Let Me Taste Your Soup – The Importance of a Search Box

Let me tell you a joke:

A funny old man sits down at a restaurant and orders chicken soup.  Once it’s delivered, he calls his waiter over to the table.

Waiter – “Yes sir, how can I help?”
Man – “Please taste the soup.”
Waiter – “Is it cold?”
Man – “Just taste the soup.”
Waiter – “Is it too salty?”
Man – “No, no, just taste the soup.”
Waiter – “Is there something in it?”
Man – “Taste the soup.”
Waiter – “Fine!…Where’s the spoon?”
Man – “Ah-hah…”

Now to get to the point – let me taste your soup!!!  How do you expect for your readers or an advertiser to find what they are looking for if you don’t have a way to search your posts?  They may have something that interests them and would love to find your posts about it…hard without a search box.  And if you are one of my clients, and you don’t have a search box, you are driving me nuts!  So repeat after me, a search box is your friend.  A search box is your friend. A. Search. Box. Is. Your. Friend.

Now you may be thinking, but I have archives, isn’t that enough?  No, sorry, but only your biggest fans will spend the time needed to peruse your archives to find the post that they are looking for.  Those of us just looking for a post on cell phones or what your view on cable is won’t be able to find it without a search box.

Just in case I haven’t been clear – LET ME TASTE YOUR SOUP!!!  Thank you.  :-)

December 2011 Self-Employment Income and Expenses

Since this blog is all about How I Make Money Blogging, I will be breaking down the past month’s online income and expenses at the beginning of each new month from here on out. You can see my traffic stats for my main blog, Budgeting in the Fun Stuff, at the beginning of every month too. So here we go!

December 2011 Income Breakdown:

BEST MONTH EVER IN MY 29 YEARS on EARTH!!! Please keep in mind that I had been working in a professional position with my very own cubicle from June 2005 to July 2011 for $35,500 a year at my highest point (less than $3000 a month).

As you can see, I do have multiple income streams but I am severely lacking in regards to passive income. I am also cutting back on my other income streams in order to have time to expand my advertising business. I still need to write the eBook whose idea actually inspired the creation of this blog, but that is on the backburner for now. I also hope that my Budgeting in the Fun Stuff newsletter helps me promote affiliates I actually like. When my passive income streams beat $200 a month, I will start listing them separately from the rest of my site ads.

December 2011 Expenses

  • Outsourcing: $320.00
  • Paypal: $921.97
  • Empire Expansion: $1107.67
  • Scribe SEO software: $0.00 – I cancelled the service since it has taught me what I needed to know
  • Love Drop: $20.00
  • BFS Giveaways:  $150.00
  • My Newsletter Monthly Giveaways: $25.00
  • One Year PO Box:  $52.00
  • TOTAL: $2596.64 (about 10%)

I am now outsourcing my social media, my BFS newsletter, blog carnival submissions, niche site development for 6 new niche sites, my backups and back end work, staff writing on co-owned sites, and any sponsored posts. Plus, Jesse and I are buying up at least 1-2 dormant sites a month to grow our online empire. I am trying to keep my overall spending to less than 15% of what I bring in for right now just to help me feel comfortable. I always hope the niche sites and the blogs I buy in order to expand end up making me some money in the long run since they cost me a bunch right off the bat. So far, so good.

December 2011 Net Income = $22,284.31

Please keep in mind that more than a third of that is being put away for taxes. BUT WOOT!!! WHOO-HOO!!!  So happy!!!!  Since this is the fourth month in a row that I beat the $10,000 mark, that is what I am aiming for from here on out.

Any recommendations, questions, comments, or anything?

My Advice to New Bloggers

I’ve received a bunch of emails lately from new bloggers looking to tackle a site for themselves, which is awesome!  Given that most people have similar questions when starting out, I’ve come up with the following advice letter that I send back.  That way they at least get the basics answered in advance while they come up with specific questions.  Here is my new blogger advice letter for anyone out there that may not want to email me directly:

Hi!

Here are my first tips, but let me know if you have any specific questions!

  1. COMMENT.  I used to comment on 10-30 blogs a week in the personal finance niche and am trying to pick up the habit again.
  2. Commenting is followed closely by guest posting.
  3. Post regularly.  Blogs grow faster when there is material flowing.  I’d suggest a minimum of 3 times a week for fast growth – I post daily at Budgeting in the Fun Stuff and post about once a week at How I Make Money Blogging.  BFS grew way faster.
  4. Blog carnivals are great for link love but won’t bring a ton of new readers.  Link love is VERY important though so I highly suggest them as well.
  5. Join a forum.  Being a member of the Yakezie blogging group was amazing.
  6. Don’t be in this for the money.  Have fun with it.
  7. Read the successful blogs in your niche.

Here are a few posts I’ve done about blogging at BFS and CCT and I also started a whole blog about it at http://howimakemoneyblogging.com/:

http://www.budgetinginthefunstuff.com/how-i-make-money-blogging/
http://www.crystalclearthoughts.com/blogging-full-time/
http://www.crystalclearthoughts.com/my-blogging-schedule/
http://www.crystalclearthoughts.com/my-daily-blog-to-do-list/

Good luck!
Crystal

November 2011 Self-Employment Income and Expenses

Since this blog is all about How I Make Money Blogging, I will be breaking down the past month’s online income and expenses at the beginning of each new month from here on out. You can see my traffic stats for my main blog, Budgeting in the Fun Stuff, at the beginning of every month too. So here we go!

November 2011 Income Breakdown:

It wasn’t as great as the $18k in October, but not too shabby for a holiday month!!!  Please keep in mind that I had been working in a professional position with my very own cubicle from June 2005 to July 2011 for $35,500 a year at my highest point (less than $3000 a month).

As you can see, I do have multiple income streams but I am severely lacking in regards to passive income. I am also cutting back on my other income streams in order to have time to expand my advertising business. I still need to write the eBook whose idea actually inspired the creation of this blog, but that is on the backburner for now. I also hope that my Budgeting in the Fun Stuff newsletter helps me promote affiliates I actually like. When my passive income streams beat $200 a month, I will start listing them separately from the rest of my site ads.

November 2011 Expenses

  • Outsourcing: $170.00
  • Paypal: $269.22
  • Empire Expansion: $0.00
  • Scribe SEO software: $27.00
  • Love Drop: $20.00
  • Yakezie: $8.00
  • My Newsletter Monthly Giveaways: $50.00
  • Sponsored Giveaways on Other Sites:  $45.00
  • TOTAL: $589.22 (about 6%)

I am now outsourcing my social media, my BFS newsletter, blog carnival submissions to Melissa Batai at Mom’s Plans, niche site development for 6 new niche sites, my backups and back end work, and any sponsored posts. Plus, Jesse and I are buying up at least 1-2 dormant sites a month to grow our online empire, although we took a break in November. I am trying to keep my overall spending to less than 15% of what I bring in for right now just to help me feel comfortable. I always hope the niche sites and the blogs I buy in order to expand end up making me some money in the long run since they cost me a bunch right off the bat. So far, so good.

November 2011 Net Income = $10,196.85

Please keep in mind a third of that is being put away for taxes. BUT WOOT!!! Since this is the third month in a row that I beat the $10,000 mark, that is what I am aiming for from here on out.

Any recommendations, questions, comments, or anything?

Blog Must-Haves – Privacy Policy, Disclosure Policy, and a Disclaimer

In case you didn’t know, if you own a blog, you do need a publicly displayed Privacy Policy and Disclosure Policy.  I put them under my “Other Info” tab.  I also have a disclaimer displayed sitewide on my sites’ right sidebars as well.  I personally was caught off guard with these necessary steps after starting Budgeting in the Fun Stuff in February 2010.  I did not pay attention to Google Adsense’s fine print or anything else apparently, but thankfully a friend clued me in a couple of months after I started. 

The good news is that these are all REALLY easy to add.

Here’s a sample of the Privacy Policy Google requires if you use Adsense – feel free to cut and paste if you wish:

—–

Privacy Policy

Personal Information Collected on this Website
No personally-identifiable information is collected on this website from persons that browse our website. The only personally-identifiable information collected on this website is gathered in our comment area, where fields are provided so that you can provide your name and email address to leave a comment. We collect this information so that we can respond to the comments or questions that you post.

Anonymous Information Collected on this Website
We record anonymous data. Most of the information that we collect from this website is anonymous information, such as the pages you visit. Other anonymous data we may collect might include the name of your internet service provider, the website that you used to link to our site, the websites that you visit from our site, and your IP address. The data is used for statistical purposes, but you, as the individual user, remain anonymous. We use this anonymous information to help improve the content of this site and to compile aggregate statistics about individuals using our site for internal market research purposes.

Cookies
We use cookies on this website. We use Google, as a third party advertising company to serve ads when you visit our website. Google a DoubleClick DART cookie to serve ads to you based on visit to this sites and other sites on the Internet. If you would like more information about this practice and to know your choices about not having this information used by these Google, click here.

—–

For the disclosure page, I’d suggest going to http://www.disclosurepolicy.org and using it to create your own.  Here is the one I use here at How I Make Money Blogging:

Disclosure Policy

This policy is valid from 20 June 2011

This blog is a personal blog written and edited by me. For questions about this blog, please contact Crystal at budgetingfunstuff *at* gmail *dot* com.

This blog accepts forms of cash advertising, sponsorship, paid insertions or other forms of compensation. The compensation received may influence the advertising content, topics or posts made in this blog. That content, advertising space or post may not always be identified as paid or sponsored content.

The owner(s) of this blog is compensated to provide opinion on products, services, websites and various other topics. Even though the owner(s) of this blog receives compensation for our posts or advertisements, we always give our honest opinions, findings, beliefs, or experiences on those topics or products. The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely the bloggers’ own. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer, provider or party in question.

This blog does not contain any content which might present a conflict of interest.

—–

And lastly, here is an example of the general disclaimer I have sitewide.  Feel free to word this as you wish.

Disclaimer

I am not a professional or a financial advisor. These posts are informational opinions only. Please make your own decisions based on personal research.

Also, there are paid links on this site. There is no obligation on your part to purchase any products advertised on this website.

—–

In this world of CYA, don’t forget these three important parts of blogging.  Let me know if you run into any questions!

Simple Ad Page – When You Are Ready to Offer Advertising

I’ve been asked quite a few times about creating an ad page for a blog once they are ready to open up to advertisers.  The key in my opinion is simply to let advertisers know that you accept advertising and to give them a way to easily contact you.  Keep in mind that most advertisers are contacting dozens of bloggers a day, so if your ad page is too long, they don’t have time to properly read it.  So, as with many things, it is best to keep it simple.

Please feel free to use my page here or at Budgeting in the Fun Stuff as an example:

—–

Advertise Here

Welcome to Budgeting in the Fun Stuff, a personal finance blog that covers paying your bills, saving for your future, and all the enjoyable extras along the way!

If you are interested in advertising, please keep in mind that Budgeting in the Fun Stuff has:

  • a PR 4
  • an Alexa ranking around 32,000
  • a Moz Rank of 5.61
  • discounts for 3 month terms, 6 month terms, and annual terms

I’m more than willing to discuss any opportunities you may be thinking of! 

Please use the form below or email budgetingfunstuff *at* gmail *dot* com to pursue advertising on Budgeting in the Fun Stuff.  Thanks and I look forward to developing a business relationship!

(contact form)

—–

I know that it seems way too simple, but I get contacted for advertising at least once a day.  All they probably really need is my email address or that contact form, but I like to include my stats so they can tell whether I fit their campaign or not right off the bat.

In regards to the contact form, I use the plugin “Enhanced WP-ContactForm” since it is easy to set up under “Contact Form” in my settings.  All you have to do to insert the form is type in “[" wpcf "]” where you want the form to show up.

Hope this helps!  Let me know if you have any other questions.  :-)

Competition – I Knew it Would Happen

When I started my advertising service in February 2011, I knew my idea would be picked up by others.  It is the way of the world.  I have two views of my competition:

The Adult Approach

Competition happens.  Either ignore it or crush it, but either way it’s there.  I personally am trying the ignore it route and it seems to be working.  My client list is growing, advertisers actually appreciate being able to come to me when they have a bunch of placements at once, and I am building momentum.  I have been able to close more than $100,000 in ad deals in the past 4-5 months.  Sometimes maturity pays off.  :-)

The Inner-Kid Reaction

“Wahhhh, they are stealing my idea!!!”  Yeah, not mature at all, but I’ll be honest, that was my initial reaction, lol.  Now I have accepted it a bit more but I won’t lie, there is still some resentment.  I’m not sure if I was the first person to realize that other bloggers may need someone to handle their advertising negotiations, but I hadn’t seen it before.  Let’s just say that I wish there was a longer honeymoon period for great ideas.

How to Deal with It

Whether I want to act like a kid or not, I do have to move past it.  Every once in a while, I catch myself questioning aspects of my business that aren’t the same as my competitors.  Then I remind myself that I shouldn’t fix something that isn’t broken.  I have surpassed most of my clients’ expectations and hope to do so for every single one of them as time moves on.  Some sites are easier to find advertisers for than others, but I will keep trying every day.  I strive to earn my pay and am truly grateful when my clients are happy. 

That is my personal goal – to continue to put my clients first and to strive to exceed their expectations.

So, if you are ever faced with competition, I’d highly suggest using it to fuel your own success.  Negativity is natural, but try not to wallow in it.  You can prove yourself by being even better.  Good luck!

PS  Be careful with any new ideas you have.  I probably could have avoided some of my own competition problems if I wasn’t so open.  I personally have decided not to give up that aspect of my personality because of others, but feel free to learn from my mistake.

October 2011 Self-Employment Income and Expenses

Since this blog is all about How I Make Money Blogging, I will be breaking down the past month’s online income and expenses at the beginning of each new month from here on out. You can see my traffic stats for my main blog, Budgeting in the Fun Stuff, at the beginning of every month too. So here we go!

October 2011 Income Breakdown:

BEST MONTH EVER!!! Please keep in mind that I had been working in a professional position with my very own cubicle from June 2005 to July 2011 for $35,000 a year (less than $3000 a month).

As you can see, I do have multiple income streams but I am severely lacking in regards to passive income.  I am also cutting back on my other income streams in order to have time to expand my advertising business. I still need to write the eBook whose idea actually inspired the creation of this blog, but that is on the backburner for now. I also hope that my Budgeting in the Fun Stuff newsletter helps me promote affiliates I actually like.  When my passive income streams beat $200 a month, I will start listing them separately from the rest of my site ads.

October 2011 Expenses

  • Outsourcing: $819.00
  • Paypal: $903.51
  • Ticket to the Savvy Blogging Summit:  $282.87
  • Ticket to the Blogher Conference:  $203.94
  • Empire Expansion: $905.34
  • Scribe SEO software: $27.00
  • Love Drop: $20.00
  • Yakezie: $32.00
  • My Newsletter Monthly Giveaway: $25.00
  • TOTAL: $3218.66 (about 17%)

I am now outsourcing my social media, my BFS newsletter, blog carnival submissions to Melissa Batai at Mom’s Plans, niche site development for 6 new niche sites, my backups and back end work, and any sponsored posts.  Plus, Jesse and I are buying up at least 1-2 dormant sites a month to grow our online empire, lol.  I am trying to keep my overall spending to less than 15% of what I bring in for right now just to help me feel comfortable. I always hope the niche sites and the blogs I buy in order to expand end up making me some money in the long run since they cost me a bunch right off the bat.  So far, so good.

October 2011 Net Income = $15,494.53

Please keep in mind a third of that is being put away for taxes. BUT WOOT!!!  Since this is the second month in a row that I beat the $10,000 mark, that is what I am aiming for from here on out.

Any recommendations, questions, comments, or anything?

Mike and Molly’s House – How We Are Going to Make Money Blogging

The following is a guest post from Molly, a blogger with her husband Mike at (appropriately enough) Mike and Molly’s House.  For the past two years Molly has been writing about how they cut back their expenses by more than half and expounding on other financial matters on her blog Molly On Money.  Last month they launched a new blog called Mike and Molly’s House where they share their love of making, building, sewing and growing stuff and living on less.  They live just outside of Santa Fe, NM with their two girls.  

Mike and I have been blogging for two years now. When we started we didn’t worry about how often we did it, if we did it, or if we were getting paid. Our sole focus was the quality of what we were writing. It was a hobby. It turned out to be an amazing creative outlet that could encompass so many of our passions. As entrepreneurs we are always looking for ways to balance our creative outlets with making money. For the last six years we’ve been living split lives.

Our passions were saved for after work hours (and I’m not just talking about nookie ;) ). In addition to full time jobs, we had full after hours schedules too! We played with our kids, blogged, gardened, raised chickens, ducks and bees. We built stuff. All kinds of stuff. A chicken coop, yurt, greenhouse…you name it we were building it. In the wee hours Mike could be found out in the workshop tooling away on his home made CNC machine. We talked about finding a way to integrate our passions with generating an income but there were always excuses.

This spring we decided it was time to take our creative energies and focus them on making a living. We stopped writing our individual blogs and combined our resources into one uber-blog. This fall finds us both laid off from work. We’re all in now!!

1. Focus, Determination & Drive

Back in May when we started toying with the idea of a new website that would make money we had to determine if we were willing to focus solely on the blog? Crystal is a maniac when it comes to blogging. You’ll find her all over the place guest posting, posting daily on her own blogs, and working on various other projects with other bloggers. It’s clear that focus, determination and drive got her to her goal of blogging full time. We decided it was worth it to put other things down for the time being while we nurtured our blog into a successful venture.

(Crystal’s Comment: You are too nice.  I think you hit it spot on with “maniac”, lol.  Now that advertising is my main full time job, I am actually watching bloggers like you to figure out how to properly stay on top of my own blogs.  :-))

2. Write 5-7 posts a week

We researched the rise of other bloggers. We looked for consistencies and what we found is that they wrote a lot, 5-7 times per week.

Even though we are not working right now it still takes a big chunk of the day to write a post. It takes us 4-6 hours to write, photograph, edit and publish a post. We are looking for ways to shorten this but we aren’t willing to cut back on the quality of our posts. Since beginning on September 3, 2011 we’ve written 36 posts. 36 posts in 40 days ain’t bad!

(Crystal’s Comment:  Holy moly!!!  I only take about an hour per post, but they are not as informative as yours at all.  I am beyond impressed about the work you put into posts like these!)

3. Write about what you love

This was the entire point of starting our site. We were both concerned that we would run out of content. It’s been the opposite. We can’t keep up with everything we want to write about. We have a spreadsheet that has a schedule of posts (in draft or idea form) 4 weeks out. On another sheet we brainstorm ideas. We have over ninety article ideas to pull from. We set it up on Google doc so we can share it with each other.

4. Sell Yourself

You must! Unless you want to write a journal for yourself you need to build an audience. We both find it difficult to ‘sell’ ourselves. We’ve had to find ways to spread the word about what we are doing. I use my strength as connector to reach out to other bloggers. I love to conversate and this gets me past my uncomfortable zone of selling. Mike uses his talent as a doer. He posts his work on sites like Instructables to interact with other DIYers. We are reaching out in other mediums as well. We’re writing an article for an art magazine and are going to be guests on a local radio talk show. These are baby steps but it continues to get the word out to new and different potential readers.

5. Interact with the world

Comment, comment, comment. Go to forums, find sites about topics you enjoy, and talk with others. The base of our readership has come from Personal Finance blogs because that’s who I was talking to when I was writing Molly on Money. Now we are reaching out to DIY and cooking sites. I try and put about 8 hours a week towards this. I find it to be a fun part of the job. It’s where you get to see what else is out there and find new ideas. On a scale of 0-5 (5 being the most difficult) this is a 1 for me.

6. Make it easy to subscribe

Readers are the heart of our blog. They are why we do what we do. Without them it would be a big vacuum. When readers subscribe they are committing to a relationship with us. We want to make it easy for them to do so.

I’m always amazed when I go to a blog and I can’t find where to subscribe. We use Google analytics to see where people click on our site. We noticed that even though we had several places on the homepage to subscribe it still was not clear enough. We let our design aesthetic get in the way of functionality. We wanted to keep the front page simple and clean but it was so simple not everyone recognized the icons as subscribe buttons! Although we haven’t resolved it completely it is on our to-do list.

7. Ad revenue

I saved advertising for last. This should be the top of our list and it’s at the bottom. If we don’t have revenue we won’t be able have the time to write quality posts regularly. We laid out our site so that it would be easy to insert ads. We’ve been focusing on building our readership. Now it’s time for us to go round up some sponsors. I do believe you should tackle those things that make you uncomfortable first and this one needs to be a higher priority for us.

The steps are straight forward- Generate great content, reach out and sell your great content to the world, get paid for it. Easy to say, harder to do. We have a white board next to our workstation where we break our goals down to discrete tasks. We can’t hide from it! It feels great when we get to wipe a task off the board and it’s a bitter reminder of what’s being avoided when that task stays for days and days. The payoff is that we will be able to do what we love for a living.

Crystal’s Comments:  I think they are spot on.  Thank you for a great guest post Molly and good luck to you both!

I Trusted and Got Bitten

As you probably know, I run the advertising for a ton of sites – over 80 now.  What this means is that I am literally working deals and sending out completed deals for 5-6 hours a day.  This is my excuse for the mistake I made…

My Mistake

Since I do quite a few deals with the same 10 or so advertisers, I simply wasn’t paying as close attention to one of them as I should have.  I worked out a deal with one specific advertiser for a set amount for one sidebar ad for one year based on PR.  This saved us both the hassle of renegotiating for every, single new client.  Well, this was going fine until the last 2 weeks apparently.  This advertiser sends over html to be cut and pasted and I hadn’t realized they were sneaking in an extra link!!!

Today, as I was checking on the placement of the most recent ad, I noticed it had two links!  That prompted me to check the last deals with them…four sites total had two links instead of the one that all of the other sites had!  I immediately emailed the advertiser and asked which link they’d like to keep.  Or I offered them a discount to keep both links, but another payment would need to be sent.  I thought that they’d simply write back, say oops, and tell me which links to remove.

Apparently not.

Their Response – Grrrr

They wrote back saying that since I had the opportunity to decline the ads before they paid, that they’ll just leave them up as is.  But they let me know which link to remove from the most recent ad since it had not been paid for yet.

Well, sh*t.  Not only am I feeling completely stupid for not checking these ads closer before, but now I am completely ticked off at an advertiser that I’ve been doing business with for more than a year.  Crud.

Anyway, I replied that we agreed in emails on one link for one year for a certain amount based on PR.  So they could either pick the link they want removed or I will pick it for them.  I went on to say that my mistake of trusting them to send correct ads would not be repeated, that they had already gotten a couple of free weeks from me, so they shouldn’t push this issue any further.

I’ll let you know what happens.  Best case, they let me know which links to remove by tomorrow.  Worst case, I pick for them, they get ticked off, and we don’t do business together anymore.  That would make me sad since I hate losing out on easy money, but at the same time, can you believe their arrogance?!  I mean, it’s advertising with a pre-made deal.  It doesn’t come with a freaking “Buyer Beware” tag!!!

UPDATE

The advertiser came back asking why I was making a big deal about it since my clients obviously were happy with the deal since they hadn’t complained.  I said that my clients trusted me to send them the ad we agreed on and I mistakingly trusted them to send the correct ad, but that didn’t negate our actual deal.  They reminded me how much business they give me.  I reminded them that I bring in clients for them.  They told me to just break a link. 

Whew.  Crisis averted, clients have  been emailed, and links are being broken.  And I personally will tread very carefully with these people in the future…

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