As most freelance writers know, Google recently changed its algorithm to give lower search-result rankings to content-mill sites such as Demand Studios (whose newly public stock has taken a beating as a result).
What you maybe didn’t know is that Google’s change is opening up a world of freelance writing opportunities. A recent Wall Street Journal article reveals that many legitimate ecommerce businesses have seen their rankings tank, too.
What are the businesses doing about it? They’re hiring freelance writers.
The story outlines three different types of writing ecommerce businesses are trying to boost their traffic now that Google is ranking them lower:
- Product descriptions. One business is having freelance writers create unique product descriptions so they can get rid of all the stock product-description lingo they copped from manufacturers, to eliminate duplicate copy. Imagine how many businesses need to do this! What an opportunity for writers who enjoy this type of work. And pretty easy prospecting, too — just go on a manufacturer site for the type of products you enjoy writing about, copy some product-description language, plug it into Google, and see all the business sites where it turns up. Then, make some calls and see who’s ready to remake their content and reclaim their high Google rankings.
- Marketing emails. Another business in the WSJ story decided to do more email marketing to drive traffic and make up for the lower traffic from Google. So there’s likely a growing opportunity to write marketing email copy.
- Video scripts. Yet a third business decided to counter the downturn in traffic to the company’s site from Google by creating more videos they could post on YouTube to draw visitors from that popular channel. I just took on a new writer in my mentoring program who told me writing video scripts is her most lucrative writing assignment type on an hourly basis, so this is definitely a niche to learn about. I believe it’ll see explosive growth in the next few years.
Uncertain times for mill writers
Finally, for anyone who’s reliant on Demand Studios for income, it may be time to think about a new earning strategy. Consider this analysis from the highly regarded financial blog Seeking Alpha:
…this attitude change of Google toward content farms creates questions on the viability of Demand Media’s business model itself.
If you don’t believe it, take a look at the Alexa charts in that Seeking Alpha story that show eHow and other Demand sites’ plummeting traffic since the Google change happened a few weeks back.
The story theorizes that per-article rates at mills may soon start to decline because of the lower ad revenue less traffic will bring (like the rates aren’t insulting already). That’s a pretty solid prediction in my view — just makes sense that less traffic = less ad revenue = lower rates. We learned from the IPO filing that Demand isn’t making a profit on what it pays writers at current rates, so that’s another compelling reason rates may sink.
It’s clearly time for mill writers to diversify — and when I say that, I don’t mean sign up with a couple other mills. They’re all taking the same kind of hit from Google’s new algorithm.
The good news is, Google’s change creates a lot of need for businesses to use more freelance writers. I’m betting rates will be better for these assignments than the mills paid, too.
UPDATE: In November 2011, Google announced more changes that make unique content more important than ever. So the opportunity to sell businesses on the need for your pro writer services is only getting bigger.