The best and worst websites for writers and bloggers

As a writer or blogger, you might join a community to network, learn, promote your work, publish your content, and even make a spot of money on the side. 

If this is your motivation, then, you’ll have figured out two things by now: Firstly, you are not alone. There is an offensively large number of aspiring writers out there, ranging from talented to deserve to be shot. Secondly, many websites exist that claim to make your dreams come true.

In order to save you months of scouring the web only to be met with disappointment and wasted effort, below is a description of some of the best and worst online communities for writers and bloggers...

The Good: Hubpages
Instant gratification with hits the moment you publish. An active community and obviously an enormous database. Whatever your field of interest, someone is interested in hearing about it. Clearly the reputation of Hubpages is so excellent that everyone is keen to read, comment, follow, encourage and share. With Hubpages, not only will you drive traffic to your own website, but you may even make some money with Google Ads too. 

Make Hubpages your FIRST port of call. Do not leave it until last, especially as Hubpages does not accept duplications. If you've already tossed your great ideas all over the internet, then forget about bringing them to Hubpages. 

The Good: Triond
Triond commands a network of websites, and will publish your content on the site that best suits your topic and target audience, thereby earning you maximum readership. Triond’s network includes websites with topics ranging from poetry and literature, to business, sports, travel, health and wellness, and many more. 

Plus, as soon as your work is approved and published, it generates revenue from two sources: page views and the display and contextual advertising that appears on the pages of your work. Triond shares with you 50% of the revenue generated by your content.

The Good: BlogCatalog
This is a great site if you can ever get the webmaster to approve your blog, which is hit or miss, depending on whether he’s busy scratching is belly button. In spite of the bone idle webmaster, BlogCatalog deserves a huge thumbs up, thanks to the active, responsive and impressively well informed community. This is a mine of useful information for writers, with everything from how to promote your website or blog to how to make money online. Don't be shy about asking questions, everyone is keen to share their extensive knowledge here.

The Good and Bad: Facebook 
If you want to catch up with old school friends from when you were five, then Facebook is for you. But if you plan to network, build a community and promote your work, then good luck to you. 

Facebook limits the number of friends you can make (5000 total), the speed at which you may request those friends, the number of pages you can like, how many groups you can join and how many blogs you can follow. There are probably more limits not listed here, but what is clear is that Facebook does not want you doing your own networking. And why should it, when it has an expensive advertising package to offer you instead? Facebook is driven by greed, so if you have a book to promote or a blog to share, then by all means post it on Facebook, but don't expect much.

Having said that Facebook has a huge upside, a weakness in their armor, you might say, called NetworkedBlogs. On the surface it’s just another place to post and link to your website or blog. But there is more to NetworkedBlogs. Visit their discussion forum, where everyone is literally begging one another to ‘follow me and I’ll follow you.’ Yes it’s an orgy of button pressing, but it also exposes your writing to hundreds, possibly thousands of eyes. The ‘Like’ or ‘Follow’ button is today’s measure of success, with the power to promote your website and get you better rankings on Google. NetworkedBlogs gets you those ‘Likes’.

For more on the power of the Like button, refer to these articles: 

Why the Button War? Because Content is Social Currency [10 Links] 
Facebook has transformed the “Like” button into “currency for brands.
Facebook Like Button Gets Ads

And it gets sweeter. As everyone on NetworkedBlogs’ discussion forum is looking for ways to propagate their work, if you happen to have a referral link to another blog or website-promoting site, then you can earn Google Adsense revenue just by sharing that information on the NetworkedBlogs discussion forum. 

It’s a win-win situation. Well perhaps not so much for Facebook, so you might want to keep this under your hat, lest they pull the plug on this one ‘flaw’ in their greedy master plan for world domination.

The Good and Bad: Writer's Digest 
Great community, fun people sharing a common cause (to become published writers), but not so self absorbed as to be unable to hold a forum conversation. You’ll enjoy great interactions, tips, advice and a general feeling of warmth here. 

The major downside to Writer’s Digest is their aggressive advertising. Writer’s Digest is not merely a forum for aspiring writers, but a company that sells writing related tools, such as conferences, books and webinars. The community frequently complains in the discussion forums about the aggressive advertising, but Writer’s Digest is deaf to the suggestions that their hard-sell advertising is more off-putting than effective.

The Bad: Xomba
Tiny community, you'll get a couple of initial responses to your articles at first and then it will all die down. As for driving traffic to your own website or blog, if no one's checking it out, then no one's around to click on your links. And forget about ever trying to make money from your articles. Xomba isn't even listed in Wikipedia. 

The Bad: Zimbio
Unless your sole interest in life is to write about celebrities, don't waste your time. Enough said.

The bad: Squidoo
What a phenomenal waste of time! Firstly Squidoo claims to be “home to millions of pages of the best content, advice and recommendations online.” That can only be a lie, as only a site that screens can claim to be “the best.” On Squidoo anyone can publish anything. One recurring complaint is that, of all the communities, Squidoo generates the least hits. You are even supposed to be able to make Adsense revenue here, but that won’t happen if your readership is zero.

The bad: Scribd
Scribd claims to be “the world’s largest social reading and publishing company.” But it is unclear why. Your content appears like a JPeg image of a word document, it’s not even attractive to look at. Here too, there is no gatekeeper, absolutely anyone who can switch on a computer, can publish content to this site.

The Bad: Yelp
You give, they take. Yes, I know that yelp is a review site, but with millions of subscribers and no limits to how many friends you can acquire, Yelp is also an excellent source of eyes and ears, and a great place to show off your writing. If the readers like your style they will often tell you, and they might even click on your links. But here’s the rub: in your reviews and even in your Yelp profile, you may not link to ANYTHING, lest god forbid, it might be self promoting.

To quote the tight-fisted jerks at Yelp: I'm writing to let you know that your account was flagged by the Yelp community, and our Support team has determined that there are promotional aspects to your account which currently violate our Terms of Service. Personal accounts cannot be used to promote another business, website or blog. As such, we'd greatly appreciate it if you could amend your profile headline, so that it no longer promotes your blog by Thursday 16th Sept '10, otherwise we may have to close your account. 

Then close it, you mean bastards, there's only one of me, only 24 hours in a day and right now I don't have time to waste, writing reviews for you and getting nothing in return.

The Bad: Twitter
Everyone’s heard the same song; if you have a website or blog, you must open a Twitter account. What good this does is unclear, though, as mentioned earlier, getting followers is crucial to your credibility as a writer. 

The only way to really describe the Twitter experience is to imagine millions of individuals taking turns to run into a room, yell out a sentence and then run out again. No one is interested in what anyone else has to say. Sure you can get followers, but they aren’t following you out of interest, they merely want you to follow them, and unlike Facebook’s NetworkedBlogs, you’ll gain nothing more from this pointless interchange.

In conclusion
Many online communities exist that promise overnight success and enhanced readership, but the reality is that no one website has the power to make you famous, not while they are making every one else famous at the same time. Even if you do well using these sites, it takes years of hard work and persistence.

Manage your expectations. Every site has its own agenda, so just get what you can out of it, but don’t assume that it holds the key to your dreams. It does not.

Meantime sign up to Google Adsense. Do this before joining any online communities and publishing your work, then as soon as you get your Adsense ID, you’ll be ready to not just enhance your readership, but also earn revenue on the side. Again this does not happen overnight. Think about it; if it’s hard to get people to read your content, imagine how much harder it will be to get them to click on your ads. Keep your day jobs people, the whole Adsense business is a fun cherry on the cake, but you will most likely earn in cents, not dollars and it certainly won’t pay the rent.

Most importantly, always remember to include backlinks to your own website, whether in your profile, in the discussion forum or within your published content. Don’t spam though. Engage the community. However do not even bother to sign up to any website or community that does not allow you to post links. Life is too short!

Happy writing everyone, and don't let anyone stop you from pursuing your dreams.
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