Quality writing on the Internet: Good news and bad news

I’m heartened to see the marketplace demanding higher quality in internet writing.

Whether you publish online to market your own business or for direct payment as a freelancer, and whether your principal activity (and identity) is as a writer or as an expert in a subject other than writing, this is good news.

There’s no underestimating how low standards have dropped in some circles. You need only look at some of the lowest paying listings on Elance and similar databases to find companies looking for content to beef up online presence at unbelievably low pay. Quality be “darned,” I assume.

What are the “secrets” of writing such assignments and making any money at all?

Well, here’s how I would do it. First, I would search article banks for existing articles on my subject and paste them into a Word document. Then I would select and scramble paragraphs using cut-and-paste to create a “new” base document. Finally, I would substitute words and phrases and make other revisions until the article passes review by copyscape.com or a similar program. Considering that some of the job posters care little about the subject expertise of their writers, how else could such articles be written in a short time frame?

Is this plagiarism? I’m no lawyer but legally speaking, I’d guess not. If it passes the client’s software test, then it’s OK. (Of course, ethically we may see it differently.)

Good news

Here is a sign of positive change in the Internet articles marketplace.

Christopher Knight of EzineArticles.com (which claims to be the largest article bank) wrote in October that his company has “been raising our standards every single month since we started. The only thing changing is the pace at which we raise our quality standards.”

By changing the pace, he means faster, now slower.

One sign of a superior article, notes Knight, is word count. He recommends going for 400 to 800 fluff-free words rather than the minimum count permitted of 250 words.

He points out that of the 142,000 articles in “problem status,” 41% were under 399 words, while only 1-2% were over 750 words.

However, let me point out in the interest of truth in statistics, one reason that a higher percentage of the problem articles are shorter may be because such a high share of all articles submitted are on the short end of the spectrum. He did not say that 41% of all short articles exhibit problems, as compared to fewer than 2% of longer submissions.

I can tell you from experience that EzineArticles closely monitors what goes into their article bank. Several of my articles have been rejected the first time around, and Knight’s article assures that this is not unusual.

The service has a lot of rules and regs! The first time I scrolled through them, little registered in my thoughts as unusual or important. But when an article gets rejected for violating a rule, I sit up and take notice. So it is taking me awhile to learn all the tricks of the trade.

It also appears that EzineArticles reviews author responses to violation notices. One of my articles was rejected because of a grammatical problem. In a return email, I protested that I didn’t see any mistakes in my article. The article was OK’d (I did remedy another small problem) and posted without grammatical or spelling changes.

Not so good news

On the other hand, in October Google announced an agreement with Twitter to include tweets in Google search results.

Kind of interesting, given that Google uses carefully developed, secret algorithms to determine quality in ranking organic search results.

I was under the impression that the formula, though ever changing, tends to reward substance and relevance, translating into a preference for materials of at least moderate length and the sprinkling of keywords at an optimal level that proves relevance without excessive keyword “loading” or manipulation.

I don’t see how such criteria allow for messages of 140 characters or fewer, including spaces.

Google says its new policy gives readers access to in-the-moment news. Like if you want to know if it is snowing in Aspen, a Colorado twitterer may have posted on snow conditions a moment ago.

And I may have posted that I’m eating a tuna sandwich. Quick! Invest in Chicken of the Sea.

Oh, and by the way, there’s been speculation in the media that Google may purchase Twitter.

Is this a coincidence?

Google purchased YouTube in 2006 and experts galore have since reported that videos uploaded to YouTube fare quite well in Google rankings. Interestingly, SEO experts accept this with equanimity.

Admittedly, my research has not been exhaustive. However, I’d like to point out that no one with any prominence has suggested Google algorithms are subject to manipulation for the financial benefit of Google.

Hmmm . . .

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