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5 Lessons in Blog Advertising

June 18, 2008

Ah, to advertise or not advertise, that is the question.

Snook posted about his “SideBar Ads” from the gang at SideBar Creative the other day, and it reminded me of the different things I tried here on my blog. Over time I’ve had two different iterations of ad support:

  1. simply running Google Ads; it worked reasonably well
  2. text links; ultimately I removed them and got out of the text link game.

I may or may not go back to it, but I thought I’d put a few ideas out there as to why I got out.

Lack of Automation

Lesson learned: ensure that all payments to you are done through some type of automation — even a simple recurring PayPal payment would sort this out.

The problem I had with automation was very simple: the group that had placed text link ads on this site wasn’t fully automated. While their side of things was in terms of placing the ads on the site, they weren’t automated in terms of payment. For a stretch, I went 6 months without receiving a payment.

At that point, I had to simply ask “what’s the point?”

Ease of Integration

Lesson learned: just like any project, get the requirements from the client first, have them look at a prototype to see if it meets their needs and revise your ad integration code.

Placing the code on the site was easy as pie.

The first time.

After that, there were several emails where requirements seemed to change: “Can you please add this bit of code here?” or “We need you to add an image before your code and it has to be something like this.”

Yes, I’m being kind of vague, but my impression of what happened is that they put something out there and then were responding to requests from their advertising clients in order to make them happy. And by doing so, they were actually making me unhappy.


Lesson learned: do everything you can to provide just one point of contact for site owners so that we are not left wondering who to contact.

Over the course of running the text ads, I had contact with at least four different people and it was very unclear to me which person I should be contacting at any given time.

Account manager? I honestly can’t tell you. Should I contact their tech person or someone else if I have integration problems? What about payment issues? account manager or the accountant?

It was completely unclear to me and it contributed to my overall dissatisfaction with the entire experiment.


Lesson learned: If the ads aren’t of value or relevance to your audience, there isn’t much point.

Ultimately there was no value in it for me as I wasn’t getting paid. That aside, what really concerned me was that there was zero value in it for the readers of this site. Zero.

I like what Snook and others have done – the ads that they run are relevant to the industry, not simply text ads that appear to be there for page rank purposes.

If you can provide relevance, then you can provide a good reason for the ads to be there. If you can’t, in my opinion, it isn’t worth it. Even simple Google ads are great at attempting to deliver on the promise of relevance.


Lesson learned: if it looks like spam (even if it isn’t) it is still spam in the eyes of readers. If you’re going with Text Link ads, make sure it doesn’t look like your site has been hacked — you need to integrate it into the site so that it looks and smells like and ad. It needs to be obvious!

James Craig said to me “Dude, your site has been hacked – there are all kinds of spam links in the footer.”

That sealed the deal for me. I needed to get out of this advertising gig for now.

My page rank had dropped quite a bit, though I can’t say for certain it was because of the text link ads, I wasn’t getting paid due to the lack of automation, and ultimately I questioned the value of the ads for anyone reading the blog.

Interestingly, I received an email from the text link company saying they could help me get my page rank back. Their solution? Send a message off to Google explaining things and resubmit the site using Google’s Webmaster Tools. In their “instructions” on how to go about doing this, they mentioned that several of the sites that they had in their ad network had similar Page Rank problems! Here’s another excerpt that made me cringe:

Please note that this form is usually used for webmasters that may have been involved in “black hat” SEO techniques and have “spammed” the engines to some degree and been blacklisted. Although that is not the case with your site, you still use this form to resubmit your site to get your page rank back.

Ah, right.

Web Standards Job in Ottawa

October 31, 2007

This may seem a little odd, but within the last 15 minutes, we’ve seen search hits (thanks to Shaun Inman’s mint) both here on the blog and on the company site for someone looking for a web standards job in Ottawa.

This is a good thing, and this post might be too late. Then again, maybe it won’t… Sooooo:

If you are looking for a web standards based job in Ottawa, please go over to the company site and contact us today with your resume, salary expectations, and a portfolio. You may be just what we’re looking for, and we might be a perfect match for you.

What are you waiting for?

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I hired Jeff Smith

February 19, 2007

I’ve been waiting to announce this for a few weeks now, so I’m very pleased to finally be able to tell everyone (or at least everyone that reads this blog) that I’ve managed to get Jeff Smith to become part of the Further Ahead team. He officially started today. Jeff has loads of experience and brings a lot to the team as a standards-based designer/developer hybrid.

Jeff and I have been talking on and off for some time now about him possibly doing contract work for me on an “as needed” basis. That work would be during his freelance time, though, as Jeff had a full-time job, and that just wasn’t going to solve my problems.

Despite the fact that I hadn’t met Jeff in person (we have known each other for quite some time online), we had a few serious discussions before and after Christmas. At that point, I decided that I was ready – or more accurately, I decided that I was more than 80% ready. 80% ready is the new metric I use to decide if it is time to do something. That is based on the following premise:

If you wait until you’re 100% ready, you’ll never do anything.

You will never be 100% ready, but once you’re 80% ready, you’re committed and the rest is details.

When I met Jeff at Web Directions North, I knew I had made the right decision, and I’m really happy to have him on board.

Please join me in welcoming Jeff to the team!

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In 2007

January 2, 2007

A quick post to kick off the first work day of 2007. Mostly to remind myself what I’m aiming for this year and to document some goals of mine. I haven’t thought them all completely through, but really, who ever does?

This year I will:

  • code less, consult more
  • focus on growing and building the business
  • finish the redesign of the company site
  • provide more seminars, workshops and training
  • speak at between 6-10 conferences
  • hire a designer/developer
  • be more productive but work fewer hours in a week
  • engage in more broad “user experience” work
  • serve as a hired gun for an agency that wants accessibility help
  • more fully implement kinkless GTD
  • write a book
  • eat more fruit and vegetables and less chocolate, chips and candy
  • increase company revenue by 15% or more
  • say no
  • leave my email client closed until 11am
  • move the office completely out of the house (no more hybrid)
  • run the IronMan (Lake Placid, NY) on July 22, 2007

MacBook Pro Plane Power

September 17, 2006

I’ve had a 15″ MacBook Pro for a month now, and I must say that I’m reasonably happy. Built-in iSight is great. Processing power is great. Having the ability to run Windows with Parallels has been amazing – I can now work on one machine instead of two. The Windows installation is even reasonable at running assistive technology.

I’m a little disappointed in one area though.
Continue reading MacBook Pro Plane Power

Ten Smart Moves to Improve your Business

May 3, 2006

Ten things that can improve your business:

Continue reading Ten Smart Moves to Improve your Business

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User Centered Email

April 19, 2006

I appreciate the efforts of one of our local recruitment agencies sending me email notifications of contract opportunities.

I hate the fact that the person sending them is clueless and essentially puts no thought into what he sends on to me (I won’t even get into the fact that he still sends emails out to people on his “list” by sending a message to himself and then bcc-ing everyone)

Continue reading User Centered Email

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Five Business Mistakes I’ve Made

March 30, 2006

I’ve been in business on my own as a corporation for 7 years now, and was a sole proprietor/freelance type for 2 years before that. With all the successes there have also been a few failures. Here’s some mistakes I’ve made. Here’s hoping they are helpful to someone out there!

Continue reading Five Business Mistakes I’ve Made

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Four Steps to Becoming an Accessibility Consultant

February 2, 2006
Step 1
Put the words “Accessibility Consultant” on your business card.
Step 2
Ok, I lied. There is only one step.
Step 3
No, really. There’s only one step.
Step 4
Look, get over it already. The simple fact is that there really is only one step.

Continue reading Four Steps to Becoming an Accessibility Consultant

The Meaning of Web Standards

September 14, 2005

Imagine, if you will:

As part of this web standards and accessibility consulting project we’ll produce a document that guides your work so your developers are ‘doing the right thing’
That’s excellent – really good value and great for our redesign efforts
No problem. Let’s make it happen
Yes. Let’s.

Continue reading The Meaning of Web Standards

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