I’m sure others have had this same observation, so I doubt I’m the first to point this out. The Internet is funded in a large part via advertising. No shocker there. Millions of websites pay for hosting from some advertising link revenue stream.
What compels someone to click on an ad link? I already know the answer, but I’ll set up three scenarios. Let us assume you enter something into a search engine and you land on one of these three pages.
- The article delivers the information you wanted. The writing is crisp, detailed, and maybe even engaging. The article may have a conversational feel or ring of authority. When you scan the page, the content is distinct and easy to read.
- The article seems somewhat relevant, but not exactly what you want. It is almost what you asked the search engine. It has a generic forced mechanical writing style. There is a ring of authority, but it is not conversational or if it is conversational it comes off as fake. Like the first example, the layout is professional and the content is not difficult to read.
- The article is buried in a design that is littered with obvious advertising. The page fails to earn any trust.
Which page will earn more advertising revenue?
The answer is usually #2. Why? Because the reader will pause to scan the article for information. The writing style won’t be compelling enough to actually read, so scanning for meaning will continue. At some point, the reader will realize that the article is almost what they need, but not quite. Then they notice an ad link on the page that seems to be more relevant than the page itself and click it.
Over time article #1 may earn decent revenue if enough people link to it and the search engines reward it with lots of traffic. The CTR (advertising click-thru rate) will still be lower though. When people read quality content, they don’t go racing for the exits. Article #3 will just have people hitting the back button.
My theory is not just a hunch, I’ve studied years’ worth of data for DeepFitness and INeedCoffee. The articles that are well written have higher traffic, but lower CTR. DeepFitness has some great articles and some embarrassingly bad ones. The bad ones pay the hosting fees, not the good ones.
I’m not the only one that knows about this. Recently Wired published a story called The Answer Factory: Demand Media and the Fast, Disposable, and Profitable as Hell Media Model. In it, a business model is detailed where companies bid out articles based on custom search strings. How much are the writers getting paid?
The average writer earns $15 per article for pieces that top out at a few hundred words, and the average filmmaker about $20 per clip, paid weekly via PayPal. Demand also offers revenue sharing on some articles, though it can take months to reach even $15 in such payments. Other freelancers sign up for the chance to copyedit ($2.50 an article), fact-check ($1 an article), approve the quality of a film (25 to 50 cents a video), transcribe ($1 to $2 per video), or offer up their expertise to be quoted or filmed (free). Title proofers get 8 cents a headline.
You won’t get quality content when everything gets commoditized and farmed out to the lowest bidder. But then again quality content rarely pays the bills. Sad.