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Feedburner + AdSense for Feeds + Moving a Blog = 301 Disasters. There’s an Easy Fix.

9:26 am in Blogging, PPC Marketing Blog by brad

We recently moved the blog from bgTheory to Certified Knowledge and three really bad things happened:

  • Our FeedBurner account went crazy tweeting one of our blog posts (not even the latest one) every few hours
  • Our Feed wasn’t being read correctly by any program that relied on Google’s Feed Fetcher or feedproxy.google.com
  • Any system that relied on Google products to work (feedburner, email subscription, etc) was not being notified of new blog posts

Whenever I tried to view the feed, I had more than 30 AdSense ads at the bottom of each post in the feed (it’s configured for one).

Whenever I clicked on anything that involved feedproxy.google.com (Google’s redirector for AdSense and some feed programs) I encountered an infinite redirect look.

All of our 301 were perfect (redirects from one site to another one). Our FeedBurner account was configured correctly.

When using liveheaders, I would see feedproxy.google.com continue to redirect to itself until the browser gave up and gave me a redirect error.

When I looked inside my AdSense account, all the feeds and ads were configured correctly.

However, It turns out the culprit was AdSense for Feeds.  It appears as if Google was:

  • Passing the feed from Feedburner to AdSense to add the ads to the feed
  • Then trying to pass the feed back to the old Google feed URL which was being redirected to a new URL
  • Then Google was seeing the feed being moved so it grabbed the feed again to send back to AdSense to add another ad
  • Repeat 30 times, and you get a broken feed with 30 ads at the bottom

I tried to determine what the AdSense issue was; but not being able to see what Google was trying to do with the configuration on their side – there was no way to fix the code. As a consumer you can only fix the code you have access to.

It turns out there was a really simple fix.

I deleted the channels in AdSense and waited for Google to cycle through their feed fetching and refresh process.

Everything worked.

I can now add new channels back into AdSense and the ads appear correctly.

It seems that FeedBurner and AdSense have a very light integration, and Feedburner does not update  AdSense’s information.

So, if you are using AdSense for feeds and move your feed URL, you will want to delete (or make inactive) the old AdSense for Feed channels, let Google’s system flush out the old data, and then add your details back to AdSense.

If you haven’t seen our feeds in a few weeks, this is why. The most important items you might have missed are:

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Did you forget about me? How to engage visitors who don’t interact with your website.

9:34 am in Blogging, PPC Marketing Blog by brad

There are visitors who you see in your analytics account each day.

And then there are those you forget.

Those forgotten visitors can still interact with your content, contact your business, forward along your information, and help your business reach it’s goals.

Think about the visitors who see your content off your website:

However, these visitors are not necessarily fully engaged with your site, yet they are still valuable.

Google AdSense - Reports_1231794150483Image: RSS ad impressions for a few days in December. 4700 easily forgotten page views (of users who have java enabled in a RSS reader)

For bloggers, the most common of these visitors are those reading full text RSS feeds.

Engaging forgotten RSS subscribers

Your everyday readers know what change are going on in your company or website. They don’t need to be reminded about a new forum section, new newsletters, tools, etc.

However, RSS or eMail readers are often skimming their feedreader and inbox for interesting content. They will skip some of your posts. Some of your emails will be deleted. Don’t take it personally – we’re all busy. The question is: How do you keep forgotten visitors abreast of changes?

Engage these users where they are currently engaged – in your offsite content.

For RSS subscribers, use a plug-in that will add some additional text to just your feed. This way your everyday readers will not see it, but those reading your content in a feedreader will see it.

WordPress plug-ins such as:

Can add content to the bottom of your feed.

For eMail campaigns, add a ‘recently changed’ section. Don’t rely on a single email to make your announcement. If you’ve devoted part of your website to showcasing these sections, devote a part of your RSS feed or email to continue reinforcing that news. If it was worth a section of your website, isn’t the same true of your newsletter and RSS feed?

Don’t Forget About Your Visitors

It’s easy to get caught up in testing, and testing, and testing some more.

However, what testing tells you is what combinations make visitors more engaged and trusting of your content.

Don’t forget to do the same for your off-site, forgotten visitors.

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by brad

Speed up WordPress by Trimming Your Bloated Database

2:40 am in Blogging, PPC Marketing Blog by brad

<new>I’m slowly cleaning up old drafts. This is one from 5 months ago before the redesign (and I’ve not reintegrated Google search yet). However, for those wordpress users – it’s a worthwhile read.</new>

I love analytics. No where else on the web can you get lost in the purity of statistics.

However, there’s a dark side to analytics – storage space.

Admittedly, I don’t take good care of this blog. However, when I went to back up my database today it was 950 mb. Yes, that’s correct, the database was nearing a one gig in size! It wasn’t spam, it wasn’t the huge amount of content on the site, it wasn’t hacked – it was wordpress analytics programs storing stats in the database.

While it’s fun to have access to every possible analytic stat, there’s also something to be said about the speed of your blog (not to mention one should be more concerned about actionable data).

Using phpMyAdmin I removed shortstat, slimstat, and counterize II tables from my database which brought it down to a much more reasonable 50mb; which still seemed large to me. So, after some more rummaging around the database, it seems that Search Meter (a nice plug-in that saves all the searches conducted on your blog) was taking up the last unnecessary 20+ mb in the database.

It was a tough decision to actually put an ad back on the blog. But, the best alternate to the wordpress search was to add a Google custom search. I haven’t figured out the correct layout for the search yet as on some browsers part of the search box is obscured which I’m sure is against the Google TOS – but I’ve not figured out an OK looking CSS yet. However, searches on this site will now have some ads from Google on them. However, I can now get search stats in my AdSense reporting. Unfortunately, that’s not integrated with any other analytics programs yet. I’m waiting for the day Google’s CSE is integrated into Google analytics. That seems the next logical step. One of the best places for keyword research is search results on your own site.

So, after removing those plug-ins, I made sure that both Microsoft Analytics (review here) and Google Analytics (and soon IndexTools by Yahoo) are installed in the blog for full stats. (More free stat programs found via SEMMYs.)

When installing these scripts, please put them in the footer tag (or just above the </body> tag) so that your content loads immediately. It’s ok if you don’t track all your visitors because the tracking script didn’t load. It’s not ok to have your content not load because some tracking script is taking too long to load.

The accomplishment? This blog is loading about 70% faster than previously. A leaner database means a faster site.

P.S. Please use absolute URls for your Favicons. If you use relative paths, the icons will not show up on all pages of your blog.

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Be Careful of Security Issues when Using Wiki's and Blogs with Trackbacks

7:43 am in Blogging, PPC Marketing Blog by brad

When a website automatically posts comments to another site it is called a trackback. Essentially, Blogs and many Wiki’s automatically post comments on a website’s page (when comments are enabled) when one links to that particular page. In most cases, the trackbacks and comments are used to create a discussion around a particular subject. Hence why Wiki’s and Blogs are key to developing an internet community.

However, wiki’s are also often used in development projects, and if you are not careful with the security settings, you can give away your development secrets. Read the rest of this entry →

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by brad

Feedburner Helps Websites Understand Their Content

7:12 am in Blogging, PPC Marketing Blog by brad

RSS (really simple syndication) has changed the way users and websites utilize the web. Whenever a new technology comes along that changes the way we interact with the web, new companies emerge to assist with the process and introduce even more new technologies that are built upon making these technologies usable. Enter Feedburner.

The next big thing is what makes the current big thing better

Unfortunately, I can’t remember who said that (and it might not be in it’s exact form), but that is essentially what Feedburner is accomplishing.

RSS is a technology which allows publishers to push their content around the web. Instead of relying on email and newsletters to keep consumers updated with news or features, RSS puts consumers in control. Read the rest of this entry →

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by brad

Add a contact form to WordPress

11:28 am in Blogging, PPC Marketing Blog by brad

Please, don’t use a simple mailto link on the web. That’s the single easiest way to increase the amount of spam you receive. Instead, use a contact form. WordPress has some plugins for email. If these don’t work for you, I’ve included other options available. If you don’t use wordpress, please skip below, there are options available to you covered here.

The simplest way to add a contact form to wordpress is to use one of these plugins:

  • WP-Contact Form Plugin
  • In Touch WordPress Plugin
  • Secure Contact Form

With servers and senders going through more email verification these days, these two plugins may not work on your server. If these two won’t work, the next option is to install wpPHP Mailer. This takes a little bit more work as it uses a sourceforge php code. Don’t be afraid of working with PHP if you’re unfamiliar with it. This is a fairly straightforward plugin to work with. The main advantage of this one is that it let’s you put in your email password and account, so it will work with many servers which require an additional level of security.

However, if that still doesn’t work for you (some servers again have issues with this particular plugin), the next is to move to the cgi-bin. If you don’t have a cgi bin, write your administrator, most servers come with a cgi-bin and cgiemail installed.

If you happen to have formmail.pl, please do some reaserch before thinking that’s the best way to proceed – it’s fraught with issues.

The cgi bin is pretty easy to work with. The main issue most people have using cgiemail is they don’t realize it’s actually two different files they’re working with.

  • The first is the actual form. This is a straightforward form which is located on an html or php page (and can be added to a wordpress post or static page so that it’s integrated nicely with your blog).
  • The second page is a .txt file that tells the cgi emailer what to do. (Note: The page must be in iso or ascii, cgi doesn’t work properly with all text formats. So, when you save this page, just do a ‘save as’ and look through your options – ascii is the best choice).

The last issue is that some servers don’t seem to process the cgiemail form properly unless it’s stored in the root folder (no idea why, this shouldn’t be an issue, but it happens).

Here are the top documents around to show you how to create these forms:

  • Official cgiemail page (now offline)
  • An MIT page with additional help
  • And yet another good university page from a website creation class (more broken pages on the web – had to delink)

Finally, the last way is to use a wysiwyg editor (such as Frontpage) and publish to your website (the server must have frontpage extensions installed). Since this will not have the ‘feel’ of your blog, you’ll want to create this in a few different steps.

  • First, create a new page in Frontpage using the Feedback or Contact Form template.
  • Second, customize the form for the fields you wish to include
  • Next, publish (since this uses Webbots, you’ll have to publish it, not FTP the page) the page to your server
  • Fourth, create a static WordPress page and use an iFrame to include the contact page in your regular wordpress page
  • Complete. You will now have a contact page from Frontpage that utilizes your blog’s template

If this is your first time working with a form, it will take a little bit of time (if you’re creating it from scratch) to make sure all the details are perfect. If you have some experience with HTML, you should be done in 30-60 minutes. If you don’t it might take an hour or two. However, your inbox will be happy with the reduction of spam you receive.

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