Writing is hard work. It’s easier to buck hay bales, stock shelves at the grocery store, or bust your knuckles turning wrenches than to write.
Well … “good writing” is tough.
Running someone else’s work through a spin cycle, or producing 400 keyword-littered, semi-understandable bits of garble isn’t all that difficult. Given the wonders of technology and the internet, anyone can become a published writer.
The demand for website content is insatiable. All you need to do is throw up a site with words on it – making sure to optimize for the search engines – and you can make money like you’ve cranked up your own mint. It’s simple: draw a ton of traffic, pepper the pages with Adwords and affiliate links, then go fishing and wait for your bank account to overflow with cash.
Live the easy life, my friend. Have no concern about whether or not you are producing anything of any value to a single person on the planet; just figure out how to manipulate the search engines and you’ve got it made.
There was a time, in the not too distant past, when that scenario was close to being accurate.
Then along came Panda and Penguin to crash the party
April 24, 2012, a day that will live in infamy. Bloggers around saw their websites disappear from Google’s search engine results pages (the SERP). Terror set it. Many who had been laughing all the way to the bank were crying in their milk, wondering how to get back on top of the game – how to manipulate the SERP and get back in the winner’s circle … fast.
The experts began experting and the pundits punditing. They came from every corner of the blogosphere, claiming divine knowledge of how to repair the leaks. New cottage industries sprang up overnight. “The problem is spammy links,” the first wave of gurus proclaimed. “You have to inspect your link profile and weed it like a rose garden.” (And we can do it on your behalf – only $99 down and $99 a month for 99 years.)
Websites became inundated with requests, demands, and threats: “Take down your link pointing at my site, or else!”
Pandemonium. Finger-pointing. Mass hysteria.
Google’s chief spam detective, Matt Cutts, began showing up in more places than the common cold – bloggers and website owners falling to their knees, begging forgiveness. Google announced they would receive requests for clemency, then released a disavow tool … quick as spoiled fish, the game was on and confession was in full swing.
Oh, don’t you love a true-life drama?
Guest blogging – a way to get “good links”
But how do you get those good links? Why you produce content, of course, and you get it posted on someone else’s websites. What a concept. Tell Google you repent. Take off the black hat and slip on the white hat. Then get back in the saddle.
Unfortunately, one thing got missed in the rush to become bonafide guest bloggers: if you take worthless content and move it from worthless sites to sites that aren’t (yet) deemed worthless, nothing changes in the long-term. The search engine robots will sniff you out … eventually.
Believe it or not, you see, there are a ton of websites on the internet, who are content to do something a bus driver told me years ago, when comparing his company to the giant in the business: “We haul a better class of trash.”
Ouch. And I do mean ouch. You see, every sorry tactic I’m whining about is something I’ve tried myself. I’m no angel … that’s for sure.
Guest blogging gets a black eye — but not a black hat
After another round of Panda and Penguin — and after many site owners had given up the battle and moved on to other projects — the pundits began blaming guest blogging for their failures. Surely, the search engines were now discounting guest posts. Didn’t Matt Cutts say as much?
Good God, y’all. Do you think the caliber of writing could have something to do with it? Did you listen to Matt at all?
Listen, I’m no prophet, and I sure don’t claim to have divine revelation concerning Google’s plans, the future of the internet, or how to become an overnight zillionaire.
I am an eyewitness to the events I speak of, however, and the picture looks pretty darned clear when you take a minute to let the dust settle.
The world is on information overload. We are inundated with advertising, get-rich-quick schemes, and reasons to “spend your money here.” It may be that the only sacred spot left on earth, safe from marketing madness, is the inside of a casket lid. And I’m not so sure that’s safe. Think of all the eyes you could capture at a funeral.
The gurus are now murmuring about the dangers of guest blogging — and, you know what I think? They’re right! If you spin the same old worthless mash you’ve been posting on sites that have vanished from the SERP, then go looking for other places to stash it, your efforts will eventually turn against you.
Stop doing that.
Take this pledge: From this day forward, I (insert name) will do my best to write or speak only those words that have a reasonable chance of benefiting the planet and its people. Amen.
Here’s a 5-step plan to producing content that will help you prosper
- Have something worth saying – something of value to others.
- Say it in a way your potential readers will be able to understand.
- Pay attention to the rudiments of English grammar, punctuation, and spelling.
- Only allow your work to be published on a site that accepts quality material.
- Join the conversation with others about your topic. Don’t spam them; talk with them.
Not every writer needs to possess the copywriting savvy of Demian Farnworth, the depth of critical insight afforded by AJ Kohn, or the entrepreneurial wisdom of Guy Kawasaki. If you know your topic, it is something others care about, and you can write well enough to get a passing score on a high school essay, you can write guest posts others will read and appreciate.