A friend of mine just posted about trying to build a business by creating 5,000 sites. Everything I know about the trends of the web tells me that there are far easier ways to make money online, especially if you are willing to grow with the latest trends.
You Can't Bring Back the Past
Why would anyone who deeply understands the web start a traditional book publishing business when web formats are so much more profitable and books are becoming irrelevant? Static boring content sites created without passion are, like books, growing irrelevant.
The reason smaller sites could work in the past is because many of them are set and forget. Virtually no incremental cost of upkeep. But the big issue is that they all have some set amount of work required to set them up. And if you are doing something 5,000 times you are going to start automating. And when you start automating you leave footprints. Even if your content is of average quality today, in a year that same content might be considered useless noise and/or spam. At some point a few of the sites get nuked, an engineer does a bit of research, and then the whole network tanks. Then you just lost a year of work and most of your investment.
New Verticals Are Stealing Market-share From the Generalist Web
The problem with set and forget is that there are many new TYPES of content coming online, working to back-fill the organic search results. How uncomfortable is it creating average quality or garbage content when you see half of some search results dominated by books? If you want to do a set and forget approach to marketing I think traditional websites or blogs might be the wrong approach, especially if done in bulk. If I were to try to profit from bulk and was to create something new today I would look at some of the information formats that are just starting to get more aggressively integrated into the search results.
Average Content Has No Sustainable Advantage
The problem with average plain Jane content is that being average is not enough to build permission, gain subscribers, and create a real brand. If you are starting out today you are up against companies with a decade of experience, traction, capital, leverage and market feedback.
The long tail queries that went to garbage content are now sending visitors to large businesses that are becoming more aware of SEO and other vertical searches that are creeping into the traditional organic search results. It is getting easier for competitors to buy your keyword stats for next to nothing, and competitive research is only getting cheaper by the day. When you have virtually no authority, a business model search engineers hate, and are easy to clone then where is your sustainable competitive advantage? Why build anything that lacks a solid foundation?
Dominate Newer Verticals
If it were within my power, and I was scaling this type of bulk content operation, I would have at least one site in Google news. The value of being listed there just went up because they are filtering out many of the duplicate wire service stories that dominated the results in the past. You could also think of videos as easy pickings, at least for now.
Are there other verticals that will become popular? Sure, but you have to be creative and use the word vertical loosely. Remember that in the Google Florida update commercial intent pages were demoted in favor of informational content pages. With Universal search Google has many ways to define verticals and filter irrelevant or lower quality ones. Here is a quote from a recent brilliant post by Tedster
Search terms themselves can also be sorted into various taxonomies, especially the 1-word and 2-word queries. ... With the advent of Universal Search, Google now has the infrastructure to force integrate selections from any class of websites onto the first page. So the implications of Universal Search can go well past the obvious and publicised taxonomies of images, video, news, books, maps, blogs. Even more than a simple "commercial" and "informational" taxonomy, there could also be classes like brochureware sites, trademark holders, businesses with a physical world presence, manufacturers, B2B, multi-topic (encyclopedic) and on and on. One factor Google could then tweak would be which classes of sites to force integrate into the results for which kinds of search terms.
Create a New Vertical
If you rush to find new verticals, change how people use language, or define a page as fitting an alternate meaning of a word then perhaps all this vertical stuff presents an arbitrage opportunity for you. If you create the same type of crap that is already saturated then it is working against you.
SEO Book was not a popular search query until after I created this site. Search engines follow people. Google recommends my brand name and my name in their ad links. The easiest and most sustainable way to dominate a high value vertical is to create a new one, which is something I hope to do in a big way before the year is out.
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