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Advancing the cause of publishing from content sites

April 26, 2013

Tired of visiting content sites and puzzling over article ranking when you really wish there were a better performance indicator?

It’s true that a title with 10 articles could contain 10 poorly-written articles or 10 highly-competitive pieces. As such, you never know what you may find.

Content sites are not synonymous with poor quality but rather sites of freelance opportunity. Writers come from all over to learn and contribute, but the best articles and writers stand out like foam in an icy beer mug.

Given that the popularity of the Internet is a recent phenomena, content sites will probably have to become competitive in the future if they want to prosper. Toward that end, it’s important to focus on the current weak points and then attempt such critique that may be constructive.

Case in point, rankings alone are not effective indicators of article performance. For the bigger picture, consider that any given article may best belong to the widest audience or only to a niche audience. Niche audiences are profitable for site owners and help bring in their primary source of traffic, even though general audience article might have potential to attract ten or a hundred times as many views.

Even so, no one wants to read an article of wide appeal concerning, say, “Heroes of the Murrah federal building bomb terror rescue,” at a gardening site, for example. So why would the gardening site publisher want to purchase the article for the site’s readership? Such an oxymoron event would be clear and obvious.

Therefore, the range of readership will be most with a more general interest and least with a more niche interest. Article rankings fail to live up to this relevant fact.

So! — a publisher looking for a gardening article for the purpose of luring new visitors won’t be looking in vain if hand-picking out of a dozen potential titles, but perhaps that asks too much of some publishers.

Optimizing article selection could be both fair to all writers and convenient for publishers who don’t want to spend a lot of time wondering what visitors read. A performance indicator of readership standing, based on the implicit that titles with a lot of hits are conditioned to a certain extent by word-of-mouth, with readers passing on their links via email and social media, would be a certain way of telling a bigger story. Whereas any writer could, at least in theory, house a master control panel that would be capable of posting the link of an article to a hundred different sites, it’s only by word-of-mouth that people testify that the article was worth reading. This gains hits that poorer fare cannot.

Performance ranking would be fair to all writers by indicating relative performance. A formula for this placement could be derived through systematic automated analysis of use of SEO and keywords that distinguish its marketable value and further by assessing the number of hits, factors any tracking data available, how advertisers have responded to the article, where the traffic comes from, third party statistics such as may be available from bookmarking sites, social media LIKES/+1’s, and whatever else such a formula may consist of. The article would then be marked based on its audience potential first (mass audience vs. niche audience); and then its marketability second. Anything that the formula says is not worth reading would be re-evaluated according to its rank, and if there are better rated articles beneath it in rank, then its performance rank could adjust up automatically.

Some publishers wouldn’t be interested and so it wouldn’t affect their decisions to purchase stock content. But other publishers could examine the performance rank in addition to the article’s given rank and then use it to find prospective titles without investigating every one. As relative value, high performance ranks would indicate that certain articles have the right moves. More complex formulations could be added that could be used as criteria that a publisher can turn ON or OFF. For example, if spelling issues are a selling point then a publisher could examine articles that pass a spell-check with an error margin of no more than 5 misspellings of words that are not proper nouns (spell-checkers tend to be persnickety about their recognition of actual words). Whatever formulation can be determined, then a publisher should be treated to an automated performance value rating like a statistical summary of what the article offered that was considered valuable by the full slate of applicable economic indicators and derived, formulated extractions.

In the end, writers would be looking at the same coached criteria as they currently must about improving an article that isn’t up to spec. The opportunities to write and be ranked thus go on, but the value of the article would become a bit more obvious both to publisher and to writer.

And for any publisher who wanted to sort through the articles without relying on computer analysis, that option would still be up to their careful method.

To be resolved at this point would be whether the performance ranking should be a simple binary or otherwise performed on a scale that reflects more than the mass audience and niche audience dichotomy. And then the issue of what to include in the formulation would require a good review of a content site’s available statistical information that not just anyone would have access to.

But to the point, the performance rank would give publishers a more efficient and convenient way to examine content without relying solely on title and rank. And that’s got to be worth taking a look at.

Naturally, attempting such a formulation would be risky to implement by using a content site for the guinea pig. So another type of site that can afford to accept a little risk could try it out. Or any content site could produce a mirror site where the effort were rendered available on an experimental basis.

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