Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Google Algorithm: eHow? Really?

Most of us in the Freelance community have had a rather taxing week.  Google's dreaded algorithm has thrown many of our favorite income sources into a complete tailspin, and we are left to scratch our heads and wonder why.  Sure, most writing sites are going to have less than great writers.  I am sure that there is a faction of every site that could be labelled as "content millers," but there are also some amazing writers.  I publish my little articles alongside published writers and experts in their fields, and I have a hard time believing that Google could degrade their writing.

Just this morning, I came across this little beauty that presents "The Algorithm" as a competition crusher for eHow.  Clearly, this is a bit disheartening when we consider the quality of many eHow articles.  I am not bashing all eHow or Demand Media articles, or their writers.  I have found, over the course of several years, a dozen or so articles that have been very helpful.  Seriously, I would have been lost without this doozie on how to make a pb&j.

Anyway, in light of the ridiculous eHow articles now being highlighted and more reputable works being downgraded (for the purposes of this post, I'm going to use Suite101 as my comparison), I thought I would compare and contrast some of eHow's scintillating articles with those of some of my Suite colleagues.  You tell me which one looks like a content mill.

Round One:
I'm hoping that someone with my sense of humor submitted this as a joke, but I'm afraid that this is not the case.  For the record, this is one of four eHow articles about identifying vampires.  Let's all pause to sigh together now.  My favorite part?  People who are too beautiful must be vampires.  Perfect hair?  Vampire.  Perfect skin?  Undead.  Perfect eyes? Stay away.  Apparently, there is an entire hoard of undead supermodels walking the earth.  Why has no one done anything about this?! Let's put Buffy and Heidi Klum on a televised match to the death!  I like it.
Okay, so I was a little hard pressed to find anything on Suite to help me identify vampires, but I think that's a good thing.  What I did find, however, was an interesting article by Amelia Hill that provides a scientific explanation for the appearance of the vampire.  See what's there at the bottom?  That's right, sources.  Four of them.  That way, we know she's not making up stuff up like butyric fermentation. Looks like a nice, well researched article to me.  

Round Two:
eHow article - How to Not Be Fat
For those of you wondering, yes, that truly is the title of this article.  Strike one, "yourself" is listed under "Things You'll Need."  Time for a collective, "No, duh."  This article actually did not start off too bad.  The first step did not make me cringe at all - although, I was still snickering about the title.  Things took a turn for the comical when I was instructed to pet my cat to keep from eating.  When I was told to eat my meals slowly to enjoy how sensual it was, I started laughing again.  Then came this line: "The ONLY WAY you are going to lose weight is to REDUCE your food intake."  That's right, everyone!  Exercise is a lie!  But the real kicker is the last thing that this scholarly writer left us with: "You are not going to die or become ugly or never be happy again if you don't eat. In fact, it's quite healthy to go without eating for long periods of time every once and a while."  Good to know, eHow.  Good to know.
Suite101 article - Practical Dieting
First of all, take a look at that nice, green check on this article.  Editor's choice, everyone.  Way to go, Deb Powers.  Since our eHow friend told us that reducing food intake is the only way to lose weight, I tried hard to find a Suite article that did not mention exercise.  Anyone who knows anything about nutrition knows that it is practically impossible to mention one without the other.  Even Ms. Powers mentions it briefly in her diet specific article.  Still, diet is her focus.  Here, she gives us ten helpful tips for dieting, many of which fly in the face of our eHow article.  Let's here it for small snacks and not starving ourselves!

Round Three:
In this article, not only are parents choosing their young child's career path for them, but they are also using the best tactics ever - practically chain your child to the piano while making them sit through a decade of piano lessons.  I'm glad that the child's hopes and dreams were consulted here.  Maybe when they get older, they can check out one of my personal favorites.  Now if only there was an eHow article for how to get the "nerves of steel" mentioned.  Someone get on that, will you?
While pushy stage parents are all the rage nowadays, Karen Berger's article puts the needs and development of the child first.  Her article also does not passive aggressively map out a career plan for a five year old, just saying.  It should also be noted that Ms. Berger is a classical pianist, herself, and teaches piano.  There's that "experts in their fields" thing that I mentioned earlier.  

So there you have it.  I know it's only three examples, but I could be here all day if I had the time.  For those of you craving more, check out the clever (and oh-so-beautiful!) Jeff Bercovici and his witty Demand Studios Classification System.

**For the record, I do know several qualified writers who write for Demand Media and I congratulate those who do well by them.  If things do not change with "The Algorithm," I may even be forced to apply there myself.  Then you can all judge me as well.  This blog post is not intended to belittle the talent that DMS does have.  Rather, it is simply questioning the "content mill" aspect of eHow.  So don't get your undies in a bunch, mmkay?**

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