Learning from the Suite 101 Google Smack Down

| February 27, 2011

The Google BeatdownLet me start this post by admitting I’m not an Internet expert. I’m just a woman who liked creating websites, playing around with images and writing. My website creation, writing and photo hobby turned into a full-time career. Those are my only qualifications when it comes to this Internet beast.

That being said, I learned something early on in my online writing career. I think my early lesson is something that Suite 101 is learning from the recent Google algorithm change dubbed the “Content Farm” algorithm.

The Royal Suite Beat Down

All of us Suite 101 and content farm writers know that several sites took a whuppin’ with the latest algorithm change. I mean not only were page views down, but most of us saw earnings that mirrored earnings of our first year writing for Suite. Depending on where you get your information, Ker Plunkit looks like Suite was smacked down the hardest with a 94% drop in search engine visibility.

We probably should have seen it coming because many of us were plagued with lower page views and earnings. The decline began somewhere in January or February of last year. I started the year off pretty good and things went down hill from there.

Why the slow decline? Who knows for sure; it could have been algorithm changes, Suite website instability, website restructuring, looser editing guidelines or just too many changes at once. I don’t know why it all happened, but I do know that many of us felt the financial pinch.

A Bit of Reminiscing

I have website that took a royal Google beat down a few years ago. It has since partially recovered (several years later). Part of the reason for my site’s beat down was because of newbie webmaster mistakes, using non original content (yes, I used some of the free articles available through sites like Ezinearticles and other article directories), lack of website focus, coding mistakes, website restructuring, and a host of other problems, sort of like the problems Suite 101 has undergone in the past year.

The long and the short of it was the Google smack down took my once lucrative website and brought it to its financial knees. Ouch! It has since recovered somewhat, but my lack of total recovery is because I stopped trying to figure out how to recover. The site was too big for me to spend all of my time fixing the problems. I decided to learn from my mistakes and create other sites making sure not to repeat those very same mistakes.

How Will Suite Recover?

That’s a question that I cannot answer. Suite has a team of folks who can brainstorm, negotiate, implement changes and come up with a workable plan. I, on the other hand, had to take my valuable lesson and create new ventures.

My old site is still up and running and earning enough for me to receive check from Google every month, but its earnings are pale in comparison to its heyday. Although, with the recent Suite 101 smack down, my old site generates more page views than my articles currently placed on Suite (hmmm, makes a girl sit back and wonder where she should focus her energies).Google Content Farm Targets

In the meanwhile, I’ll be watching with much interest as Suite begins its process to recover from the Google Content Farm beat down. Who knows, I may learn a thing or two that will help my old site regain its prior glory.

Someone pass the popcorn, this is going to be interesting.

Oh, and BTW, my eHow earnings have hit a record high…go figure!

Update: While Suite is digesting the recent developments, they have suspended the 1 article per week Feature Writer requirement. I don’t know about you, but that is a welcome piece of news.

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Category: Associated Content, Google, Internet, Search Engines, Suite 101

About the Author ()

Felicia A. Williams is a freelance writer and blogger. She spends the majority of her time with her family and writing. If she's not writing or commenting on NJFM, she's either outside smelling the roses or writing articles for one of her other sites.

Comments (29)

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  1. Robert says:

    Greetings!

    According to the Social Media Examiner the main reason Google implemented Panda was in response to the Facebook and Bing challenge to its search dominance.

    Before Panda you had to use blogsearch.google to find information via blogger. Only one in five hundred people use that part of Google.

    Now google is king of social search. The experts were surprised by the quick turnaround.

    Also, Google is continuing its ten year fight against Googlebombing. This time they went after the content farms, but seemed to have hurt the average website grinder. The average website grinder would be people that have small website or depend on revenue sharing places.

    Robert

    Best of luck to you all.
    Robert recently posted…Hours of GooglebombingMy Profile

  2. Tara says:

    Hi Felicia,

    I found your site because the Resources for Writers newsletter had an article by you about why content mills work for you.

    In the worst-case scenario, I’m wondering if many of these so-called content mills can survive. It seems Google is comparing them to CNN or other informational sites. These content sites are not “news,”
    but they do provide a service in my opinion.

    Just one example is researching college degrees or careers. Often, college websites that have information on degrees require you to send in your personal information. Then you’ll be hounded by marketers without really getting answers to your questions.

    I think Demand Studios is also scaling back on eHow content tremendously since this change. The bulk of their articles were automotive and they’ve now limited the pool of writers who can write these articles.

    On any given day, there’s about 22,000 automotive articles and 1,500 other titles. That is pretty slim pickings. I’ve also heard/seen that the Livestrong articles are way down. Remember when you could sign in and there were more than 400,000 (!!) titles to choose from?

    As you may know, Mahalo has stopped all freelance production, last I heard.

    It’s really not looking too good. “Content mills” make their money off of ad clicks and with severe drops in page views, their revenue is also going to plummet.

    Some of the pay-per click sites already have themselves covered by putting statements in their writers’ agreement that says they really don’t have to pay anyone anything. And they will still get people to write for them for free; we all know that.

    I’m wondering if many people out there realize the seriousness of what is happening on these sites. In the forums on DS, quite a few people who solely wrote automotive articles have been shut out. If DS — which was the least impacted by Google’s changes — is scaling back, I don’t think that’s a good sign.

    • Felicia says:

      Tara, there is a reason why I don’t spend my days in forums and reading the gloom and doom printed online and offline. I did an earlier post about putting on blinders and keep writing.

      I’ve noticed that some people spend an inordinate amount of time ingesting negative commentary and speculation about why things should not work and why everything is falling apart. There are always two sides of the story, but unfortunately, the negative spin to the story seems to get top billing.

      Tara, I’m not into speculating, I’m into action. When I first started my online journey, I had a boat load of naysayers saying it couldn’t be done. If I had listened to them or joined the Negative Nelly band wagon, my daily residual earnings wouldn’t be getting closer to the $100 a day goal that I set for myself early on.

      My Suite numbers have taken a hit, but my overall income has grown. If it takes Suite’s income hit to make my residuals grow, so be it. We have to diversify our revenue sources, set a goal and consistently work on the goal. Spit happens and we have to adjust our goals accordingly.

      Will Suite fail? Will eHow remove all of the articles? Will AdSense fall off the face of the earth? I don’t know the answer to any of those questions, but if the question is in my mind, you can bet that I’m already taking survival actions just in case the worst does happen.

      I have two choices; I can read the gloom and doom and become paralyzed or I can take action to prepare myself for the worst. I choose to take action.

      • Ken says:

        Are the content sites scaling back? You bet they are. But not in the sense of going away. Far from it. Why do content sites exist? Money. What is Google saying to the content sites? Get better quality or lose money. So, the content sites are attempting to tighten up quality. Frankly, writers should be writing quality content to begin with. Regardless if it is on content sites, your own sites or anywhere else your writing should be quality.

        Felicia is doing what all the other skeptics and butt-hurt journalists say cannot be done…earning a good living writing at content sites. She doesn’t do that by writing trash or writing for one site. She diversifies and creates quality content that is valuable to her audience.

        Content sites aren’t going anywhere, but adjustments will be made over the next six to twelve months. Folks who are simply regurgitating information will suffer. Writers creating original, quality content will prosper no matter where they write.

        Gloom and doom nay-sayers are only out there for attention or short bursts of meaningless traffic. Period.

        Some sites will become better, some worse. Demand is in a growth period and who knows what they are going to do. Personally, I would only recommend them for starting out to pay bills while building your online business or using them to fill in the gaps. There are just too many variables at play with Demand right now to even remotely think about relying on them as sole income.

        Freelance web content writing is probably one of the best recession-proof business opportunities around today. Whether writing at content sites, for private clients or article marketing to promote products there is always an abundance of work. True success comes from doing what needs done and leaving the nay-sayers to their own devices. Ultimately, successful freelance web content writers know that diversification and creating multiple income streams will build a business that survives the economy and Google changes. Need proof? Keep reading NJFM.
        Ken recently posted…Article Marketing In Forums To Increase RevenueMy Profile

  3. Tel Asiado says:

    Hi Felicia,

    Love reading your article, from one Suitee to another. I’m not with eHow, wish I am. But like you and Alina, one thing sure – I’ve been diversifying with focus on my blogs. I’m seeing trickles of cents and few dollars. How’s zat? 😉

    Am still hoping that Suite recovers SOONEST from all this. MK is leading the pack. Muse can be stuborn at times so I haven’t written since G’s Panda.

    Hope to pick up some updates from you. Will visit from time to time. Hey, how about guesting in my smallbizideasnow?

    Cheers,
    Tel
    Tel Asiado recently posted…Persistence and DeterminationMy Profile

    • Felicia says:

      Tel, I’ll check out your blog. If you think I can add something of value, I’ll be happy to provide a guest post.

      • Tel Asiado says:

        Would be glad to, Felicia. No Rush. I hardly have any insurance piece there. You’re the guru, else, throw anything related and I’ll gladly welcome.
        And your blurb, of course.
        Cheers.
        Tel Asiado recently posted…Persistence and DeterminationMy Profile

  4. Grandma says:

    So, in the midst of all this Suite stuff, I finally decided to give it a whack. I started Feb 15 and got my 50+ articles up before the end of the month so I could start getting the 10% bonus. Now, a week later, I have a total of 76 articles up, 4952 page views at this very moment, and have earnings showing $67.02. I did get a payment for those two weeks in Feb of $45.94, which was a pleasant surprise to me. From reading junk on their forums and all the other writers complaining about how their income had dropped, and how they are only make pennies per day, I was a little confused.

    Perhaps my articles are somehow reaching an audience that buys things or that does whatever it takes to generate some author income over there, I don’t have a clue. It is confusing. And then, the bitterness and snippiness by some regulars made me decide to skip the forums as a waste of time.

    That, in turn, got me to thinking that Suite and other websites like them are merely vanity publishers for many writers who are unable to find up front pay elsewhere. I still like the idea of the long term residual payments – IF that company can manage to stay in business.

    Which brings me to the point of this long post. We cannot depend on anyone else to generate income. Even the Internet is iffy at best. The government could crash it in an instant, as has been done in other countries.

    Felicia says to put your eggs in many baskets, and I believe this is indeed the best path to take, if you want to continue writing online as a freelancer. A better path might be to hook up either online or in person with some private clients. Do your own website; there is no reason your articles posted there would not pull in as many views and ad-clickers as they would on someone else’s website. Except then you would get all the income instead of a tiny percentage. I would like to know what is the cut authors get at Suite. Is is 1%, 3%? Pennies.

    This will require some more thought at a better time. What to do next. Post more articles on Suite? Create my own website for that purpose of ad clicks and affiliate advertising? I really do not know. The whole thing is making me weary. And maybe I do need a break from everything right now. Good timing, as I am moving again in the morning, with an all day drive and my voice recorder to think things over.

    I am disappointed, but at the same time hopeful. It is not a pleasant experience at all! LOL – Lots of Luck!

    • Felicia says:

      Grandma, the writer’s share is much higher than 1 or 2%. Back in 2009, Peter Berger, the Pres & CEO of Suite sent me an email (in response to a whole other issue regarding Orato), and expressed that the writer gets much more than 2%. I shared some of the content of our correspondence on an earlier blog post comment.

      As far as why folks write for Suite, some write for money and others write for the love of writing. Although you will get to keep 100% of the income if you set up your own site, you’ve got to spend some time developing a steady flow of traffic, which Suite already has. I’ve always advocated building your own site and I think Google has done much to help folks get off of the fence and actually create their own piece of internet real estate.

      You’re doing very well on Suite, but you’re a seasoned online writer. You know what works and what doesn’t. Not everyone starting out at Suite has that experience and knowledge.

      I believe Suite will figure out what to do to regain Google favor. The powers behind Suite are a smart group of people and I believe they’ll learn from their mistakes. They’re already making a few changes. It’s unfortunate that it took this type of smack down to make it happen, but everything happens for a reason.

      As I’ve said before, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. You can build your own sites in addition to writing for content sites. That’s the beauty of the internet. You can dabble a little here and a little there.

  5. Eve says:

    I just got an email from ehow telling me they’ve taken down my articles. They didn’t even tell me which. I’ve emailed them. Here is the email. Help, Felicia!

    We’d like to thank you for the time spent writing articles for eHow.com. As you know, we continue to make strides to improve the quality of our site so we can ensure that we are the best resource for visitors who come to eHow to learn about and accomplish tasks. The reason for our correspondence today is to let you know that one (or more) of your articles was removed from our site.

    In a routine audit of the eHow article library we discovered a portion of articles with similar titles that have been published by different writers. In order to avoid confusion by having similar articles, we will retain the most popular article on the site and remove the rest. By doing this, we will ensure a more efficient user experience and will provide information that is most relevant, and popular according to eHow visitors.

    You will be fully compensated for earnings accrued on these articles from March 1st to March 8th. This payment will be made during the next scheduled payment cycle. If you have any questions with regard to this letter or if you need further assistance, feel free to contact us at support@ehow.zendesk.com .

    Best,
    eHow Team
    http://www.eHow.com

    • Felicia says:

      Wow, that stinks. It would be nice to know which ones they removed.

      When you stop and think about it, it was bound to happen. There are a lot of similar articles on eHow and with Google’s quest for “quality content,” it only makes sense for eHow to remove similar articles.

      At least you received an email. After your comment I took a quick look in the forums and apparently quite a few people did not receive any type of notification. I don’t know when the purge will end and how many articles will be removed. Unfortunately, there’s not much we can do about their decision.

      This further emphasizes the fact that we all need to diversify.

      • Layne says:

        Felicia, were any of your rev share eHow articles removed? This could really affect the residual earnings for a lot of folks.

        • Felicia says:

          Layne, they haven’t removed any as yet. Fortunately, I’ve got backups of my articles so if they do, I’m ready to fix them up a bit and place them elsewhere.

  6. Alicia says:

    Hi – just wanted to make a comment about this.

    Part of what the algo looked at was site design and disruptive ad placement. Suite redesigned about a year ago to ADD disruptive center-article advertising, and I (and many other Suite writers) really fought it. It messed with our article flows, and there was no pickup in clicks. Now, that same ad placement was part of what knocked us out of the rankings.

    I’ve got a full-time job, and because of this, I’d decided to let suite become passive income on the 130 articles I’ve got out there and not keep up with my CW minimums. It was just too much to keep up with.

    But I’ve got to say that with the “suggest” tool and the weird redesign changes Suite’s been doing they’ve actually become MORE of a content farm over the past few years than they were when I started in 2007. In 2007, they were a proving ground, a place to have a professional portfolio. Now they are just another dust bowl farmer….
    Alicia recently posted…Be Authentic – How to Market a Real Person or ProductMy Profile

  7. elvenrunelord says:

    Google’s smackdown affected my sites for about a week to the tune of about 50% of my traffic.

    Evidently a human got around to looking at them cause I have recovered completely to the tune of about 125% normal.

    I have been steadily gaining traffic for the past thirty days for some reason even before the smackdown from google.
    elvenrunelord recently posted…Will IPV6 Affect EreadersMy Profile

  8. Loretta says:

    Felicia, I so enjoy reading your posts and I am learning much from you. I have not yet stuck a toe in the water to test Suite 1, Demand Studio, or similar sites that I’ve been reading about, because as much as I need to pull in some additional income, my understanding about some of those sites is that if I am hired to write for them, I will have to commit to a certain number of articles per week. I am still researching the matter, so please correct me if I am wrong about how they operate. I gathered from some of your past posts and posts that I have seen elsewhere, that some of the sites that hire freelancers are real time hogs. Do you think it would be worth my time to give it a try? I love to write, but want the freedom to write what I want, when I want, and not have to feel like I am inside a pressure cooker while writing for someone else. Nevertheless, I am curious as to whether you think it is worth the effort.
    Loretta recently posted…The Name GameMy Profile

    • Felicia says:

      Loretta, I’m with you on not wanting to be forced to write a certain number of articles each month.

      Currently, the only writing requirement I have (or had) is one article a week with Suite 101. Suite has temporarily rescinded the requirement in view of the recent Google smack down. The one article a week is necessary only if you are a Feature Writer. All Contributing Writers at Suite do not have weekly writing requirements.

      I believe that Examiner also has weekly writing requirements. That’s exactly the reason I chose not to write for them. Demand Studios, Associated Content and HubPages don’t have weekly requirements.

      You’ll have to take the time to do your own research and read each site’s requirements. They are all different.

  9. I’m hoping that Suite can pull through this, but I’m diversifying even more thanks to this new Google debacle.
    Alina Bradford recently posted…How My Articles Have Been Affected by Google ChangeMy Profile

  10. Amanda says:

    Just when I am planning to focus more on residue, there comes a Google algorithm change. The timing can’t be worse. My earning in Bukisa in the past two months, though meager, lets me see some light, but it looks like I have to look elsewhere. And I am still working on my first website. I am a bit disoriented.

    • Felicia says:

      Amanda, don’t give up. I think you can still do well with residuals. Although Suite was hit pretty hard, I don’t think it’s impossible to earn money there. Not everyone was affected the same. Some keywords and/or writing styles were hit harder than others. It’s all a matter of finding what works.

  11. LilyRose says:

    Right on, Felicia. I’ve also taken a new attitude during these downturns. No more complaining. Watch and learn – just as you said.

    I think this could be a *GREAT* lesson for Suite. I see this Google hit as an opportunity to really improve the site once and for all esp. in regards to stricter editorial input and writer selection processes. I will agree with Ken; I believe great articles will rise again.

    Personally, I’m going to focus on titles from now on to attract readers’ attention. I’m also going to focus on the SEO summary, not necessarily making it “keyword-rich” but maybe a keyword or so combined with what readers want to learn from the articles.

    And lastly, as a fellow FW, amen to Suite lifting the quota! 🙂

  12. Ken says:

    The latest change is still shaking out. Even though the sites themselves took a hit, over time the individual quality articles should begin to rise back up in the rankings. We are not the sites that we write at. We merely take advantage of the high PR these sites have and still do have. Ultimately, it is the quality of the content that matters. Time to step up the quality and value to readers, if you haven’t done so already.

    I think you are going to see some tightening of the editorial practices at Suite and AC. Bright Hub took a hit but not nearly as severe as many others.
    Ken recently posted…Writing For Money and The Google ChangesMy Profile

    • Felicia says:

      You have a point, Ken, but I think with Suite it was more than just quality. Granted, there are some articles on the site that are poorly written, but I think the focus on SEO and keywords might have worked against Suite.

      As I’ve said many times here on NJFM, Suite was my first intro into online writing. The editors there helped me tremendously in learning how to write online. Most of what I learned about SEO I learned on Suite. It seems that the strong SEO push might have been a tad too strong and Google (who set the standards in the first place), has penalized Suite for it (this is just my opinion).

      I’m going to sit back a bit to see how things shake out. I’ve got to say, however, that because I have my eggs spread around in several baskets, the past two days of residual income have been two of the highest I’ve ever seen (I’m talking double O club type of residuals). It may just be a knee jerk reaction to the algorithm and things will settle down eventually, but I’m not going to complain about the recent algorithm change. Instead of complaining, I’m watching, reading and learning.

  13. Eve says:

    A friend sent me this article. Looks like we can still ride the eHow gravy train but Suite101, not so much. I don’t have that many Suite101 articles up, so I’m not taking a hit but I, too, have decided that creating my own websites with my own original content is really the best way to go, even if it takes A LOT of work.
    http://www.seobook.com/google-kills-ehows-competitors
    Eve recently posted…A Little Bit About the Korean BlogosphereMy Profile

    • Felicia says:

      Thanks for the link, Eve. It looks like we should be writing the occasional revenue share article through DMS to capitalize on eHow’s good fortune.

  14. Bill Swan says:

    It’s funny because I was contemplating going back into Suite right around the time Google announced possible trouble; now that Google came down I’m holding off until further notice.

    I wonder if it’s time to start rebuilding that old original site of yours. It’s got the revenue and the page views. And it’s not a content farm so the “Google Police” won’t come knocking.
    Bill Swan recently posted…Putting One Foot In Front Of The OtherMy Profile

    • Felicia says:

      I’ve got to say that Google’s recent ruling has done much for earnings on my other blogs/websites. So far my Thursday and Friday earnings have been much above the norm.

      Now that Suite has lifted the FW weekly writing requirement, I think I’ll still place a few articles on Suite. Although my earnings have taken a hit, I haven’t quite totally given up on Suite as yet. I think the powers that be will work hard to regain their search engine rankings.

      As for my smacked down website, I’ve been slowly adding new content there. You’re right, though; maybe its time for me to take it a bit more seriously and beef it up.