Friday, October 29, 2010

Writing For Google

You can find out just about anything by searching the Internet, but did you ever wonder where the words come from that appear on your screen upon request?

The writer just might be in Dublin.

Here I was, thinking that Google linked me to scholarly articles or blogposts or the like, sending me to examine content that had been culled from the real world.

Turns out there are about forty people in an office on Barrow Street that crank out content for the web, so that when you Google something, there's your information.

John Slyne of content provider Populis is tuned to Google hits. An uptick in queries about tourist-related events in Ireland will have his employees cranking out words about Irish tourist sites. Those pieces are sold on to the hotel industry, for example, and if you click on the right links you're booking a hotel and a bus trip to the Cliffs of Moher.

Expedia and Ebay are in on the game.

Writing advertising copy on demand is a unique new field that's all about deadlines. After all, there's a limit to how long people will continue to be intrigued by Charlie Sheen's hotel-trashing antics. The New York hotels need search engine-driven content now, while web surfers are within striking range.

According to reports, the writers who slave away in the content-on-demand sweatshops earn about one-tenth of the going rate for freelance journalists, and that isn't much at all. And that in an industry that rakes in millions.

If you're desperate for pocket change, it's a way to earn a few euros, but considering how much effort you'd have to put in, it doesn't seem worthwhile at all. How can you whip up a little 750 word blurb about the sights and scenery of fabulous Las Vegas without doing a little research? In the end, you don't really get compensated for the time, let alone the effort of composing a stirring little tale that will entice guests to Sin City.

I'll never look at web content in the same way again.

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