The XML page cannot be displayed

I did some cleaning up around SuperAff on Friday, and realized later that night my feed wasn’t working. The message I got was:

The XML page cannot be displayed
Cannot view XML input using XSL style sheet. Please correct the error and then click the Refresh button, or try again later.

Solution: Double check the files you were working on and make sure there’s not an empty space at the top of the file. Simple fix ;).

Blog Comment Spam Ninja Tools

I’ve been looking at my blog comment spam counts lately and although Spam Karma is doing a fantastic job catching 99.9% of them, I’m still having to go in daily and remove 200 – 300 comments caught in my spam traps. Sometimes more.

I’d like to go a layer deeper now and try to stop blog comment spams before they can actually make a comment. Less work for me that way :).

Some tips:

Looking through my Spam Karma data, I can see several IP numbers that are creating huge amounts of comment spam. I’m going to block them from access to SuperAff:

Combating Comment Spam/Denying Access

Below is an example of the .htaccess that is present in the root directory of a website.


order allow,deny
deny from 123.123.123.123
deny from 456.456.456.*
deny from 789.789.*.*
allow from all

deny from 123.123.123.123
Access is denied to that IP alone

deny from 456.456.456.*
Access is denied to ALL users whose IPs start with 456.456.456

deny from 789.789.*.*
Again, anyone at all with an IP that starts 789.789 is blocked.

So a total of 256*256 unique IP addresses are blocked

If you do start blocking IPs, then a blocked visitor will see a 403 error page. Try to make sure that such a page has your contact details listed. Check your hosting to see how to make a custom 403 (or see below too).

If you start blocking IPs with the * wildcard, at least give someone the chance to email you to say you may have made a mistake.

By picking through my traffic logs, I can see some comment spammers access the wp-comments-post.php directly. Let’s give them the boot too:

Deny Access to No Referrer Requests

When your readers comment, the wp-comments-post.php file is accessed, does its thing, and creates the post. The user’s browser will send a “referral” line about this.

When a spam-bot comes in, it hits the file directly and usually does not leave a referrer. This allows for some nifty detection and action direct from the server. If you are not familiar with Apache directives, then write the following in your root directory .htaccess file::

RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_METHOD} POST
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_URI} .wp-comments-post\.php*
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !.*yourdomain.com.* [OR]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_USER_AGENT} ^$
RewriteRule (.*) ^http://%{REMOTE_ADDR}/$ [R=301,L]

I can also see that some old blog posts get hit by spam bots more than most. Some receive hundreds of comment spams a week. I decided to edit the blog posts being hit so that it no longer receives comments. I also slipped a note at the bottom of the blog post that comments were turned off due to comment spam.

I could go the captcha route as well, but I don’t like captcha and I don’t think it’s very effective anyway.

I realize spamming blogs is all fun and games for some webmasters. It would be nice though if they just left our web properties alone and played with their own spaces.

Converting a HTML Site To WordPress

I had a few old dogs kicking around that I thought was high time to spiffy up. Page after page of hand coded html. Messy html at that.

What easier way to spruce things up than converting them to WordPress! Free, gorgeous templates are plentiful and upgrading a site to include RSS is a bonus. Word on the street is that the new Internet Explorer 7 will be RSS friendly.

Is there a way around copying and pasting each html page into a WordPress post? Not that I know of. Please note though: I have sad, sad technical skills so I could very well be missing something. However I found using the Visual Rich Editor in WordPress (option located at the bottom of the Users page in your admin panel) did help speed things up since I didn’t have to copy & paste all the links within the page content I was copying.

Other than transferring html pages to WP posts, what steps did I do?

.htaccess File

After pasting the permalinks setup into the .htaccess file, remember to do the following:

Canonical Fix

Examples:

Options +FollowSymLinks
RewriteEngine on
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} !^www\.superaff\.com
rewriterule (.*) http://www.superaff.com/$1 [R=permanent,L]

Or if you prefer the non-www version:

Options +FollowSymlinks
RewriteEngine on
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} !^superaff\.com$
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://superaff.com/$1 [R=permanent,L]

Redirect each html file name to the new url

Example:

Redirect 301 /example.html http://superaff.com/new-url-example

Exclude any dirty bots you don’t want sniffing around, example:

<Limit GET POST>
order allow,deny
allow from all
deny from 208.66.195.0/28
</Limit>

=end .htaccess tweaks=

Robots.txt File

404 Error Pages

Database Backup

Implement a database backup system that works best for your needs:

Spam Control

If you’re going to have a comments feature, make sure to setup spam control:

Sitemap

Title Tags

Copyright Notice

Site Authority Pages

If you don’t already have them, create an About page, Contact page, Privacy Policy. You can slim down the page template easily if you’d like.

FavIcon

Complete your new design with an updated favicon.

WordPress As CMS

If you want to use WordPress as a Content Management System for your old html sites:

BaoCMS provides basic CMS (Content Management System) features for WordPress. You can define and manage flexible set of blocks (panels) in your templates. Each block/panel can hold unlimited number of modules (something like bricks).

Some work to do, that’s for sure. If you have large amounts of html page, you may be better off outsourcing the html page/wp post transfer. Though I did find it worthwhile doing this myself manually as I was able to tweak content while I worked.

My old dogs sure cleaned up nice with the WP conversion. Amazing how fresh digs can sure kick the site up a notch or two!

Time Management Tweaks

Here are a few things I’ve implemented for myself to try keeping things organized, save myself time as well as better utilize my time online:

Blogging

I enjoy blogging but I find it can eat a big chunk of my time each day. I don’t normally write just a paragraph or two and the time spent can get carried away. For real! So here’s the change that I made for myself:

When I’m in the mood and inspired to write, sit down and crank out a few posts at a time. Many times I have a full week’s worth of blog posts prewritten and time stamped for the future. This post was written last Wednesday.

Why does this help? I’m not sitting at my computer each morning wondering what to blog about. Or fussing with a blog post each day–normally my problem is trying to cut back the length of the posts ;).

Instead of blogging each day, and then getting refocused on the tasks at hand, I’m ripping through work.

I write a mile a minute when I’m ‘in the mood’ and then forget about writing blog posts for a few days. Really seems to help.

Reading Blog & Forum Posts

I can’t think of anything that I need to know right now, as it happens. So why stalk and hover over my blog feed reader like my business depends on it? I seriously cut back on checking out feeds.

Also there are plenty of good forum and blog posts that need some time to really think through and follow. I created a ‘reading file’ folder in my browser bookmarks. When I come across something I want to keep track of and read later when I can afford the time to absorb what’s being said, I store it in that bookmark folder. Then I jump to that folder and catch up when I’ve set aside some downtime. This way I’m not carving out an hour or a chunk of time when I should really be getting ‘work done’.

We can’t physically or emotionally be working 100% of the time. So during my downtime, I dig into that bookmark folder.

eBooks, Files, Reports, Scripts

Plenty of times I’ll come across a free ebook or report or pdf or white paper that I’m interested in reading. Or a new script or software I came across that looks interesting. Instead of downloading everything willy nilly to my desktop just so I feel cluttered and messy, I now download everything to a folder “Files To Look Through”.

Same principle above applies here. When I have some downtime, I work my way through the folder and then either trash or refile if I’m keeping it.

This way my desktop still stays in control, I know where all the new files are if I want to look at something and I’m not interrupting ‘work time’.

Stats Stalking

This one is silly. But find out if your merchant or network stats are updated real time, hourly or daily. And then quit logging in and out of your accounts obsessively if they don’t update in real time. Sheesh. I don’t want to talk about it :lol:.

Hope these tips twig an idea or two for yourself, enjoy your day!

Article Marketing Magical Math

I find building targeted traffic to be the most trickiest thing to accomplish online. Especially if it’s a thin affiliate site.

Forget about link building in terms of SEO for a moment. Forget about search engines and manipulation tricks and all that jazz and look at article marketing in terms of building exposure for your websites.

You can use articles to write about various topics that apply to your ‘thin affiliate’ websites. Keep the article content hyper-targeted to what your websites offer.

Webmasters upload them, their visitors read them and some click through to your site. I think those visitors can definitely be considered prime traffic. They were interested enough to read what you had to say and then decided to visit your site to check it out.

If you do some math, you’ll see that article marketing really can be beneficial. Again–I’m not talking at all about link building for seo purposes.

Say you write a few articles, circulate them and over time you have 1,000 articles published online. I don’t mean 1,000 unique articles–I mean 1,000 websites took an article or two of yours and uploaded them. That takes some work, some head down and nose to the grind work to get that amount of articles published on a bunch of sites, but it’s doable.

Out of those 1,000 article pages uploaded, say each send 10 unique visitors a month to your website. Some will send less, some will send more. We’ll say 10 is the average.

1,000 x 10 unique visitors = 10,000 visitors a month.

That traffic has nothing to do with SEO.

Nothing to do with search engine traffic.

Nothing to do with paid advertising.

What could your thin affiliate site do with 10,000 unique visitors a month?

Cha-Ching đŸ™‚

Note: And yes, you’ll find your articles are also selected to be mailed out to ezine lists. Bonus!

Here’s a list of article submission sites.

Hard Part: Coming up with enough ideas to write about the joys, tips, benefits and how to’s of Purple Widgets.

University On Wheels

When I’m working at my computer, I don’t have a lot of stuff going on. No podcasts, no audio mp3 files, or videos playing, things like that. I get so involved with what I’m working on that I end up missing quite a bit of what’s being said. Which can get frustrating because I really do want to follow what’s being discussed or taught.

On the other hand, I can’t just sit passively at my computer and listen to podcasts and audio files. Drives me crazy. Some of these things are an hour long–I’m crawling the walls. It’s such an unnatural thing for me to sit in front of a monitor. And sit. And listen.

My solution was to put an iPod shuffle on my Christmas wish list – and I got it :). A shuffle is the smallest in space, features and price for iPods, but fits the bill for exactly what I need.

Here’s what I do:

I load the sucker with podcasts. When I’m driving to work and back or running errands or making coffee runs (Tim Hortons anyone?), lunch breaks, coffee breaks, treadmill time, I tune into a podcast.

I’ve also started buying audiobooks. Never did that before, again passively sitting and listening to something doesn’t fit well with my personality. But I can pop a cd in the vehicle while I’m out gallivanting and pick up some neat things like financial planning, marketing, spirituality, whatever I happen to be interested in learning or tuning into at that moment. Helps prevent me from being so one-dimensional (not always focused on webmaster stuff).

I came across a blog post recently that sums up exactly the intention and method to my madness:

Create Your Own University on Wheels

Whenever you set off on an errand, think of it as brain-time where you can learn or reinforce a skill. If you travel for a living, throw some of the CDs in your carry on luggage and learn on the plane.

If you’re finding it difficult to keep up with all the information out there or finding time to keep up with all the audio and podcast files you’re interested in, or even finding time to read books (get the audio version), consider creating your own university on wheels.

Slick!

Resources: Check out Bookcloseouts.com (not an aff link) and browse through their audiobooks. I’ve just scooped up 5 audiobooks (CD) for a little over $50 including shipping. However, if you still have a tape player in your vehicle, the prices on audiocassettes are beyond cheap! *Note: if you find something you like, buy it now because they have limited quantities for most things and the good stuff sells out fast.

Also look at the iPod music store, they have audiobooks that you can play right from your iPod. Prices are similar to retail value of CDs.

iPod Tip: A tip I picked up was to place your podcasts first in your iPod playlist so that you’re not wasting time searching for them if they’re mixed in with your music files.