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Friday, February 24, 2006

Secret Google labs, quality raters, Orwell reports and more...

Wouldn't it be great for those in the content writing industry if there was a sudden surge in demand for writers?  Imagine how nice it would be for writers if webmasters felt compelled to invest more in written content.  If demand were to skyrocket, being an established content writer would be great, huh?  There would be more work and the value of content would escalate.
It might be happening.  This might be the perfect time to really brand yourself as a content writer.  There are multiple factors afoot that could lead to a huge increase in demand.
There is a freely circulating report in support of a new Jason Potash software program called "Orwell."  This program is designed to cull relevant articles from article repositories and directories in order to assist webmasters in building content-rich sites.  According to Potash, a variety of happenings at Google make his new product necessary.

Google, king of the search engines, seems to be interested in curbing the effectiveness of lousy sites filled with scraped content and nonsense.  Potash argues that ostensibly leaked internal Google documents demonstrate this and that Google's recent efforts to hire several human "quality raters" also prove the point. 
Whether these raters have a real personal impact on search results or are simply the equivalent of a human focus group whose opinions will be used for algorithmic tweaks is yet to be seen.  However, it does appear as if Google will be putting a face on its efforts to catch up (and pass) black hat SEO-types and spammy sites that have found a way to infiltrate top search engine result positions.
Potash's "Big Brother Report" is designed in support of his "Orwell" software, which focuses on the use of articles.  This makes sense, as Potash is behind some very popular article distribution software already in wide use. 
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Writers should read this report.  Why?  The first two-thirds of the material provides the backbone of a very effective marketing pitch for content writers.  The report outlines all of the different ways Google plans to crush those generating "crappy" sites and reinforces the extreme importance of offering high-quality written content to surfers. 
Some of the report's evidence may be a little specious.  Some of it may read a bit like a Google conspiracy theory, but there are two nuggets of truth that cannot be disputed.  First, Google wants to cull the "crap" so they can provide surfers with good results.  That makes sense--they have to keep their surfing customers happy.  Second, high-quality content is smiled upon by the folks in G-land.
Henk Van Ess, a blogger and search engine expert, has also broken news of what he terms a "secret Google lab" staffed with university students who are evaluating search engine results and flagging sites laden with spammy content.  He even offered up a Flash presentation showing how those involved with the program (Google Rater Hub) function for Google.
It seems as though a lot of people in the search engine world assume the quality rating program has a direct impact on search engine results--as if these people are able to "trump" the algorithm.  Personally, I tend to believe it's more likely that their input is being used in-house in order to refine the formula.  Either way, it appears as if real human eyes are going to be seeing and reporting a lot of lousy sites and that should be a warning to those operating them that they might want to start providing users with quality content.
Those of us who write for a living have long been preaching the value of good content.  For better or for worse, however, those in the online business world have often searched for cheaper alternatives in order to "fool" Google into believing they are offering good material.  If Google is able to find ways to separate the wheat from the chaff--and it appears as though they are really trying to do just that--it is the best sales pitch in the world for unique content.
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