How to Design a Great Ad

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Aren’t you bored with all the similar, ho-hum ads that you see on blogs? Do you plan to advertise you site through the purchase of some ad space on a blog? A boring, run of the mill ad just ends up being a bad investment, and considering that blog readers are increasingly ad blind, it’s important to put a good deal of thought into the design of your ad so that you maximize the money you’re spending to buy ad space. Here are some general principles to consider as you design your next ad:

1. Don’t just put the name of your site with maybe a nice little picture. Instead, give the reader a reason to click or a “call to action”. What valuable, not-to-be-missed product or service are they going to learn about on the other side of the ad? Just the name of your site is probably not compelling enough.

2. Don’t use the same colors everyone else is using, or even the same shape. Instead, check out the site(s) you’re considering placing ads on. What colors do the other ads use? Choose a main color that will pop out from the group of ads. Are all the other ads squares? Try rounding the corners, or even going with a more unusual shape.

3. Don’t overload the ad with text. Instead, keep it simple. Clear, concise messages are the best. You do not have much time to grab a reader’s attention as they glance over the ads on a page. Lots of text generally becomes too small to read at a glance, especially on a 125px ad.

4. Don’t bore the reader. Instead, make them curious, surprise them, amuse them, and do anything you can not to be just another average ad. The ad that Text Link Ads has been using that says “Easier than getting Arrington to link to your site” increased their click-thru rate by 1000%, despite the less than attractive picture they used.

5. Don’t put to many steps in the animation or make your ads too “blinky”. Instead, again, keep it simple. You have a reader’s eyes for a fraction of a second, so remember that if you must have animation in your ad. Two steps would be the max I would recommend. If you follow #4 and make them curious with a question, answer it in the next frame. I don’t even allow animated ads on my site, because blinking ads are hard to look at and are distracting as someone is trying to read my content. If a reader is annoyed by your blinking ad, there is little chance they are going to click on it.

What do you think?  Are you ad blind?  What kinds of ads actually get your attention?

Ready to Hire a Blog Designer? Read This First.

The more popular blogging becomes, the more designers who specialize in blog design are in high demand. The best designers are scheduling work a month or two out, and have their choice of which clients they’d like to work with, and which they’d rather take a pass on. Particularly in the case of WordPress, there is more work these days than there are designers to do it.

When you decide you’d like to invest in a professional design, you’ll want to work with best designer you can for the money you have budgeted. Once you have arranged to work with someone, there are some things to remember if you want to maintain a great relationship, and to ensure that the designer will be willing to work with you again when you have future needs. To accomplish that, I have some tips, from a designer’s perspective on how to be a client that anyone would enjoy working with.

How to get the designer you want:

1. Be clear, concise, professional and friendly in your initial contact.

2. Explain your project in enough detail to pique the designer’s interest.

3. Give them adequate time to respond (at least 5 days). You can then follow up with an e-mail that quotes your original and reiterates your desire to work with them.

4. Understand if they aren’t able to begin your project right away. Someone in high demand obviously has other clients already in queue.

How to be a great client to work with:

1. Clearly define for the designer what you’re trying to accomplish with your site, what impression you’d like to give your visitors and what “brand image” you’d like to project.

2. Use lots of descriptive adjectives to help the designer understand what styles appeal to you. You can even provide some examples of sites that appeal to you to give further guidance.

3. Don’t say “I’m not sure what I want, so I leave the design completely up to your expertise” unless you really will be happy with whatever they create for you.

4. Don’t be afraid to provide constructive feedback about the design concept(s) presented to you. Designers know they’re not always going to hit on the perfect look for everyone on the first try, and expect feedback to help them ensure you’re perfectly satisfied with the outcome.

5. Expect to pay at least part of the design fee up front.

How to be a client they’ll want to work with again:

1. Be responsive and respectful of their time. A good designer will return the favor.

2. Recommend them to others. Write a post on your blog about your new design and link to the designer’s site.

3. Pay promptly.

Many of these tips seem like just common courtesy, don’t they? It’s surprising how common courtesy isn’t so common anymore. Being easy to work with is really not all that difficult, and you will definitely reap the benefits.

What sets you apart?

What sets you apart from other bloggers? There are millions of bloggers out there, and there are tons of great ones no one has ever heard of. What is the thing that will cause you to be more successful than another blogger who is an equally good writer and has equally interesting content? It’s something you must think about if you’re at all ambitious for your blog to do more than muddle through in obscurity, never receiving the attention it deserves. Chris Garrett recently discussed this question, and suggests that aside from creating unique, innovative content, a writer with “charisma” will automatically stand out from the rest. I agree with Chris, and would like to suggest a few more things that will help your blog to get noticed.

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New Year’s Blog Resolutions

Do you make New Year’s Resolutions? I usually don’t because I find them so difficult to keep. But, as I we get close to 2008, I’ve been thinking about them as they relate to blogging. Here are some blog resolutions that should be easy to keep and that will go a long way towards ensuring a successful year:

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Silencing the Trolls

Do you delete nasty comments left on your blog? I’m not talking about commenters who simply disagree with you, but rather those really nasty ones. Do you feel compelled to leave them there, because you don’t want to inhibit interaction or be seen as a coward?

Or, do you believe that it’s your blog and therefore it’s up to you to decide which comments remain and which get deleted? In a recent article on Performancing, Deb Ng discussed how to handle nasty comments, and mentioned that there are some who feel that deleting comments is tantamount to “stifling free speech”. I think that’s a bit of a stretch.

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How to Handle a Blogging Slump

When you start out blogging, you’re full of energy and ideas, and it’s hard to imagine that enthusiasm ever waning, but ask almost everyone who’s been blogging for a long time, and they’ll tell you that it does. Suddenly, where you once had seemingly endless articles waiting to be written, you feel like you have nothing to post about and not much interest in writing anyway. What do you do when you hit one of these blogging slumps?

There are several ways to approach it:

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Blogger’s Guide to Unhappiness

1. Determine a posting schedule of 4-5 high quality posts per day, and stick to it, no matter what.

Common blogging wisdom says that the more often you post, the more visitors you’ll receive and the more subscribers you’ll have. So, set a high standard, and determine to write as many posts per day as possible. You’re brimming over with ideas right now and there is no reason to think you’ll ever run out of things to post about.

2. Make earning a good income from your blog top priority. Have high expectations with regards to the income you’re going to earn through Adsense, especially if your blog is targeted towards a tech-savvy audience.

The idea that tech-savvy readers are ad-blind is just a myth. If the ads are relevant, they will be clicked on, especially if you really make them stand out in your design. Make them a different color than your site’s color scheme so they’ll really pop off the page. Also, include as many Adsense blocks as you possibly can, and be sure to get some nice blinky ads, so that readers are sure to see them. [Read more…]

Find the Perfect Name For Your Blog

Finding a good name for your site can be very difficult. When you decide to start a new blog, and start looking around for a domain name only to find that everything you think of is already taken, it can be discouraging. Ultimately, the name of your site can have a huge impact on its long-term success, so it’s a big decision and can require some “out of the box” thinking to land on just the right name. Remember that the best domain names are short, memorable and brandable. Owning the world’s longest domain name might be cool, but long and difficult to type names are not a good idea.

Here are some ways to find a memorable name that will stand out from the crowd:

1. Be unique – Make up a word (like Dooce), leave out a vowel (like Flickr), or deliberately misspell a word (like Pownce). Your name can work well, especially if it’s not an extremely common name, but only use it if you’re not planning on selling the site in the future.

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The Ten Commandments of Blog Typography

Typography can make or break a blog. You presumably are writing your blog so people will read it, so it is important to pay close attention to the typography so that your content is as legible and comfortable to follow as possible. Blog readers expect to be able to scan articles easily, and if you make it too difficult for them to read your content, they will become frustrated, and may move on to read a site that is easier to digest.

Here are some basic guidelines to remember as you consider your site’s typography:

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