Writing, even for prestigious publications, has never been the most lucrative job. But at least when Condé Nast pays writers a buck a word for a magazine article, they’re holding it to a very high editorial standard. Writers eager for bylines will accept the low rates to build their portfolios, hoping the day will come when they can command the big bucks.
Unfortunately, content farms have lowered the pay — and the standards. Content farms churn out poorly written, sometimes nearly unintelligible garbage. To lure readers to view ads and to build search traffic to sites (thus making them more attractive to advertisers), companies like Demand Media pay writers as little as 3 cents a word to churn out keyword-stuffed garbage. A recent New York Times article, Google’s War on Nonsense, describes the nasty practice, and Google’s new efforts to fight it via the “Panda” algorithm, a newly-implemented technology that pushes the worst offenders to the bottom of the search results.
But writers now have a secret weapon of their own: the rel=author tag. As Jen Dennis recently blogged, the rel=author tag means authors can actually claim credit for what they write. The byline once again regains power, as Google rewards good authors by elevating their personal page rank, or “AuthorRank.” The writer’s authority will come from the byline, not from the traffic to the site where it resides. In turn, a site’s search results will improve when it features quality writing from a highly ranked author — thereby motivating sites to use good quality content.
This might just be the antidote to content-farm crap and .03-a-word post generation.