There’s no denying it. Love it or hate it, outsourcing is
here to stay. Technically speaking, if you’re a freelancer then you’re part of
the outsourcing trend and quite possibly the problem. No, no need to start
taking a mental inventory of your moral standards, outsourcing per se is not a
bad thing. A whole world of opportunity has been created with the increasing
demand for talent and affordable services that the growth of the global
marketplace has made available and it would be silly to ignore such an
opportunity. There are, however, some unfavorable facets of this outsourcing
trend that can leave a less than enjoyable aftertaste if you’re not fully
prepared for the challenges it represents.
First and foremost, let’s allow that yes, outsourcing has
resulted in the loss of jobs that were once the sole domain of the full time skilled
employee. The very real and reasonable reasons why this is include the fact
that employers are able to contract with individuals outside the company on an
as needed basis. Rather than carry staff fulltime who may only be utilized to
their full potential part time, employers can contract out work only when it is
needed. This has the added benefit of also allowing companies to expand their
range of services and offerings while keeping expenditures and outlays to a
minimum. As more and more companies do this, yearly revenues continue to show
sustained growth despite a reduction in the size of the overall workforce.
The downside of course is the drying up of positions and
more importantly, the adverse effect on wage scales and freelancing rates that
have occurred as a result of unregulated and unchecked competition for these
opportunities. With the advent of the world wide web, it has become possible
for employers to shop through a global marketplace of workers. While this is in
large part responsible for the wealth of opportunity that freelancing offers,
it also creates serious issues as workers from highly disparate economic
conditions compete for the same jobs. Without regulations of any meaningful
kind in place to regulate this global marketplace, the wildly differing economic
conditions among providers have acted to depress the value of all workers and
their products. When someone from India can subsist happily on the equivalent
of 10,000 dollars a year and his counterpart in America requires at least twice
that for the same living standards, a serious problem arises.
Although capitalism and free market principals are the
backbone of beneficial and healthy trade, they are not foolproof or perfect.
Without any means of control or moderation, the natural tendency to buy low and
sell high runs rampant in the freelancing marketplace. Providers from country’s
with weak economic conditions are able to bid on work at rates that would
quickly ruin their counterparts in countries with more expensive living
standards. Where market values for a skill may have run in a comfortable range
for the western worker, the sudden and unregulated introduction of workers from
the Philippines, India, China and other nations has worked to devalue these
skills as western employers find themselves unable to resist the lure of
extremely cheap labor. Despite the problems that have arisen with quality
control, worker integrity, communication, and the fact that many employers
are now retreating from the online labor marketplace as a result, the overall
trend towards depressed rates continues.
As much as I would like to offer an easy solution, this
simply is not possible. I will say, however, that if this trend towards poor rates
and unrealistic competition is to ever change, the solution will certainly have
to start with the providers and not the employers. For my part, I now refuse to
even consider rates less than ¾ of my chosen standards. I no longer travel the
diplomatic route and instead strongly encourage those interested to avoid
patronizing mills and work for hire sites that encourage unrealistic bidding. I’ve
even been preparing to launch a bidding site of my own geared towards
regionally specific employers and providers.
As a freelancer or online entrepreneur, the question here is, if you see this as a
problem, what are you going to do, if anything?
If you were having any doubts that content indeed truly is king, look no further than the new brouhaha revolving around Demand Studios and its successful debut with an IPO that not only opened higher than initially expected, but ended 35% higher. To further cement the fact and add a big fat exclamation point, Google in turn immediately makes public that it is all of a sudden so concerned with the quality of the content it is returning in its search results that it is going to be changing its algorithms to address the problem of content mills. Apparently content is not only king but it is in and of itself, regardless of its quality, enough to build an entire $1.4 billion dollar company around. There lies the problem as it’s not the quality of the content that’s made this possible but its sheer volume. It’s almost enough to make a web content writer forget all about substance. Almost.
Despite Demand Media’s successful first outing, there is a huge question mark of whether or not this content er, company *cough cough* has a sustainable model. Demand’s CEO, of course, in disputing the unattractive content mill label his company has been saddled with is quick to point out all the great plans for expansion his company has. But the truth is Demand Media has yet to show a profit, which has caused many would be investors to question whether Demand is even viable as a business model. Sure Demand can rake in the traffic, but at this point in time Demand appears very much like a paper tiger. They can make a lot of noise and pull in a lot of traffic, but once you get past all the theatrics the substance is hollow and disappointing.
In an interesting peripheral development, Google’s Matt Cuts less than two days after Demand’s successful outing announces Google’s plans to begin aggressively dealing with the problem of content farms. Now, Demand Studios has been around for six years and in the last 3 or so has pretty well buttoned up the top slots in Google with its Ehow and Answerbag sites. What is interesting about this is the fact they have done this with what must be honestly called poor content. Oftentimes, very poor content. If you have any doubts about this, I invite you to have a look at this list put together last year by Jeff Bercovici. It’s enough to make me want to do penance considering I’m an “approved” Demand writer. I’m fortunate I stuck almost entirely to simple fact lists and never wrote about how to put on a pair of eyeglasses or anything equally asinine.
What Demand has done is nothing more than exclusively exploited Google’s own expressed interest in promoting fresh and consistent content. While many of us were busy building the BEST possible content we could, Demand threw quality to the wolves and went full bore after producing a lot of fresh content on a regular basis that was targeted to some of the most common search terms currently in demand; a whole LOT of content. We are talking anywhere from 3,000 to 7,000 new articles a day. What this amounts to is nothing less than a brute force attack on Google’s fondness for fresh and relevant content. More importantly, it exposes the weakness in the Google algorithms by showing us that far from quality being as important as Google has repeatedly stated it is, simply dumping tons of content regardless of quality will cement you in the top rankings and make you an ad revenue hero. I can’t help but imagine that some of the Google bigwigs must be feeling somewhat chagrined to find that not only has someone revealed just how little importance Google really places on content quality, they demonstrated this by creating a 1.4 billion IPO around it.
As you can probably see, it’s not surprising Google would now decide the time is right to address the “problem” of content farms. This is annoying because there are a lot of damn good writers out there turning out some amazing content, yet they are consistently buried in the SERPS because several others have decided to load tons of well optimized garbage into a site. Many of us have known for years that the true value of quality content lies in its ability to form the bedrock of your online presence. It establishes your skill, your knowledge. It builds your network and authority. Building ranking though? Not so much. That’s better done addressing search engine algorithms and feeding the search bots. It’s almost ironic that little startups like Blekko with little presence or chance of dethroning the big guys like Google and Bing have already added controls allowing their users to block results from some of Demand’s outlets from their search results.
Once again, Google is behind the curve and only shows real concern when we catch a glimpse of the man behind the curtain.
Put simply, article marketing is the process of providing content to the public via the internet which in turn results in exposure and traffic for its provider. The most common form of article marketing involves creating articles and submitting them to various directories. The premise here is to get your content published, and receive links from the publisher back to your site. While worthwhile, this is only the most rudimentary basics of article marketing. Think of the links you receive this way as “gravy” on the meat.
The real benefit comes when bloggers and websites reprint your articles to their own sites, post links to them, or even just circulate them via e-mail or forums. The reason they do this is because they find the material interesting, relevant, and complimentary to their own subjects. Thus, the exposure and links you receive from these “organic” reprints are much more valuable in terms of SEO and page ranking, as Google and other search engines place much higher value on natural linking.
Remember, to use your articles, they must credit you and cite the original source thereby providing you with the exact marketing you were seeking. Targeted, relevant, organic links that cost you nothing more than the price of the article. Compared to the price of paid advertising or SEO, it’s an unbeatable bargain.
The benefits don’t stop at simply gaining links.
Regularly submitting articles to free article directories is one approach that can be effective. But it is not the only one. You can also target well ranked websites relevant to your own and offer the use of your articles in exchange for a link back to your site. Success in getting your article on the right website can cause major increases in your traffic almost overnight, and is a valuable resource that should not be overlooked.
Of course, not to be forgotten is your own website content. Not only do your visitors want to be greeted with fresh content when they visit, the major search engines also factor in how often content is added when they calculate ranking. Nothing will do more to increase your organic traffic, and KEEP it, than to have fresh con