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The Shady Side of Blogging in 2019

I don’t want to influence people, go viral or rank for keywords—I just like to write stories that hopefully, someone will find, read and enjoy.

It’s getting harder than it should be.

Apparently, I’m using the wrong platform and tools—and by “platform” and “tools,” I mean… well, a blog and original content.

Shit.

I’ve been blogging since 2005. Ten or fifteen years ago, many of us started a blog simply because we could. Without any coding skills whatsoever, you could claim a little corner of the Web—cool, right? Some bloggers tried to make money, other craved recognition, many just wanted to connect and share stories or their passion—we had plenty of free time back then without Facebook, Twitter and smartphones.

The online world evolved, new trends developed, innovative platforms were created—hell, I changed too. I don’t mind change. My French side may resist it at first but I’m also human and we’ve been adapting to survive for hundreds of thousands of years. Eventually, I do embrace change.

We’re moving forward. But are we heading in the right direction?

Each job has a motto—“publish or perish,” “problem exists between chair and keyboard,” “look for the next opportunity while employed,” or “it’s not lupus.” Back in the early-ish days of blogging, the motto was “no backlinks, no traffic.” It made sense. The Web is a big place, links to your website represent a vote of confidence telling Google and other search engines (yes, there used to be other search engines…) that your content is relevant and interesting.

Even if most of us aren’t Search Engine Optimization specialists, any blogger understand the long-term value of SEO. Basic guidelines are actually good practices and can make the Web a better place—proper terminology, high-quality content with relevant links, a minimum/maximum article length (no one is going to read a 5,000-word essay…), user-friendly Web design, etc. I never focused on SEO too much but I embraced a few principles to do my part and make the Web a better place.

What a complete idiot I was… I actually thought content mattered and that despite black-hat techniques and other shady practices, quality would eventually win over irrelevant, mass-produced spammy shit and bots.

Remember when pop-ups and pages with too many ads were the main online pet peeve? I almost miss them because at least, I knew there were ads and I put up with them—hosting is expensive—if content was valuable.

In many cases today, content is no longer valuable, it’s just an ad.

Apparently, the new trend is influencing the world #talkingwithfuckinghashtags, tailoring content to please an algorithm and becoming a mouthpiece for brands, companies and politicians who pretend to “engage” a most likely fake audience.

And this is what happens behind the scenes.

Last year, I somehow ended up on a shitty press release distribution company’s mailing list. Hi, PRNewsWire, still refusing to unsubscribe me? Never mind, I added a filter so your messages end up where they belong—in the spam folder. Meanwhile, every day, I discover a side of blogging you may not be aware of. Dozens of news agencies, politicians and companies are flooding the Web with press releases and “fake news,” and this “free” content is being republished everywhere.

Screenshot of PRNewswire spam in my mailbox, March 2019
Screenshot of PRNewswire spam in my mailbox, March 2019
Screenshot of PRNewswire spam in my mailbox, March 2019
Screenshot of PRNewswire spam in my mailbox, March 2019
Screenshot of PRNewswire spam in my mailbox, March 2019
PRNewswire spam, Apirl 2019
PRNewswire spam, April 2019
PRNewswire spam, April 2019

 

It’s spam because it’s untargeted and unwanted. Press releases can be a useful tool when you reach out to the right people but I see the same content “offered” to me reposed on many blogs completely out of context. WFT, people?!

I also constantly get emails from companies offering me “free informative content” to publish because apparently, for many bloggers, the annoying part of blogging is to actually have to write—so they buy content.

Typical marketing pitch
“Free content” email

What should it matter to you?

This is not about me. However, I’d like to take the chance to confirm that even though I’m probably not offering the next Great Canadian Novel every time I click on “publish,” I do create original content. I’m not using you.

It should matter to you because I can’t help thinking that, given the current political environment, it’s dangerous that one American company, Google, completely rules the Web and decides where to direct traffic.

Because it’s getting harder and harder to find original and genuine unsponsored content.

Because I’m afraid we’re being brainwashed by websites acting as a mouthpiece for politicians, companies and anyone with an agenda.

Because we’re not fucking robots—original content should matter more than the number of keywords you use or whether you have the perfect H1 tag for SEO.

Because it’s really fucked up to live in a world where companies and brands can buy traffic, followers, commenters and content so that in turn, we buy products and into ideas.

If content is irrelevant, what are we, people or products?

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