Thursday, March 17, 2011

Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief: How to Help

President Obama spoke this afternoon about the crisis in Japan. He recommended the public visit the following web site for more information on the Japan earthquake and tsunami, and how to help:

I visited the web site and read again what I’ve been hearing the last few days, from places like

It’s better to send cash, not goods!

So much going on for me the last few days, but I managed to write this article published today on Associated Content from Yahoo, about ways to help with Japan tsunami relief. I’d like to share it on the blog. Follow the link below for the full article that gives tips for making donations and a list of recognized charities helping with Japan earthquake and tsunami relief.

Japan Tsunami Relief: How You Can Help by Allison West, Yahoo Contributor Network

Published March 17, 2011 on Associated Content from Yahoo

Since the Japanese earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011, donations for tsunami relief have totaled about 64 million dollars. So far, this figure is less than one-third of the dollar amount donated after the Haiti earthquake. Why have donations for Japan tsunami relief lagged behind money raised for other recent disasters? Blame it on a dismal economy, burnout from being asked for donations in the wake of disasters, or the perception of Japan as a wealthy, industrialized nation; but whatever the cause, the public has been slower to respond with donations for Japan tsunami relief.

Japan is in crisis, the scope of the disaster is mind boggling, and the country remains in desperate need of emergency relief. There are ways to reach out and contribute money to the cause while ensuring that your donations go directly to help those suffering in Japan. Here’s how you can help with Japan tsunami relief. Read more...

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Dealing With the Google Algorithm Changes

“Now is the winter of our discontent...” wrote William Shakespeare. This winter has been challenging (to say the least) for many people, due to the harsh winter weather and concerns about the economy (which is “rebounding” but you wouldn’t know it from where I live in a tiny rural town in the Mid-Hudson Valley). For me, it’s been one thing right after another since the holidays.

I seem to experience a bit of seasonal blahs this time of the year, but that’s understandable considering what a long, punishing winter we’ve had on the East Coast. My family has endured some health scares, and I’ve been trying to finish my New York State teaching assistant certification. A short while ago my beloved cat (who is 17 years old on St. Patrick’s Day) had her own health scare and I was devastated to think about losing her; fortunately, she had some treatment and I think she’s feeling a lot better.

Then I am scheduled to see my gynecologist soon, and it’s something I dread a lot. My doctor is wonderful but I am also in a never ending watch and wait period to keep an eye on what looks like a benign right ovarian cyst, and last spring during my manual exam she thought she felt something, so it was off for an ultrasound. Everything turned out fine and I was so relieved! My cyst was unchanged.

I think I’d like to discuss with my doctor the idea of having a yearly mammogram, not waiting every two years according to the new guidelines. I urge all you ladies out there to drop everything and get your mammogram! (If you’ve let yours go, you know who you are!) I admit I forgot to have it done last fall, but I’m making it a priority. I recently found out my cousin, who is in her sixties, had breast cancer and she told us breast cancer was traced to my father’s side of the family. For the men reading, please urge your loved ones to get their yearly gynecological exam which includes a mammogram--it’s of the utmost importance to get your screenings and catch any potential problems as early as possible.

Yearly Writing Resolutions

I’ve been thinking a lot about life lately, what’s really important and what directions I’d like to go in with my writing. I even wrote an article about my writer resolutions, but it’s not published yet (I’ll add a link to it when it is published in case you’d like to read my goals and direction for the New Year.)

First and foremost, my health and happiness, as well as the health and happiness of my family (which includes our beloved and aging pets) top my list. My artistic goals for my writing and also some acting dreams are extremely important. I’d like to move to a new place and develop a second career that enables me to earn extra money while pursuing my freelance writing. I have given a ton of thought to what would be a good day job for me, as I really want to continue on this path of being a writer. I’m exploring becoming a teaching assistant because I would love to help children (and adults) learn to read.

Things like sign language and ESL, also interest me a lot. I think this could be a great career for me, very fulfilling but I’m in the early stages of getting certified. I don’t have classroom experience yet, and I don’t see many job openings in teaching around here. I hope it works out but I am also thinking about computers and graphic/web design. In a harsh reality, our school districts are cutting a lot of teaching and support jobs this year, so I may have picked a bad time to enter teaching, and I might have to look for something else.

Recent Google Algorithm Changes

I will never give up on my writing and artistic dreams. I’ve given this a lot of thought and feel like professional writers, just like artists such as painters and performers shouldn’t fall into the trap of giving their work away for free. Writing is a skill and an art, and we have a right to be compensated for our work. The myth of the “starving artist” who considers recompense for their creative work to be vulgar is a scary myth, usually perpetuated by misguided artists and those who seek to exploit the artist for their own gain.

In the last few weeks, many creative people who are online writers have been affected by the recent changes to Google’s algorithm. This change was put into effect to help root out the inferior content out there, causing it to fall in the search engine rankings, ostensibly with the cream of the content rising to the top. It was supposed to make “content farms” quake in their boots and give up their evil ways, but many legitimate writing sites have been affected, with traffic and earnings at some places dropping by fifty percent since late February. This is horrifying to writers of quality content whose income from articles put food on the table and helped pay their bills: what on earth to do now?

I have some articles on Triond, but I haven’t written there in about a year, and my earnings have always been pretty low there. However, my Triond earnings have remained steady since the Google algorithm change. Unfortunately, my earnings and page views at Yahoo Contributor Network are down fifty percent, with the good news that they’ve risen a bit in the last few days. I was actually one of the Yahoo Hot 500 for February 2011 but not sure I can maintain that with recent declines in page views.

Originally my Xomba earnings seemed to be okay as my Yahoo Contributor Network earnings fell, but in the last few days, I’ve seen a sharp drop in page views for my Xomba content as well as Xomba revenue. Xomba will be starting over from scratch and becoming a totally new site, which will launch soon. I think there’s great opportunity in the new site they have planned for writers to showcase their articles and hone their skills. I applaud Xomba for wanting to strive for the highest quality possible.

I have been reading the Xomba staff blog very closely to understand all the many changes, but they still confuse me sometimes. I fear I might make a mistake with the new posting of bookmarks, as to what content they are looking for, and my old way of doing bookmarks (which I posted in good faith according to the old rules) isn’t what they want anymore. So I think I’ll be posting more articles on Xomba than bookmarks, and also I’m sitting back a little, waiting for the new site to be unveiled and just getting a feel for these many changes sweeping through Xomba and where I fit in the picture.

Under the new rules of Xomba, we can no longer bookmark our content from other sites, like published articles and blog posts.

I have to confess dear readers that I really want to bookmark my own articles sometimes! Why should I boost traffic to other articles and have to ignore my own? I see nothing wrong with occasionally bookmarking my own articles; I thought that was the spirit of bookmarking. Xomba bookmarks aren’t do follow links, but boy did those Xomblurbs (now called bookmarks) drive traffic to my articles! I am unable to bookmark my new articles on Xomba, and I feel the loss of traffic already. Even without a do follow link, many people would find my Xomba bookmark and go to my original article on another site.

In the old days on Xomba, I posted about 1470 bookmarks, but since I only have a few hundred published articles online, clearly I wasn’t just bookmarking my articles. I really miss bookmarking my articles on Xomba right now. So I discovered two bookmarking sites called and

I have a few bookmarks there already for my recent articles about the Academy Awards, and I think it helped boost traffic to my work. Also, these two sites are do follow links, and the Adsense revenue sharing split is higher. I had to look around for a new place to do bookmarks, and I find these Xomba changes led me to a new door of opportunity, bookmarking on other sites. I obey all the rules on Snipsly and SheToldMe, but I feel this great sense of fun and freedom there. In good faith, I post my bookmarks. I always do the best I can with bookmarks, but I don’t feel overly restricted there. But I can bookmark my own blog posts and articles, and I don’t worry so much about keeping up with so many rule changes. I am also starting to see a small trickle of revenue from these two sites and I’ll continue bookmarking there to see what happens.

In the wake of the recent Google algorithm changes, I'm returning to Triond. Sometimes I’m slow to embrace change so I didn’t take the Triond Adsense integration when it happened last year, because my earnings were so low there I thought it didn’t matter. But every little bit of revenue helps! I added Google Adsense to my Triond articles, and I am seeing a small amount of revenue that pleases me, and my Triond revenues are improving, so I’m going to try writing for Triond again.

Maybe it’s because Triond publishes articles on a variety of niche sites, but Triond didn’t seem as hard hit by the recent algorithm changes at Google. It makes sense to give Triond another look and besides, I really enjoy the great writer community there.

I’ll continue to write for Yahoo Contributors Network, riding out this dip in earnings caused by the search engine changes. I feel so proud of my writer profile and library of articles there. My page views are already rebounding and I feel confident that writers can ride out this bump in the road by doing the best they can, continuing to write high quality content.

All this talk being casually thrown around about “content farms” and “content mills,” I find it kind of offensive. It’s suddenly as if any user generated content from a writing site is automatically low brow, just thrown together for commercial purposes to wring a buck from the internet. Once in a while I come across some printed publications that have glaring proofreading errors and feature low quality content, but since it’s published on paper, it’s considered more legit than web content.

If you’re writing online, and you’re working for a writing site, then you’ll hear the label “content farm” sometimes. I just let it roll right off my back; I’m passionate about my work and creating the best online content possible. But I’m afraid in response to this Google algorithm change, some writers will be afraid to say they want fair compensation for their work. In fighting back against the “content mill” label, some writing sites out there are saying just write for your art, with money a secondary consideration.

I’ve heard rumblings that writing for pay or thinking of popularity and developing revenue streams from writing is “too commercial” and to avoid the dreaded “content farm” label, and ensure quality content, just forget about earning money for your expertise and time. I’ve heard rhetoric like writing is a hobby and expect pocket change, or even no money at all, for your articles. I say: Excuse me? Writers are flesh and blood--we can’t subsist on thin air. We also need to earn a living and quality professional writers want to be paid, there’s nothing wrong with that!

I will produce the best quality content I can, and I will write with a passion and continue to grow and improve. I’m developing a second career so that I can write the articles I want to write and not worry so much about downturns, like the Google algorithm changes. I want to earn income as a writer while improving at my craft. For me, it’s always the intersection of writing as an art and as a business.

I refuse to starve in a garret, as the starving artist! The well-fed, fulfilled self supporting writer is my vision.

Hope you had a happy winter and thank goodness spring is almost here!

Follow your bliss, blaze your own path and keep on writing!