Saturday, December 5, 2009

eHow Earnings - Back to Carryover

eHow has apparently heard all the confusion over their new earnings report system, and it appears they have changed it all BACK to what it was.

So as it was long ago, the payments are now recorded in the month earned (not paid) and everybody says "carryover" until they start the payment process. (At which point it should switch to "pending" and then to "completed.")

So ignore previous advice, and watch your November line in the earnings for updates on payment....

Friday, November 13, 2009

Sweeps Are Winding Down

Rich said tonight on the forums that they were done sweeping old articles. While they haven't got the preview system up and running, they will be concentrating on trying to review newly posted articles within a week, so that writers will at least know relatively quickly if the article has passed muster or not.

(Someone who had attended the WeHow conference also mentioned that they heard there that the preview process should be in place around the beginning of the year.)

Monday, November 9, 2009

Is It Okay To Subcontract Articles for eHow? No.

There has been much discussion on eHow as to whether members can hire others to write articles for them. For a time eHow waffled on this. But now Julie has just posted a definitive statement:

In order to publish on eHow, you must attest that you are the original author (not simply the copyright owner) of the piece of content you are publishing. Simply put, you sat down, formed your thoughts into words/sentences and completed the entire article on your own. For those of you that have published material on eHow may remember that you must check a box next to the statement asserting that you are the author of the content before you are able to submit your article for publication. If your article is flagged for plagiarism and you are not the original author of the work, your article will be removed.

In regards to my earlier post, I was just pointing out the larger implications of not posting your own work. eHow isn't just a place to post an article to earn money. eHow is a Community of people who come together and learn from one another. If you are not the original author of your work and have no experience or have not done the research on how to do what you're writing about, how will you exchange valuable/quality information with one another?


This is the only way eHow can handle this, IMHO. So far, we've had several people get in trouble for plagiarism when they purchased articles from unethical sellers. Plus it is unfair to other writers, who do their own work, for a few to subcontract massive amounts of work and use it to squat on all the titles and otherwise bend rules.

I don't blame those who wanted to build themselves a strong business this way, but those people need to use this leverage on their own sites, and not use it to dominate someone else's site.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

End to Sweeps? Not yet....

Julie just posted in the feedback forum that the new review system is not yet up and running. (This explains why so much spam has made it on to the site recently.)

The first stage of the system is in place - and it checks articles for plagiarism and duplicate titles only. This is why new articles will go to "pending" when first published.

The sweeps will continue until they can integrate the editorial review process into the preview process. She did not estimate when that would happen.

(Als0 check out newer information I have in the eHow Earnings Update Post.)

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Earnings reporting and "Carryover"

(NOTE: eHow appears to have changed the earnings reports back to what they used to be. Ignore this post for now. Read this earnings post instead.)

I see a lot of people are hitting this blog doing searches on variations of the words "eHow earnings" and "carryover."

eHow changed the way they report the earnings on our "My Earnings" page. But, as usual, they don't tell us what is normal - so we're all kind of waiting. Here's what your my earnings page should look like until they start paying (which they usually do sometime between the 6th and the 10th):

Earnings Period - Total Earnings - Payment Status - Payment Issued
Nov 2009 - (Nov Earnings) - Period Active - $0.00 USD
Oct 2009 - (Oct Earnings) - Completed from Rec'd - (Sept Earnings)
Sep 2009 - (Sept Earnings) - Carryover - $0.00 USD
Aug 2009 - (Aug Earnings) - Completed from Rec'd - (Aug Earnings)

It will be a little different if you have an actual carryover. Also, if you didn't earn anything today, you may not have a line for November yet.

If you'll note, the "Complete from Received" on the October line refers to SEPTEMBER earnings. When you get your October earnings, it will appear in your November line.

This will be the first month where we are fully on the new system, so I'm not sure what it will say when the payments start - but when it changes from the above, you should be paid within about 48 hours.

There are a few people who did not get paid in September. I know they are reporting it in the Feedback Forum. I recommend that those of you who have had problems or questions start by reading those discussions.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

How to Improve Your Writing Skills

If you had some articles deleted for poor writing or "other," or if you just want to be a better writer, here are some of the things professional writers do.

1. Take a class. There's really nothing better than to have a teacher who can help zero in on your writing weaknesses, and a group of classmates to help you see problems from a different perspective.

2. Read writing books, magazines and blogs that are NOT about how to make money at writing. Really. Seriously. Honestly. Those "how to make money writing for eHow" guides don't teach you how to write. Go to your library or bookstore and read Writer's Digest. Do the "Grammar Grappler" column there. Read The Writer. Subscribe to Grammar Girl's blog or podcast on iTunes. Get grammar books like "Eats Shoots and Leaves". Get yourself a big fat style book like the Chicago Manual of Style (or even the "easy version") and a Dictionary. Not only can you look stuff up, you can improve your writing by just browsing for 15 minutes once a week.

3. Use Perdue University's Online Writing Lab.

4. Play Free Rice. Free Rice is a charity website with a vocabulary game/quiz. Their sponsors donate a certain amount of rice to feed the hungry for every answer you get right. The quiz has an algorithm that will give you easier questions when you get an answer wrong, and harder questions when you get the answer right. That way it's always helping you expand your vocabulary at just your level.

5. Read William Safire. He's a more advanced resource, but he became America's top guru on the English language and he never went to college, so he also understands lack of education. His How Not to Write: The Essential Misrules of Grammar is smart, clever, and it does a wonderful job of giving examples. The book is an expansion of his "Rules For Writing" in which he breaks each rule as he writes them. For instance in "Eschew Obfuscation" - Eschew means "give up" or "stop" and Obfuscation means "hiding your meaning behind big words like obfuscation."

6. Sign up for eZine Articles, or just read their blog. eZine Articles has an excellent set of tutorials to help you become a better writer. They are focused on internet business people and marketers - but that can help you with other aspects of your writing too.

7. Read the best writing in your field. This means, I am sorry to say, that you should spend less time reading and rating your fellow eHowers, and more time reading professionally written magazines. Read them at the library. Pick up articles for a dime a dozen at garage sales. Heck, buy them. (But also recognize that these magazines have different requirements than eHow.)

8. Practice with your own blog. Writing is like sports or music. Nothing boosts your skills better than just doing a lot of it. So start a blog. Write something every day. Get out of the eHow "how to" straight jacket. Practice anything you've learned from all of the above suggestions. Heck, concentrate on writing good posts on Twitter to practice your skills at being quick, short and direct.

9. Use a spell checker, BUT DO NOT RELY on a spell checker. Spell checkers are machines and they can't understand what you meant. They can't tell you when you've used the wrong word. For instance as I was typing the previous paragraph, I accidentally wrote "wrong work". A spell checker would not have caught that mistake.

Next up - Blog/Opinion. (Back to Series Index.)

Reasons for Deletion - Poorly Written Article

eHow expects people to make a few mistakes here and there. However, when the mistakes interfere with reading the article, or there are so many problems it just looks bad, eHow will delete the article for being poorly written.

Of the deleted articles I've seen posted, I see two kinds of problems. One is simply people who are just not good at English. It may be their second language, or it may be people who just never did well in English in school. Poor spelling, punctuation, and capitalization.

The other kind of "poor writing" is more a problem with organization and structure. The writer spells things right, and has a good grasp of grammar, but the article wanders off on side points, or the main point is buried. Or perhaps everything is put into one long solid paragraph per step, or it's the opposite and everything is broken up into illogical fragments.

Articles in the second group are sometimes deleted for being "not in how to format," usually because it's hard to find the actionable step, or the layout is odd.

The next post will be about ways to improve your writing skills, but for now here are some tips for those who are just having a little trouble with the format:

  • eHow's form creates a structure for you - use it. Don't try to break up steps into smaller steps or divide a step into sub-sections. A step should be a single unit. It may help to think of the first sentence as like a header - but make sure it's a complete sentence starting with a verb. It's not a title, so use regular capitalization and punctuation.
  • It is okay to break up paragraphs within a step. A paragraph should be two or three sentences. If it is longer than four lines it starts to get hard to read online.
  • If you don't want to break up your really long paragraph, then consider making it shorter. Cut out the extra words and phrases and ideas. Maybe some of them belong down in the Tips and Warnings section below anyway. A shorter, tighter paragraph will not only be more inviting to read, it will also have a better keyword density - and make your article more attractive to search engines!
  • Your title should be perfect! No mistakes. People decide on whether to read your article based on the title. eHow does delete articles just for title problems (which will be the subject of another post).

Next up, How to Improve Your Writing Skills. (Back to Series Index.)

Reasons for Deletion - Is it Really Spam?

Spam is another word eHow uses as a shorthand term for something broader. For the most part, they mean articles that tend to promote a particular thing. That thing may be a government service, or a charity or a non-profit website, or a product - and it doesn't matter if it is a worthy item, or if the writer is not making any money off of it.

The key to understanding this rule is to think about whether the article is actually offering its own solution to the reader's problem, or just telling them that the site or product is the solution.

If your article is about how to find free health care, for instance, that is a noble subject. But if the answer is just a list of organizations or sites that will help you, the article will be deleted for spam. The article may be valuable and it should be posted somewhere, but it still doesn't belong on eHow.

Of course, sometimes an article like that is also deleted for "common sense" or because it's "not in how to format". I, for one, wish that eHow would change it's terminology for spam. It is so easy to misunderstand and it offends people unnecessarily. Call it "promotional" and if some other rule applies, use that one instead.

One other note about "spam": stay away from name brands. If there is more than one product that does a particular job, then try to use the generic term for the item, or use a "such as" to name the item. If your recipe says "Use Crisco to fry your chicken" you could be accused of promoting a specific product. Try "Since butter burns so easily, many people prefer to use a shortening such as Crisco to fry their chicken." The best solution, though, would be to just say "use shortening".

Next Up: Poorly Written Article. (Back to Series Index.)

Friday, October 9, 2009

Reasons for Deletion - Common Sense?

You'd think common sense would be a good thing, wouldn't you?

And actually you'd be right. Common sense is something that eHow believes its prime readership has. There may be a lot of people who don't have common sense, but eHow is not catering to them.

When eHow deletes an article for "common sense" what they mean is that the article that conveys basic information that most readers can think up for themselves, and if they are motivated enough to Google it, they probably have already thought of it.

The classic "common sense" articles are those that tell people how to do simple everyday things that we all know how to do. One common example is the article that tells people how to look something up on the internet. (Think about that for a second. The people likely to find our article about how to look things up on the internet are those who looked it up on the internet!)

If your article could be summarized by "go to this site or reference" or "follow instructions", it doesn't matter how many additional tips, hints, and explanations you add. The article will eventually be deleted.

On the other hand, there are some excellent articles that are written for people who don't know some very basic things. These are often written by people with a very high level of expertise and skill - either in the subject matter or in training beginners. These articles often have a lot more substance and depth. If you feel your article fits in this category, you may want to write it anyway and risk deletion. Of course, you should realize that writing such an article requires a lot more skill than other kinds of articles. If your article has any other flaws, the two combined will certainly doom it to deletion.

Now...not all "common sense" articles are basic topics. Sometimes an article on a more advanced topic is still handled in a simplistic way. We usually write these kinds of articles when we are pushing the envelope - trying to write an article where we are not fully expert, or trying to write too many articles at a time. (We all do that sometimes.) For instance, if you are not a Human Resources expert and you wrote "How to Negotiate a Big Raise" just from ideas you got by thinking about it really hard, then odds are our reader (who is deeply concerned about getting that big raise) has already thought harder and deeper than you have. What value are you bringing to the reader?

NOTE: that article still may be of use. For the person who never even thought about asking for a raise, your ideas may spur them to action. But it's NOT an eHow article. It actually is the sort of article that can be great for a blog. So if you like to write these kinds of articles, you should consider starting a blog (or at least saving them up for a blog later on).

In the end, "common sense" is one of those subjects with a big gray area. It's a judgment call by eHow's editors. Just don't forget that "common sense" articles are seductively easy to think up, but they are very hard to write well. (This is a subject I'll probably come back to.)

Next Up: Is it Really Spam?. (Back to Series Index.)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Reasons for Deletion: Not in How To format

eHow wants practical, hands-on kinds of how to articles. Not everything has to involve a hammer and nails, but it is good to think of your article as aiming for that kind of approach. An article about writing an essay should focus on the process and break it down into proper steps, as though writing an essay were like building a bird house.

eHow's publishing tool helps us with this. They have an introduction area, a place to list things needed to complete the task, specific spaces for each of the steps, and an area for tips and warnings.

Articles which are deleted for not being in proper format usually try to find ways around this form. The introductory material should be limited to the introduction. The steps have to be actual actionble steps - not places to talk about various aspects of the task.

Lists of materials should be in the materials area. (Some people do like to put their materials in the first step too, but if you do this, make sure you put it in proper sentences and paragraphs. "Gather your materials. You need a hammer, three nails and six pieces of wood." I am wary of this. I prefer to repeat the items and quantities within the steps as you use them.)

If you don't really need to put something in the "things you'll need section" leave it blank. Don't put things like "Determination. A desire to change the world." We all do that at some point (I think it's just something writers have to do) but it really doesn't belong there. This is for tools and materials.

Your steps should start, if at all possible, with a verb. "Do this. Cover that. Open this." A really excellent article is not going to be deleted just because a step started with "Once you have finished chopping the carrots, put them in a pot on simmer." However, the longer it takes to get to that verb the more likely the editor is to think, "this isn't really a step." Other flaws plus that could get you deleted.

Just remember NOT ALL ARTICLE IDEAS ARE SUITED TO A HOW TO FORMAT. An awful lot of the best keywords are just not suited to it either. A lot of people try to force an article into the format. They put a verb at the beginning of the steps, but the steps themselves are really "about" type articles, or "informational."

For instance: "Consider how bees affect your daily life. They make honey. They pollinate more than just pretty flowers. Agriculture is dependent on bees to produce most of the food we eat." That's not a step, even though it has a verb at the front. That's what we call informational. There is no outcome that leads us to the next step.

And that is a clue to help you decide whether an idea or article is suited to a "how to" format. Summarize each step into the essence of what you want to get across. Is the point to "consider the bees" or is the real point "bees are important to all life"? Sometimes it is hard to tell the difference - so think about this, if you JUST gave somebody the outline with little short sentences for each step, would the article make sense? And would each of these actions lead to a particular result.

In writing an article about how to write an essay, you might have a step that starts "Consider your topic" but that should really be an action that leads somewhere - and odds are, you will find that the "consider" part can be removed. "Consider your topic. Write down the first five ideas that come into your mind when you think of it." You can just cut out that first sentence. Get to the action.

"Not in How To Format" overlaps with a few other problems, the most common of which is "Blog/Opinion."

But next I'd like to talk to you about Common Sense. (Back to Series Index.)

What Does eHow Want?

To really understand the meaning behind eHow's rules, you have to understand what eHow wants.

First of all, they want to focus on their identity as a "how to" site. They envision the perfect eHow article as one about how to make something or build something. They aren't looking for background information or opinions. They want articles that focus on a clear and simple set of directions.

Second, they see their audience as reasonably intelligent, thoughtful, and proactive. Most of the traffic on the site comes from search engines like Google. They are not like the audience who browses through a magazine, sees an article and thinks, "Hey, I never thought of that. I think I'll try that." eHow's readers have already done some thinking and have actually committed to taking some action - they searched for the article.

Third, eHow wants to maintain its reputation as the best "how to" site on the web. While they invite amateurs to write articles, they need to maintain certain minimum standards of writing. They need to keep spam and inaccurate articles off the site. They try to follow Google's 'best practices' rules.

When you look over your articles, you have to look at them in that context. Are they the right kind of article? Art they aimed at eHow's core audience? Do they meet eHow's needs as a business? You can write a great article that doesn't meet any of those needs, but to suit eHow, you have to meet ALL of those needs.

Now, on to specifics....

Next up - Reasons for Deletion - Not in How To Format. (Back to Series Index.)

Recovering Your Deleted Articles

I hope that everybody who writes for any purpose whatsoever knows that you, the writer, are responsible for keeping your own back ups. No publication or site will guarantee the safety of your articles. Even so, many writers don't think to keep back ups of their articles, or just forget.

If you had an article deleted, and you didn't have a back up, you may be able to recover it if you act fast. Google keeps a cache with back ups of everything it indexes. (They keep it for a limited time, however, so SEARCH NOW.)

You need the exact title of the article, if possible. You may be able to find it in the email you should have got from eHow. Sometimes emails get lost or come late, so you can find the name in your "my earnings" monthly lists. Although the article may disappear from your regular articles list, the earnings are still active, and so the article appears in your earnings page. If you don't have the exact title, you can type it in as close as possible.

In the Google search box, put your title in quotes. If the title is a common phrase, you can add your screen name outiside of the quotes. Like this:

"How to Find an Article on Google" toogie2

If you type it in, rather than copy and paste it from another source, you may want to type in all lower case, because if you use any capitals inside a quote, Google will want EXACT capitalization. But if you use all lower case Google will be more flexible.

If your article comes up in search, you can click on the "cached" link just below it, and that will bring up whatever version of your article is still in Google's database. If you've made many changes, it may bring up an older version. (This will happen especially if you've changed the title - try the newer version of the title, in that case.)

Save the page, or copy it to Word.

Now that you have your article, you can publish it elsewhere, or you can show it to others to get help figuring out what is wrong with it.

Next up - What does eHow Want?. (Back to Series Index.)

Introduction - Dealing with Article Deletions at eHow

eHow currently allows people to post articles without review. However, they have guidelines and standards. Over the years, a LOT of articles have accumulated on the site that do not meet these standards, and this past year eHow has been making an effort to clean up the site.

Every two months or so, they have been making a "sweep", and they go through and delete large numbers of articles. Unfortunately, eHow is not the best at communicating with the membership, and people are often caught unawares. This series of articles is to help you survive these sweeps and avoid having articles deleted in the future.

Here is some quick info for people who have had articles deleted:

  • Your earnings on that article are safe. They did disappear from your articles list - and therefore they are a negative on your list if you are using Q's Earnings Tracker software - but they are still in your "my earnings" page. You will still get paid.
  • If you didn't get an email telling you which articles were deleted and why (or if you got an incomplete email) Julie announced last night that they will be resending the messages "tomorrow morning (Pacific Time)" which I believe means today. It could be Friday.
  • Your article is not necessarily being judged as "bad." It may be an excellent article that just doesn't fit eHow's style or specific rules.
  • eHow's uses inexact terms for some of their reasons. "Spam" for instance, doesn't mean exactly what most people think it does. Upcoming posts will deal with the defiinitions of these terms.
  • You can NOT rewrite and post the same article again on eHow, but you are free to publish it anywhere else.
  • If you didn't keep a back up of your article, there's some advice in the next post on this blog.
  • The links to your deleted article will redirect to another article in eHow's library. This is not an attempt to steal your thunder. Google demands that redirects go somewhere relevant to search. More on this in a later article.
  • They only get through a small portion of the articles in any one sweep. So yeah, there is still a lot of junk left on the site. It isn't that those articles are better than yours, it's just that the editors haven't got around to them yet. (And the bad news is, the articles you have left may not have been reviewed yet - they can still be deleted in a future sweep.)

Next up - Recovering Your Deleted Articles. (Back to Series Index.)

Surviving the Sweeps!

If you haven't noticed, eHow is doing another round of article deletions. I'll be posting a series of articles over this weekend to help people deal with the article deletions, and perhaps avoid them in future.

This post will act as an index post.

  1. Introduction - Dealing with Article Deletions at eHow
  2. Recovering Your Deleted Articles
  3. What does eHow Want?
  4. Reasons for Deletion - Not in How To Format
  5. Reasons for Deletion - Common Sense?
  6. Reasons for Deletion - Is it Really Spam?
  7. Reasons for Deletion - Poorly Written Article
  8. How to Improve Your Writing Skills
  9. Reasons for Deletion - Blog Opinion
  10. Reasons for Deletion - Missing Steps
  11. Playing Not to Lose vs. Playing to Win

More to come this evening.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Stoic's list of Common Mistakes

StoicSentry has posted an excellent list of common beginner mistakes on the eHow forums. Check 'em out!

Increase your Passive Income with Diversity!

Most people know you should diversify your sources of income to protect from loss, but it's also a way to make you more productive.

Consider this: How many times have you come across a lucrative keyword that you know something about, but you've had to struggle to come up with a "how to" type article for that subject?

Now just imagine if you didn't bother with that struggle. You just went straight ahead and wrote the best article for that keyword that you can. Maybe it's an "about" article, or an opinion piece, or maybe it's one of those borderline articles: "Seven Ways to Do Something-or-Other" which you could force into how to format, but then you have to worry about being deleted in a sweep.

What if, in the time you normally would have sweated and flustered over how to turn an 'about' article into a 'how to' article, you just wrote the 'about' article and were done and ready to go on to something else? Or what if you wrote that "about" article, and that opinion piece, and the "Seven ways", AND wrote a how to? What if you ended up with four articles rather than one?

You can do that if you write for more than one site. (And they can all provide backlinks to others.)

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Earnings Schedule

NOTE: eHow appears to have updated their accounting system, and the information below no longer applies. I will update it when we have more confirmation of what the new terms mean.


The beginning of the month is often fraught with earnings concerns. What's it supposed to say? Is it taking too long? Here is the norm:

Your earnings for the month, on the "My Earnings" page, will say "Carryover" at first. It will say this even if the total for the month has not updated. It usually changes within the first day, but it can take longer if it's on a weekend. (And sometimes takes longer just because eHow is like that.)

If you have accumulated more than $10 in earnings, it should then switch over to "Pending." (If you've made less than $10, it will remain at "carryover" until you have earned enough to be paid - i.e. "made payout.")

Sometime within the next week or so, they will start processing payments. You will start to see reports trickle into the Community Chatter forums that payments are in, but the overall processing seems to take a whole day or two - not all at one time. (NOTE: eHow's policy is that they have a month to pay you - however, they usually process payments in the first two weeks.)

When you get paid you get an email from Paypal, and sometimes an email from eHow too.

If at any time in this process, your status says "Failed", go to the Feedback forum and check to see if there is already a discussion thread for people who have "failed" payments. Either add a post to that discussion which says you have the problem too, or if there is no discussion, start one with the following title:

BUG: earnings say "failed"

It's important to title your discussion properly or it may be deleted or ignored. Also they really hate if there are duplicate topics, so be sure there isn't already a topic before you start a new one.

Finally, if you find your earnings status is out of sync with the rest of the population (if it says "carryover" or "pending" more than a day longer than everyone else, for instance), then you should also check the forums and if necessary start a topic on that subject.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Editorial Standards, Pulp Fiction and eHow

The front page article today on eHow has some typos in it (probably fixed by now). This has prompted much green-eyed discussion about how low eHow's standards are.

Don't get me wrong. Scads of typos in the front page top features article of the day doesn't look very professional. eHow should at least spend a little editorial time making sure that one article is perfect. It's not like it would cost much.

But eHow is not a slick (high end magazine). They don't pay hundreds or even thousands for a front cover article. eHow is more like a pulp magazine. They're down, they're dirty, and they are focused on giving the readers what they want. Pulps are more pragmatic and less polished. That's just the way it is.

I'll tell you a story I heard from Harlan Ellison. Ellison is an amazing, prize-winning short story writer. His stuff is gut-grabbing and literary, but he started in the pulps. He wrote for fractions of pennies per word, so he had to write a lot to make a living, and that volume made him fast and sure. Every word became like the strokes of a chef's knife, pretty only when necessary, but always accurate and to the point.

Now, the editorial needs of a pulp magazine are somewhat different than a fancier, high-paying magazine. They need what they need when they need it. For instance, the magazines would commission their lurid covers well in advance of getting the stories for the magazine. They'd just make up titles and author names, and writers would compete to get to write the stories. Of course, the biggest prize was the cover story itself - the story that matched the glowing yellow cover with the monster and the sexy babe on it.

Harlan tells of one time getting the cover story by luck. He found an editor one day all in a tizzy. The writer for the cover story of the next issue had flaked out on him. He needed a 20,000 words story the very next day, and he had nothing.

Harlan looked at the cover, which featured a giant glowing earthworm tearing the clothes off a buxom woman, and thought about it.

"You know, I've got a giant earthworm story."

"Great! Can you have to me tomorrow?"

"Gee, I don't know. It's only 18,000 words. I guess I could stay up all night working on it...."

Harlan got the assignment, got the money and glory for writing a featured cover story, and paid extra for doing the rush job.

The thing is, he didn't have an 18,000 word story about alien worms raping the women of earth. Until he saw the cover, he hadn't even thought about such a story. He just went home and wrote the whole thing from scratch that night, turned it in in the morning and got all the money and glory.

That story probably wasn't very good. Even with the Ellison touch, it probably would have been rejected by that same editor if it had come in over the transom (i.e., if it had been an unsolicited submission).

But because it was exactly what that client needed at that time, it didn't matter. It got the money and glory anyway.

That's just the nature of the business.

So, when it comes to the front page articles on eHow, let's spend less time being jealous and disdainful, and more time trying to understand just what makes that article so valuable to eHow - our client. Because when it comes down to it, it doesn't matter how professional or not eHow's standards are, our professionalism demands that we understand what they need.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Photo Upload is working again!

It appears they finally fixed the photo upload bug last night. People on the forums are reporting success. (A few people report that it failed on first try though - second try worked.)

I figure there is such a back log of photos people want to upload, I'm going to wait a little before I started uploading mine. Don't want to swamp the system.....

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

New Article Submission Guidelines Published

Rich published the new Article Submission Guidelines today in the forums. He said these will be available for download and in other places soon.

This is a great first step. I haven't had the chance to thoroughly read and ponder them. A few quick thoughts, though:

There is still some wiggle room for interpretation in some areas that people may want to argue about whether it applies to their article, but the purpose of the rules is now well set out. And the guidelines themselves state clearly "Writing is subjective by nature, so rules are not easily categorized into black and white terms."

The other thing I noted is how much time these guidelines spend talking about titles and the promise they make to the reader. Titles are very important to eHow. I think members focus an awful lot on SEO and the unique title rule, and forget that in the end, these are secondary considerations. The first is communication to the reader.

Again, here is the link to the new Article Submission Guidelines.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Spam Attack on eHow!

eHow is currently undergoing an attack of spammers in the comments area of most articles. The messages says, "hey. thought you should see this. make money from google! go here: " and then includes an url which looks like it goes to a site to make money on Google.


It's a hijack site, and may infect your computer with malware (anything from spyware that tries to get your passwords, to worms that use your computer to spread more spam across the internet). NEW NOTE: The specific virus this site spreads (that we know about) is Artemis. An eHow member thoughtfully wrote an article about dealing with Artemis of you clicked on the site.

What should you do if your articles have such comments on them? For right now, I think we should leave it be. When it started a bunch of us were flagging and reporting abuse - so it has been reported to eHow - but this is clearly an organized high power attack. They may even be intending to bring down eHow with too much activity, and our activity could make the situation worse.

If this is a "denial of service" attack, it isn't working yet. They are only clogging the comment system. The site has not slowed down and readers can still find our articles and ads are still posted on them.

It is possible that eHow's staff is already working on it, but it is also possible that they are mostly on vacation today and may not get to this until tomorrow. (That's why these attacks tend to come on a weekend.) Let's give them some time to fix it, and not overload the site ourselves too much.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Is eHow Falling Apart?

It always seems like it, doesn't it? I've been here for nine months, and we seem to have some kind of crisis and oodles of bugs every month. (Big crises every other month.) But the one thing I do know is that they take payment seriously.

And when it comes down to it, that's what matters.

Seth Godin had a good article this week (among several) which made me think immediately of eHow. The Problem With Positive Thinking turns out to be positive is harder than negative, even though it is way more productive.

To riff further on that theme, it is understandable why there are so many negative vibes around. The economy already fell apart, nothing is certain, the future is scary. Everything is scary. It isn't just that negative thinking is easier, it's almost impossible not to give in to it's allure.

We're wired that way. If we suspect a threat anywhere, everything else goes out the window. Fear is the greatest distraction tool (and advertisers and politicians love it). Because of that negativity is a Black Hole: it will suck the life out of you. And while it does that, it lies to you. You get a surge of adreneline that makes you feel energetic even as it saps it all out of you.

"A life lived in fear is only half lived."

If the source of your negativity is eHow right now, you probably should take a break. (And if politics and the economy are killing you, turn off the TV and stop reading the papers for a bit.) Do something else for a while, write something else. But the most important thing you can do is to change you inputs. Read or watch or do things that renew and refresh. Find something positive.

Of course, if you are not being sucked into a black hole of fear and rage, then you might find it positive to do more writing and learn to write better articles for eHow. So on that that note, I am going to start a series of articles about specific criteria eHow uses to assess and delete articles.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Backlinks 4 - Commenting

Almost all marketing comes down to whether people know you. (As they say in Hollywood, it's not who you know, it's who knows you.)

And they need to know you for good things, not bad. That's why all of those "power" efforts to spam announcements of articles don't work so well. If all anybody sees of you is an ad, then they think of you as an ad. They start to think of you as the spam they didn't want with their breakfast.

So as I mentioned in previous backlinks post about signatures, just having your contact information available as you interact normally is a great way to start. You can use the same principle, though, well beyond email.

Commenting on blogs is an easy way to do this. Different sites have different rules, but they almost always have a place in the comment form to ad an URL. It's usually not displayed, but rather it's embedded in your name when you comment. So it works like a sig, in that if somebody wants to know more about you, they just click on your name and they'll be taken to the page you entered there.

There are two very important things to think about before you do this, though:

One: Nobody is going to click on your name if your comment isn't interesting or useful. If it smells even a little bit like spam, the proprietor is likely to delete it, too. Your comment should be relevant, and interesting in and of itself. It should NOT say "hey, here's an article that relates to this topic, go and read it." One way to make things interesting is to give an opinion. It can even be a controversial opinion as long as it is respectful. (Again, the proprietor will delete disrespectful comments.) "That's a great point, although I prefer this for that reason" is a great post, if your reasons are well spelled out.

Or when in doubt ask a question. Even if nobody answers, you have at least contributed to the usefulness of the discussion.

Your other major issue is that you can only put in one URL, though, so which page do you put in? Some people like to put their article that is closest to the subject, and that's a pretty good idea, although you really have to be prepared with a list of possible URLs at hand whenever you go reading blogs and newspapers.

This is why many people end up creating their own web page or blog, where they can put an index of articles. That way they can concentrate on promoting just one URL. Other people promote their eHow profile page.

One consideration: many blogs have restrictions on who can comment. You may have to have a Google Blogger account - and if so, the link always goes to your Blogger profile. It can be good to set up a profile with appropriate links in each location where you might want to comment on blogs - Blogger, LiveJournal, etc. Many blogs use Open ID, which is a site where you set up an ID account, and it does something similar across a wider range of services.

Profile pages are as important as sigs. I'll be the first to admit I don't make good use of them, but the masters of marketing DO, and if you are serious about marketing, you should always be thinking about your profile pages. Remember that the key to marketing is that you want people to like, or at least trust, you. They will be interested in your product only after they find out you are a person who doesn't waste their time.

Next time I'll talk a little about using Yahoo Answers as a promotional tool. (Just remember, as with any community, they HATE SPAM at Yahoo Answers, and you should only use this to genuinely answer questions. If you don't do this right, you could lose your whole Yahoo account!)

Previous backlinks posts:
What is a Backlink?
Backlinks - blogging
Backlinks - signature files

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Earnings Tracker is Published!

17of26 wrote a convenient Firefox plug-in to help people track their earnings. I tried it today, and it certainly saves me time on getting those figures into my spreadsheet. (To get them into the spreadsheet, though, requires an extra step or two - which I'll mention below.)

From the screen shots, it looks like this think keeps the info and compares it from day to day. This is also very cool, but it will take a few days to sort out how well it works for that.

For now I am just using it to grab all of the information from my Articles pages and then exporting it to a text doc, and then importing it to my existing spread sheet. Unlike regular tables (such as the articles pages themselves) I can't just copy and paste from the report. They seem to be delimited in a different way, but never fear, there is another plugin that get that data out of the page - it's called table tools. So, to do what I did, here's what you need:

First you need the latest version of Firefox. Version 3.5 is a big update, and if you use a lot of plugins, you may find some of them don't work with 3.5. If you love your plugins and they haven't been updated to work with 3.5 yet, then you may want to postpone trying out this plugin. For the rest of you, continue on....

After updating Firefox, you need to get your two plugins. From inside Firefox, all you need to do is go to the "Tools" menu and choose "Add ons". This will get you to a pop up menu that shows you the plugins you already have. At the top there is a button that says "Get Addons" which will take you to the Mozilla site, where you can search for and add whatever plugins you want. Search for "ehow earnings tracker" and then for "tabletools" (one word - tabletools not table tools). Then all you have to do is click the "add to firefox..." button. It will ask you to confirm you want to "install now" and when it's done, it will ask you if you want to restart or just continue browsing. Don't restart until you have downloaded both plugins.

Then, when you come back to eHow, you can just go to your articles page, and tell the earnings tracker to "update earnings" (this is in the "Tools Menu" also, but I believe you can right click to get the menu as well).

NOTE: The data will be much neater if you first click on the Date column to make it show Oldest to Newest. That way if yo do put it in a spreadsheet, the new titles will be added neatly at the bottom of the list, rather than push all the existing titles down a notch. (I don't know how it would react if you do it one way one day, and then the opposite way the next. I may try that tomorrow!)

When it's done gathering the data, it will show you a neat little table of your earnings and then another of your views. To get these into a format that Excell can read, your best bet is to then right click on the table. This will bring up a big menu which has the TableTools menu, but it doesn't label it as such. It calls it: "View Page info > Other Table Operations" The menu that pops up for that selection gives you a choice of "Copy As Tab-delimited Text".

This actually will give you text that can be pasted into Excell - complete with headers. (The first time I tried it, however, it wouldn't paste, so I pasted it into a text document, and then just copied the data without headers and it worked. I think, though, that was a fluke.)

I love these tools. Even if none of the other features work, this will save me SOOOOOO much time and still allow me to keep good data on what is working and what isn't for my articles.

Thank you, 17of26. (To everyone else, this addon is free - so please donate to 17of26 to show your appreciation for this great earnings tracker plugin!)

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Backlinks 3 - Signature Files

The biggest thing you can do to promote a web page is to put the URL in the signature file of your email or newsreader program.

Some of you may not know what a "sig" file is. You've probably seen them, though. At the bottom of an email, many people have an address or a quote. It usually appears after a line with pair of dashes on it like "-- ". The great thing about it is that it is always there, and as long as you adhere to the rules of sig file etiquette, it doesn't bother anybody. It's just there, so anybody who gets email from you has a reference to your URL.

It's like a business card, in that way. Very handy and yet unobtrusive.

And like a business card, it can be surprisingly effective. I remember once when a couple of people got into an email battle at work. It was one of those things where people keep adding more and more people to the cc line. I wasn't working that day, but I happened to be the one person who could give the one bit of information that could settle the dispute, so I emailed the whole group from home. My home computer automatically puts my private website in the sig of anything I send from there.

When I checked my web stats that night, I saw that within an hour of that email, every single person on the distribution list had hit my website.

Now, normally sigs are not that effective. You don't get hits on every email you send. Sometimes you don't get hits for months on any email you send. But that story illustrates the magic of sig files. AND it illustrates the magic of how to use them.

See, I didn't tell people to go visit my website. What I did was resolve a problem they were all having. Many of those people were really annoyed at being a witness to this series of emails, and then I put an end to the argument. That got their attention. And then, because my web address was so handy, and they were curious, they all clicked.

The thing about a signature is that people are going to respond to you most when you aren't trying to get them to respond. You may even get their attention at one time, but they don't click until they see another more boring message from you. But whenever they do get around to being curious about you, a signature is always there. The magic of the sig is that it's handy.

Nearly all the best methods of getting backlinks are in some way based on the signature principle. I'll talk later about commenting on other people's blogs, or using Yahoo Answers. While you don't use email to do either of these, there is an unobtrusive place to link in both cases that works much like a sig.

In the meantime, learn how to add a sig to your email. (And if you read any old fashioned newsgroups with a news reader, these often have sig files built in too.) There are many eHow articles, not written by me, that tell you about how to add a sig in your particular email program. You can search on "email signature" at eHow.

I will just end with a little bit about signature etiquette. The shorter the better. Never use more than three lines. People don't like a sales pitch, but a one-liner and link is fine. Better yet is just the link - all by itself. Think of this as a business card. For eHow, I would suggest linking to your profile page, or if you've created your own directory of your articles on a blog or website, connect to that.

(Those of you who have written articles about how to add a sig to specific email programs are welcome to post a link in the comments section of this posting.)

The Backlinks Series:
What is a Backlink?
Backlinks - blogging
Backlinks - signature files
Backlinks - commenting

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Backlinks Ideas: Blogging

You may note the previous post featured backlinks to some eHow articles. Writing your own blog is one way to get some blacklinks going. You can legitimately link to your own articles.

A blog or website can also be a convenient place to keep an "index" of your articles to refer people to. Many eHowers maintain a website which has a page just for this purpose. You can cluster articles of a certain subject into a single page or group and make it easier for readers to find more articles of the same kind by you. You can also announce your articles, or provide an RSS feed to these announcements.

However, these kinds of backlinks won't give you the quality points that I mentioned in the "What is a Backlink" post. Pages that have a whole lot of links but not a lot of text look suspicious to Google's bots - especially if there seems to be a pattern of linking among a couple of sites. Like, say, you have five blogs and they are each full of links to each other and to your eHow articles. That's what would be called a "link farm" and Google considers it to be spamming their search engines, and if you do it too much, they may blacklist your ehow pages, and put your blogs in the sandbox.

Google, however, can tell the difference between a legitimate index and a "spamdex", so don't be afraid to create an individual blog or website to act as an index for you. Think more of the readers and less of the search engines, and odds are you will do the kinds of things Google is looking for - group the articles by relevance, add notes about them if you think it would be useful to the readers.

The better way you can use a blog, though, takes more work. If you have a subject that you write on a lot, then why not start a blog on that subject? You can use it for several purposes: one is to announce your latest articles on the subject, but even better is if you get ideas for articles that aren't how tos, you have a place to put them - and you can link back to your eHow articles. Such a blog, of course, can potentially make you some money too. You won't have the rank of eHow, but if you create a quality site, it will eventually get the traffic you need to start making a little side money, while improving the ranking of your eHow articles.

However, this works best if your blog has an overall subject that matches the subject of your eHow articles. The backlinks in my last post will get a little boost because the post is relevant to the links, but this blog is not about parenting or a summer activities. That whole article would mean more on a parenting blog.

I'll talk about more ways to sew your own backlinks soon.

The Backlinks Series:
What is a Backlink?
Backlinks - blogging
Backlinks - signature files
Backlinks - commenting

Friday, June 19, 2009

Featured Articles - Fun Summer projects

It's summer and the kids are bored at home. You need something for them to do.

One idea is to take traditions from other times of year and update them. Like creating a candy tree. My cousins used to play this trick on me when I was little around Easter time, but it also can be done at other times. After all, trees tend to fruit during summer and fall.

Have you ever noticed how much fun kids have just messing with sidewalks? If you live in an older neighborhood, or just have an older sidewalk, you can encourage the kids to be "Sidewalk Archaeologists" and collect the dates and info from the medallions that each concrete company impresses on a sidewalk or driveway when they pour it.

Finally, don't forget to mix the fun of nature with the pure joy if naughtiness. You and your kids can engage in some guerilla gardening by making seed bombs. These are little nuggets of degradable paper and wild flower seeds that you can surreptitiously toss into ugly vacant lots and other such places.

(And yes, these are backlinks. More about this next post.)

What Is A Backlink?

If somebody likes your article, they'll probably bookmark it If they really like your article, they'll tell others about it.

For instance, further down this article, I'm going to tell you about my favorite marketing guru, Seth Godin, and in that section, I will provide a link to his blog. That link is called a "backlink." Not long after I post this, bots from Google or other search engines, will crawl through this site and they will make note of that backlink.

The backlink info will go into Google's databases, and next time Google reviews page rankings, it will use backlink data as a part of how it figures out how important Mr. Godin's blog is to the universe. (Google, btw, doesn't review page rankings every day. There are certain things they run every three months, and other things ever six months. That's one reason your SEO efforts don't often have an immediate effect, and also why sometimes you will get a sudden bump.)

Backlinks aren't all there is to deciding pagerank, but they are pretty important. The thing to remember, though, is that Google doesn't just judge number of backlinks - they put particular emphasis on quality and relevance. This is why it is not a good idea to try to cheat the system. Google is really good at spotting these cheats these days.

Now... how does Google judge the quality and relevance of my backlink to Seth Godin?

Well, I'm pretty darned sure that this blog, since it is brand new, has a ranking of zero. I'm not going to do him much good based on my reputation. If Seth posted a link to MY blog, he could do me a lot of good, even if it were a junk link. He's a best selling author with millions of subscribers. He's a marketing guy, and they made an action figure of him, for goodness sakes! But he's not going to link to me unless I say or do something really "remarkable" (which is on of his buzzwords and the real reason he is being mentioned later on here). And that's part of why his backlinks mean something.

But my backlink does mean something based on other factors. This page is a "quality" page, in that it has an actual post, and it's a long and thorough one. This isn't just a bunch of links. And the text of this post not only talks about Seth himself, but the main subject of this post is related to the main subject of his blog - which is marketing and word-of-mouth.

So my backlink may not have a high rank, but it is high quality.

Which brings me to Seth Godin himself. One of his major precepts is that shortcut marketing is dead. You can no longer buy people's attention. The key to marketing, he says, is the Purple Cow. A purple cow is something that gets your attention to the point that you feel like remarking on it to someone else. In otherwords, it's something "remarkable."

The most important thing you can do to get backlinks is to write an article that is so interesting or so useful or so perfect for their needs, that they feel like telling others about it. For an eHow article, people are most likely to remark on an article that made their day. Maybe it helped them resolve a probelm, or maybe it just showed them how some task they were dreading wasn't so hard to do. Maybe it finally explained something that had been frustrating them for years.

If you're going to make someone's day, your title and keywords have to not only match your subject, your article has to truly pay off on those keywords. The people looking for you have to be able to find you, and they won't if you warp your title to include keywords that have a higher CPC but doesn't really draw the same audience as the article should. If you attract a higher paying audience who isn't really looking for what you have to say, they WON'T backlink to you.

You get the most leverage by creating content that will attract the people most likely to say something about your article.

Later I will post about ways you can sew a few backlinks of your own.

The Backlinks Series:
What is a Backlink?
Backlinks - blogging
Backlinks - signature files
Backlinks - commenting

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Top Ten Things You Can Do While Waiting For Earnings To Post

All of these are ongoing projects that you can do a little at a time.

1. Go through your list to find clusters of articles that compliment one another. The groups can be as small as three, but not more than 10 (this will be for promotional purposes, so it helps to focus). Any individual article can appear in more than one group.

2. Find articles in these clusters that don't have links to others in the group - and add some links.

3. Fix typos.

4. Create a blog that you can use as an index of your articles. Write a post for the blog that focuses on a particular cluster.

5. Write a free ezine article that will promote the cluster. Put a link in the bionote at the end that goes to any of the articles, or to the blog.

6. Browse for keywords.

7. Improve the keywords in old articles.

8. Read somebody else's article. (Rate accordingly, comment if you can say something interesting and relevant, report spam.)

9. Go through your stats and figure out which articles seem to earn the best per view, and then think about how you could promote it to get more views.

10. Or, heaven forbid, write a blinkin' article.

Friday, June 5, 2009

eHow is Not a Get Rich Quick Scheme

It's really unfortunate that a lot of people come to eHow thinking they'll solve their financial problems. If you are serious about writing, and serious about your subject matter, yeah, eHow is an especially good market for your how to articles. But the money comes slowly, and it is not guaranteed.

Myth #1 - You can make money fast!

No, you can't. eHow's system is based on residuals, and it trickles in slowly as people discover your articles, read them, post links to them. Some articles start earning sooner than others, but for the most part, it takes months before articles start earning anything regularly, and then it isn't very much.

We did a poll a month or so ago, and the median amount an article makes a month is fifty cents. The average is higher - maybe around a dollar - because the rare star writer makes a heck of a lot more than the average writer, and it pulls the numbers up.

However, if you keep writing, you gain the experience to figure out which articles do best for you (it varies by author) and then your own average goes up. Just don't hold your breath.

Myth #2 - It's Passive Income that is Guaranteed to Keep Growing Forever!

No it's not! If you want guarantees, invest in Treasury Bonds. Articles on eHow are just like any other business. Customers come and go, business rises and falls. You have competition, and changes in the economy and buying habits. Changes in fashion.

The big thing to remember, though, is that you are dependant on two companies: eHow and Google. Either can make a little policy change and it can have a big effect on you.

In my opinion, eHow is one of the best deals going for online writing. It's a place where diligence and quality and patience are rewarded. These are long standing qualities of a successful writer, so it's a great place to gain experience.