Writers are the power behind the throne.

NPR's doing a nice series on web content this week. Today's installment focused on "content farms", those sites that post mostly crap content that's more focused on search terms than good writing. You can listen to it here.

Sure, there are people who make more writing this stuff than they could in a minimum wage gig, and that's America for you, right? Go free market, go! So I'm not saying content farms are evil.

But, content farms do create an environment in which a lot of content buyers now put more value on key words yet pay less for copy that uses them. The key words I can live with. It's actually kind of hard to write a piece about, say, online dating (a key search term, btw) without mentioning, oh, online freaking dating. So if you're doing a good job creating content, you'll be doing a good job with SEO. And it won't kill any writer to add a term or two that isn't "naturally occurring" in their own text.

But what about the devaluing of the content producers their work product? If the going rate at a content farm is $8/hour (as reported by NPR), that's more than minimum wage in all but nine of the 50 states. So who can blame some folks for taking this gig -- easily done from home at times convenient for you -- rather than a crappy customer service or other job that pays less? I get it.

At first, I was pissed that these low-paying employers were pulling the whole market down. And I was pissed that so many writers were taking these horrible gigs because it put downward pressure on my hourly rate. But then I decided that maybe they were doing me a favor.

Maybe a lot of not  particularly well-written key word-focused content produced for next to nothing could have a positive effect on my business. Here's why: If what clients want is content that draws in searchers to your mostly ad-based page, then we're not a good fit for each other. That type of client doesn't need my skills, after all, so it's not like I'm losing business; I never would have had it in the first place.

But clients who want something different, something that's more than just a lot of key word and one "reference", something that combines SEO and messaging? Those people need people like me. And they now realize more than ever that they do get what they pay for.

As a result, we've seen an increase in clients who want to invest top dollar for high-quality, well-researched and well-written content. They want to convey useful, relevant information to their target audiences to produce value and drive business results, not just search results.

In the end, I realized there's room at both ends of the spectrum. It comes down to the content's purpose.   Is the client's goal to drive search in support of ads or to become a trusted, valued source? If it's the former former, content farm-style writing is a good solution. If it's the latter, then working with a proven producer of high-quality content that gets those kinds of results is the right fit.


Looking for high-quality content that meets your business (and search) goals? Drop me a line.