Thursday, February 24, 2011

Google Algorithm Update 2011 - Downdate?

On February 23, 2011, the first major Google Search algorithm update since Mayday in 2010 started to show itself. Today, February 24, Webmasterworld is bursting at the seams with talk of a "content farm" update mentioned recentl by Google's Matt Cutts - and here is the announcement by Google. Judging by the panicky topics of forum threads today, general-interest "magazine style" sites like HubPages and Suite101 may have taken a hit in the search engine results.

What does this mean for content writers? At best, it may mean some instability in the ranking of our articles; at worst, it could mean serious ranking drops, with perhaps more tweaking by Google as the new SERPs settle into place. The sites on which we write may suffer the stigma of bad-quality content farms and be penalized by this algorithm update. Writers, in short, may do better publishing on our own rather than on the big sites. Writing on your own site, short-term earnings might decrease, but long-term earnings could match or even exceed the old.

Although my articles on HubPages and Suite101 have taken a pretty noticeable hit, on a tiny site I have that is not monetized by Google AdSense, views have increased, while on a slightly larger but still small site that IS monetized by AdSense, visits have stayed the same.

We'll see how this pans out. As I've said before, the Web is always changing. This is about as rough as it gets. But it's not the end of opportunity for the little guy - just the beginning, in fact.

Copyright Nerd Writer Mom

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Content Farms Are Not Evil, Just Upstarts

If you've heard the term "content farms," then you've heard people rail against websites widely considered to be content farms: Demand Media's eHow,, WiseGeek, BrightHub, Suite101, HubPages, InfoBarrel, even Wikipedia...and hundreds more.  As content farms, these websites either get their content from crowdsourcing (that is, they get their content from everyday people as opposed to those employed on a contract or permanent basis) or from contract writers with not necessarily journalistic qualifications.

Google has recently declared war of sorts on content farms.  It's not clear at all to me whether their definition of content farms is the same as yours or mine, or even whether Google considers properties like Demand Media to be farms.

But regular folks do use the term "content farm" for the websites above.  They complain that:

  1. They are not "authority" websites.
  2. They are spam.
  3. They have copied, spun or scraped content.   
  4. They produce volumes of content just to make money.  
  5. They don't offer value to the user.
I'm here to disagree, or rather to defend content farms, and in a big way.  Yes, I write for some of those websites.  I'm also a user of some of those websites.  And I see a different perspective. 
  • Do these websites exist to make money?  Yes.  So do newspapers.  So do massage therapists.  So do call centers.  So do doctors.  So do the big banks.  So do food producers.  So does any profit based business. They all produce a product or a service, sometimes out of love for that product or service,  sometimes not, but at least out of the desire to make money.  Content farms are doing nothing that the businesses they are competing against are not also doing.  Is it moral?  That's for you to decide.   But the question at hand is, is their product or service useful?  I'd say that we can spare the big banks, but not so much the content farms.  We need those, for reasons I'll explain soon.
  • Are content farms spam, existing only to be "monetized" by Google AdSense?  I don't know, and furthermore, only Google does, and they haven't been saying much about it.  
  • Do content farms have copied, spun, or scraped content?  From my perspective, I see far more content copied, spun and scraped from content farms than by them.  But I'll admit this is anecdotal evidence and that yes, some content creators do copy or spin content on some of these content farms, despite each sites' attempts at quality controls.  (Incidentally, the websites on which I've published do not want recycled or rewritten content, which is considered plagiarism).  However, the problem of intellectual property violation is by no means limited to content farms.  Rather, content farms are a front-stage but relatively small part of a much bigger show.  The huge problem assaulting the web is the inevitable challenge posed by digital technology to existing intellectual property laws designed in an infrastructure of print and controlled media.   What does that mumbo-jumbo mean?  Basically, that it was hard to copy things before, and now it's easy, and the old intellectual property laws were designed to protect property that was already well-protected by physical constraints.  For example, in the world of magazines, people used to read only the few magazines sold in the physical bookstores or by subscription or in the library, and you had to physically copy them, transport them, covertly resell them, etc.  Now to copy and publish material, all you have to do is search for one of the billions of bits of published material freely available, copy, paste, post, and takes less than twenty minutes and chances are you won't even get caught.  The laws and the technology have to catch up with what people can now do in their new environment without stifling necessary free expansion.  This is hard, and not a problem caused by content farms, but by the Internet itself.
  • I'll deal with #1 and #5 together, since they're related.  Does the content in question have authority?  Value?  Yes, a goodly portion of it does.  Content farms are not always sourced by authorities in the traditional sense, but that does not mean the content does not offer value for the users as good as, and even better than (since many are more concisely and clearly written), that of so-called authority sites (so-called because our criteria for calling a website an authority are controversial).  They're valuable because these "farms" utilize the skills of the unproven but talented (read: youth), the authority of the freelance little guy rather than that of the hired drudge (what's the difference, again?), the garage expert rather than the certified and accredited expert.  But wait, now...they utilize the certified and accredited experts, too, because the opportunities for jobs in the traditional job market are fading.  Sure, those experts could have their own websites, but content farms make publishing easy for the non-techie.  In fact, that's what the "content farms" that aren't editorially controlled are, like HubPages: they're massively popular self-publishing platforms.  Even Suite101, though editorially controlled, doesn't dictate titles or topics.  Those that use established professional editors like and Demand Media actually seek experts to write for them, and get them, too, because the experts are out of traditional work.  So yes, the expertise IS there on these websites; and where it's not, we have homegrown expertise, creativity, and talent coming from out of the woodwork, just as it did at another time of a critical economic shift - the Golden Age in the early 20th century.
Everyone who reads this blog knows that I tend to proselytize about the "new economic model" of the Internet.  Though I'm not really a preachy person, I'll probably keep doing so on this subject until I'm done.  Think of the World Wide Web as a big, new territory opening up from what was a shrinking, overpopulated, and highly competitive territory.  Online, there's lots of space and resources and people are moving here for economic and social reasons: it's cheaper, faster, more equitable, and more bountiful than the economy built on the technology of the train, car, telephone, airplane, and TV.  

Content farms provide something akin to a ramshackle mall structure in this new land: they provide a framework for people to enter the land and get down to business.  Writers publish not just the stereotypical "made for AdSense" or "MFA" pages, but marketing pages for struggling businesses (the much-maligned affiliate model), creative works, and the "how to" tricks of human enterprise that allow people engaged in all trades, from cooking to boat building, to set down their knowledge when there is no apprenticeship model or family inheritance model any longer for transmitting this knowledge.  Content farms offer publishing platforms for what will soon be a new Golden Age of creativity and information, the first truly bright spot in progress since the World War II era.

The people publishing on content farms now are not mostly scammers or spammers.  They're disreputable, but only as the pioneers of the past were: they're the immigrants, the newcomers, the non-established, non-certified  new blood, and in a dying economy, what we need is this new blood.  

Yes, there's a lot of dreck produced on content farms.  I don't like that, but I consider it not much different from the dreck produced and sanctioned by corporations calling themselves newspapers.  (Why do we need the Associated Press again?  AP was invented alongside the telegraph, so that regional papers could get non-regional news.  Well, the Internet takes care of that now; with a click of the mouse, I can read about the earthquake in the newspaper of the city in which it's happening.  So shouldn't newspapers let go of all recycled content?)

To get good content, we have to open ourselves up to all non-harmful content.  That's what content farms are good at doing.  Sure, it's a search engine's challenge to lead people to content that isn't harmful.  But that doesn't mean getting rid of those upstart content farms, despite the speculation running rampant all over the Web, including a recent discussion on   Hey, somebody come up with a real content management system that your grandmother could use, and then maybe we can get rid of content farms.

What do you think?
Copyright Nerd Writer Mom

Friday, September 3, 2010

Is CPC Overrated When Deciding on Keywords?

When writing revenue sharing articles and researching keywords, CPC - the metric that stands for "cost per click" and, when using the Google AdWords keyword tool, represents the estimated bid amounts advertisers can expect to pay for keywords - may not be as important as SEO experts will tell you.  In my experience, CPC never jives with actual Google AdSense earnings, even after taking into account the 68% publishers get after the split, and I don't give it more than a fleeting glance when I do keyword research.

Friday, August 13, 2010

50 Reasons Writing Online Pays Better Than Regular Jobs or Print

There is no shortage of people who will tell you that writing for money on the Internet is a scam, sweatshop labor, unprincipled, selling out to The Man, and undervaluing yourself.  That's one way to look at it, I guess.  But I look at it differently.  Before I tell you the fifty reasons I think writing online is the greatest opportunity for people to earn money in a century, I have to qualify it:  It's not all perfect.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Is Rewriting a Copyright Violation?

My  last post covered rewriting and plagiarism, but I wanted to do a quick post on copyright infringement as regards to rewriting articles, too.  Why?  I recently had to file a DMCA notice with Google AdSense regarding a copyright infringement of an article I wrote.  My article wasn't copied word for word, however - it was rewritten.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Is Rewriting the Same as Plagiarism? The Answer May Surprise You.

Many content writers wonder whether it's OK to rewrite articles by other people when they write for article sites like Suite101 or Demand Studios.  Is it allowed?  Is it plagiarism?  Is it worth it?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Oh, No, the SERPs Changed! Why Google & Bing Search Engine Results Devolve

I hear "I don't understand why my web page rankings have changed on Google Search" a lot from writers with revenue share articles.  I've asked the question myself.  What have I done wrong?  My article is great!  What's changed?  Why me? This is just wrong!

As I've learned, there are concrete reasons our pages get de-indexed or lose relevance to searches - algorithm changes, what I tend to call the "Google Shuffle," and other factors.  This post is not about those specific things.  Explaining the causes never really satisfies people, because what they really want to know is "How can I fix it?"  (And besides, I'm not a techie.  What I know about the making, breaking and changing of algorithms can be counted on one eyelash.)

This post attempts to answer the question, "How can I fix it when Google and Bing supposedly are improving their search engine - but now my wonderful page, which has been offering value all these years to visitors, is suddenly being ignored?"

Thursday, July 1, 2010

How to Optimize for Google, Bing and Yahoo Without SEO: A Philosophical Guide for Writers

This is not an SEO guide for web content writers, webmasters or publishers.  There are no tips or tricks or techniques here.  And you know what? Many search engine optimization techniques lose value when they become popular, anyway.

What is here is a description of the way I believe the Bing, Google and Yahoo! search engines "think."  Why is that useful?  Because understanding the way search engines think can illuminate how to get good rankings in the SERPs over the longterm.  The goal is not to trick the search engines into ranking your website for every keyword imaginable, but to give them what they want so you get ranked for the terms you should be ranked for.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

What is an Affiliate Marketer and Why Are Affiliates the Bad Guys?

There's a certain embarrassment about being an affiliate.  When I talk openly about being an affiliate marketer, it's usually to someone who's never heard of the role, or someone who is herself an affiliate marketer.  The rest of the world looks on and disapproves.

In particular, affiliate sites have an increasingly bad reputation with search engines.  They also have a bad reputation in other online communities, for a lot of reasons.  The major ones are that they're seen as spammers and they're a new kind of professional animal that nobody fully understands.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Pros and Cons of Backlinks: Not Worth the Effort Anymore?

Writers or web content publishers who are also search engine marketers often tout the value of backlinking their own work.  I'm a maverick.  I think backlinks created for "link juice" are pretty valueless and getting cheaper daily.  I write web content for revenue share, and I don't systematically backlink, and my articles, many of them hosted at HubPages, don't do badly at all.  And I think I'm not alone.  I know, I know.  A lot of people swear by creating strategic backlinks.  But there's another group of people that don't touch the things and let the backlinks develop organically.  And it's looking like that may be okay.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Suite101 Scam? No, It's Not. You Just Can't Ignore SEO.

Many writers wonder whether Suite101 is a scam.  I've been writing for Suite101 for over 6 months, and I like it.  It's not HubPages; it's suited to different types of articles.  So is Suite101 a scam?  My answer is that it depends how you define scam.  Suite101 is a legitimate company and they have freelance writers with professional portfolios writing for them.  They ask for no investment but time.  They pay in a timely manner.  They have a solid reputation in the online publishing industry.

But Suite uses one of the new earnings models known as revenue sharing.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Why Writers Write: To Communicate

I hear a lot of writers talking about why they write.  "To express myself."  "Because I have to."  "Because I'll bust a gut sneezing if the writing doesn't flow regularly out of my literary sinuses."  Whatever.  I'm more inspired by George Orwell, who demystifies the act of writing in A Collection of Essays in pieces such as Why I Write and Politics and the English Language.

Monday, April 5, 2010

EHow No Longer Publishing Articles Except by Demand Studios

I've been suggesting writers new to revenue sharing at article sites  and writing online web content in general start with an account at  However, minutes ago a pop-up appeared on stating that "Demand Studios is now the exclusive platform for writing new articles for"  This means that community members can't self-submit articles anymore.  There is a note to check your email for details, but that email has yet to arrive.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Why Opportunities for Earning an Income from Writing Online Aren't Going Away Anytime Soon

The chance to earn an income by writing online can seem almost too good to be true.  While the economy's shriveling, writing opportunities online are growing as they haven't in nearly a century.  Writing sites are everywhere.  Is it all a scam?  No.  Not all of it.  It's hard work, but the best kind of work.  You work from home, you work convenient hours, you have no boss, you can take time off, you're far more in control of your income than if you had a job...all while getting paid to put words together on a page, bless your soul. 

But before you invest a lot of resources in your writing career - specifically, the resource of time, as most legit writing opportunities are free - you may be doubting this pipe dream can last.  Well, I don't doubt it anymore.  I think it's here to stay.  And here's why I think so.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Published in Print But Not Making Money Writing Online? Tips for Moving to Writing for the Web

Many nonfiction freelance writers published in traditional print media - specifically, magazines and newspapers - are eager to start writing on the Web, but learn quickly that writing online is a whole new ballgame.  Many don't understand the different business models for earning money online, largely because the models are still so new and constantly in flux.  And if they do get how to earn money by writing online, many think the business models are inherently unfair and exit the game barely after beginning.  Which is a shame, because the Web needs the talent being bled from the dying print market as much as the writers need the work.  And the work is there.