Minggu, 01 Februari 2009

Niche Websites - Content, What Content?

What's In A Niche? When talking of niche websites, the answer to that question is, in my humble opinion, not very much at all in most cases. Certainly much less than should be in a niche. Is it just me - are my expectations too high? I don't think so because I have seen some good niche websites as well as many horrors. A real niche website that has been built with care and passion is a thing of beauty (or, at the very least, interest) and is usually a treasure trove for visitors who share a love of the niche subject.

What I am complaining about are the so-called niche websites people are throwing together for the sole purpose of collecting advertising revenue. These sites have little (if anything) in the way of content. The colourful pictures and plentiful advertisements do not make up for this lack. Advertising is fine, in fact it's usually essential if you want to stay in business. What makes me see red is clicking on misleading advertisements and landing on website after cloned website only to be confronted with a few sentences of poorly written text and dozens of gibbering advertisements. To test the integrity of a niche site, look at what would be left if you removed all the pay per click advertisements.

It is unfortunate for people who are surfing for information that the Internet is being overrun by the awful flimsy looking template produced websites that are being churned out at a crazy rate. If you spend any time on the Internet, you will know the type of thing I mean. These websites consist of a couple of pages with nice enough looking header graphics (that's the pictures at the top, if you are not "in the trade" so to speak), and clumps of advertisements placed so that they are the first thing you see. If you manage to get past the advertisements, you might find a few articles which have been copied from other websites just for the sake of having something on the pages to lend them some credibility. These websites don't exist to provide information or services or to promote anything. Their sole purpose is to carry advertising that will earn the owner money in return for just about zero work on his part.

How much time and effort goes into creating one of these monstrosities? Practically none: in most cases it is all done by a software package. The pseudo webmaster doesn't ever need to worry about actual webpage design or building. All these charlatans need to do is decide upon their niche topic, toss a bunch of keywords into the mix and the software will do the rest. These people can create their pseudo niche websites on any subject anyone in the world might think of. It's easy because they don't need to know anything about the subject themselves. Whether it is dog training, bridal dresses, funerals or haemorrhoids, an online search tool will provide a list of keywords and the software will do the rest. Nobody cares that the laughing man clutching a fistful of cash or the sports car pictured in the heading has no relevance to the content and would be frankly inappropriate if you were looking for a funeral director or medication for a painful medical condition. The webmaster has no intention of offering you anything of value. In fact, it is in his interests if you take an immediate dislike to his web page because that makes you more likely to click away from it via one of his advertising links and that's how he makes his money.

After a couple of days of trying to do some semi-serious research on the Internet, I feel like unplugging my pc and dusting off my library tickets. Ok - so you can't judge a book by its cover but the cover doesn't usually set out to deliberately mislead you as to the contents (quite the opposite in fact). When I type a query into a search engine, I want the results to lead me to websites containing the answer to that query. If I am searching for information about a particular subject, I don't appreciate being directed to websites that consist of a few keyword loaded sentences walled in by blocks of advertisements for other similar websites.

Roll on the day when someone invents a search engine that can distinguish between a real niche website and an advertising vehicle built from a cheap kit. Maybe we can get back to the time when searching the Internet was faster than catching a bus to the library and thumbing through books.

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