Friday, March 26, 2010


   wall of spam by chotda.
Content Spam 2.0:
What This Means to SEO

Weird email requests lately.

One guy wanted a bid on 1,000 articles – all about apartments. I doubt there are 1,000 things you could even say about apartments, much less write 1,000 articles on the subject. And if tasked with such an assignment, any self-respecting copywriter would gouge out her eyes with a spork after a day or two. Tops.

Another request wanted a price for a weekly newsletter on work-at-home jobs. Didn’t care what I wrote as long as it contained this list of 25 long-tail keywords. This isn’t writing. It’s a jigsaw puzzle and all the pieces are gray.

The move to content-driven sites, and the endless need for green content, has been good for word grinders who can crank it out by the pound. But there’s something in the ether-sphere. A change in the digital wind. Lots for Cheap
I’ve been getting writing assignments through Elance for a little more than four years. And in that time there’s been a rather dramatic shift in what buyers in the writing and translation category want.

“500 articles on pig farming. Willing to go as high as $1 per article.”

“200-page ebook download on FOREX strategies – Budget > $500”

“30 press releases; various technical topics – Budget > $250”

Occasionally, buyers are actually more concerned with quality than quantity but those buyers are a shrinking pool. And this despite Elance’s behind-the-scenes efforts to improve the quality of its job posters.

Still, those cr@pfests of work get bids – out sourced to word factories where text by the kilo is produced by (1) machines (virtually unreadable) or (2) non-native English speakers who get paid in canned goods (humorously unreadable). A client sent one of these outsourced pieces for review and in it was the following quote: “American corporations are up to the business of the monkey.”

I read that 10 times before my wife figured out that the writer (or machine) had interpreted “monkey business” as “business of the monkey.” So, the sentence, when reconstructed would read: “American corporations are up to monkey business” and even that totally sucks.

Content Spam 1.0
Sure, this kind of junk has been around for years and there have been bottom feeders on Elance since the site started operations. So, admittedly, the use of content spam has been around since search engines (1994).

But early content spam was simplistic. Cram the words sex and porn into every keyword tag and you’d show up. Keyword dense gibberish (“Can you give me a 40% keyword density across the site?”) could be ground out like hash (and not the good kind).

But now, because search engine algorithms have gotten more sophisticated, content spam has taken on a new look.

Content Spam 2.0
The days of stuffing “blue pill” in between real text are over (except for that guy in the Philippines, and I’ll get you, you bastard!). Today, search engines want solid, informational content – something of substance, of use to the search engine user. The problem for copywriters is simple. Search engines know informational content. But they don’t know good content from a steaming pile of verbs and nouns.

This limitation has led to a huge number of posts on Elance and other freelance sites for words by the pound. Quality doesn’t get any extra credit. It’s sheer volume and plenty of it.

The Impact on SEO
This content spam 2.0 is used by site owners and SEOs to create sign posts that point back to the mother site – the center of the marketing bull’s eye. So the content ends up on blogs, on content syndication sites, on content-based sites, on sub-domains – it’s like putting up posters on construction site walls in New York City.

And though SEO has always involved creating identifiable targets for bots and eyeballs, this off-site aspect of SEO seems to be growing in importance. Why else would some guy want 1,000 pages on apartments? He’s going to place that content spam every place he can – or you are.

Based on the number of requests for content spam posted on Elance and showing up in my inbox, I suggest that SEO is going to employ a great deal more off-site activity in the future.

Anybody know anything about apartments?

Thursday, March 4, 2010


Got Something To Say?
How About a Webinar?

The growing popularity of webinars in recent months indicates two things: (1) they work and (2) you should be holding them regularly.

Webinar, the word,  is a back formation of web-based seminar. It’s broadcast over the web, and webinars come with lots of different looks, varying production values and information that generates leads and sales. A webinar can be a one-person presentation, a lecture, a work shop, discussion group or seminar, and available topics are limitless.

What’s On Your Mind?
Webinars differ from webcasts. Webcasts are one-way streets. The webcast runs, the viewer watches. The end. With a webinar you add the element of interaction. Your viewers can comment and ask questions, they can bring up new topics and bring a lively energy to even the dullest topics.

These “give-and-takes” are a great way to build a site community and brand recognition.

Preparing Your Webinar
First, decide on the topic. It can be a narrow focus or once-over-lightly discussion on the area of your expertise. If you’re a stock broker, you can produce a webinar on the basics of investing, Investing 101, or you can discuss the advantages of moving existing assets into cash flow instruments. Just remember, know your audience and know your stuff.

Now, who to invite? You can limit the number of invitees or throw the doors open to the world. Webinars that actually provide useful information are often broadcast from subscriber-based sites. Sign up for $499 and talk to your industry leader for an hour a month.

Other webinars are open to anyone who wants to log on and participate. As the leader of the group, it’s up to you to keep order. Fortunately, webinar software allows you to toss out malcontents and keep things moving smoothly.

Whether your webinar is invite only or wide open, make sure attendees have access to pre-webinar information. You can email invitees directly or provide a download from your site about an upcoming webinar. Obviously, you want to include the date and time the webinar will take place but also provide an agenda – the topic or topics that’ll be covered. This way, attendees have a context for your presentation and they can prepare questions for you to answer.

Remember, those in attendance will be able to talk to you in real time so a lot of hemming and hawing won’t deliver the knowledgeable, confident persona you want to project. So prepare notes. Have some facts and stats to back up your key points and think about questions that might come your way.

The fact is, you’re the teacher the viewers are your students. So have a lesson plan or topic list to keep the flow flowing.

Production Values
Production values are simply how good the webinar looks and sounds. They include everything from lighting to quality sound (use a good mike) to the backdrop behind you. These things may or may not count depending on your audience.

For example, if you’re an 18-year-old stock picking whiz,  a computer-mounted camera showing your dorm room is acceptable. However, if you’re talking to potential business associates or partners in the corporate sphere, the production values should be much higher.

In this case, hire a video shooter with a hi-res cam. Use a lapel mike to cut down on “room tone” (that echo-y sound you hear when a live mike goes dead) and use an attractive office setting – even if you have to rent studio space. Your audience will have certain expectations whether you’re broadcasting from the spare room or a spacious office conference room. Know what those expectations are and exceed them. If someone has paid $999 to participate in your webinar, they aren’t going to be overly impressed when you appear in a stained, seedy bathrobe.

Who Should Use Webinars and Why?
Webinars are low- to no-cost productions, guaranteeing a positive return on your investment. Your prep time will be your biggest “expense.” So, low costs make webinars attractive to site owners on tight budgets.

A picture is worth a thousand words and a webinar is worth more than that amount of verbiage. Webinars are ideal for training and explaining complex tasks or systems. For example, if your business model is complex, it’s simple to prepare a PowerPoint presentation that explains these complexities visually with charts, graphs and other illustrations. This makes webinars the perfect solution for distance learning.

In many cases, workers are required to earn a certain number of continuing education units or CEUs. For example, private detectives and security guards must accumulate a certain number of CEUs each year. So, there are lots of websites that offer webinars that can be applied toward the participant’s annual CEU count. In fact, there are many CEU-based sites that charge for webinar access on a class by class basis. This provides the flexibility workers prefer when selecting which webinars to view and which have no relevance to their work.

In today’s world economy, many companies have employees around the world. Webinars are a great way to get some face time with employees working 10 time zones away. This is a great morale booster and a terrific way to illustrate new products and procedures in house. The fact is, webinars are a great way to keep in touch, disseminate new information and to close a sale.

One recommendation: Participate in a few webinars before you plan one for your own subscribers. Once you see how effective these tools can be, you’ll find new and better ways to make them work for you.