Content Targeting: AdPlugg + Open Graph


AdPlugg just launched a new content targeting feature that allows you to target your ads based on the Open Graph tags on your pages. This allows you to target ads to specific topics, sections, tags, etc. The new Open Graph targeting feature is available to all Pro Plan subscribers.

The Open Graph targeting feature is especially useful if you don’t include the category of the article or post in the page’s url. For instance, using AdPlugg’s Page Targeting feature, you have long been able to target ‘sports’ related ads to a url such as ‘http://www.example.com/sports/tennis/wimbledon-2017’ (based on ‘/sports/’ being in the url). However, if you’ve structured your urls in a flat format (such as ‘http://www.example.com/wimbledon-2017’), there was previously no way to target ‘sports’ (or ‘tennis’) related ads to the article. With Open Graph targeting, AdPlugg can now look at your Open Graph meta tags, and for this kind of targeting, the URL doesn’t matter.

So What Exactly are Open Graph Tags?

Open Graph tags are meta tags that you add to the header of your site’s pages. They are used to describe the content of the page.

Below is an example of Open Graph tags that indicate that the page is in the ‘sports’ section/category and that it has been tagged with ‘tennis’ and ‘wimbledon’.

<head>
<meta property="article:section" content="sports"/>
<meta property="article:tag" content="tennis"/>
<meta property="article:tag" content="wimbledon"/>
...
<head>

Though the Open Graph protocol defines a large number of different tags, AdPlugg has specifically added support for the article:section tag and the article:tags shown above.

If you want, view the source of this page to see what Open Graph tags it uses.

How do I add Open Graph tags to my site?

There is actually a good chance that your site is already using Open Graph tags. To check, right click on one of your pages and look for tags that look something like the ones shown in the example above.

The AdPlugg Blog runs on WordPress. We use the Yoast SEO plugin which adds Open Graph tags automatically to all of our posts. The article:section tag that it adds corresponds to the Primary Category that we pick for each post. The plugin also adds an article:tag tag for each of the WordPress Tags that we assign to the post.

The Yoast SEO plugin is just one of over a dozen different WordPress plugins that you can use to add Open Graph tags to your WordPress site.

But I don’t use WordPress!

Don’t use WordPress? No sweat! Open Graph is a standard that has no tie to any particular CMS. There are plugins available for all major CMS systems that allow you to easily (and often automatically) add Open Graph tags to your pages.

Targeting Your Ads and Placements by Open Graph Tag

We’ve added two new subsections to the Page Targeting settings on both the Ad form and the Placement form. One subsection is for “Section Targeting” and the other is for “Tag Targeting”. We’ve renamed the general “Page Targeting” settings to “Path Targeting to better describe how they target the ‘path’ part of the URL.

Once you’ve ensured that Open Graph tags are on your pages, you can use the new Section Targeting and Tag targeting fields to target ads to the page. There are instructions for how to use the settings directly below the fields themselves.

You can tell AdPlugg to target sections or exclude sections, you can also target or exclude pages that aren’t part of a section. The sections can also include wildcards (such as ‘sports-*’).

With “article:tag” targeting, you enter any number of tags and choose whether you want to have your list be the tags that are included or excluded.

We plan to add support for additional Open Graph tags in the future. Some of the ones that we are specifically eying are og:locale (which would allow targeting based on the page’s intended country and language) and og:site_name (which, of course, would allow targeting based on the name of the site). You can see the complete list of Open Graph tags at ogp.me.

Have a question about how to add Open Graph tags to your site, how to target your ads based on your Open Graph tags, or anything else? Post it to the comments section below!

Why Should I Use an Ad Server?

“So why should I use an ad server?” This is a question that we’ve gotten a number of times. And this week, I’m going to give you the low down.

It’s easy to see advertising as an afterthought when working on making a great website or blog. And in fact, that’s exactly the reason why you should outsource your ad serving; you want to be able to focus on providing great content.

So without further ado, here are our top reasons why you should use an ad server:

Stats are your Friend

Unless you are serving only in-house ads, you are going to need to keep track of how many impressions and clicks the ads that you serve are getting. If you can’t provide proof that the ads are being shown, don’t plan on keeping your advertisers around very long.

Even for in-house ads (ads that promote your own products and services), statistical data is crucial to let you know if your ad is getting any clicks, or if you should change out the creative.

Ad Stats Take a Lot of Disk Space

Ad statistics (impressions, clicks, etc) take a lot of storage room. It’s better to store this rapidly expanding data in the cloud where systems have been set up to handle it. If you try to store the stats data yourself, you can end up needing a bigger hosting account or could end up running out of space – causing an outage.

Faster Loading and Lower Hosting Costs

By loading your ads asynchronously off of a third party server, you can cache your pages. Caching can speed up your site and lower your hosting costs. Smart publishers serve all of their pages out of cache and offload traffic stats, comments and ads to third party services.

Serving Ads is A Different Beast from Serving Content

Ad Servers are designed to be able to do computationally expensive ad serving strategies quickly. This includes ad rotation, scheduling, targeting, etc. The average web hosting account is designed to serve mostly static content. Trying to run ad serving strategies on your web server can slow your site down and increase your hosting costs. In addition, serving content and ads and off the same system can make it difficult to determine the source of any issues.

Serve Ads to All of your Sites

By using a separate ad server, you can serve the same ads to multiple websites. This can be important as you grow and start to include more offerings, blogs, etc.

If you run ads directly off of a standalone plugin, you will only be able to serve those ads to a single website. By using a separate ad server, you can serve your ads to any number of websites.

Conclusion

Hopefully this post has given you a good idea of the pros of using an Ad Server. With AdPlugg, we’ve taken all the cons out by making it free and easy to instantly get your own cloud based ad server. Go to our signup page to get yours now.

Have questions? Something we forgot? Please post to the comments section below.

How to Pass the Facebook Instant Articles Review

Want to breeze through the Facebook Instant Articles review process? This post gives you all of the info that you are going to need. So let’s get started.

Quick Overview of Facebook Instant Articles

If you aren’t already familiar with it, Facebook Instant Articles (FBIA) is basically a feed reader that lives inside of the Facebook mobile app. You create a Facebook Instant Articles feed and Facebook pulls it in so that your content can be shown to the user within the Facebook mobile app. This provides a better user experience, is faster and creates less load on your servers.

Facebook lets you run your own ads within your Instant Articles (Facebook Instant Article Adsyou can do this with AdPlugg) or you can choose to have Facebook Audience Network ads automatically inserted.

Setting Up Your Facebook Instant Articles feed

There are a number of steps involved with setting up your FBIA feed and submitting it. For this post we are going to assume that you are using WordPress. If you aren’t using WordPress, check out our Facebook Instant Article Ads for Any Site post for setup instructions (the info here will still apply to the review process).

Here are the steps for WordPress:

  1. Write and publish at least 5 articles (posts).
  2. Install the Instant Articles plugin for WP plugin.
  3. In the WordPress admin, click on the “Instant Articles” menu item in the left sidebar. Follow the onscreen instructions. It will have you log into Facebook and connect to your Facebook “Page”.

The Facebook Instant Articles Review process

By this point, you should have submitted your feed to Facebook. You can see the status of your feed by doing the following:

  1. Log into your Facebook account.
  2. Click on the arrow in the top right, and then click on your page.
  3. In the bar across the top, click on “Publishing Tools”.
  4. In the left hand menu, under Instant Articles, click on “Configuration”.

Now in the middle of the screen you should be able to see a three step process, with the following steps.

  • Step 1: Set Up Instant Articles – This should already be completed.
  • Step 2: Submit for Review – There may be a button here asking you to submit. If so, you can go ahead and click it.
  • Step 3: Start Publishing Instant Articles – We’ll get to this in a bit.

Getting Approved

After submitting your feed for review (step 2 above), you will need to check back periodically to see if you’ve been approved (at this point you don’t receive a notification but they will probably add this eventually). Note: It can take 1-3 business days before your feed is reviewed and its status is updated.

Once your status is updated, it will either show that there are issues or, if you really nailed it, you will see the following:

When we submitted the feed for the AdPlugg blog, we came back one day later and there was a message indicating that there was an issue with our feed. The issue was related to our use of WordPress Smilies. Facebook didn’t know what to do with these. Since they weren’t important, we just removed them. If Facebook rejects your submission based on something that you need to keep, you can keep them or omit them (from the feed only) by defining a Transformer Rule.

If you have issues, fix them, press the resubmit button and wait again for approval.

Check Your Articles

Once you have been approved, you can publish your articles. First however, it’s a good idea to review them using the Facebook Pages Manager app. The Facebook Pages Manager app is available for iOS and Android. Just search for “Facebook Pages Manager” inside the App Store or Google Play and you should be able to find it pretty quickly.

Once you’ve downloaded and installed the Facebook Pages Manager app, do the following to check your articles:

  1. Open the Facebook Pages Manager app on your iOS or Android device (note: if you have the regular Facebook app, you should automatically be logged in).
  2. Click the ellipses (three dots) icon in the bottom right.
  3. Scroll down and under “SECTIONS”, click on “Instant Articles”. From there you should be able to see all of your instant articles. Click into them to review each one individually.

Publish Your Articles

If everything looks good, follow the below steps to publish your articles:

  1. Log into your Facebook account.
  2. Click on the arrow in the top right, and then click on your page.
  3. In the bar across the top, click on “Publishing Tools”.
  4. In the left hand menu, under Instant Articles, click on “Production Articles”.
  5. Click the checkbox next to the articles that you want to publish or click the checkbox in the header row to publish all articles.
  6. In the Actions drop down menu, click Publish.

Conclusion

That’s it. You should now have articles published to Facebook Instant Articles.

Please see our Facebook Instant Article Ads post if you want to include ads in your instant articles.

For more information regarding the Facebook Instant Article review process, check out the official docs from Facebook here.

Have a question or see something that we missed? Please post to the comments section below.

WordPress HTTPS Everywhere

https_everywhere
“I always feel like somebody’s watching me”, the 1984 hit song from Rockwell sums it up…and he might just be right! At the Google I/O Conference back in 2014, Google introduced (or at least endorsed) the principal of HTTPS Everywhere. Where as traditionally HTTPS was only used on login and credit card pages, during the conference, Google suggested that HTTPS be used on all pages on all sites, EVERYWHERE!

Why

Not interested in the “Why”, skip to the “How” below.

Before we get into the “why”, it’s important to note that it’s not just Google. Over the last couple of years, most major sites have been moving towards this concept of HTTPS Everywhere as well. Now Google, Facebook, Twitter, The New York Times and others only serve pages over HTTPS. Last month, AdPlugg followed suit and switched to 100% HTTPS as well. We still allow you to serve your ads over HTTP but anytime you are viewing a page on our website, it will be over HTTPS.

In 2017, Google has gotten more serious about this initiative and it is no longer just an option, now there is a penalty! Beginning last month (January, 2017), Google Chrome now displays an exclamation point in the search bar any time you are viewing an HTTP page. This is designed to alert the user to the fact that they are not on a secure page. Where previously the norm was HTTP and only some pages had HTTPS, Google now wants all pages to be HTTPS and to alert users when they aren’t on HTTPS. In addition, Google is now using HTTPS as a ranking factor, favoring sites that are on HTTPS to those on HTTP for Google’s search results.

The reason Google is doing this is interesting as it represents a shift in what is considered “sensitive” data. In fact, as I am writing this article, I wanted to describe passwords and credit card numbers as “sensitive data”. Google is suggesting that all of our activity online be considered sensitive, and it makes sense. Any time you are browsing over HTTP, a man (server) in the middle somewhere on the internet (or your own ISP) may be spying on what you are doing. In some cases ISPs even alter the content that you see. For instance, if you were to request http://www.example.com, your ISP could easily change what is returned to you since it is being transmitted in plain text. If however, you were to access https://www.example.com, your ISP and servers in the middle can’t read the request or response and you know that not only are you not being spied on but that no one has messed with the information that you are viewing. This can be especially important when you are using public WIFI. If you are on public WIFI over HTTP, the hotel, coffee shop, airport might be spying on what you are doing, if you are on HTTPS, you know that no one in the middle can see anything.

There are some concerns for the publisher however, HTTPS is costly. First of all, you need an SSL cert and your server needs to be configured to support HTTPS. You need to be aware that every page requested must be individually encrypted by the server and not just once, it needs to be individually encrypted for each user. This can cause quite a bit of additional load on your server and result in additional hosting costs.

However, Google has spoken and publishers would be wise to listen. For Google to remain popular, the user must have a good experience using the Google Chrome browser and Google search engine. Google has decided that the user will best be served by viewing pages only over HTTPS. It’s my belief that 10 years from now, Google won’t return HTTP results at all and Chrome will turn red with alerts any time you are viewing an HTTP page.

Because of Google’s initiative, blogs are now recommended to use HTTPS only as well. In this post I’ll be explaining how to set your WordPress site up for HTTPS only.

How

Now that you know why you should move your WordPress site to HTTPS only, in this section, I’m going to tell you how to do it.

Get an SSL Certificate

If you don’t already have one, first you are going to need and SSL certificate. SSL certificates are used to encrypt the data that is transmitted between your WordPress site and the user’s browser. If you are already feeling like you may be in over your head, you may want to just contact your hosting company. They can provide you with an SSL certificate and install it for you. However, if you think you can do it on your own, you can save some money.

I recommend ssls.com for inexpensive certificates that work just as good as the pricey ones. Go to www.ssls.com. For the average WordPress blog, their Comodo Positive SSL for $8.95 for 1 year is a great deal. SSLs.com provides instructions for how to create a private cert and CSR (Certificate Signing Request). Once you checkout, they will provide you with your SSL/TLS cert.

Install the SSL Certificate

How you install the SSL certificate is going to vary based on your host. Check your host’s help for details. You can also contact your host for help, once you have your own cert, most hosts will help you install it for free.

Configure WordPress for SSL Only

Once your SSL cert is correctly installed you should be able to view your site over http or https.

Now we want to configure WordPress and Apache so that they know that your site is only on https and to redirect all http requests to https.

Update Your WordPress Settings

  • Log in to your WordPress admin.
  • Go to Settings and then General.
  • Update the “WordPress Address (URL)” and “Site Address (URL)” fields to use https (ex: “https://www.example.com”).
  • Save the Changes.

Update your internal links (Optional, but recommended)

Most likely, you have links throughout your site that link to other parts of your site. And likely, these links all say “http://”. In the next step, we are going to redirect all http bound traffic to https. So while these links will continue to work, for SEO reasons, it’s a good idea to update all of your internal links to https so they point to the real page and not to a redirect.

The easiest way to do this is using a tool called wp-cli. In order to use wp-cli, you will need to have command line (SSH) access to your hosting account. Once you have wp-cli installed, issue the following command (update example.com to your own domain).

wp search-replace http://www.example.com https://www.example.com

If you don’t have SSH access (or don’t feel comfortable using it), you can do the search and replace using the WordPress Search and Replace Plugin.

Redirect all HTTP Traffic to HTTPS

We can update our internal links to use https instead of http but we don’t have any control over backlinks from other sites, google, etc. The last thing that we want to do is to break all of those links. What we should do instead is 301 (moved permanently) redirect the http request to https.

You can redirect all http traffic to https by adding the following to the top of your .htaccess file:


RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{HTTPS} off
RewriteRule (.*) https://%{HTTP_HOST}%{REQUEST_URI} [R=301,L]

Conclusion

You now know both why you should move your WordPress site to HTTPS only and how to do it. Have something to add or need help? Post to the comments section below.

Also note that AdPlugg can serve ads over HTTPS in both our Free and Pro versions.

Facebook Instant Article Ads – For Any Site

fbia-ads-for-any-site

In this post I’ll be explaining how to place your own ads into Facebook Instant Articles (FBIA) regardless of what kind of website you have. Back in April of last year, AdPlugg launched its support for Facebook Instant Articles (read more here: Facebook Instant Article Ads). In that post, we explained how to place AdPlugg ads into your Facebook Instant Articles feed but the post primarily focused on WordPress.

In this post, I’m going to explain how to insert AdPlugg ads into the FBIA feed for any site (regardless of language, platform, etc).

Note: if your site runs on WordPress, I’d recommend following the instructions in the previous post instead of using the instructions here.

How Facebook Instant Articles Works

First a little background – you need to have a decent understanding of how Facebook Instant Articles works in order to start tackling things like inserting ads.

Facebook Instant Articles is pretty much just a feed reader. You publish a Facebook Instant Articles feed on your website (at say /feed/instant-articles) and Facebook reads the feed and displays the contents to the user from within the Facebook mobile app. Rather than having to leave the app to go to your website, your article’s content (text, images, etc) is shown to the user using the FBIA reader. Because this means the user never goes to your site, Facebook allows publishers to include ads in their feed (in addition to text, images and other standard content items).

Creating A Facebook Instant Articles Feed

Creating a FBIA feed is going to vary depending on what platform your site is built on. The main reason why our previous post was based around WordPress was because there is a WordPress plugin that creates a FBIA feed for you. We integrated our WordPress Ad Plugin with the Facebook Instant Articles for WP plugin and that made the whole setup pretty simple.

If you aren’t on WordPress, how you create your Facebook Instant Articles feed is going to vary. If you have a custom made site, you may have to custom code your Facebook Instant Articles feed. If you use a CMS other than WordPress (Joomla, Drupal, etc), there may be a plugin available that generates a Facebook Instant Articles feed for you.

Notes

If you have info on how to create Facebook Instant Articles feeds for other platforms, please post the info to the comment section below to help other readers.

If you plan to program the feed yourself for a custom built site, the official docs from Facebook are the best place to start.

If your site is built on PHP, Facebook has a FBIA SDK for PHP that they’ve published to github.

Set up Your AdPlugg Account

So now we’ll assume that you have a feed. Before you can serve ads into your feed, you are going to need to have some ads set up to serve. I’m going to breeze over this here, as its beyond the scope of the article, but you should do the following:

Placing AdPlugg Ads Into Your Feed

So now you have a Facebook Instant Articles feed, an AdPlugg account, an AdPlugg Zone, an AdPlugg Ad and you’ve targeted your Ad to your Zone – to have the ad show in your feed, you would simply add the following tag to the header of each article:


  <figure class="op-ad">
    <iframe 
      src="https://www.adplugg.com/serve/<your access code>/html/1.1/index.html?zn=fb_zone_1"
      height="250" 
      width="300"
    ></iframe>
  </figure>

Change the access code, zone name and sizes in the code above to match your account and requirements.

To troubleshoot, make sure that the iframe src that you are trying to load works. You should be able to put the src url right into a browser and your ad should appear. If it doesn’t, check your url and your AdPlugg settings.

Example

You can use the feed from this blog as an example of what a finished feed would look like. You can see the AdPlugg Blog’s Facebook Instant Articles feed here.

Tip: search the feed for the phrase “op-ad” to see where the ad tags were inserted.

More Info

For more info regarding how to place ads into you Facebook Instant Articles feed, you should check out the official documentation from Facebook. As you read, you’ll likely discover just how powerful combining AdPlugg with Facebook Instant Articles is.

Have questions, comments or need help? Post to the comments section below or feel free to contact us.

Why We Love Advertising (And Why You Should, Too!)

love_advertising
One of the big stories as of late is the rise of fake news. Facebook, Google and other tech giants are working hard in an attempt to combat the onslaught of news that is misleading, disputed or just downright inaccurate. An interesting byproduct of the fake news phenomenon has been an increased interest in real, factual, journalism.

The fake news epidemic was at a fever pitch during the 2016 U.S. Presidential election. The New York Times reported that at least in one case, the news was being created and spread purely for profit. Opportunistic individuals had discovered that fake news that confirmed ones own political beliefs were extremely likely to generate traffic through social media. The fake news site could then prey on unsuspecting ad networks (such as Google AdWords/AdSense) to turn the traffic into profit.

Now Facebook and other social media sites are working to stop the spread of fake news. Just last week, Facebook announced that it will be fact checking news stories and shame posts with a ‘Disputed’ tag.

Conscientious readers have now become fully aware of the issue and have learned that much of the “news” being shown in their various social feeds may be of a dubious nature and from dubious sources.

The backlash from this is likely to be two fold. On one hand, the ability for new news sites to gain traction and grow may be hindered by an increase in reader scrutiny. On the other hand, it sets a high bar that news organizations must achieve to be viewed as reputable on the web.

Advertising plays a vital role in this and its role will increase over time. While many of the promotors of fake news profited at the expense of unknowing advertisers and ad networks, the problem is now known and being actively addressed. Solutions are being devised to keep advertising dollars from making it into the hands of fake news publishers. Advertisers don’t want their ads shown next to fake news stories and readers don’t want to read fake news. Social media and the ad-tech industry can make this happen.

As part of the fake news fallout, we expect to also see an increase in direct-buy advertising (the kind that we at AdPlugg specialize in). With network, blind and remnant ad buys going to unknown sites of unknown or questionable reputations, more advertisers are going to want to place ads directly with reputable sites.

It has been reported that traditional media outlets such as Vanity Fair, the New York Times, and others have all seen increases in subscriptions and traffic since the onslaught of fake news. We expect to soon here reports of increased ad revenue as well.

For publishers, the only path forward now becomes one toward legitimate factual reporting that gains the respect of both readers and advertisers.

Bot Filtering: AdPlugg Takes on Bot Traffic

bot_filtering
What do the Terminator, the Star Wars films, the Matrix, and AdPlugg have in common? They all feature epic battles against robots :-).

AdPlugg’s battle is against bot traffic penetrating statistical data. This bot traffic can skew results, show false impressions and even worse, false clicks. This is a major concern and one that we at AdPlugg take very seriously.

So what is a “bot”? Bots are automated programs that browse the web. They might be browsing for all sorts of different reasons but the most common is for creating search indices. Bots that crawl the web are known as crawl bots or “spiders”. Of the crawl bots, the most well known is Google’s Googlebot. Crawl bots read a page and then follow all of the links on the page. The bot then does this again on the next set of pages, creating a spiderweb of linked pages that make up the known web.

This can be problematic for online advertising as online ads aren’t the same as other links. Online ads are designed to be viewed and followed by humans only. This is for two reasons. The most important being that advertisers buy ad space to get impressions and clicks from humans, not bots. Also important is that paying another site to link to yours is a “black hat” practice that can get you penalized or even banned from search engine results.

To combat the issue, ad links are required to include a ‘rel=”nofollow”‘ attribute. This attribute tells bots, “hey this is an ad, don’t follow it.”. Bots that follow the REP (Robots Exclusion Protocol), won’t follow the link. This attribute is included automatically on all ad links that AdPlugg serves.

However, ‘rel=”nofollow”‘ doesn’t stop all bots. Even amongst the largest search engines, there is inconsistent support for the standard. Wikipedia’s Nofollow article reports that while Google and Ask.com fully respect the attribute, Yahoo and Bing both follow the link anyway (but exclude the link from their search rankings).

Other offenders are much less well intentioned. Email harvesters, spambots, malware and bots that scan for security vulnerabilities are unlikely to respect the nofollow attribute.

This leaves it up to the ad servers and ad trackers to identify and filter bot traffic. It’s tricky however, because the links can’t appear broken. If a bot, such as Bingbot, tries to follow the link (even though nofollow is set), the link should work. Otherwise, it’s possible that Bingbot will demote the page (from the Bing search engine rankings) for having broken links.

AdPlugg handles bot traffic by allowing it to pass through but filtering it out of the statistics. This keeps all links working but stops bot traffic from being included in the ad’s impressions and click statistics.

The trick is identifying the bots. AdPlugg now scans for and filters out over 400 known bots. We have systems in place to update our bot list as we become aware of new bots. Similar to the plight of CAPTCHA technology, identifying bot traffic for the purpose of ad stats is a difficult battle. Bots that don’t want to be identified are remarkably good at it.

AdPlugg’s battle against the bots is an ongoing effort and our systems are continually being worked on and improved. We often get asked, “what differences make AdPlugg better than other options such as stand-alone plugins?” Well, bot filtering is a big one.

Blog Ideas: 9 Tips for Coming Up With Your Next Hot Blog Post

blog-ideas
We’re bloggers. In addition to that, we work with thousands of other bloggers. We work to help them to make their blogs profitable and that requires having great content. In this post, we are going to share our 9 best tips for coming up with great blog ideas. Hopefully, by reading this post, you will be well on your way to coming up with the topic for your next hot blog post. So without further ado here they are.

1. Read the News

Take a hint from talk shows. What do they talk about on the Tonight Show, Late Night, etc? They talk about the latest headlines. You can do the same. Following the news, allows you to post info that is relevant to the latest that is going on

Though, there’s another benefit to this strategy as well. It can be difficult to get to the top of the results for existing topics, it’s much easier to get there by jumping on a topic early.

This doesn’t have to be the front page news headlines, it could just be the headlines for your industry. So if you have a blog about weddings, follow the style section of your favorite newspapers, etc. Then take the latest styles and apply them to ideas for weddings.

2. Use a Feed Reader

Tip #1, and several of our other top tips, require following news sources, blogs etc. The more news sources you follow, the better of an idea you’ll have about trends, hot topics, etc. However, following lots or sources can become expensive in terms of your time.

To get through it all quickly, you should consider using a feed reader such as feedly. In addition to a unified interface, feedly shows the most favorited results from any news feed at the top. This lets you know what articles/topics are the most popular. This is incredibly helpful when trying to decide what you should consider writing about.

3. Follow your Competitors

You want your blog to be unique but that doesn’t mean that you can’t use your competitors to help get the wheels turning. Figure out who your competitors are and what they are writing about. You don’t have to write about the same topics but looking at what they are writing about (and their share counts etc) will be invaluable in helping you decide what you want to write about.

4. Follow Related Blogs

No matter what your blog is about, there will likely be other blogs out there that provide content that is related. To continue on with the wedding blog example, if you write a wedding blog, follow blogs about flowers, celebrities, etc. to get great ideas for new content.

5. Watch for Trends in Reader/Customer Correspondence

Readers/Customers are a great source for blog ideas. Run back through your emails, blog comments, etc. and see what people are contacting you about. Do you keep getting emails and comments about wedding invitations, it might be time to dedicate an entire blog post to it.

6. Keep a List of Ideas

The above tips suggest keeping up with a lot of different sources for blog ideas. Don’t try to keep these ideas in your head and don’t try to go through them all everytime you sit down to write a post. Instead, anytime you have an idea for a blog post, jot it down. You may never use that particular idea but your list will quickly become a great source of ideas and inspiration when you sit down to write.

7. Use Keyword Tools

Keyword tools can be an excellent source of inspiration. If you have keywords that you are already targeting, you can use tools like Google Keyword Planner and Ubersuggest to get more ideas. These tools let you enter in a search phrase and will then return a list of related search phrases.

8. Check the Search Volume

As part of your blog topic brainstorming, you should be checking the search volume for each idea.

Thinking about writing a blog about “wedding discounts”? It might not be as good of an idea as you thought once you check the search volume.

You can check search volumes with tools such as the Google Keyword Planner and Google Trends.

9. Keep it Interesting (for Your Readers)

As well as checking the search volume, you need to ensure that your idea is of interest to your readers.

Are you dying to write a blog about your second cousin’s unusual wedding? We’ll, your readers likely don’t know your second cousin and if you can’t tie the story back to something that is of value to the reader, they may quickly lose interest in the post. It may be better to mention it as an aside to a post that has a larger appeal.

Conclusion

Using the tips above, you should have no problem coming up with a plethora of great blog ideas. Once you get the hang of it, you should get to the point where you are picking from several great options instead of struggling to find anything to write about at all.

Have more tips, suggestions or things that work for you? Do you know of any other tools that should be mentioned? Please contribute in the comments section below.

FBIA: 5 Benefits and 3 Negatives

fbia

FBIA (Facebook Instant Articles) is a new system from Facebook that offers publishers a number of benefits over traditional mobile browsing. But there are also some negative aspects to it. In this blog post, we are going to be going over the 5 key benefits of FBIA. We’ll also be presenting the 3 primary negative aspects of FBIA.

These benefits and negative aspects are all from the publisher’s perspective. AdPlugg integrates with FBIA and we’ve talked with a large number of publishers about their experiences and concerns with the platform. This has given us a great deal of insight into the pros and cons that publishers are weighing when making a decision as to how to proceed with the FBIA platform.

Benefits

Benefit 1: Increased Traffic

Articles that are served by FBIA have a little lightning bolt shown over their featured image (see the image above for an example of what it looks like). As users get more familiar with the benefits of FBIA, they may start to notice (and watch for) the lightning bolt. Articles with the lightning bolt will likely get more clicks and reads over time as the user will know that the article will provide them with a fast and consistent experience (as described below).

Benefit 2: Faster User Experience

FBIA is up to 10 times faster than mobile web browsing. FBIA is faster because the content is shown in the Facebook app without having to load and render your whole website. FBIA also caches and pre-loads your article’s content. You can learn more about FBIA speed in our recent post Why Is Facebook Instant Articles Faster?. By providing your users with a faster user experience, they will be more likely to read your articles. This goes along with Benefit 1 above – articles that have the lightning bolt will be known by the user to be faster.

Benefit 3: Better User Experience

For many users, articles served by FBIA provide a better user experience. This is in part due to their speed (as mentioned above) but also is due to the article being presented in a familiar interface that is simple and easy to navigate. Facebook Instant Articles allows publishers to “brand” the presentation with their logo, colors, etc but the navigation, etc remain consistent across all publishers. This is in sharp contrast to articles that go to a third-party site that might have unusual navigation, issues with the user’s device, etc.

In regards to advertising, Facebook limits the ad density of the article and restricts ads from popping up and doing things that some users might find annoying. While this may have negative effects for the publisher (see below), it results in a more consistent experience for the user.

Again, as users become more familiar with the lightning bolt – they will recognize it as a symbol of a consistent, simple, and familiar user experience.

Benefit 4: Lower Hosting Costs

FBIA works like an RSS feed reader. Instead of each user accessing your website – resulting in the download of html, css, js, images, etc – FBIA just pulls your article content and images from your feed. Often the content is only pulled once per article instead of potentially millions of times (once for each reader). This results in a much lower hosting cost for the publisher as you have considerably less data and files to serve.

Benefit 5: Improved Availability

Facebook has a massive infrastructure and a huge team of engineers working 24/7 to ensure that their systems are up and available. If your site goes down on a Saturday night, how long will it take to get it back up? How many engineers do you have working on Saturday nights? With Facebook’s reported 99.9% uptime, your articles will likely have better availability on FBIA.

Negative Aspects

While there are a lot of benefits for publishers that use FBIA, there are also some negative aspects.

Negative 1: No Third Party Ad Network Ads

FBIA offers a lot of flexibility when it comes to advertising with one major caveat: FBIA only allows you to serve network ads from the Facebook Audience Network. So while you can use a service like AdPlugg to serve your own directly sold ads, you can’t serve ads from a third party ad network such as Google AdSense into your FBIA feed. For publishers already selling ad space directly to advertisers, this may not be a big deal. However, if you rely on third party ad networks, this could be a major hangup for you. You can read more about what kinds of ads you are allowed to serve into your FBIA feed on the FBIA Terms of Service page.

Negative 2: Ad Density and Format Restrictions

As mentioned above, Facebook restricts the number of ads and the format of ads that can be served into Facebook Instant Articles. While this can result in a better experience for the user, it can have negative ramifications for the publisher. By limiting the number of ads that you can serve, publishers may take a hit in how much revenue they can generate per article.

Some ad formats perform better than others. And because of this, publishers are able to charge a premium for the high performing formats. By not allowing high performing formats such as popup ads (which have been proven to have above an average click through rate), publishers are going to be again put into a situation where they can no longer earn as much per article.

Negative 3: Decreased User Engagement

When a user reads an article via FBIA they never actually visit your website. While there are advantages to this for both you and the user (as mentioned above) this also results in some negatives in terms of user engagement. You never get a chance to present your site as an entity unto its own (beyond a source of Facebook content) to the user. You also never get a chance to get the user to subscribe to your newsletter and do other things that would be typical if the user were to visit your website.

Conclusion

When deciding “Should I use Facebook Instant Articles” the publisher needs to weigh the pros and cons. This article should help serve as a good reference and starting point for what the major benefits and negative aspects of FBIA are.

Have a benefit or negative aspect of FBIA that we’ve missed, please post it to the comments sections below.

Why Is Facebook Instant Articles Faster?

facebook_instant_articles_10x_faster
Facebook Instant Articles is a new feature built into the Facebook mobile app. It allows users to view articles from third party sources at blazingly fast speeds. But how can that be? What makes Facebook Instant Articles faster?

With the launch of Instant Articles, Facebook claimed that Instant Articles load 10 times as fast as mobile web content, thereby creating a better user experience.

The Wall Street Journal reported that, according to tests done by Catchpoint Systems, Facebook’s claim held true: the average load time for Instant Articles was between 0 and 300 milliseconds, compared with 3.66 seconds for similar articles on news publishers’ websites.

So how does it work? What makes Facebook Instant Articles so fast?

Traditionally when you clicked an article posted to Facebook (from inside the Facebook app), you would be taken to the publisher’s website. This would require opening a mobile browser and then bringing down and rendering all of the content necessary to load the publisher’s site, this includes:

  1. The site’s CSS and styling
  2. Any JavaScript necessary to render and use the site
  3. Any images for the site’s user interface
  4. The article content
  5. The article’s images

Facebook Instant Articles eliminates the need to download and render numbers 1 through 3 in the above list. What happens is, Facebook Instant Articles retrieves the article content and article images using what is very similar to a traditional RSS feed. It then renders the article content within the Facebook app.

The article content and images are really all that is needed for reading the article but the traditional method requires that tons of other user interface data come down with it.

Less to Download

So Facebook Instant Articles needs to download significantly fewer assets – and the assets that it does need to download (article content and images), are some of the smallest of the full set needed to render the article in a browser.

Less to Render

Since the article is being displayed in Facebook app, you don’t need to render complicated web layouts, navigation, etc in order to view it. The Facebook app can just render the article content and images within the Instant Articles reader and you can start reading.

Pre-Loading

Facebook Instant Articles preloads articles. Instead of waiting until you’ve clicked a link, the Facebook app will preload the start of each article before you’ve even reached it in your news feed. This way, the article can be shown almost “instantly” after you’ve clicked the link (and hence the name “Instant Articles”).

The Downside?

The downside that publishers are concerned about is that the user is never actually taken to the publisher’s site. The main reason why publishers want this is for advertising. Facebook has addressed this concern by allowing publishers to continue to serve their own ads within their Facebook Instant Articles. And you guessed it, AdPlugg integrates with Instant Articles! Check out our post about Facebook Instant Article Ads to learn more.

Have a question, or something to contribute, let us know in the comment section below.