Tag Archives: site

Site Statistics 2008

For those, e.g. current and potential advertisers, interested in how this site performed in 2008, here are Google Analytics reports you can download. Note that visits/page views are somewhat underreported from October, more sharply so from mid-November, when I moved some of my most popular pages to WordPress and forgot to add the Google Analytics Read More…

For those, e.g. current and potential advertisers, interested in how this site performed in 2008, here are Google Analytics reports you can download. Note that visits/page views are somewhat underreported from October, more sharply so from mid-November, when I moved some of my most popular pages to WordPress and forgot to add the Google Analytics code to the new pages! My Google AdSense report, which does not rely on that piece of tracking code (I’ve had ads on my WordPress site all year) shows 717,736 total page impressions for 2008, whereas Google Analytics shows 700,111 page views.

The code is now in, so visitor stats from about December 23rd are accurate.

Dashboard Overview

Top-100-Pages

Keywords

When a Spell Checker Won’t Save You

70 million blogs, and thousands more “professional” news sources online, collectively produce billions of words every day. I rejoice that so many people are able to publish their thoughts and seek an audience, at low or no cost – information is good, freely shared information even better. But I cringe at the abuses I see Read More…

70 million blogs, and thousands more “professional” news sources online, collectively produce billions of words every day. I rejoice that so many people are able to publish their thoughts and seek an audience, at low or no cost – information is good, freely shared information even better.

But I cringe at the abuses I see daily heaped upon the English language. Not “just” by bloggers, but also by journalists and others who should know better, working for news organizations that once upon a time had copy editors on staff.

Why should you care about excruciatingly correct grammar, spelling, and word use?

  • Anything less makes you look sloppy and amateurish, calling into question the reliability of your information. Rightly or wrongly, we are all trained to believe that information presented in polished prose is more authoritative, more likely to be accurate, than SMS-speak.
  • Poor writing is harder to understand than good, distracting the reader from the gist of your argument as she tries to tease out your meaning from a welter of poorly-chosen (or misspelled) words.

The very least you can do, as a courtesy to your readers, is to use a spelling checker – which is so easy that leaving misspelled words in your writing shows contempt for your readers and, indeed, your own work.

However, there are some kinds of mistakes that a spell check won’t catch: such as when a word is spelled correctly, but used in the wrong place. This happens most often with homonyms (words that sound the same but are spelled differently). Here are a few commonly-abused homonyms that you can easily learn to use properly:

affect effect impact

Affect

  • verb: to influence- “This product recall will adversely affect our profits.”
  • noun: an emotional state (mostly used by psychologists): “When I saw
    Mrs. Smith, she was quite depressed and had a flat affect.”

Effect

  • verb: to cause or bring about – “They managed to effect a compromise between the quarrelling parties.”
  • noun: a result – “Please don’t start drilling. That Novocaine has had no effect whatsoever.”

Impact used to be a noun: “The impact of his speech was enormous.”

Impact as a verb: Twenty years ago, the only thing that could be properly said to be impacted was a wisdom tooth or a bowel. Nowadays, everybody uses it as a verb (“That’s going to impact our bottom line”), a usage which has crept into the general language from bureaucratic Pentagon-speak. Ugh.

bated baited

bate means “1 : to reduce the force or intensity of : RESTRAIN <with bated breath>” (Webster’s online)

bait to entice or lure, as in fishing.

If you’re really waiting with “baited breath”, you just keep on waiting – ain’t nobody gonna kiss you!

flair flare

Flair is a noun, meaning a certain talent or ability: “As a child he had a flair for numbers, so he grew up to be an accountant.”

Flare is a verb, meaning to flame up: “Tempers flared on the field after the ref’s disastrous call.”

But it’s also a noun: “The soldiers broke the darkness by sending a flare into the sky.”

horde hoard

Horde, a noun, means a large group: “A horde of locusts descended upon the field.”

Hoard can be a verb, meaning to amass or hold aside something so as to accumulate a lot of it, or a noun – the mass so accumulated: “The dragon slept on his hoard of gold.”

(Confusingly, Genghis Khan’s Golden Horde refers to his army, not to any treasure they may have carried with them.)

its it’s

Any third-grade English teacher worth his or her salary should have taught you this, but it seems to be forgotten by many.

It’s true that ‘s indicates a possessive when tacked onto most nouns: “The boy’s ball was in the dog’s mouth.”

However, it’s is a special case: it’s a contraction for it is, just like he’s = he is, she’s = she is.

To indicate possession by an it, use its: “The dog had the ball in its mouth.”

lay lie

Lay is a transitive verb: you have to do it TO something: “Lay the gun down on the floor and move away slowly.”

It is often confused with lie, an intransitive verb meaning “to be or to stay at rest in a horizontal position“. Therefore, “Do you need to lay down for a nap?” is incorrect.

Don’t be confused by the children’s prayer “Now I lay me down to sleep” – lay is correct here because the child is (somewhat archaically) laying himself (his body) down. (That the child is then called upon to contemplate the possibility of his own death during the night strikes me as not likely to produce sweet dreams!)

lead lead led

NEW! (Because frequent mis-use of these is making me crazy.)

Lead, pronounced LEED, is the present tense verb, as in “to lead the pack.”

Spelled led and pronounced LED, it is the past tense of that same verb: “The old wolf led the pack until she died.”

Spelled lead and pronounced LED, it is a metal, as in “He killed Colonel Mustard with the lead pipe in the studio!”

Therefore, constructions such as “That question has lead a group of researchers to examine…” are WRONG.

peak peek pique

Peak is a noun for the top of a mountain: “Tenzing and Hilary scaled the peak of Everest.”

It can also be a verb, meaning to reach a height (from which you/it/something will then descend): “Brangelina fever peaked when…” – oh, who cares!

Peek can be a verb – to take a quick and/or clandestine look at something. In the UK, it’s synonymous with peep. “The children snuck down the stairs and peeked into the room to see what Santa had brought them.”

It can also be a noun: “Take a peek through this keyhole.”

Pique is most often used as a verb. Derived from the French piquer (to sting, prick, prod), it means to stimulate: “Her curiosity was piqued by the bartender’s odd behavior.”

But you can also have a fit of pique (irritation).

What you cannot do is to have a sneak peak (a sly mountaintop?) or to have your interest peaked (though your interest may peak of its own accord).

pore pour

Both are verbs, both can be used with “over”.

To pore over means to read or study attentively: “She pored over her notes for hours before the exam.”

To pour means to cause to flow in a stream: “He poured maple syrup over his pancakes.”

If your student is pouring over her notes, you’d better make her take a break!

pouringover

above: even the New York Times makes this mistake

prostate prostrate

The prostate is a strategically-placed male gland.

Prostrate is an adjective – (prone, lying on the ground: “They saw his prostrate form on the mountain path.”)) – or verb (to lie down on the ground, usually in front of somebody – “He prostrated himself before the golden idol.”)

Don’t confuse these two. The mental pictures conjured up are just too painful.

[free] reign or rein?

Reign is a noun meaning sovereignty or rulership: “During the reign of King Henry VIII…” Reins are what you attach to the bridle of a horse to steer by. “Free rein” means to give someone liberty to do as he likes. “Free reign” is an oxymoron.

I have not yet seen anyone offering “free rain,” and hope I never do!

tenants tenets

Tenants are the people who rent a place from you. Tenets are beliefs. You probably don’t hold core tenants, unless you need that rent money very badly.

than then

Than is a conjunction “introducing the second element in a comparison” (Webster’s New World Dictionary). “Mumbai is hotter than Miami.”

Then is an adverb, often (but not always) meaning “at that time” or “next in order of time”: ” “We’ll have dinner, then go to a movie.”

NEVER “I’m bigger then you are.”

their there they’re

Their – Possessive pronoun meaning “belonging to them”: “The kids wore their uniforms on the bus on the way to the ball game.”

There – That place: “When they got there, it was raining.”

They’re – Contraction for “they are”: “But now the sun’s out and they’re going to have a great game.”

theirs there’s

Theirs – Possessive pronoun again: “They said that no ball of theirs had ever had stitching like that.”

There’s – Contract for “there is”: “Now there’s going to be an investigation by the Little League.”

wreck havoc

The correct phrase is “wreak havoc”, wreak meaning “to cause,” “havoc” – devastation or disorder. To “wreck havoc” would presumably be a waste of time – havoc is already pretty much wrecked. To reek havoc? Let’s not even go there.

Here endeth the lesson. For today.

Feb 10 – Thanks to Jackson Day for the affect/effect grid and David Bratt-Pfotenhauer for some more pet peeves!

Requesting Reader Reviews and Input

I’m thinking about writing a(nother) book, based on or at least related to (at least some of) what I already write about on my site. However, that covers a lot of ground, from Italy to India to the Internet, and I’m trying to figure out where to focus. And, in order to persuade a publisher Read More…

I’m thinking about writing a(nother) book, based on or at least related to (at least some of) what I already write about on my site. However, that covers a lot of ground, from Italy to India to the Internet, and I’m trying to figure out where to focus.

And, in order to persuade a publisher that my work is worth printing on paper, it would be useful for me to be able to show them some reader reviews. So here’s your chance to tell me (please!):

  1. What do you like and dislike about the site?
  2. Is this your first visit? If it isn’t, why do you keep coming back?
  3. What’s your favorite article on the site?
  4. What else would you like to see more of, less of?
  5. If I were to write a book based (more or less) on what’s on the site, what do you think the book’s central theme should be?
  6. Would you buy the book? (assuming that at least 50% of the material in it is NOT already available for free on the site)

Thanks! Deirdré

How Now John Chow?

A Useful Site If You’re Looking to Monetize I’ve mentioned him in passing, but I’ll be more explicit now: if you are interested in making money from your website/blog, John Chow is full of good advice. Though already a “Dot Com Mogul”, he started a new blog about a year ago which focuses mostly on Read More…

A Useful Site If You’re Looking to Monetize

I’ve mentioned him in passing, but I’ll be more explicit now: if you are interested in making money from your website/blog, John Chow is full of good advice. Though already a “Dot Com Mogul”, he started a new blog about a year ago which focuses mostly on how to do this, e.g. by being a “Google whore“, with some interesting asides about his multicultural life as a Chinese-Canadian, which of course I enjoy and empathize with.

Although I’ve been using Google AdSense for a while, I haven’t written much about it, partly because their terms of use seem to prohibit explicit discussion of how much money one is making – without which, it’s hard say anything useful and concrete about how to make more.

Either Google have changed their rules about discussing money, or John doesn’t mind risking risking a rap on the knuckles – he’s very up-front about how much he’s earning. (Not that he’s likely to get any guff from Google – apparently he’s one of their favorite people.)

And he doesn’t mind pushing the Google envelope with advice about dodgy practices such as making ads appear to be part of your text or placing images so that they appear to be part of, and draw attention to, Google ads. His experiments are especially useful because somebody at Google reads his blog, and soon follows up with clarification on what exactly their rules mean.

That sort of thing tells me what I can’t do, but fortunately John is also helpful on what I can do to increase revenues. The recent addition of advertising to my comments section is thanks to his tip about an AdSense plugin for WordPress (the blogging software I use for comments), which has even made me a few cents already.

One discouraging thing I’ve learned is that I make about a tenth of John’s income from AdSense, and I get about a tenth of his traffic. So, to meet my goal of earning a “salary” from my site, it seems that I will have to get ten times the traffic I currently get. Which can be done – and John, among many others, offers suggestions on how – but it will take time. <sigh>

All this focus on making money could be distasteful, especially knowing that my visits contribute to John’s enviable (and by me envied) success. But he gives his site earnings to charity and, now, to a trust fund for his baby daughter. And who can quarrel with that? I have a daughter of my own, and part of my motivation for wanting to make money from my site is that she wants to go away to school next year!

And he doesn’t mind sharing the wealth with us aspiring Google whores. John recently offered to post links to any and all sites that review his, including this one. Because his site is so popular, this kind of link has intrinsic value (as I’ll be discussing in a future piece in my own making money on your site series).

What with the Christmas rush, I didn’t get this review done in time to participate in the contest for a MiniTV USB device (which might not have worked in Europe anyway, and I already tried one out from the office, and when am I going to watch Italian TV on my laptop?). But here it is, with thanks to John for all the good advice he has already shared, and the more good advice I expect he’ll continue to share.

Earning from Advertising Online

My new goal is to earn a living wage from this site. I’ve got a long way to go, but at least the trend is upward. I’ve been using Google AdSense since May, 2004, to place "context-sensitive" ads on my pages. I earn money whenever a site visitor clicks on one of these ads. The Read More…

My new goal is to earn a living wage from this site. I’ve got a long way to go, but at least the trend is upward.

I’ve been using Google AdSense since May, 2004, to place "context-sensitive" ads on my pages. I earn money whenever a site visitor clicks on one of these ads.

The results to date have not been impressive: most months I didn’t even earn the minimum $100 required for Google to actually pay me (the earnings accumulate: you get paid the month after your total goes over $100). So I’ve been studying up, with the help of blogs like John Chow’s, applying what I’ve learned to my site, and observing the results.

Logically enough, revenues from Google AdSense seem to be linearly related to:

  • the number of ads available to be seen on the site (= number of pages x number of ads per page),
  • the number of people who actually see them, and, of course,
  • the percentage of those who actually click on an ad (yes, there are ads that pay per view, see below).

Furthermore, earnings are non-linearly related to:

  • where on the page ads are placed
  • how people arrived at your site in the first place
  • what they were looking for that got them there – in other words, what’s on the pages.

I will deal with each of these aspects in turn, in several articles, before discussing my results.

Number & Placement of Ads on a Page

Google AdSense

According to Google’s rules, on any single page you can have a maximum of:

  • three ad units (ahem – I had forgotten this rule til recently, and was flouting it on some pages where I had manually placed ads in the middle of the page – I hope I have all those cleaned out now)
  • one link unit
  • two search boxes
  • one product referral button

Right now, on most pages on this site, you’ll see Google ad units in the left and right columns and at the bottom, and a link unit in upper right corner. The search box is at the very bottom of the page – that’s been there for a long time, and was always intended to be useful rather than to earn money (which is a good thing, because it earns almost nothing). The product referral button (lower right corner on most pages) earns if someone clicks through and downloads what Google is offering. I don’t mind recommending Firefox because I’ve been using it myself for years, as do a disproportionate (to its market share) percentage of my visitors (I placed those buttons only recently – no earnings so far).

For a long time, being squeamish about bombarding people with obtrusive advertising, I had a fixed ad unit only at the bottom of the page. I doubt many people saw those ads. My web statistics show that over 80% of the people who land on my site leave within 30 seconds. Google probably registers a page "impression" for that bottom ad unit for every page viewed, because the ad was loaded on the page and, from Google’s point of view, available to be seen. However, a lot of my visitors are clearly just glancing at the top of a page and leaving again, so they never actually see those bottom ads.

Lesson: For an ad to be guaranteed to be seen, it must be "above the fold" – in the top area of the screen that is seen immediately without scrolling down.

Google’s own AdSense blog offered a case study about a site that quadrupled its revenues by placing ads in certain spots. So I added the ad unit in the left column below the section menu – the Google folks said that left columns perform better than right columns. In the case of my site, they perform very well, perhaps because the left column starts with navigation (links to other pages in the same section). Any eye scanning down the navigation list would tend continue on down to at least the first Google ad. (I would love to know if it is in fact the top ads that get clicked on, rather than those further down in the ad unit, but Google doesn’t give me this kind of detail.)

The ad unit on the right is more recent, a result of screen real estate being freed up by something else that I’ll get to in a minute.

According to John Chow, the most lucrative type of ad on his site is the "large rectangle," and it appears that he’s not the only site owner to think so. My suspicion is that its placement is more important than its format: on his and many other blogs it’s right in your face, interrupting and confusing the reading material so that sometimes I’m not even sure what’s blog and what’s advertising. I am not as much of a design purist as I used to be, but I draw the line at that (for now). For the time being, I will keep the center column of each page ad-free. (So, if ads really bother you, keep your eyes to the middle of the road.)

I have some very long pages, leaving a lot of room in the left and right columns. Google won’t let me show more than three of their ads, but I’m allowed to also show other ads, as long as these are not context-sensitive (which would put them in competition with Google).

Amazon

In the left column below the Google ad unit, you’ll see an "Omakase" ad unit from Amazon. "Omakase" is a Japanese restaurant term meaning "as you like it." Each unit is generated on-the-fly by Amazon, taking its cue partly from page content, but more from Amazon links elsewhere on the site (including my own Amazon store). If you (the visitor) are already an Amazon customer, the links shown are also based on your own history with Amazon – guessing from the ads I see myself, this may even be the heaviest factor in Amazon’s decisions about what to display (though they are likely also playing with the mix to see what works best). You and I would never see the same Amazon links, even if we visited the same page at the same time.

(It did not occur to me til just now to wonder whether Google considers this competitive… Feels to me like a gray area. I guess someone will yell at me if they don’t like it.)

These links have been on my site for a few months and have indeed increased my Amazon revenues: from zero to $10 in three months. I don’t know who’s making money as an Amazon "associate," but it sure ain’t me. But any money is better than no money, and I like the look of the Amazon ads.

BlogHer

On the right side of most of my pages, you’ll see the result of my recent membership in BlogHer, a network of women bloggers. Adding that right column space to a site that wasn’t originally designed for it has been a bitch and a half, and the job isn’t done yet. Although I’m using DreamWeaver templates, which automate some of the changes, I’m having to touch up every page by hand, to create a center column that doesn’t run into the advertising on the right and therefore become unreadable and ugly.

But this has had two useful side effects:

  1. There’s a lot more room for ads in that right column, so I was able to put in another vertical Google ad unit.
  2. I’ve constrained my text to a column 600 pixels wide, instread of sprawling across whatever width of screen was available. This is much more comfortable to read on large monitors – when a line of text gets too long, the eye can easily get lost while reading across it.

It’s too early yet to tell how much revenue BlogHer will be worth, but it may prove useful to drum up new readers: as my site now features links to others in the BlogHer network, my site is featured on some of theirs; I get a little bit of traffic from this. And I’m finding the people at BlogHer nice to work with. Although (story of my life) I don’t fit the normal blogging mold, they have gone out of their way to work with me, and even pro-actively suggested useful changes. It’s a far more personal relationship than I could ever have with Google or Amazon, and, with me, relationships count.

Other Ad Networks

There are other ad networks out there. I tried Adify, which offers to sell advertising space, but, as far as I can tell, I never even got a sniff of a customer from them. (Google also offers a "buy advertising on this site" option – you can see it in every ad unit, but I don’t think anyone has bitten yet.)

Apparently you don’t start to make real money until you can attract the big boys, as John Chow has done. And, to do that, you have to have large numbers of visitors. Yes, I’m working on that – as I will discuss in a near-future article!

read Part 2, on increasing the number of pages on your site

links to John Chow