Let’s cut to the chase: I was making $100 a day with Google Adsense and I blew it. Here’s how it happened, and how you can use my mistake to increase profits on your own blog.
The “contest blog” concept is old hat today, and you can find dozens of sites that post about contests that are being held across the Blogosphere. I started the whole craze with Contest Blogger a few years ago, and I had stumbled upon a goldmine.
After encouraging mentions from big players like ProBlogger, Contest Blogger had hundreds of RSS followers within a few short weeks. My daily visitor count took off like a rocket, and the site amassed tens of thousands of incoming links. By the end of the year, Contest Blogger had a Page Rank of 5 and was earning me about $20 a day just from a single Adsense banner in the sidebar.
And the profits only increased when I decided to transform the site from a blog into a forum. I was receiving a dozen requests to review blog contests every day, and I simply couldn’t keep up with it (I was an officer in the U.S. Army then, and my duties kept me away from a computer for days at a time). I decided to install the Simple:Press Forum plugin on Contest Blogger to let readers post their own contest announcements, and it was immediately obvious that I had made the right move.
Thanks to the fact that Contest Blogger ranked in the top three Google results for lucrative keywords like “contests” and “sweepstakes,” the site was getting close to a thousand visits a day. The Contest Blogger Forum quickly grew in members, and Adsense banners at the top of the site started to pull in as much as $100 on high-traffic days.
An SEO acquaintance recommended a plugin that posted fresh content on your blog every day, written by hundreds of contributors and then “scrambled” by an automated program that made each article “completely unique.” It seemed too good to be true, but I moved the Contest Blogger Forum to an internal page and started auto-posting pre-written articles on the homepage to test it out.
During the first month of my new approach, I was happy to see that the unique post plugin actually increased my traffic and profits as new articles got indexed. In response, I increased the number of article topics that would post on Contest Blogger every day. Many of the new articles had absolutely nothing to do with contests or sweepstakes, but I didn’t see past the higher revenue.
And then the floor fell out from under me. I woke up one morning to check the Contest Blogger stats, and discovered that I had been hit with every webmaster’s worst nightmare: the site had been completely de-indexed by Google.
Although Google doesn’t give webmasters a reason for why their sites get de-indexed, I was pretty certain that it had everything to do with my use of the auto-posting plugin. I immediately uninstalled it, spent days deleting thousands of posts that it had created on Contest Blogger, and sent a reconsideration request to Google.
All to no avail. Months later, and after several reconsideration requests, Contest Blogger is still completely absent from the Google index. It has an active forum community and sees some daily search visitors from Yahoo and Bing, but loosing the Google juice made its traffic and profits fall by nearly 90 percent. I might submit another reconsideration request in the future, but I don’t have much hope that the site will ever show up in the Google SERPS again.
Getting Contest Blogger de-indexed was my own fault, plain and simple. But here are a few lessons from my mistake that you can use to increase your own traffic and profits:
1. Don’t underestimate how smart the search engines are.
If you try to game the system, Google will figure it out eventually. The key to your blog’s success is simple: original, interesting content that is relevant to your visitors and keeps them coming back for more. If you think there’s a magic shortcut that will let you do no work and watch your traffic and profits increase, then you’re just plain wrong.
2. If something is working, don’t change it.
Contest Blogger was doing just fine when I decided to replace the forum with auto-generated articles. Sure, I had responsibilities that kept me away from the computer for a few days at a time, but I could have easily hired someone to monitor the forum while I was gone. You should always look for ways to improve your site, but not at the expense of your readers’ experience.
3. Go for slow growth rather than quick gains.
Building a successful website or blog takes time and dedication. If your visitor count and profits are steadily increasing over time, don’t get impatient and start looking for a lazy way to speed things up.
4. If something seems too good to be true, it is.
I suspected that the auto-posting plugin that I installed on Contest Blogger was shady, but I ignored my reservations when I saw how much it increased my profits. If you’re thinking about using any tactics that let you sidestep hard work and originality on your blog, then your traffic and revenue will suffer in the end. Take my word for it.
5. Let your blog evolve, and listen to your visitors.
Converting Contest Blogger from a blog to a forum was a big change, but it was an evolution that allowed the site to better serve its visitors. Removing the forum and auto-posting irrelevant articles, however, was not in the best interests of our audience. Don’t be afraid to let your blog evolve if it makes it more useful, but never go after a quick profit if you know it will disappoint your visitors.
Oh, and by the way: if anyone out there knows any Google employees, I’d love to find out how Contest Blogger could get re-indexed!
Phil Van Treuren works in the field of search engine optimization, social media strategy and Internet marketing. You can subscribe to his blog at VanTreuren.com.