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Brendan - A review of Article Generator by MCTrading

A few years ago when the net was freer and the likes of 'Piratebay' ruled the waves, there was a 'Go To' Joomla component for automatically populating articles from an RRS feed that went by the name 'FeedGator'.....

For many website owners life was bliss, Joomla + Feedgator = HEAVEN. There was no need to write your own content, spend your own time, just 'borrow' it from someone else! For one reason or another the developer of Feedgator upped sticks and disappeared right off the face of his Github page. Just vanished and left his work in 'beta' stage for Joomla 3. There were many sad website owners that night, crying in to their 10th espresso and getting stressed about how on earth they were going to add 100 new articles to their website every day now. After all, it's what their readers had come to expect!…..

Fast forward to the present……

A lot has changed in the years since. People have got stricter about copyright issues. Google has focused it's attention on quality and uniqueness. And the importance of having a credible online image has become paramount, as every single online website or business is clamouring to get on the first page of Google's search results.

One of the main problems with running a decent informative website is producing enough fresh content to keep your readers coming back for more, and that was/is the beauty of using a component that will generate an article from someone else's RSS feed. But, if it is not your work…..

There used to be only two real reasons not to steal someone else's work and post it as your own on your site. The ethical one, it's wrong to steal and, of course, the copyright one. All work is automatically copyrighted, but website owners rarely pursued the people who stole their work and used it as their own. And if you were not worried about copyright, you almost certainly would not worry about the ethics of it either.

So, where are we now?

Well, it's a bit of a 'grey area', a sort of twilight zone of what we can get away with. How far is too far? How much is too much? Before we either get a nasty email from some lawyer demanding we remove the stolen work, or else! Or, we get penalized by Google for having duplicate work, oh yes, Big Brother is watching you! Or should we say Google is watching and recording your every move.

On one hand we want the content, on the other it might harm us, a real dilemma.

The compromise is to not use too much of the article, maybe just the intro, the first 400 or so characters of the article and then link to the original article to read the full article on it's original website. Most original authors don't mind this, as in doing so, you generate a valuable back link to their site. Which in turn improves their SEO for Google. And Google is satisfied that your 'copy' is not a duplicate, as most of the original article is missing. You could view this setup as almost just reviewing the original story on your site, offering a summary, and we all like reviews or summaries.

Rest in Peace Feedgator

So, now that Feedgator is quietly resting in peace, how do we go about this task? We don't want to be manually editing, copy pasting and saving photos for a hundred new articles every day!

A quick check on Joomla's extension page for a search term like 'Automatic Articles' will return a bunch of results that really have nothing to do with what you are looking for. Except, hidden within those results are just two possibilities.

OB Grabber and Article Generator

We tried OB Grabber's demo, but no matter what we did, could not get it to work, it just would not retrieve the photos from the RSS feed we were testing it on. The interface and options were way too complicated, and to be honest, not for the novice.

That bought us to the second option 'Article Generator'. At first sight, a not so impressive component, after all, OB Grabbers JED page and demo site are good, but if the extension wont work, what's the point? But take the time to read the reviews of Article Generator. Matthias, the developer, has many happy customers. And that was good enough for us to part with the cash and buy the component, right away.

Article Review image

Patrick's review is what most people think of this extension, you can check it out yourself here.

So what's it all about?

Article Generator is a Joomla extension that produces article content for your site from RSS feeds. It can retrieve the article intact, or just a few words. If photos are available in the feed it will insert those as well, or not, it's up to you. It can remove links from the feed if not needed and insert your own advert, module or code directly into the newly rendered article. The whole operation can either be run manually from the components dashboard or via a cron job on your server, so it is completely automatic.

Let's take a look under the hood.

The extension installs without drama, just as you have come to expect from any good developer. So I wont go into details here, but you can check out this article if you need to learn how to install a Joomla plugin/module or component.

Once installed, you will find it listed in the components tab of your admin menu in the back-end. Click on 'Article Generator' in the drop down menu and the components main 'Source Manager' page will open up. From this page you can navigate to all parts of the component.

The first thing you need to do is to click on the 'Compatibility Test' link at the bottom of the left hand menu. For the component to work properly you need to see all of the items marked as, enabled. If they are not you will need to contact your hosting company and get them to activate the relevant PHP module.

Compatibility Test Image


Assuming all is enabled we now need to click on the 'Configuration' link in the left menu. This will open up the global configuration settings that will apply to all feeds and articles. The default settings will be fine to get you started, but you might want to copy-paste the words from the link in the last entry, the link is in the right hand panel, English or German, or you can find your own, paste it in to the last text box in the left hand side. These words are used to stop the extension using them in the automatic keyword creation for the new article. Each setting has a good description to the right side to help guide you, which is a nice touch.

Configuration Image


Next, click on 'Source Manager' in the left hand menu. On the page you will see a list of 4 unpublished example feeds (I would recommend leaving them unpublished and when you are confident of your ability to set up your own feed, delete them). Click on the names of the feeds and the configuration screen for that feed will open up. Click on the tabs and study the example to get an idea of what you need to do, instructions and information is on the right of every option. But you will find that the default settings given will work on most feeds to get you started.


Once you are happy with what you have seen, it's time to build your own feed.

In good old Joomla style, click on the big green 'New' button

The 'Source Details' screen opens and here you can enter in your details. Again, the default settings should work fine to get you started. But as a minimum you need to give it a name and tell it where to look for the RSS Feed.

The format of RSS feeds change a lot from feed to feed, the one we use to grab the latest news about Joomla itself looks like this. http://feeds.joomla.org/JoomlaAnnouncements

Click on through the other tabs at the top and change anything that is relevant to achieve the desired finished result you are looking for. In the following photos you can see the settings we use to achieve the results we have, because we use this extension right here on UJoomla.com.

You can see what the finished product looks like here.

1

Source Details Image

2

Source Options Image

3

Article Options Image

4

Article Styling Image

5

Authenticated Source Image

Once finished, don't forget to click on the 'Save & Close' button. You will then see your feed in the list on the Source Manager page.

Source Manager Image


The final step in the process is to run the 'grabbing' process. This can be either done manually or by setting up a cron job on your server. For the sake of this article we shall run the cron manually from the components backend, but the developer gives instructions on how to set up the cron to run automatically on your server.

From the left hand menu click on 'Post All / Cron Job'.

The screen that opens has two tabs, 'Post published Feeds manually' and 'install Cronjob on a server'.

Select 'Post published Feeds manually' and click on the link just below the picture. The cron job will now run and your articles will be generated.

Cron Job Image


From Joomla's top menu click on 'Content' – 'Articles' and there they will be, just waiting for you to check them out.

Article List image

Depending on what category you associated them to in the settings, will depend on how they display on the front end. You may have to adjust other settings in your Joomla website to be able to see them. But that is outside the scope of this article.


So, Comments and Conclusions

Let's begin with the things we liked.

  1. A well documented extension with direction right next to the options.
  2. No complicated options
  3. Short learning curve
  4. Accurate results
  5. Enough options to get good articles without affecting your SEO or risking duplicate content penalties from Google.
  6. Inbuilt lightbox
  7. The ability to put an advert or module in the generated article automatically.

And the things we didn't.

  1. No direct support for K2 items
  2. Manual entry of the meta description needed
  3. No advanced options to modify the output of the article style
  4. Some of the functions are inactive due to development, but at least you know what to expect from future releases. Matthias tells us that he is working on the new version right now.
  5. There is a small delay in publishing the new articles, they sit 'Pending' for a while. Refreshing the browser seemed to solve this.

Problems we faced

This may not be a problem for everyone, but on our system if the cron is run manually a second or third time it appears not to work. The old cron results are displayed from first or previous cron run, and no articles are generated. We don't think this is a problem with the extension itself, but rather the browser, because if you hit F12 (Developers Tools) and then F5 for a browser refresh the cron works as it should. The developer is aware of our problem and is looking into a solution for the next update. laughing

The next is not really a problem, more a design issue (Blame Google). The extension will not let you generate duplicate content in the same category, remember Google does not like duplicate content! So if you wish to 'fiddle and play' with this extension to see how your new articles look with different option settings, you will have to fully delete each set of newly generated articles before you can regenerate new ones. If you are not sure how to do that you can find out how to fully delete Joomla articles here.  

Article Generator is developed by Matthias from MCTrading, http://www.suchmaschinen-optimierung-seo.org/ (Search Engine Optimization SEO), a developer from Germany.


Conclusion

With a little common sense this extension works right out of the box. This is a solid extension to build content on your site. Although it lacks some of the more advanced options to really tailor the article it generates, it is perfectly suitable for 99% of users out there. An important point to note is that the over zealous use of any kind of content duplication extension has the possibility of actually harming your online reputation with google, rather than enhancing it. You could well end up with 10,000 articles on your site but still only appear on results page 9345!

The best way to use this extension is to use it to create a short introduction of the article you want to use, then have the extension open the original article in its own pop-up lightbox so your visitor still has access to the full article, yet does not leave your site. They will likely just close the lightbox when finished and move onto the next article you have to offer.

You can see a good example of how we use this extension here. We use Article Generator to grab the first 500 characters of the original article, then if the reader wants more, he just clicks on the read more link.

Another good idea presented by this extension is it's ability to insert a module position or any other text into and around the 'grabbed' article. You can use this to include an advert, module, a piece of specific code or just leave it blank.

Article Generator is a paid for extension, but we feel, worth every penny. It is easy to set up, and if you have any problems its developer is eager to find a solution to your issue.

Small Gold Star
  • Grade 9/10
  • Easy to Install
  • Easy to Setup
  • Easy to Use
  • Fit for Purpose
  • Documentation

Conclusion

With a little common sense this extension works right out of the box. This is a solid extension to build content on your site. Although it lacks some of the more advanced options to really tailor the article it generates, it is perfectly suitable for 99% of users out there. An important point to note is that the over zealous use of any kind of content duplication extension has the possibility of actually harming your online reputation with google, rather than enhancing it. You could well end up with 10,000 articles on your site but still only appear on results page 9345!

The best way to use this extension is to use it to create a short introduction of the article you want to use, then have the extension open the original article in its own pop-up lightbox so your visitor still has access to the full article, yet does not leave your site. They will likely just close the lightbox when finished and move onto the next article you have to offer.

You can see a good example of how we use this extension here. We use Article Generator to grab the first 500 characters of the original article, then if the reader wants more, he just clicks on the read more link.

Another good idea presented by this extension is it's ability to insert a module position or any other text into and around the 'grabbed' article. You can use this to include an advert, module, a piece of specific code or just leave it blank.

Article Generator is a paid for extension, but we feel, worth every penny. It is easy to set up, and if you have any problems its developer is eager to find a solution to your issue.

Small Gold Star
  • Grade 9/10
  • Easy to Install
  • Easy to Setup
  • Easy to Use
  • Fit for Purpose
  • Documentation


We made a little walk through video that you can watch below, please do comment and let us know what you think of this great extension.

Last modified on Friday, 17 November 2017 01:50
Brendan

About:

Hi, I have been a Joomla fan and website developer since 2005. UJoomla is an attempt to give back to those who are in the same place I was in 2005. Green around the ears and eager to learn!

ujoomla.com

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