A Review of InfoBarrel: Will It Be Another Failed Content Site?
Besides being a writer on the network niche sites of HubPages, I have a technical background as a systems analyst. This gives me the ability to research the issues that plague many content authoring websites.
InfoBarrel, a revenue sharing site founded in 2008 for writing articles, was one of my experiments. It is not a scam, as I see many people asking about on the Internet, but it does have its problems. Here's my review.
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.
- Yeah! Like HubPages!
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 2018 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 found some links to technical information pages just redirect to the home page. That means that 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 huge 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 often be missing in action.
Complaints People Post About
When I did my due diligence investigating InfoBarrel before I started posting, I had read many complaints in the forum—such as these:
- A promised upgrade that never occurred.
- 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.
- Constantly changing the TOS statement of who owns rights to 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 redirected 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 my opinion. 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 and messed up the payments one month, and was trying to work out the mess.
In August 2016 some people saw a tremendous, but short lived, increase in earnings. One 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 admin to request 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 his or her 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.
This can’t happen on HubPages because the URL is static once an article is published. Writers can only change the URL from defaulting to the title when they start writing a new article. However, InfoBarrel's method is very poor programming.
Confusion with Pen Names vs. Usernames
When a user adds a pen name to their profile, their actual username still is displayed as the sender when leaving comments in articles. This makes it difficult to know who someone is because it doesn't match the name in the profile or the author of the article. That makes it difficult to keep followers engaged.
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 Had Canceled Affiliate Accounts
Some members posted in the forum that they had lost their Amazon affiliate status because Amazon has started cancelling 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.
Even if one chooses to use his or her affiliate code, rather than through the HP Earnings program, this is fine. They just need to include their HP profile URL in the approved website list in their Amazon settings to get paid.
You might think this can be done with with InfoBarrel too, but there is a problem. Profile URLs look like forum profiles because they have the word “users” in the URL. This is not recognized as a top level domain, so I think this is why Amazon was cancelling affiliate accounts that are 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 don't know if this issue was resolved. As of mid 2018 the user profiles are still the same, so if the problem had been resolved, it would have had to be done on Amazon's end.
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 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 again and I found the following directive:
User-agent: Googlebot Disallow:
Once again, they were denying Google access so that articles cannot be listed in their 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 they 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
This 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.
This is their sitemap file as of August 6th, 2018:
Who’s Running the Show?
Back 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 complaining about the absence of the admin, which made me wonder if this is just a one-man 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 Admits the Truth in April 2017
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 keep operating the site as it is.
Status 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 the business of running InfoBarrel, as Keven admitted in his post I showed you above.
- The site remains very much broken according to ongoing posts in the forum.
- Why can't they fix the payment system software so they don't 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.comm but that URL just forwards to the home site.
In addition to all that, I see writers who have been on InfoBarrel since 2010 with over 100 articles and less than 20,000 views. If their articles weren't combined with unrelated subjects and low quality in a content farm, a practice that Google dislikes, and if they didn't constantly block Google, these authors should have had over a million views by now. I say that from experience.
Their TOS blatantly mentions that everything needs to be of superior quality and is read and approved by a human before publishing. So why do I see some articles with typos and poor grammar?
Any serious writer would appreciate these strict rules. Low quality hurts everyone else on the site. If only they actually were to enforce those rules and clean up their act.
© 2016 Glenn Stok