Helium has discovered a correlation between user images and Marketplace success rates.

Helium writers with a professional image, name and bio are receiving 75% of all Marketplace and stock content sales.

We’ve also been hearing from an increasing number of publishers who’ve said they are more likely to purchase articles and give byline credit to Helium members with a real name for a pen name and a professional looking photograph.

In our constant push for quality and for members to represent themselves in the best possible manner, we recommend that all of our members upload a professional looking photograph, use a real name for a pen name and write a professional bio on their About Me pages.

These are three easy steps that can help you pave the way to continued success on Helium.

Here are a few titles and articles here that will provide more information on making the most of your About Me page:

Still have questions? Feel free to contact one of your Site Stewards, who are featured on channel pages throughout the site.

One of my favorite people on Helium is Paul Lines.  He doesn’t contribute to the boards very often (at least to the ones I read), but when he does it’s usually well thought out, thought providing, and interesting.  He is a senior member of Helium and, in case you didn’t know, is also the direct cause behind the Helium TOS being amended to allow your earnings to pass on to your heirs.

Recently, the saw fit to comment on an interesting thread on the boards.  This is a repost of his first post to the thread, however at the time of this writing he had responded one additional time.

Okay folks. Time to grab a coffee and sleeping bag, pull up a chair and read one of the longest missives from the pen of Paul Lines :-). This is guaranteed to send those with insomnia to sleep and give those who sleep the problem of insomnia.

To answer the title of this discussion! Am I worried? No not in any way.

To be honest criticism of the Helium site and, to a certain extent accolades, are like water of a duck’s back, which at the moment is an appropriate metaphor as July in the UK has been a month so filled with rain that I have considered exchanging my Range Rover for a speedboat. However, I digress. To get back to the point and the article that was referred to by Joan, I would just like to make the following comments, both in terms of the ‘Earnings’ comment and, as Marlin so rightly put it, the value of the experience.

In terms of earnings any comment being made in criticism of the earning power of Helium by someone who has not spent time devoted to writing on the site to support their claims is subjective and, to a certain extent, lacking in foundation. Yes I agree with Marlin that there are other sites that pay more, but you also have to look at the longer term and the reward for the effort put in. For example, and leaving aside contests, upfront payments, marketplace and other promotions, let us look at the basic article revenue.

It is certainly true that the income on an individual article at the moment it is placed on the site can be small. However, it is also important to consider the longer term. Over the three and a half years I have been a member of Helium I have built up a portfolio of approaching 1500 articles. During the early months of their Helium birth many of these articles have earned just a few cents. When considering that on average an article takes perhaps an hour to write that might not sound like a good return. However, I have articles that, during the course of that three year period have earned in excess of $50 and are continuing to earn, and many others that have exceeded the $20/30 mark, simply as a result of that 1 hour initial effort. I am also at the position where 70% of my portfolio earns each month, even if it is only a cent. It is therefore a continuing and growing income stream for many articles over x period of years.

Bearing in mind that I am self employed as a full time technical writer, I do not have as much time as I would like to commit to writing for Helium but I have calculated that, if I had the courage to take time off to multiply my article content on helium by 10, after a three year period my earnings from the site, with relatively little time spent on article maintenance and uploading new quality material, would probably exceed $2000 per month every month. Okay $25,000 a year might not be earth shattering but it is a heck of a secondary income and what a retirement boost some day. (Okay those between 13 and 20 might have to wait a while for this but I am much closer!!!)

However, As Marlin and others have said, money is not the sole motivator for me being on the Helium membership. It is, as they say, the experience. As stated I am a full time writer and, as a work profession it can be an isolating experience being in a room with solely myself and the computer screen interacting. Sometimes it is a bit like living at the North Pole, only without the Penguins, Seals and Polar Bears for company. However, whenever I have the opportunity to seek company, which is not as often as I would like I know that all I have to do is to close the work door behind me and walk along the screen to the one marked HC (Helium Community). Within just a few seconds of typing I then find myself back in the company of the friends I have made over the years and gaining immeasurable enjoyment out of their interaction. It is an experience that I have yet to find equalled on another other website or, in fact, in many physical social gatherings. The friendliness and community spirit is almost unequalled. To me therefore, this aspect of the Helium experience is unbeatable.

That community and friendship extends to the Helium staff as well, who are always there with a kind word and have done so much for me over the 3.5 years, not least of which has been providing a platform from which I have been able to launch a full time writing career. What more can one ask?

Therefore, and in conclusion (did I hear someone say about time?), to me Helium is the place where you can find

H – elp to improve your writing quality and content
E – ncouragement whenever you feel in need of it
L – oads of opportunities to have your work recognised
I – inspiration from the work of others and a
U- nique experience where you can
M – ake friends with wonderful people that you might otherwise never have met.

Am I worried? Only if Helium ceased would I be.

Paul

Many hours have been spent – on the boards, emails, etc – talking about earnings.  Upfront payments, empty title bonuses, and other one time payments are often focused on as a quick way to earn money.  Not enough time is really spent on revenue earnings and how valuable they can be.

The likely reason that many discount these earnings is that they are low – for some people.  But others make lots of money from revenue earnings.  What sets these people apart?  What makes one have more revenue earnings?  Simple: page views.

This is an oversimplification and not a “canonical” explanation of how revenue earnings work.  However, the basics are as follow:

  1. Each time a page is viewed on Helium some number of ads are displayed.
    1. Helium earns a certain amount of revenue for “ad impressions” – i.e. someone has seen the ad.
    2. Helium earns a much higher amount of revenue for “ad clicks” – i.e. when someone clicks on the ad.
    3. #1 and #2 are discounted somewhat by the ad servers with regards to abuse – i.e. don’t bother refreshing your articles over and over and clicking on ads to make more money.  The ad networks are smart to this, as well as Helium, and you could have your account terminated for abuse.
  2. Helium uses some algorithm to determine the value of a page – i.e. how many times it was viewed versus other pages – to determine what part of the incoming revenue should be shared with that page.  I say page and not writer because a channel page might have contributions from a dozen writers, for example.
  3. Revenue earnings are assigned to articles based upon #1 and #2.

So, using the above, it’s easy to see that in order to increase one’s earnings one must increase the number of times one’s page (i.e. article, bio, article snippet, etc) is viewed.  The more page views, the more ad impressions.  The more ad impressions, the more ad clicks.  The more of both, the more Helium’s revenue is associated with your contribution and rewarded as such.

But – doesn’t Helium control how many page views you get?  Yes and no.  SEO has two facets – internal and external.

  1. Internal SEO is the construction of site architecture that will enable easy browsing (so all content is found and indexed), associate certain site coined keywords with the content (channel names, article titles), and linking strategy (designing a browse strategy that implies internal importance of pages – i.e. article pages are more important than list or channel pages).
  2. External SEO is the collecting of links (specifically deep links – links to specific pages [article] versus general pages [home page / channel page]) pointing to the site (Helium) to assign keywords (anchor text [i.e. what text is actually contained in the link, typically blue and underlined]) and importance (the number of inbound links to a page is commonly accepted as one of the most important factors in defining it’s importance – both to keywords and in general).

Helium has designed – and continues to modify – site architecture in order to maximize the gain for internal SEO.  However, no matter how much we market – by getting partners to link to us, linking from our own blogs/sites, etc – the sheer numbers of links we can generate is dwarfed by even a token effort from the community.

What do I mean?  Say every employee of Helium (around 30-35) is a power link creator and creates 100 inbound links to Helium (setting aside what kind of links for a second).  Now take the active writers on Helium – commonly quoted as 10K but we’ll be conservative and say 5K.  Say each of them makes a token effort to get 5 inbound links to Helium.

  1. Employees: 35 x 100 = 3500 links
  2. Community: 5000 x 5 = 25000 links

Or, in other words, by even a token effort from community members to link their signatures from boards they post in, their blog sidebars, mentioning specific links in board / blog posts, or simply saving links to social networking sites (typically nofollowed, yes, however likely to still add value and keywords) the community can produce 7x what Helium could produce with a fraction of the effort.

“But Eric,  you’re always telling us to craft keyword rich articles and titles.”  Yes I am.  And it’s important.  But equally or more important is getting inbound links to your articles – the more links and, specifically, the more quality links (from trusted sites) you get, the better off you’ll do.

Let me use an example.  I believe I can be safe in assuming that most people have heard of Wikipedia.  Wikipedia is great for pop culture information – who the guy third from the left is on the Jedi Council in Episode 1 – however it’s not always the best for factual information – which is why many high schools and universities prohibit or limit it’s use as a resource for papers.  Yet if you do a search for anything on the web you stand a good chance of seeing a Wikipedia link in the top 10 search results.  Why?  Massive amounts of inbound links.

A big thing with SEO – and when I say SEO for Helium, I really mean Google as you can pretty much count out any other search engine at this time – is trust.  Google assigns rankings for keywords based upon the amount of trust it has in a page.  While some amount of trust is earned by internal SEO the vast majority of it comes from inbound links.  Which makes sense.  If a page or domain has a large number of inbound links what it basically means is that other sites see value in the content (i.e. they trust it) and use it as a resource.  In spidering sites, Google sees this and assigns trust to that domain or page.  That value is then used to assign ranking order for search results.

In other words the single most important factor to increase your page views and your earnings for an article is the number of links to it from other sources.

Many of you spend hours researching for your article.  Leapfrogging it multiple times.  Proofreading it.  Crafting your prose into a well thought out article.  How much time do you spend getting links to it?  Save it to your Delicious.  Share it on your Facebook.  Use it as a source in other articles, in blog posts, or in a board post.  I’ve done this many times where I’ll discuss something in a post or on the boards and link to something else I created so if someone doesn’t know what it means (“link juice” is one I commonly do) or wants to learn more, they can click through and find out more.

Even if the links don’t specifically pass link juice – like Facebook – they can still go viral – meaning people will pass on the links and share it.  Have you ever seen the memes – those funny links/videos people share on Facebook or their blog?  How do you think that starts?  Someone makes something interesting and shares it with their friends.  Some part of their friends find it funny/interesting and share it with their friends.  And so on, and so forth.

So I challenge you to work the SEO angle.  Set aside a part of your Helium time – that time which you use to write, leapfrog, rate, edit, etc – for marketing your articles.  Set a goal – for every article you write get 3 inbound links to it or others in your portfolio.  Be mindful of opportunities – “Interesting board post about issues with litter training your cat.  I had some luck with some methods you didn’t try.”  where “some methods you didn’t try” is a link to your article.  Etc.

If you have a portfolio of articles that’s larger than 100 you’re sitting on a potential revenue source.  Think about your 10 best earning articles – now what if you could earn 10x on just those?  Where would you be?  Not marketing your articles is akin to making amazing artwork and then sitting in front of your house selling it off a table.  Sure, some people will stumble by and you might sell a few.  But imagine if you put up signs in your neighborhood.  Or ran an ad in the paper.  Or got mentioned on tv.  Inbound links are just another form of advertising.  You’re only hurting yourself by not taking advantage of it.

I covered a lot of information and went a lot longer than I had originally planned.  I hope I helped you to better understand the opportunities that exist for you to maximize your income.  I hope you take my advice to heart and 3 months from now, I hear from you about how your revenue earnings have gone up 3x, 5x or even 10x.

Janice announced a change to upfront payments on the boards today.

Edit: Interesting post from Moe Zilla about how to find qualifying titles:

Here’s an easy trick I can share with you to do just that.

Google can search any site that you specify for a certain phrase.  So you can search for pages that have exactly the number of articles you’re looking for!  To find titles with one article, just search for the phrase “1 of 1″…and so on.

1 of 1 – http://www.google.com/search?q=site%3Ahelium.com+%221+of+1%22&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a

1 of 2 – http://www.google.com/search?q=site%3Ahelium.com+%221+of+2%22&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a

1 of 3 – http://www.google.com/search?q=site%3Ahelium.com+%221+of+3%22&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a

1 of 4 – http://www.google.com/search?q=site%3Ahelium.com+%221+of+4%22&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a

Google found 92,200 + 25,300 + 95,100 + 41,200 titles that would still earn you an upfront payment — or 253,800 of them!

And there’s also an infinite number of empty titles you can create! 🙂

Edit #2: More tips from Moe about how to narrow your focus:

You can find all of the titles with less than 5 articles using a simple Google trick. And you can even narrow down Google’s results to specific topics.  Here’s how…

When you’re searching at Google, you can also give them the URL of the site where you want this search to take place. You do that by putting the word site (with a colon, and then no space) in front of the URL. For example, to find all the articles on Helium about race cars, go to Google and type in…

site:helium.com race cars

But that might also find pages which just have the word “cars” and the word “race” on the same page.  To make Google search for only pages with the complete phrase “race cars” — you add quotation marks around the words to make Google treat it like a single phrase.

site:helium.com “race cars”

It’s easy to combine that with my trick (which finds titles that have fewer than five articles).  If there’s only 1 article in a title, then the phrase “1 of 1” will appear on that page.  (And the phrase “1 of 2” will find all the titles with two articles, and so on.) So you could find all the articles on Helium about race cars AND which are in titles with less than five articles, by doing these four searches.

site:helium.com “race cars” “1 of 1”
site:helium.com “race cars” “1 of 2”
site:helium.com “race cars” “1 of 3”
site:helium.com “race cars” “1 of 4”

And there’s a funny way to find all the “empty” titles on Helium — titles which already exist, but which don’t have any articles.  Helium always puts the exact same phrase on those pages, so you can find them by pasting this into Google.

site:helium.com “Beat the crowd! Write an article now”

I still think there’s more money to be made in starting your OWN titles, and claiming the extra $1 bonus that Helium gives you on top of the upfront payment. But if you want to give up that $1 and write to the already-existing titles…then Google can help you find them!

Edit #3: A Upfront Payments FAQ has been created.

It’s not often that we get a unique earning Marketplace opportunity such as this and we want to get the word out to absolutely everyone.

This week in Markeplace, publisher Real Estate Experts is offering $200 for the top article in 48 titles. Additionally, the next 50 selected articles within each title will also receive $5. (Essentially, everyone stands to earn some dough for writing.)

There are three titles for 16 regions throughout the U.S.

  • How has the recession impacted real estate in your city?
  • Tips for the first-time home-buyer in your town in tight economic times
  • Buying foreclosed real estate in your city

We’re targeting the following regions:

Northern California, Southern California, Arizona, Texas, the Rockies, the Midwest, Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, the Southeast, Georgia, the mid-Atlantic, New England, Northern Florida, Southern Florida, and the Pacific Northwest.

When you get to Marketplace, be sure to scroll through to find the three titles in your region. Better yet, after you’ve written to those three, do a little research and write about some other areas or write about areas you may have lived in, in the past. Either way, you increase your chances for a tidy sum.

Don’t miss out on this opportunity. The deadline is just six days away. And if you have any questions, be sure to read the title guidelines as well as post in our forums. Good luck!

Another success story!

Our congratulations to Holle Abee, who was written up in her local paper, The Tifton Gazette, for earning more than $5,000 for her writing in 2008. And she did it writing an average of just an hour a day!

Holle is a renaissance woman, with many interests—great for sharing her expertise throughout Helium. To date, she has also sold a staggering 45 articles in the Marketplace.

Whether you have many interests or like to concentrate on just a couple of topics, read our press release and the article linked to above for tips on how you can make Helium work for you.

Way to go, Holle!

As I approach $2,000 in total, lifetime earnings on Helium, I started to think a little about what that really means in terms of the amount of time I’ve put in to the writing here.

The results are interesting, to say the least.

I have about 400 articles published here so far. I’m a pretty fast writer, and I write mostly on things I know a lot about (medical articles, for example). I did my “research” for this writing in medical school. heh.

Consequently, I can dictate an article in about 30 minutes. That includes editing time. I figure I’ve spent about 200 hours actually writing, editing, and publishing my work.

$2,000 divided by 200 hours is $10 per hour. Not so great, especially considering that I live in an expensive part of the country (San Diego), and the local kid at Starbucks who pushes the button on the espresso machine makes about as much.

Of course, this isn’t my primary job, so I could argue that ANY income is better than nothing.

But the reality of my earnings is actually more complicated, and more hopeful. The earnings for my existing portfolio HAVE NOT STOPPED. Quite the contrary, I continue to earn on those previous hours spent writing. I’m on pace to earn well over $110 this month – for work I did months ago.

So let’s say I just stopped writing today. No more new articles. (Yes, it’s a silly notion, but let’s just pretend) I would continue to earn on those articles as long as Helium exists. In six months, I’d have another $600, or a total of $2,600. That’s $13/hour. Better.

Now skip forward a year. I’ll have about $3,200 in total earnings. Without spending a single minute writing another word. (Okay, I do have to rate some each month, but really, that doesn’t take too much time, and you can do it while watching a football game or something like that.) $3,200 for 200 hours work is $16/hour. Hum… that’s more than a resident physician makes.

Now, let’s take a large hypothetical leap and go forward 5 years. Yes, that’s a virtual eternity in internet time, and who knows where Helium will be then – or where the earnings for my portfolio will be. But follow along. Five years is 60 months. 60 x $100 is $6,000. Add $6,000 to the $2,000 I’ve already made, and you have a total of $8,000. That’s $40/hour.

Yes, that’s $40/hour on work I did years ago, and it took years to cash in. But imagine that I didn’t stop writing. Imagine that I keep writing during those five years. A bigger body of work means that my monthly pennies would likely increase. Instead of $100/month, I could be making $200/month in a couple years, or more. And all I have to do is do something I love anyhow – write.

To make it even better, I’m able to republish my work on other sites. I’ve done this with some of my writing, and I earn about 50% more on those sites. WITH THE SAME WRITING (okay, I tweak them a little).

It’s also important to understand that your writing here must be “evergreen”. For this to work, you must have material that does not go out of date. Most of my writing will be as relevant in 5 years as it is today. If you write about Super Bowl predictions and current politics, you are going to have to produce a constant stream of new material to hold steady. If you write articles that never fade in popularity, your earnings can go on as outlined above.

So what does all this mean? It means you have to be PATIENT to achieve success here. You aren’t going to “get rich quick”. But you can create a steady stream of income… one that pays and pays and pays for months in to the future.

There has been a lot of hubbub lately about the need for rating stars to earn payments.  In order to fully understand the requirements we were facing on users I took a few minutes each day for a week or so and rated – just to see how many stars I could earn.

In a little more than a week, I was able to earn 3 stars.  I have since let them fade, but I wanted to share what I learned about rating in the hope that it may help others out there who need to earn rating stars.

When presented with a rating pair I went through the following process:

  1. Read the title – am I knowledgeable on the subject matter and, sometimes more importantly, am I interested in it?  Knowledge helps to rate accurately – if I did not know the subject matter then typically I would skip. (Total, on average, I skipped more than half of the pairs I saw)  Interest helps to make rating fun – obviously we get more enjoyment about reading on subjects we enjoy then not.  If I’ve found no reason to skip, I move on to the next step.
  2. Review the items – at this point I’ve decided I’m going to rate the pair so I scan the items quickly.  Many times you find that one item is obviously inferior – either it’s extremely short, off topic, or something sticks out.  In that case I rate for the other item.  Otherwise I’ve committed to reading them thoroughly and move on to the next step.
  3. Read the items – I read each of the items and ask myself the following (in order of importance):
    1. Is the item on topic? – Does it cover the subject specifically?  Does it miss anything I would assume would be necessary for the subject? Does it go off on a tangent?
    2. Is the item well written? – Do I find it interesting?  Useful? If I was searching for the title, would this satisfy my curiosity or would I go back to the search results for something else?
    3. Is it formatted correctly? – Are their weird breaks/spaces?  Anything that would detract me from reading and finishing the item.
    4. Is it grammatically correct? – Are there blatant, noticeable and detracting spelling/grammar errors?
  4. Make my choice – based on what I found in #3, I would pick A or B.

Now, to be fair, I was not a perfect rater.  I did have a bonus star for awhile though and ranked in the 90s.

I hope this helps.