Thursday, June 10, 2010

Suite101 Scam? No, It's Not. You Just Can't Ignore SEO.

Many writers wonder whether Suite101 is a scam.  I've been writing for Suite101 for over 6 months, and I like it.  It's not HubPages; it's suited to different types of articles.  So is Suite101 a scam?  My answer is that it depends how you define scam.  Suite101 is a legitimate company and they have freelance writers with professional portfolios writing for them.  They ask for no investment but time.  They pay in a timely manner.  They have a solid reputation in the online publishing industry.

But Suite uses one of the new earnings models known as revenue sharing.

Suite101 outsources their writing to writers who are not paid, except insofar as the articles earn money from advertising.  And that can be pennies, or it can be thousands of dollars per month.

Online revenue sharing is not really like any of the traditional publishing models, nor is it like a traditional job.  For people who believe that payment for writing should be in direct proportion to work put in or skill in writing or years of writing experience, it might look like a scam, because that's not how revenue share payment is structured, at this or other revenue sharing sites.

It's more like writing a book and getting paid no advance, only royalties, but without the assurance that ANY of your books will sell.

The upside is that compared to writing, marketing, waiting for a response, submitting again elsewhere, repeat ad infinitum, finally getting accepted, making revisions, checking proofs, waiting for publication, waiting for royalty checks, and doing your own bookkeeping, writing for rev share sites means much less of an investment in time.

You learn SEO, do preliminary SEO work, write, submit, maybe make a revision or two, study the article's performance and do some tweaks over time, and then do your taxes at the end of the year. And you do it all in stages, gradually increasing your time investment.  This is critical, because it means that you don't invest more time than you can afford.  And that's what makes it superior to traditional publishing.

If you write 20 articles at Suite101 and find you are not earning, stop.  Learn more SEO.  Optimize those articles.  Rewrite.  Don't be afraid to change the title. Don't be afraid to overhaul the article.  If the article is not commercially viable, then change your approach.  Whatever you do, don't keep writing the same old thing if after three months or so you're not seeing earnings that look promising.

How much is promising?  It depends on you - how long it takes you to write articles, and whether the earnings justify the time expense.  For some writers, it's worth it to write thousands of revenue share articles if they bring in $1,000 per month, which amounts to pennies per article.  For others, it's only worth it to write an article if it brings in $1 per month, while others aren't satisfied with less than $4 per article per month, average.

The downside of writing for Suite101 and other revenue sharing sites is that it's hard to learn how to earn a steady, reliable income.  Very few people can do it over the longterm.  Few writers can do it, because to succeed at Suite101, you have to be a marketer, as well.  And if you're not already a marketer, you have to learn how.  It doesn't mean you have to be cut-throat.  But it does mean you have to think about your writing as product-related, and about your visitors as consumers.

Very, very few articles go viral.  Social networking is not the way to succeed at article writing.  Paying for advertising or visitors to your articles is prohibited on most revenue sharing websites.  Therefore, the only way to succeed - to have your articles found and read by people who can make you money - is to apply search engine optimization techniques.

And it's not easy.  There's no quick way to learn how to write articles that earn on Suite101.  Specifically, to learn search engine optimization.  There are no complete sets of lessons out there, fee-based or free.  As soon as a new SEO rule is discovered, the rules change again, making any so-called SEO lessons quickly obsolete.

Why does this happen?  SEO is changing all the time, because the search engines are changing all the time.  The goal of people writing search-engine-optimized content is to get seen by visitors, and the goal of the search engines is to filter all the content on the Web.  Writers and search engines are therefore at odds, the search engines trying to get rid of spam, the spammers trying to scam a living off of revenue share, and the legitimate writers trying not to be seen as spammers and getting caught in between.

Google just launched Caffeine, a major new index structure for their database, and "Mayday," a new algorithm for how online content is ranked.  Besides that, they change their algorithm practically every day.  Things change so fast that I've learned there are only a few rules about succeeding on Suite101 and other revenue sharing websites:

Write content people need to read.  Don't follow the advice floating around to "tease" the reader with non-information.  Don't tell the reader everything you know about a subject.  Tell the reader just what he or she wants to know.  Put yourself in his or her head and treat him like the customer he is - remember, your writing is your product.

Keep up with search engine changes - especially Google, Yahoo and Bing.  Especially Google.  Read Google's webmaster help pages.  Visit Webmasterworld and lurk there.  The information's out there and readily available.  And don't be afraid to write articles and study what works and what doesn't.  Ask your family and friends about their online shopping behavior.  Don't rely on Suite101 forums, or HubPages forums, or eHow forums, for all the answers.  The answers are not in the writing sites or the scam SEO sites; they're in your own intuition and your experience with your subjects.

So no, Suite101 is not a scam, but yes, there's a good chance you'll make no money there.  To increase your odds, learn all you can about SEO and about writing web content people find useful, and then keep learning.  Don't stop, or the rules will change on you.  And you'll suddenly become suspicious of Suite101 or HubPages and assume they're scams.  They're not scam sites - not unless you define any kind of investment gamble as a scam.  And they don't really present themselves to be otherwise.   (Or do they?  If someone's had a bad experience there, I'd be interested to hear about it.)

Copyright Nerd Writer Mom


Alex Zorach said...

I think suite101 is fundamentally different from hubpages. Suite101 is up front about its policies; hubpages is not. Suite101 also has higher standards of editorial integrity--whereas hubpages leaves it up to an automatic system of "hub scores" and "author scores" which is not publicized or described openly, and merely left to speculation among users. And suite101 doesn't use the nofollow tag as a punitive measure to coerce their authors into continuous publishing and publicizing of hubs.

That's why I think hubpages is a scam, but would say Suite101 is a legitimate site.

Nerd Writer Mom said...

Hi Alex,

See my reply to your comment in the comments section of this article on HubPages and eHow.

ArmyEscape said...

Nerd Writer Mom,

I'm interested in web content writing and am wondering if you can help me understand what it's all about. I've read a few of your blog posts about Suite 101 and Hubpages and I've looked over Examiner online. Once you apply to these services, how do you know what to write about? Does someone give you assignments? I've never seen articles from these sources when I search the where/how are they published?

Thank you for your time!

Nerd Writer Mom said...

Hi ArmyEscape,

There are no assignments at most revenue sharing sites, although some will offer suggested topics or titles to help you get started. You decide what to write, following the specific content guidelines at the particular website.

If you've never seen articles from these websites, chances are it's because the topics you've searched for aren't already heavily written about there. That means those very topics could have great potential, since you won't get much search engine competition from existing content.

How to choose what to write is a question that could be answered in book length! The choice of topic can, in many ways, determine whether you earn significant money. Generally, I ask myself:

What do I know a lot about, to the point that I consider myself an expert?
What specific questions have I searched online, myself?
What topics aren't already heavily saturated on the web?
Can I solve somebody's problem in an original way?
What does my marketing instinct tell me will make money? (That's the hardest one.)

To understand what succeeds online and what doesn't, I can't recommend Chris Anderson's The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More highly enough. It's become a classic in a few short years, and I still think it's the best way to get a real grasp of the difference between web content and print content - even though the topic isn't explicitly content, but business and marketing. (The use of the statistical term "the long tail" in online commerce is credited to Anderson, and his ideas have been a major influence on many major players.)

So anyway, I understood a lot more about writing content after reading the book, and the timing was good as I was just starting to write for the web on my own. It really helped me understand what niche marketing was all about.

Disclosure: That's an affiliate link to, meaning I get a portion of sales from this website. If you shudder at the idea of using affiliate links for whatever reason, you can go to any bookstore's website and type in the title and it will come right up.

(And if you're wondering "What is this affiliate stuff people are always talking about, anyway?" see my articles under "Affiliate Programs" on the top of this blog.)

Anyway, does that answer your question? And maybe somebody else will pipe up with what works for them in choosing titles to write.

Christine Emmick said...

I have three niche market blogs and one "fun" blog. Can I link back to my blog with postings on these sites or is that forbidden?

Your blog came up first in the results BTW!

Nerd Writer Mom said...

Hi, Christine,

Hmm, scratching my head here. (Admittedly, it's one with a cold, and there's a kid lying on my back as I type this, so I'm not at my very best.)

I'm not sure what you're asking. Your comment here has a link to your Blogger profile. Is that what you want to do? Comment with a link to your profile or blog? And on my blog, or on all blogger blogs?

Generally it's a good idea to leave on-topic comments that contribute to the discussion. If the link you include doesn't seem spammy and is to a site that doesn't seem spammy, then most blog owners will feel they're fine. I believe all Blogger links are nofollow, though, for what it's worth.

Hope this helps - let me know if I misunderstood.

Anonymous said...

Good article, thanks.
I write for Suite. Or should I say I did write for Suite. I'm still active but not writing right now because of the Google Panda algo shift that resulted in plummeting page views and revenue. In many cases it's down 50, 60, 70, 80 percent. (mine included).
I think that Suite is in it for the long run and that they will eventually come around. The question is how long will it take. My guess? Year. Years.
I don't think Suite is a scam, although as anyone will tell you, they don't really reveal the writer's revenue percentage or the formula that decides how much the writer earns per article.
I will stick around and write for Suite - when I get a second wind - and utilize the SEO techniques that I have learned. Suite is a good place to learn about content writing and SEO, btw. There is a truly knowledgeable and interesting group of dedicated and resourceful writers there. They cut down on recruiting. They will be ok, I think. I hope.

Anonymous said...

I also write for Suite 101, and have earned only a few dollars so far. Having said that, I only have a few articles going. I have been using the site as a way to establish a writing portfolio and learn the ropes a bit. They have recently improved their editorial standards and thus articles have improved in quality.

Anonymous said...

I've done it before as well. The biggest gauges of revenue usually came from the pageviews anyway. Still, their spartan rules on how to write your articles never flew right for me: it came off as too dry for its own good.

Granted, for a site that tries to be informative, it helps to be as objective as possible with the evidence given, but when you're not allowed to show your personality into the pieces you submit, you also lack that factor that draws people who enjoyed your work to keep following you. I prefer to save the informative stuff for other websites that are more of a collaborative effort as a result.

Brett Elizabeth said...

This article is gold! Thank you so much for sharing! I just had my application accepted at Suite 101 and was doing some research on online writing scams. I'm glad to hear this one's ok. So, you mentioned hanging out in Google's Webmaster Tools, and I went there and can't really figure it out. How do you use this to help learn about SEO? Thanks!

Writer said...

Hi Brett Elizabeth,

Webmasterworld is a forum for online website professionals and it's not organized like a regular website. There isn't an FAQ or anything there, so you may want to do what I did - just dig in, search the site by topic, and lurk in the search engine forums. But if you ever start your own website, it's a great resource for that, too - any aspect of developing a website is covered. Can you tell I love that place? Another place people go to a lot to learn is the Digital Point forums.

Forums like these ones are great because any question you have has probably been asked several times and answered quite thoroughly, and you can find lots of still-up-to-date information by searching there or using Google and the site search.

And by the way, glad you got into Suite! I haven't written there much since Panda, but views seem to be picking up a bit.

Brett Elizabeth said...

Thank you so much for answering my question! Your answer is really helpful. I'll check out these sites and hang out there a bit!

Jude said...

I just don't see both suite101 and hubpages as places where real writers can make money.

Anonymous said... is 100% SCAM.

Anonymous said...

Once a great income source for writers until they changed their income sharing model.

All or most of the top writers left leaving newbie writers or hobbist.

The results have been devestating to pageviews.