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Put your dormant domains to use with WordPress

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For those of you domainers who have a lot of unused domain names earning nominal revenue at old-fashioned domain parking services or simply collecting dust and not doing anything, read on. Developed domains will almost always outperform one-click landers at parking sites. One of the easiest ways to do quickly develop a domain is to set up an automated WordPress blog. In this tutorial I’ll go over:

  • Where to host your WordPress auto blogs
  • How to install WordPress and configure it with SEO in mind
  • A free WordPress plugin you can use to set up an auto blog
  • How to use use RSS feeds to generate relevant content
  • How to monetize your website with Adsense and other revenue streams

Now is the time to dump those stagnant parked pages and start developing your unused domains into dynamic and content-rich websites.

Just a small note before continuing. This isn’t a guide on making content scraping/rewriting splogs. I’m merely going over a much more efficient way to monetize unused domains, or possibly to augment your current blog with regularly updated news from relevant feeds. Aggregating RSS feeds legally is a perfectly legitimate way to add content to your WordPress blog.

Where to host your WordPress auto blogs

There are a million web hosts out there, some are good, some not so good, some should be avoided completely. One host which I would personally recommend for WordPress hosting is HostGator. Their prices are cheap, their servers are reliable, and their support is available 24 hours a day – 7 days a week. Most importantly, their hosting is very WordPress-friendly and will allow you to host unlimited domains in a shared account.

HostGator banner

Of course if you already know of a good web host that meet the requirements, feel free to use them as well. A host with cPanel with Fantastico would definitely be preferred.

How to install WordPress with SEO in mind

I’ve already written on these topics a few times in previous tutorials. The first step (obviously) is to get your hosting set up, and install WordPress. Most people would rather opt to go with an automated and more convenient solution by installing through Fantastico. Others may want to install WordPress manually.

After successfully installing WordPress, following the steps to optimize WordPress for search engines would be nice. At the very least you could set up pretty permalinks to make your URL’s more search engine friendly.

After doing all of the above you will probably want to find a nice looking WordPress theme relevant to the topic of your domain. Some good places to find WordPress themes are listed on the resources page. The selection of free WordPress themes here at Theme Lab isn’t too shabby either.

The FeedWordPress Plugin

I’ve seen a few paid WordPress plugins that claim to do exactly the same thing as FeedWordPress, which is absolutely free and probably works just as well. It can be downloaded over at WordPress.org. Reference to our previous tutorial on installing WordPress plugins if you’re not sure how to upload and activate a plugin.

How to use FeedWordPress

After activating the plugin, you should see a new Syndication menu in your WordPress administration panel. Here you can add/edit/delete feed information, update the feeds manually, or make initial configurations for default settings you want to be used for your aggregated posts.

Syndicated Feeds

This is where you choose whether to check for new feed items automatically, instead of whenever requested – or manually. Considering this article is all about automation of your sites, you’ll probably want to set it to automatic. A reasonable time interval would be about 10 minutes.

FeedWordPress Syndicated Feed Options

Syndicated Post Options

This is where you set the default categories to assign your syndicated posts too. You can set different categories for specific feeds later on. Depending on your preference, you may or may not want to enable commenting or trackbacks on the syndicated posts. You will want to make sure the permalinks point to your website, and not the original. This way you have more crawlable content pages on your site. I’ll show you later how to link to the original source in your post content.

FeedWordPress Syndicated Post Options

Places to find news feeds

Configuring your WordPress installation to work with auto blogging is only half the battle. You need to know where to find good feeds that will be relevant to your topic. Here are some good places to get feeds:

A word of caution: Please make sure you read and comprehend the terms of use associated with these RSS feeds. Some do not allow content to be republished on blogs such as this. Breaking terms when using these RSS feeds on your sites may lead to a cease and desist notice, or worse.

Inputting feeds into FeedWordPress

Hope my word of caution didn’t scare you off. If you follow the terms of use on each feed, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about. In the example, I’ll be using the Lifestyle – Tech RSS feed from Reuters.

FeedWordPress - Add a new syndicated site

After successfully inputting your desired feed URL, click the Syndicate button.

Feed Finder: New Syndicated Feed

If all is well on this screen, use the feed. At this point, the feed selected should be added as a contributing site. Before updating the feed, you may want to double check the specific feed settings beforehand. This would include making sure posts syndicated from the feed are assigned to the proper category, whether you want comments and/or trackbacks enabled, etc. Go ahead and press the Update button to start populating your WordPress database with feed items.

FeedWordPress Update Complete

Hopefully you get a successful message displayed like this saying xx or so posts were updated. If you get some sort of error message saying 0 posts were added, there is likely something wrong with the feed you chose.

Final steps

Let’s take a look at what our example blog looks like.

FeedWordPress in Action

Looks pretty good I guess. Notice how the actual story dates stay in tact, not the day you publish them on your blog. Also notice the new Contributers link, going back to the original Reuters site. So now we have 11 fresh news snippets, but where’s the link to the original story? This is something you’ll have to manually add to the template file. Open up your index.php and probably your single.php (depending on the structure of your theme) and insert the following code after the_content().

<a href="<?php the_syndication_permalink(); ?>" title="<?php the_title(); ?>">Read the rest of the story...</a>

FeedWordPress Syndication Permalink

Do the same thing in single.php (if you have one) and save. Let’s take a look at the example blog now.

Congrats!  You can make auto-blogs

As you can see there is now a link back to the original story. Most RSS news feeds require a link back to the full story like this, along with some sort of attribution, so this is very important. After everything is working smoothly, you’ll probably want to display ads on the site as well.

That’s about it. Feel free to comment and share if you liked this tutorial. And remember – use RSS feeds wisely, read the terms and don’t scrape content. Thanks for reading.

About

Leland Fiegel was the original founder of ThemeLab. He is a web developer who loves WordPress and blogging.