It wasn't the writing that was difficult -- I couldn't wait to get started with this but first I had to go through the laborious process of writing a profile and downloading a picture -- and the only one on my computer that was even approaching suitable was about eight years old! This was all fairly straightforward but what was really a drag was having to get to grips with the business of ensuring that what I wrote was marketable, in other words that I chose titles, subjects and keywords which would ensure that my articles showed up on Google searches, preferably not 30 pages behind all the commercial organisations with which I was competing. On the one hand I wasn't really expecting to make money from the whole process but on the other why was I writing if I didn't want any readers? I found the process pretty frustrating as having carefully followed all the advice about using the Google tool to check keywords I carefully selected a title for my article, where the competition wasn't too fierce but where there were also a reasonable number of monthly searches - a bit of niche marketing in other words! Having uploaded this, Language Exchange Web-sites: Hints and Tips on How to Use Them, I then discovered that this apparently wasn't showing up at all on Google. The web-site, which is very clever, shows you where your page views have come from and I was amazed to discover that two people had managed to find it via Google which I certainly couldn't.
Looking on the positive side I now know a lot more about how web-sites and Google in particular can make money although it is clear that I'm not going to do so. For example,the other website which I was trying out, http://www.wikinut.com/ , enables you to track how much money you are making. By the end of the first day I had earned the princely sum of 0.001p! That is what the website itself will pay me but I've also signed up for Google Adsense which in theory enables me to earn money directly from Google every time somebody clicks on one of their adverts. This is quite clever in that the adverts that Google inserts into your article are tailored to the subject matter so lots of adverts about language schools in this particular one which somehow makes it look more professional. However if you think about the number of times you click on an advert that you happen to spot on a webpage you'll understand why the earning potential from this route is rather limited (once in a blue moon?). Using Google itself you can find stories of people getting thousands of page views and earning the princely sum of £75 per year from Adsense (perhaps an exaggeration but you get the picture) - good to see that there's no censorship!
The fundamental problem though, is that I've found myself in a real beauty contest. I'm totally obsessed with number of page views for my articles. (Yesterday I was looking at them about every half an hour - it's a great displacement activity.) This is ridiculous when I haven't even had the courage to tell friends about these articles -- the only people who know so far are in South America or Spain and I'm not even sure they got the link as I sent it from the web-site. It's ridiculous to be obsessed with number of page views because I am never going to write the sort of stuff which is going to be very popular. What 'Hubpages' are looking for, for example, is obviously lots of practical 'how-to guides since this is what a lot of people use the web for. This is not to say that all the articles are about this - you can write about anything. My plan is to use these websites to work out what it is exactly that I want to write about and what my style and voice is going to be.
The other issue though is that it's not just an external beauty contest, it's an internal one: there are all sorts of ways for community members to register interest in each other's work, not just commenting but also sending fan mail and becoming a 'follower'. I suppose I should look upon this as an opportunity to get some constructive criticism although to be honest I haven't seen a lot of this in comments on other people's articles. The only one I've had so far turns out to be from a website rather than an individual, the main purpose of which was to tout their own wares. It's clear to me, though, that if you want to succeed in the internal beauty contest you've got to spend quite a lot of time interacting with other members and reading their articles - and do I want to do this?. The other website, Wikinut, is just the same but I think has a lot smaller readership at the moment so I may not continue to post articles there. This sort of website, though, does raise interesting issues about the downsides of giving everybody access to 'publishing' on the web, in particular quality control - of which more in a later post.