Why Do They Do That? Freelance Blog Mysteries Explained

writing advice

This post will annoy some people because I’m pulling the curtain back on certain practices that, for better or worse, drive traffic to blogs in spite of their user-unfriendliness.

There’s a fine line between “Don’t do anything to alienate potential readers” and being honest and transparent about silly practices and bad advice about our craft. More than once I’ve felt that playing by the rules or obeying the status quo is a bad idea. In the blog world, one sometimes has to choose between having an uber-sticky, traffic-laden site and telling it like it is.

Some Google-bait blog practices are relatively harmless at best, simply annoying at worst. One blog for writers has a forum section linked from the main page. “Ohh!” You might think, “A new forum to make friends and network with.” But don’t light the fireworks just yet; when you click on the link you get taken to yet another page which has “Click here to access the forums” on top in large letters.

Click on THAT link and you get taken to a message page saying the site no longer offers forums. Now you’re just plain irritated. WHY do they DO that? Why don’t they just take down the links and stop directing people to parts of the site that don’t exist?


The users who are used to having the forums there get a notice that the forums are dead, but the site still has those forums–or at least the forum landing page–indexed by the search engines. Rather than loose that Google clout, the page stays up, retaining the power to annoy for ages.

That’s just one of the eyeball-rolling practices blogs employ. But what about more harmful practices?

Some blogs purport to tell you how to make money online, offer scads of advice and links to other sites with even more “advice”. But some of these blogs are dispensing misleading info–on purpose or not–that can actually hurt your chances to succeed with your goals of making money online.

Some of the bad advice is harmless–it’s usually presented without context. I read one blog that described in great detail how the blogger set up 20 websites to make money on a specific niche topic. The idea was that all 20 sites would help each other out in the Google ranks. Then the author describes how he set up 20 MORE sites—garbage sites–to boost the rankings of the original 20 sites.

What you miss in your excitement when reading new techniques like this is context–the guy setting up these sites did so on commission for a CLIENT. He wasn’t doing it for himself and once he cashed his check, his role in the game was over. How the client did with that set of 20 sites and 20 garbage sites isn’t communicated. Just the technique. Results? Unknown. But you’ve invested a lot of time already just reading the endless story of these sites…let alone trying to duplicate the experience yourself.

And what about the harmful practices? Like sending your users to those “free” public domain article sites known as PLR sites? Ohh, goody–a set of articles I don’t even have to write, just repurpose and use for my own evil ends! But wait–what are those articles ABOUT? If they are about making money online, Google Adsense, and other specialized topics, chances are they are full of OLD, and NOW-IRRELEVANT information.
The sucker who scoops up those articles and uses them is not only spreading bad information, they are ruining their reputation for anyone who sees them doing it and knows better.

Or the blogs that tell you to strive for “passive income” only to learn that “passive” means doing hundreds of articles across several sites like Associated Content, HubPages, and Squidoo? Hundreds of articles–no matter how hastily constructed and slapped on the web–doesn’t sound terribly passive to me. Especially when you could be writing queries to publishers paying REAL money and actually FURTHERING your career as a freelancer.

Some of these blogs are trying to build their incomes by doing this in the guise of helping YOU do this. Ever notice that some of these blogs always point to a juicier article on one of their pay-per-click sites? Let’s be clear–there is NOTHING wrong with doing this. It doesn’t hurt anyone or cost money to read. But when these blogs advise you to make money online by imitating their practices, they don’t tell you that you’ll have to imitate their practices EXACTLY–to include doing what THEY do.

A friend of mine complained to me once, and I paraphrase; “Eventually what you wind up with is nothing but a large group of sites all trying to ‘make money online’ and delivering the same advice over and over and over again. It’s not exactly a pyramid marketing thing, but it’s close.”

How do you feel about that? I’m still contemplating the implications–an Internet full of NOTHING but people trying to make money online? Are we there already?

One thought on “Why Do They Do That? Freelance Blog Mysteries Explained”

  1. While I agree with this post, I didn’t really have anything further to add until I checked Twitter and saw something egregious.

    Another writer, who’s blog is apparently deliliriously popular, posted something today about writing essays for one of those paper selling sites. WHAT? Since when did any type of ethics allow us to help kids cheat, get into a good school under false pretenses, buy more freelancer-written papers to graduate, and then go on to run Wall Street?

    While not exactly a bad blogging practice (the information was all spelled out up front in the blog post), the entire post was a moral and ethical failure. Joe and Catherine, you guys keep up the good work of offering good advice and I will continue to avoid the blogs that tell me the first vial of crack is free.

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