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Catalyst Theme and Adsense Review

OK this is another instalment in my collection of articles about how the premium WordPress theme Catalyst: it may not be free but it allows even the technically terrified to  do cool stuff!

On of the things that I like about Catalyst is that its one theme that I can use for everything – from a mini-site to this site, to a client’s professional site. I use Catalyst for all  of them. Today I’m concentrating on using Catalyst with Adsense.

Now there are plenty of WordPress plugins that promise to manage your Adsense easily with any theme. But plugins have their own issues- every plugin you add to a site adds a level of complexity and invariably need upgrading every time WordPress upgrades, and sometimes they break and sometimes they even send a quiet percentage of impressions to their author’s Adsense publisher ID!

There are a number of ways to deal with Adsense using the Catalyst theme – I think I have the simplest – and I will point you to a couple of alternative solutions at the end of this post.

How to Manage Adsense on a WordPress Blog

My Dutch is about at the same level as my php - I can recognise enough to order lunch but I don't speak it!

My requirements for when I want Adsense to show – and more importantly NOT to show on my websites come straight from the terms of service provided by our friends at Google.

  1. I only want to display at most 3 ad units and 3 link units on any one page.
  2. I don’t want to display ads on “filler” pages such as the privacy policy and “thin” pages like the “about” page.

More specifically I want:

  • to have a front page which consists of my last 3 posts;
  • a link unit in the header to show on all pages and posts except the “filler” and “thin” pages;
  • a honking big rectangle of ads to show near the top of each post  floated right in the text – including the 3 posts on the front page;
  • I want an ad block to show at the end of the post and in the sidebar – but only on single posts – not on the front page.

Now if  you know php you will be already shouting something like “use php if single command to only display on single posts” – but remember I’m an idiot and I don’t know anything about php, I struggle in html and  my CSS only got fluent since the last upgrade of Catalyst gave me the brilliant – “hold your hand point and click CSS builder” thingy.

Adsense Using Catalyst Theme Layouts

If you are used to free themes you may expect that every page and post has to have the same basic layout of sidebars and widgets. With Catalyst there is no such limitation, Every post and page can have a different layout.

Catalyst allows you to create an unlimited number of layouts – each of which can have a different arrangement of widths, widgets, sidebars – anything really. I use a combination of custom widgets and layouts to control where my Adsense ads show. This involves no php coding and a very little CSS –  it goes like this:

  1. Create a custom layout  called supportpage – this is for use of the privacy policy and about page. After creating the layout – you need to edit each page or post that you want to use the new layout by changing the drop down below the edit post area. Now you have a simple layout for these ancillary pages – job done.
  2. I also create a layout for each post page I want to display Adsense on – this I called “postpage”.
  3. Now for the custom widgets – I create three widgets: bottominpost, rectangleinpost and headerlinks – I think you get the idea what I might be putting in these! Each custom widget is hooked into a different place on the catalyst theme – a hook is just where you attach a widget into a theme – that’s how I have the yellow boxes below the header on this blog – there an awful lot of them – here is the visual for the main default catalyst home page hooks! 
  4. For each widget I have the option as to which of my layouts I want to use the widget on: so I control that none of these widgets show on the supportpage layout – but the headerlinks  and rectangleinpost widgets shows on the default and the postpage layouts and the bottominpost layout shows only on the postpage layout. You may be getting the idea about now – using descriptive names is good- because you end up with a lot of widgets!
  5. Now this is the techie bit – sorry – you need to click on the custom CSS option. The only thing we haven’t done yet is made sure that honking big rectangle of an Adsense ad floats right within your text – you can build what you want with the CSS builder option (this is a good place to change the colour or other styling of a widget too!) – or you can steal my code -here its is – suitable for the large rectangle Adsense layout:

    .rectangleinpost {
    width: 340px;
    height: 284px;
    float: right;
    padding: 2px 0px 0px 2px;

    Now head over to your widgets page and drop text boxes in all your new widgets – into each text box drop the correct piece of Adsense code – job done!

Bonus – using the layouts will give you a new sidebar (if you chose that option) on your posts – so you can toss another tasteless skyscraper Adsense block in there as well.

Adsense on Catalyst Using Hook Boxes

Costa’s post on How To Create An Adsense Optimized Child Theme will walk you thru this one- must admit that post meant I kinda  understood hook boxes for the first time too! But it has that scary stuff php again …

Adsense on Catalyst Using Widgets

RT an American living in the Philippines has a similar approach to mine and wrote How To Display Adsense on a Single Post with Catalyst Theme as a guest post for Costa. But because he isn’t using layouts he’s forced to use the evil php stuff in his widgets – ugg!

Seriously there are lot of ways to achieve the same result in Catalyst –  all of these approaches will get you to the same place – but your mileage may vary depending on your skills and exactly what you are trying to achieve.

I actually think the use of layouts is really powerful – if for example you wanted to have different advertising (or no advertising) on different types of posts – e.g. some of your articles may suit Amazon ads – while others will have an affiliate offer or Adsense. In fact I may play around with something like that on this site – keep watching 🙂

I tell you what however you do it – once you have used the power of a decent framework theme like Catalyst you will NEVER EVER want to edit theme’s code again – just avoiding the whole drama of upgrading and losing all your customizations is so worth avoiding!

Oh and yeah – honking big affiliate link for Catalyst here! I’d be curious to hear from others doing something similar with a fancy theme – or are you all using plugins?


Paid Tools Product Reviews Rants The Keyword Academy Tools

Postrunner Review: The “Quality” Debate

UPDATE: April 2012 – Postrunner V2 Review

If your response to my title was WTF is Postrunner – then check out my earlier post. If you are a member of The Keyword Academy you will know  that Postrunner is system used with TKA in order to create keyword anchored links for your sites.

I’ve compared to BuildMyRank to Postrunner – and Mark is now trying to differentiate Postrunner from BuildMyRank and similar schemes.

His argument is that Postrunner needs to evolve:

  • needs “better quality” sites in Postrunner.
  • the reason more “quality” sites aren’t in Postrunner is because of the “quality” of the articles being sent to them.
  • his proposed solution is an author scoring system which will reward the writers (or buyers) of superior articles.

The Argument About “Quality” Articles

As soon as the thread started in the forum the predictable grammar Nazi’s (Nazis’? Nazis’s ??) were out in force. Too many trailing commas – FAIL. Use of nonstandard spellings FAIL. To be fair to Mark, in the seminar he specifically mentioned that he wasn’t concerned about grammar and spelling problems, he was more worried about the articles being relevant and having a point.

Its all looking like this will be seen, by many, most of whom haven’t hit the $10/month income level yet, in the community, as an opportunity to FAIL all of those authors who use too many commas in a sentence…

I have two sites in Postrunner at the moment – one is a niche, passion quality site, the other one is a general site full of trashy Postrunner articles, which I just put back in during the webinar yesterday – inside 12 hours I have received over 7 articles.

These cars aren't Quality - but tourists now pay a premium to hire them in Berlin!

What I Look For When I Get Postrunner Articles on My Quality Postrunner Site

I put my Independent Travel site into Postrunner – basically to get content when I couldn’t be arsed writing, and to see what keywords people were trying to rank for in the travel niche – a niche that is my passion but pays me very, very poorly. Now it gets about 2/3 posts a week – which is a nice number. I reject at least a third of those. So this is how to get your well-written, gramatically perfect article declined from my site.

  1. The site linked out to – only consists of a “hello world” post (seriously its happened).
  2. If the site linked to is a general postrunner site, or similar article directory – this is a new automatic DECLINE  I picked up from Build My Rank.
  3. The 2 anchored links are in the the last words in the article – normally on separate lines -I don’t know who the hell is teaching this – its certainly not TKA – but please stop it – it looks stupid and its a loser for SEO duh!
  4. The two links are to the exact same page on the site being promoted (less of this seems to be happening these days).
  5. Write about all-inclusive vacations – like duh! The site’s main keyword is not a secret! If you have glanced at the front-page you know I, and my readers, are not interested in all-inclusive vacations!
  6. Write about timeshares – timeshares are IMHO (and its my site so my opinion rules) – an investment scam – not a holiday option.  (Note to Mark – I would explain this to the timeshare peddlers if I could have a longer site requirements description).

Hmm note how I haven’t actually read the article yet -all I looked for was the links and followed them. If I have to actually rate the article for the author score you are adding work for no good purpose here…

Now the following points – won’t get you automatically declined – but a number of them together will:

  1. The article is 301 words with 2 outbound links (doesn’t apply if there is only one link).
  2. Site still has the default header image from the default WordPress theme.
  3. If the site is selling a product but has only Adsense I am likely to reject the article.
  4. If the site is using one of Court’s old SEO themes  that have been done to death and are probably on G’s watch list.
  5. The title and sometimes the entire article is only loosely related to the anchored text of the links. Let’s get real here people – I want to rank your article – its good for you, its good for me! After all I thought you WANTED an authorative link! So don’t give me an article about packing tips and then link to fashion bags for ladies! This is probably the hardest judgement call sometimes I will get an excellent article – but with a bland generic title – frankly I rewrite the title – so we can both benefit.
  6. I rarely reject for grammar and/or spelling – sometimes I lightly edit.  If its embarrassingly bad language which is hard to read I will reject – but I do it very rarely.  Any automated grammar and spelling check would fail many of the perfectly good posts on the site – because some are written by native Englishmen, in fluent English,  some in fluent American, some in fluent English written by non-native speakers – all of the English is acceptable – and the quality can be great – but no automated system will ever deal with the complexity and depth that is English – certainly not Google.

What I Look For On My General Postrunner Site

Within 10 hours of reinstating this site into Postrunner during yesterday’s webinar, I had 8 articles! Hand on heart I do NOT read every article. I scan – if its appears to make some sense, is not badly spun and relates to the anchored text I’ll take it.

I do however check every link – and reject any article whose site fails the first 4 points above! In other words – what the article links to is FAR more important to me  than whether the nouns and adjectives are in agreement. I also reject any site promoting anything to do with owning or using firearms.

I will probably move this site to some other category – its starting to make money and I will focus on the niches that its ranking for.

Which is the Quality Site of These Two.

Well if you want passion and love and age – then is it – its my original site – its started off as an html site developed in Dreamweaver in 2007. Its been up in several forms over the years. It ranks #1 for my original keywords “travel over 30s” – unfortunately no one actually searches for the term LOL.  Its a PR0. I keep it, I love it, I post to it and I link to it. However this is a hobby site not a real money making venture.  Most of the content on it was written by me, a genuine expert, and has no outbound links.

The site that accepts practicably everything? Is just over a year old, has had very little link building to it (by me). Well its a PR2 and in the last month (when I published nothing new on it) made about $1/day – its on its way. I’ll start building out the content for which its already ranking for and adding more posts without outbound links on similar topics. In other words I will make it legitimate! Will I go back and fix the grammar and spelling -nope!

Still reading – you must be bored …

I have gotten a little fond of amplify. I started using it – because Griz did but I’ve found a use for it.  I use it to share the stuff I find genuinely interesting (or funny) in the weird and evolving world of making an online income – if you already follow this blog on Facebook (like in the footer) you will get my amplified updates – but otherwise follow Lis Sowerbutts on amplify directly. It also allows me to tweet without ever going anywhere near twitter – all good!