So in the last post I talked about finding an aggregator plugin for Drupal that aggregated rss feeds and posted them to the front page. As I said in the last post – this would change everything. When I enabled the plugin, I found that it would publish each item in an rss feed and turn it into a distinct page, with a distinct URL, and link back the original article. I quickly setup some tech feeds to see how it would work. In the beginning, as I remember, there were a few issues getting it to work properly. I think once the plugin had an update available – it worked fine. And in no time, I had turned my site into a new portal of sorts. I put in some of my favorite feeds and the amount of pages in my site began to grow, and at it’s peak at the rate of 100-200 posts per day.

I commented on the posts that I found interesting, and continued to write original content articles both in articles, and on a ‘blog’ page. I began to see the traffic on my site rapidly grow from a couple hundred unique views per day to a couple thousand. Then within months it was 5,000, then 10,000, and it topped out about 30,000 unique pageviews per day about 6 months later. The traffic was so great I had to change servers 3 times. My adsense revenue was growing as well in spurts…$100 one month, then $300, then $600, then $900, then $1,200 – I think the highest it ever got was $2,000 in one month at the peak (6 months later). I also signed up for bunches of affiliate links and added them wherever I could find a relevant connection or post. Oddly enough, the adsense was so targeted that click-through rates were high, but even despite loads of traffic my hand-picked affiliate links never really amounted to much. I signed up for reciprocal links exchanges on a few sites and added them to my high traffic pages with pagerank to try and getting even better PR.

When my traffic had first stared to spike (after the first 60-90 days or so) I was contacted via email by the google adsense team. They wanted to setup and interview over the phone to talk about my success! I was excited (to say the least), and felt like I must have achieved some kind of amazing feat (generating so much traffic in so little time) for them contact me directly. We setup an interview via phone, and I spilled my guts. I told them exactly what I had done, how I aggregated content and commented on the articles, how I picked keywords to craft specific stories to generate traffic, other ways I was trying to monetize besides adsense, and how I was trying to turn my site into a “supersite” news portal. Looking back on it, I was pretty nieve (more on this later…).

During the course of the user growth I began watching the things that people searched for. I viewed some lists I found with top search keywords. I aggregated some rss feeds that contained not only tech stories, but ones that were just plain popular (flavor of the day) from social sites. I began to craft ‘original content’ pages that centered on popular keywords and culture – and that was the beginning of the demise of my site. It was also the beginning of ‘greed’, and I was writing purely for traffic and profit – and not for people anymore. I fooled myself into believing that I had created a news portal, when in fact I turned it into a news scraper, spam, or splog (spam blog) as they’re sometimes called. Then it happenned, I was blindsided about 6 months after my growth began. I say ‘blindsided’, because I never saw it coming…I never thought my site (with 10-15,000 unique pageviews per day) would rapidly decline in about 10 days to just over 500 uniques per day. You’ll have to read the next post (Part 4) to see how it happenned and why!