Fully automated & AdSense friendly news website

After a bit of experimentation to ensure AdSense compliance, I’ve just added a news feed niche website to the premium samples list. The website uses automated scripts (cron jobs) to grab the first paragraph or two from various RSS feeds of well known news sources, such as CNN, BBC, Fox News, Sky News, etc. You can add or edit other RSS feeds to niche your news website to your target market.

News niche website
Screen shot taken from newsbrief.com.au

In fact you aren’t limited to just well known news sources. You might want to choose RSS feeds available from celebrity gossip sites, science journals, or from your local online news agency.

Here’s an example of an RSS feed that your website can read: http://rss.cnn.com/rss/edition.rss

Your news website is also categorised into many different interests, such as business, entertainment, sport, world news, etc. Currently these categories are not editable, but the feeds you choose to display in them are. Further, the template you receive with the website kit is already populated with all the feeds you need to have comprehensive news content  displayed within 24 hours of installation. And it continues to update every hour! You can also add your own news stories and images manually, if you desire. Then it’s just a matter of waiting for Google to index all of your pages  – there will be a lot of them – so choose your website host accordingly.

Watch the number of pages being indexed by Google here.

To monetize, simply place your AdSense code, or any other advertisements using raw HTML, in the admin panel. It’s worth noting, in order to comply with AdSense terms, there are no more than three ad placements on a single page. Pages that display a single article have only two ads due to the smaller content.

See the news website in action at newsbrief.com.au.

Finally, a WP plugin that stops user registration spam (WangGuard)

Stop the bots!

Have you ever searched for that perfect WordPress plugin, only to install it, activate it, then promptly deactivate it because it wasn’t living up to your expectations? Worse still; you’ve tried a myriad of keyword combinations in the plugin search field, only to be presented with suggestions that are irrelevant or unhelpful.

This happened to me recently when I started up on yet another mission to eliminate user registration spam. I’m not talking about the spam that Akismet detects (i.e. in blog comments), but the relentless registration of inactive users through the use of spam bots. While they may appear no harm at first, it would only take an accidental change in settings, or an exploitation in a future update for these dormant ‘users’ to spring into action. And, as most of you would agree, it’s annoying having your blog fill with empty bot registrations anyway.

Tip: Use Google to search for plugins because WordPress tends to place high relevancy on exact word matches for the plugin name. This prevents you from knowing whether the plugin’s context deals with the features you are seeking (the devil is in the detail).

WangGuard

Unlike previous attempts of mine (e.g. New User Approve), this free plugin actually went further than what I was expecting. At its core is a collaborative engine where bloggers press a button to report user spam. First, it’s deleted locally along with the user and, second, the spammer’s details are disseminated to other WangGuard users, thereby automatically blocking the bot from registering or posting on their blogs.

But for me there was another beaut feature which completely stopped all spam registrations in the first place; security questions. By adding a few simple question and answer settings (e.g. some basic math questions or ‘write the number 5 in words’), my spam registrations stopped overnight. It seems the bots don’t know their math, no matter how simple the question! With this feature, uou can type in any number of security questions and the plugin adds these randomly to the WordPress registration form.

Finally, you can now turn on the ‘anyone can register’ feature of your blog and actually allow welcome visitors to register and interact with you, knowing that the bots are eliminated. And, if you operate multiple blogs, WangGuard allows you to generate multiple API keys from the single account. It really is a painless process, and it should be the first ting you do after you finish reading this post!

 

Mt Gox is doomed, even if it reopens for external trading

For the past 72 hours I’ve been closely following the Bitcoin crisis over at Mt Gox. At the time of writing, the BTC is trading at around US$120, with a 24 hour low of $91.50. It would probably be even lower if it weren’t for the large number of speculators buying in, hoping that Mt Gox will recover and reopen for business as usual.

Bitcoin index plumets

However, in the laws of microeconomics, speculating in this type of environment would be a huge mistake. I understand that buyers are already aware of the risk of insolvency, and are banking on the price returning to normal if and when the exchange reopens. But this is where the flaw exists. You see, there are a huge number of existing Mt Gox customers who currently have their Bitcoins locked up in limbo, and they are not happy campers right now.

According to reports on Bitcoin forums and IRC channels, a large number of these investors want to exit the exchange at the first given opportunity. Many were hoping that the announcement made on February 20 would give them some sort of indication of when this might be, but alas it was an underwhelming message written by what appeared to be an intern with poor PR skills. This motivated even more disgruntled Mt Gox clients to offload the rights to their Bitcoins, inevitably driving the BTC index further down.

Now think about this: The best case scenario for Mt Gox is to reopen its doors and allow withdrawals, perhaps with some tighter restrictions attached. But now think about those frazzled and fed up customers who want nothing more than to purge Mt Gox and, as a result, are preparing for a mass exodus. This means that supply will outstrip demand on a huge scale, and guess what that means for the BTC.? Yes, that’s right, it won’t be returning to the US$500+ levels which everyone has become accustomed to. In fact, microeconomics tells us that it would actually drive the price further down.

In my opinion, insolvency is still the most likely outcome, but the point I’m making here is, even with the best case scenario, reopening withdrawals will be like opening the flood gates. Mt Gox has contaminated the crypto currency world, and anyone with common sense would, at the very least, want to withdraw their BTCs and place them into another, safer exchange.

How to monetize your niche website

OK, so you’ve got your niche website all set up and now you’re looking to monetize it. Before you start running amok placing banner ads everywhere, let’s take a look at some strategic and effective placement methods, along with some ways to market highly targeted products and services.

At this point we will assume that you have;

  1. your own AdSense publisher ID from the big G;
  2. an Amazon Associates affiliate program ID; and
  3. a ClickBank affiliate account nickname.

We also recommend Big Crumbs for referring specific URLs from popular online retailers. This will give you a lot of flexibility in targeting your niche with highly relevant, commission earning advertisements.

Step 1 – Install the definitive AdSense plugin for WordPress: Quick AdSense

Quick AdSense is golden. It allows you to place multiple AdSense banners and links directly into each post without having to edit them. It’s a huge time saver, and it keeps your blog looking nice and consistent.

Have you ever noticed how many blog and news websites just randomly drop in an ad part-way through an article? I did it just then, and this a great way to achieve clicks. Your readers are already interested in your page if they’ve made it this far, and horizontal links like these provide highly relevant contextual keywords that your users are more likely to click.

So, when using the Quick AdSense plug-in, consider how long your articles and blog posts are, and do not overuse banners (within your posts). You’ll have plenty of room for those in your sidebar and widgets. Also, if you’re a noob at niching, remember not to place any more than three (3) AdSense advertisements on a visible page (you’ll get banned from the program if you do). And, if you’ve just created a new AdSense ad, it can take up to 15 minutes for it to properly display on your web page.

Step 2 – Using plain text widgets, install banners into your sidebar

In your WordPress dashboard, under Appearance, select the Widgets option. Then, by placing text widgets into your sidebar, you can paste your banner advertising links so that they will appear on almost every page. Get rid of any default meta links that WordPress, or your theme, has placed there, because they aren’t monetized!

In the niche websites we provide to our subscribers, the sidebar is usually arranged in the following format (but this can vary from niche to niche):

  • Sidebar top
    • Text widget (fits 300 x 250 medium rectangle banner)
    • Recent posts widget (optional)
    • Text widget (fits 300 x 250 medium rectangle banner)
    • Text widget (optional, for displaying a YouTube video)
  • Sidebar bottom left
    • Text widget (fits (160 x 600 wide skyscraper banner)
  • Sidebar bottom right
    • Text widget (fits 120 x 600 skyscraper banner)

You simply need to insert your code into each text widget to create an advertisement. Not all of your ads should be from AdSense. You’ll want to insert some ClickBank or Big Crumbs affiliate marketing material that is targeted to your niche readers.

Step 3 – Your very own Amazon store

The final way to cash in is to earn commission on Amazon sales initiated from your website. By having a ‘store’ menu option, users can shop on your website like they would on any other ecommerce website. All you have to do is find relevant products to display, or spend a little time creating an aStore. I won’t go into detail about how to do this here, because the Amazon Associates program already deals with this in great detail. The moral of the story is; spend a little time on this so you market the right kind of products to your visitors.

Here’s one of our for-purchase niches to view as an example: Hair Loss

Move your WordPress installation to the root directory

Recently I was faced with a dilemma where my host’s cPanel did not allow me to install WordPress into the root directory (i.e. without creating a new folder). If I left the instllation URL blank, it returned the error, “You must specify an installation directory!”. This particular host was using ‘Site Software v0.9.7′ for WordPress installation, and not Softaculous which I much prefer (Softaculous allows you to leave this field blank).

In any case, I searched for a solution on the matter and it was recommended that I nominate public_html as the folder since this is where all the public files exist. This was a poor suggestion though, because the automatic installation software ended up creating and installing into that folder, rather than using the host’s root directory. In the end, however, it made no difference because I would still need to move the files, regardless of the folder’s name.

Anyway, how do you (easily) move WordPress to the root directory?

Essentially there are only three main steps:

  • Update your URL in WordPress’ general settings
  • Move files from current folder into root directory
  • Update the file path for uploaded media (see the comment below the article)

… Simple enough, but I’ll outline all the little details in between so as not to make any assumptions about your WordPress expertise. It’s important to follow these steps in the correct order. Also, please note that your site will be down during the time it takes you to move the files from one folder to the other (usually less than a minute).

  1. Back up any files in your root directory, such as index.php or your htacess file.
  2. Log in to your WordPress website and go to Settings > General (if you’ve only just installed it, this will be;
    yourdomain.com/foldername/wp-login.php’).
  3. In both the WordPress and Site Address URL fields, backspace over the folder name where WordPress is currently installed so that only your full domain name appears (e.g. ‘http://www.freenichewebsites.com’).
    move-wp-to-root-directory2
  4. Next, don’t panic! When you click Save your site will be (temporarily) inaccessible.
  5. Go back to your cPanel, then open File Manager.
    move-wp-to-root-directory3
  6. Open the folder where WordPress is installed by double-clicking the folder icon.
  7. Select all files in the directory (hold down CTRL or use SHIFT while selecting).
    move-wp-to-root-directory4
  8. Next, click the ‘Move File’ icon from the cPanel toolbar (a dialogue box will open displaying all the files that will be moved).
    move-wp-to-root-directory5
  9. In the last field of the dialogue box, you want to delete the folder name so that cPanel will move the files into the root directory (i.e. into ‘/public_html’). When ready, click ‘Move File(s)’.
  10. Lastly, while still in cPanel, go back to the root directory and DELETE the folder (which should now be completely empty).
  11. Your site should now be up and running in the root directory of your domain. [Edit February 21, 2014: There is one additional step - see the comment further below.]

The reason why we use cPanel and not FTP to move the files, is that the server will be much faster to complete the process. Like your hard drive, it can perform this function in seconds, rather than hours, and it avoids unnecessary downloading and uploading of your files.

I hope this has helped. As always, you’re welcome to leave a comment if you need something clarified.

Have you accidentally deleted or overwritten wp-config.php?

If you’re anything like me, your website has multiple MySQL databases and, after a while. it can start to become difficult to manage. At times, when things go wrong, you can rely on your wp-config.php file to recover your database name and password… But what if you make the horrible mistake of overwriting your existing wp-config.php file with the wrong one. or simply deleting it by accident?

“Error Establishing a Database Connection”

This happened to me recently, and I spent a number of hours searching forums and knowledge bases trying to figure out how to fix it. Most discussions involved trying to insert a new password directly into the MySQL database using special hashing techniques (encrypting a new, plain text password), and then updating your wp-config.php file accordingly. But the solutions I found is so much easier!

It’s a simple case of adding a new user to your database

The only thing you need for this solution to work is the name of your database, and you can easily get this through your cPanel. This fix should get your site back up and running in less than five minutes:

  1. Log in to your cPanel, and go to MySQL Databases.
    wp-config-php-1
  2. Scroll to the section that says ‘MySQL Users’ > ‘Add New User’, then create a new user, remembering to copy your username and password into a safe location.
    wp-config-php-2
  3. Scroll to ‘Add User To Database’, then add the user you just created to the relevant database. If you’re lucky, you’ll only have one database to choose from. If there’s more than one, look for a WordPress database. The syntax is usually username_wp123 (where username is the first eight characters of your host login, and the numbers were randomly generated at the time of installation).
    wp-config-php-3
  4. Next, grant ALL PRIVILEGES to the new user.
    wp-config-php-4
  5. Now it’s just a simple matter of inserting this information into a new wp-config.php file. If you’ve deleted all instances of this file, you can use wp-config-sample.php to create a new one (this file is included in your WP root directory by default).
    /** The name of the database for WordPress */
    define('DB_NAME', 'database_name_here');
    
    /** MySQL database username */
    define('DB_USER', 'username_here');
    
    /** MySQL database password */
    define('DB_PASSWORD', 'password_here');
  6. Edit, save, then upload the file via FTP into your root WordPress directory.
  7. Your website should now function normally! (If not, leave a comment.)

Income generating niche websites