New websites with fun, quirky and shareable content are showing up every day. Their articles, videos and slideshows are filling our Facebook newsfeeds and our friends are sharing their pages. So, how are these sites getting so much attention? What’s with all of the clutter, ads and pop-up windows you experience when you visit these sites? Once you understand what some of these sites are doing with other people’s content, you’ll begin to see through the “click bait” and perhaps become inspired to start your own website, only using their tactics for the greater good.
Today’s Love Note…
I began to notice a trend with popular websites such as BuzzFeed and within a relatively new site called First To Know. Some of the same layouts and ads were appearing in multiple sites that I visited throughout the day, sites that mostly from links in my Facebook feed. I did catch myself clicking some of these ads that appeared to be articles. Buzzwords such a “horrifying”, “mistakes”, “insane”, and “bizarre” filled the headlines. Teasers such as “WATCH”, “Dear Women”, and “BREAKING” just beg for you to go look at the next “frightening” thing.
Today, I found myself on a First to Know article about an abandoned French Chateau. There were a few paragraphs, a slideshow and a rather grainy picture of the owners. I decided to dig deeper. I searched for “Chateau de Gudanes” in Google and found their website here. As I clicked through the pages of the actual Chateau de Gudanes website, I fell in love with their project. I even discovered this 15-day decorative art workshop that features excursions, field trips, guided tours, and culinary experiences. I want to go. Deeply.
About an hour later, I saw another First to Know Facebook post titled “You’ve Been Boiling Pasta Wrong Your Whole Life” which featured an article containing five sentences and this video:
If you’ll notice, this YouTube video is from the CBS Chow food channel and is titled “How to Quickly Cook Pasta in a Frying Pan”. On a side note, the comments posted on the actual video on YouTube are less than receptive to this method of cooking pasta, but I digress. My point is, anyone can swipe somebody else’s video from YouTube, write a paragraph about it and put it on their webpage or blog.
For instance, I could write a headline that says “You’ve Been Peeling Potatoes Wrong Your Entire Life”, type out a few sentences about having potatoes peeled for you in seconds and then post this Chow video:
I could then share my new hack all over Facebook, hoping that other people share it too and that it drives traffic to my website.
But why? Why would I do that? To answer that question, let’s first examine why sites like First to Know do it. Internet news sites like BuzzFeed rely on “sticky” content. That’s why you’ll see all of those irresistible headlines paired with imagery that just makes people want to click and read more. Do the images below look familiar?
It is syndicated content that people pay other publishers to place on their websites to drive traffic to them. If you are visiting a website that features a live block like above and click on one of the “ads”, it takes you to another article, usually with something to sell. Like the ancestor one above. When you click on it at First To Know, the article links to Ancestry.com. Ancestry.com has an affiliate program. Simply register as an affiliate, create content about searching for anscestors, and drive traffic back to Ancestry.com to make money. This is one of the tactics syndicated content providers are using to generate money.
The other is through advertising partners such as Doubleclick, Bizo, and Adsense. You can visit those sites to learn more if you’d like and perhaps at some point, I may write a little deeper about how all of that works. In the meantime, this love note was written to expose how these sites generate traffic and revenue, and how YOU, and the causes you care about, might benefit instead.
Since this piece has taken longer to pen than I anticipated, I’ll need to write Part II tomorrow. In the meantime, take a moment to consider the sites you visit. Where is their content coming from? Is it original? Are they stuffing their pages with ads? What is the point of the site? If you had a website, how might you be able to use shareable content to create traffic and revenue for yourself and the causes you care about?
More on that – coming soon!