“All That Pap” (Part 1): How Google AdSense Brought Out Content Farms

Ken's Blog

Every morning, I settle into a routine. I scan the 150 or so blog-news-other feeds that I follow.

It struck me that it's my 2011 version of the 1961 version of my Dad settling into the Montreal Gazette (when it was the Montreal "morning paper"), except now…

1) I do not read newspapers, I barely follow "the world news." I follow what is relevant now, or may be relevant in the future, for SBI! owners, including following our own SBI! Forums, which are a rich source of information (as do other SiteSellers, who'll send me what they think is important).

2) There is no "morning paper" in Montreal anymore, to be followed by the "afternoon paper." (The long-stronger Montreal Star folded long ago, leaving only the Gazette for English-speaking Montrealers.) And that paper, like most others, barely hangs on as it tries to figure out how to make enough money off its "Web version" (thank you, iPad) to survive.

3) I'll send whatever is important to various folks in the company (local, social, etc.). And I'll write about what I read in the SBI! Forums, if there is something that is particularly relevant to SBI! owners.

That third one is important. My Dad read the news 40 years ago, presumably to be able to talk about it with friends over coffee. There was no practical use in knowing what was going on around the world, and that is still true today.

I have no "use" for knowing what is going on in Egypt, for example, except to chat about it. CIA analysts need to know that because they will use the information (and I doubt if they rely on CNN. ;-) )

Instead, I read my individualized version of "the news" to…

1) Use it, storing it away in the fleshy tablets of my memory until it connects with other dots to mean something. Then it becomes an article for SBI! owners ("SBIers"), a new module, etc.

2) React to it. I can comment at its source (something I used to enjoy doing when we were a smaller company) or I can write about it, either in the SBI! Forums (usually more specific e-business related topics) or here in the SiteSell Blog (more general material of relevance to everyone, SBIer or not, but still e-business related — like this post).

That is a fundamental shift in how we follow and use "the news." For example, I will notice trends forming. At first, the "use" is unknown. They are fascinating to watch as they grow (often over many years) from the "early visionaries who get what no ones else does" to the "Johnny-Come-Lately's" who tell us that a trend is reaching a peak.

Some of those "early guys" are not visionaries.

They are more likely just playing games (ex., jumping onto a bandwagon to build a me-too startup with the intent to flip). They may even grow and make a lot of noise, but ultimately they are not going to last because they base their businesses upon concepts that just cannot survive…

The Two Fundamental Questions…

1) "Does this add value?"

2) "Is this real"?

Some startups add so much value and are based on concepts so real that they are clearly here to stay (ex., the need for humans to socialize). The first attempts, whether talking about search or social, often get it only partly right (and therefore, wrong), showing the way for the follow-ups who got it right (ex., Google and Facebook).

Other startups, though, are based on flawed models. In the case of today's topic, they are the opposite of the Google/Facebook examples above. They take a solid concept (create content, earn income) and distort it so that the model is based on "how do I make money out of this as easily and cheaply as possible?"

—-SIDEBAR—–
SiteSell is the originator of the "add value/keep it real"
model. Well before what we have long called…

Content arrow Traffic arrow PREsell arrow Monetize

… well before the Affiliate Masters Course, and well
before the AdSense program, a series of articles laid out
how to create high-value content, based upon keyword
research, how to do it in ways that get found at the
engines, how quality PREsells visitors and then how to
monetize.

That model is as strong today as ever.

But it has been distorted by many, in many ways.
—-SIDEBAR—–

The emphasis of every business must be on adding value, on keeping it real (and all that it implies). If you can do that and execute, you will figure out how to make money. Google's first monetization model was not selling ads. And Facebook may yet find a better way to earn income from its business.

Baser instincts often focus some people/companies on "making money as easily and cheaply as possible." They forget the two core questions.

"By not keeping it real" and "by not adding value," they have a flawed business model, one that is ultimately doomed.

And that brings us to…

Content Farms

The topic of the day is "content farms."

Content farms are organizations that, one way or another, at very low cost, churn out vast amounts of content according to what Google tells it can be valuable thanks to Google AdSense ads (or other advertising) that they can place on "all that pap" (more background info here).

—–SIDEBAR—–
I do not usually write about concepts that won't make it, in
the long run. They may be interesting to think on and write
about, but they serve no practical purpose for SBIers. My
job at SiteSell is to reduce all the "noise" to a small amount
of use-able information for SBIers.

It is why we tell SBIers to "put blinders on" and ignore the
firehose of information related to e-business and Net
marketing for individuals and small companies. There is
just too much of it.

It is also why we will be releasing a new free module, called
"Monitor It!." It will enable SBIers to monitor what is new in
their niche. No need to follow ours (small e-business) –
we already do that for them.

If you are going to spend time following information on the
Web, do it by following the information that is directly
related to your business's niche, whether that is growing
cacti or offering advice/tips on needlework.
—–SIDEBAR—–

Back to content farms. The model fails to "keep it real" and fails, for the most part, to "add value." The first that I can recall was about.com. It is hardly fair to compare it with more recent ones (ehow, hubpages), since the quality is higher and the amount of spam lower. That, of course, is the trend.

The content farm trend has taken us from about.com and Yahoo! Answers to answers.com, aol.com, blogspot.com, squidoo.com, ehow.com, hubpages.com, and on and on and on. Each seems to lower the bar.

It is low-value, generic pap. It lacks depth. It lacks soul. It lacks a voice. That's what you get from low-paid people who don't have any real passion or knowledge about a topic, who merely research and regurgitate.

Pap.

Essentially, it is spam, nuanced. Think about it…

Freelance writers may get paid a few bucks per article, or they may get a share of AdSense revenue. They are a superb way for educated people in developing nations to jump into the global economy. From there, they can leapfrog to a variety of better opportunities (if they are good).

But the bottom line question (that answers itself) is…

How much value can a content farm offer if its writers are paid so little, or if the drive is to provide content based only on what Google tells the farm is the "cost per click" of ads related to the keyword(s) that is/are most related to the article? I will answer the question in case it is not obvious…

Not much.

To be continued…

"All That Pap" (Part 2) starts with a look at "poor" Google (now that's a novel pairing of words!) and how they have been unfairly slammed by the cognoscenti about "quality of search" issues. Click here for Part 2.

All the best,

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