Self Publishing

Indie Non-Fiction v. InfoProducts

For nearly as long as I’ve been in Internet Marketing I’ve heard the old “you must have your own product” to really make it in this industry. The “product” most commonly cited was , of course – an “infoproduct” – a pdf of your real or perceived wisdom typically retailing for around $27 to $97 or $147 – didn’t really seem to matter so long as the price a) ended in a 7 and b) did not exceed your ability to keep a  straight face when promoting the price.

I couldn’t buy into it  – it sounded like a border-line con to be, and what is worse it was a favoured technique for some of my least favourite people in the game.

But it niggled – how hard could it be to write a book? I’d read books almost all my life, and like any vociferous reader I’d started writing my own book, several times, I never got past Chapter 2.  Was it actually possible to produce a “info product” at a fair price, that someone might want to pay me for and read.

I kept on making money with Adsense, and affiliate sales, eBay and Amazon.  Panda happened, trashed hubpages, and made me look at a long-ignored hub  that was getting good traffic  for a keyword that paid very little in Adsense. And which I was an expert on.

Bags packed for another trip...

And for which there must be a market because a) I knew what the search volumes were and b) there was a new book coming out on the same topic, at $9.99, and there was a real dead-tree version of it to. Publishers only publish books that have a market right? (Well quite possibly arguable – but WTF sometimes they get it right).

So I did some research. I’m good at research – closet academic if not for the students – I figured that someone must have figured out this untapped gold mine of unlimiteless wealth already.

Had The Marketers Figured Out How to Put InfoProducts on Amazon?

Maybe I was late to the party – I’d been spending all my time working, and not keeping up with the latest scams business opportunities. Was writing and promoting eBooks on Amazon – the bloody site that kept out-ranking my little affiliate niche sites – yesterday’s news?

I went to the font of all knowledge – I went to the WarriorForum – nope I’m not helping you by linking to it – lets put it this way its like swimming with sharks, without a shark cage, and with an open bleeding wound …

And naturally enough there was some Kindle Killer Kash Katastrophies (or similar names) for offer at the very reasonable price of $??7.87 – but only for the next 5 minutes.  In fact the one I found and bought wasn’t too awful – standard promotion stuff: blog, video, social media, oh and keywords, oh and buy some reviews (are Amazon that stupid?).

But there was a little bit missing – how to write the actual (or virtual) flipping book. I mean I can ramble on this blog until the bovines get bored – but how to write the book?

Oh I didn’t need to write a book – I just needed to add some pictures to some public domain content and then I could charge for a book already available on Amazon for free The Holy Bible yeah right, not feeling like such a good idea anymore.

Or string some PLR together – well most of the reading public wouldn’t know public label rights if they fell over them – but interesting every book I found on Amazon which was PLR had awful reviews – funny that.

The marketers knew how to promote the book, they thought they knew how to find the topics that would sell (I disagree we will come to that), but they were bloody terrified about writing.

But There Are Heaps of Self-Published Writers on Amazon 

The joke of course is that there are thousands of self-published writers on Amazon. Check out the popular listings which have anything to do with “twilight” “vampires” “erotica” and quite a lot of sci-fi – check for the 99c and $2.99c prices  – yup you found them.

I had met the Indies.  Yeah I had to Google it too – Indie=independent NOT Indian (though I imagine some are), as in independently publishing not waiting to get signed by an agent and the agent getting them a book deal. Traditionally (like before 2007 which was when Amazon launched the Kindle) as a would-be author you could either:

  • get a deal with a Publisher (preferably one of the “big 6”);
  • self-publish

Self- publishing is basically print on demand ie a fancy photocopy of your book bound  and which you pay for. Good for publishing your family’s local history – but frankly I’m more interested in making money than spending it.

Writers are waking up to the fact that eBooks give them a way to publish without getting past the gatekeepers of the publishers. And they make more than 10% of the profits, and they don’t have to wait years for their book to get published. Amazon allows anyone to self-publish at Kindle Direct Publishing

There is not just demand from readers for cheap books on Amazon’s best selling product – the Kindle – but there is supply – as writers realise that 70% of lots of $2.99 books is much better than 10% of $14.99 in about 2 years, maybe.

Marketers want to make money – they know how to promote any old crap to make it sell – and a surprising amount of it will. But a considerable number of them are terrified of writing. Writers (may) know how to write – but are mostly are clueless about promotion – particularly online.

I’ve found one guy who managed to combine the two skills sets.  I found out about him because Amazon’s newsletter was promoting him (killer promotion tactic that one):  How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months by John Locke – even if you don’t write fiction – you should read this, if you don’t think there is money in fiction, you should read it, if you think you have to be a Pultzer Award Nominee to publish a book, you should read this, oh and the fiction is his hobby he’s a successful marketer and entrepreneur. No prizes for supposing that he had decided to hit a nice round number like 1,000,000 before he put pen to paper.

But I was still wondering: was there a market for Indie non fiction?

to be continued ….


HubPages Self Publishing

HubPages is a Train Wreck – And The Next Big Thing

Hey no one can accuse me of always having keyword-optimized titles OK! Oops sorry missed June, left you hanging about the next big thing – me bad.

First the train wreck – if you are thinking about joining hubpages to make money – don’t. If you are thinking about using them for backlinks – maybe. Basically the problem with hubpages is not Panda – if they’d had competent management they could have come through that, in fact the hubs I’ve promoted are pretty much back to where they were pre-Panda. The issue is the unpredictableness of what will happen to the company. They’ve lost their Amazon affiliate status, being a California based company, and they are now experimenting with moving hubs to sub-domains. Titanic and the deck chairs spring to mind, too much stuff not in my control  so I can’t recommend them anymore.

Boat leaving, Boy in Water, Kaiteriteri Beach, Nelson, NZ

But there may be a good side to the loss of hundreds of dollars of hubpages income – while I was resurrecting my vacation packing hub I actually looked at where the traffic was coming from. It was from a slightly different keyword.

At around the same time I bought a Kindle – I like the Kindle, a lot – its not just at a nice price point if you want to give me the commission – but the books are so bloody cheap its unbelievable! In fact I now have about 100 books downloaded inside a month, at least half were free, quite a few others were 99c.

You see its really easy to buy a book on a Kindle – you can browse right from the device, or you can download a preview, and then after reading that the preview says: would you like to buy it now and you click YES. No “are you sure?” no “fill in 25 forms and sign up for a newsletter” – just “YES” and a pre-approved credit card.

Its amazing – and even at full-price the books are a fraction of what I pay for

  • real softback-paper-dead-tree books, and
  • infoproducts – the all-singing dancing pdf of 119 pages of 24 pitch font with 25 additional videos plus bonuses worth at least $997.77 all for $27 – today only – last 5 left.

As I got excited about my new toy – the news broke that Amazon’s ebook sales were higher than their hardbacks. Hmm what does this sound like? Remember how once you could only buy music from record shops, now you download the track you want from iTunes – does anyone else see an industry dying?

In fact it could  already be  on life-support in Australia  with Angus&Robertson and Borders both looking for a buyer, and the major chain bookstore in NZ – Whitcoulls – will only survive by selling cards and wrapping paper, which is pretty much all they sell now.  The trashy novels you can buy in The Warehouse (our local version of Walmart), the odd specialist, high-quality bookseller may survive. The chains not so much.

Which has got precisely what to do with the business of making money online? Well think about it.  Do you know how much a writer makes from a published book, well apparently its an appalling low 10%, in fact sometimes your Amazon affiliate commission may be higher than what the actual author gets!

What does an author get for an ebook on Amazon? If the price is between $2.99 and $9.99 and some other conditions are met – 70%, otherwise 35%.  Plus your affiliate commission.  This has not escaped the attention of smart published authors like Tracey Edwards.

Who can publish on Amazon?  Anyone.

Did you just hear ka-ching?

Do I need to point out that Google does NOT control the best-selling lists on Amazon…

To be continued …





Back Links HubPages Paid Tools

Hubpages Money Making Update

OK about a month ago I asked if you could still make money with Hubpages in 2011. You might want to read that again quickly but here are the results of my two case studies:

Case Study 1 Adsense Niche

Starting positions

previously top ranking hub #4

niche vacation site #7

All links were built using BMR (Build My Rank review here). All dates in proper format!

16/5 Adsense  hub  is back to #1 on  42 articles live on BMR

31/5 after sitting at #1 consistently for a week, today is back to #2 – 60 articles live on BMR

16/5 niche site dot info – #8 on – 32 articles live on BMR

31/5 after sitting consistently at #2 and #3 for the last week – has now dropped to #6/#7 – 60 articles live on BMR

Conclusion – a hub will rank again if you build links to it – whether you have to keep building links to it remains to be seen.  For the amount of work you have to do – you might as well just build your own site. will continue to drop traffic because most of the writers there believe passionately in the old chestnut “build it and they will come”.

Case Study 2: Product Hubs

Starting positions

New hub published 9/5.

16/5 new product hub not int top 100 – 1 link.

31/5 sitting at #28 on – 15  links.

16/5 niche site #15  12 links.

31/5 now at #5 with 15 articles on link.

My niche site is a only a bit over a year old – but is a fairly closely related excact domain match. Its less effort to get the new page on it ranked then to rank a new hub – no prizes for figuring what is the best decision going forward.

What To do About HubPages?

  • If you haven’t started – don’t bother.
  • If you have hubs that have dropped – then it might be worth a backlinking effort to get the top-paying ones back in position #1. For the ones that never ranked well – I’m seriously considering un-publishing them, waiting for them to de-index and placing them elsewhere ie on my own websites.

The Quantcast figures for HubPages -continue to tell the same story as last month:

Traffic still dropping on - from

It should all be slightly sad really. In some ways it is – but much more so this entire little exercise has made me really excited. While I was looking at the data for this experiment I had a real “duh” moment. The moons aligned – the scales fell from my eyes – and figured out the Next Big Thing on making money online.

But that’s a whole other keyword – so another post ! Sorry!

Lis Recommmends Making Money Online Paid Tools Product Reviews Tools

Niche Reaper Review – Scam or Legit?

Well the whole world is buzzing about the launch of the newest, greatest, bright shiny object of the Make Money Online world – Matt Garrett and Gary Prendergast’s Niche Reaper – this is pretty much the best thing since the invention of the Internet  – on account of it it will pay me a nice recurring affiliate income  and hey you guys might have fun playing with it – was that hardcore affiliate marketing enough for you?

Anyone still here? OK. WTF Lissie why are you doing flogging yet another MMO product – well Splork has a way about him that makes me buy shit that gets past his bullshit radar.

So when I was procrastinating today Splork came up in my Google reader – and I am now $67 dollars frigging poorer – thanks mate.

Niche Reaper Review

So what does Niche Reaper claim to do – well their main claims are:

  • Uncover Hidden Keywords Over 20,000 brand new fully researched keywords unearthed every single day!
  • Dominate Entire Markets – Keywords are grouped into niches so you can build authority sites, not just keyword landing pages
  • No More Keyword Research – Simply log-in and pick a colour-coded niche we’ve done all the hard work for you
  • Remove Uncertainty – Know the dollar value of each niche BEFORE you risk your precious time and money promoting it
  • Save Time, Earn More – Quickly filter by expected earnings to build your personal portfolio of killer niches
  • Rank Faster via Google’s Backdoor – Discover hundreds of new keyword domains every day with a virtually guaranteed page one ranking
  • Join The FaceBook Gold Rush – Build Fanpages and boost their value with thousands of available keyword-rich FaceBook URLs

Been been there done that you might think – well I did anyways – as I am old and jaded. But what caught my attention was the second claim – build authority sites.

Now I’ve said before that niche sites work just fine for me, but I also know from experience of this site that once you rank for one term e.g. “site build it scam” then ranking for “hubpages scam” is a lot easier than ranking a new site for the same term.  So if you can start a site based around a bunch of keywords rather than just one – its easier – particularly if those keywords are closely related.

But stepping back one step further – Niche Reaper will actually suggest keywords to you – no not just by you putting in a keyword and it returning the variations –  they have a ticker tape screen / running board of new keywords on the front page – and within minutes I’d found some new keywords which not only have never thought of but actually had a hope in hell of ranking for with my existing sites.

The Niche Reaper’s method for calculating the ease of ranking of keywords and their potential value seems to be fairly similar to that of the Keyword Academy  not identical but nothing stupid like looking at the total number of competing sites  – but what made me put me hit the subscribe button was actually the feature that the computer itself would come up with suggestions for me.

The suggestions aren’t bad –  some are more commecial than others, a few were in Spanish, some related to the UK market – but it would be hard not to find something useful in an hour or two’s browsing.

What I Didn’t Like About Niche Reaper

  1. There is no way to add your own keywords into the tool – if they are not there already – or picked up by whatever method they use to find new keywords – you are out of luck.  There’s a comment somewhere in support saying this is a possible future enhancement.
  2. There seems to be no way to download you keyword lists – you can classify keywords of interest by adding a star – but you have to stick with the tool (and the monthly subscription) – to easily access them. Looked harder you can download them into a pretty little spreadsheet.
  3. I’m pretty cynical about the suggested values of the keywords  – I happen to have been #1 for one of the keywords I found in Niche Reaper – according to them its worth  $40,956 /month. That would be nice – my experience is that when I am #1 its worth about $333/month. (Niche Refinery from the Keyword Academy thinks its worth $3600). Now this may be a fluke keyword and exposes another limitation – the keyword I rank for (and I’m #1 in Australia and #3 in the US) gets me six times more Australians than Americans – and according to Google – most of the searchers are actually from the UK (where I don’t rank at all) – so take the values with quite a lot of cynicism.
  4. Frigging two upsells before I even bought the produce – for goodness sakes – the product looks good  – you just cheapen it by offering me a one time chance to get $XXXX value for $49.95 – or whatever it was – I wasn’t paying attention. AND DON’T SHOUT AT ME WHEN I TRY TO LEAVE THE PAGE – you will not make me a customer by getting me fired from my current job where I wasn’t supposed to be surfing the web.
  5. Too much emphasis on social media particularly Facebook – for getting traffic, never found anyone who goes on Facebook to buy stuff- just saying.
  6. Most of the training videos aren’t yet available. This may because they are just not ready yet – or it could be a ploy to keep you subscribed for month after month. I didn’t like the titles of the upcoming videos on getting traffic either – I think the Keyword Academy offers a much more solid approach for traffic generation.

What I Like About Niche Reaper

  1. The software works – its not always a given online – but this has a nice interface and it works for me. I had a look in the support pages (nice they have those too) and the only people having problems are running Internet Explorer. Use Firefox or Chrome and your life will be better – in general – I promise.
  2. The keywords are reasonable keywords – they seem reasonably commercial – ie you may actually make some money if you rank for the terms being suggested and I haven’t seen one “make money online” keyword yet!
  3. They acknowledge the value of exact match domains – still working for me  though I would stick to 3 or fewer words if at all possible.
  4. The training videos are clear and no fluff.  They recommend namecheap for domains and Hostgator for hosting both solid companies that provide excellent service  even though there are others out that paying better affiliate commissions.
  5. It appears there will be step-by-step videos for the basics of getting a site up and running and they recommend that you outsource your articles (though I thought the particular recommendation was a little on the expensive side).
  6. This is a Clickbank product – you get 60 days to get a money back refund – and Clickbank provides the refund so there is no question about it. (Although I’ve not bought a subscription product on CB before – to be on the safe side I’d unsubscribe and request the refund before the next payment is due).

What I haven’t Reviewed

I didn’t review the upsell videos/ebooks on the initial purchase.

None of the training videos under First site – after “Getting Articles”, Facebook, Twitter, Traffic, Monetization, Resources were available at the time of this review.

Who Do I Recommend Niche Reaper For

  • Someone starting out who has no idea what a buying keyword was – that was me for years – so even if you are not a beginner if this is your weakness check the product out.
  • Someone who wants to find more related and easy keywords for existing sites – this is what I’ll use it for and its nice
  • Procrastinators. I don’t think its unreasonable that its a monthly subscription – there will be an overhead maintaining the system. For many people though you could subscribe get enough keywords for the next 6-12 months in a day or two and then unsubscribe. So don’t stay subscribed for months not using it (though my paypal account will thank you if you do) – get in, get out.
  • If you know how to setup a website but not how to do keyword research – this product may be worthwhile for you.

Who Shouldn’t Buy Niche Reaper

  • While the basic training videos aren’t complete – I wouldn’t recommend this for the complete beginner – try Keyword Academy instead.
  • If you can’t afford the $67 already gone up to $77/month – obviously really but possibly needs to be said in this age of credit card debt.

This May or May Not Be a Time Limited Opportunity

The claim is that Niche Reaper will be limited to 1000 subscribers (at one time I assume) and that they are about 1/2 way there as of the the time of writing. Now a time limited offer, act now or forever miss out – is an oldie but a goodie in online marketing.

It may however be true in this case because if it became incredibly popular then there would be a) a huge load on their servers and b) the keywords they are identifying as  easy to rank for would suddenly have a whole rabble of marketers going after them – thereby shooting their prediction in their metaphorical foot.

If it does close I bet there will be a waiting list though – thought the price might go up (because they have proven the demand).

Genuinely – I don’t know if you should hurry or not but:


if you want to.

Back Links Free Tools HubPages

Hubpages – Can You Still Make Money in 2011?

I started on – because of Hubpages I made my first $100 online and got paid out by Google’s Adsense program. In fact the precursor of this blog was built to support my hubpages – not the other way around!

Until recently I highlighted my pages explaining how I made money on Hubpages – the posts were genuine – but I also made money from those writers who signed up using my affiliate ID – personally I’d moved on from Hubpages, Hubpages is no scam, but I prefer  to put time into my own sites – but my hubpages were still making me hundreds a month – until recently.

Panda Update and Hubpages

I’ve already written about how the Panda updated failed to deliver quality to the searcher – and still my niche sites are  ranking pretty much where they were before the so-called update.

But Panda was originally nicknamed “Farmer Update” by SEO’s – because the update seemed to particularly focus on large content sites – sites like HubPages.

The official figures – as provided by Quantcast – seems to support this:

Traffic drop on as measured by Quantcast

Looking at my own analytics for the same period – its the same but different :

hubpages traffic drop April 2011
Analytics on my main Hubpages Account - same period as Qantcast

My point is that – over all comments about the site – you need to look at your own stats and apply the data. The peak on 1 March was because my Wellington Earthquake hub ranked well in NZ before the local news papers woke up to the fact that locals were panicking about about a barely felt shake in the wake of the wall-to-wall coverage of the previous week’s major Christchurch quake.

Ignoring this outlier – my traffic seems to have only slightly dropped – unfortunately that drop is much more dramatic when I look at my Adsense stats for the last couple of months compared to the same period last year (my traffic is seasonal so the only fair comparison is the same time of year).

Its against Adsense TOS to give you details but I can tell you that my eCPM  is down over 50%.

My best ranked hubs have dropped – but are still on page 1 or 2 in most cases. However the drop in traffic from position 1 to position 7 or 8 is huge – as anyone who has been there will attest to.

Experiment to See If I Can Get My Rankings Back

I’m lucky because I have two cases study where I have hubs and sites which target the same keywords.

Case 1: Adsense Niche

In this case my hub has been in #1 position for a couple of years – after Panda 1 in early Februrary it dropped to position #2, in April’s Panda 2 (Panda roll-out worldwide) the site dropped to position 4 for its main keyword. This is a seasonal niche that peaks in the US summer so I want it back!

I also have a niche site sitting in position 7 for the same main keyword  – frankly I haven’t built a link for either the hub or the site for at least 2 years – its not the world’s most profitable niche – but its perfect for the purpose of answering the question.

Will backlinks still work for Hubpages?

Now lets be clear in the past – hubpages didn’t need backlinks – or not very many – if you had a trusted profile and wrote a good long hub – the hub in question above is nearly 2000 words you could get the hub to rank for a non-competitive keyword using a combination of site authority and internal links.

In May I will be building 60 links to each of the hub and the niche site. The links will be based on a mixture of the main keyword and related cousins – using  Keyword Academy methods.

Case 2: Product Hubs

I have a product orientated site which I have also used hubpages for back links from. I’m going to try adding a new hub on the product – backlinking it from related hubs and then backlink the hub to see if it will rank – this is on a different user from my main one – so will be interested to see what happens.

Issues with HubPages reactions to Panda/Farmer Update

Some would say that changes to Hubpages TOS has caused more damage to their earnings on HP than the actual Google changes.

1. Hubpages has launched their own Ads program.

I’ve signed up for the HP Ads program to see if it will give me a better return than Adsense. I signed up all my accounts about 10 days ago but my two more niche focused identities are reverting to Adsense – I’m not going to hit the $50 payout without decent traffic. In contract my main profile has made that $50 minimum in 10 days  – I’ll leave it on for another month to see how the eCPM compares to Adsense. I have a lot of popular hubs on that account that get traffic but few clicks so the HP ads may work for this account.

2. Hubpages  may be struggling to stay in business.

There has been pandemonium in the Hubpages forums but I doubt that its even 1/2 of what is happening in Hubpages HQ – the company has got to be hurting a lot and probably wondering how to make payroll. Whether they  survive the next few months – will be of interest – there is always lots of knee-jerk changes being made. In the meanwhile I advise anyone who has content on hubpages to back it up.

3. Hubpages is losing a lot of “marketers” because of their changes to TOS

Recent changes in hubpages have varied from the incomprehensible (banning pixelated images), to the odd (reducing the number of Amazon and eBay capsules allowed), and from  the sane (banning duplicate content) to the not sane (banned affiliate links).

This is losing some hubbers a lot of money – some at least are unpublishing and removing their content. Its very hard to know how significant this is – but it could be that hubpages is losing a lot of high ranking content and suffering from a lot  broken links both internally and externally – this would certainly hurt my websites – so I imagine its hurting hubpages too.

Unfortunately the hubbers they are loosing were the ones who knew how to promote their content – those that are left are the “write it and they will come” camp – which worked so long as someone was promoting the site – if no one is…

4. Hubpages has reduced the number of Adsense ads on hubs

The loss of a the well-placed links unit on hubpages is unfortunate – I continue to make great money from link units on other sites.

At the moment I ma pretty sure that Hubpages isn’t a good way to make money anymore – what I’m trying to establish though is if it still has enough authority to be useful backlinks – watch this space.

Adsense beginners Blogging Catalyst Paid Tools Product Reviews Tools

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!


Blogging Catalyst Paid Tools Product Reviews Tools WordPress

Catalyst Theme Review

Yup its all changed around here again! Well not the content just he look and feel (ie if you are reading this via RSS – click thru !). I had hoped that going from Thesis to Frugal would be my last major change.  However Eric Hamm -the guy who created Frugal – upgraded the product so much – it now has a new name – Frugal is now Catalyst !

Catalyst actually came out just before I took off for a 2 month overseas trip with a 10″ netbook – netbook are good for lots of things but doing site design is not one of them!

When I got back I had a look at Catalyst and upgraded some of my niche sites with it. I liked it – but it didn’t have Frugal’s easy to install front page – with a wide choice of widgets. So I  didn’t upgrade this site. Then back in February Catalyst upgraded to 1.1 – and YES now there are EZI Widgets – which allows a flexible front page – like Frugal’s – but with even more options!

Still I hesitated – this site is a pain – it has a number of different looking posts and pages,  I didn’t really want to think about it.   Finally though I had to bite the bullet and get on with upgrading from Frugal to Catalyst – why?

  1. They have a discount for new sign ups of 25% (and incentives for affiliates) – so use the code: CATWP25when you sign up HERE – discount good to the 31 March 2011; (And yes I get an increased affiliate percentage in March too…);
  2. I think I can add value to Catalyst and do a series of tutorials here that will help the CSS-incompetent, design-disabled of you – you know people just like me!

I’ve already done a post on Catalyst’s SEO Options and I also what to talk about how to use Catalyst with the Keyword Academy’s Postrunner and also how to use it as a static site rather than a blog.

But I guess I should explain how I adapted the look of the site here.  I could have reproduced the look of the old site – but I decided to keep the general layout but change up the details and the look of the site.

From an SEO point of view its important not to make huge overnight changes to the main pages of your sites – or if you do be prepared to accept that your ranking will fluctuate until Google comes to terms with the changes.

How To Make a Catalyst Site Look Like This Site.

  1. Install Catalyst 1.1.1,  then install dynamik child theme and activate it.
  2. Go to dynamik options/import/export – and play around with installing some dynamik skins until you find something you like (I think this is fluid blue).
  3. I kept the same top navbar – but used a custom menu which is new in WordPress fairly recently – much easier to manage the order etc than remembering to change priority on individual pages.  Set the option Core Options/Navbar
  4. I dropped the header image – instead the header is plain text. The graphic of my sitting on the beach is a no-repeat image in the body background.  I played with the header dimensions until they were something that I liked – 930px x 75px
  5. To do the front page and also some of the featured content: I used Ezi Wiidgets and setup a front page with 1/1/3 layout PLUS 2 feature widgets above the content (not showing on the front page but they do on other pages) PLUS a “fat footer” of 4 widgets. Each Widget can be styled separately so I add a custom style to the top of the front page and use Custom CSS to make its background yellow. The middle widget  and the bottom three widgets on the front page are all featuring a single page (excerpts in the case o the bottom 3). This is why Catalyst is so easy to get up and running with – widgets are easy to rearrange and the Catalyst specific excerpts widget makes it easy to feature content from a specific page (an improvement on Frugal where you tended to write the content in text widgets which doesn’t have enough spell checking for me.)
  6. Although much of my site has a single right sidebar some major pages I prefer to minimize distractions on so they have no sidebars – for example any of the pages on the top navigation or the 3 along the bottom of the front page.  I use Advanced Options to create a custom layout with no sidebar – and then edited each page to use the “nosidebar” layout I’d just created.
  7. I’ve put most of my signup and navigational aids in the fat footer which is throughout the site -maybe its a mistake – no one will ever sign up again – but I prefer that stuff out of the way.
  8. I used 2 Ezi Top Feature widgets to create the two boxes highlighted below the header (again with custom CSS to change the background). These I chose to display on posts but not pages.
  9. I created a custom widget which shows grey at the bottom of my posts to display my TKA advertisement.

Hope this helps for someone who is trying to combining a fairly general blog with some rather specific pages!

Blogging Making Money Online Online Business Passive Income Search Engines

Passive Income – There Is Such a Thing – Who Want’s a Business?

Had to engage in the conversation here – Leo – says there is no such thing as passive income he argues that we all should be developing businesses not just relying on SEO to climb to the top of the rankings.

Funny how my name has got associated with passive income – as friends pointed out to Leo (and not saying  Leo isn’t a friend  – merely wrong 🙂 )  I would be in for the argument.

Not Passive Income

OK so lets step back. In the dark times pre-passive income – I used to be a highly overpaid IT consultant – I was paid a nice hourly rate by companies who wanted to upgrade or replace software. I used to work on a salary – a “safe” job right. Yup, it was –  I never got fired from a permanent job – but it was huge, huge millstone around my neck.  You see turning up 40 hours a week – even if the hours were somewhat flexible – meant that I could only travel in the holidays-  I only got 4 weeks annual leave so even with creative use of leave without pay, public holidays and anticipated leave – I could only get away for 6 weeks ever couple of years.

I could afford the travel – but I didn’t have the time – the rules around my presence at work were  my definition of hell.

Business or Passive Income ?

I looked at options – buying a franchise is a popular one around here – but it sounded like buying a job to me (told what to do – lots of bosses (clients) and high overheads (franchise fees)) – no thanks.  Plus, again – you have to be in the country to run the business.

Starting my own business – I never considered it to be frank – I  not only couldn’t sell, I didn’t want to. I didn’t want to risk my capital and the failure rate for small business in New Zealand is pretty high (and usually that takes your house too).

I started to look at other options. When I started researching my options I came across the concept that you could invest now and get paid later. I could buy property and get paid rents, I could buy shares and get paid dividends (rarely in my country but the principal is still there).

Passive Income Take 1

This was promising – I did quite a bit of research. In the end we invested in property (my partner was already in shares) – and its worked  for us and continue to do so.

Now some will argue property investment, particularly residential, free-standing, older wooden houses, in earthquake prone countries,  is not passive. They will say houses need to be maintained, tenants need to be  found, managed and got rid of.

Yup – and you can outsource the lot! Case in point – house we own in  small town New Zealand.

Passive Income - New Zealand Style

Here’s the rough figures (all NZ$ – NZ$1 = US$0.75 at the moment – but relatively it doesn’t matter).

Purchase price 2003 – $77,000

Currrent estimated value 2011 $150,000

Unrealised capital gain 6.4% a year

Original tenant left a few weeks ago – yup same tenants for 8+ years – never missed a payment – $140 to $160/week for 8 years.

Gross rental  income: $8320 or 10%  cash yield

Gross yield 16.4%/year (yup that’s why we don’t focus on shares very much).

Now the property does have expenses, we  use a property manager,  pay Council rates and insurance, and of course we borrowed the purchase price so there is mortgage interest as well – but time wise its cost us about  2 days when bought the place (one day deciding to buy the place, one day due diligence, signing papers) and now – eight years later we spent 1/2 day, inspecting the property and arranging for someone to give it a good tidy up.

Is that totally passive income? No

Is it bloody close, the way we do it  – yes.   And even we maintained and managed the properties ourselves (and plenty of larger landlords do) – we would have a business giving a us a ful-time income for a very part-time amount of effort. But we don’t that because between the two of us we are crap at DIY and are too soft to deal with ratbag tenants!

Will this property  be passive income for us for the next 10, 20, 30 years?   Should be, likely to be, unless there is a major earthquake in the region – when it won’t be a total loss – but we will probably get paid out and have to walk away at that point.   Is passive income guaranteed – nope.

So if property investment is so great – why didn’t I stick with it? Well we did – but we stopped buying – why? Risk, to make good money on property you need to gear up (borrow) – to do that you are layering  risk on risk – we got to the level of borrowing against asssets that we were comfortable with – and stopped.

Property is an as passive or active income as you design it to be.

Passive Income #2

My second attempt at passive income you are  familiar with, as documented right here. I rank websites at the top of  the SERPS and make passive income from the advertising on them.   Frankly I never started off to build a business online  – a wanted a passive, long term income – and I have that now. Some of my income is from fairly new sites, some of my income are from sites and pages that I haven’t touched for three years.  Last year I inadvertantly demonstrated that I could do little work for several months have not affect my income.

What’s long-term income though – will my websites still rank in 3 years, 5 years, 10 years? Maybe, maybe not – but every indication to date is that older sites rank and hold their rankings better than new sites. But one of the reason I have many websites is the same I reason I own 5 rental properties in smaller, cheaper places, rather than just 1 or 2 in the fairly expensive city I live in – diversification. If one of my houses is destroyed or untenanted – it hurts but its only part of my portfolio. If one of websites gets out of favour with Google or that particularly niche falls out of fashion – the others are still producing.

Now from what I am seeing – nothing much has changed on the last Google update – my sites are still ranking in the same place more or less, my Hubpages may be a little down  – but that could be coincidence/seasonal too.  February didn’t match my record January month – but I know my pattern is that once I hit a new income record it takes 3 to 4 months to match it again –  in short I am seeing nothing out of the ordinary in my business.

Leo argues that I really should build a business online – a real business with real clients – but nothing has much changed for me – my freedom is still the most important thing for me – and having to be available to clients cuts into that freedom. Having a few clients is fine (and I do) – but ramping it up seems to be just trading freedom for income – a trade I’m not really prepared to make.

Leo argues that SEO will get more and more competitive over the coming years – it could well do – though I wouldn’t overestimate the ability of corporates to adapt – pretty bloody slow in my experience. He argues that I should establish a “real” business which has real followers and therefore not be dependent on search traffic.  I know a little about this – because this blog gets “real”  visitors not just search traffic.  As far as I can tell though -the people who convert are the search traffic.

What I know is that with my silly little sites – I can make a little money – not a huge amount – sometimes $1/day – sometimes more. But even at $1/day lets look at the rate of  return:

Initial purchase of site: (all prices US$)

$8 for the domain

$10-$15 for content on the site Ti

Total: $23

Backlink articles at say $1/each – maybe 30 -90 articles – say $90

Annual profit $243 … annual costs say maybe $20…

No mortgages, no property managers, no rates, no insurance, no risk of earthquakes…

Passive Income – Is It For You? Maybe Not If …

If You Want to Make a Difference

If you want to make a difference in the world – then blogging ain’t where its at – go become a health worker, or a volunteer in a country that needs the help. An engineer bringing clean drinking water to kids in Africa, a researcher finding a cure for cancer is making a difference, me – not so much.

If You Need Money Now

As I have advised many people – if you need money this month, or next month – or even in the next 6 to 12 months – this won’t work for you – it may, but for most beginners it won’t work. It didn’t work for me – I got a job – it paid, it was a crappy job but it delivered what I needed at the time – cash.

If You Have Huge Income Requirements

I remember when I wrote about making $1000/month with Adsense – that it seemed like a lot of money (I hit that milestone almost exactly 2 years later) – $1000/month is a lot of money to me – its not enough to live on – but I could live on it if I had to – its pretty much what the NZ government pays as a pension for the over-65’s and most of  them seem to do just fine.

About US$5k /month would work just fine for me – but I see people making $10k plus in the TKA forums – frankly that’s nice – but its unlikely to ever be me – because I don’t really need the money I will probably never persue it!   If you really need to make a 6-figure salary – again I’d say get a job – just make sure you have the right skills.

Adsense Online Business Passive Income Search Engines

Farmer Update Fail? Why Google Hasn’t Changed

Looking for headless chook image – could only find hoards of  tourists (close enough I think)! Thought I would do a follow up on my what is a content farm post – as the fall out continues on Google’s recent update – and just point out that human psychology is quite intereting and I am thinking that maybe Google has a number of psyc PhD’s amongst their software geeks.

Tourist Hoards waiting to go up the Eiffel Tower, Paris, France

Google Farmer Update – What Was It?

On or about 1 March in the US results (but will be rolled out worldwide) Google changed their algorithm – they made the unusual step of annoucing  what they had done and Matt Cutt’s is quoted as saying:

This update is  designed to reduce rankings for low-quality sites—sites which are low-value add for users, copy content from other websites or sites that are just not very useful. At the same time, it will provide better rankings for high-quality sites—sites with original content and information such as research, in-depth reports, thoughtful analysis and so on.

Google claimed to affected nearly 12% of the search results – but a number of us found either nothing had changed, or nothing bad had happened to our sites. As I said in my last post – I wasn’t see much evidence that they had succeeded.

The problem is of course the age old question:

What the Fuck is Quality?

Some people think this site is quality – some don’t –  but I have no qualifications in making passive income online. In fact  I didn’t even make much income when I started this site – but people thought this site was quality – because I was writing about my own experience.

Here’s another site which is really useful: – the site introduces itself with:

I suffered with crippling lower back pain for 18 years of my life. I know what you must endure everyday while living with back problems. I have empathy for you. I understand because I was there myself. I have found my own cure. I now know how wonderful life can be without the huge burden of chronic pain. It is my most sincere wish that you might find lasting relief, as well.

I found the site because Google has started a thread asking people to report if their site has been adversely affected and think this is unfair – the owner of the site above wrote this:

I am so devastated.  My main site and my life’s work, was drastically affected.  I am not a learned webmaster, I am a back pain patient and someone who writes to help others recover.  My site is 5 years old and has often led in the rankings for my topic, back pain and back pain treatment.  I was let go from my “dayjob” in the economic decline of 2008 and found a savior in the fact that I could make a living helping those who needed it most, so I turned to my site full time and found it very rewarding.  I write all my own content and work my site 80 hours a week+. I do everything myself.  I do not syndicate or outsource anything.  All one has to do is read the letters in the Q&A section to see how much I am dedicated to my cause… I could not figure out what I did wrong to suffer such a decline in ranking and then started to research what may have happened and found that many excellent sites (and many not so excellent content farms) were affected. Eventually, I found some advice from my webhost and checked my site for stolen content.  Guess what? I found TONS of sites stealing my 100% original and self written content!  I am shocked and appalled.  This probably has something to do with my dismissal as an authority in the topic I know so well…

I double checked the US SERPs for back pain treatment. At position #4 I found a news result – like who gives a shite if you are looking for treatment why would I care if Barcelona’s soccer coach has back pain??? I found results from webmd and emedicinehealth (also webmd I think), I found an page which quoted scientific results. And I found this little gem on a classic Made For Adsense site:

The quest for effective back pain relief has thrown up some challenges in the modern world. As we move through the early years of the new century, the pace of life is becoming ever more frantic. With every passing day, there seems to be more to do than there ever was before. At the same time, there is little doubt that the pressure …

If I was the owner of back pain treatment I wouldn’t just be “devastated” I would be utterly and totally pissed off and disillusioned. Now we could have a debate about the sites not that pretty – its a standard Site Build It! template, but its the guy’s only income – and he has actually been giving Google exactly what they want – and the kick him in the nuts.  But all is good – in this self-satisfied interview with Matt Cutts and another Google Engineer apparently:

However, our classifier that we built this time does a very good job of finding low-quality sites.

In the words of the Speights Ad – Yeah Right. But of course I wouldn’t want to running off and saying that Google had stuffed up – that wouldn’t be scientific or anything -right? So I went to the home of all in-depth research in things of a darker nature in Internet Marketing – and found that the owner’s of splogs and autoblogs  were very, very happy about the latest update.

I could spend hours going through that Google support thread and finding examples – you may have seen that even sites which are quoted as exemplars of Adsense publishers got slammed included Ask The Builder – page 2 of the thread.

On a skim – the sites I saw that were penalised were:

  • large and generally old (5 + years)
  • had had consistent rankings for quite a while i.e. their owners were comfortably making an income from them which they were pretty dependent on
  • some were general sites but most were specialist
  • most had good original content written by either experts or by someone with a passion for the topic
  • high PR (5 and above) sites were affected

Now I hope, and this is sincere, that in many cases the sites in this thread will get reinstated – but the state of chaos currently gives us one clear point:

Google still can’t distinguish original content from scrapped content. If you are are an old, well-ranking site with content your content will get scrapped, copied and re-written – as of today – this may well result in your rankings dropping.

If those sites do get reinstated it will be manually – not algorithmically.

Some are already asking whether this Google update mis-fired and Leo points out the winners from the Farmer update are in fact the scrappers (at least short term). I agree with his recommendation though to build niche sites to fill the gaps. But as Griz points out – fly beneath the radar

So can you still make passive income online? I think so – from where I am sitting – actually looking at the facts, rather than the hype, Google is no closer to cleaning up its search results than it ever was. If I was starting today what would I do? Avoid the niches Griz mentions in his post, avoid having one huge site on lots of different topics, I’d build a bunch of niche sites across a range of topics, build back links to them – and see what worked.  If I site started producing I would seriously look at taking Adsense off it and finding an alternative monetization strategy.

On the other hand you might just be so scared off by the latest furore in our little corner of the Interwebs – that you decide that you really should go out and get a real job and contribute to society of something – go ahead – but consider this – that’s probably exactly what Google wants you to do …

Online Business Passive Income Search Engines

What is a Content Farm and Why Does Google Hate Them?

Matt Cutts has the best job in the world. He writes one little blog post and puts the whole of the Internet Marketing community into a tail spin – and his latest is a good one – in fact when googling “what is a content farm” the first result was a news result – indicating that the term is hot, hot, hot at the moment.

But WTF is Google doing? Are they trying to destroy all of us who want to make a few dollars of passive income a month? Is the era of making a living online gone forever? Google search is failing – and what Google is doing is a public relations exercise in order to recover some credibility – and the evidence is in the results of the above search.

So what is a content farm I thought? I asked Mr Google (using US results via the nifty Chrome Google Extension tool) – and Google told me –

News results: according to

The term “content farm” is commonly used to describe these sites that add pages and pages of unoriginal, useless information to the search engines database.

and thinks that:

Companies that do this have come to be known — somewhat disparagingly — as “content farms” because of the low rates they pay the people producing their content and because of the factory-style atmosphere of some ventures.

They then go on to quote examples of such companies as including:

Demand Media, Associated Content, AOL (with Patch and Seed),, HubPages, and Suite 101.

Odd list – doesn’t pay me a cent – I get paid from a share of revenue from articles on their site- my biggest payout comes from Google’s Adsense… BTW I never heard of either of these sites I was thinking maybe LATimes or TechCrunch – its not like the discussion is not being had…

But getting on to the very, very best results for my query:

wikipedia: the entry is somewhat shorter than the list of references and says precisely – nothing … asks What is a content farm and offers an opinion based on personal experience – rather than rehashed content – odd how its coming in at #4 behind the nonsense in front of it.

Next we have the site called – yup – “The Content Farm” – and yes you can find really useful stuff like how to talk to a child (hint first check if he is wearing priest’s clothing …) or how to determine the weight of an Oscar (TM) Statuette – hint – first win one … In fact its a lot more amusing than the usual stuff on ehow and good luck to them I say – and it just goes to show the Exact Match Domain (EMD) bonus still works ..

At position #5 we have a 2009 post from age and authority will allow you to rank with little effort at all…

Many people know how to rank in Google’s search results – and Google doesn’t like it. If you missed the broadcast mesage – to rank content in the search results it is easiest if:

  • your domain name matches the search term;
  • failing that the term you want to be found for is in your url and within your article using the basics of on-page SEO
  • build links to your site – some of those links should be anchored using your search term or near relatives to it.

Google is trying to rank quality – but frankly – it can’t.

Lets take a topical example. Christchurch New Zealand has suffered 2 damaging earthquakes in the last 6 months. In September 2010 there was a damaging earthquake which didn’t kill anyone, on the 22 February and aftershock of that quake may have killed as many as 240 people (figures still unconfirmed at the time of writing). So I am in NZ and I know that this story is so big that it has played in primetime on CNN, BBC and elsewhere around the world. There was non-stop media coverage (without ads) for the first 48 hours in New Zealand in TV1, TV3 and Radio NZ – my point is that there is an awful lot of information on the topic – a lot of new information – which can’t have been gamed by the clever SEO’s. So what does come up with when I ask it the question many have asked me (an ex-Geologist) in the last week:

So in order we have:

  • a bunch of very useful official sites – any query about christchurch and/or earthquake is displaying this in New Zealand at the moment – fair enough but not contextural search.
  • news results from legit  daily newspapers – though it seems a little bit unfair that the UK telegraph  showed up an the NZ Herald didn’t – NONE of these results relate to my actual query –  the cause of the quake.
  • now the first actual search results is from – Yahoo Answers – yeah font of all legit qualified opinion that is – at least the answers on this particular listing are not too outrageous – but its hardly at a technical level – or even a good English level.
  • next we have a pretty awesome photoblog from MSNBC – nice article – nothing to do with the question.
  • the next two  – yup – two results are from suite101 – one of  the supposed farms – the first article has a sub heading which matches my query – but it doesn’t relate to the most recent event – thought Google was better than that – the second article – does relate to February’s quake – was written several days ago (I can tell from the estimated death toll) and there is nothing really about the question I asked in my query. These articles are reasonably well-written but obviously not by anyone who is either anywhere near Christchurch or knows much about Earth Science.
  • Wikipedia is up next – but the link is to the 2010 quake not the 2011
  • Wikianswers makes it into the top 5 with a  little gem – we don’t know in about 300 words.

But maybe that’s the best there is – so I dug a little deeper – here’s a good explanation and another one here and here – of course I only found those because I know that earthquakes are explained by the science of plate tectonics: obviously no one told Google.

Summary for those who skipped the preceding 993 words:

  • Google can’t make a judgement call about “quality” – all it can try and match search terms with content on a site and the authority of that site. It doesn’t understand even the most basic LSI – plate tectonics goes with earthquakes like cheese goes with wine – go figure.
  • Google is doing a bit of smoke screen exercise designed to scare the f*k out of some SEOs.
  • Google can’t even really distinguish between original and copied content  – I wish they would because I am bored with the scrapers stealing my content – but I certainly haven’t seen it improve in the last few days.
  • Google can’t even pick up grammar –  not should it – Christchurch’s mayor has been widely quoted as  “However it is bad news for one of the city’s key sewage facilities. “Our main sewer truck is seriously munted,” Mayor Bob Parker told TVNZ.” – in my mind the quote of the event and exactly right if you are of a certain age and grew up in New Zealand.  So don’t bury it in the results because its not grammatically correct!
  • Google trusts older sites more than newer sites – and PR has almost nothing to do with it.
  • They have (almost certainly) temporarily – reduced rankings for some large content sites. Apparently including hubpages – I say apparently because my long-standing well-ranking hubs are still exactly where they were in rankings.
  • From forum comments it appears those with affiliate sites promoting Amazon/eBay type products have been slapped down and the affiliate site promoted above them. I remember now why I gave up on promoting eBay and Amazon.
  • From my own figures – niche sites with unique but hardly stellar content are still going strong.
  • Go read Allyn for his take on Content Farms for Google to Zap