Tag: blog

Experimenting with Paid for Ads for Web Traffic

Experimenting with Paid for Ads for Web Traffic

Why Did I Consider Paid for Ads?

I wrote a post about focusing on some of my strengths in order to minimize risk in new areas, and part of that meant focusing on increasing brand awareness for DevLeader as a proving ground. The idea of driving more web traffic to my blog via ads came up because I was interested in experimenting with Instagram ads for my show car branding, but not knowing anything about paid for ads made taking that first step feel pretty risky.

What should I expect for paying for ads? What will $1 get me? What will $10 get me? I have no idea where to start with this kind of thing, so I felt it was important to use my more solid brand, DevLeader, as the basis for this experiment. If I can watch what happens with traffic to this blog by playing with ads, then I can apply that learning to my vehicle brand.

Free Credit For Ads!

One thing that I found when playing with some of my SEO tools is that many paid-for ad services will actually give you a coupon or some sort of matching credit for using their ad service. What does that mean? Well, like almost everything in life… if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. The coupons or credits don’t mean that you get to pay nothing for your ads, but it’s still a cool opportunity. Generally, these services will say “If you spend X dollars with our ad service, we’ll give you a credit to worth Y dollars that you can use for your NEXT set of ads”.

Make sense? They want to cover your NEXT purchase you make with them to get you on board with them. So it’s not a free experiment to try this out, but it means that if you’re going to drop $100 into it, that $100 might technically stretch out to be valued at $200 if you were to get a $100 coupon from one of these services.

Just something to think about! If you’re serious about looking into advertising and you’re willing to make the initial investment, it seems like a great opportunity.

Google AdWords

The obvious choice for me to start with was Google AdWords because all of my accounts are linked up in someway through Google at various points, and I use a lot of their tooling. The setup was very simple, but you’ll need to remember to have your credit card on hand. Like I said, nothing is free. You can stop your ads at any time though, so you don’t need to be paranoid about accidentally spending $500 on an ad. I mean, I think it would be difficult to have that happen and I’m a total newbie.

Google AdWords guides you through setting up your first ads pretty well, especially for someone that’s never done this before. When it comes time to pick keywords and bidding strategies… I sort of just guessed. It’s an experiment, right? They offer tools to measure your metrics, so you can try changing keywords to see how the effectiveness changes. I started by creating a search campaign that would maximize clicks. I set my spending limit to $3/day. Picked some popular keywords for my blog, like programming, C#, and Unity. And… now I wait to see what happens! I hope to follow up on all of this experimentation to share my learnings in this area so that anyone else on the fence can learn from my experiences.

For free credits, Google AdWords claims to match up to $150 of your first months spending, so I think I’m going to try shooting for that. I’ll start off at spending $3/day and see if I can experiment with a few different options for ads. By the end of the first month, I hope to use all $150 of my initial investment so that I’ll have $150 from Google to play with in the upcoming months!

Bing Ads

Bing Ads was a cool option to explore after setting up Google AdWords, so I suggest if you’re going to try both of these that you do Google AdWords first. Once I created my account for Bing, I was actually able to import my Google AdWords campaign I created extremely easily. I didn’t even have to think about it. I plan to measure the return on investment of both of these with the same campaign setup to see which one is more effective.

The great thing about Bing Ads? Once you spend $25 (USD), they’ll give you $100 (USD) for your next purchases. Just a $25 experiment that if it works well, I can get 3x the investment back to play with! Very cool!


Doubling Down: My Specific Strategy

Doubling Down: My Specific Strategy - https://www.publicdomainpictures.net/en/view-image.php?image=130306

Doubling Down: The Quick Background

I recently wrote about how and why I’m looking to double down on my strength to improve a weakness, and I figured it would be a great follow up to try and explain the specifics in my strategy. It’s an interesting learning opportunity for me, so why not share it with those that are interested?

The format of this post is really just to call out the specifics of some strategies I’m looking at exploring when building the brand for my vehicle to help with sponsorship opportunities.

Reach Outside Core Audiences

This one shouldn’t be a shock to you if you’re familiar with this blog already. It’s primarily aimed at programming, leadership in a tech environment, and self reflecting as a means to improve. One of my goals is to explore attracting other audiences that might have a bit of overlap with my core audience in order to build up awareness of my brand. In this particular case, I’m writing about branding in the online world and attempting to relate it to setting personal goals and establishing a plan to reach them. So while this topic is outside my core domain here, I think there’s some interesting overlap, and working on this will help me build up the knowledge for how to apply this to my vehicle brand.

I’d like to practice on this blog by writing about some things that are slightly outside of the norm for the content here and gauge how readers react. This learning will be used to expand the brand awareness of my vehicle when I apply it in that domain. Or that’s the theory, at least.

Linking to Related Content

If you’ve been paying attention, I’ve been trying to link you, my fearless reader, to other content I’ve created. It’s a simple tactic to provide you with more opportunities for the information you’d like to read more about and simultaneously keep you engaged with more of my own content.

The specific goal here is exploring how readers consume related information. When it comes to my vehicle brand, perhaps those that are interested in the wheel brand I use will also be interested in the air suspension setup I run. Perhaps the shop that does my work can gain more business because someone clicked a link or followed the breadcrumb trail to their site. Something about content synergy <insert eyeroll>.

Content Planning

Between the last post on doubling down and this current post, I had to do a little bit of work beforehand to plan content. This is something I need to practice more of, and I think I can do a good job of it when it comes to writing programming articles. So for example, I’m picking up more Unity3D work and would love to write more about Unity3D.

This will have great carry over for social media platforms when trying to plan content around events that my vehicle will be at. I can engage audiences better if I have a better plan for content, but this will take practice, time, and effort. The practice part is something I can work at on this blog with little risk because it comes a bit more naturally.

Ads: Hosting Them and Creating Them

This is a big one for me because it’s very new to me, in general. This blog runs ads, and without much experience, they’ve been able to generate a little bit of income (and I mean, very little). It’s something I can work at tuning to get better results, especially because I at least have a starting point to work with.

On the flip side, I’ve never created ads for my blog to drive traffic to this site. This is something I need to explore in order to help with the vehicle brand, and is a great example of doubling down on a strength. This devleader brand has better online presence (at least in terms of a website) than my vehicle’s brand. I think it would be a significantly easier experiment to work on creating ads for this site to drive traffic here and perhaps use my small ad revenue to seed this initial experiment. Minimize the risk!

Once I learn how to use ads better, I can perhaps apply this to the vehicle brand to drive more traffic to the content I create for that.

Calls to Action

For social media engagement, it’s really important to have calls to action. In the last post on doubling down, I added a call to action right at the end of the post. Did you see it?

Maybe not, and that’s okay because I’m practicing it. For Instagram and Facebook, it’s extremely helpful for generating impressions when you have your audience interacting with you. The more practice with creating good calls to action, the better I can do with my vehicle brand.

Next Steps

My next steps for my doubling down strategy are to start with creating some Unity3D articles. As I mentioned above, I’m looking to work more with Unity3D so it’s another great doubling down opportunity where it’s minimal investment for me (I’m already doing the research, I just need to write about my experiences) and a low-risk area to experiment in. I can practice some of the individual pieces of my strategy (as outlined above) in creating a series of Unity3D articles, and measure my success along the way.

If you’re a Unity3D programmer, what sorts of Unity3D articles would you be interested in? I plan to start some on Autofac and some cool patterns I’ve been using, but I’d love to hear what you’re interested in!


Raspberry Pi + WordPress => PiPress

Raspberry Pi

Background

In the past, I’ve dabbled a bit with hosting my own server on a spare outdated box that likely should have been thrown out. My least favourite thing to do is sit down and tinker with trying to get services and such configured so that they all work together… But once it’s working, it’s glorious. Enter the Raspberry Pi.

Earlier this year I decided I wanted to get a Pi. Why? I wasn’t too sure… But they’re cheap and nothing bad could come of it 🙂 Once I got the thing up and running I was reading about how people were using them. Hosting a WordPress site was definitely one of the uses, so I figured I’d try my hand at that. There are other guides on The Internet about how to do this, but this is what got me up and running.

Disclaimer: A *lot* of this is taken from IQ Jar where there’s been an absolutely amazing outline posted. Although I am repeating a lot of the same steps here, I wanted to post what I felt was a complete install guide. I found myself going back and forth between a few resources, so hopefully this will reduce that issue for you. I do very highly recommend you have a look at IQ Jar though.

Raspberry Pi: What & Where To Buy?

This part is pretty open ended. Let’s start with the “what” portion of things.

The Raspberry Pi is just the board. If you’re totally content with buying a board without a case that you can’t even power up, then you’re all set. Although, if that’s the case, you probably don’t need to read anymore of this! It’s common to pick up the following to get your Raspberry Pi working:

  • Raspberry Pi
  • Case
  • Power Adapter
  • SD Card

But once you’ve got those things, you still can’t do too much with your Raspberry Pi aside from powering it up. Some other things you’ll likely want:

  • USB Wireless Adapter
  • USB Keyboard
  • HDMI Cable

NOTE: Pay special attention to what wireless adapters and SD cards can be used with a Pi out of the box. You’ll want to save yourself the headache if others have confirmed the parts you’re looking at purchasing are compatible.

So now that you have an idea what things you’ll need to pickup, where do you get them? If you search The Googles for where to buy any of this stuff, you’ll probably get a ton of hits. Maybe that’s not totally useful for you. I’d suggest the following sites:

  • Amazon: I got everything I needed off of Amazon in one fell swoop. You can even find some combo deals that include the Raspberry Pi and a case. Heck, some even come with the SD card too!
  • ModMyPi: A great resource… There’s tons of options on this site and it’s specifically for the Pi. Probably can’t go wrong by looking here.
  • Ebay: Ol’ Faithful. Lots of options here too, just like Amazon. Bound to find something that fits the bill.
  • Newark: There are a great deal of product offerings and resources on Newark. Check them out for full packages, accessories, and additional guides/walk-throughs.

The Walkthrough

First thing: there are a million ways to do this. I’m not going to explore all the options here because I’m not an expert and because I want to provide you with my own steps that worked for me. As soon as I deviate from that… Things will get messy and complicated 🙂

  1. Download a Raspbian “Wheezy” image from the Raspberry Pi website. This is the image of the operating system your Pi will use.
  2. Download Win32 Disk Imager. You’ll need this to get the image of the operating system onto your SD card.
  3. Once both downloads have completed, run Win32 Disk Imager and use it to write the image to your SD card. You’ll need a card reader/writer in your computer, but this is pretty standard these days.
  4. Take your card out of your computer and pop it into your Pi. You should have your Pi all setup now with power, USB keyboard, USB WIFI adapter, and an HDMI cable plugged into your TV/monitor.
  5. When you power up your Pi, you should be taken to an initialization/configuration menu. If it ain’t working, there are a million and one trouble shooting guides.
  6. Some things I suggest you get going while you’re here:
    • Reduce graphics memory to the minimum (16). Should help with performance.
    • Give yourself a modest overclock. Not sure what’s deemed safe, but I went somewhere in the middle.
    • Enable SSH. Later on you’ll never even need to be near your Pi. I can actually control my Pi from my phone with this sweet app.
  7. Once you’ve got things how you want, expand the file system and reboot your Pi.
  8. When the Raspberry Pi is back up and running, you need to login to your credentials and then type “startx” and press enter. This will get you into the GUI portion of things.

Anyone well versed in *nix may not need or want to do this, but I found it easiest this way. At this point, get your wifi and everything setup. Your blog won’t be very useful if your Pi isn’t on the internet. Having the GUI portion of Raspbian will also let you quickly search the net and pull up articles if you’re running into any oddities with the components you bought. Anyway, now that your Raspberry Pi is working with all the parts you purchased, on with the rest of it:

  1. Open up a terminal. You’re going to need it for basically everything else in this guide. We’re going to start by turning your Raspberry Pi into a LAMP server.
  2. Type “sudo apt-get update” to update the various packages on your Pi.
  3. sudo apt-get install apache2” to download and install the Apache web server. You’ll want to say yes when it asks for confirmation (and same whenever this happens for the other packages we need to install).
  4. sudo nano /etc/apache2/apache2.conf” to open up the apache configuration. You’ll want to stick “ServerName localhost” at the very end of this file and then save and exit the editor. This will get rid of warnings about determining the server’s domain name.
  5. Restart apache by using “sudo service apache2 restart“. Amazing. You now have a web server.
  6. You’ll need to take care of any port forwarding to make sure your router does it’s job to get to your Pi.
  7. Next is installing PHP: “sudo apt-get install php5
  8. Type “ls /usr/lib/php5/” and take not of the entry that looks like “20100525+lfs“. Yours might be slightly different.
  9. sudo nano /etc/php5/apache2/php.ini” to open up the PHP configuration. Find the line that starts with “extension_dir” and change it so it looks like: extension_dir = “/usr/lib/php5/20100525+lfs/” (except with the name of the entry you have if it was different!)
  10. sudo nano /etc/apache2/apache2.conf” to open up the apache configuration. You want to verify you have this line in there: Include conf.d/*.conf
  11. Next up, you’re going to need to make a config file for Apache. This can be done by typing: “sudo nano /etc/apache2/conf.d/php.conf” and then putting the following text inside of the file:
    # PHP is an HTML-embedded scripting language which attempts to make
    # it easy for developers to write dynamically generated webpages.
    LoadModule php5_module modules/libphp5.so
    #
    # Cause the PHP interpreter to handle files with a .php extension.
    AddHandler php5-script .php
    AddType text/html .php
    #
    # Add index.php to the list of files that will be served as
    # directory indexes.
    DirectoryIndex index.phpSave and close nano when you’ve finished.
  12. To improve the performance of PHP, install APC by typing “sudo apt-get install php-apc
  13. Now that you’ve finished that, restart Apache: sudo service apache2 restart

Next we need to get MySQL up and running. This is going to serve as the backend for your WordPress installation.

  1. sudo apt-get install mysql-server mysql-client
  2. Follow up with the MySQL plugin for PHP: “sudo apt-get install php5-mysql
  3. Now that you’ve finished that, restart Apache: sudo service apache2 restart

Next we’re actually going to install wordpress!

  1. In your terminal: “sudo wget http://wordpress.org/latest.tar.gz
  2. Then extract the whole thing: “sudo tar -zxvf latest.tar.gz
  3. From here, you can either follow along with the official WordPress Setup instructions, or just do what I did. If you want to do what I did, just keep following here!
  4. We need to make a user in MySQL:
    1. In the terminal: “mysql -u <YOUR_ADMIN_USERNAME> -p” and hit enter.
    2. (Obviously where it says <YOUR_ADMIN_USERNAME> you should replace with the database admin username you picked)
    3. Enter your password as the prompt suggests and press enter.
    4. Next up: “CREATE DATABASE wordpress” to make the database named wordpress.
    5. And now we set privileges: “GRANT ALL PRIVILEGES ON wordpress.* TO “wordpress”@”localhost” IDENTIFIED BY “<YOUR_PASSWORD>”;” and press enter.
    6. (Again, it’s hopefully obvious to replace <YOUR_PASSWORD> with your password)
    7. FLUSH PRIVILEGES
    8. And then finally “EXIT
  5. For my install, I put WordPress right at the root of my website. To do this, we need to copy the contents of the wordpress directory to your /var/www/ directory, but we’re *NOT* copying the wordpress directory itself there: “cp -a wordpress/. /var/www/
  6. And now, we run the install script! Since we installed WordPress to the root of the website, we go to http://127.0.0.1/wp-admin/install.php in a browser. Follow the few simple steps there and you should be up and running!
  7. Remember to check the troubleshooting section on the WordPress site if something seemed to go wrong!

That’s it! You should be up and running.

What’s Next?

You might find your site is a little slow. That’s somewhat expected on your little Rapsberry Pi. Don’t fret. There are lot’s of methods for optimizing your site.

  • Check out WP Super Cache, or specifically, the guide over at IQ Jar for more information on tweaking this (it’s near the bottom of the post).
  • There’s minifying plugins for javascript and CSS files. This can do a nice job compressing the files and reducing how much data has to be transferred.
  • You can look at something like Smush.it to help with compressing your images that you serve. Again, smaller means faster.
  • Finally, you might want to test your site on GTmetrix to see if it can recommend any other optimizations to you.

Summary

To wrap up, I hope you found this guide informative. I thought a Raspberry Pi was a great way to start a little DIY project at home and it was fun to get a blog up and running on it.

References

I’m sure I consulted a million and one guides on the Internet, but the following that stick out to me (and I highly recommend you look into them):

  • IQ Jar: Crucial for getting me up and running. Specifically, these two guides here and here.
  • WordPress.com: The detailed guide here for installing WordPress once you have all the prerequisites was definitely necessary.
  • GTmetrix:  Serving content was relatively new to me. Once I was analyzing my page with this site, I was lead down a rabbit hole of different things to try and optimize. I highly recommend it!

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  • Nick Cosentino

    Nick Cosentino

    I work as a team lead of software engineering at Magnet Forensics (http://www.magnetforensics.com). I'm into powerlifting, bodybuilding, and blogging about leadership/development topics over at http://www.devleader.ca.

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