April 2014
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Back to writing again

Well, it has been almost two years since I have put anything new out here. I got involved with other projects and interests and haven’t really spent a whole lot of time on the writing gigs. Life goes like that sometimes, I guess.

I have decided to take a different tack on the writing career. I was doing a lot of writing for content sites, but that hasn’t really done altogether well. Associated Content was bought out by Yahoo and basically disbanded. Apparently, I wasn’t popular enough so all of my articles have gone the way of the dinosaurs. At least, I can’t find any more trace of them. HubPages has never been a big money maker for me. I think it isn’t so much about the writing as it is about community. You build followers who then look at everything you write. Or you don’t, and you languish. I think the new Google algorithms have also hit them hard and really reduced them in the search results. In any event, not a lot of profit so I haven’t spent a whole lot of time on them lately.

The latest foray is into the freelance marketplace. I am trying several different sites in order to increase my chances and look at various opportunities. At the moment, I am looking at oDesk, Elance, Writer Access and MediaPiston. We’ll see what comes out of this.

New Flint Hills article generating more page views than normal

The Flint Hills of Kansas have their own peculiar beauty.As a Featured Travel Contributor on the Yahoo! Contributor Network, I am required to write at least three travel articles each month. Sometimes they do well. Sometimes nobody reads them. You never know which it’s going to be. For some reason, my article Day Trips from Kansas City, Missouri: The Flint Hills of Eastern Kansas is doing better than I would have expected. It’s not phenomenal by any means, but I’d like to figure out what I did right to generate more interest to see if I can incorporate those techniques into future articles.

Interestingly, I also wrote Day Trips from Kansas City, Missouri: Historic Abilene, Kansas at about the same time, but it isn’t getting the same interest. Both articles are about Kansas. Both mention the Flint Hills. I’m not quite sure what would be the difference. The only difference that I can really spot is that I included a link to the Flint Hills website in the article that’s doing better. It may be that because people are looking for inbound links to that website that I was then picked up and mentioned in several local news sites as well as a local Flint Hills blog.

I plan to go into the forums at Yahoo! to see if any of the Associated Content experts can help me identify why one article is more successful than the other.

New Rules for the Associated Content Featured Contributor program

Now that Associated Content is Associated Content from Yahoo!, it was only a matter of time before some of the rules began to change. While they haven’t implemented any sweeping changes as of yet, they have made a few tweaks to the Featured Contributor program.

One of the significant changes on the site itself is some shuffling around in the category names. For example, they state all Health & Wellness subcategories are now simply Health & Wellness, Gardening is now Home Improvement (which doesn’t seem quite logical to me – you don’t have to own a home to have a garden), and so on. For the most part, these are just a tightening up and probably reflect a whole bunch of SEO research and data. Also, they state that this will make it easier to share articles across the different Yahoo! network sites. So, all in all – good for them!

The major impact for me is the new assignment requirement. Instead of receiving three assignments per month and having to complete at least one, I now have to write all three. Not that I’m complaining – some months I really need the extra motivation. Attached to that is a three strike rule. Fail to meet the requirements three times and you’re out.

They explain that all of this is to increase the quality of the submissions to the site. I agree with that, having seen some really bad submitted content. Especially as Featured Contributors, we should be held to a higher standard.

Textbroker assignment ends up on company blog

Testbroker work for hire

Work for hire - a landscaper's blog

One of the things about work-for-hire writing is that you never know if your work is actually going to be used or not. For example, I was asked to write thirteen short blog articles for a local landscaping company. Apparently, the people that hired me work for a web development company trying to help small businesses develop and expand their websites. Of course, as we all know, blogging is the way for a small business website to keep current and updated information out in front of the search engines.

So, I just plugged in the title of one of the blog entries I wrote and – lo and behold – there are the thirteen entries. I’m not sure how much it helped the landscaping company, but it’s nice to see that they were used, at least.

Writer’s Block or Just Too Busy?

As part of Associated Content’s Featured Contributor program, you receive the assignment to write three articles for the category each month. You need to write at least one article to stay in the program. This month, I waited until the very last day and then only got one written. I think it is a decent article – you can read it at Staying in Curacao – Habitat Curacao Resort -  but it wasn’t easy to get started. Once I sat down to write, it flowed pretty quickly, but getting started was a problem.

On the one hand, we haven’t done any real traveling in a while, so I don’t have anything really fresh in my mind. I am using past experiences and observations as a basis for my articles. Associated Content prefers that you give first person viewpoints rather than just do some quick research which is then regurgitated in a different order. So that may be a small part of the issue.

On the other hand, it has been a horribly busy summer – both in a positive and negative sense. If I have a choice between relaxing in the pool or sitting at a desk writing, it doesn’t really end up being much of a choice. Add to that the fact that we got a couple of horses this spring (my wife has a long history of riding; I’m brand new) and the inevitable house repair and maintenance, and you have to wonder, “Where does the time go?”

Maybe it’s just a matter of setting a goal or a schedule ( I HATE schedules!) and sticking to it.

Another Use For Textbroker's UN.CO.VER Tool

One of the things about work-for-hire writing is that you don’t always know where your work will end up. Or if it will be used at all. For example, once an article is written for Textbroker, the client pays and that’s really the last you hear. Until now.

I always write my articles in Word and I keep a copy of the articles I write, so they are readily available for revision, review, etc. By pasting the entire text of an article into UN.CO.VER, I can do a search to see if the exact article has been used somewhere on the Internet. If an article comes back with a substantial match – something over 95% – it’s a pretty good bet that the client has used the article just as it was written. I haven’t used the program enough yet to see if lower percentages mean that they used part of an article, or did a rewrite on their own.

What’s amazing is how many articles have been paid for and not used. If someone pays $10 to $14 dollars for an 800 to 1000 word article, it would seem that they would want to use it. Or maybe not. Maybe they just keep requesting the same thing over and over and over again until they get what they want.

Or it may be that these articles are not ending up on the Internet at all. Maybe they get used as copy for printed media. I may have to investigate further.

Textbroker Announces UN.CO.VER, a New Unique Content Verification Tool

One of the challenges of writing articles for Textbroker can be making sure that your writing passes their unique content standards. Designed to prevent plagiarism, those standards can be both a good and bad thing, often at the same time. They’re good, because copying the work of someone else and passing it off as your own is highly unethical – not to mention illegal. However, those same standards can also be troublesome at times.

As an example, I received a large number of direct orders to write about various nursing programs for a single client. The titles and themes supplied were all very similar – some nearly identical. Finding a different way to say the same idea 10 or 20 or 30 times quickly moves past troublesome and right to downright annoying very quickly. But since those standards also protect my own work, they are a two-edged sword that need to be worked with.

Apparently, I am not the only one that has felt frustrated at times to have work sent back for revision because it was too similar to something already published, or even something I myself had already written. Textbroker has now provided a tool to help check work before it is submitted. Called UN.CO.VER (for UNique COntent VERifier), it allows a writer to paste in the text of an article and check it to see if it is too close to something previously published. You can also use it to see if your work has been copied and used somewhere else. I’m looking forward to seeing how useful this tool turns out to be.

Featured on the Front Page of Associated Content

On March 31, I had an article featured on the front page of the Associated Content web site. It caused a huge spike of views on the article, almost 7800 page views in one day! That’s about 1/3 of the views I’ve received on all of my pages since I first started with them back in October 2009. To date, it has received 8869 page views.

You can see the article here: Is the Road Trip a Thing of the Past?

A Shortage of Open Orders at Textbroker

I haven’t written much at Textbroker for the last two weeks due to a shortage of Open Orders. At last check, there were 57 available options – many of them in Portuguese or French. They are also looking for people to write about office space in England.

This really shows why it’s best to have several work for hire outlets. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

Accepted as a Featured Travel Contributor at Associated Content

I received a message today from Associated Content that I am now a Featured Travel Contributor. Along with that came three assignments to write original and unique content. I have thirty days to complete the assignments. Each requires 350 words (which I will go way over, I’m sure) and pays $8.00. Not a huge sum, but better than they have normally paid.

I’m thinking I’ll try to write more about Ecuador and maybe something about Costa Rica.