Tuesday, January 29, 2008

9 Ways to Max out your EntreCard

Did you know there's a quick, cheap way to double or even triple your blog's traffic overnight? It sounds too good to be true -- and to hear it from some people, it is. But that doesn't mean it still doesn't work.

The idea of a huge traffic spike for almost no effort seems weird, but for all the complaints that "big" bloggers have about EntreCard, it actually improved my general statistics in the first week by leaps and bounds compared to some nearly ALL of my other attempts. 50% more subscribers practically overnight (even if most of them did disappear the next day), a ridiculous number of hits (which could only HELP with Project Wonderful), and a better bounce rate than what I'd been enjoying otherwise - and considering that most other bloggers find those same rates horrific, I assume one of the following:
  • Entrecard really IS that good for blogs, at least for smaller ones that could use the traffic.
  • The "Newbie Bonus" coming into the site is amazingly inflated compared to what it's worth in the long run.
  • My previous efforts promoting the blog really were that amazingly awful. (given that I consider an 80% bounce rate an improvement, this may deserve more weight than I'm giving it.)
So what is it? Entrecard involves putting a little widget (not much bigger than a 125x125 ad) on your site. Other users can click the widget and drop off their cards, generating virtual credits for you (for recieving the card) and for them (for giving you their card). You can then use these credits to advertise in other people's widgets, or receive even more credits for letting people advertise in yours. Put Simply, it's Link Karma.

So far, I've used the site for about a week, and since so much of Entrecard's success depends on the sites and people that use it... here's what you need to know to get the most out of Entrecard:
  1. Get an Image Card. A GOOD image card. Seriously, most of these bloggers don't know a raster from a Rastafarian. A good-looking card gets you more traffic, plain and simple. (and if you're clever, SELL some of these guys your image-making skills.) If that's not enough incentive, keep in mind that a lot of folks (like me) aren't going to give advertising space to a text ad so readily as they will a slick image.
  2. Effort in == Effort out. Drop Cards regularly, and it comes back to you; link karma at its purest. This is probably why people who 'naturally' get 100+ hits a day or more complain about Entrecard: it's too much work to run around dropping cards when other methods deliver better returns!
  3. If you're complaining about a high bounce rate... maybe it's not Entrecard's fault, y'know? Sturgeon's Law applies to just about everything, and in a place where you're bound to be exposed to all of it, that 90% is going to look bloody awful. If your site has ANY sense of aesthetics to it, you'll come out on top. If you honestly need to purchase a sense of aesthetics, there's plenty of people around who can help, and some of 'em will even do it for more free credits!
  4. Never use the "Slim Widget"! It's not rocket science, it's Fitts's Law. For those who don't speak programmer, here's a rough translation: The bigger the target is, the easier a time people have to hit it. In a sea of 125 x 125 ads, that means the only way I can spot someone with a slim widget is if I see the little, yellow Entrecard bar! If you want droppers, you need to make sure people can tell where your widget is.
  5. In fact, use the 200x127 "Medium Widget". It's just the right odd size that it's easily recognizable as an Entrecard widget, and not merely two 125x125 ads stuck together. And for those using Blogger, it's just the right width for your sidebars! (No, really, it's the perfect size. I'm using it now, even.)
  6. Don't put your Widget at the top, but don't bury it among six Project Wonderful ads either. Chaindroppers (people who just follow chains of widget ads to drop their cards) click in, drop, click onto the next blog, and so on. While forcing them to henpeck for the ad is bad, at least make them go below the fold so they have to at least look at the rest of your stuff. Speaking from experience, sites like SiteHoppin' make it way too easy to just click, hop, and run . . . experiment a little to find the balance between making it too easy and frustrating the end-user.
  7. Speaking of Project Wonderful . . . their square ads are the exact same size as the widgets -- 125x125 pixels. This means if an Entrecarder wants space on your page but isn't about to gain a free ad from you, they can pay for it! Just make sure you keep your square ads separated enough from the Entrecard Widget not to confuse people.
  8. Start aligning yourself with other Entrecarders. Most (but not all) of the sites using Entrecard are also using other Web 2.0 sites and tools like Twitter, StumbleUpon, Facebook... *cough* or writing articles designed to target other Entrecarders who happen to be rushing past your site in the hopes of attracting a quick boost.
  9. Write me a recommendation! Okay, this tip won't necessarily help YOU with Entrecard, but it does highlight that there's more to this site than clicks and card drops. Recommendations, Favorites, and other useful details of the site make you look more respectable, and since (at least from a site-side perspective) recommendations are key to building a reputation, they're worth seeking out. Recieiving them isn't easy, though, so if you're willing to help me, I'll find a way to return the favor. (Might be a few extra drops, might be a recommendation back... depends how good I find your site in return.)
There's finer points to all of this, and a few other things that can be done as well -- contests, hanging out in the forums, using the Project Wonderful ads on the Entrecard site -- but all of these fixes are simple, free, and stuff you need to be doing anyway, not just for a special segment. Catering exclusively to Entrecarders is a recipe for disaster, sure, but with a few tweaks to the formula, you'll find your rates skyrocketing (and your credit count rising!) in no time.

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At January 29, 2008 at 7:05 PM , Blogger Who We Are said...

Really great posting for someone who hasn't been on Entrecard that long. Very observant. I agree with all except #6. I think if a person is going to chaindrop, they're going to do it no matter where your card is. And if they have to search for your card they don't even have a chance to see your top post title.

At January 29, 2008 at 7:31 PM , Blogger Jigsaw Forte said...

I know #6 is against the conventional wisdom, but given HOW easy the special "entrecard browsers" make hopping from site to site, forcing a user to scroll down slightly is not the worst thing to do for the sake of trying to make an impression.

At January 29, 2008 at 9:47 PM , Blogger Techie Guy said...

Great points, especially the part about Effort in == Effort out.

You only get out of Entrecard what you put it. Once I started to drop more cards, and participate in the forums my visitor count increased.

I am going to look into adding the medium widget to my blog to see if anything changes.

At January 30, 2008 at 10:39 AM , Blogger JK said...

Getting the ducks to land on the pond is only half the task, once they are in range you also have to shoot them metaphorically to achieve the real goal which is building your readership. So don't forget part two in the process. People bounce out because they are not entertained or enlightened. They don't come back unless they have a reason and it all translates to "effort is driven by reward for effort". Site content is the key, it has to reward the visitors "click" effort.

At January 30, 2008 at 11:11 AM , Blogger Margaret said...

Great review of EntreCard and you are right on the money. I've seen a tremendous increase in traffic to my site as well as having some people stick around and comment!

It's great!

At January 30, 2008 at 7:04 PM , Blogger Delphine said...

I just wanted to chime in, great information for us newcomers! I'm so glad I found you guys...



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