Every now and then you will need to automate part or all of your blog posting. You might want to create a blog that posts from an RSS feed provided by one of your sponsors or you might want to schedule posts from a csv file created by yourself. Whatever your reason for creating an autoblog or splog, you can easily put your blog into autopilot mode with the addition of a few plugins.
I’ve written and developed several blogs to sell affiliate products and it’s only through experience that I’m now armed with the knowledge needed to create a blog that runs itself with minimal input from me. Which is good because I can build ‘em, forget ‘em and move on to other projects secure in the knowledge that my blogs are making money for me on autopilot.
A little information for the uninitiated
An autoblog is one that writes itself using a combination of RSS feeds and data feeds. The RSS and data feeds are usually provided by paying sponsors or non-paying article and news directories.
Autoblogs come in two forms:
- semi autoblogs
- full autoblogs
Semi automatic blogs use a combination of RSS feeds, data files and posts written by a blog’s owner whereas full autoblogs use purely content imported into them via RSS feeds and data files.
From a search engine optimization (SEO) standpoint, autoblogs are not a very good idea. The more original a blog’s content, the more likely it is to feature in the first page of a search engine’s results. Although, Google has now implemented a live search feature which will return results based on the newness of a post which could mean autoblogs with unoriginal content will begin to feature highly in search results; we will have to see how it pans out.
To combat auto blogging penalties, many providers of RSS feeds and some providers of data files (like csv files) use morphing feeds/data.
Morphing feeds “spin” the content. That is to say that feed distributors swap specified words and phrases to increase the originality of feed content to minimize search engine penalties being picked up by the feed’s users. Don’t worry if a source doesn’t provide morphing feeds, there’s some nifty software around to turn non-morphed feeds into unique content.
RSS and datafeed syndication is resource hungry so once you’ve got your site set-up and your initial feeds imported, only syndicate as many items per feed as will not upset your host by hogging resources. Be extra cautious if you use shared hosting because any resource hogging will be more noticeable. For example, with a shared Hostgator account, keep your CPU and memory usage below 25%; if you do go above 25% then be sure it’s never for longer than 90 seconds at a time and never often. If you purchase hosting through Hostgator, use the discount code code “GATORIZING”.
There are five requirements (excepting luck) to a successful WordPress autoblog:
1. Good Hosting
2. WordPress Blogging Software
3. A Good, Attractive and Practical Template Design
4. One or More Feeds
5. The Right Plugins
Items 1, 2, 3 and 4 are down to you. I can only help you with item 5, The Right Plugins.
The plugins are required to bring in your feeds, spin them (if non-morphed), add tags to them, optimize them for search engines, publish them, publicize them, update the sitemap and update the search engines. Pretty much everything a non-autoblog author does manually. If you need to publish videos and galleries then you might like to view the more complete list of general purpose plugins which is available here.
Feed WordPress is easy to set-up, looks nice and is simple to use and configure. Each feed can be configured to be published into specific categories under a specific authors name. Feeds can be set to automatically update or to update when pinged.
WP Scraper scrapes information from other websites and reposts it in a blog. A good use for this is collecting exchange rates or weather information for live updates (although most sites provide RSS feeds for those purposes). This can even be used to fetch content from another blog or site you own. Use with caution – copying another webmasters’ work could land you with a hefty fine or DOS attack. I’ve never used this plugin but you might find a use for it.
MultiPress is the new standard for WordPress autoblogging. It can take content from RSS feeds, YouTube, Flickr, multiple article directories and Yahoo Answers. Not persuaded? Multipress also autotags the feeds it syndicates. MultiPress is available via invitation only; and today is your lucky day because I happen to happen to know the invitation code needed to access the MultiPress site. Click here and enter the access code JHH7KL644GHLFSS
WordsPay is developed by the same team who created the excellent MultiPress feed syndicator. It fills blogs with targeted affiliate products from more than 15 providers. It’s an online service that requires its own author account for your blog. Product providers include Amazon, RegNow, Overstock.com, Clickbank, eBay PayDotCom, ShareASale, Commission Junction, PaySpree.It’s easy to set up, does all the hard work for you and comes in free and paid flavors. I’m running a non styled test site using WordsPay free at ElMarkito.bigbuz.eu.
Comma Separated Value files are provided by content suppliers for the purpose of creating both static and dynamic website content. They can either be downloaded, edited then uploaded by a CSV importer or they can be directly imported into the reader. WordPress has an inbuilt CSV file importer (Tools>Import); I don’t know how good it is. There are many CSV import plugins which cost money, these ones do not:
CSV Importer works well and permits post releases to be scheduled.
WP CSV Pig is simple to use and is new. It’s currently very basic but it does work.
Mass Page Maker is the only free CSV importer that I know of that lets you create a page template using short tags into which the content of a CSV file may be imported to create posts. Each posts can have a unique publishing time scheduled.
Feed and Content Spinning
There are many plugins available to re-write content and feeds by replacing words and phrases with synonyms (alternatives). Not many of them are free. The ones listed here are free.
Real-Time Find and Replace swaps text and images as they are served to browsers and bots. Because the replacements are done in realtime, no permanent changes are made to posts which is good because it means changes can be undone by specifying a new synonym or by disabling the plugin.
Global Synonym Text Re-Writer re-writes feeds as they are created so any mistakes must be manually corrected. It works with WP-O-Matic (another feed syndicater) but not FeedWordpress. I haven’t tried this particular plugin, I have used WP-O-Matic and prefer FeedWordpress. Global Synonym Text Re-Writer is free, the author’s page suggests it isn’t but it is and has been since he removed the download charge.
Tags are important for good search engine ranking and improved internal site search.
Tag Pig adds tags to posts by analyzing their text and fetching associated tags from Yahoo and Embedded Tags. Comes with a pdf instruction file that is well worth reading. Settings must be updated (re-entered) whenever the plugin is re-activated or re-installed so keep a note of your Yahoo Generic API key.
Optimizing for Search Engines
Greg’s High Performance SEO optimizes posts and sites for better search engine scoring.
SEO Friendly Images automatically adds the alt and title tag attributes to the images displayed by WordPress blogs. Generally, the only searchable information most search engines collect about images comes from an images alt=”” and title=”” descriptions and their names (eg picture-one.jpg). The better the image descriptions the more visitors they’ll attract from search engines.
Autofields auto completes the post editor’s Excerpt and Custom Image fields.
It’s important to spread the word about your new posts. Over the Internet this means social bookmarking sites have to be informed about them.
FD Feedburner. If you’re not using WordPress’s inbuilt ping service (Settings>Writing>) then you will likely want to set up a Feedburner account and have feed burner ping search engines for you.
WP-Auto Trackback Sender. A trackback (or pingback) is a link between two blogs that is created automatically when one blogger links to another blogger’s post. As an example, if Blogger A wrote a post that linked to Blogger B’s blog, Blogger B’s blogging software would detect Blogger A’s link and place a trackback (link back) to Blogger A’s post; the trackback would appear in the comments section of the post that blogger A linked to. Trackbacks are often abused by spammers to artificially increase the number of links that point to their blog posts. WP-Auto Trackback Sender is one of those plugins that artificially increases trackbacks to the website that uses it. It works by locating blogs that relate to the keywords used when a post is created. I want to make it clear that I do not use spam tactics (or this plugin) with JournalXtra.
WordPress doesn’t produce one of these for you; you must use a plugin to create one.
Google XML Sitemaps builds a WordPress sitemap and updates it then pings the major (Western) search engines to tell them it’s been updated. It can be set to update whenever a post is created or edited. Alternatively, it can be set to update whenever it is ping either manually or automatically through a cron job. Pinging search engines too often is not a good idea so be careful how you set it to update.
Autoblogging can be a good way to fill a website with content but be weary that search engines and people are usually very good at recognizing autoblogs. Indeed, they are often called splogs (spam logs) because of the viral nature of their content. To stand out from the rest, remember to use multiple content sources and spin the text to ensure it looks at least a little original.
For those who are wondering, every article on this site is written by me.