How Competitive Will the Web be in 3 Years? 5 Years?

Mar 28th

Introducing Answer Sniper

I just came across AnswerSniper, a $147 software product created to help you find open questions to answer on Yahoo! Answers by keeping you up to date with the latest open questions for keywords you select. Can you imagine paying for software for the privilege of finding questions that need answered, and then trying to be the first person to answer each of them?

If you are committed at that level, why not just create something like AskDaveTaylor.com or your own forum so you at least build content, brand equity, and a traffic stream you own in the process?

Worse yet, on Yahoo! Answers you are not answering questions in a small community where you can build a strong personal brand, but on a huge network where it would take a serious time investment to build a personal brand. Just doable perhaps, but probably beyond the opportunity cost for most folks.

What is even more absurd about buying such software is that Yahoo! Answers offers RSS feeds of new open questions (open SEO questions), so all you need to do is subscribe to the feed to get notifications of new questions. Want to track multiple keywords? Use Yahoo! Pipes and/or subscribe to multiple feeds.

Maybe there are more features I do not see or some things I am not fully appreciating. Do you think AnswerSniper is an unneeded product or a testament to how saturated the web is becoming? Or both?

The Yahoo! Answers Pollution Problem

About a year ago I answered a few questions just to get to a second level rating and learn what the site was like, but many of the top selected answers are people working inside the same companies who asked the exact same questions. And that pollution is only going to grow, especially as more internet marketers create internet marketing products focused on Yahoo! Answers. Plus the link equity keeps getting spread thinner as more questions are asked AND the average quality of the service drops due to pollution by marketers - those trends do not bode well for the long-term viability of Yahoo! Answers as a traffic source.

The issue in not just an issue of being someone else's user generated content versus becoming a destination, but also an issue of supply and demand. There is a lot of supply of low quality content. And there is a lot of demand for the much more select high quality content. And for Google to keep their market position they need to keep getting better at understanding which is which.

Right now a lot of weight has been put on domain trust, but as more sites add user generated garbage to their sites, site authority driven algorithms will require a lot of algorithmic refinement or manual intervention by the search engines.

As the web gets more competitive the answer to sustainability is not more content, but deeper content. In the time it takes to answer 100 Yahoo! Answer questions you could write 10 blog posts. In the time it takes to write 10 blog posts you could write 1 feature. And 5 years from now, content like the Blogger's Guide to SEO is going to be worth far more than 100 of my average blog posts. In a month you will not remember reading this post.*

It is hard to build a lasting brand that changes with the market if you are a username on a large heavily polluted site.

* If you do, leave a comment one month from today and prove me wrong. ;)

Published: March 28, 2008

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Comments

March 28, 2008 - 1:06am

Do I get a free version of Answer Sniper if I'm back here in a month? ;D

March 28, 2008 - 1:13am

Hahahaha!

I remember one guy I interviewed yesterday about his style on Yahoo! Answers.

1st step. He logs in one account, asks a keyword-rich question, then logs out.

2nd step. He logs in another account, then answers the question with a link to the promoted site.

Re AnswerSniper , I think its pretty cool. Saves me a lot of time doing advanced searching Open Questions only. If only there is a trial version of up to 30 queries a day.

March 28, 2008 - 4:23am

I agree with your analysis Aaron. Yahoo Answers has a ton of duplicate content in there now.

An alternative to the expensive sniper tool would be to just run the Yahoo RSS feed through an RSS filtering service like Feed Rinse.

March 28, 2008 - 2:40pm

We agree with your analysis. Yahoo answers is definitely polluted and not only that, how much of a brand can you build with some of the insane questions posted on there? We would have to say that 80% of the questions asked in certain categories are absolutely horrendously dumb. I mean really, really dumb questions. The time you're investing in answer a bunch of questions on there - you must question if it's truly worth it in the long run.

March 28, 2008 - 4:42pm

To sum up your analysis of Yahoo! Answers:

1. Parasitic marketers are promoting their brand while diluting the value of Answers, often using sock puppet accounts.

2. The value of this strategy will diminish and then disappear in less than 3 years, like other Quick, Cheap, & Easy Strategies.

3. The real loser is Yahoo! Answers and it's users, because the pollution will cause it to become a ghost town unless Yahoo! effectively polices their community.

4. User generated content rarely creates long term value without strong editorial oversight.

Are you sure your not writing posts about Virtual Blight?

March 28, 2008 - 5:24pm

Hehehe...almost everything on the commercial web with user generated content falls under that category.

March 28, 2008 - 5:42pm

I agree whole heartedly that a lot of UGC is blight. I think the difference is I tend to think about it from the site owners perspective where you approach it as a marketer. We reach many of the same conclusions.

The challenge a marketer faces is how to build a sustainable business from participating in UGC. The solution is link bait, great content and building a reputation.

The challenge brand owners face is how to identify it and police their sites effectively. A few sites do a good job of it, notably WikiPedia and Yelp.

March 28, 2008 - 11:34pm

I think most marketers do not need to participate in UGC much...I think they simply need to create the type of content that people find remarkable and citation worthy. UCG (on the larger networks) is just a dumbed down spammed out echo chamber of everything else that is going on.

March 28, 2008 - 5:10pm

As the web gets more competitive the answer to sustainability is not more content, but deeper content.

Nothing much to say other than that's an excellent observation.

March 28, 2008 - 6:11pm

Worse yet, on Yahoo! Answers you are not answering questions in a small community where you can build a strong personal brand, but on a huge network where it would take a serious time investment to build a personal brand. Just doable perhaps, but probably beyond the opportunity cost for most folks.

So true! I am getting ready to launch a new startup that in large part deals with this very problem, and others you outlined. Hope to share it with everyone soon.

Actually, Aaron, I'll get to meet you at Elite Retreat next week and will hopefully get to pick your brain on it too :)

March 28, 2008 - 11:24pm

I look forward to hearing about your project Ari. :)

natewillard
March 28, 2008 - 8:21pm

That is why the non-average yahoo! user uses focused communities and that is also why these focused communities still have tremendous growth. For answers look at sites like answers.nobosh.com, which caters only to business and finance related questions. There are lots of examples like this. That is the problem with yahoo they think products need to work for the entire population.

March 30, 2008 - 8:17am

See ya in a month :D.

As to YA, another reason it's not very useful is because you don't know the background of who's answering. I was searching for medical stuff, but who's an Md. and who's a shyster that heard a tip from a friend of a friend?

June 4, 2008 - 2:25pm

This is what others say about the Internet by 2012. What's your comment re this Aaron?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A2XPiqhN_Ns

June 5, 2008 - 12:08am

Those guys need to be clearer with messaging if they expect people to spend 12 minutes listening to them blather on.

June 5, 2008 - 3:43pm

Palconit, watch some of their other videos (or well do so briefly and scan them).

I watched another video for 2 minutes or so where they were acting as if they were breaking into a house calling each other the n-word (yes they're white, but who cares) and motherf... or about how they treated their "bit*h" and were basically acting like people who you shouldn't believe when they say they have those news from "reliable sources" (without mentioning any such sources).

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