2013: My Writing Year in Review
Looking Back and Looking Forward: My On-Line Writing Experiences in 2013
I think most of us who have been around Squidoo and other online content sites for some time would say that 2013 proved to be very interesting year. There have been many ups and downs in the writing world here and elsewhere: changing guidelines, sites opening and closing, Google algorithms updating and morphing faster than most could keep track of... In other words, what we could once count on working like a charm for bringing traffic - and thereby income - was a safe bet no longer.
It's now mid-December 2013 and with most of my payments in for the year, I felt it was time to take a look back on these changes and the various sites I write for: what worked for me content and platform-wise, and what didn't. Of course each writer's experience will be different, as well as his or her goals in writing on-line. As such I've also included some polls and debate modules on this page and welcome your input and experiences with the various platforms I talk about below.
For me, online writing is both hobby - a chance to write about the things that matter to me - and source of part-time income. I've never approached content writing as something to become a full-time way of earning a living, but at the same time I do feel my writing is worth reward and don't care to give my work away for "free". So that's where I'm coming from when I evaluate various platforms and whether they are worth my continued contributions or not in the future.
A year of destructive chaos, or a year of change for the better?
The new (“improved”?) Squidoo homepage.It’s almost hard to know where to begin with Squidoo this year, as so much is different now on this site as compared to where things were a year ago. In December 2012, I was at an all-time earnings peak for my about 2-year old account: just under $500 for the month. With almost 200 “Leaves” published by the end of the year, I felt I had a nice balance of informational/personal content along with admittedly blatant sales-oriented pages. Those sales pages might not have been what I’d set out to create here, but seeing the success they brought others, I was not going to miss out on jumping on the bandwagon. And I still put a great deal of effort into those “sales” pages, they were (mostly) performing well, and like others I grumbled and was unhappy about what I saw as the REAL abuse of the Squidoo system going on: Like and Blessing exchanges, stolen content not being dealt with, scammy products being promoted and a sense of favoritism being extended to certain chronic violators of the TOS.
I think we all know what happened next: ShowerCurtainGate, locked lenses, locked accounts, new Amazon link limits, Liking limits, automatic “quality filters” that were flakier than Aunt Nellie’s pie crust, the end of Squid Angel program, new requirements for Squid Giants, and the introduction of new “Lenslet” formats. And more than that, including seemingly contradictory guidelines for what HQ wants from its lensmasters (more informational, personal content, or short product reviews? Which one is it?) Meanwhile traffic kept going down, down, down and the instituted changes seemed to do little to stop the plummet.
From February onward I only saw my Squidoo earnings plummet month by month, reaching a low in August I hadn’t seen in my account since October of 2011. It was all discouraging to say the least and I can’t say I did much all year with my Squidoo account beyond constantly fixing broken (I’m sorry, “improved”) modules and scrambling to keep up with the changing guidelines. I was fortunate in that I only had one lens outright locked all year, although I did delete a few that were no longer worth maintaining and have watched some past solid performers sink into no-earnings territory even in this busy holiday buying season.
I did try my hand at some of the new Amazon product lenslets and recipe lenslets, but to be honest have not found them satisfactory to the way I chose to write – whether about products or anything else. I have not made a single sale from any of my 12 or so “lenslets” since September when I published my first, and only 2 of them are barely managing to even hang on in Tier 3 (and only the one that is a recipe lenslet even qualifies for tier payment.) So no, I don’t see myself converting over to being a lenslet fan any time soon…when I do build new lenses they will be traditional format ones.
Concluding thoughts: My Squidoo earnings for 2013 ended up down only 3.5% from last year ($2830 vs $2930), which I know is not as bad as many have suffered but certainly was not what I’d been hoping for earlier in the year. But I actually have gotten back to building some new lenses now this December after a long break from them. My holiday sales have been up, not just on my remaining product-oriented lenses but on my informational guides as well. I am not looking to pull my content off Squidoo in bulk like some have, but I am more thoughtful about what content I put here now versus on my own blogs/websites or elsewhere. I have very cautious optimism for Squidoo’s future, although I don’t know if it’ll ever return to the profitability of the past that some enjoyed – at least not any time soon.
Your thoughts on Squidoo at this time - Have the changes been for the better or for the worse?
How do you feel about Squidoo's future?
Initial enthusiasm, followed by some disappointment
I joined Zujava early on after its initial launch, just to claim my username and watch the site develop. I started putting content together for the site more seriously around the beginning of this year, and then in February took part in and completed their 28 Leaves in 28 Days Challenge. I thought that would be a good way to push myself to build up content on a new platform and test it out. I also felt glad I did that as February/March was when things started going downhill for me on Squidoo, the big shake-ups were getting started, and being diversified seemed more important than ever. At first I had a lot of hope for Zujava as a good fit for my content: recipes, fannish topics, travel guides, informational pages on social media and infertility/childless-awareness. I appreciated what seemed to be the site's stringent quality guidelines, including the minimum word counts per Amazon module/links, crediting of photos, and not allowing directly transferred/copied content. I thought it might be a platform where some of my more "niche" interest topics had a chance of ranking better than on Squidoo.
But with the exception of one Easter lens, I've had very poor performance salewise with Zujava. With 66 "Leaves" currently published I'm lucky to see 1 or 2 product sales a month, fairly low traffic overall, and currently only $4-8/month in "Tier payments" based on shared adsense earnings. Given what I can make in adsense earnings on my own blog entries, that just isn't encouraging me to keep adding content to the site. While I did win one $100 prize on the site this year (in the form of an Amazon gift certificate), my actual direct earnings from all the time I put into Zujava this year building detailed, lengthy content was only $51.
Concluding thoughts: Zujava may be a platform that works better for some content writers than others, and it could depend on the type of niche content you are writing. (Looking at the site's Top 100 Leaves, it seems ever-popular mommy-blogging topics like kid's toys, gifts and party planning, cupcakes, and craft projects will do you well.) For me, I'm not so sure it's such a great fit; earning less than a $1/article in a year just isn't enough to keep me motivated on a site. That said, I'm leaving what I've written there for now and will wait to see if traffic - and earnings - improve in the future. But I'm not sure I'll post much of anything new unless there's a good contest or challenge to motivate me in 2014.
Are you on Zujava yet?
Yahoo! Voices/Contributors Network (Y!CN) - Seeing an improvement in traffic & earnings after a long absence
Yahoo Voices (back when it was Associated Content) was the first platform where I started writing-for-pay online, back in early 2010. After a successful year there, however, I pretty much “abandoned” the site in April of 2011 after they completely changed around the Featured Contributor program and my earnings I worked so hard for were now slashed (sound familiar?)
But I didn’t delete my old content, and now several years later I’m glad for that. It seems that the changes that Y!CN instituted in 2011 (in response, I believe, largely due to Google’s Panda update), have paid off. I noticed traffic to my old articles improving by the end of last year, and in 2013 I ended up seeing an over 200% increase in earnings off of those old articles over 2012! ($250 in 2013 vs $106 in 2012.) I did submit a few new things early in the year, to update my account, and I may do the same in the coming year. In fact I’m considering moving a few articles over from Bubblews since I no longer really trust them there and feel they may have better future earnings and stability on Y!CN.
Conclusion: Y!CN is still limited in the ways you can earn (only payment on hits per article), but seems in better favor with search engines today, and features better quality content overall than it used to. Worth keeping in a writer’s portfolio for short, useful text articles that have evergreen potential. I still wouldn’t invest a lot of time there, but it’s worth keeping an active account for largely passive income.
Y!CN and your experiences
Do you have an account with Yahoo! Contributors Network/Yahoo! Voices?
If it seems too good to be true, it probably is...
Web writers have been buzzing about Bubblews all year, a relatively new blogging style platform that has been promising – and sometimes delivering – payouts that seem too good to be true. Paying a penny per view, like, dislike, comment and social media share, Bubblews seemed to blow certain similar sites (like Y!CN) out of the water with their earning potential. However, many pointed out the amount of junk, spam, plagiarized and plain garbage posts cluttering up the site as a warning that serious writers should stay away.
I joined in May of this year, although I didn’t start contributing much until over the later summer when I began getting close to earning a $25 minimum payout amount every two weeks or so…and then once a week. Things were looking great and I was starting to invest serious time into the site, posting 5-6 times a day, when in late September a “Bubble” I wrote back in July about Facebook “Like Farming” and recipe theft went viral on Facebook. Over the course of several days that Bubble got over 20,000 shares/likes on Facebook and over 40,000 hits – it’s still getting residual traffic today.
Over the course of 2 days that Bubble earned what should have been over $533, according to Bubblews’ pay out scheme. As soon as I noticed the explosion in traffic I alerted Bubblews support about what was going on – and that I was not using any kind of artificial scheme to inflate the hits but that this had happened organically. I did receive first a response from Bubblews that “We will keep an eye on it, thank you”. I submitted my two large redemption requests and several days later received a payment for $100 with a note that said “First part of your payment. Once this clears we will send next part.”
That was on September 28. To this date, and despite several attempts to follow up, I have not received any of the remaining $433 I’m due from those 2 days of traffic nor any further contact from Bubblews about the matter. Yet I have continued to receive smaller payouts when submitted for redemption, much of that traffic still from that one article, which proves to me that there was nothing in that article or what happened with it that was against their TOS.
So why have I lost that payout?
I’m not the only person who has had payout problems with Bubblews, for reasons that do not seem to have anything to do with violating their TOS. I recommend reading winlin’s article The 5 Lies Bubblews Wants You To Believe, and the comments on it by many talented and honest online writers, before you consider investing much serious time into the site.
Concluding thoughts: Once bitten, twice shy. While I did earn over $500 from Bubblews in one year, that should have been over $900 – if not more if I hadn’t been burned by those failed payouts and stopped posting daily content there.
Am I pulling all my content from Bubblews as a result? No, not yet. Some of my articles now have good links built from other sites and social media platforms that I don’t want to lose. But I’m no longer posting anything other than trivial “life updates” and random thoughts there, a few times a week, to keep my account active. With the payout threshold now raised to $50 from $25, it seems that the speculated cash flow issues that some have suggested may be plaguing the site are not getting any better, and could prove more problematic in the future.
Your experience with Bubblews - Did you try it, and what did you find?
Have you tried writing for Bubblews this year?
South Jersey Foodie
Still plugging along with my personal food blog...
I started my food blog South Jersey Foodie in April 2011, and I'm still keeping it going - sometimes with frequent updates, sometimes guiltily neglecting it for a few months. It does get steady if not super-impressive traffic, typically between 30-60 hits a day, and has been doing better with adsense earnings since I made some layout changes earlier this year.
For the most part I enjoy keeping it going as the best venue for my restaurant reviews, and I will probably use it now for posting my recipes versus putting them on Squidoo or Zujava where such posts rarely seem to do well. While I don't earn a lot directly from the site, it has gotten me involved with the local food blogger scene and scored me invites to some local media events (and restaurant preview dinners) which has been well worthwhile. I've started using it to promote some Amazon products as well, so we'll see how that does in the coming year.
Are you blogging yet?
Do you have your own blog or blogs?
Spacial Anomaly - Launching my own multi-author website
By August I was really beginning to feel the pinch of diminished returns on Squidoo – my payout that month was the lowest since October 2011 and things didn’t seem to be showing any signs of picking back up. Others were beginning to talk about starting or had already launched their own websites for moved or new content, and I decided it was time to do the same.
I had a domain registered since 2001 which I decided would perfectly suit my needs: spacial-anomaly.com. My objective was to launch a new content platform for not just myself but for other authors interested in writing about “fannish” or genre interests such as film, television, art, gaming and literature. These are some of the topics I most enjoy writing about yet have often found difficult to successfully monetize via Squidoo lenses or on other platforms.
Spacial Anomaly launched in this new identity in August of 2013. At the moment we have just a few contributors but are actively looking for more. Contributors are welcome to use their own affiliate links and keep all earnings commissions, along with a portion of adsense revenue if they sign up with their own adsense ID.
I can say that so far the site has been performing well with getting good search engine traffic even with minimal promotion and link sharing, I’ve started making sales on products I’ve been promoting, and I’m definitely looking forward to seeing the site grow in the future. Just this past weekend I had a short post get over 500 hits in organic google search traffic, and generate several sales! So this will probably be where I focus the bulk of my writing attention in 2014.
Are you interested in perhaps joining me there? Please read the content guidelines for writers and if you agree to them, you can submit a new contributor application.
My earnings per site/platform (in US $), 2012 vs 2013
Where I'm at now versus at the end of 2012
2013 was certainly a challenging year, and I count myself lucky that I was poised and ready to jump into new venues early on to make up for the losses I suffered at Squidoo. As it stands now, my overall earnings for the year are still up by 25% from last year. I did not reach my goal of 60% growth with I’d been aiming for back in January, but given the unexpected obstacles that came up I feel I still managed to come out okay – and with a stronger, more diverse portfolio of work than I had a year ago.
I also pushed myself to learn more about WordPress, css, and how to optimize my websites for better success. The great community at the squidu.yuku forum has been a big help in that.
Was 2013 a good or a bad year for you and your writing? What did you learn - and what are you doing to plan for a better year in 2014?
© 2013 Nicole Pellegrini