I previously touched on Examiner.com a bit in my article about getting started as a writer. Here I’d like to go into a little more depth about what it’s like actually working for the site. If you read the previous article, you already know I freely admit to having a love\hate relationship with this writing outlet. I love the flexibility and freedom of it and the ability to pick up new topics in areas that I don’t have a lot of experience writing about. But, I hate the constant fluctuations in policies and the times when the management does try to game the system against its writers. And it does sometimes, despite what they’ll tell you.
First of all, if you are familiar with how Examiner.com works, you apply for a certain topic either locally or on a national scale, and if approved, you begin writing on the topic you’re granted. They give you pretty wide freedom on what you write about within your topic.
Let’s talk about pay for writing for Examiner.com. The pay structure is based on the number of hits to your content or a certain dollar amount per “CPM” (cost per 1,000 impressions.) Your next question probably is how much is the pay per CPM. This is a question you will never get a straight answer to. Examiner management claims they cannot give us an exact figure, because of the fluctuations in ad revenue and traffic that change how profitable the site is and hence, how much they pay us on a frequent basis. I personally know of no other site that operates by this philosophy, and it is aggravating, but that’s how it is.
The articles fall into two different kinds of categories. On the one hand, you have evergreen content, which doesn’t have a time element to it and is of interest to readers at any time. Then there’s news content which has a time element and should have occurred within the last 48 hours to be considered for submission to Google News.
If you write for Examiner, you should really be prepared to try to focus on the latter kind of content if you want the site to be profitable for you. That’s not to say you shouldn’t put up some evergreen content that will pull in traffic all year round, and that there aren’t a few Examiners who do very well with evergreen content, but as a general rule, your income as an Examiner will be based mostly on how successful you are at getting Google News placement.
At least sometimes.
This is the other thing with working with Examiner.com. Even if you’re doing well with the topic and getting regular Google News placement for your articles, as we all know, Google loves to change the rules all the time. And this is something that is definitely not the fault of Examiner.com management. They often aren’t entirely sure what the reasons are when the site gets penalized by Google, which it does on occasion, so they are scrambling to try to figure out what happened and how to adapt. Because of that, you will see a lot of rule changes on minimum word length, how you linked articles, and so forth. That’s out of Examiner’s hands.
However, the site is known for making changes that seem to be more based on finding ways to game the system against its writers. For instance, because writers are paid by traffic, it used to be a common practice to insert internal links within your article to go to other articles you’ve written related to the same topic to try to get extra hits out of each visitor. Then Examiner introduced a new feature where they started automatically inserting links that lead to a generic page they created on the topic. For instance, they would automatically insert links to a page dedicated to “The Walking Dead” TV show. So those links would lead your visitors away from your content to a generic page where they don’t have to pay for views.
Sneaky, ain’t they?
They’ve also made changes like deciding to no longer count traffic from anywhere outside the US and Canada, claiming it doesn’t count to potential advertisers. Okay. Then there was the change when the pay for slideshow hits suddenly dropped by 75%. Too many people were making too much money off of photo slideshows, so they changed the pay rate. And then they introduced us to this wonderful new feature, writing lists that are so quick and just so fun to do that they decided to only pay 25% of the pay rate of a regular article. But it was something designed to help us, as they put it.
Do you see what I mean? I think I wouldn’t mind the changes so much if they were simply honest and said look, our revenue from advertising has dropped so we have to adjust the pay scale a little bit. I just hate when they insult my intelligence by presenting pay cuts as a great new benefit for us. Really, guys, we’re not that stupid.
So if you do decide to write for Examiner, go into it with your eyes wide open, understanding that there will be constant changes, and you’ll never be told an actual rate of what you’re being paid. And that also makes you a bit suspicious of their calculations, but that’s a whole other topic I’m not even going into.
As I said, some of the changes are really related to Google and aren’t the fault of the management, but as far as getting through to anyone in management in their ivory tower in Denver, good luck. There is a support ticket system, but it’s almost impossible to get through to any kind of live person. If you get the direct e-mail for somebody at Examiner.com, hang onto it for life.
Now, having said all of that, I do know firsthand a few people who make very good four-figure incomes monthly on the site, but they really work at it. They work at good titles related to entertainment and sports, and they work at it like it’s a full-time job. They usually have more than one title that they work on regularly, and they will post anywhere from 5 to 10 articles a day to keep their traffic.
If that sounds overwhelming, keep in mind that the minimum word length currently is only 250 words. That’s really short, guys. Once you get the hang of it, you can really bang out a 250-word article pretty quick and you’ll find that a lot of articles go well over that without trying.
The other thing you really need to think about is self-promotion and finding ways to build your readership. If you have a pretty broad topic like TV, you probably want to try to focus down on a few shows and develop your own niche within TV and write on those consistently, so that you build a regular fan base. Get involved in Facebook groups or other kinds of forums so that people from those groups become interested in what you’re writing about. And I do mean getting involved with conversations, not just doing hit-and-run posts about your latest article, which I admit I tend to be a little guilty of myself. Also, promote your work with Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ or whatever social media tools you’ve got out there.
Examiner.com is not the field of dreams: just because you post it doesn’t mean they’re going to come.
The other key element is posting regularly, as in daily. Yes, daily. The people I know who are very successful at Examiner.com post regularly because they notice a sharp decrease if they miss for a day or two. They also notice that the longer they post consistently, the more of a synergistic effect it has on increasing their traffic and their earnings. Even if you have a crazy day, try to post at least one or two articles.
It’s hard to build up that readership because there is a considerable lag between building it up and getting good paydays. For revenue earned in a particular month, you are paid on the 20th the following month by PayPal. So do expect to invest a good two months of writing regularly to really start seeing a good payout, which can be tough when you are juggling other jobs that are paying the bills while you build up Examiner. But that seems to be the key element to being successful on the site, as well as the greatest obstacle to reaching that level. It’s a bit of a Catch-22, but if you can push past it, you can make a decent income writing about what you want to write about, when you want to write about it.
- The freedom to write about whatever you want within your topic, and a wide range of topics to apply for.
- Easy approval with your application.
- Even though there isn’t a set pay rate, it does work out to be higher than pretty much any other site like it that pays by traffic.
- The site has enough clout that you might be able to get access to media events by writing for Examiner
- Because of the ease of getting approved for topics, there is potential to build up new niches in your writing by taking on a new topic on a subject you’re inexperienced in
- Frequent changes brought on by either Google or changes in the payment structure to effectively reduce paid writers. Although they are currently offering a 20% bonus for this beginning of September to writers, to be fair. This is the first time I saw the percentage increase to the baseline pay ever in about four or five years of writing for them.
- Lack of access to management
- inconsistency in some of the editors feedbacks on articles.
- Currently, Google accepts Examiner articles for the new section, but they seem to be burying them way back on page three or four of news results. This is a traffic killer. Hopefully, this is yet another temporary “Time Out” for the site and business will get back to normal soon, where Examiner results show up on page 1.
- Takes a considerable commitment to get started if you want to make decent money at the site
- Trashy pop culture and celebrity gossip tend to rule what gets the most attention, although you can overcome some of this effect by focusing on a particular niche and building your readership
- The quality of writing by others can be very uneven, and sometimes it’s downright embarrassing to see your work associated with some of the poor writers on the site, although they seem to be trying to clean it up