Don't create content, create Art

If there is one thing the rest of the internet and I are guilty of, it is creating content. Most people who get started on the web think the key to success is to create a website and people will pour in. Eventually they learn that no one cares about their website. SEO consulting companies always have the same recipe: link building and content. The Holy grail of the internet.

Google dines on content

The number of people linking to you and the quality of the link maybe a factor of deciding how well you rank, but Google relies on content to classify your website. Throughout the years Google found ways to analyze your content to decide how to rank you on their search result. This is a noble move as it allows big companies and individuals to compete on the same grounds. But it has been abused.

Every once in a while Google will update their algorithm and all of the sudden you the whole internet complains. The trick they used to use does not work anymore. For example, exactly 3 days before I was hired at my previous job, Google release their first Panda update.

Most of the websites I was supposed to work on tanked. They went from generating hundreds of thousands views to a mere thousands a day. It was the worst thing that ever happened to the company. They brought Google representatives on site to help them determine what was the issue. The problem wasn't so hard to see, but greed is a powerful blinding agent.

Most website did not create any value at all. What we did was display scraped content from all over the web in a different format. On some of the websites, accidentally clicking on white space would trigger affiliate links thus getting us revenue. Yes, it was shady.

All these little tricks contributed to our low ranking. Learning the lesson and thinking about the user experience was too costly. Instead we invested on other SEO tricks. These tricks temporarily brought us back on Google's first page until they figure us out again. Sometimes, we would change the sub domain of the pages that generated most revenue. It took Google a week to realize that the sub domain had the exact same content. So on the first few days they would bring us back to the top, and then 7 to 10 days later we would be back to the bottom.

This became our new business strategy for the following few months. Business managers would come up with a set of keywords for our weekly sub domains. We timed our deployments with Google's flag patterns. Right before they flag us, we change the sub domain and we appear on top again.

I hate to say it, but it was working. But the one thing that the excited managers didn't know, this was looking at a very short term profit. I am pleased to announce that today, (a few years later), these websites compete in traffic with my tiny little blog. (I will beat them any day now)

Adding content does not mean adding a blog to a website and filling it with content. Filling your website with content is like adding sugar to every food you eat. But just like sugar, it will taste bad on your steak, and will eventually cause diabetes, and then obesity, then amputation. You don't want to amputate your website now do you.

Yes, I am saying that content is bad and I will explain.

Content Farms

The illusion of the content, is that when you see a page full of text it seems like enough effort was made and it has value. So what we do, is create lots of content just so we can have more chance on too appear on Google's search results. Remember the term content farm? It is the equivalent of a factory producing content for the sake of getting more traffic. Some companies will create a sweatshop of cheap writers that each write a few hundred articles in various unrelated subjects. Other companies in need of content purchase these articles in packs to display on their website.

These are very low quality articles that teach you nothing. They have no value whatsoever.

Feels Like Florida

Every day this week, it's been the same: hot and humid with highs in the 90s and strong to severe afternoon thunderstorms. Usually they blow up just as the kids are jumping into the pool, and I have to get them back out again. We follow the Thunderstorm Rules that the local swim clubs enforce:

if it's raining, go ahead and swim. You're already wet. if there's thunder, get out of the pool until it's been 30 minutes since the last crack of thunder if there's lightning, you're out of the pool for an hour Lightning has been a frequent and very unpopular visitor around here this week.

This weather feels a whole lot more like Florida than New Jersey. Frankly, if I'm going to have Florida weather, I'd rather be IN Florida enjoying its beautiful beaches.

A girl can dream, anyway. She can also bargain-hunt. That's how I found out that if you use coupon code DISNEY15, you can save 15% on Disney park tickets when staying at an onsite Disney hotel[affiliate link]. This offer is good through July 8. Staying offsite? Save 10%[affiliate link] with coupon code DISNEY10.

Bring your own poncho!

Not even an author name can be found. This article is there for the sake of being there. It doesn't even matter if Google shows this page in search result. All they care is that Google see's that the website has content.

How about the user? The person that clicks on the link and finds this article. What is he supposed to gain from it? If you were to stumble upon this page, chances are you will click on the back button and never come back. People only come back when they find something interesting. It doesn't matter how many people Google bring to your website, if they don't find what they are looking for, they will leave.

Don't create content, create Art.

By art, I do not necessarily mean a painting or drawing. Art is something that stimulates our mind, something that has value.

If you think you need more content, you are probably solving your problem with the wrong solution. What are you selling? Why do people come to your website? Don't create content. Content is to writing what pink slime is to meat. Create art. If we think the web is saturated today, it's because the ratio of pink slime to art is too big. The positive note is that there if there is 1% art on the web, it accounts for a massive number, because the internet is massive.

Art is much more difficult to create. We can't create 10 beautiful pieces in a day. But think about it. What a user will get from reading one well crafted article on your website, creates more value than 100 low quality articles he ignored. When I read a good blog post, I share it. It doesn't matter if the website doesn't have those crazy widgets. I go out of my way to share it with the world. A few days after I can still feel the taste of it in my mouth. I talk about it.

Too much content

A few years ago, I created a website that would rank schools based on their student reviews. I had a chicken and egg problem, how do I get reviews when I have no users. I figured, if users can land on the page through Google, they would leave a review. Instead of gradually improving, on day one I added 8000 colleges from the United States. Now I had content. People would find me on Google.

The problem was that this was as much as I did, I added content then waited for people to come. People came, but very few left a review. After creating very complex user behavior tracking, I realized that people came to my website to get the school phone number and address and nothing else.

I added a blog to the website not knowing what kind of content to put on it. I wrote the most generic things on it, some not even related to the website. I started to get some visitors to the blog through Google. But those users would spend a few seconds on the website and just leave. When I think about it now, the blog was there simply for search engines not for people.

The only time I started to get users that write reviews is when I started to talk about my own experience in different school topics. People could relate and took the time to contribute. Unfortunately for me the website had issues in other domains and I couldn't give it the necessary time to make it grow. For now I put it a side until I will be ready to work on it again.

Here is something I am learning as I keep doing research. The more time you spend working on something, the more value you create. There are the few spurs of luck when you create something in 30 minutes and it becomes viral, but in the long term, only hard work pays.

Let me show you an example of content versus art. The Microsoft surface tablet ad vs the iPad ad:

Microsoft Surface commercial — Content

Microsoft Surface TV ad

Liking or hating this ad all depends on your taste, but we are not here for fanboyism. Both companies created a fantastic product that gave people a new medium for enjoying and creating art.

This ad is supposed to introduce the new Microsoft tablet. What did it do? It showed people dancing. After watching it here is what I thought: That's a nice Old Navy ad. It might as well be a generic tablet running android or Symbian OS. The first time I saw the commercial, I thought I will see a big logo saying Old Navy or JC Penny at the end. The clothes and dancing obscured the very product they were trying to promote.

Something I noticed on their ads is that they are seem to be afraid to show the device at work.

The iPad commercial — Art

Apple has been known to make great commercials. Not only because it is simple but because they bring focus on the product. Take a look at this ad. I chose this one because it is also the first iPad ad.

The iPad ad

The device is the focus, and it is shown full at work. Just by watching it, there are a few things you know you can use it for. Read your books, browse the web, write a document, share your pictures, check your email, watch a movie and so on. This is the difference, the ad targets different needs and promotes the product.

This is art.

Content can be created by an algorithm or cheap labor, Art is what makes us human. I trust BBC news and I have mentally blocked the huffingtonpost. Both of them are news outlet, one reports the news the other is a tabloid with overstated titles.

If you are creating too much of something, take a minute to reflect. Think about those consuming your product. Ask them how they like it. The rules of statistics may blind you because for every hundred that visit a page, statistics tells us that one will click on an ad. It doesn't matter if they even noticed what you had to offer. What are you in business for? showing ads? Or sharing your art?

Let's do the web a service and create more value.


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