One of the first articles I ever got paid to write (in cash, not beard balm or combs) was about how Elon Musk worked 100 hours every week. I ghost wrote it for some CEO who wanted to post the answer on Quora.
I was paid $60 for the article and forgot about it.
Then, a few weeks later, in my Facebook newsfeed I saw a promoted article from Quartz.com about how Elon Musk works 100 hours a week.
It sounded vaguely familiar.
It was my article, picked up from Quora. I was surprised to see it in a new place, but dug a little further. British newspapers like The Independent and The Guardian also ran their variations on my piece -- one going so far as to rework the article into a faux Q&A with the original CEO I ghostwrote for.
I wasn't upset. Ghostwriting is the definition of getting no credit for your work. I was just surprised that actual news outlets would run a piece so thoroughly un-vetted or sneakily rearranged to look like the author had actually done the work to interview this CEO.
It turns out, most content is bull@#$%.
You've read the articles I'm talking about. In fact, you've probably read the same article a few times without knowing it. That's because when your average writer gets an assignment it usually looks like this:
We're looking for a piece about 600 words on SEO tactics. Make sure to use the keyword "SEO tactics" at least three times. Here's an article that we're trying to match, but make sure not to copy it!
P.S It would be great if this went viral."
And that's that. Now, sure, your really excellent writer with a sense of pride might take it upon themselves to really dig deep and search out some really helpful but lesser-known ways to better rank in google. But they'll be paid the same as the writer who scans the example article and rehashes the same information, but in a slightly different way.
But everyone has a living to make.
And the real kicker?
The client probably doesn't care about the difference between the excellent writer and the average writer, because they're just trying to game the content system, pump out weekly blogs, and fulfill the vague requirements of "content marketing".
The client doesn't care because they think that you don't care. They think that you'll either read whatever they put out, regardless of how useless it is, or they simply think that you won't actually read it (which is far more likely because they didn't spend any time or effort on making a piece worth reading).
So now your boss says it's time to do some SEO, so you google "SEO tactics" and ironically, the entire first page of google results is a slurry of the same articles rehashed over and over again under the guise of different URLs.
Now, a long time ago, there was a helpful article that spurred all these spinoffs, and it was written by someone who actually knows a thing or two about SEO.
That's right. A real expert.
Next week, we'll talk about how experts are a great way to cut through the $#!&.