Finding Niche Blog Content

Finding Niche Blog Content

In several of my previous articles, such as How to Create ‘Fast Food’ Articles and Niche Blog Beginner Tips, I’ve talked some about writing articles for niche blogs. In this post, since some people have asked about it, I thought I’d discuss where to get the content for your niche blog.

First, let’s briefly look at what not to do and then we’ll continue on to where you can obtain good niche blog content without encountering copyright or duplicate content penalties.

Don’t Be a Bad Guy

A Bad GuyIf you’ve been around blogging for any time at all you’ve probably seen a splog or “spam blog”. These sites consist of computer generated keyword stuffed nonsense, such as Markov Chains, or they’re scrapped full or partial RSS feeds. These are, of course, easy to create using software. Some people generate them by the 100’s. However, they’re considered spam by Google and such sites will get banned from the search engine eventually. If they violate copyright laws, it could result in problems from an ISP as well.

Likewise, don’t take copyrighted content directly from other sites or from print sources. This can also land you in hot water. While you can quote brief passages and use them as research references, you don’t want to copy them in full or copy a portions without proper credit being given.

Article Submission Services

Serving Up ArticlesEzinearticles, iSnare and others services provide free articles on a wide array of topics for you to use on your site. Should you take advantage of these freebies? In my opinion, no, you should not.

While the article quality isn’t that great with most of these articles, that isn’t a huge concern for us in the niche blog world. However, these articles do come with other restrictions, most notably you will need to retain the links back to the author’s site and attribution lines as well. That’s why people submit articles to these sites, to gain publicity and PageRank for their site or, in some cases, to serve as a gateway to an affiliate offer. Do you want to give them this on your niche blog in exchange for a crappy article?

If you cut off the attribution and the links, many authors will complain to your ISP and get you in copyright trouble. Some will even complain about spelling and grammar corrections because they use this to detect unattributed articles. You don’t want that either.

Also, if you use the article unmodified as you should to be legal you will also face a duplicate content penalty from Google. If the same article appears on hundreds of sites, Google will discount them all and they’ll be buried in search results. Since you’re depending on Google search traffic to monetize the niche blog this is bad news for you.

These articles can be great inspiration and a jumping off point for your own article ideas but you would need to do a very extensive rewrite to avoid problems.

Hired Writers

A Hired WriterSome people hire article writers from sites like eLance and RentACoder. The idea is that you hire someone who knows the subject area to write the articles for you. Does this work?

From what I’ve seen and heard, it doesn’t work very well. Most of the time you’ll get a retreaded Private Label article or, even worse, an article submission service article with the attribution stripped out. Plus you’ll pay more for these services than you would going directly to the source.

While you may get lucky and hook up with a good writer, I’d recommend avoiding these services.

Private Label Articles

A Private LabelPrivate Label Articles or PLR’s are articles written for resell on a somewhat limited basis. They’re typically sold in packs of different sizes on single or multiple topics. You can purchase these packs on eBay or buy subscriptions or one time packages of articles at various sites. Typically these articles cost a few pennies each depending on topic, length, quality, exclusiveness and so forth.

These articles tend to be better written than their free counterparts plus you usually also get rights to modify them as you wish. Plus, most PLR’s are distributed on a limited basis and this limits the number of times a particular article appears around the Internet. However, there will be duplicates so a minor rewrite is usually needed.

These articles can be a huge time saver and I highly recommend them, particularly if researching and writing isn’t one of your best skills or if you want to save time.

The Government is Here to Help

US Capitol BuildingOne often overlooked area for content is the government. Here in the USA the Federal and state governments regularly post research articles of various types for the public to use. Other governments do this as well but you’ll need to check applicable local laws about their use. Often these articles are public domain so you’re free to use them as you wish. It’s your tax dollars at work so you may as well take advantage of it, right?

As you may know, Google loves .gov sites. However, very few of these sites are optimized around keywords. Some are built around PDF or Word documents. This can make them tough to find at first but if you work long tail terms you’ll probably extract some real gems.

Here’s an example right here on OpTempo, Attack of the Killer Hornworm. I wanted additional info to go with my photos of a hornworm eating my tomatoes. So I did a search and found USDA and state sources on this caterpillar and mashed them together into my own article using my own words. This article is getting about 5 Google hits a day on related long tail search terms and it isn’t optimized that well. Imagine what it could do in a keyword targeted niche blog built around common garden pests.

Of course, these government articles will need a rewrite for them to be effective in a niche blog.

I’m going to cover rewriting these articles and avoiding duplicate content penalties in an upcoming post.

Do you have any niche blog article sources you would like to share? Any you’ve had good or bad experiences with? Leave a comment and we’ll talk about it.

 


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10 Comments »

Comment by Y. S.
2008-01-16 14:55:51

Thanks for writing on this topic. I think using Government Archives is a good idea. Do you ave links to such sites? That would be very helpful.

What about Wikipedia? How should their content be used?

Comment by jfc
2008-01-16 15:25:14

Hi Y.S.,

Government sources aren’t really indexed in one central place, particularly when it comes to state government information. That’s why I’d recommend using Google to search for them or going to a particular department or office’s home page and doing a search from there. You can also try the Library of Congress for info on a lot of subjects, particularly historical ones.

Wikipedia is a good way to find links to additional source material and to research potential niches. But, using material from it directly isn’t recommended. It’s scrapped a lot and Google is quick to deindex sites that do this. You have to extensively rewrite content from it for it to work well.

 
 
Comment by james
2008-01-17 02:37:30

Y.S.

Just google “government information sites” without quotes and you find a host of sites that you can use.

The information found on these sites depending on the topic are typically more accurate and authoratative than a lot of the stuff found on Wikepedia. The government pays millions and millions of dollars of our tax money every year to generate these reports and studies, so the quality is typicall very high.

Comment by jfc
2008-01-17 06:46:35

Thanks James,

Another thing you can do in Google that I forgot to mention is you can use the “site:” switch. For example, if you wanted to look up government sources on horses you would enter “horses site:.gov”

 
 
Comment by Y. S.
2008-01-17 05:54:26

Thanks a lot jfc and james. I’ll do my share of googling and see how it goes.

 
Comment by Sutocu
2008-01-17 08:36:45

I think you overestimate the importance of duplicate content penalties. It is not a penalty for a website, just a reason for Google not indexing some pages. Sometimes you can outrank other websites with the same content by having better backlinks, anchor text and onsite-optimization.

There are also several good article writers for hire, you just have to know who to use. Asking for recommendation from your contacts is often a good idea.

Comment by jfc
2008-01-17 09:09:29

Hi Sutocu,

While I agree with your overall point, that a site and pages can be optimized to avoid penalties to some degree, Google’s legion of young, cappuccino swilling, Wii playing, engineers and their algorithms are pretty capricious these days. I’d rather not risk it for a niche blog that I want to stick around a while and bring in search traffic reliably. It’s all in how far you want to push the envelope.

I’d also agree that recommendations and reputation are important when it comes to writers for hire (same is true of coders). However, most I’ve seen advertising on webmaster forums and “for hire” sites haven’t been that good. Caveat Emptor.

Comment by Sutocu
2008-01-18 08:46:26

Well, I agree on the duplicate penalty issue. When you rely on Google for traffic, it’s better to be safe than sorry :)

(Comments wont nest below this level)
 
 
 
Comment by Ed
2008-04-04 10:17:33

Personally i have submitted lots of articles to ezines, and i wrote them all my self. I place 3 or for to ezines and link it with different keywords.This gets me almost instantaneous search rankings in google, but i do not use duplicate content in the same articles. I’m not sure that google will penalize you for duplicate content, there are as many people for as against it. I think surely if there is duplicate content about that you originally created, then google will see your site as an authority on this subject.

Using ezines i went from pr0 to pr3 in six months.

Comment by jfc
2008-04-07 09:56:29

Hi Ed,

Duplicate filtering seems to be applied different ways depending on the type of content. I’ve read some speculation about it. As best as I can tell their algorithm seems to work based on content chunks of about 12-18 words and percentage of duplication on the page as a whole.

 
 
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