Wednesday, August 12, 2015

InfoBarrel Author of the Week: InfoBarrel's Mysterious Article Approvers

You've written your guts out and finally you click that big "Submit" button. Sure, you try to keep occupied – you feed the cat, clean up your work area, and get a bite to eat. But in the back of your mind, all you wanna know: did my article make the cut?

Image of people sitting on dock titled "Friends" by Christos Loufopoulos (ophilos on flickr) Taken on August 18th, 2011 (CC-by-2.0)
Photo by Christos Loufopoulos (ophilos on flickr) CC-by-2.0

After a few hours, you check the forum and it looks like there is a delay on approvals. People say, "Just keep writing, work on your next article."

But you and I both know you're only going to do a half-ass job on the next one until you know (for sure) that your stuff is good.
David Goehring (carbonnyc on flickr) "All the Rage" Taken on April 11th, 2012 (CC-by-2.0)
"All the Rage" by David Goehring on flickr (CC-by-2.0)

Finally, that email arrives.

You're almost too afraid to look; you consider asking your partner to read it to you. Oh, but then you tell yourself, 'Grow up and take it like a woman (man)!'


At first you feel enraged. 'But my hubby, girlfriend, mother thought it was great!' [Of course they do, they love you.]

Tsk, the article approver must be insane.

After about 20 minutes (or a few hours, depending on the length of grudge you tend to hold), you dig down deep. You re-read that denial message over and over. You still hate that approver's guts for a minute.

And finally, once you are all alone, you silently acknowledge:

"Okaaay, it could use some work, I guess. Geez they're picky."

Meg Wills (whatmegsaid on flickr) CC-by-2.0 photo taken Feb. 4, 2009 "You can only blame your problems on the world for so long" 195
Photo by Meg Wills (whatmegsaid on flickr) CC-by-2.0

That is growth my friend. If you can get to the final stage – acceptance – you'll make it.

However, few do.

To help you along your writing career path which (obviously, if you are reading this) will be highly successful, I tried to break those article approvers, to find out their secrets, to crack their code.

Damn it, what exactly do those people want from us anyways?!

InfoBarrel's avatar of Admin (aka SRS cat)
Admin avatar on InfoBarrel (aka Serious Cat or SRS cat)
I told Serious Cat all about this and he finally agreed to let me pick the brains of your worst enemy (or your best friend – depending on your stage of growth): the InfoBarrel article approvers.

Full Disclosure:

Just so you know, I feel your pain. I too was denied, not once, but numerous times. But I persisted. I was afflicted with hyphen-itis at one point. Another time, I was denied for "calls to action."

Bad english? Yeah, I got that denial message too (and I've lived in Canada all my life and even won some awards for writing).

Today, I'm a new woman. I write less crapily, no less crappy. Okaaay, more better now.

Without Further Ado

I present to you my interview with Serious Cat (aka SRS Cat, admin, Ryan) and the mysterious article approvers on InfoBarrel.

Q: Why do articles take so long to be approved?

Approver #1: Article approvers are writers like yourself. They have their own websites, blogs and articles to edit and keep up to date. We also have lives outside of IB and we are not on the site 24/7. There are only a few of us, and if one or two gets busy with real life, that leaves a lot of work for a handful of people. There are also hundreds of articles that come through the queue, not just yours.

Also (in my case) if I see an article that I have denied six or seven times, I just cannot look at it anymore – especially if the corrections have not been done. I will leave it for another approver to look at.

Approver #2: The approvers have been in the article-writing business for a long time. We have hundreds or thousands of articles to maintain. If an affiliate site changes their linking scheme, or a site closes down and approvers have to move their articles, that reduces the amount of time they have to approve articles.

Also, remember, that when a content site closes down, hundreds or thousands of writers move all of their articles, often to IB. So the queue gets backed up, and even should each approver read a hundred articles per day, not all articles will be accepted, and so some will be resubmitted many times until they are approved.

Q: What does it mean when a denial letter states: "Where are your sources?"

Approver #1: Unless you are a well-known expert, where did you get the information from? This especially applies to articles that have medical advice or are historical in nature. Even people who write New York Times bestselling biographies have sources!

Approver #3: You will not build much of a genuine following if you do not provide proof of your statements, claims, theories, or findings. Otherwise, your article is based merely on opinion or personal experience (and you will probably receive a denial stating your article is blog content).

What stands out about InfoBarrel is the fact that they've already made it incredibly easy to cite your sources with footnotes (just use the references tab). If you are unsure how to proceed, read classicalgeek's Newbie Guide.

Q: I don't understand why my article is "low quality"?

Approver #1: Low quality can be different things. If you are writing about something that is all over the internet and are not adding anything new (like, "10 uses for baking soda" or "how to pack a picnic basket"), it is low quality. Word count is also low quality, especially if a topic is very broad. Brevity can be a good thing, but not always.

Approver #3: You definitely need to bring "something new to the table" if you are going to tackle something widely covered already (or if you even hope to rank well on Google). Whatever you do, be sure to include the most recent credible sources (from the Mayo Clinic or the CDC) not someone anonymous named Healthy-Nutz-Advice.

Q: My intro is awkward and I was told I ask "too many questions" of the reader. What are some examples of acceptable intros?

Approver #1: If you repeat the same word over and over, even in variations, it is awkward. You don't speak like that. If your sentences are short and choppy and stilted, it sounds robotic. (Think the old "Dick and Jane" books.)

Approver #3: If you read the New York Times or even InfoBarrel's Top 100, none of the intros sound like an infomercial, high school essay, or lecture. Sentences that we don't want to see include: 
"Today we are going to ... "
"You and I are going to start by ... so let's look at how we can ...." 
Equally unacceptable is a series of questions at the beginning like: 
"Do you suffer from ...? Have chronic ....? Need more ...? Then you've come to the right place."

Approver #1: Here are examples of bad openings:

"In this article I am going to tell you about ..."
"I am going to tell you about the history of the blue widgets. Blue widgets have been very important throughout time, and life before blue widgets was very difficult for people. Now I will tell you about the history of the blue widget."
"I love pizza! Pizza is great! There are so many ways to make pizza!"

Approver #3: That reminds me, too many exclamation marks, questions marks, or ellipses is a no-no. Use an exclamation mark when someone is screaming (if possible), otherwise it's annoying and pushy (so are all caps).

Q: What mistakes get under your skin?

Approver #1: Bad punctuation and spelling that goes uncorrected and is resubmitted. Like I did not notice! The other approvers can see why it was denied the first time (and the second and the third), so you cannot put anything over on us.

Also, dupe/spun content. We have ways of finding this out.

Those who sneak in links after having their article approved ticks me off as well. Then I look extra hard at any other work that is submitted.

Approver #2: Oh, I have so many pet peeves, I hardly know where to start. Homonym errors, such as too and to, or loose and lose, the placement of adverbs (I could write an entire book on exactly where to place the word "only" or "just" in a sentence), and omission of hyphens are the worst offenders. And the confusion of words such as "less" and "fewer" sets my teeth on edge, as do misspellings such as "alright" (there is no "alwrong," is there?).

Another thing that annoys me is resubmitting articles without changes in the hopes that some other approver will pass it. We're really not that easy to trick, so don't insult our intelligence. And finally, people who try to sneak around the rules. We notice.

Approver #3: It gets under my skin when someone writes a biased piece and then tries to find some phony references to support their claims. Sometimes footnotes are added to the end of sections and not where they should be placed. A footnote should be added to any sentence like this:

"Studies show that chronic inflammation of the blue widget can lead to ..." 

And if someone writes: 

"Numerous studies prove that ...." then add more than one footnote. You can add as many as needed. The references tab is extremely easy to use on InfoBarrel.

Q: Why do I need to credit my photos? And why do they have to be "free for commercial use"? Can't I just download what I want from the internet?

Approver #1: A photo does not belong to you the same way another person's writing does not belong to you. The only way approvers know that it is a free to use image is to credit it as such by using the site name or your name/username. I would be just as annoyed if someone took an image as I would if they stole my content.

Approver #3:  For certain sites (like Pixabay) you need only put "Photo from Pixabay" (since it is a site that provides free images for commercial use). From flickr (and even Wikipedia) you need to be more careful and read the licenses. 

In general, anything that states it is dedicated to the Public Domain or under Creative Commons 1.0, 2.0, or 3.0 licenses" are free for commercial use. (InfoBarrel is a commercial site). Wherever possible, credit the author (photographer) of the work too. For example: "Credit: Serious Cat on InfoBarrel (CC-by-2.0)." Also, credit yourself if the image is yours.

Q: My article is "unfinished." What? I put a period at the end of the last sentence!

Approver #2: Just like in school, you should have an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. If you article lacks a conclusion, it sounds unfinished. Remember the old adage: "Tell them what you're going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you told them."

Q: Where should Amazon products be placed (ideally) in an article? In InfoBarrel's forum, someone mentioned being denied for having an Amazon product "too high up" on his page.

Ryan (admin): There is no hard and fast rule but I prefer to feature them within the content where they are most contextually relevant.

They aren't going to be beneficial to the reader at the top of an article because there is no context. If you want a reader to buy something from you, you need to give before you take.

Stacking them at the bottom of an article is very visually unappealing as well.

Q: Another person mentioned that when she "cut and pasted her text, it has been rejected because the type is too small." What is the work around for that (I'm pretty sure the font is Georgia on IB)?

Ryan (admin): If you are copying and pasting from Word, sometimes the markup gets carried over through the clipboard. There is a paste from Word option in the editor that removes all Word formatting so you can format it natively in our editor.

Q: Another person mentioned being "denied one time for too many backlinks." Can you shed some light on this? And (I'd imagine) the new IB 4.0 will have some different parameters and allowances for linking (based on your July 2015 blog post).

Ryan (admin): There are many reasons this could happen. The linking rules will change on IB 4.0. There is a lot to cover, just expect to not be limited by links, however we will simultaneously be continuing our policing of writers trying to abuse IB for link building.

Q: In the forum, some people have complained: "I've been denied for an article that was previously published on InfoBarrel. What on earth has changed? It seems harder and harder to get stuff published on IB lately."

Ryan (admin): If you are editing an older article that was below our current standards, editors may deny it. Improving it will help benefit everybody, so do it :)

In Closing:

I want to thank the article approvers from the bottom of my heart for allowing me ask them the eleven most confounding questions mentioned in InfoBarrel's forum.

I also want to thank Ryan (admin) for dispensing the questions and answering some of them himself.

As for Serious Cat, well, my cat editor (Kady) has a crush on him and is offering to send him some home-grown catnip.


  1. I will continue to spell "allright" as "alright" as it is gaining acceptance as a preferred version of the word and I think it looks better, too.

    I, likewise, hate anything that starts with "Today I am going to tell you about . . . ". I never read those unless the subject is so compelling I feel I must.

    Great insight for people who wonder why the piece their nana said was the best thing she ever read got rejected.

    1. Didn't know it was possible to start a writing piece with "Today blah blah blah...". A lecture, understandable (sort of) but not quite a writing piece.

    2. HA Vic, I think the "Oxford" types prefer "all right" (two words) but for you, I think they'd make an exception. No one else would get away with writing "wimmen" but you (since your punctuation, grammar, and everything else you write is impeccable).

    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Had no idea you guys got so many articles. What a thankless job it must be to read them all. Quality control can be a biz-itch.

    1. Yeah, they sound swamped. Thanks for dropping by and commenting Mark. Take good care, Rose

    2. Loads and loads of crap articles to read through I bet.

    3. Yeah, sure sounds like it. Thanks for dropping by JadeDragon.

  3. I can handle rejections but sometimes the wording of the denial letter can throw me off. Of the articles written thus far, at least one I'm still having problems with.

    So glad they agreed to an interview. Looking forward to the next installment.

    1. Oh I know what you mean. I ended up combing my work wondering what the problem(s) were. Sometimes the article approver would provide me with some specific info too (which helps a lot).

      And I always felt my work was improved after I went through the process.

      Thanks so much for stopping by Browna86 (Topaz Blu).


    2. Have recently ran into the denial problem with two of my recently published articles.Too much white space was the culprit; the extra space was showing up as extra space on my end. Hope the up coming addition fairs well.

    3. Well, hang in there. Admin knew there were glitches and made mention that the new version will be free of all those bugs. Right now, they won't bother changing old code. I always double check that I've deleted any extra white space (I've ran into that issue too).

  4. I've been stumbling over the differences between "bloggy" and "first person article" lately, and this interview really clarified that for me. I also found the comments on quality to be especially helpful. In the blogging world, we tend to think more in terms of what info is not on my site yet, rather than what info is already easily accessible elsewhere.

    1. HA, well perhaps you can explain it to me then?

      I resisted writing a blog for the longest time because I thought it would have to be the "what I ate for breakfast" type of minutiae. Or, I'd be dishing out advice (which I hate to do).

      Other folks are far more interesting, so I'm glad the interview format is working. Oh, I still have my rant-type posts, tho.

      Glad you found this helpful Vickie and thanks for dropping by.


  5. I've been stumbling over the differences between "bloggy" and "first person article" lately, and this interview really clarified that for me. I also found the comments on quality to be especially helpful. In the blogging world, we tend to think more in terms of what info is not on my site yet, rather than what info is already easily accessible elsewhere.

  6. This really helps. Have a good one Rose.

  7. Very informative article. Thank you. I'm new to InfoBarrel and I'm sure the points covered here will help me move along much smoother and faster.