Are Content Mills Dying?

January 14, 2011

Are content mills on a slow decline?

Part of my writing for money business is keeping up with trends around the search engine world as well as trends in the buying habits of the general public. Much of my writing involves some degree of research through Google. Lately, I have noticed a trend that is both disturbing and exciting. This trend is nothing new really, however it is becoming more visible and it is changing the search engine rankings for many well known web properties.

In researching simple topics, much of the front page of Google was riddled with eHow, Bukisa and Helium articles. It was common to see half of the front page consist of content mill site results. In the past few weeks though that trend has taken a slight turn. Now although there are content sites coming up in the search results, there are fewer and they are more relevant to the topic being searched.

The news around the Internet is that Google is between a rock and a hard place if you will. On the one hand they are making a huge profit by allowing spammy sites and content mills to fill up the front pages of a search result with content that is driven by keywords and advertising. On the other hand, search engines such as Yahoo and Bing are gaining ground through filtering properties supplied by content mills and providing more relevant search results. There is also the fact that social media giants such as Facebook are beginning to draw in more advertisers away from Google.

People don’t want spam. They filter it out of their email inboxes and filter it out of their social media accounts. They also want to filter out of their general web browsing. Many of the search engines are listening to their users and all but eliminating content mill search results based on keywords alone. They want results their users want….quality relevant content.

What I think is happening is Google is beginning to devalue content coming from mass generated content mills such as . This devaluation results in lower search engine rankings which in turn mean less revenue for the content site. Now how long or how much devaluation will Google place is anybody’s guess at this point. But one can only speculate as to how much it will affect such things as the upcoming IPO for Demand Media, ranking of lower quality content sites without an editorial process as well as freelance content writer pay in the long term.

I wrote a guest post on another blog about what the content mills mean to the freelance writer today. I believe some like Suite 101, Yahoo! Contributor Network and Bright Hub have the ability to increase value to the Internet community without changing much on their end. However, I also believe that for places such as Demand Media Studios to keep their heads above water over the next few years, they will require painful changes which will in turn result in quite a few quality writers leaving for other opportunities.

Most people writing for money are good writers and can produce quality results. I think a survey of writers would show that most will spend the appropriate time necessary to craft well written and well researched articles for revenue share and residual content sites. However those same writers will not put in even half that effort for $15 flat rate per article. Even less would do it for a flat $10 per article. I also think you are going to see more pay structures similar to Bright Hub and Yahoo! In the near future. A mixture of low up-front pay with revenue share or page view incentives. However I don’t see certain content sites pulling that off without a major turnover of writers.

So what am I saying? What is my point? Simple. The wave of change is on the horizon. Content mills may not be dying, but there will be significant change. Freelance writers and entrepreneurs who are proactive will survive and prosper in this time of change. Those that are going to prosper will be those who are writing revenue share and residual articles at established sites such as Suite101, Yahoo! And Bright Hub as well as a small mix of up-front pay. Those that will prosper will develop clients through sites such as Textbroker and Constant Content. Those that will prosper will be building their own non-spam business websites and blogs geared toward helping others.

I said in my guest post that like it or not, freelance web content writers are salespeople in one form or another. You, as a freelance writer, are also a business. Businesses that prosper in a changing climate are the ones that change ahead of everybody else. It is my personal opinion that to prosper, we as freelance content writers must step up the quality of writing and be selective where we write. We must offer significant value to the reader. This must be done especially if you are building your own websites and blogs. The Internet is still full of opportunity to create financial security through writing for money as a freelance content writer. However, the writers that offer quality and value are the ones who will prosper.

Incoming search terms:

  • demand studios dying
  • google content mills
  • is brighthub a content mill
  • who are the major content mills


  • says:

    This is a very good and thought-provoking article, and your points are valid. However, I would take the criticism of content mills that comes from mainstream media outlets with a grain of salt. Almost every major and minor newspaper/magazine website displays advertisements. Also, not all of the articles on content mills are worthless. You, I, and others who read this blog have written for them, and we’re good writers, right?

    I’m realizing that, as secure as Demand Media, HubPages, etc. may appear to be, it might not be a smart idea to put all of our eggs in those baskets. Creating our own media properties may be part of the wave of change.

    • Ken Ken says:

      No, not all articles are worthless Will. But what I see being eliminated from search results is a boatload of irrelevant, spam articles and spun articles from overseas. I used to do a lot of home improvement articles for DS and any time I would do a search for and 4 other eHow articles would show up on the front page. Now do the same search and seldom does an eHow article come up and instead you find relevant information that is clearly written. I think the days of just “slapping” up content are coming to a close. This is where places like DS will have to make adjustments to be profitable and relevant. You or I are not going to spend any more time than necessary to make a flat rate of $10 to $15 per article. That results in sub-par writing, especially to our own personal standards. They will have to make it more enticing to writers to continue to create quality by offering a little more than just a one-time flat rate. This is why I think you will see more pay structures resembling Yahoo and Bright Hub.

      The content mills themselves are not worthless, (there are some that are), but the days of just throwing anything up on the net strictly to garner Adsense clicks is not going to cut it. Readers want more. You and I want more. Many will argue that the Internet helped to extinguish many jobs and opportunities in the traditional print market. That might be true, but in order to grow and survive long term content sites must also provide what mainstream people want…quality, informative content that adds value. Content sites are not solely to blame for the stuff on the Internet. Look at what Internet marketing did in the early 80′s. Now however, although there are still way to many spammers, the people making money in IM are the ones who are doing more than just shoving a product. They are offering quality content with value to their client base.

      I like your thought about “creating our own media properties.” Perhaps that will be a part of the change. :)

  • says:

    As usual, another great post.

    Your post and Will’s comment about creating our own media properties ties into the book I’m currently reading “Rich Dad Poor Dad” by Robert Kiyosaki. If you haven’t read the book, I encourage you to do so.

    Kiyosaki used real estate as one of his vehicles for wealth. After testing the real estate waters with both house flipping and being a landlord, I quickly realized it just wasn’t for me. I didn’t like non paying tenants nor the busy work of fixing houses and working with contractors – although it did leave me with the confidence to take on any household repair, as long as I have the right tools. :) Anyway, Robert Kiyosaki’s book, your post and Will’s comment further solidifies my belief in online real estate.

    Every article we write for a content mill or anyone else for that matter is sort of like renting or subletting space. You own the work (sometimes) and get paid either up front or a share of the residual income, but it’s not 100% yours. When you put up your own blog/website, you’re fully responsible for the site, but you get to keep 100% of the income. When you own something, you develop pride in ownership and most folks want their online presence to be a reflection of the owner, thus creating quality sites that benefit the reader. Once you have a money maker, wash, rinse and repeat.

    Don’t get me wrong, there are some folks that will continue to create spammy sites, but if your Google findings hold true, over time their presence will diminish.

    Your post reminds me that diversification is key, quality trumps spam any day and online real estate (or as Will said “media properties”) can be a vehicle for continued passive income.

    • Ken Ken says:

      I am sooo getting that book. One thing that I said a few weeks ago and you even mentioned not too long ago, no matter where we write it should always place our best foot forward. I liked Will’s perspective on the online real estate as well. It would be nice to have a bit more even playing field in the search engines. Personally I don’t believe its the content sites in of themselves so much as the content they allow to go up on the net automatically. Look at what eHow had become. For every good writer such as yourself, there were 10 more who were just slapping keyword stuffed, irrelevant and non-nonsensical stuff just to point to a Clickbank product. Unfortunately, looks are deceiving and the general public associates a name with bad information. Ends up messing with your bottom line.

      You are dead on about owning your sites and running them. Sure it takes time to build and you absorb all the risks. But you also receive 100% of the income and in essence your bottom line is more of a direct result of your efforts. At any rate, it’s going to make for an interesting year.

  • says:

    Well, it’s about time, I’d say. Relevant, quality search results? How nice would that be? I’ve also noticed a slight change in results, now that you mention it. Any change that results in better quality, either with search engines or content mills, is welcome and overdue. Expanding on Felicia’s real estate analogy, it’s about time to increase the number of Boardwalk and Park Place equivalent sites and quit landing on any from the first two sides of the Monopoly board:)

    • Ken Ken says:

      “it’s about time to increase the number of Boardwalk and Park Place equivalent sites and quit landing on any from the first two sides of the Monopoly board”

      And the serious freelance content writer today will be the ones to increase those numbers. The only good thing coming out of all this spam and irrelevant content is the fact when a writer shows true character and reliability they can easily rise above all the garbage and make a name for themselves. The sites, articles and writers who will prosper are those that build a reputation of good character, reliability and integrity. It takes time and hard work, but that is what refines us along on our path. Even in the Internet marketing arena, you see first hand that the general public does not make purchases from companies just throwing out a bunch of advertisements, rather they make purchases from people they trust and have built a relationship of integrity.

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