Category Archives: Blogging

I have been writing for my blogs for over 15 years now.  A lot has changed with the internet in that time, and over the years I have investigated many ways to let my websites pay for themselves.

When Adsense was first announced I jumped on it only to find that it paid almost nothing to publishers like myself.  Just pennies at a time would take years to generate enough given the traffic on my sites for Google to cut me a cheque.  In all the time I had been running ads I think I had only ever received a payment once.

The dismal returns eventually made me realize that the ads were more detrimental to my readers than they were worth.

However, recently I have been on a mission to cut my budget for servers and part of that effort is to get my websites to pay their own way or else risk getting shut down.  I started by experimenting with adding Adsense back to one of my blogs and found, to my surprise, that it earns enough to pay for its hosting costs.

I have extended ads onto this website, so that I pay less out of my own pocket to keep it running.  Hopefully keeping these sites financially sustainable will be mutually beneficial to both me and the readers.

The initial launch of Automatic Blog Machine has exceeded my expectations so I’m very happy to have my first users who have been plugging away at the system and building their own personal blog networks.

To the people that have signed up already: Thank You. I’m looking forward to personally helping make Automatic Blog Machine the system that puts you in control of an Internet Empire.

I’m getting ready to close the doors to the system so I can focus on the next set of killer features that I want to implement. There are a lot of great ideas floating around in my head for even more automation, improving the quality of generated content, and scaling everything up to handle 100,000+ websites.

If it’s something that you’re interested in jumping on – today is your last chance to join. Tomorrow I’ll be closing the doors to new users and it will never be available at the current price ever again. If you have ever thought about what to do with your unused domains, or dying websites. Or wanted to control lots of websites effortlessly I encourage you to act now while the offer is on the table.

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Automatic Blog Machine

According to the marketing message on tynt.com there is a small but significant number of times that people simply copy and paste content from you website to email it to someone.  Getting attribution for this content and a link back to the source is what Tynt accomplishes.  With a small snippet of HTML and javascript they inject a footer including a link anytime someone copies text from your site.  It’s a simple but interesting idea that takes just a few minutes to implement but depending on the amount of traffic you get could be significant.

With the additional backlink possible from people who simply copy/paste into a their own blog post it’s possible to get some SEO benefits from it.  And for the people that just copy and paste into their notes or send an email it gives a reference back which may result in some return visitors.

I’m currently testing it out on this site.

If you copy some text and paste it somewhere you’ll see the additional text is automatically included in what gets copied that sends people back to the page it was copied from.

This is the project that I have been focused on building for the last few months, and it has expanded from work that I have been doing off and on for several years.  I’m excited that it finally has a home of it’s own and is nearly ready to release to the public.

I will be finishing up the design over the next month or so with the plan to do a very small announcement in early January to let some early adopters in to start using the system.

You are probably a lot like me and have a couple of idle domain names that you’ve picked up over the years and never really done anything with.  You also have a few websites that are actually pretty decent but not getting the traffic they deserve from the search engines.  That’s why I created the automatic blog machine – For myself to solve these two problems.  I can easily create a blog and hook it into the system then forget about it.  It will run for months building traffic, links, and attracting advertisers and drive traffic to the websites I actually care about.

I’m using this system to build out my network of websites and build an increasing base of pages I can then sell through Google DoubleClick for Publishers, or sell text link ads or promote Amazon products, Ebay auctions or any number of other affiliate products.  By integrating an Ad Server I can quickly and easily put an ad across the entire network at no cost to me and immediately drive massive amounts of traffic.

One concern is that the sites should not be spammy and I took great effort to make sure the content that the Automatic Blog Machine creates is unique, natural and readable.  That means auto-translation is not used because it creates hard to read content, it also means there is a strategy for both internal and external linking.  Getting these things to work correctly was actually pretty complex.  It requires me to datamine a lot of content in order to build each blog post.

I’m pretty proud of the development of this tool and I’m looking forward to letting people in to see how it works.

Check out the Automatic Blog Machine

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Progress on my Auto Blogging Django Application has been going surprisingly swiftly.  I have added support for a number of different content sources and have been able to launch the application to my server, scheduled the cron jobs and it is currently running in test mode for 1 blog.  I will be quickly expanding to 100 blogs powered by this software by the end of the month.

It’s not quite ready to demo and show off to anyone – the code and UI is fairly ugly.  I’m actually surprised it works at this early stage of development.  But that is proving to be a great asset since an early release allows me to start testing the application in a production environment and ensure that everything is working.

I have developed a short business plan around this application to scale it up to 1000 blogs by spring 2011.  At which point I hope it will be polished enough to release as a service to other users.  Development will occur in 4 phases with a launch expected in Q2 2011:

  1. develop the basic system, and scale up to 100 test blogs by Nov 1st
  2. test various monetization strategies and linking strategies until the end of the year
  3. develop additional automation tools and scale the test to 1000 sites by Feb 2011
  4. bring on some beta testers in Q1 2011
  5. Launch to the public in Q2 2011

At some point when the complexity grows I may try to bring on another python/django developer to help offload some of the work required and perhaps speed up the development of this.

In the short term however, I’m going to be focused on creating new blogs and configuring them in the application.  If every blog takes 10 minutes to set up, then even at 5 per night it will take almost 3 weeks to reach my 100 blog goal.  Unfortunately it is tedious work that needs to be done.  Future versions of the software will try to make this whole process easy to outsource.

I am still extremely excited to see how well this performs in the real world.

After seeing the successful launch of the Autoblog Samurai product launch come through my email box over the last week I thought it might be time to dig up my scripts that I wrote several years ago to attempt the same thing. Over the past few years I have run a couple of autoblogs but never really took the concept into something that was really profitable or very easy to use. (even though the blogs that I did run were making a small profit)

But after seeing the amount of excitement that Autoblog Samurai has been able to create around their software I’m intrigued enough to give it a second shot.

So I have started to revamp my existing hodge podge of scripts into a proper web based application.  It will be a django based web application that allows users to configure many blogs and pipe in many content sources to each one.  Wrapped around everything will be a number of specific monetization tools, cross promotion tools, and hopefully some analytics built right in.

The one big perk of having it web based is that it will never sleep unlike your home computer which may not always be turned on an have the software running.  That actual bit of out of sight out of mind might actually mean that users forget they’re running a bunch of autoblogs until they get a check in the mail from Google Adsense.

I’m not sure yet if I’ll make the software public or if I’ll keep it for myself.

After an hour of work on it last night I actually got a functional prototype system running.  There’s a couple of things that need to be cleaned up, and features added to make it competitive.  But most of the work will be designing and polishing a nice user interface.

I would like to be able to create a system that can scale to 10,000+ blogs and publish content to all of them as often as every minute.  I think that would be an interesting experiment in internet marketing.

I will admit that I have trouble from time to time remembering to keep my blog active and publish frequently. Compounding the problem is that I have many 10s of blogs out there that have become stale and effectively dead due to lack of attention. To help solve this problem I’ve put together a simple nagging script that I have scheduled which checks a bunch of my sites to see how fresh the content is. Once it breaks a specified threshold for the number of days since the last post I get a nagging email reminding me to write something for the site.

#!/usr/bin/env python 
# -*- coding: utf-8 -*-
# (C) 2010 HalOtis Marketing
# written by Matt Warren
# http://halotis.com/
 
import feedparser  # available at feedparser.org
import gmail
 
import datetime
import re
 
SETTINGS = [{'name':'yourblog.com', 'url':'http://www.example.com/feed/', 'email':'YOUR EMAIL', 'frequency':'3'},
            ]
 
today = datetime.datetime.today()
 
def check_blog(blog):
 
    d = feedparser.parse(blog['url'])
    lastPost = d.entries[0]
 
    pubDate = datetime.datetime(
            lastPost.modified_parsed[0],
            lastPost.modified_parsed[1],
            lastPost.modified_parsed[2],
            lastPost.modified_parsed[3],
            lastPost.modified_parsed[4],
            lastPost.modified_parsed[5])
 
    if today - pubDate >  datetime.timedelta(days=7):
        print "send email - last post " + str((today-pubDate).days) + " days ago."
        gmail.send_email(blog['name'] + ' needs attention! last post ' + str((today-pubDate).days) + " days ago.", 'Please write a post', to_addr=blog['email'])
    else:
        print "good - last post" + str((today-pubDate).days) + " days ago."
 
if __name__ == '__main__':
    for blog in SETTINGS:
        check_blog(blog)

I’ve added this script to the halotis-collection on bitbucket.org if your interested in pulling it from there.

wordpressWordPress is probably the best blogging software out there. This site runs on WordPress. It’s easy to install, amazingly extensible with themes and plugins and very easy to use. In fact the vast majority of the websites I maintain run on WordPress.

wordpresslib is a Python library that makes it possible to programatically put new content onto a blog. It works with both the self-hosted as well as the freely hosted wordpress.com blogs and It gives you the power to do these tasks:

  • Publishing new post
  • Editing old post
  • Publishing draft post
  • Deleting post
  • Changing post categories
  • Getting blog and user informations
  • Upload multimedia files like movies or photos
  • Getting last recents post
  • Getting last post
  • Getting Trackbacks of post
  • Getting Pingbacks of post

When used in conjunction with some of the other scripts I have shared on this site such as Getting Ezine Article Content Automatically with Python, Translating Text Using Google Translate and Python, How To Get RSS Content Into An Sqlite Database With Python – Fast it is possible to build a very powerful blog posting robot.

Here’s an example of just how simple it is to send a new post to a wordpress blog:

import wordpresslib
 
def wordpressPublish(url, username, password, content, title, category):
 
	wp = wordpresslib.WordPressClient(url, username, password)
	wp.selectBlog(0)
 
	post = wordpresslib.WordPressPost()
	post.title = title
	post.description = content
	post.categories = (wp.getCategoryIdFromName(category),)
 
	idNewPost = wp.newPost(post, True)

I make use of this on a daily basis in various scripts I have that re-purpose content from other places and push it onto several aggregation blogs that I have. Over the next few posts I’ll be revealing exactly how that system works so stay tuned. (and make sure you’re subscribed to the RSS feed)

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johnchow-photoThe other night I attended a Meetup where John Chow was speaking to a room of about 35 people.  If you’re not familiar with John Chow, he runs a blog – johnchow.com that makes $40,000+/month. This year he’s expecting to make $500,000 just from his blog.  His talk was amazingly inspirational in that it became painfully obvious that the work involved is pretty trivial.  John only works 2 hours a day on the blog.

He walked us through the back-end of his business model which is where he makes 2/3rds of his profit.  It is a system that I’ve had in place for a few of my websites but never really paid much attention to really tweaking it out.  I think that with just a bit of consistent work I could duplicate some of John’s success with my blogs.  Basically John has none of his own products so everything is affiliate and joint venture deals and, surprisingly, 70% of the income is not coming from the blog but from his email list.

His number one goal for his site is to capture the email address of the visitor so that he can keep in contact with them and build a relationship.  Then he just gives out a couple of his recommendations and he makes lots of money.  His number one recommendation for us was to focus on building the list and then then push people through a sales funnel to get some conversions.

John uses and recommended everyone that wants to make money online get an account with the best email auto responder service out there – AWeber.  The truth is that sending lots of email is a very difficult technical problem it’s much better to start with the correct service than try to move over your email list once you have it.  Both John and I agree that AWeber is by far the best email service out there.

Trying to save a couple of bucks early on by collecting emails and sending them yourself is a big mistake.  John used a different email service while he grew his list to 25000 then he discovered that only 70% were getting through the spam filters.  That’s a lot of money he’s missing out on!  So he decided to move the list over to aweber and he ended up losing 80% of his subscribers in the process…  By CANSPAM law you can’t move your email list without opting everyone into the list again.  That was a huge setback for John so he recommends that you start with the best.  It is probably the most cost effective tool you can buy to make money online.

John Chow’s business model is such a simple system but it works because John is consistently posting to his blog and is always getting fresh traffic to grow his list.  It can actually be a lot harder in practice since it’s so easy to try blogging for a week and then give up.  Consistency is key.

In my experience the inconsistency of posting to this site has almost killed it.  And if it wasn’t for a few good posts that got ranked well in Google then almost nobody would be here.  It is actually surprising that you never really know what posts will get good traction so it’s important to keep writing good stuff and keep things keyword targeted as much as possible.  With enough content out there eventually something will stick and you’ll continuously get traffic without much additional work.

John gave us lots of little tips – some of which I have already implemented on my sites.

His site is proof that the concept does work and it really got me stirred up again with ambitions to start writing more content and get my business model ironed out a bit more.

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