My Biggest Blogging Mistake And How You Can Profit From It

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.

stupid That’s when I made my big mistake: I got greedy. Combine that with the fact that I simply couldn’t monitor the Contest Blogger Forum on a regular basis, and the results were disastrous.

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.


83 thoughts on “My Biggest Blogging Mistake And How You Can Profit From It”

  1. I personally refuse to believe that you can “auto-generate” something that is unique. It’s a paradox and paradoxes don’t mix well with business.

    Thank you for sharing a valuable lesson with us readers. πŸ™‚

    1. Instead of doing in that manner I think you should hire a writer who can deliver you 500 – 1000 words unique articles everyday.

      Certainly this one really hurt when your milking cow stopped giving milk and also cause you money.

      1. Sean says:

        If you’re making $100/day off one ad, you can afford to pay someone $20-40 a day to write unique articles.

      2. I concur with your point ZK. Having a real live human writing original content is the only way to ensure that you’re playing the game on the right side of the “law”.

      3. Keep it original. That requires humans… Agreed!

    2. Teen money says:

      You are right. You just cannot auto generate something Unique. Well i must correct myself we can generate something unique but it is very hard to auto generate something useful

      1. Sean says:

        Automated services and blogs are regularly de-listed by Google. You’ve got to come up with your own, fresh content… it’s the only way things ever work out.

  2. Now that’s a good post a bloggers post πŸ™‚

    1. Yes he shared his mistake and I think we should get benefit by his mistakes. Prudent businessman always learn from others mistakes.

  3. I don’t know, I know a lot of people who use the WP-O-Matic plugin with wordpress and their site is going fine.

    1. They are running on their luck … once they will caught … everything will be gone.

      1. EarningStep says:

        i believe that original + human content is the best for search engine and for getting more visitor ..

      2. I started a blog that was running on WP-O-Matic and besides…. It just felt wrong taking other people’s words and trying to utilize them to make a quick buck.

        It was a waste of time to set up the site and money to buy the domain!

        1. We did not get you its waste of time buy domain and also using automatic plugin or what ?

    2. They will end up like John did soon enough.

  4. workstations says:

    That’s some priceless advice from real-world experience.

    1. Yes these are 100% practical and still working …

  5. Dennis Yu says:

    Great post and warning to folks who use auto-generated content tools. I built dennis-yu.com to PR5 in under a year by steadily writing articles. Now if only I can start making money like John Chow from my blog!

    1. Teen money says:

      That is the dream of all of us. We all create blogs and sites to emulate the successes of John and other successful bloggers. we aspire but ….. 100 dollar from a blog is out of reach anyway

      1. @ Dennis

        You only did writing or you have done also link building as well.

        Would you like to share ?

        1. He has about 1,900 total links to the domain, which is actually very little, especially in his niche. I feel that a concerted link-building & social media effort will be hugely beneficial to Dennis’ efforts…..

      2. Make Money says:

        $100 a day out of reach? I don’t think so, its not that hard to reach $100 a day in adsense.

        1. LetUpdate says:

          Yes, I agree with you, but it may depends on the how much our blog readers.

          1. @ Make Money

            What will be your niche in that case and how you will be able to get that much traffic.

    2. Dex says:

      You have a nice Blog, but the site is not well monetized. You say you want to be like John Chow but you haven’t taken his advice with monetizing your blog. Why not but Adsense ads at the beginning of each article? You have the Adsense ad way at the bottom of each article that is showing public service ads. Why not use Kontera or Vibrant Media contextual ads? Where are the affiliate links? Get rid of the 125X125 empty ad space and replace them with affiliate ads. Relocate the search bar at top right and place a eCPM graphic ad from a company like ValueClick.

  6. Good to know.
    Thanks for sharing your experience with the websites!

  7. Sounds like a pretty bad mistake similar to John Chow getting de-indexed. But he’s back, so there’s hope I guess.

    1. Try to find out directly from Google what they want changed, etc.

      Good luck with that!

  8. I was installing this Global Translator plug-in on my blog which supposed to translate my english posts into several languages and treat them as different posts

    That works but yet it’s against Google TOS. So I quickly uninstalled it.. thankfully before something happened to mine

    1. Teen money says:

      You did a wise thing. It is one thing to increase the content. But to increase the content we dont want to lose the contents that were indexed already. Tread carefully is what google says for us

    2. You could just use Google’s Translator. They have a feature where you can put it on your site/blog.

  9. automation can be your friend, ut you shouldn’t overdo it. I often wonder about how some artiles are written and most often come to the result that they are autogenerated .- too many mistakes, wrong wording, bad grammar – you see it

  10. Ronblogger says:

    Thanks for sharing this story! atleast i will refuse to use any auto-generating plugins in my site

  11. LetUpdate says:

    Thanks for sharing this valuable experience, so others can learn from it.

    [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!]

    Here the google guy: http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/ . πŸ˜€

  12. All that to say “don’t try to fool Google”?

    Well DUH. Write for PEOPLE, and Google will pick up on it. If you have a single page on your website that PEOPLE will not want to read, you deserve to be delisted by Google and everyone else.

    1. Make Money says:

      lol, a single page? I can’t imagine a lot of people “want” to read any of the disclaimers or Privacy Policy’s that we need to have in place.

  13. Thanks for posting this! Another proof for the common sense saying “Content is king!”. All the best wishes for getting re-indexed, SY

  14. Teen money says:

    It is a great post. The lesson you learned is for all of us. That you choose inform us about the mishap speak volumes about your commitment to your readers. There are many lesson to be learned here. First one is do not get greedy. Second one is patience. We must be patient when our blog is doing well. If you go overboard we will lose every thing. Great post john.

  15. Clarky says:

    Great view, thanks for sharing your mistakes. I had a great lesson. From what you have gone through, I think that if I want to be as successful as you are, I really have a very long way to go. But I will try, no matter what. It is great to be challenging.

  16. Sam says:

    A great history from a grat mistake πŸ˜€

  17. Thank you for sharing this story with us, John. Your relationship with Google is the stuff that legends are made off, and I’ve read about your main blog not being indexed by them for a long time either.

    The point being made by this example is loud and clear though. Trying to “cheat” by taking shortcuts may help in the short-term, but is more than likely to get you penalised in the long term. Losing 90% of your traffic overnight is no joke!

    1. Blogging says:

      It wasn’t John who wrote this article, but John managed to get re-instated by Google, something what the guest blogger still hopes to achieve! SY

  18. Thanks for sharing your valuable experience John

  19. Benjamin Cip says:

    It’s really nice to share your mistakes to prevent people from doing the same mistakes as you. To err is humain as they say, and we always learn from our mistakes. People who don’t make mistakes are those who do nothing.

  20. Yep, the search engines are smart and they’re only getting smarter. The best thing to do is give the search engines what they want, which is high quality stuff that is exactly what people want.

    I think we’ve all learnt from a mistake like this, I know I screwed up a couple of years ago trying to game the system. It might be cool short term, but in the long run it’s going to cause pain.

    Cheers,
    Sean Morrissy

  21. Himanshu says:

    I see in my day to day life that most of the bloggers copy the post and make it rearrange. They think that this is the best way to distinguish an article from original, but actually they do the biggest mistake. They forget the fact that Google bots are very very clever

  22. Great post, thanks. We will learn from your mistakes, to avoid their own.

  23. Nathan says:

    Nice post. Never heard of auto post before but wont going to use it now that you have mentioned it.

  24. EarningStep says:

    look like joel comm still the best as adsense publisher.. but i you are better then him when i say who is the best blogger….lol

    1. I also think, it is difficult. Would you please give me an example about any blog which is earing that much amount from google adsense.

    2. There are people making way more than Joel does with Adsense.

  25. Dex says:

    Getting your site de-indexed by Google is a nightmare. I have a site that got de-indexed last June due to selling links (I suspect). I was so depressed because the site started pulling about $100 per day from the ads. Google accounted for about 85% of my traffic. I submitted a reconsideration request and 11 days later the site re-appeared. I was so happy; however, the traffic still isn’t back to where it use to be. Now about 70% of where it use to be, but I’m thankful I’m back on Google. Lessen here is don’t screw with Google. However, I’m hoping Bing takes away market share from Google. They are just too powerful.

    1. hehe. Don’t try to fool Google cause it will screw you back! Very true!

  26. Well instead using autogenerating plugins better find somone who can write some post each day, and for sure you will avoid this kind of problems. Anyway thanks for sharing with us, is good to know in any circumstnce. :0

  27. DOH!!!! That sucks dude! Thank you for sharing that disastrous result with us, especially us newbies. I was wondering about auto posters. You answered that question for me.

  28. fas says:

    Google is smart, thats why it controls major part of the web.

  29. Lisa Morosky says:

    Yeah, I’d always stay away from auto-generating content, or putting your blog on auto-pilot, or anything similar. Not only does it put you at risk of being slapped by Google, but in my opinion, you’re just not contributing anything to the blogosphere that way. You may be making lots of money, but one shift of Google’s algorithm could erase all that. And if you don’t have a real following with your blog, you might not be able to come back from something like that.

    Engage. Contribute. Create something lasting. The profits will follow.

  30. I tried that once and really regretted it. I never even considered it would be a problem. It was. Ouch! I guess the catch is that there is no catch. Just real, original content building up over time.

    1. another thing to consider…

      If you are hosting an auto-blog or scraper site on the same box as your main site, then having the same IP Address could help contribute to a Google SLAP!

  31. TSM says:

    Hard work and dedication to your blog is the key. I was making about $20 a day from my blog, but let slip to the wrong people about it and it crumbled. Now working my way back up with a new blog.

  32. max says:

    Great post, I admire you for posting your honesty failures here. I think it’s true in life, those who cheat will get penalized, no matter what industry they are in. On the other hand, real hard work and dedication will pay off no matter how hard that is. Grow slowly but grow BIG! πŸ™‚

  33. You turned your successful site into an autoblog and got googleslapped.

    This is why people who are making money autoblogging run DOZENS if not HUNDREDS of blogs. One gets slapped? No big deal. It’s lunacy to turn a successful blog into an autoblog, which I’m sure you now know.

    Thanks for posting this, though. Good to see that even the big boys have some n00b mistakes in their past.

    1. And now thanks to this post, many other people also know!

    2. Show me a successful man who didn’t made “n00b” mistakes like you say ??

      Behind every successful man there’s a lot of unsuccessful years.

  34. catrosinfo says:

    good points to follow, nice tips.

  35. I’m hoping Bing takes away market share from Google. They are just too powerful.

  36. Google is getting smarter and smarter everyday. We can be cought. Try the straight way. Fins some blog content provider and they will write something good for us.

  37. Hajib says:

    Thanks for doing the mistake John… It helps your readers..

  38. kulbir says:

    damn u had a good thing going there…

  39. Nick Aviles says:

    Sorry about that John, thanks for sharing your insights and mistakes. Better to learn from other people’s mistakes than your own!

  40. Katie says:

    Thank you so much for all your helpful suggestions. I totally agree with, if something is working..don’t change it. So many times we get so picky we want to change everything all the time cause we are nervous or too picky, but we should not change it if it is bringing us in great money and we should learn to appreciate things and not be too judgmental on ourselves.

  41. great idea with a website that lists dozens of contests across the blogoshpere.

  42. BusinessPulp says:

    I can add another lesson to this article (something I haven’t seen anyone mention in the comments yet):

    don’t just rely on Google as your traffic source.

    Or don’t just rely on any one source for your site monetization.

  43. I’ve never been a fan of those plugins & never understood why some people keep using them. You did it once & realized it was a mistake, so that’s different. However, there are people that swear by them. Original content is the way to go. I think that if one can’t write original content, then they shouldn’t be blogging anyway.

  44. Dave Doolin says:

    Thanks for this.

    I’m taking the long, slow road to instant riches: developing unique, high quality content written by me, in my voice. My traffic is increasingly linearly. Not fast enough for my taste… but I have a high open rate on my email newsletter, and very, very few unsubscribers.

    So I can work with it.

    -d

  45. Kadir says:

    Thanks for sharing an important info about auto blogging!!! As you told search engines are more smarter than us because it is being build by smart persons of Google. Their algorithm have changed on daily basis. The same thing happened to my blog, but not due to auto blogging, but due to blog post sales. Google hates the idea of blog post sales.

  46. Hi John
    I am glad that your mistake wasn’t a waste as you learnt so much from your experience & most valuable lessons are lesson no. 1 & 5 are the most important ones according to me.
    Tell me, aren’t they worth for you now that you are profitable again?

  47. Money-Era says:

    It seems that cutting corners does not help. It is just leading to terrible results. No wonder why top bloggers http://www.money-era.com/category/blogs/ have been working for a long time for their success.

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