I recently got asked to review a couple articles to see which one was better for Google. But the problem was that it was obvious that the writer did not know much about the subject they were writing about, based their content around a keyword list, and was not structuring the content for Google.
Gathering Background Information:
You can learn enough about a topic to sound intelligent about it if you just research the topic for about 10 minutes. Go to the associated Wikipedia page, search Del.icio.us for your topic, and find a few other articles that are research oriented (like the history of, industry background from trade organizations, trends, what people are blogging about in that topic, etc etc etc).
If you are just trying to build traffic to get ad clicks until a site gets burned you may as well use automated content generation tools. Markov chains / RSS / Wikipedia / etc etc etc provide a large pool of easily recyclable information. Automated content generation is getting more sophisticated to where there is little purpose in manually writing an article unless you are creating something to be read by people.
The Trend Toward Real Content Becoming More Profitable:
If search engines get more aggressive at using user feedback as a quality signal the profitability of poorly formatted content will be drastically reduced. If people do not read your content then they aren't going to link at it either. Content without links only works if you operate in an undiscovered or uncompetitive niche - which eventually will get competitive when others find it.
More and more people are reading and writing online. As the amount of content increases the value of strong filters goes up. Thus if you have content that you can pitch to them it will spread virally. I recently created one good article for a client, pitched it to 3 websites, and it got well over 100 organic citations in the first week.
Writing for People:
Those same sources that make it easy to create automated garbage also make it easier to create real content. After you have strong baseline knowledge of the topic, general writing principals, and know how to package information then the packaging is the only difference between profitable and and unprofitable content.
General Information Packaging Tips:
If you are taking the effort to manually create content:
- Write it for people
- Using small chunks
- That are easy to digest
- Don't write a paragraph that is 400 words long
- Format your content
- Use headers and subheadings, as well as pictures, lists, and quotes to break up your content
- Sound authoritative
- Write with style and bias
If you are doing something as a hobby, then people should matter far more than search engines. In that case ROI and search engines shouldn't be much of a factor.
If you are doing something as a business, then either automate your content generation or write for people. The ROI of original hand crafted content that targets search spiders over people is not going to be something that promotes a long-term growing business.
Sure you can look at your traffic logs and use keyword lists to tweak the copy of important pages to include a few more modifiers and pick up more traffic, but don't do it so much that the page looks like it was only created for search engines.
If your content is focused on conversion and converts well then you can afford to buy advertising and acquire affiliates. And if you point a few more quality links at a real content page it will rank far better and be far more profitable than a hand crafted page that was created exclusively for bots.
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