Sunday, January 17, 2010

Commentary on the eHow UK Debacle

As most of you are aware by now, eHow 'cloned' 'mirrored' or 'copied' (no one can agree on a term and eHow doesn't like the term 'cloned') the US site and launched it in the UK. Along the way, they turned the 'laws' of SEO on their head and made it so that UK content outranked the US site. All of sudden earnings, mine included, were in the toilet.

If you are not familiar with SEO, the way Google is supposed to work is by recognizing the original publisher of content and ranking them higher than scraped duplicate content. Somehow eHow scraped writers' articles and then outranked the original writers on the US site. They basically subverted traffic and revenue to the cloned site.

To make things worse, eHow denied and denied and denied that there was a problem. Only through the persistence of a few vocal writers did eHow finally investigate and admit the UK site was the root cause of the earnings drop. eHow then agreed to remove US scraped content but that has yet to happen.

Now it's members against members--arguing amongst ourselves like a dog chasing a tail. One faction of members are afraid if writers make too big of a stink that eHow will shut down the Writers Compensation Program (WCP).

The other faction is, rightfully so, pointing out that if they hadn't spoken up, eHow wouldn't have done anything and one of the premiere passive revenue sites on the internet would've ceased to be profitable for writers. So kudos to the people who stood up and pushed and jumped up and down until eHow finally paid attention.

None of the writers making money off of selling ebooks spoke up against eHow, which is interesting to me and it is one reason why I have not signed up for any affiliate programs. I don't want my income sources to erode my ethics. I'll use a referral code here and there, but that's about it (and I never make money from those anyway, although I keep hoping!).

Ultimately, pushing eHow to deal with this issue is to their benefit in the long run (as well as that of the writers). If the company undermined the WCP to the point where no one made any money, I have to wonder what would happen to the site. Or the initial public offering they keep talking about. Probably not good things.

The reality is, if the WCP had been completely subverted by eHow's content scraping and mirror tricks, all the writers would've moved on to greener pastures, quickly making some other site the best new thing in revenue income. The influx of so many experienced content providers, would have further eroded the eHow brand while, at the same, time strengthening competitors.

Again, I say, it's really to eHow's benefit to remove the cloned content. The writers would've suffered in the short run, but would land on their feet in the end. There are waaaaay too many competitors looking to eat up eHow's market share for their not to be an influx of new opportunities. Competition is already happening without eHow helping it along.

But what about the Terms of Use (TOU) everyone asks. Well what about it? Yes, eHow can use our content as they see fit. Yes the TOU does say this, but I would argue there are some holes in the TOU. eHow is not completely free of liability here. Also, my personal expectation, would be some disclosure of how they plan/planned to screw over writers.

I would have never written for eHow in the first place if they had told me they were going to ever do what they did and I think a lot of other writers would've avoided them as well. It's one thing to use our content to build a distinct non-eHow brand elsewhere, another thing to use our content as a mirrored funnel that bypasses our accounts.

I would expect a new TOU to be issued as eHow works to rectify what went so horribly wrong with their UK business plan.

And make no mistake, this is a failure on eHow's part. They made some serious mistakes. I hope they take the time resolve them in a way that is equitable for all parties.

Lastly, eHow is still the best paying revenue sharing site on the internet. However, that could all change this year depending on the choices they make and what the competition does. 2010 is going to be a crucible for eHow. Will they burn or rise like a phoenix?

Friday, January 8, 2010

Hubpages: Answering Questions

So Maria read my last post and asked:

"I am a UK resident and wanting to start on hubpages and then on to suite101 when I build experience.Unfortunately I don't have such a large choice of good residual or upfront income writing sites. I can't seem to get to the bottom of whether hubpages is worth writing for I have looked at their page rank and its pretty decent but you have a very negative view of it. Could you please elaborate a bit on why you don't think it is a good earner? Also, what do you do when you find a good keyword based on the amount and quality of the competition and you check hubpages and somebody has already used that keyword. Can you place modifiers before or after the keyword? Can you still compete effectively with the other hubpages contributors for that keyword? Excuse all the questions, but after reading around a lot I haven't found a lot of objective information about hubpages except for your site. With thanks for all your kind help."

Truthfully, Maria, I have no idea if HP is a good idea or not. I don't think my experience makes for a full data set. However, I know from my earnings on eHow that I am not an SEO idiot ergo I would expect to be more successful on HP. The fact that I am not, is suspicious.

I love the Hubpages format. It's elegant, easy and there's multimedia. I would love to make my residual income 'home' on Hubpages, but after 12 hubs and some backlinking and time to allow the search engines to find me, I have not seen enough earnings to justify spending any more time on HP. And yes, I know 12 hubs is nothing, you need a lot of hubs just like you need a lot of eHow articles. However, I still would expect to see some earnings. Even on eHow, I earned with just 2 articles when I first started out.

I do hear many people talking about a google 'smack down' that pushed HP off the first page. I would hazard a guess that this is true. HP is not getting the traffic that eHow is and is nowhere near as competitive as eHow or even Infobarrel for that matter. I know for a fact that traffic is better on eHow and Infobarrel, because I can compare that data point for my content one-to-one against Hubpages.

As for keyword modifiers, yes you can use them. How well you can compete against other people targeting the same keyword is going to be a factor of the long tail keywords you use in the article and the back linking you do.

Using HP as a training ground for Suite 101 is probably a good idea. I would not go into Suite 101 completely green on web writing. You can even join eHow and post some content there for additional experience ( you just can't earn any money). I would write on topics you want to address at Suite so you can use your HP work as a back link. eHow's links are 'no follow' but they can still drive traffic so you can also market your Suite work there.

Hope that helps!

Friday, January 1, 2010

November & December Earnings and What to Do for 2010?

I've been pretty busy with lots of family holiday type stuff and haven't been able to update.

In November and December, I made roughly $300 from all sources each month, so $600 for both months together. However, eHow took a nose dive in December and I feel lucky to only end up $40 short of the November's total and that other earning sources came in high enough to cover the eHow shortfall.

Because eHow is incredibly secretive, I can't say for sure, but my gut says I am missing a day or two of earnings updates. I know they swear up and down that there is never a problem, but eHow's parent company, Demand Studios, did manage to accidentally overpay their writers in December. Call me skeptical, but I don't really think eHow has a good handle on their IT platforms. Anyway, my dates on views, articles, and earnings went wonky mid-December and just never came back right that I saw.

Now, of course, you can't even see your eHow earnings due to some year end glitch that takes everything off line. So I can't even tell you my final total for December or for the year! Grrrrr.

Do I sound jaded? Well, I admit I'm a little less than enthralled with eHow at the moment.

However, income from other sources is not exactly blowing me away, so eHow is still the best paying gig online when it comes to residual income.

Hubpages brought in zero earnings in December and under $5 in November. Infobarrel netted less than $4 the last two months and I was even on the front page at one point! Adsense is down too, but I was never making much to begin with, except that one time when I had a time sensitive topic that made it to #1 on Google.

Amazon is my saving grace right now. Earnings there have steadily grown and I need to find ways to leverage that into even more income.

As for 2010... I am reserving judgment on my strategy as I'm waiting to see how some things play out with eHow--there are some serious ethical issues with their business practices that I need to get a feel for. However, when people mention their earnings on message boards and blogs, I can see that I am outperforming them. Maybe I just need to deal with the shadiness and just go for it on eHow, but it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I don't like being lied too, even by omission which seems to be eHow's preferred method. I also don't like being exploited.

Other than that, I probably need to abandon my niches (either selling the sites later this year or using them for links) and start new ones that are better researched.

And that's it.