Monday, February 14, 2011

Ethics in Writing: Are You Part of the Google Spam Problem?

Hi all,

A while back, I was participating in a writer’s forum on one of the “higher-rated” writing sites when I came across one writer giving advice to another on how she churned out several articles a day for Demand Media Studios for $15 an article. Her advice was basically this: Use the first resource that pops up in your search and write the article. She said it didn’t matter to her if the resource was accurate or not – after all it was only for DMS and for $15 an article they shouldn’t expect much. She also said that no one with any brains would use a DMS site like eHow, Livestrong, etc., for actual information so it didn’t matter if her information was wrong.

Think about that for a moment.

I asked her if she was kidding, because it is hard for me to believe someone who considers herself a serious writer would just throw out information that may be false. Her answer: pseudonym. She didn’t care whether her articles were accurate or not because she used a false name and they couldn’t be traced to her real name.

The worst part of all this – many other people who write for that writing site (it was another site, not DMS, where this conversation took place) actually agreed with her. So in their minds, it is okay to submit, publish and be paid for articles that were probably erroneous because their real name isn’t on it. And if the editors at DMS passed it through – that was their problem, not the writer’s. I had to walk away from this conversation – I couldn’t believe that people who promote themselves as professional writers thought that this was okay.

Now, I am not naïve or stupid – I realize there are a lot of spammers out there that copy, spin, repeat and place unverified articles all over the web in order to earn money. But to hear people who write for a rather “prestigious” writing site say that they are doing this at DMS really bothered me. What ever happened to ethics in writing? Or maybe I should ask, what ever happened to ethics – period.

Love it or hate it, DMS trusts its writers to be as accurate as possible when writing articles. While they (DMS) are certainly there to make money – they also do not want to get on Google’s bad side – so they ask writers to verify information and are careful which sites you are allowed to use to reference your articles. DMS is just too big a conglomerate to verify everything that writers submit, so some shady articles are going to get through. But when people who write for them purposely submit articles that include false information, that is just wrong. After all, it shouldn’t matter if you are being paid $1, $15, or $100 an article – if you’ve committed to writing about a topic, you should submit an article that is as accurate as it can possibly be.

Google Crack-Down on Low-Quality Sites

Submitting false informational articles to any site will not only hurt you as a writer but also hurt the site you write for. In January, 2011, Google announced in its blog that they are going to crack down even further on “content farms”, sites that allow “shallow or low-quality content”. So those who are purposely submitting low-quality articles are basically shooting themselves in the foot. If a site like DMS sees that Google is going to crack down on them for “low-quality” articles, the first thing they are going to do is crack down on the writers, eliminate writers and offer fewer writing opportunities. Those writers that depended upon that $15 an article for income may find themselves without a job. Is that fair to the many writers that do their due diligence and write quality, informational articles? No, but apparently those other writers don’t care.

People Do Read These Articles
The other part that bothered me is that these writers assume no “intelligent” person would seriously use information from sites owned by DMS. While you or I might not use a DMS site for resources (because as writers, we know we shouldn’t), there are millions of people in the world who believe what they are reading at these sites. Think about the young mother looking for information on caring for a sick child, finds it on eHow and believes it to be accurate – but it isn’t. Think of the elderly women who needs information on heart disease, finds it on Livestrong, follows it, but it isn’t accurate. Isn’t this reason enough to try to be as accurate as possible?

My hope is that everyone who reads this is as appalled as I was to hear that supposedly “professional” writers feel it is okay to write erroneous articles. If you are just starting your career as a writer, I hope you will strive to always be ethical in your writing endeavors no matter what you are being paid. No matter which site you write for, writing high-quality content will pay off for you in the end – and you can also always be proud of the content you create.

Happy Writing,


  1. I guess I am naive. I thought all writers took pride in their work, but I guess not. This is very sad. While I understand that people add false information unintentionally, I can't understand deliberately not caring what content your writing has.
    Great blog by the way. I'll stop by often.

  2. I write for DMS, and I take both my writing and my reputation as a writer very seriously. I verify everything I write and cite multiple references, even if I think I already know what I'm talking about. Unfortunately, you don't have to be an "expert" (whatever that is) to see that not everyone writing for DMS or any other online content site feels the same. I agree with Cozy in Texas; it is very sad. I'd like to think that DMS, as part of its current "restructuring", is weeding out those writers who are producing crap just to make a buck.


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