Some of life’s hardest and most valuable lessons are the ones that hit us right where it counts – in the pocketbook. I’ll be the first to admit that I got my start making money online in the heyday of content farms and junk affiliate websites. At a point in 2010, I had over two thousand websites, churning out what I liked to call “new pages” at the rate of hundreds per day. The business model was justified as using “syndicated content”. It seemed to be working because I was making more money than ever. Until an update from the world’s largest and most powerful search engine called an abrupt end to that party for myself and many others.

This guy is eating my websites.

Google Panda

The first Google Panda search engine update took place in the third week of February 2011. The update’s principle aim was to take on the growing number of low-quality content web sites that were sitting pretty at the top of many page one rankings. This change affected almost 12 percent of all search results, and it was a devastating blow for websites that were thought to be major players such as,,, and even Many of these sites had some redeemable content. Sites such as mine, however, did not and were erased from the map overnight.

While the spammy and gibberish-filled websites were addressed before Google Panda, there had grown a new crop of content farms that were nothing but syndicated content. These sites only showed articles and information that were already published elsewhere online, therefore, duplicate content. Not only that, the content farms had excessive ads and didn’t provide any authority on a subject that couldn’t be found elsewhere. This is why Panda effectively buried them, as it should, and marketers like myself had to figure out what works going forward.

Who doesn’t like shortcuts?

No More Shortcuts

When you are used to taking shortcuts that work, it’s a natural inclination to keep looking for more as conditions change. It has been my hard-won experience that this simply doesn’t work when it comes to creating authority websites and ranking in the search engines. While many internet marketers are still trying to game the system, several things have become crystal clear to me through the experience of losing nearly all of my income in one fail swoop. The first is that shortcuts in content creation don’t work. The search engines are far too sophisticated to allow this. The second is that it simply isn’t the right thing to do. The internet is a great way to disseminate information and even to earn money, but only if you are doing so by providing quality content that adds value.

This is me finally learning a valuable lesson.

Quality Content

While there are some who have known this for the better part of ten years, it takes others of us longer and a few knocks on the head to figure it out. Yes, content really is king – quality, original content that engages readers and tells them something that they may not already know or that puts a unique new angle on an old subject. Quality content also takes SEO in mind and, while a writer should never write for the search engines, ignoring them completely can have devastating consequences. In the end, growing a business or a brand is about establishing a relationship and building trust. The best way to do that is by continuing to provide quality content to current and potential customers. If done properly, the search engine rankings will follow as well.

If you are still trying to find shortcuts to content creation, take it from me that there aren’t any. For more information on quality content and content marketing, download our free ebook: 10 Content Marketing Companies Compared here.

Media Shower writer Tricia Abney is well-known for her work in finance, law, and marketing.