Autoblogging

I’ve known about autoblogging for quite a while now, about 2-3 years I guess, but I’ve never done anything about it while spending a considerable amount of time learning a lot about it. Learning new stuff is great, but it’s not a good use of your time unless you put the learning into action.

That’s changing now as I started the first run of an “experiment” yesterday.

I took out a brand new .info domain in the baby niche for a term that suddenly seems to be getting a lot of search. My wife has earlier this week taken out a .co.uk domain for the same term, and is building a site similar to the one she built a couple of weeks ago that resulted in a payout from Amazon yesterday.

So she’s building a regular “hand made” site using Price Comparisons, and I’m building an automated site using autoblogging techniques. We’re going to directly compare to see if there are any SEO or monetary benefits to doing it by hand over having a site built automatically.

In case you’ve never heard of the term autoblogging, it refers to a method of where a blog site is built automatically or semi-automatically over time. It’s populated with freely available material you can get from article directories, and is (usually) 100% white hat.

If you think about it, by gathering together a series of articles and other material on one particular topic from multiple sources, you’re creating a useful resource for anyone interested in that subject.

In the bricks and mortar world you might think of it as a specialist store such as (for instance) scuba diving. There the store owner has pulled together lots of different products all about scuba diving and it’s a one-stop-shop in that niche.

Autoblogs are no different from manually created blogs, but take a lot less effort. And they come in different guises and are used for different purposes, but the ultimate goal is to use them to make money with.

So in my case, I’m using a self-hosted WordPress blog and building it with a set of (as I’ve said) freely available articles from an article directory. I’m monetising it using the Amazon self-optimising widget (like Google AdSense, but pays a lot more), and also eventually with an eBay feed, and of course AdSpurt.

Rather than monetise it directly as above, I could have just set the blog up to grow and rank well in the search engines with no direct monetisation. I could then either monetise it by persuading people to sign up to a mailing list and then having an autoresponder send them a series of offers every week, or I could use it to send traffic to my wife’s site.

Also, instead of using a self-hosted blog, I could have used for instance a free blogger blog, and again monetise it indirectly.

And there are umpteen other methods of building and monetising autoblogs.

Now I know that any non-marketer who is more of a techy geek would likely get very agitated at this and start making false accusations like “spammer” and “splogger”, and “ruining the blogging community”. I’ve seen that talk in various places, but this is total nonsense and in most cases the same people are running AdSense on their sites.

There’s nothing wrong with monetising a blog, and if you decide to do it the easy way via autoblogging, there’s also nothing wrong with doing that either. But some people just don’t seem to get it, and I get the distinct impression that they think that’s it’s somehow cheating to do things more effectively.

After all, what’s the difference between running a generalised article directory full of other people’s articles, and running a niche blog full of other people’s articles? It’s a different platform, but the net effect is the same.

So, just to be clear, there’s a distinct difference between a splog (spam blog) and and an autoblog.

Splogs are by their nature typically black hat, and sploggers are responsible for all the junk sites out there that are filled with AdSense and non-sensical scraped and gibberised wrangled content from other blogs, where all references to the original author of the material has been removed.

Splogs will just appear on the web fully formed often with several hundred pages of junk, thrown together in a couple of hours max and are never touched again. The life expectancy of a splog is about 2-3 months (often less) before de-indexing happens, so the creator isn’t going to spend much time on them and knows beforehand they’ll only get a limited life out of them.

Autoblogs are typically white hat and centre on a niche using a range of legitimately obtained material that gives credit to the original author and the all-important backlink to their site. It’s the back link which is what spurred them to write and publically make available the original material in the first place. The material itself is often genuinely useful and well written articles, but of course not always.

Autoblogs will start small and grow slowly and naturally like a regular site would, with new material being published every day or so. Anyone that finds them would be inclined to believe that they’re maintained by hand, whereas in fact the posts are automated. Your visitors benefit by finding their one-stop-shop on the topic they’re interested in, and you benefit by not having to have done any real work while also being able to monetise your site.

It’s a win-win, and that’s always important to me in anything I do. I provide value, and I take my cut.

Here’s the learning point.

If you provide genuinely useful material on a topic, and the site conforms to what Google expects to see on any quality site – privacy policy, terms, etc – and it stands up to human inspection, then you have nothing to worry about. Over time it will become a force to be reckoned with.

I’ve seen countless what I would call black hatters make comments in forums and on blogs that go something like:-

“I make my splogs so ugly that people want to immediately click on something to get away from them. So I put a big fat AdSense block in their way. Muhahaha!”

*sigh*

There’s just no need to do that. Comply with what real people want and what Google want and everything will be fine. You’ll have a long term useful resource that will bring you in a nice little extra income.

-Frank Haywood

By |February 27th, 2009|internet business|9 Comments

The Power Of Price Comparisons

Two weeks ago, my wife put up a niche web site showing a number of comparative products within that niche.

She used the automated Vendiva Price Comparison Service to show regularly updated prices for a number of different merchants, and she also put links to Amazon and highlighted that they offer free delivery too. It’s a fact that in most cases Amazon offer the lowest price and in any case anything over £5.00 is now free delivery.

She spent at most 3 part-time days working on the site, probably about 15-18 hours in total – “if that” she’s just said to me.

Last night we sat down to check traffic to our sites and saw that the site she built 2 weeks ago had received a jump in traffic and received 18 unique visitors yesterday. More importantly, 2 of them had used links that took them to Amazon.

She checked Amazon this morning and saw that one of those visitors had ordered the item that they had searched for and found on her site, earning her approximately £13.12 ($18.70). She won’t know the exact amount until Amazon dispatch it and it turns into earnings in her affiliate panel.

I think that’s probably a lot more than most people earn with AdSense every month…

The wonderful thing about all this is that other than add more products to the site – which she’ll do when she finds a few moments each day (and which will generate even more traffic) – she won’t have to do anything with the existing products that are on there. People will continue to find the site using the same search terms they’ve done over the last few days.

As traffic to the site increases, so will her earnings. All passively. All done on autopilot.

We put the conversion solely down to the fact that she shows a range of prices and merchants for each product she’s promoting.

All prices are clickable and take the visitors through to the merchant site using her cloaked affiliate link.

All prices are auto-updated several times a day using direct feeds from the affiliate networks.

This is a dynamite method of instantly gaining your visitors trust. And more importantly from your point of view, their gratitude.

After all, you’ve just saved them a lot of searching around for the best price available, and if they click the links through to the merchants sites they can see for themselves that the prices are accurate and up to date.

Getting the traffic is easy enough, getting people to click your affiliate links is harder.

You can make it much easier using the same methods as my wife does.

Here’s a picture of the gradual increase in traffic over the last few days. My wife has done nothing to promote the site other than create it and give it a backlink from two other sites to get it indexed naturally which we think helps. (Ignore todays traffic of 2 visitors as it was still quite early when I took that snapshot.)

sue-site-traffic.png

You can do exactly the same thing as she is. What are you waiting for?

-Frank Haywood

By |February 26th, 2009|internet business|4 Comments

The Importance Of Testing And Tracking

Do you test and track?

Logically you may know you need to, but you may be a bit like I used to be where testing and tracking was the absolute last thing on my mind. I put it to you that if you don’t test and track then you don’t really have any basis on which to make decisions.

I’ll give you some examples.

#1 – If I didn’t know how many visitors I get to this blog, I would have given up a long time ago.
#2 – If I didn’t know what keywords people were finding my various sites with, I wouldn’t know what to change the words to, so that I could increase the amount of traffic to those sites.
#3 – If I didn’t try different things and then look at the resulting data a few weeks afterwards, I wouldn’t know if what I was doing was right or wrong.

More recently if you’re a regular reader, you’ll know I’ve been putting up sites to promote and sell physical goods on Amazon and the like.

Every single site gets tracked completely.

  • When I get a visitor, I know how they found the site.
  • I know what keywords they used and I know what search engine they came from, or even if they’ve bookmarked the site and are returning via that bookmark.
  • I know what pages they looked at while they were visiting and the path they took.
  • I know what link they clicked on to leave the site, or if they left by closing their browser.
  • I know overall how my sites are growing (or not) and as a result I can see if I picked a good product and keywords to promote, and I know if I should give the site any more attention.

I wouldn’t know any of that if I didn’t track all the traffic on my sites.

My question to you is…

Do you test and track?

-Frank Haywood

By |February 17th, 2009|internet business|4 Comments

Choosing Keywords and Good Domain Names for IPK Sites

I’ve come up with a preliminary method of deciding which keywords and domains to register for IPK sites.

Simply it’s the number of exact match search multiplied by the number of phrse match search, and then dividing it by the number of competing pages in Google to come up with a number you can use to make your decision. I’ve called this the x-factor as I’m feeling a bit unimaginative at the moment.

(exact match x phrase match) / competing pages = x-factor

It seems that if the x-factor is more than about 50, then it’s a good choice. This method isn’t perfect and could do with a little work, but it seems good enough to make most decisions on until I can come up with something better.

I’ve posted a good few examples on the Unoffical IPK Forum and gone into more detail too. Here’s a selection of them:-

#1 – ( 3,600 x 9,900) / 18,000,000 = 1.98
#2 – ( 2,900 x 14,800) / 201,000 = 213.53
#3 – (22,200 x 110,000) / 399,000 = 6120.30
#4 – (33,100 x 33,100) / 101,000,000 = 10.85

I’m very interested in what you think about this, so please go check out the forum post and either leave a comment there or here.

http://www.vendiva.com/forum/index.php/topic,249.0.html

-Frank Haywood

By |February 16th, 2009|internet business|Comments Off on Choosing Keywords and Good Domain Names for IPK Sites

A Different WordPress Theme – Mandigo

I’ve been thinking of changing the theme on this blog. Yes we all need a bit of a change now and then don’t we?

One of the themes I’ve been looking at is the Mandigo theme which is a free one. I’ve been playing with it on a couple of IPK mother sites I’ve set up, and it’s really very nice, better than some of the paid for themes I’ve purchased.

I can confirm it works perfectly with WP 2.7.

(Speaking of which I am really beginning to dislike WP 2.7 because of the dopey new admin interface – WHAT were they thinking? I hope good sense will get them to change it back to the interface we know and love. Anyway…)

The Mandigo theme has a LOT of configuration options so you can make it look quite different on each site you build with it. And of course it works with WP widgets.

For instance it runs at 800 pixels wide, and you can change it to 1024 at the tick of a box in the admin panel. It has several different colour schemes built in (including header graphics) and you can amend them all from within the theme options – no fiddling with the standard WP theme editor.

In fact there are a LOT of options you can change, and the author has even added “HTML inserts” which allow you to change and add useful things such as CSS amendments or tracking code without you having to amend the theme files themselves. The benefit of that is when you upgrade to the latest version, you won’t break any of the changes you’ve made to your site. Very cool.

The default layout shows two columns, the main area and a right hand sidebar. But you can enable a second sidebar, plus top and bottom “sidebars” too which are useful for dropping sign up code or ads into. You can place the left and right sidebars in any configuration you like – sb1-main-sb2, sb2-main-sb1, main-sb1-sb2, etc and you can change the widths of them individually too.

Any pages you add automatically appear in the top menu, and if you create sub-pages in the WP admin area, they appear as sub-pages in a drop-down menu.

You can easily change the appearance of the date in posts, or even remove it altogether.

There are a LOT of settings you can tweak, and I found it possible to make all the changes I needed to make it ideal for use with IPK mother sites. It even has SEO options to re-write title tags, although I use the All-in-One SEO Pack for that purpose.

In Mandigo, it is very easy to change the header graphic. All you have to do is create one and FTP it into the headers directory within the theme at:-

/public_html/wp-content/themes/mandigo/images/headers/

then change a setting within the theme options and your custom header will be displayed. If you drop several graphics in there, they will be displayed randomly. You can even have a different header show per page if you want to by twiddling with a few files.

It really is an excellent piece of work, and I suggest it’s worth taking a little time out to check it out. I’m sure you’ll be as impressed as I am.

-Frank Haywood

By |February 5th, 2009|internet business|5 Comments