The Panda God

Giant panda

Image via Wikipedia

In the world of the web content writer, Google is god.

It’s simple: when Google sneezes, we jump. We sweat, we worry, we pace, we lose sleep, and we re-evaluate our entire portfolio to appease the newest algorithm changes. If Bing, Yahoo!, Ask, AltaVista, or any other search engine makes a change, we rarely even notice. We worship Google, in our own way, because the place of our work in the Google ranking determines how many views we make, how much money we make, how well we’re doing.

When Google released its latest “Panda” algorithm, the web writing world didn’t just jump. It had a heart attack. The “point” of Panda – at least as the web writing world understood it – was to punish “content farms,” websites that encourage a large amount of keyword-focused content to draw views and ad revenue. Panda prefers to reward focused sites, original content, high quality writing, and editorial oversight.

But even writers who were publishing independently on respected sites in the freelance domain, who met Panda’s original, high-quality content saw their page views and earnings plummet as the websites themselves were punished with a heavy swipe of the Panda’s paw. Some websites have seen page views drop to half of their previous levels, or lower.

All of this, of course, leads to “panda”monium in the freelance world. Content farms – from Associated Content and Helium to eHow and Examiner – are beginning to see a mass exodus of writers, while the websites themselves scramble to appease the new algorithm to earn their way back up in rankings. It’s no surprise that these writers are also finding that there are a lot less freelance jobs out there for them – and what is available is highly competitive.

Currently, the survival guide for web content writers seems pretty simple: focus on quality, look for writing jobs with focused websites that specialize in specific content, and avoid websites that don’t have editorial oversight for every piece of submitted content.

On my end, things have been shifted quite a bit on the downturn. Only two clients of mine remain reliable and have not been affected by Panda. I’m lucky in that case – some writers are having to literally give up their day job to bring in new money to pay the bills. Still, my goals are adjusting – as a writer, and as a person.

It’s not that web content writing is dead – the web will always need good, unique content. But the business has made a major shift, and writers must adapt and improve. Panda will, in the end, improve quality of life for searchers and writers. It’s the shuffle of finding new offerings to the search engine gods that presents the greatest struggle.

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