Bye Bye Befuddle

I’ve worryingly received an email from Google today saying my Befuddle drunk celebrity pages, “can cause users to be infected with malicious software.” As a result, “This site may harm your computer” message is printed on the search pages and the link goes to a warning page.

The email gives three example urls but it applies to many and to be honest I can’t see anything wrong. Google does say, “in many cases the webmaster is unaware because the site displays content from an ad network that has a malicious advertiser.”

My pages do contain advertising from a third party, Claxon media. I don’t know if they are to blame or not but they’ll be the first bit of code to be removed.

Now, firstly, I have to say that I have not updated Befuddle in a long long time. Seven times since 2005 in fact! Twice in March 2007, three times in January, once in December 2006 and then it was back in January 2006 before the last update.

Despite the low frequency of updates it still receives credible traffic as it receives up to 4,000 visitors each day. At its peak it had 125,000 visitors a day just as Paris Hilton became globally famous.

Now updating Befuddle is not going to be easy. It hasn’t moved with the times. It’s not written with a CMS or using server side scripting.

It’s flat HTML all crafted by hand. The site was launched in February 2000 and the code and design hasn’t progressed much since then.

Editing all my pages is going to be a painful manual chore. On top of that, I don’t even know what I need to remove. There’s no guarantee that if I remove all the advertising, that I have removed the problem.

I’ve just looked at my analytics stats and can quickly see that my Befuddle stats have halved overnight.

Now it’s a race against time. I’ve got exactly a week before my two week holiday abroad to save Befuddle.

It is an old site that I’ve grown out of. But I am fond of it and you always have to respect having thousands viewing something you’ve built.

If I don’t move quick, Google may drop the site for good. It could be a blessing in disguise but if the site is to close I want it to be my choice.

BedStar site in Google includes my tracking code

If you perform a search for “BedStar” on Google, their www.bedstar.co.uk site is the number one result in the organic listings. The title, description is exactly as it is from their site. However, the display url is a webgains one and includes my affiliate tracking code.

Beds are expensive purchases and so I quickly noticed some high commissions being received and with Webgains statistics you can see the referring page for the sale.

The stats show that this has been present since 1st September which coincides with Shop Codes gaining a lot more respect in Google. My discount code site is currently receiving fantastic traffic at the moment and so it looks like the search engine is giving my links a bit more weight.

A quick search on Google shows that BedStar are not the only merchant to experience this issue. There’s a discussion at Google Webmaster help on Affiliate Links in Natural Search Results“.

“Recently we’ve noticed that our affiliates’ links have replaced our site links in natural search engine results. However the Title and Description listed is not our affiliate’s but our own. It appears that Google is following links on affiliates’ sites to our site. Indexing our site based on our site optimization, but listing referring URL (affiliate’s) in their database.”

I don’t use paid search to advertise Shop Codes. It’s just too costly. Instead I optimise my pages so that they appear as high as possible in the organic search results pages, to attract shoppers searching for a merchants discount codes.

I also don’t use redirects, framing, popups or pulldown menus. I just link to merchants with standard text links and creatives supplied by the networks.

All in all it’s a well opimised site and ethical site. So, open question to any readers out there, which may or may not include BedStar or Webgains themselves. Are the sales legitimate? Would BedStar have a right to cancel any sales? I personally think they’re legit as in theory having that link on Google is no different to having it on my own blog. It’s just that the volume of numbers and that it’s Google make it a unique case.

It’s worth pointing out that I’m not making many sales out of this. BedStar will be the losers, who may see a drop in traffic and therefore sales as visitors may not be happy with clicking an unrecognisable display url.

I predict that Google is going to change my own rankings on the 30th of this month. Assuming they’re spidering my pages daily I could help BedStar by removing all affiliate links and just linking straight to their site? If that would make a difference or not I don’t know. It would mean I miss out on any commissions though.

Anybody want a bed? I know of a great metal bed shop that could do with some link juice.

Google is keeping me in a job … for now

Google appears to have a love/hate relationship with my site that changes at the end of each month.

Yesterday, Thursday 30th August, saw a positive move and my Shop Codes traffic increased by 400% compared to previous days.

If the last few months are anything to go by, it looks like I am going to have a very good September, followed by a reasonably good October, an excellent November enhanced with early Christmas shoppers, then a dip at December before a rise in time for the January sales.

May 2007 was an excellent month for me and as I’ve reported before the traffic abruptly disappeared from 1st June. June was still good but allowed me to measure May as the benchmark for being ‘excellent’.
Traffic later returned and substantially increased from 10th July and on 30th July it crashed back down to its June level. Exactly one month to the day later Google has done an update and my traffic has this time benefited.

When the traffic is good i.e with over 1000 visitors a day, the profits are excellent. Shop Codes has a very high conversion rate for turning discount code searchers into customers. I’ve already published top search terms for my site and the current number one is still the generic term “voucher codes”.

When the traffic is at its lowest, as in April, June and August, the profits are still very good. The only real cost I have to running my site is my time.

So, if profits are very good in the “bad months”, why do I continue to be a part-time affiliate and still have a day job?

The answer is consistency. My business profits are reliant on natural Google traffic and I am in and out of favour every other month. When I am flavour of the month, my site is often the number one result in the search results pages for merchants discount codes. When I am not flavour of the month, Google doesn’t spider my pages as often and my site is dropped a page or two. The traffic that comes and goes directly affects the level of income.

If Google were to consistently love my site for consecutive months I’d re-assess a lot of things (after having another holiday of course) but while the search engine is keeping me on my toes, it looks like I have to stick to updating my site at the times I should really be in bed.

Voucher Diary records first sale

Voucher Diary has recorded its first known sale today. It was made via Google cache on a page that I’ve subsequently removed.

The sale was for Yes Asia on the Webgains network and the user had searched for “yes asia coupons”. I can see from StatCounter that the user was from Singapore and was using Google Singapore.

The reason the page was removed was because I put some draft copy on for the first two days of its soft launch. I then disabled the WordPress posts as I changed the tone of the copy being posted.

Voucher Diary currently only includes a dozen posts but I am impressed with its position in Google already for some decent search terms. One of the pages is number one for a search phrase that I’d love my other site Shop Codes to be in. As it is, it’s for a merchant where the code has just expired.

I’ve not yet thought of the best approach to handle these expired posts/pages. The nature of Voucher Diary is that the posts will expire as soon as the codes do. That’s the whole objective – highlight expiring voucher codes. So I’ll have a play with that over the weekend.

Good to see that a sale was made from abroad too and maybe Voucher Diary has opportunity to promote other International merchants.

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