Almost a full week into the project, I'd made about $12 and was trying to figure out how best to reinvest it back into the business. Day six was a Sunday, which meant I didn't have but a couple of hours to put toward the site. Those few hours went toward new product development, another blog post and tons of time spent trying to get AdSense to work properly.
(If you're just catching up with this series of articles, be sure to swing into the ongoing discussion thread at the Small Business Ideas forum. You'll be able to link to each day's article and participate in the discussion going along with it.)
Investing in the Business
With the addition of AdSense revenue, I was running a total profit of about $12 by the end of day six, which meant I was reaching the point that I was ready to start putting some money back into the business. I'd thrown around a few different ideas:
1.) Use the money to fund listings on eBay. I could list multiple offerings of the same item under a single listing and buy them from myself at a volume discount. Not being fully convinced that eBay was the best marketplace for this product, I set that idea aside with plans to revisit it later in the month.
2.) Invest in advertising outside of AdWords. T-Shirt Countdown has reasonable advertising rates and the site is certainly the type that's likely to send targeted traffic. I'd been keeping an eye on the site since the beginning of the project, though most of that was to see how many votes my entry of the "milk jugs shirt" had gotten. Since the site is still broadly focused on t-shirt, I still wasn't sure that this was the best investment of my limited funds. Thus, this idea got tossed on the pile with eBay.
3.) Buying a domain name for future development of the site. This one would be pretty affordable as domains can easily be purchased for $5-$10. Locking in www.thelactivist.com seemed like a smart idea simply on the chance that this project could really take off. Since Netfirms was offering domain name registration for $4.95, I decided this was a worthwhile investment. And with that, the full profit from my first t-shirt sale was now reinvested in the business.
4.) Paying to set up hosting. I'd already decided to go ahead and purchase a domain name. That means that I was going to need some hosting to go with it. Once I got a hosting account setup, I planned to integrate both my Blogger content and my CafePress content into it. That way, any future viral marketing or link building that I did could focus on sending all of the traffic directly to thelactivist.com. Time was running out for the day by the time I decided this though, so searching for a hosting company was going to have to wait for another day.
Expanding AdSense and Monetizing the Blog
Since the Blogger option of adding AdSense through the template panel still wasn't getting me anywhere, I decided to go around the system and plug AdSense in on my own. To do this, I needed to get into the Blogger template and make some changes.
I started off by adding two link units and a skyscraper unit to the sidebar of my blog. Unfortunately, I couldn't get the units to display any text. In fact, I couldn't even get one of the units to show the proper background color. I had turned on the option of showing a solid color background in lieu of PSA ads, but the blank ads continued to show as big, gaping black holes instead of as nice, white, blended blocks. I played around for awhile to make sure I hadn't messed the code up and finally started adding and removing ad units from the template. For some reason, removing the skyscraper ad from the sidebar fixed this problem.
Next I decided to play around with integrating some AdSense units into the main body of the blog. My original plan was to add a big block ad that was aligned right in each of the actual blog posts. The problem with this is that Google AdSense limits you to three standard ad units per page. Since the Blogger template applies your changes to every single post, that meant that I'd have to reduce the number of blog posts that display to three to a page. I tried this, but it just looked to empty, so I scrapped the idea.
Instead, I placed a banner size unit at the top of the blog and a leaderboard sized unit at the base. I also added a search box to the bottom of the page.
My next problem was that AdSense kept trying to serve up public service announcements. The best I could figure was that their crawler was still having a hard time figuring out what the site was about. To give it some help, I added some code to let it know which sections of text it should ignore and which ones it should emphasize.
I placed the following code around areas like my profile and the blog title "The Lactivist."
< !-- google_ad_section_start(weight=ignore) -- > < !-- google_ad_section_end -- >
I then added this code to the areas that I wanted to place emphasis on, like the blog description and the informational block of text at the bottom of the site:
< !-- google_ad_section_start -- > < !-- google_ad_section_end -- >
This started to help, but the ads still weren't matching up as well as they should have been. Part of the problem seemed to be that Blogger doesn't generate page titles. AdSense likes to read things like page titles to help it determine the content of the page. Since I wasn't very familiar with how the Blogger template code worked, I was a bit hesitant to jump in and start messing around. Instead, I turned to Google and ran a few searches.
This led me to SEO-Study, a site that had a section called "how to optimize a Blogger site." This site was a gold mine of information for anyone looking to make some changes to the Blogger template. It helped me setup the blog so that my post titles were now showing up as the content in the title tag. I also found a code snippet that made my post titles into permalinks. Very handy for internal link text control.
Once I'd made a few changes with the help of SEO-Study, I took a few moments to plug my own ads for The Lactivist into the AdSense system so that they would show instead of the public service announcements. While this worked great for the leaderboard at the base, I never did figure out why it won't work for the banner ad at the top of the blog content.
By now, I had reached the point of total frustration with Blogger and AdSense,so I shifted my focus back to The Lactivist store for a bit. It had been handy to have AdSense in place to let me know which categories were getting the most views (milk banks and irreverent were still leading the pack), but I wanted more information. I realized that by setting up additional AdSense channels and plugging new code into the category pages for each of the logos, I could track my views in more detail. It took about 15 minutes to setup an AdSense channel for each of my product lines, though time ran out for the day before I could get the code plugged into the site.
I ended the day by adding a few more products to the site. I'd been trying to think of a slogan for kids that I could add to the milk bank promotion section and I'd finally come up with one. Now donor mothers have the option of dressing their kids in the cheeky "I Share!" shirts and onsies. Proceeds from these products will also be going toward the milk bank along with those from the "Modern Day Wet Nurse" and "These Breasts Save Lives."
Next I added two more products to the kids's products section. The first one, "boob nosher," was inspired by a conversation I had with some Jewish mothers at one of the parenting boards. The second one, "bon appetit" came to me out of the blue. Finally, I added a new slogan for moms that reads "breasts: not just for selling cars anymore."
In the next article, we'll be at the one week point. I'll be starting my search for a good hosting deal and considering adding a new stats system to the mix. I also make my first foray into the world of affiliate marketing and find out that MSN seems to be a fan of my site. Best of all, I get an interesting email from someone special who wants to learn more about the project.
Jump to Day seven.
(Want to read the entire 30 Day article series at once? Download the free 30 Day ebook!)
November 14, 2005
Jennifer Laycock is the Editor of Search Engine Guide, the Social Media Faculty Chair for MarketMotive and offers small business social media strategy & consulting. Jennifer enjoys the challenge of finding unique and creative ways to connect with consumers without spending a fortune in marketing dollars. Though she now prefers to work with small businesses, Jennifer’s clients have included companies like Verizon, American Greetings and Highlights for Children.
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