What Is A Content Farm?

Although no longer popular today, Content Farms were a business venture where one can make money by utilizing quantity over quality, and tricking search algorithms to gain more traffic to the sites ads.

For instance, I once wrote for a site called Triond. This site allowed you to write pretty much whatever you wanted, any type of article or poetry you desired, and they promised to pay you X amount of money for X amount of views. The quality of the article did not matter, so long as the article existed.

The basics went like this: If you had a site that had 50,000 articles on it, but each article was seen 100 times, that’s 5 million views! Those views and impressions were noted on these ad-filled sites that often took forever to load, and the potential clicks as well earned the site owners a fair amount of cash. Of that, you were paid about 1 dollar per 1000 views, regardless of ad clicks or ad revenue.

Because of this, you were encouraged to write several articles a day, which had the potential to earn you X dollars a month, I think the most I ever earned from that site was 5$ a month, despite having 200 articles written on it. They also encouraged everyone to view everyone else’s articles, thus increasing views even more.

This was very big in the late 2000’s, until Google and other search engines got so many complants of poorly made articles all over the search results that they punished sites for having poor SEO and that were considered Content farms by removing them from their database. I stopped using these sites long before the site crashed, so I don’t know too much more about them then that.

I am explaining this because I want to help future writers: Don’t sell yourself short. While it is OK to accept lower wages in the beginning while you are building up your writing career, never settle for writing for several hours a day just to be paid with some pocket money at the end of the month. Try to get at least 1 cent per word starting out, and then increase it as time goes on.

Don’t do what I did.

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Writing Tip: Researching for Articles

When you write a blog article or a journalistic piece, you are going to want to provide sources. In fact, despite what you might learn by watching Jezebel or Huffington Post, if you are writing a journalistic piece, sources are a MUST!

So today I am going to teach you about citations and proper sourcing.

There are three kinds of sources that one can use: Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, and Tertiary Sources.

Primary Sources. These are the most reliable of the sources, and are often straight from the horse’s mouth. Quotes from the original person saying something, archives, audio recordings, videos, photographs, letters, scientific data, and journals. These are the gold standard in source material, and should be cited in full. A primary source should never be taken out of context to prove a point.

Secondary Sources. These are not as reliable, and often are based off of and built upon primary sources. Examples includes newspaper and magazine articles, commentaries, bibliographies, encyclopedias, and textbooks.

Tertiary Sources. These often include a combination of both primary and secondary sources, but of often highly unreliable as a source themselves. These include fact books, guidebooks, Wikipedia, and blogs. They can give you a general overview of a topic, but can easily mislead.

If you are writing about a speculative concept, you might not be able to find many, or any, reliable sources. In this case, I suggest finding the most reliable of the secondary sources, but be careful about rumors and word-of-mouth speculations.

The Society of Professional Journalists states that you should:

Test the accuracy of information from all sources and exercise care to avoid inadvertent error. Deliberate distortion is never permissible.

Gathering sources might seem long and tedious, and it might seem easier to just pick sources that agree with your viewpoint, as you are asked to do for the often despised 11th grade English paper. But cherry-picking sources to make your point stronger is terrible, and can often lead to you looking silly as a result.

So don’t take the easy way out, there have been many times, when researching for an article, that I had to scrap the whole thing because the most reliable sources and data disproved my initial thought. Research correctly, pick the best and most reliable sources, and you’ll be well on your way!

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Writing Tip: Use Small Words

You would not believe how many times I go to read someone’s story just to find that it looks like a thesaurus. Many new writers do this especially, they will have this odd idea that their book needs to look like a cut-and-pasted academic paper in order to seem appealing to an audience, which can’t be further from the truth. This is particularly true when one is writing for a younger audience, who might not want to grab a dictionary every single time you try to sound smart.

One time, my college professor gave us a challenge: “Write a paragraph without using any words more than 5 characters long.” While that may sound hard at first, you might have seen that this line does just that. being able to write using small words with a large word every now and then makes what you write sound great. See what I did there? You can write a great sounding paragraph without using nothing but, excuse the term, sesquipedalian terms.

If you had to reach for a dictionary to know what that word means, then you now might understand what your readers feel several times while reading your works.

Smaller words mostly, with a few longer words thrown in works the best, but make sure that the words you use make sense in context, but that is a post for another day.

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Writing Tip: Learn To Spell

Spelling is almost as important as grammar when it comes to getting your point across. If your article looks like the dog chewed it up and spit it out, it is not going to make it in the real world. You are going to get very little traffic at all, let alone return traffic to your site, and god forbid if you’re selling any form of writing.

You’re most likely  an adult now, or at least close to being one. So it is now time to learn the difference between Your and You’re; Their, They’re, and There. You should not still be mixing up how spell common words, like Loose and Lose. For instance:

Your: “Is that jacket mine, or yours?” it’s possessive

You’re: “You’re going to the recital tonight, right?” it’s a contraction of “you” and “are.”

They’re: “The Johnsons called, they’re not going to make it.” also a contraction

Their: “Neither, that jacket is theirs!”

There: “I threw the ball over there.”

Loose: “Your shoelace is loose.”

Lose: “She’s going to lose the match!”

Bigger words might be more difficult, but learn how to use spellcheck at LEAST, let alone a dictionary or simple Google search.

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