Blogging News: Updates on InvestorBlogger Dot Com

My, how things change? Last November, I was railing against Google and telling people to diversity their services… Now I’m finding that things have changed again…

A Quick Recap: Switching to WordPress MU

I’ve reset some of my categories as sub-blogs (or ‘channels’) on the InvestorBlogger Domain. I found that there were basically three or four types of reader, and so I wasn’t gaining much traction with any of my target groups. Hence, each channel is now its own ‘blog’.

One Blog: Many Channels

From the outside, it’s nearly impossible to tell that this is the case. I haven’t changed the theme unduly, or the plugins or the widgets. But as you click through the ‘blog’ you’ll find that each blog is beginning to take on its own ‘personality’. At the moment, I’m binding each blog together because there is strength in the shared roots: so the theme, the footer and header, and much of the sidebars are the same.

But as time goes on, more differences will start to emerge. One example: advertisements are mostly for financial products, so these will no longer be shown to users on the ‘blogging’ area. Other sidebar details will change, too. Eventually, I may break up the site into real blogs (either because they can stand on their own or they are pulling in VERY different directions). Since the switch in early August, there hasn’t been enough time to assess the impact on traffic any more than casually but early indications are showing an increase in traffic, page views, unique page views, longer times on the site, and a modestly decreased bounce rate.

The changes that I’ve made are currently difficult to make in standard WordPress installs, though there are several multi-blog plugins for WordPress that would achieve much of what I did here. I eventually decided to opt for a standard MU install, and expected a tough struggle. To tell you the truth, some things are troublesome, but I was able to solve nearly ALL my initial problems.

If you have a largeish blog, with weak traffic numbers, splitting your blog the way I have could be the way to salvage your traffic, create a new impetus and improve your own blogging. The route I chose with WordPress MU isn’t the only possible route to go: two or three WordPress installs would be perfectly manageable as well, a multi-blog with WordPress Standard could work, or choosing another multi-blog system like B2 evolution would allow the same privileges. One word of caution: don’t split your blog into too many parts, I initially thought I would have five channels, but it was just too much to administer at the beginning. But the great advantage of a multi-blog set up: you can easily expand past your initial setup!

Sidebar Changes

I’ve been experimenting with ways to make InvestorBlogger stickier for some time now, and the sidebar features a number of small changes: YouTube Video, a Featurific flash gallery that shows some recent stories, and a Tag Cloud. The tag cloud itself necessitated typing tags for each of the posts, so for new posts and posts ‘moved’ to the new blogs, I’ve taken extra steps to tag everything.

google stats august

SEO, Traffic and Google

Other changes include maximizing the impact of each article: I’m now adding SEO to each article, as well as the blog itself, through selective choices in the keywords. The plugin that I’m using is ALL-In-One SEO that allows each post to have its own post title, keywords and description in the meta details. Adding tags to the article itself is also helping. There’s no big effect on traffic yet, but it can’t but help traffic.

AdWords for Google

I’ve also been experimenting with AdWords, too, to see if I can draw extra traffic to InvestorBlogger. I do have several products that are free that I’d like to promote. It’s quite exciting, a little expensive, and frustrating to get CTR rates that are as low as mine. The best I’ve achieved so far is about 0.7%. I’m going to keep plugging away at the CTR to see if I can’t raise the bar. Steve has loaned me a wonderful book on how to use AdWords.

Adsense from Google

It seems that InvestorBlogger is no longer smart priced… How? Well, I’ve made three significant changes to the way Adsense is displayed on my blogs… I’ll be posting that soon, but for observant users, you will already notice the changes! But CTR rates and earnings are showing positive growth for the first time in ages, and they seem pretty stable at the moment, too. Sometimes less is more.

Et Cetera…

There are a whole bunch of other changes, too, in the header, footer and elsewhere. At the moment, I’m sticking with this theme, and tweaking as much as possible. I decided in the meantime to create some essential pages, like a privacy policy, comment policy, rewrite my disclaimer and add a few other important pages. If my plans really come to fruition, much of this work will be the solid foundation from which I will expand InvestorBlogger.

izearanks placement

And finally, it seems the changes are beginning to pay off, even though my posting rate is now less than before. InvestorBlogger is now #9 on the top 10 finance sites on IzeaRanks! Wow! That’s incredible. It’s a minor honor! I’d like to be number 1, but I don’t see how that’s possible just yet. I would need to increase my pages by nearly 5 times! It could be done… but things are not ready yet!

WordPress MU vs. WordPress Vanilla

It’s been about a week and a half of using WPMU, since I switched full time. And it’s been a real trial but I am slowly bringing the blogs back to full speed. Obviously, blogging is going slowly and each stream will be less frequent than the full blog, at least until I’m more able to handle the beast called MU.

It’s not for newbies!

WordPress is a great application for bloggers, and it’s a great way for relative newbies to cut their teeth on managing, installing and updating a PHP based system. It’s fairly robust on the installation front, quite stable once running. However, WordPress MU shares many of the features, it’s a little more tricky to set up; but the limitations (mostly for security) really drive me nuts at times!

Stubborn and spiteful

There are quite a few issues with plugins, themes and general wordpress functionality in the MU environment. In general, Javascript and other scripts DO NOT work out of the box. Additionally, some common and important plugins just don’t play nice with MU at all. I’ve had problems with the sitemap plugin, and several that share the database. Any themes that require any plugin with javascripts or popular database reliant plugins will likely encounter severe problems. And you can forget YouTube Videos out of the box, though there are solutions.

Forums and Advice

If you are considering switching to MU, then consider this: many of the plugins that I have tried, (for example, to install Adsense or YouTube) simply don’t work, though you’ll find the odd one that is worth it’s weight in Gold. Similarly, advice that is posted on forums, blogs and the Codex may or may not be relevant to your install, and there’s little to tell either way.

So, if you are considering switching, I’d suggest a trial install of MU on another domain so that you can figure out if you will be happy with the switch. I’m still finding the problems annoying, but I am not switching back: the power of this platform is surprising, and I’m only beginning to understand what I can do.

Have you tried the switch? Let me know how it went!

Switching to a New Platform: WordPress MU

As some of you have been following the blog, InvestorBlogger is in the throes of becoming a multi-blog. This is a great thing for InvestorBlogger because I’ve always found that the blog had a fuzzy focus on topics: covering a wide range of topics from Taiwan to Making Money to Blogging Issues and much more.

I’d been thinking about it for quite some time before I made the jump. And jump it has been. On the surface, WordPress MU looks surprisingly familiar to WordPress 2.5 but once you scratch the surface you begin to realize that somethings that were surprising simply in WP 2.5 are surprisingly difficult in MU:

1). sitemaps – I can create sitemaps for readers but not for Google. All of the MU plugins that were touted to work just DON’T! So, I’ll be writing a sitemap by hand for the time being. This shouldn’t be hard to do as most of the posts are already in the sitemap for the old space. It is certainly going to be easier than the three hours I’ve spent trying to tweak plugins.

2). javascript – Javascript just doesn’t work in posts or sidebars meaning that if you want to include YouTube Videos and Ads, you have to find work arounds that will allow you to achieve the same result. Apparently, this is done because of security issues with Multi-User blogs as Javascript might render the entire site hackable. However on a single user install, this can be a pain.

3). Database – a lot of plugins are integrated with the database, therefore are unsuited to MU installs because they archive the data in the DB. Individual blog settings are typically overridden by each blog: so if you set up the data in the plugin for Blog 1, when you finish the same steps for Blog 2, you will typically find that the data for Blog 1 has been overwritten. I spent hours with several plugins trying to figure out the problem.

These are three issues that I’ve faced: I don’t have more than a partial solution for each.

A bigger issue, though, is the much smaller testing community for MU meaning that bugs are less likely to be found, plugins aren’t tested in as wide a range of settings, and the active community really is full of people with REAL computing skills. This means that I will likely have to spend a lot more time tweaking this install than I ever spent before. What’s worse: WordPress Plugin Authors are increasingly frustrated with the speed of WP updates. We’ve already gone from version 2.3.2 in January to version 2.6.1 in August. Each of the versions has had niggles and issues that haven’t been dealt with properly, and yet new editions are still coming out!

But the options for a multi-site blog are quite limited anyway. b2Evolution, a couple of plugins for WP, one or two paid plugins, MU, or a life resigned to perpetually upgrading plugins, managing numerous installs, and fragmented sites. I guess that’s why I chose MU: I decided to live with the limitations of the system. I love the fact that I can set up a new blog in about 15 minutes, which if I were to do on a regular install would take closer to one hour. I also like the way I can control the over ‘look’ of the website, choosing either to retain the ‘corporate’ look (like this blog) or drop it in favor of a different one altogether: see Taiwan.

Until there’s another solution, I’ll be using MU. I just hope I don’t find a solution within a couple of months!