What’s in a name?

If you are visiting this website, chances are you have come via a link on a social media site like Facebook, or Linkedin. Possibly, my name, Richard Weisskopf, appeared in something I wrote, as a self-promotion, or something written about me – and you decided to click through. Another possibility is that you formed a search on Google for Richard Weisskopf– reached my personal website – and were directed back here.

Using one’s own name as a domain name makes a lot of sense if blogging is the intent – but since in my case it is not – there has to be another reason. And there is. A personal domain name. attached to a website – properly optimized for search engines like Google – is the easiest, and least expensive way to create, and manage an internet identity.

The key words are ‘easiest’ and ‘least expensive’. I don’t think it’s the best way to create an identity, or generate publicity for yourself,  simply because it’s so obvious. It’s understandable to have a personal website if you closely attach your name to your service – as a real estate agent might. But if not, it seems to promotional.

A better way of creating an internet identity – short of doing something notable – is by creating profiles on as many social sites as possible. In this case, I am using ‘social’ to include professional directories, the White Pages, and so on. By doing so, you are giving evidence that you really do exist – and whether you really do exist or not – after enough profiles are established, Google gives you the benefit of the doubt. Now you exist. Once you officially exist, you can begin to take control of your internet identity.

There are many reasons why this is desirable but let’s assume that you simply want to come up when a Google search for your name is undertaken. This may or may not be a problem, but in most cases, there will be others with the same name – even if it is an unusual name. And you might be surprised. I never thought Richard Weisskopf was a common name, but it turns out to be.

I would not care if the real (to me) Richard Weisskopf was easy to find on Google or not. but since I make a living advising others on how to get their businesses and organizations found online, I feel Richard Weisskopf has to be at the top – or near it for a search for Richard Weisskopf. If my name was John Smith, it would be easy to understand why I would choose not to spend the time required to leap frog the other John Smiths. But Richard Weisskopf is a tough sale. . . Of course I knew that from the get-go, but while I am very hard working when it comes to my clients, I am lazy about things pertaining to me. So, I got a bit of a late start, and found to my astonishment, a number of competitors for the name Richard Weisskopf.

Making my tardiness even more problematic is that two of the ‘others’ with my exact name, are also my age, and unbelievably, reside in the very town that I am from. Seeing this, I realized I had to get moving. The big four Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, Google+. You certainly know the names. The four horseman of social media I guess they might be called – and each has its own unique, and at times, perplexing personality. If your intent is to use the base functions – they can be navigated without too much difficulty.

The problem arises if the goal is maximum exposure-value – aka search engine optimization. In order to ensure the maximum value, all the little pesky details that are so easy to skip – well, they can’t be. It is quite amazing how much time it can take a reasonably intelligent, college educated person to find out where to change – for example – the settings governing privacy. Compounding the challenge of confusing navigation, is compatibility.

Not a simple Mac or PC issue – browsers, software revisions, and more – can create the need for workarounds that are incredibly time consuming and frustrating. I wish I had keep track of my time just to do the baseline creation- as it was immense, and I’m still quite certain that I have every possible item configured in such a way that will bring Richard Weisskopf to the maximum attention of as many people as possible. Once the setup is completed The set up – unfortunately – is really the easy part. The fun comes in when it’s time to generate something meaningful to say – which is why in my case – there are very few posts on my social profiles.

As far as my purpose is concerned, the number of posts in not a big issue, as I’m not trying to develop a network of associates and business contacts. It’s a great idea to do so, but the time to come up decent posts, is considerable. And I just simply don’t have it to spare. A term one hears a lot these days is ‘curating’. In this context, it refers to gathering material from the internet, re-wording it, and publishing.

It sounds like a way to get content without much effort – but actually, that is not the case. In order for curated content to be of any value, original content must be added. This new content is explanatory, or critical, or it might provide a recap, or summary. It takes less time to do one of those tasks than it would to write something original (and good) – but it still does take time. Curated content is popular, and indeed, when the curator takes the time to accumulate material relevant to their target audience – and augment it with commentary of some form – it works well. The Drudge Report is the most well known, and successful example of curated content.

In case you are wondering, there are some very good curating tools available. In essence, you provide a topic, and possibly a date and location. They scan the internet for relevant material, and package in an easy to digest manner. Most of the major companies offering curating have a free, and a premium upgrade. I have used several free sources, and once I upgraded to a premium version. It did not seem worth, only because I had somewhat limited needs. It can be interesting to put your name as one of the curated titles. I did, and once again, I was surprised by the hits that Richard Weisskopf had. This time however, many of them were for me.

I had just completed doing an extensive online marketing campaign for a client in the nonprofit sector, and had sent a number of press releases to various media. I also sent to a few press release distribution services and press release sites – not because I was expecting actual response, but rather to generate internet buzz. That did happen, as publications and blogs picked up the story that appeared on the press release sites, and often attributed the news to me. This resulted in odd references in various places around the world.

I don’t know if these were computer generated or not – but I suspect they were. There is probably an explanation as to why such a practice has value, but I have no idea what that might be. The point about curating is simply that one does not have to write an article from scratch to get credit for publishing original content. My issues with original content Let me amend that to: my issues with Google’s insistence on original content. I question this simply because the drive for original content has created a vast pool of mediocrity and misinformation.

One can not blame a web owner needing to be found on the internet. There is no option other than to write about a topic already covered to death. Faced with the grim task of generating 1000 words on toasters, or mufflers, or hamburgers, attention is turned to freelance web writers. These folks are based around the world, but in reality, the ones that get any business are in the US, Canada, and possibly the UK.

Here’s how it works I can write authoritatively on the topic of freelance writing and writers, , because I have been a buyer and a seller. Mostly as a buyer, but a few times as a seller. There are many ways to market, and buy these services, but I have found the large freelance sites to be the best, as at least some degree of checks and balances are in place.

While the large freelance serve both buyer and seller, I believe their rules favor the buyer. The process begins when a freelancer creates a profile, posting accomplishments, background, and samples. Of course savvy buyers pay no attention to these unverified claims and alleged samples, and move directly to the heart of the action – the all important client reviews.

These reviews are the only real tools a buyer has – and one would think they are a realistic way to anticipate performance. In my experience – they are not. One reason is quite simply that in order to rate a freelancer, they first have to be paid. So, if a buyer just finds the work unacceptable and refuses to pay – the freelancer loses the revenue, but avoids the bigger hit of a negative review. I don’t know how often this happens – I have never read a word about it, but I suspect that it is fairly common. In truth, it is one of the only ways a freelancer can have any form of protection. The process and means of evaluation is poor – and it compromises the entire idea.

The pay scale for freelance writers on the big freelance sites I don’t know every variation of pay, but I can say this: On a scale of 1 – 10, where 5 is good enough to not get you in trouble with Google, you can purchase articles that are at the 5 level, for 3 cents a word. Minimum order is usually $100, so figure eight, 400 word articles of copy that you would never want anyone, other than search engines to read. If the idea is to buy an article to be read by a possible customer, the rate starts at about .10 a word.

If research is required, double that. When I buy content in this fashion, I expect to pay around $75 for a short article, and $250 – $300 for a comprehensive report. Back to the cheap articles for a moment: in a business where a word brings 3 cents, one would assume this is not a great concept, and it certainly does not help a buyer to purchase and publish content that will do absolutely no good. How can anyone do more than just survive making 3 cents a word? I don’t know, but here is where it gets interesting.

The big freelance sites have an astronomical number of freelance writers signed up. One that I use has something like 112,000. Crazy – but of those 112,000 writers, maybe a few hundred make any money (earnings are listed). Of those, some earn $5,000 – $15,000 a year, some $25,000 – $$50,000, and some – believe or not – earn as much as $1,000,000 a year – at 3 cents a word. How is that possible? Again, I don’t know – but here is one possibility: first, remember that articles, in fact all web content, must be original for it to be indexed by Google, and thereby count in your favor. Duplicate content is an internet sin (per Google) and punishable by – nothing actually – other than it does not get indexed.

This fact has given birth to online plagiarism checks, and of course, every buyer of content makes this a first step after receiving material. Sounds pretty tight – but not really. Even with the smartest people in class working at Google, Inc., all one has to do to beat the plagiarism check is make sure every fourth word is different. If I were attempting to make a living selling content at 3 cents a word that would be held to some scrutiny, in addition to plagiarism checks, I believe that I would research online pdf libraries, of which there are many.

Using a pdf search engine, I would find a suitable article on my topic, and then proceed to make the alterations necessary to pass the tests. This is time consuming, and to speed up the process, software has been developed to automate the effort. The result is unreadable material – but it is original. After you’ve wasted a few dollars, and a lot of time discovering that – in fact – there will be a cost to filling your website with decent material – the search for a qualified freelancer begins. To be continued…