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Working for Content Mills: Beware of Google.

Posted by Charles Gray on December 4, 2013

Many content mills advertise themselves as a good way to make money. In some cases, say for someone who is just looking for a bit of extra spending case, it may be a…decent idea. Note that it’s not a good idea for anyone who has any desire to be a professional writer. Not only are the writers working for (literally) for pennies on the word, every minute spent working at a content mill is a moment you’re not building up your own portfolio of better-paying and likely more loyal clients.

However, there is another issue, and it’s one that is the tiger in the room. Content mills are at war with Google. 

After all, Google’s core business is all about providing accurate and most importantly useful answers to search inquiries. If the content farms game the system, Google becomes useless, and Google recognizes that. It’s rollout of Panda hurt content farms, but make no mistake, if Google could find some way to de-list all content farm produced material from the search engines, it would do so in a heart beat.

A Short Life and Sudden Death?

When considering this, remember one thing—content farms flourished because nobody was looking out for them. Most of them grew to prominence around 2009-10. They are new.

And that should be a warning to every writer for a content farm, because the jury is still very much out on what will happen to this business model. The content farm model, which is based on poorly paid writers producing a torrent of articles in order to appeal to search engines, is a fundamentally flawed one. Carol Tice makes the excellent point that content farms simply do not make enough money on ad revenue to pay for skilled writers. That will almost certainly lead to their content becoming less useful as search engines get wise to the scheme.  Other agencies that sell to individual clients, such as Textbroker, may not be directly impacted by these changes, but they will face the indirect impact. After all, a client isn’t likely to pay for content that won’t draw attention.

Because of this, content farms could very well be the 21st century’s dot-coms, albeit on a smaller scale.  That should terrify anyone who remembers the dot-com bust, given how quickly that particular segment of the economy imploded. Content mill writers could be left with no pay, no clients and competing with every other former content mill employee that is currently in the same boat. They won’t get any sympathy from Google, and neither will the majority of internet users be unhappy, since most of them would dearly love to see content farms fired into a star.

So, anyone working for a content mill has to understand that this entire business model is less than a decade old and there is no way to determine if it will remain  viable.  It might, or by 2016 the content farm market may have a gravestone right next to all the other bright and shining internet dreams that ended up in reality’s graveyard.

What Does This Mean for the Writer?

What does it mean? For writers?

The answer is simple:

Diversify, diversify, diversify!

Writers should not become trapped into working for a content farm as their  primary source of income.  They should not ever find themselves dependent on content farm work for the majority of their income.

Freelance writers should focus on obtaining their own clients and building up a unique identity and reputation. These writers should focus on creating the high quality content that will continue to be useful, regardless of how Google changes its search algorithms.  Understand that well written and unique content is never going away—in fact, search engine changes will benefit that type of content as the chaff gets sorted out.

Just remember, writers who wait until the bell is struck and content mills find themselves struggling are going to have to do all of this anyway, only they’ll be competing with every other former content mill writer out there.



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