Net Pollution: Original Web Content

by alan1975

The internet and the search engines love original content. But is the bulk of this content truly useful or even original?

Search engines love original content! This is one of the first things one learns as an internet writer or marketer. But is this content truly original? Is it useful?

Since blogging took off some years back, the web has been flooded with articles on anything and everything. The web seems to be on its own personal quest for endless growth. In this "original" and undoubtedly "useful" article, I will talk about some of the issues that I have with this philosophy.

1. The quality of the web content does not determine its accessibility

Proof of this can be found by the numerous religious propaganda websites that have weaseled their way to the top of the search engines to give the illusion that evolution is not the accepted science.

A few years back I recall some teachers complaining that the internet had given students the illusion that the holocaust denial position was worthy of consideration. Probably due to some creative internet marketing.

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2. It is too easy to spread false information

The problem with this point is not content as such, but rather unmoderated content. For example, I write regularly within the branch of business known as knowledge management. I do so because I am educated in the subject. Yet every time when I browse through blogs I am appalled at the amount of misinformation I come across. It goes beyond producers trying to peddle a product. It extends to bogus educations and even well-intentioned articles written by people who simply do not have a clue. Eventually, when enough people chime in, it seems to become "truth".

To make matters worse, one cannot even point it out because comments that contradict the author's position are generally erased. So to the unwary onlooker, all that is visible is a (faulty) blog with a series of positive comments written by other people who also do not know better. At this stage, the blog is not just useless, it is harmful.

3. Often web content is outdated

Recently I tried to search for some rules for a (different) article submission site. The top hits seemed relevant, and I got as far as two thirds of the way through the article before I realized I had forgotten the cardinal rule: check for the date. The article was written in 2006, yet still appeared at the top of the search. The second one was from 2008. Neither was relevant. Even worse, other equally old articles had (presumably purposefully) omitted their publication date.

This kind of thing is abundant on the net, and I find myself having increasing difficulty locating content that is up to date, particularly for “heavier” subjects which the engines do not know how to handle as well.

4. We (mostly) ran out of original content years ago

This is perhaps my biggest beef with how things are done. There is a universal (Google driven) desire for more and more "original" content. Original in this case generally means not written with quite the same words before... because by no stretch of the imagination does it actually mean "original".

I got news for you: in many areas, we ran out of original content years ago. After the first couple of "top 5 tips for losing your love handles" or "best mother's day gifts"  or "how to update my XP drivers", it's all just regurgitation. There is nothing more to say other than putting a tiny personal spin on things that have been written a thousand times. Is that original? Vaguely. Is it useful? Not at all.

If content were truly original, I believe we would not see the vast majority of everything published online.

So who is to blame for all this? A big part of the blame falls on the search engines. Those wonderful automated processes that love original content but cannot directly tell whether this content is true, whether it is good quality, whether it is still relevant, or whether it is truly original.

Now, things are always evolving, and last year's Panda update certainly made a great leap forward - at least if you do not count all the collateral damage. Nonetheless, I fear what the internet will look like in 5 years, considering how much crap it's full of right now (present company excluded of course).

Updated: 02/18/2012, alan1975
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