After participating in a number of business-themed group blogs and serving as the lead writer for two technology companies' blogs, I launched my own blog to serve as a scratchpad for industry-related musings. I figured it would just take a few minutes on nights and weekends, but the humbling experience led to a few sleepless nights.
Today, we'll review a number of the challenges I've faced as a search-minded blogger and how they relate to current hot-button issues spanning search marketing and online publishing.
What's in a Name? I knew I'd be able to launch a blog when I had a catchy name for it: Inside the Marketers Studio. I registered marketersstudio.com with Go Daddy (no, not because of its Super Bowl ads) and set up a subscription to TypePad, the blogging software recommended by Unicast's programmers.
The original title I used atop the blog was simply its name. Then vanity got the best of me. I share a name with New York's best known inmate, so I couldn't resist raising the blog's profile for such searches. I added "David Berkowitz's Blog" to the title, and within days its rank in Google jumped from 30 to 16 when searching for my name. A few friends linking to my blog also helped. I've since revised the title to "Inside the Marketers Studio--David Berkowitz's Marketing Blog" to rank higher for a relevant phrase ("marketing blog") that people actually enter.
AdSense or Nonsense? One decision I had to make was whether or not to run contextual advertising. I'm wary of running contextual ads on my own site. For me, a reader will prove to be far more valuable by clicking around the site, whether it's to read previous entries, peruse links to my favorite resources, or post a comment. In this sense, I'm providing value to the visitors, and they'll then value my site more. In that the only brand being advertised on the blog is my personal brand, I need to be all the more vigilant.
MediaPost columnist and Performance Pricing founder Ari Rosenberg recently discussed this issue with me over chopped liver and turkey sandwiches at Ben's Deli. I told Ari how several years ago, whether solicited or not, I advised an online publisher against running contextual ads because they detracted from the reader's experience. The connection between consumer experience and advertiser value is inextricable, or it should be, and with any luck Ari will expound on this in detail in an Online Publishing Insider. It's a complicated issue that stretches far beyond contextual advertising. Just because an ad is effective (it makes money for the advertiser and publisher) and the consumer accepts it does not mean the ad adds value. Perhaps the value's there, but at least ask the question.
Pay to Play: Instead of earning residual income from ads, I tried something I'm even better at, both as a consumer and a marketer: spending money. I kicked off a limited Google AdWords campaign with a $5 daily cap. In the first week, I paid $11 with a $0.60 cap on sponsored search-triggered ads (labeled in AdWords simply as "Search") and a $0.50 cap on contextual ads (labeled as "Content"). I'm running at a 0.3% click-through rate (CTR) for Search and 0.03% for Content.
I wrote a second ad that drove Content impressions through the roof, probably due to changing a reference from "online marketing" to the more frequently searched "Internet marketing." Other A/B tests are in progress. A confession: the same Content ads I'm not running on my site have delivered the bulk of my visitors from search.
Not the Real World: This is not a typical case study. I have no way of tracking conversions, and I'm not interested in a vast audience. Fortunately, there is one loyal reader who often reminds me that I'm not just talking to myself (thanks, Cara).
Ultimately, I will need to start putting more emphasis on search engine optimization if I want to ensure steady results from search traffic. In that I'm not selling books or consulting services, spending money on advertising is reckless. I'll also need to make sure my site is optimized for the larger blog search engines.
All of this leaves me longing for the time when my only blogging responsibility was writing a pithy post. Then again, there's a strange, almost perverse sense of satisfaction I get when someone comments on a blog entry or links to my blog from theirs. Call it the blogger's high. Combine that with the search marketer's high, and it's worth every sleepless night.