Google Traffic – Confusing Love and Money

I recently came across an article that was bemoaning the fact that the travel blogging space has become overrun with low level search intended writing, and the actual feet on the ground, first hand, personal travel experiences are disappearing from the web. IMHO this author has confused love and money, a common complaint in the web publishing world.

The question you need to ask yourself is whether you are in the game for love or money … cause you can’t have both …

To be honest, most of us will agree that the first hand, personal experience type of writing that someone does because they truly enjoy the subject is of a better quality and is what we really want to read and learn from. But it’s also more likely to be long winded, harder to digest, filled with flowery, non-keyword-focused adjectives and stuck on a site with a completely un-navigable site architecture. Search engine optimizers know how to organize and put content into the “language” a search engine can understand. Most travel writers, unless they have played with SEO, throw their hands in the air in frustration and wonder why Google can’t just figure it out.

Let’s take a look at another issue. Recently the Food 52 had an article about how Google’s new recipe algorithm was biased towards large sites that had IT staff who could republish their entire site with recipe meta data so Google could understand it. The writer also made the argument that larger sites with the budgets to do calorie computations would receive an unfair advantage.

…I do know the economics of advertising and production will choose the winner …

If you read further into the article, you’ll notice what’s really lurking under the surface is the author’s personal bias against fast and easy low calories recipes. In the article, she uses an example, an extremely complicated French recipe called a “cassoulet”. Now we’re confusing someone’s love of haute cuisine with the reality that most people simply don’t want to cook on a daily basis. There’s a reason Rachel Ray will sell more 30 minute meal cook books than David Chang’s Momofuku. It’s not that her food tastes better; it’s that her recipes and cooking style are much more accessible to most people than David Chang’s. Some of his recipes take days to prepare–trust me, I’ve tried.

But back to the recipe argument. Iis there some truth to her assertion? Yes. For example, Aaron Chronister, creator of the Bacon Explosion, showed me how he doesn’t rank for a recipe he created.

Bacon Explosion Recipe Search

In this case Google got it wrong, and they are partially to blame because they changed the rules in the middle of the game without realizing that not everyone will be able to update to the new format so quickly. Some people are in the game because they love to cook and, for them, it’s not about the money.

We are at a disruptive time in the publishing world. The barriers to publish are so low they are non existent (see Cognitive Surplus Review  by Clay Shirky). Google’s adsense allows anyone to monetize a website via adsense without needing a sales or accounting team. Large publishers have scaled creation costs so low that content is a commodity just to wrap advertising around . The New York Times is trying to find a balance between setting information free and charging for access and failing miserably at it. I can’t tell you where we are going to end up, but I do know the economics of advertising and production will choose the winner. The question you need to ask yourself is whether you are in the game for love or money … cause you can’t have both.

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