Content Mills: Pimples on the Information Superhighway

Yes, there really is a “How to Get Rid of Pimples on the Buttocks” video on eHow. If only they had a how to get rid of eHow article.

Google’s powerful search engine has become an essential component of the urban homesteading toolbox. From diagnosing tomato diseases to cooking Ethiopian injera Google has the answers.

In recent years, unfortunately, low quality “content mills,” such as ezinearticles and suite101 that pair dubious information with advertising, have replaced more respectable sources in search rankings.  An article in Wired Magazine, “The Answer Factory: Demand Media and the Fast, Disposable, and Profitable as Hell Media Model” details how these content mill scams work. Authors and video producers for these companies get next to nothing to produce shoddy work that is then tied to keywords used to generate click through advertising.

I actually got an email a few months ago from content mill king Demand Media asking if we’d contribute video. I replied with a terse email message, “Sorry to say that we don’t generate material for content mills.” I got an astonishing response,

Hi Erik,

Thank you for your timely reply. I think you have a point about the content mill, however should you ever reconsider, and would like for us to produce high quality How To videos for you and Ehow, which you can use on your own web site, please don’t hesitate to contact me. All the videos on Ehow include links to your website, a bio of the expert, and Google Search result optimization.

Google adjusted its algorithms last week to bump down content mill sites. A study, released this past weekend by Sistrix, shows how that adjustment has changed search results. The results are mostly positive. In Sitrix’s “visibility index” is down 90% and is down 94%. But at least one content mill slipped through the cracks. actually rose in Sistrix’s index.

So Google has more algorithm tweaking to do that runs somewhat counter to their financial interests in selling more ads. But I’ll repeat what Amy Stewart says over at Garden Rant, dear eHow: please go away.

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  1. I recently dabbled in freelance online writing.
    I’ve done articles for Suite101. Though the community there is great, you have to write hundreds and hundreds of articles to even get anywhere close to making money. You are paid by how many add clicks you get, not how much or how well your write, encouraging the writers to write about subjects that will get add clicks.

    I VERY briefly signed up for Demand Stuidios (as mentioned above, the content mill of eHow). After reading some articles on how to be successful with DS, it became apparent that it was not the place for me. Many writers advise working on writing an article an hour and working to eventually write more than that (4/hour). Since you potentially get $15 an article, this makes sense if you want to make a living with this, but it absolutely does not result in quality. The editors have also become ridiculous as of late, rejecting many writers’ articles because of nonsensical reasons. The subjects for the articles (from which you have to choose from) are based on internet searches people have made, and are often ridiculous titles that don’t make sense. You have to fight to find article titles that make sense and you can actually write about.
    After DS rejecting my submission of my biography twice for not following their very specific rules (describing your online writing career without mentioning other sites, listing other outside activities that involve writing), I decided that it wasn’t worth it.

    I’ve since found the site Constant Content, which I have found to be the best thing online for freelance writing. You write whatever you want to write about and submit it. They hold very high standards for grammar, spelling, and quality, and will reject your article for a single spelling mistake. This encourages the writers to thoroughly check their own articles for mistakes. You also get to set your own price for the article based on how much you write/how much you think it’s worth, which I appreciate greatly. These articles will not show up on Google searches, but rather are there for online publishers to search through and buy. There are still ridiculous article subjects on CC, but not to the extent of DS.

    Freelance online writing overall is not the best place to find amazing articles or authors (very few Jane Austens or Leo Tolstoys out there). But it can be a good refuge in this bad economy for people who can’t find a job and need a small hope of income.

  2. Oh, I hate those! Ezinearticles, eHow, Associated Content, and then the Q&A sites like Yahoo Answers, ChaCha, etc. Sometimes the whole first two pages of search results are unusable drivel. I can’t wait to see how the new algorithm works out.

    On a separate note, I’ve noticed that Farmville links have snuck into my search results for homesteading topics. Ugh!

  3. These sites are so frustrating! Sometimes, I forget to look at the site address and just waste my time. Occassionally, I am absorbing the information when I discover my unfortunate choice of sites to read….grrr.

    When I saw the pimples on the buttocks video on the site, I was shocked. Maybe sitting in some good, rich, properly rotted hot compost would her her buttock’s pimples?

  4. Hey Lauren,

    Thanks for you comment–these places are kind of a sweat shop for writers.

    For some mysterious reason your comment ended up in the spam folder in Blogger’s moderation box. I apologize for the delay.

  5. What I hate most is when you are trying to figure out how to do something, and the eHow article tells you to call a professional. As if I would be looking up how to do it on the internet if I were willing to do that!

  6. I could relate. There are webmasters that integrate keywords like pimples to drive in users to their websites (which is totally unrelated to skin care).

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