Essential Keystrokes is…

where I share my favorite tips, tools, reviews and commentary on web design, marketing, blogging, new media and related topics. For more about this site and the voice behind it, check out my About page.


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Archive for What I Learned

Given your choice of making it to the front page of Digg, a huge Stumble wave, or a mention/link on a prominent blogger’s site, which would you prefer?

Personally, I’ll take a link on a prominent blogger’s site any day! Why? Because quality always wins out over quantity in my book. Over the past few weeks I have been paying very close attention to where my traffic is coming from and the resulting effect it has had on my site.

During the week of my blogging birthday bash, my wonderful gift from Dawud of 164 Essential Tools for Online Success post was Stumbled, Dugg, and linked to from others. The Stumble was mistimed and never really got any major momentum so the resulting traffic came in the form of a few small spikes, but those small spikes are still lingering. The post did get a fair amount of Digg attention – 83 at last count – and did briefly hit the front page, but the resulting traffic was nothing to write home about and many of the Digg comments were snippy, at best. However, the number of blogs that linked to the post and endorsed it with nice comments, created the largest benefit – from traffic and inbound links.

Later in the week I did a post on the reality of Web site monetization and Problogger (thanks Darren) linked to it. Not only was the traffic increase equal to a Digg, many of those who found the post by way of Problogger took a moment to comment and let me know how they found it or they mentioned it in a post at their own site. This kind of interaction is just so much more important to me. I also noticed a nice jump in RSS subscribers during that time, too.

Of course, my experience is just that, my experience and my opinion. I’d love to know what your experience has been with Digg versus other traffic generating sources. 

Comments (19)

Web Site Monetization – A Reality Check

Posted by: Char | Comments (48)

easymoney.jpgI would venture to say that one of the leading reasons people start blogging, is the perceived potential to make money. In my first year of blogging, I have learned more about monetizing a Web site than I can possibly fit into a single post, so I will just hit the highlights for you!

Before I entered the world of blogging, none of the websites I designed for clients or myself had been monetized in any way (and none of them were blogs). I was aware of direct advertising as a means of getting a return on your investment, but I really hadn’t clued in to much else. One of my clients had started including affiliate links in her web updates and then she wanted some Adsense blocks added. I had never done any of this before so I had her tell me what she knew and I set about doing my own research to get more information.

The big names in the internet marketing world lead you to believe that all you have to do to start making money from your web site is to slap a few Adsense ads up there, buy their book or e-book, sign up for their affiliate program and “poof” – you will be an Internet Marketing Millionaire overnight. Guess what? That’s not quite how it works.

In my experience, monetizing your web site takes:

  • Research
  • Trial and error
  • Traffic
  • and Patience

Every web site is different and there are many different ways you can monetize a site. Certain methods work better than others based on your content, your audience, your traffic level, and your end goals.

Adsense and other contextual ad programs

Where it works: Niche sites tailored to a specific audience. Health, celebrity, consumer product, and extremely specialized niches work best. The less “tech-savvy” the audience, the better the click through rate is going to be (in my experience). Also, the higher your traffic rate, obviously the better you are going to do.

How to maximize your earnings: Use a mix of link ad and ad blocks and blend them into your design as much as possible. Try out a variety of placements using channels. If using on a general topic blog, place on single pages only for more relevant ads.

Affiliate Programs

Where it works: There are affiliate programs for just about everything from specific products to e-courses and absolutely everything in between. Affiliate links work best when presented as recommendations or reviews. Landing pages or pre-sale techniques really help. Affiliate links, if done right, work well even with a the traditional non-clicking audience.

How to maximize your earnings: Do your research. Find affiliate programs for products your audience already uses or would use – especially with a good recommendation from you. Use a pre-sale technique such as a well written landing page for better conversion rates.

Direct Ad Sales

Where it works: Selling text link ads or banner ads have the highest pay potential once your site gets fairly mature and starts getting consistent traffic flows. Having a defined niche/audience helps dramatically. Also, strong content and good SEO techniques make your site more attractive to potential advertisers.

How to maximize your earnings: Have a page about advertising on your site, or at a minimum, have solid statistics on your traffic, click through rates, and your demographics on hand. Be willing to share this information with potential advertisers. You can use brokerage services as well, but keep in mind that they will take a cut of your earnings. However, this may be the easiest way to break into the direct ad arena.

Paid Blogging

Where it works: You can do paid posting through a brokerage service or you can get paid to write regularly for a network. Most of the time the brokerages that offer pay per post (or review) opportunities require your site meet some basic requirements, but beyond that, you can choose which paid opportunities you wish to write on. Writing for a network requires application for the position, but can be a great way to earn money from blogging – especially when you consider what your current blog makes.

How to maximize your earnings: Look for pay per post opportunities that you enjoy, offer some value to your readers, and ones that pay fairly well. When getting paid to blog for a network (or similar), look for a network with a solid reputation, fair pay and bonus opportunities for increasing site traffic.

The Final Word

There are plenty of people making a really good living using a combination of web monetization methods, however I doubt any of them got there overnight and without making plenty of mistakes along the way. And for the record, I didn’t make very much money my first month of monetizing my sites – or my second – or my third. Around the 4th month, things started picking up. After a year of monetizing my sites, I have gotten to the point where I can consider MYSELF as a client – allowing me to stop doing some of the client work I no longer enjoy. I know there is still ALOT more I have to learn about making money on the Internet, but we’ll revisit my progress in another 6 months.

I would LOVE to get your insights on web site monetization. What has worked for you? Am I painting a realistic or accurate picture or have I had a totally different experience than yours?


The Evolution of a Blog

Posted by: Char | Comments (22)

As part of my blogging birthday celebration I thought I would share with you where this blog started and how it got to be what it is today! If nothing else, I hope this can serve as inspiration for bloggers who are starting out or more experienced bloggers who want to take their blogs to the next level.

Evolution of a blog

Essential Keystrokes, Version 1.0 – the Blogger Days

We all have to start somewhere! Google’s Blogger platform was initially my choice because it was FREE, easy to get started, and it sounded like a good idea at the time. It was also a fairly good way to get comfortable with tweaking themes, and trying out different monetization options.

Essential Keystrokes Version 1

During that first version, I logged 50 posts between June 22 and September 29. Other stats include a whopping 31 comments, 11 inbound links and less than 200 uniques per month.

As I got my blogging bearing, it was evident that Blogger was not the way for me. I was limited by its constraints and no one even had a chance of remembering my URL. Around this time I had also started reading blogs like Easton’s Business Blogwire and Liz Strauss’ Successful Blog. The more blogs I read, the more I realized it was time to get my own domain name and try the WordPress platform.

Essential Keystrokes, Version 2.0 – Learning WordPress on the Fly

In September I purchased two new domain names – and (realizing I needed an outlet for non-web design topics) and jumped into WordPress head first. I posted my first distress call less than a week later! Lorelle of Lorelle on WordPress came to my rescue – how is that for help???

Essential Keystrokes version 2

Not one to go with the crowd, I searched high and low for a WordPress theme that was different from all the others I had seen. I found BoxyBlue from Geeks Make Me Hot and knew it was the one. I went to work tweaking the theme to make it my very own. Within the first month on my own domain my traffic more than TRIPLED, I learned how to get out there and be social, and Brian Clark of Copyblogger chose one of my headlines to remix (I still say WOW).

I also joined the MomGadget forum where I met Gayla and the rest of the crew. This is an inspiring group of bloggers and I can honestly say that their enthusiasm and willingness to share ideas, tips, and secrets for success really helped me gain a new insight into blogging.

In December I had a phone conversation with Liz at Successful Blog that became the inspiration for a very popular weekly series called Essential Tools, which has now had 27 installments. WOW!

By March my average monthly uniques was around 3,000 with page views above 45,000 and I broke the top 50,000 for Technorati (that’s a huge improvement from the bottom of the barrel.)

And then I started feeling “boxed” in.

Essential Keystrokes, Version 3.0 – I’m Starting to Hit My Stride

By late March I was beginning to feel boxed in by the two-column design of my theme and was on a hunt for something new. I looked high and low, and suddenly it hit me! My design was right in front of me. Since Essential Keystrokes is my “business” blog – an extension of my web design business, Keystrokes Design & Marketing, shouldn’t the two look something alike?


The three column layout of dkret was a good fit for the design. I designed the new look “live” and got some really awesome reader feedback in the process – something I would have totally missed had I not invited participation (thanks Kevin). Three cheers for collaboration!

I added some great plugins to help my blog with SEO, highlight popular posts, and encourage reader participation. As a result, May was fabulous! My uniques are now above 4,000, page views are topping 56,000 and Technorati has me at 17,000 now. I’d like to thank my 200 RSS subscribers, too. This blog has a LONG way to go, but it is clearly making progress.

There you have it! All you ever wanted to know about this blog – whether you wanted to know or not! Seriously, I really hope that this can help give some perspective on the evolution of an average blog. It’s not easy (but it’s not rocket science either), it takes a lot of patience, and you have to be willing to enter each day ready to learn.

It will be a lot of fun to look back on this post a year from now and see where the blogging world has taken Essential Keystrokes.

PS – Don’t forget about the great giveaways this week!

Comments (22)


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