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11

We’re Still Here…

Just a quick update to anyone still accessing this site that we are both still alive and well and both still working full time online.

We’ve been having a great time working on things we really enjoy, rather than on things just to make money. I think that is the key to success with working online. When people come into affiliate marketing it really is because of the money more than anything else and because of that, there is the tendency to focus on things that you don’t really enjoy doing. We did that at the start and had websites on all sorts of topics, most that we had no knowledge about or any real  interest in.

It worked, but only because we came up with a method that worked and put a hell of a lot of time and effort into it. But, to be honest, I don’t want to work on things I don’t enjoy anymore. If I am going to work from home, then I want to enjoy working from home and not make it another chore that I have to do. I may as well be back in a regular 9 to 5 job if that’s the case.

So for the past 6 months or so, we have focused on just two topics…ASMR (just Google it for more info, but basically it is a form of relaxation) and more recently, crafts.

I experience ASMR hence why I have started to create videos around that. Wanda doesn’t experience it, but loves making the videos for it, plus she has a great voice for it, which people love.

The craft part is something we both really enjoy…really, really enjoy. So we have created a website and a YouTube channel and started to create craft tutorial and review videos. That’s still in the early stages.

In terms of affiliate marketing, we have become completely relaxed with it. Google has had so many changes, that it is hard to keep up. One of the latest that I saw was the ‘HTTPs and SSL certificate for better ranking’ nonsense.

We’ve given up worrying about Google and their many changes to improve search engine results. I don’t even want to try to keep up with them anymore…and we don’t have to. What we are doing is working, albeit, it will take time, but we can see the progression already.

So now we just use Google…we blend in and use their tools to get what we want, and in a sense, this is all Google wants anyway. They want their tools to be used but only if the quality is there and it isn’t done using black hat techniques or manipulations of the system. If you can’t beat them, join them, as they say! There’s no point constantly trying to outdo them because it just becomes a constant effort.

Google will fall eventually because they are really only about the money these days, which is a shame because they started out in a whole different direction. If they can’t even get Google Plus to work, something is wrong and even those outside of the internet marketing game are starting to dislike them which is not a good sign.

So what does this mean for us? It means that we don’t do any keyword research anymore, we don’t actively back link, we don’t write articles around keywords, we don’t create new websites on topics we aren’t interested in and we very rarely read affiliate marketing news or follow Google changes or read blogs that talk about internet marketing. And as for our product sites, we just work on them when they need updating and no more than that. They still make us money!

It also means that we have closed our Affiliate Tools HQ membership site to new members. We actually enjoyed it, but the more content we added, the more difficult it became to keep it updated. And finding new quality content to add was always a struggle. (We still have members in there that joined up when we first opened the site!)

As for this website, I will probably continue to add posts but they will only be when I feel there is something worth writing about.

So that’s the update. Would be great to hear from our old followers to see what you have been up to.

35

Last Chance for Affiliate Blog Online

If you’ve been keeping track of our latest blog posts, you will know that we are having major issues with keeping this site running smoothly. We were with Bluehost originally and the site would be constantly down with no warning from them. We decided to move it to Hostgator  but Hostgater constantly shut the site down (at least they gave us a warning unlike Bluehost). Then we moved the site to WPEngine which is awesome but not really cost effective for a site not making any money.

So we brought the site back to Hostgator and all was going well until the past few days when Hostgator decided to take the site down yet again. For the past few days it has been down and despite making changes, Hostgator still won’t reinstate it. We don’t really know what the problem is and Hostgator aren’t in the business to help their customers work out these issues.

So we had to have a think about whether we even wanted to keep this site running. This has never been a big money making site for us and really has just been a way for us to babble on about what we do online as well as provide tips and hints for others trying to make money online. As you can probably tell, neither of us have added much to the site lately so is it really worth keeping at all?

So we had a chat about it and decided to give it one last chance. We decided we needed to move from Hostgator so we have made the move to StableHost. Will it be the right move? Who knows, but Stablehost have received quite good reviews so we thought we would give them a shot.

Let’s keep our fingers crossed….

24

Why We Chose WP Engine for Our Hosting

UPDATE: Please read the update at the end of this post.

In my last post, I mentioned how we had changed from the Flexsqueeze theme to Genesis in an attempt to solve the issues we have been having with this site. Well, it didn’t work. Within days of changing themes Hostgator shut down the site yet again saying our that our site “was found to be consuming an inordinate amount of mysql connections, to the point of degrading overall system performance”.

I kind of understand where Hostgator are coming from but it certainly doesn’t help when they give no warning. Usually it happens in the middle of the night so the site can be down for some hours before you even realise. And then once it is down, you have no way of getting back into it to try to fix it without first contacting them and getting access.

Included in the email from Hostgator was the suggestion that we move to a dedicated server. That isn’t cheap by any means at a minimum of $174 a month. We’re not even paying that for a year of hosting.

However, we needed to do something different. Hostgator weren’t really forthcoming with what the exact problem was, offering own vague suggestions, and despite removing every single plugin on the site, the memory resources being used didn’t really reduce that much. (Just as a side note to all of this, the plugin that used the most memory on our site was the NextGen plugin which we won’t be putting back on.)

So what did we do? We took the advice of a reader by the name of Tilen Mandelj who left a comment on our last blog post suggesting that we should try either WP Engine or Synthesis for our hosting. I had actually read about Synthesis but had never heard of WP Engine. Both of these hosting companies focus solely on WordPress.

So as I do, I started to research, but thinking that things were now okay with the site I didn’t dwell too long on it all.

However, not long after, the dreaded email from Hostgator arrived saying they had shut down the site. Of course, it came in at night and too late to really do anything. So all I did was email both WP Engine and Synthesis with the exact same email, asking if their hosting could help to solve the problems we were having with this site and then promptly went to bed.

By morning, both companies had responded. This was a good sign. I had already read about how good the service was from each of them. Each had a slightly different response, however Synthesis went a little further to offer suggestions and they also wanted a little more info on what plugins we were using and so forth. Just in those few pre-sale emails, they provided more help than Hostgator ever did.

It took a while for us to decide on which company to go with actually because both looked really good. I was moving more towards Synthesis because they are run by the same guys who created the Genesis theme plus, like I said, their pre-sales emails were quite helpful.

However, in the end we went with WP Engine. We had read a number of glowing reviews for WP Engine and some from those who had actually used both Synthesis and WP Engine and the consensus was that WP Engine was the better at least in their opinion. Plus, if we wanted to start adding more sites to it, the next level up at $99 a month allowed for up to 10 websites whereas with Synthesis, the $99 monthly price only included 2 websites.

So yesterday, we migrated the site over to WP Engine. We followed the migration instructions on their site which are quite good by the way, however it didn’t all go to plan as these things do. So I emailed them and within half an hour I had a response which got me  through the next step and then another hitch, so another email was sent and so on. In all about four or five emails later, we had the site up and running.

With the site now functioning again I decided to test the memory usage. I was using a plugin called Debug Bar as recommended by the guy from Synthesis. With Hostgator, the memory usage was at 53mb which is apparently quite high. An average WordPress site should really be no more than 20mb. Despite deactivating every single plugin, the site remained at around 43mb. After migrating the site to WP Engine the memory usage was now at 4mb which is a major drop. However, that’s not to say that WP Engine solved those problems because when we migrated and transferred the database, we didn’t transfer every table in that database. There were tables in there that belonged to plugins that we no longer used. It could well have been those tables that were causing the high memory issue.

So at the moment, we are still testing the waters with WP Engine. If it turns out okay, we will move up to the $99 a month plan and add a few more sites.

UPDATE: As of December 2013, we decided to move this site over to our Hostgator reseller account. We like WP Engine, we really do, but this site was getting too much traffic and the plan we were on wasn’t working for us. We were being charged for excess visits. The next option would have been to upgrade to the $99 plan but really in terms of  traffic  (which includes bots by the way) we would probably only been able to get another couple of websites into the plan. It just didn’t seem cost effective based on our traffic numbers.

39

Why We Moved to the Genesis Framework

Genesis Lifestyle ThemeAnyone who has read our blog over the years knows that we love the Flexsqueeze theme…and that hasn’t changed. We’ve been using it for years and think it is awesome and we will continue to recommend it, particularly to newbies because it makes changing and editing a theme super simple. It’s extremely powerful and has some amazing features.

However, just lately we have been using the Genesis Framework by Studiopress on one of our other sites and have started to get a real liking for it. It’s not as user friendly as the Flexsqueeze theme in terms of making changes to a site but it looks really clean and we like it.

We’ve  been having problems with this site for some time now. For some reason it seems to crash frequently and Hostgator keeps shutting the site down because they tell us it is using too many resources. So thats when we decided to upload the Genesis Framework because it is very lightweight (or so they say), so hopefully it will speed things up a bit.

Speaking of Hostgator shutting down the site, the last time they did it, they forgot to put it back up again. So for a few weeks this site was gone completely. We thought it was up, because they had given us access to the site in order to make changes but no one else could see it. We didn’t realize until one of our readers  emailed us about it.

We moved from Bluehost to Hostgator in June because we thought that the problems of our site crashing was a Bluehost problem. But that wasn’t the case…the site still crashed with Hostgator. The only difference between the two is that Bluehost didn’t shut down our site – but Hostgator did.

Either way, there is something wrong with this site to make it repeatedly crash, so we uploaded the Genesis framework, not that there is anything to suggest that the theme was the problem, and we have also removed a multitude of plugins. We’ve had this site since 2008 and over that time have uploaded a lot of different plugins, some we didn’t even know if we needed anymore but were too afraid to remove in case they actually did something on the site. So hopefully this will do the trick.

What is the Genesis Framework?

The Genesis framework is essentially a WordPress theme – or the framework of a WordPress theme. Actually it’s both. It can work as a theme on it’s own, although it is pretty basic. So what you need is a Child Theme to go with it. The framework, in the words of the Studiopress team “…acts as a design, security and SEO foundation for your website.” and the child theme is the “pure design element that rests on top of the framework”. It’s what makes it look pretty.

The child theme we use for this website is the Lifestyle Theme. I like it. It’s clean and it can work for any niche. It’s also quite easy to change the color of the theme. They give you a number of different options in the theme settings including teal, blue, charcoal, grey, green, pink, purple, tan and yellow.

How Does it Work?

In order to get the Genesis themes working,  both the Genesis framework and a Child Theme need to be uploaded to the Themes section of a WordPress blog. Once both are uploaded it’s the child theme that needs to be activated.

Layouts

You can change the layout of the site pretty easily with Genesis. It comes with a number of default layouts that you can apply to the entire site under the Theme Settings section.  Plus you can also change the  layout for each individual post or page if you like.

Default Layout Settings in Genesis

Using Hooks

What’s my opinion on hooks?…they’re great if you know what you are doing but not that easy if you don’t. Hooks are what some themes use to allow you to add content to certain parts of the theme that you may not have had the ability to do with a regular theme. For example, if I wanted to add a text box at the end of every post I could do that with a hook. Or I could add a content area just under my header that appears on every page of my site, or just on one page only.

What makes using Hooks a lot easier is a free plugin called Genesis Simple Hooks. It’s a must if you have a Genesis theme.

Everything Just Seems to Work

My favourite thing about Genesis is that everything just seems to work with it. For example, you see the Amazonian Profit Plan image in the sidebar?…that is a text widget and it has some code in there with a link to the image so that it all shows up. Now all I did when we upgraded to the Genesis theme was put that old code back in. I was expecting the image to be too big for the sidebar and I’d have to tweak it to fit…but I didn’t have to do a thing. It just went in and adjusted it all to fit.

It all just seems to look good without much effort.

What I didn’t like was the default font. It’s way too small and a strain on the eyes to read so we upped the font size for both the paragraph text and the post titles. We had to do that in the stylesheet which brings me to another point that if we are comparing this theme to the Flexsqueeze theme in terms of ease of use, I would go with Flexsqueeze every time. If I want to change the font in a Flexsqueeze theme I don’t have to look at any code. I just click a tab and type in the size of the font and it’s done.

Other Features

  • Mobile Responsive – This is pretty much a necessity these days. You want your site to look good on any device.
  • HTML5 Ready – HTML is the code used to create websites and it keeps evolving and changing. HTML5 is the next revision and the Genesis theme is ready for it.
  • Schema Microdata – You would have seen schema when you have done a search in Google. Those search results that show a video or author thumbnail are examples of schema. Now I’m still researching this bit but from my basic understanding it seems that you have to do a bit of work first to get this going.
  • Child Themes – The beauty of the Genesis framework is there are a lot of different themes to choose from. As we mentioned previously, we went with the Lifestyle Theme but there are plenty of others. If you have multiple websites, then you might even want to invest in their unlimited pack which includes every theme they make plus any new ones added in the future. We are considering this ourselves.
  • Unlimited websites and developer license – What I really love about Genesis themes are that you can use them on as many websites as you like. There is no extra cost for this. Plus, if you are a developer and want to create websites for others, you don’t need to buy a developers license.
  • Good code – I’ve seen a lot of reviews for this theme and many mention how well written the code is. They try to keep the theme as lightweight as possible to make it very quick and responsive.
  • SEO Settings – Genesis includes it’s own SEO settings but if you have another SEO plugin of some sort, it will automatically turn them off to allow your other plugin to work.

Our Final Word

This is an excellent theme and one we would highly recommend. I’m loving it more and more. However, if you aren’t comfortable with code and are looking for something super simple to use then go with the Flexsqueeze theme. Don’t get me wrong, the Genesis Framework is simple to use straight out of the box but if you want to start making changes and you have never played with your stylesheet or functions.php or any of those things then you might struggle until you become familiar with the workings of the theme.

 

21

Google’s Disavow Tool: Is This the Answer to the Penguin Update?

Finally, it has arrived…on October 17, Google released their long awaited disavow tool. If you have been affected by the Penguin updates you may have been waiting with anticipation for this to arrive. But is it the answer to our dreams – will it really get our sites back and ranking again? Let’s find out.

What is the Google Disavow Links Tool?

For those that don’t know, the Google Penguin updates targeted websites with poor quality links or those that overused the same keyword in their anchor text. Both of these, we suspect, were what happened with our sites. We had used blogging networks in the past and they only generate poor quality links and in the early days we did tend to overuse the same anchor text a little too much when backlinking.

Okay, so fair enough, we did a few no-no’s in the eyes of Google and we got slapped on the wrist for it. However, the problem with those Penguin updates is that:

1. It made it very difficult for anyone who was affected to fix their websites. Just try emailing hundreds or even thousands of website owners to ask them to remove your links from their website.

2. It made it too easy for a competitor to get someone elses sites penalized by simply generating hundreds of poor quality links to their site. This got everyone riled up because although Google denied it we all knew that it was possible, and it was happening. Many webmasters were even testing it on their own sites to see if they could get them penalized and yes they could.

So, because of the number of complaints they received from irate webmasters, Google listened and they have now provided a disavow tool that allows us to ignore specific backlinks to our websites.

The Official Google Word

Here is a video from Matt Cutts (Google Engineer) explaining how the disavow tool works.

[youtube width=”535″ height=”355″]http://youtu.be/393nmCYFRtA[/youtube]

So what Matt is saying in the video above is that you only need to load up a text file with a list of the websites you want removed and low and behold (after a few weeks) those sites will be ignored. Simple right?  Well if it is so simple, why does Matt Cutts reiterate a number of times that not many people should need to use this tool? It’s almost like he wants to scare us away from using it. Why?

Just take a look at what Google has to say about it on their Webmaster Tools blog:

“This is an advanced feature and should only be used with caution. If used incorrectly, this feature can potentially harm your site’s performance in Google’s search results. We recommend that you disavow backlinks only if you believe you have a considerable number of spammy, artificial, or low-quality links pointing to your site, and if you are confident that the links are causing issues for you. In most cases, Google can assess which links to trust without additional guidance, so most normal or typical sites will not need to use this tool.”

I love the last sentence, “In most cases, Google can assess which links to trust with additional guidance..”. If that’s the case, why do we even need such a tool?…more on that later.

How Does the Disavow Tool Work?

These are the steps for using the disavow tool:


Step 1: Assess the Links

The first thing you need to do is find the sites that are linking to you so you can determine which ones you want to disavow. You can do this using your own keyword tool or you can use Google Webmaster Tools (instructions below)

1. Login to Webmaster Tools.

2. Click on the site you want to assess.

3. Click on Traffic from the right menu.

4. Click on Links to Your Site.

5. Click the More link under section titled ‘Who links the most’

6. Click Download this table.


Step 2: Create a Text File

This step involves creating a text file that will list all of the domain urls that you want to disavow.

1. Open up Notepad or other text based editor and add one link per line in the following formats:

  • To ignore an entire domain use:
    • domain: thespammywebsite.com
  • To ignore a page from a domain use:
    • http://spammerswebsite.com/page-1.htm

So your text page might look like this:

domain: thespammywebsite.com
http://spammerswebsite.com/page-1.htm

2. Save the file to your computer.


Step 3: Upload List of Links

1. Go to the Disavow Links Tool page.

2. Login to Webmaster Tools if you haven’t already done so.

3. You will now see the Disavow Links box.

4. Select the website from the drop-down box and click the Disavow Links button.

5. You will see a big warning message from Google. Just click the Disavow Links button.Again you will see another warning message from Google…hmm, why do they need to keep warning us??

6. Click Choose File and find the text file you just created and click Submit. And your done!


 

Why Do We Need This Tool in the First Place?

Although I appreciate this tool being made available I am left wondering why we even need it. The tool lets us tell Google to ignore spammy or poor quality links but why can’t Google just ignore them to begin with? Google can pick a spammy site can’t it? I mean, if they don’t know the difference between a poor quality site and a high quality site by now, then they really need to reassess the system.

So what it essentially means is that you, the web owner, needs to determine what you consider to be poor quality links or not. But how do you do that? Do you look at the page rank of the page? Is that really an indication of the quality of the site.

Take a look at the pagerank of the site you are looking at right now. Do you see the pagerank – it’s a big fat zero. Why?…because in Google’s infinite wisdom they decided that the site doesn’t meet their quality guidelines. I have no idea what that means because we have never bothered to actively backlink to the site and we can’t see any other reason for the penalty.  (At one point, we started to backlink but we stopped pretty quickly and didn’t bother after that)

We have asked them what the exact problem is but we keep getting back the same old email in Google Webmaster Tools which tells us absolutely nothing:

We’ve reviewed your site and we believe that some or all of your pages still violate our quality guidelines.

In order to preserve the quality of our search engine, pages from http://www.affiliateblogonline.com/ may not appear or may not rank as highly in Google’s search results, or may otherwise be considered to be less trustworthy than sites which follow the quality guidelines.

If you wish to be reconsidered again, please correct or remove all pages that are outside our quality guidelines.

Funnily enough, the sites that we have backlinked to aggressively in the past, received no such message in Google Webmaster Tools.

We have given up trying and just continue to add content. It’s a bit hard to change something when you have no idea what the problem actually is.

So figuring out what site is considered  poor quality, a spammers site, or one that doesn’t meet Google’s guidelines is really a subjective thing. Who knows if a site we tell Google to disavow is actually okay or not?

Have We Used the Disavow Tool?

Not yet, but we will. Whenever something new is released by Google, we always like to let the dust settle before taking action. The other problem we have is finding the time but that’s another story.

We want to get our sites ranking like they used to so it will be interesting to see if the disavow tool actually works.

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