UPDATE: The Web Traffic Genius plugin is no longer available and there’s no similar kind of plugin to take its place. If you want to boost your site’s rank in the search engines, this link building service does a good job.

I set myself the task of building a number of blogs many weeks back as ways of earning some extra money online in these dire financial times. So how has it gone?

Not well.

I’m a member of the AutoBlog Blueprint which teaches you the best way to go about building blogs for profit. It’s the best blogging course I’ve come across and has provided invaluable advice, tips and recommendations that have steered me in what I believe to be the right direction.

So what’s the problem?

WordPress is.

The blog you’re currently reading is a WordPress blog. It’s simple to maintain and has only a handful of plugins on it so there’s little maintenance involved apart from the odd WordPress upgrade or plugin upgrade.

But if you want to do anything with WordPress other than basic blogging, that’s where the problems start, at least in my experience. I’ve no idea if the problems I’ve encountered are typical or if I’m just plain unlucky.

I’ve detailed elsewhere on this blog the problems I’ve had getting future dated posts to publish successfully on schedule. That aside, most of my time is spent fixing blogs that break for one reason or another.

Take yesterday for example…

phpOStock Problems

A few days ago, I received an email that there was a new version of phpOStock available for download and that this was a required upgrade due to changes in Overstock’s API. For those not familiar with Overstock, they’re a huge retail outlet that sell discounted products online and you need to be a member of Commission Junction to become one of their affiliates.

Ok, so all I had to do was upgrade the plugin. Not hard. But it also required replacing some code in the .htaccess file. Then it required all settings to be re-entered. Now I use this plugin on a few blogs, so those procedures have to be repeated time and again.

This is just one of the things you have to live with where WordPress is concerned. Free plugins are easily updated through WordPress itself. Commercial plugins have to be downloaded from the vendor’s site, then uploaded to each site needing an upgrade. Then any other changes applied like .htaccess changes, permission changes on files or folders where required, setting to be re-entered. The more blogs you have, the longer this process takes.

I tested a post to make sure that the new version of phpOStock was working. Nope. The post broke. Only the top part of the post was displayed. Ok, check other posts not using phpOStock to see if it’s a problem with the blog itself. Those posts were ok. So it was a phpOStock issue.

Back to the phpOStock post to edit it and see if there’s now a conflict with content added by other plugins. So I spent time removing content one section at a time, previewing the post and seeing if it would display without breaking. I got down to this single line in the post (phpOStock shortcode):

[phpostock]solar power, 1[/phpostock]

So, no conflicts. The problem lay solely with phpOStock. Remove that line from the original post and it would display correctly. (If you use phpOStock yourself, try the shortcode out on your own site – I’d be interested to hear if it works for you or breaks your post).

So, to confirm that phpOStock was indeed defective, I looked at another post using phpOstock. But it displayed perfectly. As did others I looked at. So, I’d managed to pick the one post on the blog that had a problem. That’s my kind of luck.

The real question now though is: how many other posts are broken by phpOStock? I haven’t checked all posts that use phpOStock – there are just too many. But it’s a plugin that’s not working 100% of the time.

And the question now is should I continue to use it on my blogs?

Lots of time wasted tracking that problem down resulting in less time available to build more blogs.

Web Traffic Genius Problems

A few days ago, I also received notification that there was a new version of Web Traffic Genius (WTG) available. WTG creates rss feeds that it then submits to several RSS aggregator sites in order to generate backlinks to your blog. Like phpOStock, this also needed to be downloaded from the vendor’s site. This version is incompatible with the previous version so the old version had to be deactivated and deleted (along with all its settings), the new version uploaded and files and folder permissions to be changed.

The problem was that whenever I tried to activate the plugin, I got this error:

Plugin could not be activated because it triggered a fatal error.
Parse error: syntax error, unexpected T_REQUIRE_ONCE in /home/xxxxxxxx/public_html/XXXXXX/wp-content/plugins/web-traffic-genius-pro/rss_submitter.php on line 1


I contacted the WTG Helpdesk for assistance, only to be told the Helpdesk was not for suck queries. The forum was, where the plugin’s authors hang out. More time wasted. Looking around the forum, there was one solution that required modifying a WordPress file. Didn’t want to do that as the next time WordPress on the site was upgraded, the “fix” would be wiped out, the plugin would probably stop working, and I’d have forgotten what the “fix” was by that time anyway.

But there was another solution. Instead of FTPing the upgrade to the site, I should use WordPress’s Plugins -> Add New button to apply the upgrade. When I tried to activate the plugin this time…it worked. Go figure.

Web Traffic Genius can have a cron job trigger it so that it does its thing on autopilot. However, the code for the WTG cron job (provided by the plugin) has changed since the last version, so it too needs to be updated.

Another issue is that the extra feed items that you can add, so that there are more items in the RSS feeds that WTG sends out to RSS aggregators, are stored in an xml file that needs to be backed up before applying the upgrade. These files are specific to a site, so each needs to be dealt with individually.

Finally, all the settings in the plugin need to be re-entered follwing the upgrade.

Now this is such a useful plugin that I use it on all my blogs. But it’s going to require a huge investment of time to upgrade all my sites as the upgrade procedure is not a simple process.

Auction2Post Problems

Another commercial plugin requiring a mandatory upgrade is Auction2Post. Again, this needs to be downloaded from the vendors site and a blog manually upgraded with it. This plugin creates posts from eBay auction listings so you can build an entire site with just this plugin and a suitable theme. I only have a couple of sites that use Auction2Post, so upgrading isn’t too much of an issue. The blogs that do use the plugin use earlier versions of WordPress and after upgrading them to WP 3.0.1, they stopped working. The WP upgrade had wiped out the Auction2Post licence files. So I had to get those again and reupload them.

The bigger problem was that one of the shortcodes used by the plugin to display images stopped working. What appeared in posts instead was the actual shortcode. I hadn’t changed the templates so I figured this was an issue with the plugin itself. Had to contact the author to ask what was causing the problem. He reckoned it was a problem with the templates, most likely due to some weird character have crept in.

So I recreated the templates. Images started appearing again. One one site only. On another site, they sometimes appeared, and sometimes the shortcode appeared instead. The sites are with different webhosts, so maybe it’s partly a webserver configuration issue.

EasyAdsense Problems

On one blog, the EasyAdsense plugin keeps getting deactivated. I have no idea why. I thought the only way to deactivate a plugin was to manually click ion the Deactivate link for that plugin. Seems there’s another undocumented way for it to happen.

Indexing Tool Problems

Christ, this is frustrating. A whole day gone just identifying why plugins have stopped working, won’t activate, etc. And even though there have been solutions to some of the problems, I still have to apply those plugin upgrades to several other blogs. More time spent in nonproductive work.

I’m too fed up talking about these problems now so I’m not going to cover the Indexing Tool problems today. I’ll cover that some other day when my blood has stopped boiling…


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