There’s this company, see? And they are an online media company. Let’s just call them Original Marketing Giant for now, or OMG. So this company is brokering media space to advertisers, using Google ads. But it is not a monetization solution for the small businesses who have web presence. OMG has about a gazillion websites of their own, which compete against those small businesses for search result ranking. Fair enough, one might say, because this is a free world and whoever has the best content, which is most relevant to the user, wins at the end of the day.

OMG are masters of Search Engine Optimization. Their sites are mapped and validated, they have the right meta tags and the best snippets and the most pin-pointed titles and alt-tags and whatever. But for a gazillion websites, give or take a trillion, you need to have some content. They have some parenting websites and health care advice websites, and websites dealing with almost any other aspect of life that can be sold to advertisers. So they need the content for these websites.

Going over freelance job offers at elance.com, there are many requests for professional writers to provide hundreds of blog posts for this website and that. The requests are always similar: You need to provide articles of no less than 500 words with keyword saturation of 2%, keywords must be present in the title, the first and last paragraph, oh, and the text must be original. All this at a price of 5$ per article. OK, no one said that the articles need to be interesting, yes? and we can write the same article over and over again using different words. After all, the validation of originality is done by pasting the text onto one of those online tools that check for presence of the same text in the entire webdom.

Imagine hundreds of thousands of writers slaving away to feed the monster of web content. It has nothing to do with you or your life but it is there for you to stumble upon it, so that you will pause over the page for just enough time to register another ad impression, or even better, a click-through.

Now there’s another company. Let’s call them Little Or Less, or LOL for short.

LOL have the rights to use video clips from Holywood films for distribution over the web as content. OMG and LOL struck a deal to use the clips as content in OMG’s websites. Here is how it goes: OMG’s parenting website has dynamic content. if you click on any of the categories in the navigation menu, you will get a page which is automatically constructed of search results corresponding to the name of the category. There are two main types of content: blog posts and video clips. Let’s picture this scenario: You click on the category Mothers, and the page you retrieve has 3 clips for you to watch at the main position, the “prime realestate” of the page. The problem is that the resulting clips are not what the mothers who seek parenting resources will want to watch: There is that clip from 8 Mile, where Eminem and his friend discuss the fact that his mother is sleeping with his class mate. Oh, and there is another clip, where this dude from American Pie introduces the term MILF into the English language, definition included.

No one notices this and no one is considering this a problem. OMG has a gazillion websites, so why should they be bothered with just this one and the fact that the content in it means nothing to the target audience? Also, where there are already leading destination sites for any kind of topic, the bogus sites are there only to inflate the offering, adding much noise to the Googlesphere and creating the perfect background to push very few sites forward, while trying to shove competing sites backwards.

Eric Schmidt is quoted saying “If Content is King, Context is its Crown” (taken from his MacTaggart lecture in EdinburghTVFest). Thus, we have a perfect analogy for this situation, where the web is littered with so much worthless data: a king without the crown. This king is a pauper. It may be even worse before it will get better, because while we are waiting for good and interesting content without SEO terrorism, the need for fresh “original” content will drive startups to create pseudo AI writing machines. Oh, wait, this has already happened.

Posted by Samuel Miller

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