Learn from My Mistakes: Blog Visibility WordPress Option

published on January 3, 2008

Well it’s time for another installment of Learn from My Mistakes and this one is just a bit embarrassing since I’m an SEO by trade. Not only does it involve losing rankings, traffic, and eventually cached pages in search engines (never a good thing), but it was all caused and fixed by one simple click of the mouse.

Allow me to set the stage a bit. As some of you know, I recently launched a new MLB Rumors blog. It’s been going quite well and in fact ranked extremely quickly for most of it’s main terms. However, a couple of weeks ago I began to notice the search traffic was tailing off a bit. With that blog the traffic is pretty seasonal and since it was the holidays and there wasn’t much in the way of news, I figured it was just a normal slow down.

A few days later, I noticed that our rankings had dropped a couple of spots for a few terms. Obviously I’m never a fan of that so I checked out the site to make sure everything was ok. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary so I chalked it up to typical fluctuation in Google and didn’t worry about it. Several days after that, our rankings had dropped significantly and worse yet, we noticed that several pages of the site were no longer cached.


Finally I knew something was up and began investigating. I looked at the .htaccess file and everything checked out. We didn’t have a robot.txt file so we knew that couldn’t be it. After looking at all the usual suspects and coming up empty, I realized we had created another installation of WordPress in the root folder of the site. While this normally wouldn’t have been an issue, somehow the Blog Visibility setting in the Privacy Options had been set to “I would like to block search engines, but allow normal visitors.” Bingo!

Now, I’m not quite sure why anyone would ever want to use that option but I was darn sure I didn’t.  As it turns out, that option serves it’s own robots.txt file as long as there isn’t one already present. So, even though we had looked at the .htaccess, and knew we didn’t have a robots file, the search engines were being told to turn around and go back from wherever they came. Obviously that doesn’t do nice things to your rankings.

After changing that pesky setting, things quickly started returning to normal. The site was cached again, our search engine listings once again had descriptions to go with the titles, and about a week after solving the mystery, our rankings returned. We’re still a spot or two below where we had been but I’m confident we’ll climb back up without too much trouble.

The Lessons:

There are a few lessons to learn on this one. First and foremost, always, ALWAYS double check to make sure your WordPress blog is set to allow search engines. I know it seems like a basic thing but if I manged to screw it up, I’m guessing someone else has along the way. Next, you’d be well served to keep a close eye on your search engine rankings and organic traffic. Drops in either can alert you to a possible problem and often, if you catch things quickly, you can avoid major damage.

Also, it would be a good idea to keep a log of changes you make to your blog. When you install a new plugin, keep track of the date and maybe a few of the changes it involved. Now obviously if you correct a typo you probably don’t need to keep track of that, however, don’t dismiss anything else as too minor. You never know when just a slight tweak to a setting is going to help or hurt your search engine rankings. If you have a log to look back on, you’ll be sure you don’t forget or miss any possible cause of the change.

And last but certainly not least, don’t perform tests on sites that make you money. While my MLB Rumors site has taken off quite well, it doesn’t generate much if any income yet. Had the same thing happened on this blog, I could very well have missed out on hitting my $1k goal for the month of December. Whether you have a site specifically for testing, or you just use one of your less popular blogs, ALWAYS protect your money makers whenever possible.

You Scratch My Back…

published on December 27, 2007

One of the steps I’m taking this week to prepare myself (and my blog) for 2008 is to look for new ways to make money blogging. Once again, the observant among you will notice another change to the site. I’ve decided to give ScratchBack (SB) a try and have added the widget to the sidebar under the banner ads.

For those of you that aren’t familiar with ScratchBack, it’s essentially an easy way for bloggers to sell text links on their site. On their site, SB positions themselves as a new sort of “tip jar” but in reality, they’ve created a simple method to sell text ads. The widget allows you to set the number of spaces you wish to make available (5, 10, 15, or 20), the length links will appear in the list (1 day, 1 week, or 1 month), and of course the price ($1 minimum). You also get to choose from several different displays and even have the option to create your own custom design. The code is just a couple of lines that you place on your site and just like that, you’re ready to roll. One of the benefits of using a widget for this is that you can change your options at any time through the Scratchback interface, without having to edit the code on your site!

I’ve currently chosen to make 5 spots available at a cost of $30 each, but with the links remaining up for 30 days, it works out to a dollar per day for a spot. Also, for those of you worried about Google’s misguided war on paid links, all SB links are nofollow. Personally I’m not a big fan of caving in to Google’s demands but that’s how the widget is designed and I’m sure many webmasters will be grateful.

Another feature I was happy to see is the ability to approve or deny any ads that are purchased. There is a setting in the SB control panel that either allows automatic approval, or requires approval. Naturally, I went with the latter option. It’s not that I don’t trust people and what they might try to put in an ad, it’s just that I don’t trust people and what they might try to put in an ad on my site.

They do take a 10% cut but I’ll gladly pay it since they’ve made selling and managing text links so stinking easy. It’s a smaller cut than Text Link Ads would take and it won’t put your PageRank at risk (that is as long as haven’t already lost it).

As always, I’ll report back my experiences but it will be pretty obvious. If the spots start filling up, you’ll know I’m making money. If they stay empty, you’ll know it didn’t do much for me. Also, for anyone that was interested in advertising here on Blogging Experiment, but didn’t get the chance to grab one of the banner spots, or didn’t have the $60 to spend, here’s another option for you to get site-wide exposure and it’s only a dollar a day. So shoot over there and be the first person to Scratch my Back! Who knows maybe I’ll throw in a little something extra 😉

Under the Microscope: Avot mV

published on December 21, 2007

It’s been a while since I’ve done an Under the Microscope post, but the people from Avot mV purchased this review and asked me to put three sites under the ‘scope in a single post. That seemed like a lot of sites to cover in one post but since I’m trying to improve upon last month’s $500 showing for the month, I figured I’d give it a shot.

The Product

The main site that I’ll be looking at is the Avot mV – Product Site. As you can see, Avot offers “millions of videos from the internet in your pocket” and is essentially a video delivery system for mobile devices such as the iPhone, the iPod Touch, as well as all the devices listed here. The site not only lets you watch videos from sites like YouTube etc, it also allows users to create their own play lists and, in true web 2.0 fashion, share them amongst other users with their built in messaging feature.

While I’m a huge fan of all things Apple, I haven’t yet been able to talk myself into an iPhone just yet. However, I was able to snag a co-workers for a long enough to surf over and watch a clip from The Simpsons and I’ve got to tell you, it’s probably a good thing I don’t have my phone doesn’t have video enabled. YouTube is bad enough when I’m at home on the computer but I’m pretty sure my wife would kill me if I was able to watch all the same videos on my phone. Anyway, if you have any other questions about the service, there’s more info on Apple’s website since Avot mV is a “Staff Pick” application in the entertainment section

I also would like to point out that I reviewed this site previously on one of my other blogs while it was still in it’s early stages and I’m very impressed with the changes they’ve made. Being a staff pick of Apple instantly provides the site a TON of credibility and it’s nice to see that featured prominently on the page.


Up next in the trio of sites is the Corporate Site. This site caries over the simple but sharp look and feel of the main product site which really plays well with the white sleek style of the Apple line of products. Anyway, the corporate site is obviously oriented towards the business side of things with links to more information about the company, and contact information for anyone looking for a career or partnership with Avot. Corporate sites don’t really have to do much other than present relevant information and this site does a decent job of that. One thing they might want to consider is having a contact form on the page rather than just displaying an email address. It would just give it a touch more professional feel to it, although I can’t be too critical of this, that’s also something I need to do for this site. 😉

The Blog

And last but certainly not least is the Official Blog of Avot mV. This was really the only site I just didn’t care for and I’m willing most of you will immediately see why. The blog is using the default WordPress Theme and doesn’t at all flow with the look and feel of the rest of the site! They did at least change the color of the header to red from blue but really when the rest of your site looks that sharp, there’s no reason to have a blog that looks like this. As I said, they’ve made quite a few improvements to their site in the past couple of weeks so hopefully this is just a temporary look while they have a custom theme designed. Also, the blog hasn’t been updated since the end of November. Now I realize things are busy, especially this time of year, but when you combine the lack of content with the default look, it seems like Avot knew they should have a blog, but haven’t spent a whole lot of time working on it.

So there you have it, Avot mV under the microscope x 3! I think the site and service will be a big hit with iPhone owners and anyone else that has mobile browsing and video on their phone and the corporate site is solid. The blog leaves a bit to be desired but hey, 2 out of 3 is pretty good, especially when the third can be fixed with just a little bit of design work and some extra content here and there.

What Do You Think?

As always, I’d love to hear what the rest of you think. Do you like the sites? Do you agree with me when it comes to the blog? Did I leave out anything you would like to see changed? Let your voice be heard in the comment section below. Also, if you’d like to have your site placed Under the Microscope, drop me an email (blogex[at]bloggingexperiment.com) or purchase a review to move to the top of the list.

South Park: Lessons on Blogging

published on December 20, 2007

Up next in the Lessons on Blogging series is another of my favorite animated shows, South Park. I usually keep things pretty family friendly on this blog but when you’re covering a show like South Park, it stretches those boundaries a bit. Don’t get me wrong, there are some very important lessons to be learned from the show, but just to cover my bases, I’ve decided to borrow the disclaimer South Park uses at the beginning of each show.


Now that you’ve been warned, I proudly present you, South Park: Lessons on Blogging!

All Press is Good

If you learn one thing from South Park it should be that there really is no such thing as bad press. Throughout the shows 11 seasons, they’ve offended and been boycotted by several very diverse groups. In the early days many conservative parenting groups protested the show’s vulgar content and claimed it should be taken off the air. In response the episode “It Hits the Fan” uses the word “shit” 162 times while a counter at the bottom of the screen counts the number of uses throughout the show. More recently, the creators made enemies of many Muslim groups with their portrayal of Muhammad as well as their take on the Danish cartoon issue. Civil rights groups were incensed by the episode “With Apologies to Jesse Jackson” that used the “n word” a whopping 42 times!

South Park has angered several different religions

So what effect did all of these controversies, protests, and boycotts have on the show? Naturally they made it even more popular. Using myself as an example, I had never even heard of the show until it was brought up in my Christian school as an evil show that needed to be pulled from the air. Of course the first thing my friends and I did that afternoon after school was watch as many episodes as we could get our hands on.

Bloggers, the lesson for you in this should be obvious, there is no such thing as bad press. Whether you are being praised for your work, or it’s being harshly criticized or even boycotted, the simple fact of the matter is that you’re getting exposure. Even if you offend or piss off 75% of the people out there, chances are you’ll have just created a loyal following of the remaining 25% and isn’t a loyal following what we as bloggers are all striving for?

Ask Questions

Some of my favorite scenes from the entire show are when the boys ask Chef questions. That’s largely due tothe fact that Chef is just an awesome character, but the questions (which were almost always about sex) and answers were priceless. In one of the episodes from the first season, An Elephant Makes Love to a Pig, the kids are trying to genetically engineer a cross between Kyle’s pet elephant (which is too big to keep as a pet) and Cartman’s pot-bellied pig. They ask Chef’s advice and he explains that they just need the two to make “sweet love” to each other, and that it would probably help to get them drunk as well. In the South Park movie, Stan asks Chef’s advice about how to get his crush, Wendy, to like him.

There are plenty of

Stan: Chef, how do you make a woman like you more than any other guy?
Chef: Oh, that’s easy! You just gotta find the clitoris!
Stan: Huh?
Chef: Whoops!!
Stan: What does that mean? Find the clitoris?
Chef: Uh….uh…forget I said anything!!

The lesson here for bloggers is again, pretty simple. Ask questions. I’ve said time and again that one of the most amazing things about blogging is the ability to interact with so many different people. If you have questions about any aspect of blogging, all you need to do is ask a question. Chances are there is a blogger out there covering the topic you have questions about that would be more than willing to answer your question. Want to know where to find good resources on writing a sales letter? Drop Brian from CopyBlogger.com a comment or email and ask him! Want to know what plugin I use to rotate my 125×125 banner ads? The point is, there is a wealth of knowledge out there in the form of other bloggers and many of them are more than willing to answer your questions if you just take the step of asking. I’ve always been a big proponent of working smarter, not harder and being willing to ask questions and learn from other people’s experience plays a major role in working smarter. Just ask!

Keep It Simple

Another strength of South Park is something that many people early on actually thought would hurt the show. For anyone that hasn’t seen the show, the characters are drawn with just a few shapes and the animation is almost flip-book in nature. In fact, the pilot episode was created using construction paper cutouts rather than traditional animation!

South Park's animation is pretty simple

However, rather than being a weakness or a hindrance to the show, the simplistic animation has actually become a HUGE strength. The simplicity allows the episodes to be produced at a much quicker pace than any other show on television. The typical episode takes less than a week to produce and when you compare that to the 6 month time frame for a single episode of The Simpsons, the advantages become a bit clearer. Not only is the show cheaper to make, but they are also able to include references to current events without worrying about the material being too dated.

One of the first examples of this was the “Quintuplets 2000,” in which the Elian Gonzalez situation was openly mocked, and included an appearance by Janet Reno dressed as the Easter Bunny and carrying a gun. In a later episode, Saddam Hussein is depicted as remotely controlling the Canadian Prime Minister from his spider hole hideout. The scene is obviously a parody of the Wizard of Oz and was pretty funny on its own. The fact that the creators were able to include a direct reference to an event (the capture of Saddam) that happened only 3 days prior to the airing made the scene simply remarkable.

So what is the lesson for bloggers? Keep things simple. The reason posts like Top 10 lists, or 3 Reasons Why, or 5 Steps To.. are so popular is because they are simple. They’re usually quick and easy to read and are easily scanable. Now obviously I’m not saying you should only post lists or that you can’t write long posts. However, you should break up your content into easily consumed, “bite-sized” pieces. If your post gets a bit lengthy make sure you use headlines, images, and line breaks to cut up the content. If it goes too long, consider expanding on each section a bit more and turning it into a series.

The way you format your content isn’t the only place simplicity is needed. Could you imagine trying to learn something like Calculus by reading a blog post? I’m guessing not many of use would stick around to try and comprehend the massive amounts of information that would have to be crammed into that single post. By keeping the concepts and ideas of your post simple, you’ll again allow for much easier consumption by your readers.

To be continued…

I actually came up with a few more but the post was getting a bit long. So, I decided to take my own advice and break it into at least two pieces. However, I’d love to hear from other South Park fans on any other lessons bloggers should learn from watching the show. Who knows, I might end up using your idea in the next installment (with a link as thanks of course) so speak up, in the comments below!

WidgetBucks’ B Tracks and AdSense Images

published on December 19, 2007

For anyone using WidgetBucks, there’s good news. You now have more options for how your ads will look! According to the email I received (as well as their blog post):

The new ads are noted with a “B” (for “B Series”) in the pull-down menu of the “Customize Your Widget” page, where publishers can also see a preview before selecting with option to choose. One “C Series” widget, offered in the 300×250 medium rectangle size, includes a search box.

Since I haven’t gotten around to creating a product based blog yet (I’ve been meaning to for months), I haven’t put WidgetBucks to the test. However, it’s always good to see ad networks give publishers more control over the ads they display. For those of you that have put WidgetBucks on your sites, what has your experience been? I’d be interested to hear how it stacks up against the likes of Chitika or AdSense, especially for non product focused blogs.

In  related news, Google AdSense has released a new ad format called “Checkout Gadget” that is likely to give WidgetBucks and Chitika some added competition. I’ve been a pretty outspoken opponent of AdSense, however, I’m sure there are plenty of bloggers that will be happy to use the new ad units.

Let’s Try a Mailbag!

published on December 19, 2007

I’ve never tried this before but I figured I’d give it a go. If you’re familiar with Shoemoney’s question and answer posts, you’ll know the drill on this. Basically between now and tomorrow afternoon send in any and all questions you have for me and I’ll compile them into one big mailbag posts. The email, for those of you that don’t know, is blogex[at]bloggingexperiment.com. I’ve already been asked a few questions but rather than break them up into single Reader Question posts, I figured it would be fun to do it sort of shotgun style post where I blow through as many questions as possible. If I post and answer your question, you’ll get a link to your blog as thanks for the submission.

And, just in case that wasn’t incentive enough, anyone that sends in a question will be entered into a drawing for a vintage FireMartz tshirt! (I knew those would come in handy at some point.) How’s that for a prize eh? 😉

Reader Discussion: Long Term Goals

published on December 18, 2007

A couple of weeks ago, I was asked a question regarding the Reader Discussion Sessions by two different people. One person asked why I hadn’t done one in a while and the other asked why I bothered trying to get input from readers. Naturally, I’m hoping to kill answer two questions with one stone post.

No matter how long I’ve been reading blogs, it always impresses me when a bunch of readers get together and make a truly amazing thread of comments that’s more valuable than the post they are discussion. I think this has happened a couple of times here on this blog and things like ProBlogger’s community workshop or Shoemoney’s question and answer sessions are good examples of the phenomenon as well. While Blogging Experiment has quite a bit of growing left to do in many areas, I think we already have a large number of very knowledgeable readers and it would be incredibly foolish of me to not try and tap into that wealth of information.

As for why I hadn’t initiated one of these sessions in a while, it was simply an oversight on my part. To remedy that situation, I’d like to open up the discussion today with a short but far from simple question.

What are your long term goals for your blog?

Blogging can be a marathon
Image Credit: richardrood
Now obviously many people reading this will have the answer of making money (this is a blog about how to make money blogging after all) but I’m looking for more of a “big picture” answer. Are you hoping to turn your blog’s success into a full time job? Are you hoping to be able to sell your blog to finance something else? Are you hoping to leverage your blog into a successful business in your industry or niche? Are you aiming for a book deal? What are your long term goals when it comes to blogging or specifically your blog?From time to time I find it’s very useful for me to take a minute and remind myself where I’m trying to go. This keeps me from plodding too far down paths that will just end up distracting me or diverting me from my overall goal. Even more interesting, I think once we look at the collective responses, we’ll see even more the many different uses and possibilities of blogging. To me, reading other people’s plans or goals or dreams inspires me to think bigger, and to press on that much more towards my own.

So, I ask again, what are your long term goals for blogging and your blog?

Maximize Your Guest Posting Efforts

published on December 14, 2007

The following is a guest post by Adam McKerlie of The Computer Zone (thecompzone.com). If you enjoy this post be sure to shoot over and subscribe to his RSS feed

Guest posting is a great way to promote your blog, yourself, and invite a lot of new readers to visit your blog. Before you publish your guest post you must make sure that your own blog is optimized to accept those new visitors. Gearing up your blog after you’ve written a guest post is easy and here are a few things you can do.

Have a welcome post

The first thing you should do after a guest post is to post on your own blog welcoming in the visitors. This post should be short and sweet and include a few things.

  • A link and short mention of the guest post
  • A list of your most popular posts
  • A link to your feed and a way to subscribe via email
  • Your email for any questions

This welcome post does a number of things. It makes the new visitors welcome, gives them a number of options to subscribe to your feed and it also gives them easy access to your best posts. All three of these things will help turn one-time visitors into daily readers.

Back in July when Ben wrote for hmtk.com, he wrote a post on his own page telling his viewers and welcoming the viewers from the other blog. While I would have included the things in the list above he does demonstrate this point well.

Make sure you have content

Before you start guest posting it is imperative that you have content on your own site. Having content on your own site does a number of things. It makes your guest post have more credibility because you actually have some knowledge in the subject. This credibility will make the blogger who is publishing your guest post look good and it’ll also help you get more visitors to stay on your site.

Having content will also help turn visitors into readers. If the visitors from the guest post come to your blog and see 3 or 4 posts they’ll leave almost immediately. If they come however, and see a few years worth of posts they’re more likely to stay and view more of your articles.

Is your content the right content

Having content on your blog when your visitors arrive from a guest post means having content similar to what you blogged about. If you blogged about writing tips and techniques on the guest post and they come visiting expecting you to have more information about writing articles and posts – do you think they will be disappointed to find out that your blog is about computer games and the latest videos? Of course they will. If people see that you have a great post about writing they’ll come to your site expecting more information about writing. Give it to them.

For example, this post is about guest blogging and blogging in general and if you head over to my site you’ll find an entire category about blogging. Choose your guest blogging topics wisely. People expect you to be an expert on the subject you blog about, but if your blog says otherwise, they may not come back to it later.

Guest blogging can be a very rewarding activity. It can help you gain new traffic and readers to your blog but before you first guest post you should get your own blog ready to accept those new visitors.

I Won’t Be PaidPerPlay

published on December 13, 2007

Last weekend I received not one but two pitches for a new service that promised to help site owners make money with their sites. I’ve mentioned in the past that I’m naturally skeptic but I try to remain open minded to any and all offers. You never know when the next big thing will wind up in your inbox. However, when I read an email like the following, my skeptic nature serves me well. Here’s the email with a bit of my own commentary mixed in:

Hi Ben,
I know that you’ve never met me, but I am a reader of your blog – BloggingExperiment.com. I came across a new program that I believe will make everyone loads of cash. I know you’re busy but please take a minute to read on and find out more.

I’m always happy to hear from readers but when you say things like “everyone loads of cash” my BS alarm starts to sound. But, I’ve been wrong before, let’s continue.

I’m sending this email to you both to help you get in early and also (obviously) to help me as well. I know you’re blog has traffic and you have tons of authority in your niche which will help create buzz about this new way to monetize websites. Perhaps it will even put you over the top in meeting your goal for your blog.

I’ve got to be honest, I know this part is buttering me up but I simply don’t care. It’s always nice to hear kind words about a site you work on. Also, the last sentence about meeting my goal lets me know that this person actually took the time to check out my site. So, despite the let’s say “overly optimistic” sentence in the beginning, things are looking up.

This new program will get you a 100% conversion rate on your website traffic.

This is not a sales pitch and there is nothing to buy. There is no squeeze page that is designed to sell you anything later either.

This is an event that you should know about…

100% conversion is good but again, it makes me more than a little skeptical.

First there was Pay Per Click advertising which pays you on the small percentage of website visitors that actually click on an advertisement.

Now there is “Pay Per Play” advertising that will pay you on 100% of your website traffic… NO CLICKS NECESSARY!

Obviously the selling point here is NO CLICKS NECESSARY! The problem is, they don’t explain how that’s possible. We’ll get to that in just a second but remember, NO CLICKS NECESSARY!

This is a new form of contextual advertising that will be huge. It’s free to join and looks ready to explode.
To learn more about Pay Per Play visit:
Best regards

Well, you’ll forgive the skepticism but the fact that it “looks ready to explode” to you doesn’t exactly surprise me considering you’re emailing me from an @paidperplay.com email address. In fact, I’d be quite shocked if you didn’t think it was going to be the next big thing.

Being the curious person that I am, I surfed over to PaidPerPlay.com to figure out how this program would monetize each and every visitor to my site. The secret? Audio ads. But not just any audio ads, we’re talkin audio ads that play automatically any time a visitor comes to the site. Now I’m not sure whether PaidPerPlay’s creators have never read a web usability book (all which tell you not to have audio play automatically on your site), or whether they’ve never visited a MySpace page with the obnoxious music but this has got to be the worst idea I’ve heard about since Agloco.

As site owners, we work hard to bring visitors to our sites. We obsess over the design and navigation to make sure each and every visitor has the best possible experience and wants to come back time and time again. We spend hours and hours creating content that visitors will enjoy, again, in the hope that they will want to return. And now, Paid Per Play wants us to allow them to automatically play audio ads to all of those visitors we’ve worked so hard for? Why not save yourself the time and put up a banner across the entire site that says “I don’t care about my visitors and I don’t ever want you to come back!” Whether that’s PaidPerPlay’s intention or not, that’s certainly going to be the result. I’m sure some will try it out, and plenty more will recommend it to make a few referrals, but I for one wouldn’t go near it with 10 foot pole. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for making money but it’s going to be mighty tough to do that when you don’t have any traffic to your site.