Will InfoBarrel Be Another Failed Content Site?
I found many unresolved issues with InfoBarrel while researching the site. As a systems analyst, I have the ability to research the issues that plague content authoring websites. I'll explain the reasons why I feel this one will eventually fail.
InfoBarrel was founded in 2008 for writing articles. It is not a scam, as I see many people asking in forums, but it does have many problems.
Requirements for a Revenue Sharing Site
When I first began writing online, my requirements for selecting a site were the following:
- They must demand quality content.
- They must have a staff of good web programmers.
- They must demonstrate professional business skills.
- They need to display an understanding of Google and SEO.
How Can InfoBarrel Still Be Functioning?
When I first created my account on InfoBarrel in 2016, their state of affairs made me wonder how they are still functioning! I find it amazing that they are still in business in 2020 after so many other sites went belly up.
I had experimented with posting articles on many other sites, such as the Yahoo Contributor Network, Bubblews, Persona Paper, Squidoo, and Tsū. I could see the issues they had, and I even warned other people in their forums. All those sites have since gone out of business.
As for InfoBarrel, I discovered some links to technical information pages merely redirect the reader to the home page. That means no one ever cared enough to complete the setup of the site.
I also discovered that many people were complaining in the forums about missed payments.
After finding a considerable number of bugs, I wrote to the admin asking if he is still maintaining the site. He never replied. People post in the forum that he seems to be often missing in action.
Complaints People Post About
When I did my due diligence investigating InfoBarrel before posting and articles, I had read many complaints in the forum—such as these:
- A promised upgrade that never occurred.
- A long wait for new articles to get approved.
- Google is not indexing articles.
- Missing or late payments.
- Bugs with posting and editing articles.
- Failure to delete articles upon request.
- Continually changing the TOS about who owns rights to the content.
As for that last point, they changed it back again. When I read the TOS recently, it clearly stated:
“Author's Rights: You shall continue to retain all authorship and copyrights to the Materials submitted for publication through the website.”
As for those missed payments, the admin once posted in the forum, saying that he handles payments manually. Wow! Imagine that!
People Are Leaving
I noticed that many member profiles have been removed and now linked to the home page. That means people are leaving, even new members who didn’t even get their feet wet.
Redirecting to the home page, instead of showing an error of some sort, is poor programming. In the case of a closed account, they should display something such as, "This user is no longer on InfoBarrel." I guess they just don't want to admit that.
Infobarrel Has Many Unresolved Glitches
I'll describe all the problems I've discovered by using the site and by reading posts from other users in the forums.
Problems with Payments Handled Manually
I found a forum post from the admin explaining how he lost track, messed up the payments one month, and tried to work out the mess.
In August 2016, some people saw a tremendous but short-lived increase in earnings. One person posted a comment that she saw $45 in her account, and then it was corrected down to $3.
Another person saw a whopping $900. He posted, “I doubt they're genuine. I apparently am earning around $400 for every 1,000 impressions.”
Yes, indeed—that’s impossible. What poor programming! Assuming there is even a payment system being used. That forum post from admin does seem to make it clear that he handles payments manually.
There Is No Delete Button
You have to contact the admin to request the removal of any article you wish to delete. Then it’s up to them if they oblige. Some people post in the forum that they had to try many times to get a response—some in vain.
Title Changes Cause a "404 Dead Link" Error
When one changes their title, the URL changes along with it and without a 301 redirect to the new URL. That creates a dead link, which sends a 404 error code to one's browser. Therefore all prior links posted in social media, and search engine indexes, are broken.
A good practice is to make the URL static once an article is published, and it should never be related to any title changes after that.
Confusion with Pen Names vs. Usernames
When users add a pen name to their profile, their actual username still is displayed as the sender when leaving comments in articles. That makes it difficult to know who someone is because it doesn't match the name in the author's profile.
Bug in CSS Code
A bug I discovered in the CSS code causes embedded YouTube videos to cover the surrounding text. I couldn't even read the overlaid content on an article that had this problem.
Amazon Canceled InfoBarrel's Affiliate Accounts
Some members posted in the forum that they had lost their Amazon affiliate status because Amazon has started canceling affiliate accounts if they advertise on sites they do not own. InfoBarrel requires members to use their own Amazon affiliate code. That’s the problem.
HubPages does not have this problem because writers can use Amazon via the HP Earnings Program. In this case, Amazon issues unique affiliate codes for each user, but these are registered under HubPages’ name.
You might think this can be done with InfoBarrel too, but there is a problem. Profile URLs look like forum profiles because they have the word “users” in the URL. That is not a top-level domain, so I think this is why Amazon was canceling affiliate accounts used on InfoBarrel.
The people who lost their affiliate accounts had posted in the forum that Amazon was saying they canceled because they used their account on a forum site, which is against their terms of service. Once again, poor programming causes this confusion.
I last checked that particular issue in 2018, and the user profiles were still the same, remaining against Amazon's terms of service.
Google Is Constantly Blocked From Indexing Articles
Since I see so many people complaining in the forum about the fact that Google is not indexing their articles, I decided to check out their robots.txt file. Webmasters create this file to instruct search engine robots on how to crawl their pages.
When I first checked that file back in 2016, I found a Google directive denying search engines permission to index. That might have inadvertently been left there after a system update. That’s very unprofessional to have missed a thing like that.
They eventually did discover their mistake and corrected it so that search engines would once again index their articles. However, when updating this article on August 1st, 2018, I decided to check that again, and I found the following directive:
User-agent: Googlebot Disallow:
Once again, they denied Google access so that articles cannot be listed in the SERPs. Other search engines, such as Bing, were not blocked this time.
They keep putting that directive back in robots.txt. I don't know why their programmers do that! It serves no purpose that would be advantageous to their authors.
I checked a few articles by putting their titles in Bing, and they showed up as expected. But when I searched titles with Google, they did not appear in the SERPs.
Things changed quickly. Just a few days later, on August 6th, 2018, I noticed they removed the directive that disallowed Google indexing—maybe because they were alerted to their mistake by my update to this article. Maybe they are watching me, who knows.
Their updated robots.txt file now simply has the following directive:
# robots.txt for http://www.infobarrel.com/ Sitemap: http://www.infobarrel.com/Sitemap.php
That is a valid statement, showing search engines where to find the sitemap. There were no more directives that would block search engine indexing. At least not when I last checked. However, there's another problem now. Their sitemap is a mess!
I looked at their sitemap.php file, and all it does is recursively point to itself. What about the articles? That is crazy! They obviously don’t know what they are doing.
Below is their sitemap file as of August 6th, 2018:
Who’s Running the Show?
In 2016 when I first tested the site, I emailed Kevin, the admin, asking if the staff is actively working on this site. I never received a reply.
Other people were complained about the absence of the admin, which made me wonder if this is just a one-person shop. The domain is registered to Ryan McKenzie in Canada. He is listed as the administrative contact and the technical contact.
I also found two other team members via LinkedIn: Kevin Hinton and Brad Liski.
Kevin is the admin in the forums, although I’m not sure if it's actually him since he hides behind a cat avatar as shown below:
The Admin Finally Admitted the Truth
In April 2017, Kevin posted in the forum the truth about their affairs. He admitted that they aren't able to put the time into it, and will just keep operating the site as it is.
Status Confirmed as of August 2018
There are three people involved with running the business — Kevin, Ryan, and Brad — but they can't devote the time to running InfoBarrel, as Keven admitted in his post that I showed you above.
This is where things stand:
- The site remains very much broken according to ongoing posts in the forum.
- They can't fix the payment system, so they need to make payments manually.
- The directive disallowing Google to index articles keeps reoccurring, as I discussed above in this article.
- The last system update was in July 2015, with version 4.0.
- The last reported bug fix is still from 2010. It sure looks like they stopped supporting the site.
- A new site structure was announced in 2015, stating that outstanding quality content will be moved to Open.InfoBarrel.com, but that URL just forwards to the home site.
Status as of July 2020
I check in just to see where things stand, and I was shocked at the incompetence.
No Security Protocols Used
A few years ago, every legitimate website began using the Transport Layer Security protocol (TLS). That provides three types of protection: Encryption, Data Integrity, and Authentication. You'll know it's secure when you use "https://" in front of the URL.
Recently, I noticed InfoBarrel is not providing a secure connection. The only way to get to it is with "HTTP://" before the URL, which is not secure.
In February 2020, InfoBarrel announced they could no longer pay their writers, claiming it is because Paypal eliminated the API used to make the payments.
They claim that they are working on an alternative payment method, but admitted that they don't have the financial resources to do that.
So it's questionable what will happen next.
© 2016 Glenn Stok