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The Public Domain Goldmine - A Content Solution
An article discussing four common sources of content, recent and future
changes to the search engines' ranking algorithms, and how the public
domain is an intelligent source of unique and authoritative content.
The search engines are much smarter in 2010, and
know how to recognize valuable content. Likewise, many webmasters have ‘wised-up’ and
are being forced to lift their game and publish truly useful and worthwhile content that will
create long term traffic solutions for their websites. Gone are
the days when webmasters were able to trick the search engines into giving
them high rankings by using techniques such as Blogging and Pinging, page generation software, or Cloaking
/ Smart pages to drive traffic.
Yes, some of these techniques may still work for limited periods of time,
but they are short-lived.
in recent years, we have seen a boom in so called ‘private label’ article and
content membership sites, a growth spurt in article directories, and in
many webmasters turning to freelancing websites and hiring ghost-writers
to write unique content for them.
But one has to question how viable and long-term some of these content
solutions will be moving forward. The search engines are getting smarter
each year. They are discounting duplicate content, and most SEO experts
agree that Google is factoring in LSI or Latent Semantic Indexing into
their ranking algorithms. In a nutshell, LSI is used to determine the
likelihood of common words and phrases appearing together for a particular
For example, content on ‘dogs’ would likely contain related keywords such
as ‘puppies’, ‘breeds’, ‘pets’, ‘canine’ and so on. By analyzing the
verbiage used in content, Google can not only determine the theme of a
website, but more importantly can try to ascertain the authority of, or
expertise within the content.
As is widely known, Google have an ongoing project to digitize the world's
books in order to make them easier for people to find and buy. They have
forged agreements with major universities to access and digitize their
libraries. One theory is that Google is using artificial intelligence to
analyze all of this content and feed it back into their LSI algorithm to
help it to determine what is authoritative expert content versus what is
simply keyword focused and less authoritative content.
Now that I have covered a brief overview of what is happening with search
engine intelligence, let’s take a look at the content solutions that many
webmasters are using to populate their pages, and let’s examine these
solutions in light of the search engine changes which have and are
occurring to determine the pros and cons of each solution.
A) Content Solution 1 – Third Party Articles
This is easiest content to source. Here a webmaster simply goes to any one
of the many article directories such as ezinearticles.com, goarticles.com,
or articlecity.com, performs a keyword search on their chosen topic, and
voila – chances are that there are some articles there on the topic you
are looking for which you can simply grab and add to your own pages
providing you retain the resource box at the bottom of the article, which
includes a link back to the original author’s website.
The problem with this solution is that, although it is the quickest, the
chances are that others have already gotten in before you and have also
made use of that article on their websites. The search engines will pick
up the fact that the content on your pages is not original nor unique, and
they will downgrade the rankings for your pages as a consequence, hence
making it tougher for you to get visitors to your pages through organic
search results in Google and Yahoo / MSN Bing.
B) Content Solution 2 – Private Label Content
There are a plethora of so called ‘private label’ membership and article
sites out there, with new ones popping up every month. This is also a
quick and relatively cheap solution for content.
The problem is that you really need to
modify your content to make it
unique, otherwise you will face the same duplicate content penalty as you
would by using third party articles. Making your articles unique can take
a bit of time, but it is still quicker than researching and writing your
content from scratch.
You face one other potential problem though, and that is a problem of
quality. Much private label content has been outsourced to ghost-writers
who are paid on a per article or number of words basis. The industry is
highly competitive, hence there are price pressures for these freelancers
to keep their prices low in order for them to be awarded the job. On low,
competitive rates, these writers cannot afford to spend oodles of time
researching the subject matter. And they may be writing on a subject that
they have little or no knowledge about!
The speed with which they need to research, write and deliver their
content impacts on quality, and although a certain article may read Ok
(although many don't),
an expert on that topic may well chuckle at the amateur conclusions drawn
and recognize that it has not been written by someone with an in-depth
knowledge of the subject matter.
“What do I care?” you might think – most of my visitors probably aren't
experts and it’s probably still good enough for the search engines. My answer is, in 2010 to
some degree with some search engines, maybe, yes. But what about later in
2011, or 2012... once Yahoo / MSN Bing have perfected their LSI algorithm?
How long-term do you want your content strategy, and your flow of traffic,
C) Content Solution 3 – Outsource/Hire A Ghost-Writer
Here you have more control than with private label articles. You can try
to find a freelance writer with pre-existing knowledge of the subject
matter that you want your articles or ebook written on. You can also put
some effort into finding a writer who is really good at their job.
There are still some pitfalls and disadvantages though:
You need to trust, or otherwise
verify with a
duplicate content checker, that they have indeed authored the content that they are
giving you and not just copied it from the public domain, or from
private label content, or a third party source, and made a few modifications;
You need to trust that they won’t
redistribute the content they wrote for you to another client, even
with some modifications;
Managing your ghost-writer can
Finding a good freelance writer
can take some time, and you may have to go through a few rotten
apples before you can locate one that you are happy to work with on
an ongoing basis;
This is the most expensive option
of the three content solutions looked at so far!
Ok, so what about
Option D… sourcing content from the public domain?
D) Content Solution 4 – The Public Domain Goldmine
The public domain refers to creative works that are not, or are no longer,
subject to United States copyright law. Such works are not limited to
books, but can include any creative work such as movies, plays, music,
sketches, courses, reports, posters, photographs, drawings, and most
importantly for web-content purposes...
magazine articles that are in the public domain.
Under United States copyright law, all works published prior to 1923 fall
into the public domain, and a large percentage of works published up until
1963 also fall into the public domain, this where the initial copyright
has not been renewed. Further, many US government publications are also in
the public domain by default.
What advantages does the public domain
content solution hold?
Public domain information is
freely available for you to use and republish. You can freely modify
it. You can put your name to it as the author, whether you have
modified it or not;
Most public domain books
articles have been
written by experts on the subject matter they have written about.
This ensures authoritative and high quality content, which will
likely meet the ‘expert verbiage’ test of the search engines’ LSI
algorithms both now and into the future;
By searching on eBay for an old book or magazine on your chosen topic, and
having it scanned into a digital format, your chances or
running into a duplicate content issue with somebody else who has
digitized and republished the exact same book or public domain
magazine article is very slim to say
the least. You can almost be assured of unique content;
You can either take
that digitized content and republish it as entire book or ebook,
thereby creating your own expert product minus all the research and
writing, or you can split the book up into articles for content
pages for your site. If you're dealing with public domain magazine
articles, each article can be a new page on your website, or you can
publish the article to third party websites like Squiddo, HubPages
or Scribd. Or you can use public domain magazine articles for what
Tony Laidig has coined
Limitless Blog Content!
What disadvantages does the public domain
content solution hold?
domain content is itself free, you still have to go and find books or
magazines on your
chosen subject matter.
Once you have found them, and unless they are published before
1923, you will have to perform some copyright research to ensure
that they are indeed in the public domain;
The best public domain works you will find will be the ones
published from the 1940’s through to 1963. This because the language
is largely contemporary. Pre-1923 books were written in an archaic
form of English, and will require editing and re-writing for today’s
readers. So you are faced with either performing the copyright
research on a more modern book or public domain magazine articles, or re-wording the verbiage of a
Once your copyright research has given you the all clear, you
then need to scan the book in order to convert it into a digital
These three steps
can be quite time consuming, and are an impediment to finding and using
public domain content. However, there are software tools to fast-track
this process. One such tool is Tony Laidig's
Public Domain Expert Toolbar
which greatly facilitates public domain research, not only for finding public
domain books and magazines (as well as films, music, artwork, etc..), but also for researching
the legal aspects of re-using public domain content. It comes with forty
search strategies across twenty five different databases to give you fast
access to materials on any given subject matter by linking you to a
plethora of different on-topic public domain content and research websites.
The public domain is my primary choice of content for my content sites.
With the exception of
public domain magazine articles, I
often do edit the content that I use, but this is much
quicker than researching and writing my articles from scratch. Public
Domain content is almost always professional, authoritative, in depth and
written by an expert on his/her subject matter, and therefore satisfies
Google’s LSI criteria. If you are sourcing your public domain content from
a hardcopy format (ie. scanning a public domain book or magazine article),
then it is also almost always unique content on the Internet.
So in summary, this article has addressed four common sources of content
for articles on web pages or for ebooks, namely:
- Using third party articles;
- Using private label content;
- Hiring a ghost-writer;
- Or republishing Public Domain content.
I have briefly
covered the quality changes afoot with the search engines, and highlighted
the fact that to rank well in the long term, your content pages need to be unique, your articles need to
be authoritative and provide value to your readers,
they need to satisfy the search engines’ internal latent semantic
guidelines, and therefore your content needs to contain the verbiage that only an expert writing on a given subject can
I have melded these requirements and concluded that tapping
into the goldmine of content available in the public domain is an
intelligent, low cost and viable source of unique and authoritative
content for a large range of topics (obviously, you are not going to find
anything on contemporary subjects such as Plasma TV’s!).
Finally, I have linked to a number of resources that will facilitate and
fast-track the process of finding public domain content for any given niche,
and for looking up copyright information.
Here’s to your success in also making use of the goldmine of works that
exist in the public domain as a solution to your content needs.
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