Last week, I wrote about unanticipated successes. One of the stories I relayed involved an article I wrote while experimenting with a site that pays based on residuals. A few years ago, I wrote a brief no-brainer of an article for a revshare site that has subsequently generated several hundred dollars in earnings.
I mentioned my overall disdain for involvement with most revenue sharing sites in the front-end of my post and thought I’d go into a little more detail about why I feel the way I do. I’d hate to think that my story of an exception to the rule would encourage anyone to dive headfirst into the revshare waters.
Here are four reasons freelancers shouldn’t be contributing to revenue sharing sites–and why there are occasional exceptions to the anti-revshare rule.
Note: Just to be clear, I’m talking about sites that will accept your article submissions and will subsequently pay you based on a percentage of ad revenue the article generates, the number of page views it attracts or some other secret formula. That includes a massive number of sites including Associated Content, Bukisa, Infobarrel and others. While sites like Squidoo and Hubpages may have additional utility to some Internet marketers, many writers utilize them as “pure” revshare outlets, as well. Though some revshare sites (like Associated Content) may offer a nominal up-front payment, the criticisms still tend to stick.
If you’re writing for a hobby and aren’t actually worried about using the income you generate to pay the bills, revenue sharing sites may occasionally provide you with a little pocket money. If you feel an overwhelming urge to express yourself on a pet topic and think you might expand your audience via use of a revshare site, you might also make a little dough while standing on principle. Who knows?
Nobody knows. And that’s a problem.
Those of us who actually rely upon our earnings to pay the bills should be acutely aware of what we’re making and how much time/effort/etc. it requires. When you fire off an article to a revenue sharing site, you have absolutely no idea what you’ll make.
Sure, you can make predictions based on past experience. Overall, you may be able to project your like per article earnings over any given time. However, making safe assumptions requires a sufficiently large sample size and an adequate period to assess results. So, you’re going to be sinking a fair amount of time into a revshare experiment before you can even do that. And once you have done it, you’ll realize that those averages are just that–averages.
Some articles may perform admirably. Others will turn out to be nearly useless. In time, you’ll begin to think you’re developing a strong feel for what works and what doesn’t. You’ll improve your keyword analysis and selection skills. You’ll learn to write the “right” way for the sites. Then, you’ll discover that the highs and lows are still far removed from the average.
My lucky article may very well earn over a grand before it dies. Others in the same niche with superior keyword optimization (produced at the same time as the lucky one) have earned next to nothing by comparison.
Why do some kick ass while others lurk unseen in the back of the Internet’s junk drawer? It could be just about anything. Maybe someone more serious than your revshare mill of choice decided to go after the same keyword. Maybe your article caught a lucky backlinking break. Perhaps Google just hiccupped and the algo failed (or succeeded, I suppose) to your benefit. The list could go on and on for pages, but all of the potential explanations share one thing in common–they’re out of your control.
So, unless you’re planning on doing a lot of tracking, refining, and writing for the revshare sites, youR likely earnings for any individual piece of work is virtually impossible to predict.
Again, that’s fine if you don’t care about money. If you do, it’s an ugly state of affairs.
SITE CHANGE RISK
When you sell your work in a revenue sharing environment, you’re almost telling the buyer to pay you whatever they’d like, whenever they’d like. You’re also agreeing to trust them to present their site, themselves and your article in an effective manner. That’s a whopper of an agreement.
What happens when your favorite revshare site decides they need to keep more of the cash their content is earning and they opt to change their payout system? You’re at their mercy. Check the terms to which you agreed when making a submission. In a best case scenario, you may have the right to yank the material off the site. Whoopee. Where are you going to sell it now that it’s been out there for months or years and has been scraped by a million lousy sites operated by those who really don’t have a grasp on intellectual property right? Are you just going to try to dump it on another revshare site? Check their terms with respect to material being previously unpublished. Oh, and remember these five reasons why the whole strategy tends to stink in the first place, too.
What happens if the revshare site decides to make changes in their structure, promotion or design and Google isn’t happy with them? Tough luck, Bub. What if those changes result in inferior ad placement and fewer click? Sorry. What if the whole site shuts down or changes direction? You’re back to square one.
When you start performing those incredibly imperfect revenue projections, they don’t account for these “risk of ruin” situations. Once again, unpredictability is a huge problem.
Revshare sites don’t pay much. If they paid a lot, they couldn’t make money for the people running them. That’s not an insult to site operators. It’s a fact. You’re getting a percentage of your contribution to a business that’s based on volume–and unless you’re a two-handed army, you probably aren’t a volume producer.
I know the idea of creating a passive income stream is enticing. The thought that you could eventually just sit back and watch the residuals pour into your bank account is the stuff of dreams. However, it just doesn’t happen absent insane volume.
Every day, I see people talking about how to maximize their revshare earnings. They provide tips for others who’d like to give it a shot. You could write a five-volume dissertation on revenue sharing strategy.
Do you know what I don’t see very often? Credible evidence that anyone is really making a living from revshare article money. That’s not because the big winners are keeping their success on the down low. It’s because the success stories are so few and far between.
Look at your flawed per article earnings projections. Now, do the math. How many of those revshare articles will you need to write to be in a position to develop a truly meaningful (and, we should remember, always at-risk) revenue stream? Big number, right?
Now, ask yourself how much you could make per article if you wrote them for a reasonable payment. Multiply that number by the total you’d need for your dream passive income stream? One last question: Would you rather have that amount of dough in your coffers months or years earlier or would you prefer to roll the dice on the value of your high volume output?
That shouldn’t be a hard question to answer.
The revshare hint-givers will tell you that you need to promote your articles in order to encourage the page views necessary to generate a reasonable income. When you’re playing the revshare game, you’re not just a writer. You’re an Internet marketer. Unfortunately, you’re marketing someone else’s product for a potential share of advertising revenue.
I don’t know about all of you, but my workload is heavy enough without becoming a backlink builder for a third party in hopes that it might make my little article slightly more valuable.
When I look at some of the strategies I see people using to promote their revenue sharing articles, I scratch my head in utter amazement. If those individuals built a simple landing page for a product with an affiliate program and promoted it with equal vigor, they’d make much more than they do helping the revshare mills.
Even if you put that alternative aside, anyone playing with revshare must account for the time and energy expended in the promotion of their content when determining whether process is anything other than silly. That means taking opportunity cost into consideration. What could you do instead of promoting your content and would it be more or less valuable than what you’re doing? Just about anything is going to be a better deal, by the way. That includes walking your neighbors dog for the change he found under his couch cushion.
EXCEPTIONS TO THE RULE
Sometimes there are moments where a revshare article may make sense. However, most of them don’t apply to folks who consider themselves to be writers exclusively.
In some cases, they can be used as a means of backlink development. They serve as a paying version of article directories like EzineArticles.com. Of course, that is limited only to those sites that don’t over-restrict your ability to successfully link out to the site(s) of your choice. One should also do that only if they can find a series of revshare sites that don’t insist on completely original content–those links, after all, aren’t that valuable considering the sites upon which they appear and the likely Google mojo of your article’s page. This exception would also include those who are experimenting with variations of “bum marketing” and other article-driven marketing strategies.
In other cases, one can use a series of revshare articles as a means of adding to an overall presence on the web. It’s not that valuable for a freelance writer, but some businesses may find it worthwhile to improve the number of search results featuring company names or non-competitive business-specific keywords. That would also apply to those who might use the revshare outposts as a means of pushing back other search results as part of an overall reputation management plan.
There are rare cases where one may have surplus content due to a client’s order cancellation or some other bit of weirdness where dumping the stuff on a revshare site or two would be a better option than letting it rot. However, there are usually better options available–even for those who aren’t interested in using the content to create their own sites.
There may be situations where the revshare component of providing an article to a website is secondary to the exposure it may provide. If a top-notch site that attracts the specific audience you’d like to reach is willing to toss a little coin at you, that wouldn’t be the end of the world. However, if it’s not the kind of place for which you’d write GRATIS anyway (i.e. a wonderful guest-posting opportunity at an authority site in your niche), the revshare probably won’t be enough to tip the scales.
IF YOU INSIST ON DOING REVSHARE WORK
If, for some unfathomable reason, you just can’t bring yourself to give up on the idea of writing articles for revenue sharing sites, at least try to participate in the most sensible way possible. That would mean:
- Spending very little time writing each article
- Streamlining your keyword analysis process
- Targeting the best revshare sites
- Looking for opportunities to use the content in multiple revshare settings
- Automating the bulk of your article promotion efforts
Even then, in the immortal words of WOPR, “The only way to win is not to play.” At least that’s the way I see it.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Writing for revenue sharing sites is not the road to riches. It’s not the road to a middle class existence. It’s not even the road off food stamps for most people. There are better ways to make more money.
This is coming from someone who has experimented with the option and who often finds himself on the opposite side of the “fair rate” debate with those who argue against the so-called exploitation of writers. In other words, if I’m telling you it’s a bad idea… Well, I really think it’s a bad idea.
I can’t wait to hear from those who do the revenue sharing thing to tell me how I’m wrong. I would love to find out if they’ve “cracked the code” and make a solid living from a revshare passive revenue stream. Really. All I can tell you is there are plenty of folks talking about how they’re working toward that goal and not too many who have reached it.
To me, it’s all a matter of making the smartest possible choices with the most important finite commodity you have–your time. On an hour-per-hour basis, it looks like there are much more lucrative things one could be doing.
So, am I wrong on this? Let me know. I can’t imagine that I’m too far off-base, but I’m more than willing to entertain arguments to the contrary.
FYI: Per commenter request, I’ve put together a list of alternatives to revenue sharing sites.