Facebook Instant Articles: 5 Things You Need to Know

Facebook Instant Articles Infographic
Facebook Instant Articles is a new feature for web publishers from Facebook. Here’s a run down of the 5 things that you need to know.

1. Shows Articles Within the Facebook Mobile App

Traditionally, when a user clicked an article that you posted to your Facebook page, they would go to your website to view the article. With Facebook Instant Articles, when a user clicks on one of your articles from within the Facebook Mobile App, they are shown the article within the Facebook Mobile App.

Key Points

  • Works on iPhone and Android devices.
  • Is seemless for users
  • Is up to 10 times faster than content served through a mobile browser (Facebook accomplishes this by buffering the content before the user clicks it and by not having to render your site, just the article content).
  • The Facebook App shows a small lightning bolt icon in the top right of the article’s featured image if the article is available via Instant Articles.
  • Desktop and browser (non app) users will continue to be directed to your website.

2. Requires your Site to Have a Custom Feed

Rather than submitting your articles to Facebook, with Facebook Instant Articles, Facebook will regularly pull your feed and automatically add new articles to your Facebook page.

Key Points

  • Facebook pulls from your feed, you no longer need to push your articles to Facebook
  • The Instant Articles Feed format is based on RSS but requires certain non-standard elements (a standard RSS feed won’t work).

3. There’s a WordPress Plugin For It!

A couple of weeks ago (March 7th, 2016), Automattic, the makers of WordPress launched a new Plugin called Facebook Instant Articles for WP. This plugin adds a special feed at /feed/instant-articles. You can submit this feed “endpoint” to Facebook when you enroll in Facebook’s Instant Articles program.

Key Points

  • You will need to install a special plugin (such as Facebook Instant Articles for WP) to add Facebook Instant Article support to your WordPress site.
  • Other CMS systems will likely have their own Facebook Instant Articles plugins. If you have any info about these, please post it to the comment section below.

4. Allows You to Serve Your Own Ads

Facebook wants to make Instant Articles a win for Facebook, its mobile app users and for the publishers generating the content. For this reason, they allow you to include your own ads within your feed.

Key Points

  • You can serve your own ads within the articles that you submit to Facebook Instant Articles.
  • Ads need to be submitted through your Instant Articles feed in a special format.
  • You can distribute your ad “tags” manually throughout your feed content or place your ad tags in the header to have Facebook place them throughout the article automatically.
  • AdPlugg is currently adding support for Facebook Instant Article feeds and intends to fully support them by the time Facebook launches the feature (see below for the release date).
  • If you don’t have your own ads, you can optionally choose to serve Facebook Audience Network ads within your articles.
  • There are some restrictions regarding the type of ad and the “ad density” (number of ads that you can display). See the official documentation for more info.
  • Some of the publishers already using Facebook Instant Articles have complained about ad revenue issues. Facebook is working to address those concerns.

5. Becomes available to all publishers on Apr 12th, 2016

Facebook Instant Articles is already in use by major publishers such as BuzzFeed and the Washington Post. On April 12th, 2016 Facebook Instant Articles becomes available to all publishers.

Key Points

  • Was launched for select major publishers on May 12th, 2015
  • Launch for all publishers is scheduled for April 12th, 2016

How To Try Facebook Instant Articles

Facebook Instant Articles Screenshot
To try out Facebook Instant Articles, do the following:

  • Open the Facebook app on your Android or iOS device.
  • Use the built in search to find and pull the official page for BuzzFeed or the Washington Post.
  • Click on any of the articles that have a lightning bolt in the top right corner of the article’s featured image.
  • Enjoy the lightning fast load time :).

Conclusion

Facebook Instant Articles is an exciting new feature that provides an enhanced experience for the user while allowing publishers to gain exposure and grow ad revenues.

AdPlugg is adding support for Facebook Instant Articles as we speak and we are tying the functionality into our WordPress Ad Plugin.

If you have any questions or comments about Facebook Instant Articles, AdPlugg’s support for them, or anything else; please post them to to the comments section below!


Infographic template design by Freepik.

How to Write a Blog

how-to-write-a-blog
So you want to know how to write a blog? We’ll, you’ve come to the right place. We work with thousands of bloggers and are bloggers ourselves. Not only that, we’ve studied what it takes to make a blog successful and have gained a lot of insight over the years; insight that we’d like to share with you in this post.

Let’s get the basics out of the way. Blog is short for web log. The act of writing and publishing a blog is called blogging. And someone who blogs is called a blogger.

A good way to think about a blog is as a public journal. Instead of writing in a paper notebook for only your own enjoyment and memory keeping, you write to a public website so that you can share your thoughts, ideas and experiences with others.

Of course, if you want to write in a journal, you need to have a journal of some sort to write in. Similarly, in order to blog, you need to have a blog. A blog is made up of these basic components:

  1. A Name (For example, “Jane’s Kitchen”)
  2. One or more authors (this could just be you or you could start a blog with your friends or family)
  3. A Subject/Topic (For example, Cooking). However, you can have your blog be simply about your life or just random musings, etc.
  4. A blogging platform
  5. A domain name (For example, “www.janeskitchen.com”)

Numbers 1 through 3 above are totally up to you. Numbers 4 and 5 take a bit of technical know-how.

A blogging platform is basically the journal that you write in. While there are a number of great blogging platforms out there, I unfortunately don’t have time to discuss them all in this post. I’ll save you the time of researching them and tell you that WordPress runs more blogs than all of the other blogging platforms combined. So unless you have special requirements, WordPress is probably the best way to go.

So what is WordPress? WordPress is simply a computer program that allows you to create, manage and publish blog posts…and it happens to be free. But you will need to host it (generally not free) in order to have it available on the internet.

Luckily, the same companies that can help you get a domain name (number 5 above) can host your WordPress site. A couple of good hosts/domain name registrars include: Bluehost, HostGator and GoDaddy.

Any stumbling blocks that you run into with setting up your site can be handled by your chosen hosting company’s support team.

Once your site is up and running, it’s time to start blogging. This is your time to shine. Here are some tips:

  • Try to pick blog topics that are interesting to both you and your readers.
  • Try to give each blog post a catchy headline.
  • Try to write at least one blog post a month (once a week is even better).
  • Try to add at least one picture to every blog post.
  • Make your blog personal. Even when reading about technical things, it’s more enjoyable to read content that has personality. Don’t worry about your grammer so much and instead make your blog fun and personal.

Have any questions or comments, please post them to the comment section below.

AdPlugg Scales!

AdPlugg ScalesAdPlugg has been growing like crazy. We now serve millions of ads every day and have thousands of customers who use the service. We’ve regularly been upgrading servers and our backend software to handle the increased load.

AdPlugg uses highly scalable cloud servers and CDNs (Content Delivery Networks) to make this all possible.

In addition to more customers in general, we’ve also added a number of larger and more high profile accounts. This includes the websites of some well known magazines, radio stations, tv stations and newspapers. Some of the more well known ones include the Fiesta Bowl, Wine Enthusiast and the BC Heights (the Student newspaper of Boston College).

As well as scaling up our backend systems to handle the increased load, we just released a number of new enhancements to our front end Ad Manager that make the user interface easier to use for large sites and accounts with complex configurations and a large number of ads.

We’ve added the ability to scroll through the list of ads when choosing your ads for your charts and reports. This feature turns on when you have more than 10 ads so that the list is easier to navigate.

We’ve added the ability to sort, search and filter the Ad, Placement and Zone lists. In addition, we added additional columns to each of these lists so that you can see things like which Placement an Ad is targeted to without opening the Ad.

Sortable

Each list now has a number of sortable columns. The ones that are sortable have blue links in the header row at the top of the list. Simply click the header to sort the list by the entries in the column. Click the list again to sort the list in reverse order. Click the list a third time to stop sorting by the column. If the column is a text column, it will be sorted alphabetically. If it is a number column, it will be sorted in numerical order.

Searchable

The search allows you to enter in any text and the list will be restricted to entries that mach that text. The text that is matched could be from any of the columns.

Filterable

We’ve also added a number of filters for each list. The filters allow you to restrict the entries shown in the list to entries matching the specific filter. For instance you can filter the results to only show active or inactive ads. You can also use a filter to only show ads that target a particular Placement or Zone. This way you can quickly see just the ads that target your top bar for example.

These features were designed to make AdPlugg even easier to use. Have any ideas for other features that we could add or how we could make these features better? Please post them into the comments section below.

WordPress AdSense: The Ultimate How-To

wordpress_adsense

Making sense of AdSense on WordPress

In this blog post we are going to talk about how to use AdSense with WordPress. We’ll go though what options are available, best practices and more.

Ad What? Word Who?

WordPress is the largest CMS (Content Management System)/blogging platform in the world and is used by more than 60 million websites. AdSense is Google’s advertising system for publishers allowing publishers to place google ads on their sites. It’s estimated that over 1.5 million sites use Google AdSense.

Getting Started with WordPress

WordPress is totally free and setting up a WordPress site is incredibly simple at this point. The easiest way to do it is to get a free hosting account from a host such as GoDaddy or BlueHost. Once you have your hosting account, both of these hosts have automated systems for installing WordPress into your account.

Getting Started with AdSense

Getting set up with AdSense is a bit more complicated. The first step is to sign up for an AdSense account. The steps are pretty straight forward so I’ll just give you an overview here (For more info, see the AdSense Help). This is what you do:

  • Go to the AdSense Signup page.
  • Sign in (using your existing Google Account) or create a new account. Tip: if you have an account with your domain in it (ex: bob@yourblog.com) using it can speed up the approval process.
  • You will then need to fill out info about your self, site, business etc.
  • Lastly you will need to agree to the AdSense Terms of Service.

Once you have finished the signup process, you will be given access to your new AdSense account. You may not however be approved yet. The AdSense approval process can take anywhere from a couple of hours to a couple of months depending on your site, geographic location and application info. Again, using a domain specific email address can speed up the process.

Once you’ve completed the signup process you can start placing ads on your site. They won’t however start to show until you’re account has been approved and activated.

WordPress AdSense Integration

WordPress AdSense integration can be done in a number of different ways. Basically the goal is to place the ad tags that you receive from AdSense on the front end of your WordPress site. Once your account is approved, AdSense will automatically inject ads into the tags. These are the most common ways to add AdSense tags into your WordPress site:

  • Serve them with AdPlugg or other AdSense compatible WordPress plugins
  • Add the tags into a Text Widget
  • Add the tags into your WordPress theme

Note: we plan to go into these options in more detail in a follow-on post.

Once the ad tags are serving to your site (they will be invisible at first), Google will review your site and hopefully approve it. Once approved, you will start to see ads on your site.

If you have any questions or have something to add, please use the comment section below.

Responsive Ads

responsive_ads
Last month we launched a whole slew of new ad formats. Mixed in among text ads, flash ads etc, were a number of responsive ad formats. In this blog post we are going to discuss these new responsive ad formats and how the web’s move to responsive is shaping online advertising now and into the future.

Responsive web design is a style of web design where the elements on the page are automatically resized to optimally fit different sized devices. Basically, the layout “responds” to the size of the device that it is being displayed on. Responsive design has been a significant trend over the last couple of years but was solidified when Google started including it as a ranking factor back in April of this year. This meant that if a site wasn’t responsive, Google was less likely to send traffic to it. This was a good move by Google because non-responsive websites are frustrating at best and totally unusable at worst on many devices.

Responsive web design has only just begun to penetrate the nearly two decade old standards for online advertising. Ads have always been based on fixed sizes, for example 300px by 250px. Fixed sizes however have little to no place in responsive web design. Text that is legible at 300px on a desktop computer may be totally illegible when scaled down to fit on a phone. One of the most important parts of responsive design is the resizing of text so that it is legible on all devices.

AdPlugg has addressed these issues with its new suite of responsive ad formats. Each responsive ad is designed to resize itself (and its text) for optimal display on devices of varying size. AdPlugg’s new responsive ad formats include:

  • Bar Ads – Bar ads can be displayed as a bar across the top or bottom of a page. Though they are especially well suited for mobile devices, they look great on full size screens too. View the Bar Ads demo.
  • Dialog Ads – Dialog ads are a modern responsive version of the “popup ad”. Much more stylish than its predecessor, and designed to perfectly fit any screen, this new format converts at high rates. View the Dialog Ads demo.
  • Slide-In Ads – Slide in ads are a responsive ad format where the message slides into view. They are made to slide in based on varying triggers and can slide in from any of the four corners of the screen. View the Slide In Ads demo.
  • Interstitial Ads – Interstitial ads are displayed before the page content is displayed and are designed to cover the entire screen. AdPlugg’s responsive interstitial ads perfectly cover, and look great, on any size screen. View the Interstitial Ads demo.
  • Responsive HTML5 Ads – The AdPlugg Custom ad format allows you to insert custom HTML/HTML5, JavaScript, CSS/CSS3, SVG etc. Using responsive techniques in your ad design, you can make your ad resize to look great on any screen size. View the Responsive HTML5 Ads demo.

There will surely be a lot of changes ahead as the web and online ads move into a more responsive and mobile friendly future. Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.

New Ad Formats Released! HTML5, Flash, Responsive, Bar Ads, Text Ads, More…

TL;DR (Too Long, Didn’t Read summary)

Sometimes a demo is worth a thousand words. Check out the demo at https://www.adplugg.com/demo.

ad_formats
We just released a whole slew of new ad formats! AdPlugg now includes the following formats:

  • Image Ads – These are the standard display ads that you are probably already using. Previously you had to upload the ad image to AdPlugg, by request, we now allow you to upload the image or to link to an image hosted on your own or a third party site.
  • Bar Ads – (Pro Level Only) This a new responsive ad format. You can choose the text, image, colors and add a call-to-action button. You can also choose a launch event such as “after scrolling a little”, “after reaching the bottom of the page”, or after a set number of seconds. You can position the bar ad fixed to the top or bottom of the screen or relative to your Zone.
  • Flash Ads – (Pro Level Only) Flash ads are a widely used format for rich media ads. Most Flash ads include animations and text effects. We’ve added support for industry standard clickTAGs which allow you to use AdPlugg tracked click URLs within your Flash ads.
  • Text – (Pro Level Only) Text ads are similar to ads shown on popular seach engines such as Google. Our text ads allow you to choose a headline, two body lines and a display URL.
  • Image + Text Ads – (Pro Level Only) As the name implies, Image + Text ads combine Image and Text ads to create a format that makes an impact and performs.
  • Text Link – (Pro Level Only) Text link ads are simple links that you can place on your site. They are both subtle and effective. We allow you to set the display url to whatever you want while the actual url is an AdPlugg click tracked link.
  • Dialog Ads – (Pro Level Only) Dialog ads are a responsive ad format where the ad is displayed in a “popup” dialog. This format allow you to choose colors, text, image and a call-to-action button. It allows for the same launch events supported by bar ads (see above).
  • Slide-In Ads – (Pro Level Only) Slide in ads are a responsive ad format where the message slides onto the screen. These allow for the same content and launch events as our Dialog ads (see above). You can position them to slide-in from the top left, top right, bottom left, or bottom right corners of the screen.
  • Interstitial Ads – (Pro Level Only) Interstitial ads are the same as Dialog ads (see above) except they take up the whole screen. Interstitial ads are used to display a message before the user is able to view the page content.
  • Video Ads – (Pro Level Only) Video ads are display ads similar to image ads except instead of displaying an image, they show a video.
  • Custom/HTML5 Ads – (Pro Level Only) Custom ads allow you to insert custom HTML/HTML5, JavaScript, CSS/CSS3, SVG etc. This can be used to create your own custom ad format or to insert ad tags from third party ad sources such as third party ad servers, Google AdSense, Amazon Associates, Commission Junction, etc. You can also upload a zipped/packaged ad that includes HTML5 source code.

We’ve also added a new Demo section to our site. A demo of each of these new ad formats can be seen there.

Most of these formats are only available to Pro Level users, so if you are not already “Pro”, sign up today!

We will likely be writing more here on the blog about each of these new formats in the coming months so check back for more info. If you have any questions, suggestions or ideas please post them to the comments section below.

Blogging for Money: Top 4 Reasons Why Your Blog Isn’t Making Any

Blogging for Money

Around a year ago I posted How to Make Money Blogging – In Six Easy Steps. In that post, I gave five easy steps toward making money blogging. In this post, I’m going to look at it from the other side. So you are already blogging for money, what are the most common reasons why your blog isn’t making any of that green stuff?

1. You Need More/Better Content

Engaging, high-quality content is key for any blog. Write from the heart and pick topics that will be of interest to your intended readers. Don’t just write about what you want to say, also think about the reader and about what they might want to learn or hear about. It has also been found that sites with more content do best. If you are only blogging once a week, try stepping up the number of posts that you publish. It’s unfortunate, but two medium quality posts tends to outperform one high quality post.

2. Your Site Isn’t Search Engine Optimized

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is a requirement at this point. The days of SEO being a science are over and now it’s more of an art. If you use WordPress, the WordPress SEO Plugin by Yoast is a good place to start. The Yoast Plugin will get your site optimized but getting quality backlinks from other sites is just as crucial.

3. You haven’t Done Enough Promoting

It’s pretty common to think that you can put up a website and instantly get tons of traffic. Even after having been through it before, everytime I launch a new website, I can’t help but think that this site is what everyone is looking for. The reality of it is that there are close to a BILLION websites out there. To get web users to take notice of your site takes some serious effort. Don’t know how to promote your blog? Check out our recent post, How to Promote Your Blog – 5 Simple Steps.

4. You Need a Better Monetization Strategy

To be a monetarily succussful blogger, you need to know online advertising. The AdPlugg service makes it all a lot easier. Also check out these posts:

Have any questions or other items that you think should be included in this list? Post them into the comments section below!

Timed Rotate Feature Added

timed rotate

You asked for it you got it! We just added a new timed rotate feature. The timed rotate feature allows you to set your ads to rotate after a specified number of seconds.

Adding a timed rotate feature had become the highest ranked suggestion on our Feedback and Ideas Forum. Adhering to our Democratic Design principles, we’ve made it a top priority and are excited to be releasing it to you today!

How it Works

The timed rotate feature works basically the same as our other rotate configurations but with timed rotate, the ads rotate after a set number of seconds instead of on page refresh. Only the ads set to “timed rotate” will rotate, any other ads will stay put. The newly displayed ads will have their impressions tracked the same as if they were loaded after a refresh.

How to Set it Up

If you haven’t already done so, set up the ad rotator. In the placement settings you will see that we’ve added a new field called “Rotation Interval”. It’s under the “Content” heading. If this field is blank (the default), the ads are only rotated on refresh. To enable timed rotate, simply enter a number into this field. The number is the number of seconds that you want the rotator to wait before rotating the ads. The number can include decimals, so you could set your ads to rotate every 3.5 seconds, for instance. The minimum interval allowed is 1 second.

Please note that this function can dramatically increase your impression counts (and your bill) so use caution when enabling it and do carefully consider which ads you want to rotate and at what interval.

We hope that you enjoy the new feature. Please add any questions or comments about the feature to the comment section below.

If you don’t already have an AdPlugg account, Sign Up today and try out this awesome new feature!

Best Affiliate Network? Our Top 4 Compared

Recently we were asked “which is the best affiliate network?”. We’ve used all of them and in this blog post I’m going to make both an affiliate network comparison and give some opinions as to which ones are best and which ones you should use.

Affiliate networks are advertising networks that connect advertisers with publishers. The publishers promote the advertiser’s sites and products and in exchange get a commission on any traffic that they refer to the advertiser. Different programs earn the publisher different commission rates. Commission rates vary but are typically around 5-8%. You can use AdPlugg to manage and serve all of your affiliate network ads.

Here are our top affiliate networks:

1. Amazon Associates

amazon-associates

Amazon Associates is a great affiliate network to get started with. Amazon Associates allows you to promote specific products or Amazon in general. If one of your readers clicks a link to Amazon on your site and then buys something from Amazon, you receive a commission. It doesn’t matter what they buy, it could be the product that you were recommending, a competing product or something else entirely. Amazon’s commission rates work on a sliding scale – the more business you bring them (per month) the better the percentage is. The commission rate starts at 4%.

2. Rakuten LinkShare

rakuten-linkshare

LinkShare is different from Amazon as it is an affiliate network made up of a number of affiliate programs. Each affiliate program is from a different advertiser and works similarly to Amazon. Any publisher can sign up with LinkShare. Once you’ve signed up, you can apply start to apply to the different programs. Whether or not you get approved will depend on whether the advertiser likes your site and on how picky they are. LinkShare has a really nice interface and programs from some major retailers such as Macy’s and Nordstrom.

3. ShareASale

shareasale

ShareASale works almost identically to LinkShare but offers a different selection of advertisers. Many of the advertisers cater to smaller niche markets. Some examples include Gymboree (childrens clothing) and One Kings Lane (furniture). I find the LinkShare interface nicer and easier to use but ShareASale includes some good programs that are worth the extra effort.

4. Commission Junction

commission-junction
CommissionJunction has had a major presence in the Affiliate network space for a while now. They have some of the best technology (most features) but it can be more difficult to use than the ones mentioned above. Commission junction has a lot of middle sized retailers such as the Gap and Toys R Us.

Conclusion

Each of the above affiliate networks is free to join and each have different pros/cons. Which is the best affiliate network for you will depend on the Advertisers that you are looking for. The best way to see which advertisers are part of an affiliate network is is to go ahead and sign up. Once you have an account you can see which advertiser programs they have and apply to them. If you don’t like the programs or don’t get accepted, you can close (or just abstain from using) your account.

As previously mentioned, all of your affiliate ads can be managed using AdPlugg, so sign up for a bunch of them and rotate them. Then remove the ones that aren’t making money.

Have any comments or know of other affiliate networks, add them to the comment section below.

Blog Income – How to Maximize

blog-income

Blog Income is easily one of the most crucial factors for measuring the success of any blog. To realize your blog’s full potential you need to:

  • Maximize the quality and frequency of blog content – Produce lots of quality content for your readers to read and for the search engines to index.
  • Maximize blog traffic – Efficiently and effectively promote your blog (see How to Promote Your Blog – 5 Simple Steps).
  • Maximize blog income – Read on…

Blog Income Maximization

The goal of blog income maximization is to earn as much as you can from each unit of ad “inventory” on your site while keeping your site free of ads that might be off-putting or annoying to your readers.

To maximize your blog income, you need to look at all possible sources of income available to your blog. These potential sources of income include:

  • Display Ads
  • Text Based PPC Ads (Such as Google AdSense)
  • Affiliate Ads
  • Paid Links
  • Sponsored Posts

NOTE: See How Do Bloggers Make Money? for more details on the above blog income sources.

To maximize your blog income you’ll want to utilize all available channels and always go with the best paying channel (when you have a choice). You’ll also want to try to keep mindful of the user experience (UX) and keep your ads beneficial to the user and tasteful.

You’ll quickly find that display ads pay the best. Furthermore display ads where you’ve sold directly to the advertiser pay the best within the display ad channel (versus network ads).

So in general, to maximize your blog income you’ll want to sell as much of your ad inventory as possible to advertisers who will run targeted display ads on your site for a premium price. Ad inventory that hasn’t been sold directly can be filled with ads from other channels/sources. Our recent blog post, How to Get Advertisers for Your Blog – 4 Steps, teaches you how to get this type of advertiser.

Once you get the advertisers signed, you can manage and serve their ads with AdPlugg (it’s what AdPlugg was designed to do!). If you have AdPlugg Pro, you can then generate reports to send to your advertisers to keep them happy and excited to continue advertising with you.

Have questions or want to share what you did to maximize your blog income? Please use the comments section below.