programming. At least he wrote the seminal book on Windows 3.1 programming. In his blog, Charles says, "I can not longer rely on book royalties to keep me afloat". And if a legend like Petzold cannot make ends meet as an author, I figure I have not chance.