Ugh. eHarlequin Affiliate Program Ending

Well that’s a bummer. I use the eHarlequin affiliate program to generate income for a few sites I have. They were about 5% of my income last year, and I just got the news today that the program was closing effective May 10, 2012. That doesn’t bother me as much as it probably should, but the main site I use them on is a site I don’t actively work on any longer. Haven’t in a couple of years.

Still, if I want to get them off the site and replace the links with other links that might still earn me a few dollars, it’s going to mean changing thousands of links. Yes, that’s right. The site has about 3,000 pages and a large number of them have links to eHarlequin.

I really wish they’d given me more notice because this isn’t really what I had wanted to do with my weekend.

Peace of Mind is Worth a Thousand HTML Sites

I just turned a bunch of WordPress sites into static html, for a variety of reasons, not the least of which are the following.

  1. Security
  2. Peace of Mind
  3. Ease of Maintenance
  4. Peace of Mind
  5. More Peace of Mind

I love WP, really. However, I also love peace of mind, and I had too many sites using WP to have any peace of mind.

Why? Because although WordPress is great and gives added functionality to a site and makes updating content easy as typing in Word or OpenOffice, it has a bad habit of making my life harder than it has to be.

I want to make a page look a certain way? I need to create a new page template. I want to make a site look a certain way, I need to edit a theme. I want to backup my files, I have to backup files by ftp and export a database. I want to restore a site? I have to upload files, fix or create a database, and pray it all works together the way it was supposed to. Oh, accidentally delete my WP config file and wow, what a mess that new one made of the character encoding! I have freaky symbols everywhere. Ugh!

Then there’s the scary stuff.

I found a few sites where a plugin had opened a backdoor and someone—whoever you are, you are a [bleep]—uploaded some crappy IM type posts for backlinks into a few of my directories.

It was then I decided static html (or even php with basic includes) was my friend and WordPress wasn’t. Sometimes you like something (like swiss rolls) but sometimes you have to give them up because they just aren’t good for you.

I still have my blog and it will stay WordPress because that’s where WordPress works best. But because it’s a simple blog, I have no need of crap plugins or special templates or anything else.

Footprints and Your <head>

Ah, so I was looking at some stuff this last week and realized I had let a few things slip by me when it comes to site footprints. (Notably, not footprint, which would imply how large my site is and how much space it takes up on my hosting plan, which is not what I’m getting at here at ALL.)

Of course, there are the things you can’t control, such as tracking ids and publisher code. However, whenever possible, I try to use a different id or code for every site I own, just because I’m like that. Sure, I link a lot of my stuff together because it’s all relevant, but not all of it, because it just doesn’t share a topic or market and it makes no sense to do so (or I want to hide it from prying eyes—whose eyes those might be, I will not say—but I have a passion for several online fandoms and I don’t particularly want everyone to know that I squee! and woot! every other sentence, and that when it comes to these things, I am not quite as mature as my age would imply. ;-)

Anyway, my point is that there are just some things you can’t eliminate, such as if you use certain contextual ad code on your sites. It’s against the rules to have more than one account unless you create independent businesses and I am too cheap to do that. Don’t want to file the tax returns and don’t want to apply for the requisite federal id numbers. One tax return is quite enough, thank you very much.

So, my next work day is going to be spent consolidating and eliminating such codes from any and all sites that don’t earn enough to make it worthwhile to have such code on them.

And I might tidy up a few other things while I’m at it. Footprints are messy and I don’t particularly enjoy mopping up the mess but it must be done.

If you use WordPress on a lot of sites, check your <head> space. You might be using the same theme and thinking that it’s okay because you made your sites look different… BUT unless you’ve edited the html code, or created a child theme with a unique name, you probably haven’t made as much of a dent in those footprints as you think you have. Bots don’t see the end result, they see the code. :-)

This is also part of my push for saying bye-bye to WordPress and hello to static HTML (again). The control you have over output and the individuality you can give every site is a huge plus. Biggest mistake I ever made was converting almost every site I had to WordPress, not the least of why is because it takes twice as long to go back to HTML as it did to go to WP. Ah, well. Live and learn.

We Can All Use a Little Help Sometimes

Keyword research is not overrated. I used to build sites and pages without ever bothering to check the keywords for anything. I made sites that never got traffic, that never made sales, that—oops. Wait.

I had never heard of keyword research when I first started building sites. I made several that got plenty of traffic, and made several sales. In fact, one of those sites still makes sales and still gets traffic.

The thing is, you can build sites that work just fine without keyword data.

But, and it’s a big one, you can make sites earn a lot faster if you have keyword data that tells you what people are searching for in your niche and then you create pages that match those searches. You waste a lot of time building pages that possibly don’t help anyone because no one really wants to know anything about what you’ve just built a page around.

I can’t stand to do massive amounts of keyword research where I pull words, get traffic, figure out possible earnings, and then try to incorporate all that into my pages. I pay for that lack of interest though in slower traffic growth, less earnings, and fewer breakout sites.

I still don’t bother with traffic and earnings data, but I have been using a cool tool to help me pick out all the interesting things people search for related to some of the site topics I build around. The tool tells me what people type into the search engine when they’re looking for that topic and it has helped me with something I didn’t expect it to help with.

Article ideas. :)

I have the worst time dealing with large topics. I become overwhelmed and unable to focus. When I see the list of keyword phrases this little tool spits out for me, I immediately have something solid to grab onto—something that’s not possible when I have 4,822 ideas popping into my head at once when I think of my topic! This has saved me a lot of time just by keeping me focused and working and not flitting all over the place writing drafts I will never finish because I didn’t know where I was going with it when I started it.

And the good news is that if people are searching for these phrases, then writing that article is certainly going to help someone, somewhere.

<strike>GEOLOGY UNIVERSE</strike> Oops! Guess not

Because I have too few creative bones in my body and they mostly involve fictional tales of romance and foreign planets. This was a tough one. I had a really hard time picking out this name. I wanted something not related to the poor guy who gave me the idea, but in the end, this was as good as it got.

  1. geologyworld.com – taken
  2. earthgeology.com – taken
  3. geology.com – taken (seriously, I didn’t even have to check)
  4. geologydaze.com – not taken, but we know why
  5. geologyoftheworld.com – not taken, but doesn’t this limit me to only earth’s geology? Why would I want to do that? Mars has interesting geology and I love thinking about how the geology on other earth-like worlds might have developed.
  6. geologynews.com – taken
  7. geologyviews.com – Dang. I just thought of this one and I think I would have liked it.

I think I might be a little too tired after an overly stressful day. I now have 2 domains for the same site that I’m probably never going to build. :-o

Listening to: Cyndi Lauper – I Drove All Night; Blake Shelton – Some Beach

Site Focus Redux

LOL. I wrote this… And of course, I immediately started thinking about what topic I would pursue if I could honestly make money from anything I enjoyed learning about. Geology popped into my head immediately. That’s one of my few regrets in life, changing my major in college from geology to accounting. I mean, what the heck was I thinking at the time?

I’m not obsessed with geology, but I am fascinated by natural disasters of a geological nature like earthquakes and volcanoes. In fact, I once started writing a novel of fiction about the possibility of a super-eruption at Yellowstone. I even did some research. LOL. Famous author Harry Turtledove has officially beat me to the punch though, so I guess that’s okay. The world doesn’t need two. ;-)

I could devote some time to writing about and collecting news around the topic of geology and natural disasters without much effort spent to motivate myself.

And that IS a problem I have with a lot of the stuff I write currently. It’s just plain drudgery, not much better than the job I have that I’m no longer happy working.

I swear, I almost bought a domain for this before I came up on the brick wall of having to pick a domain name for this unnamed, insane project that would suck up too much of my time when I need not another 10 year website project, but something that would pay dividends much more quickly. Oops.

Sometimes I hate inspiration.

Listening to: Gary Allan – Life Ain’t Always Beautiful; “Weird Al” Yankovic – Party in the CIA (Parody of Party in the USA); George Strait – Fool Hearted Memory

Dude Has a Point But What’s the Point?

So I was looking for something to distract me today and I came across some new podcasts about a topic near and dear to my heart. Websites! :)

Anyway, the topics of the podcasts were pretty standard stuff, but the content was really good. If you’re into building websites, especially the kind that focus on one or two main topics and branch out from there—as in not just a blog of whatever’s going on in your life—you’ll probably enjoy listening to these.

I needed a break from real life for a few minutes, and I had a drive ahead of me too, so I queued them up on my phone and listened. The guy has a really nice voice too so that helps. ;-) Apparently he runs the site Universe Today, a site about space and astronomy, a topic I’m halfway interested in. Space, not astronomy. LOL.

What I found most compelling, and most vexing, was his assertion that working on multiple websites is going to mean you create sites that are only good enough, and that’s not good enough, according to him.

I actually agree. But that’s not what I do. I’ve gone back and forth with this issue for the last 5 years and I keep ending up back at the same place—with too many websites to keep even half of them straight in my head.

The only problem is, I didn’t see any real income growth with my hobby turned business until I started building all these other sites. I spent years chasing my passion with a site that now gets almost a thousand visitors a day and I haven’t updated it in over a year at this point. But I grew away from the topic, and where does that leave you? I mean, I have a short attention span, really. How do you deal with building up only one site over the span of 10 years and then deciding you really don’t like it that much anymore after all? What’s the point? That’s what happened to me a few years ago, and no, this wasn’t some whim. I had loved that industry, that topic, for 10 years before I ever started a site on it. I could never have imagined I would outgrow my passion for the site. But it happened.

So although I agree with him in principle that if you want to build something that stands the test of time and is really the best it can be, working on one site at a time is about the only way to go unless you have money to burn and can afford to hire lots of help.

In actuality, it’s a lot more complicated than that. It takes a long time to get a site to the point that it will earn a living. I never got that monster I created to that point.

Listening to: The Cure – Just Like Heaven; Eric Church – Homeboy; Pink – So What

Looks Like Storms

The wind is picking up outside, and thunder is rumbling. The rain has started and weather.gov shows tornado warnings nearby. The school where my children attend has announced that it will be dismissing today at 12 noon.

That doesn’t matter for the moment though. I am writing content for my websites and trying to decide what my next move will be. I have decisions to make and things to think about. I still have time to work without interruption even if it’s just for another hour. A lot can be done in an hour. :)

WordPress 3.3 – Woohoo! Much Improved

I like it. I’ve only had it up for a few minutes on one of my sites and I am already loving the improvements. I can’t say that I won’t find something I won’t like at some point but so far, the admin area is much faster and cleaner. I especially like the fly out menus, the new permalink settings (same old but now no performance hit for the one I really like best (the post name and nothing but the post name)).

WordPress vs Static HTML vs Database Driven PHP vs My Serious Lack of Mad Design Skilz

I’m not gifted with mad design skills. I’m not blessed with any design skills at all, frankly.

That’s not to say I’ve never designed a website that I didn’t like, or that I’ve never managed to be satisfied with something I’ve created from scratch. However, those sites are few and far between and I don’t hesitate to admit, the designs for those sites took at a minimum a month apiece after reworking the designs until I was sick of them.

These days I try to use templates and themes to help out, but I struggle with the idea that I should be able to create my own designs and code my own sites, because that’s where the fun is for me when it comes to working with my websites. Knowing my sites are exclusively my work is where I get the most satisfaction.

This is one of the core reasons why I struggle over the WordPress, static html, or custom dynamic database site issue. I want the ease of updating the content that comes with WordPress, the simplicity of picking a pre-designed theme, and the security of a frequently updated software, but I also prefer not having to update WordPress and that only comes with static html or a custom database site.

With all that in mind, I’ve finally decided how I want to use this website. I want it to be a place where I can discuss the things I learn about web design that other ordinary people like me might find useful.

This site isn’t for the graphically gifted, nor for those who won’t hesitate to buy or borrow graphic work from talented friends. This site is for people who want to do it themselves, all of it, from coding their html pages, creating their own WordPress themes, to designing crappy graphics for their sites even though they know their work is never going to be good enough for some.

It’s good enough for us, and if we work at it long enough, we do end up with presentable web sites. And we don’t care if any one else agrees. :)

Finally, I also plan to continue to update about the progress I’m making toward my goals of doing some kind of web work to make a living. Although I’m still working my part-time job, I’ve recently been pushed into a situation where it has become important for me to make some real progress.