I get paid to write content for web bots. Actually I am not entirely sure about this but I think it is true. Some months ago some guy in Salt Lake City running an SEO company hired me through Freelancer.com to write 300 to 500 word articles for him at $7.50 a piece. There are several different business clients of his for whom I write these articles. One is a house cleaning service in Salt Lake City, Utah. Another is a podiatrist in Boise, Idaho. There are others and each seems equally random from my perspective.
He was not my first employer on Freelancer.com, however. My first employer was a gentleman from Bangladesh who hired me to write fifteen 500 word articles for his health and fitness blog. He paid me $15 total but he agreed to give me a five-star rating if I completed the task. He gave me the subject and keywords for each article and I completed the task over the course of five days writing three articles a day. The job was a little more difficult than I anticipated at first. Much of the difficulty had to do with the fact that I found it hard to motivate myself to spend the time and effort to write when my compensation was so low. To exacerbate matters my Bangladeshi employer kept texting me with knit picky problems he kept finding with my work product. I was, however, able to power through with the understanding that my eventual five-star rating would attract other higher paying employers. When I finished he proved true to his word and paid me the $15 he promised me along with giving me the infinitely more valuable five-star rating.
I need not go into too much detail regarding my second employer through Freelancer.com. He was some guy who offered me $500 to ghostwrite a 10,000 word e-book on memory. He did not have any rating at all which should have raised alarm bells but I was motivated to earn a bigger purse with this job so I agreed. He gave me a weekend to finish the job which I did. At 5:00am on the day the project was due he texted me asking if I had completed the task. I told him I did and sent him a copy of my work. I never heard from him again. Lesson learned: do not conduct business with someone who has no rating on Freelancer unless it is for a smaller amount of money and effort.
Before I go any further I should point out that a big part of how I was able to land these jobs without a rating was that I could point these potential employers to my blog (the one you are reading right now) and my two published e-books Shame and Internet Trolling (a book about the connection between shame and internet trolls) and The Book of Bud (the story of a man writing a novel in 30 days) which are available on Amazon.com. These writing samples gave me enough credibility to get my foot in the door. But once I had a five-star rating I started to attract more legitimate and higher paying employers like my guy in Salt Lake City with the SEO business.
At first he wanted to know what topics I felt comfortable writing about. I told him I could write about anything. He asked me how many articles I could write a week. I got the impression that he was paid a certain amount by his customers for every article I wrote from which I was given a cut. Each article had to contain two links back to the customer’s website and contain whatever keywords were required. At first I did not question the reason he hired me to write these articles. But after a while I noticed that none of the articles I had written received views or comments. Then one day my employer informed me that it did not matter whether the article was grammatically correct so long as the keywords appeared in the article exactly as assigned. I could not figure out why someone would pay him to pay me to write grammatically incorrect articles that no one would read.
After discussing this issue with some friends of mine who are more tech savvy than I am we came up with the following theory. When people use search engines they input keywords into the browser which then displays a list of websites which match the keywords. The websites are listed in an order determined by the web browser’s algorithm. Obviously, the higher up in the list a link appears the more likely a web surfer will click it. One of the criteria which prioritizes a website’s place in the list is whether there are links to that website from third-party websites. That seems to be the desired function of the articles I write. That is, to create third-party links to websites in order to have the websites appear higher up in the search engine listings. If true, this means that the articles I write are not intended to be read by humans but rather by the web bots the search engines use to look for this type of thing. Of course this sort of tactic is a bit of a cheat because search engines prioritize websites that have other websites linking to them presumably under the assumption that these outside links demonstrate how popular and relevant the original website is.
There are many layers of misdirection at work here. The original business owns a website. The business hires my employer to increase the traffic to their website. My employer hires me to write fake articles. These fake articles when published list some other person as the author in order to appear to be written by an objective third-party. It does not matter what the content of the articles actually is so long as it has the right number of words, contains the keywords, contains two links to the business’s website and does not appear to be obvious spam to the web bot who reads it.
Obviously this is not the most satisfying work in terms of content creation. But I am intrigued by the amount of progress I have made. In just a matter of months I went from one dollar an article to $7.50 an article. Moreover, I find my creative ability to come up with something to say about any topic to be getting stronger. The trajectory seems positive and encouraging.