Wednesday, November 12, 2008

How To Make Readers Hate You

Before we get started on this post, give me a second. I need to build my audience.

Ahem: Holly Madison. Adrienne Bailon. Hi-5. Hurricane Paloma Path. NFL. Shelby Lynne. Jada Pinkett Smith. Barack Obama. Taylor Swift. Samantha Ronson. Jennifer Aniston. Hank Baskett.

All done! According to Yahoo! Buzz, those are some of the top searches today, and the fact that I've written a post that mentions such popular topics will certainly bring a wave of popularity to this blog (and Lord knows, we could use some traffic around here). Of course, people who want to learn more about Jada Pinkett Smith are going to be pretty disappointed when they find themselves reading a blog about web community, but I'll worry about that later. Or, actually, I won't -- because by then there will be new search terms at the top of Yahoo! Buzz, and I'll be busy writing a new post around them.

This content strategy, which I call "asinine" only because I can't think of a more scornful word for it, is apparently just the thing on some unnamed "big sites," at least according to this post on TechCrunch:

Some Big Sites are Using Google Trends To Direct Editorial

Reading deeper into the article, it turns out that it's mostly political and gossip blogs that we're talking about. And apparently they're quite happy with this tactic:

"We're not talking about a trivial amount of traffic, either. One person I spoke with about this yesterday said he can get up to 30,000 extra unique visitors per day just by focusing content on top queries, which is more than enough to dedicate a couple of full time people to the effort."

This is, of course, exactly the wrong way to build a long-term audience and encourage repeat visits to your site. When you write headlines and content with the express aim of gaming Google PageRank, you're borrowing a page from the spammer playbook. Sure, you'll get some short-term hits, and maybe for a while you'll feel good about your ad impressions, but the vast majority of these new visitors will be disappointed in what they find on your site, and that negative impression will stick with them for a while. In short, you're gaining empty traffic at the expense of your brand. That's not a viable long-term plan.

Speaking of long-term plans, get a load of Jennifer Aniston -- still toppin' the charts after all these years! "Friends" has come and gone, Brad Pitt has come and gone, but she's still rockin' the Internets. Good for her.