15 August 2009

Blogging Tips : Why Automated Blogging Tools Should Be Avoided

In the last week I’ve had 3 emails from makers of Automated Blogging tools, scripts and plugins (or RSS to Blog tools) asking me to promote their plugins and systems.

These tools all claim to be able to help you create content for your blog without you having to do anything except set it up, choose a keyword/s for your blog to be about.

The tools sales pages usually make claims like:

  • “create targeted blog posts on any topic without writing anything!”
  • “start hundreds of blogs on any topic and never have to lift a finger to keep them pumping out as much content as you like!”
  • “generate traffic, money and blog posts while you sleep!”
  • “Achieve Higher Search Engine Rankings And Massive Affiliate Revenue With Self Updating Blogs”

You get the picture - the list of the hyped up claims that the developers of automated blogging tools make goes on and on!

The fact that these people are asking me to promote these kinds of tools scares me a little as I’ve been pretty anti them in the past and don’t want to be associated with the in any way.

However it also makes me wonder how many bloggers are innocently signing up for them without knowing the dangers of doing so. After-all the sales copy on many of these tools sounds too good to be true - blogging made easy, lots of money, no work….

As a result I thought I’d put together a list of reasons why I would avoid ‘auto blogging’ tools at all costs.

Reasons to avoid Automated blogging Tools and Services:

1. Non Unique Content - at the heart of every successful and profitable blog that I’ve come across is unique content. Auto blogging tools all take content from other places on the web and automatically pull them together on your blog. They replicate what others are doing. They create duplicates of other people’s work. It’s not unique, it’s not original and it creates clutter.

Many of the automated blog tools sales pages say you can add to the content that these auto blogging tools use to add uniqueness to your blog but I’d argue that if you’re creating hundreds of blogs it’s pretty unlikely that you’ll be adding unique posts to many of them.

Blogs that are not unique, that don’t have a personal voice, that contain no original thought don’t tend to get links from other blogs, don’t tend to attract subscribers, readers or comments and don’t generally rank well in Google or other search engines.

2. Useless Content - the other main factor in successful blogs is that they create ‘useful’ content - the type of content that solves people’s problems, helps them solve a problem and makes their lives better in some way.

While some might argue that automated blogging tools can help people by finding this type of information my observation of most of them in action is that they are very hit and miss. Most rely upon you identifying keywords that you want your blog to be about and they then go searching for all kinds of content on those keywords.

As a result you can be publishing who knows what on your blog. Some of it may be useful but some of it might be completely irrelevant and even potentially harmful to readers. Many automated blogs that I come across are a step up from being ‘gibberish’.

3. Personal Satisfaction - early in my own blogging I created a number of blogs that I called ‘link blogs’. They looked at what others were writing online and manually (no tools) collated some of it onto one site. I added some of my own thoughts and it did provide usefulness to readers because it was high quality and all in the one place for readers - but the process almost killed my passion for blogging. It was an empty process for me with no real sense of satisfaction. I stopped doing these kinds of blogs (even though they did make me money and readers complained that it was useful to them).

At it’s best - blogging is an exciting, interactive and fun experience that can give you inspiration, ideas and energy. This kind of blogging (ie using these automated tools) is about none of that.

4. Risk - all of the sales pages on these tools talk about how you can use these tools with all kinds of content legally by using content from sites with APIs, open source content or creative commons content. However almost every time I’ve come across a blog using automated blogging tools they have been scraping content from other blogs without permission from their RSS feeds.

Some blogs allow you to use their content but most do not. There’s real risk in using content from other sites in this way on a number of levels:

  • Breaking Copyright - use the wrong persons content without your permission and you could end up on the end of legal proceedings.
  • DMCAs and Risk to Your Hosting and Ad Partner Relationships - when I catch someone scraping my content I generally give them a warning but follow that up by issuing DMCAs to them, their site’s host and sometimes their advertisers (like AdSense). This can lead to you losing your hosting and being banned from ad networks (for example AdSense don’t allow you to put your ads on pages where you don’t own the copyright of the content). I know a lot of bloggers who issue DMCAs without warning and push a lot harder on these issues than I do - it can be a nightmare to have to work through these kinds of things.
  • Damage to Your Brand - many bloggers skip the DMCA process and go with a ‘name and shame’ approach and publically call out those who steal their content. This can have a lasting impact upon your brand and personal name. There’s nothing worse than doing a Google search for your name and seeing the #1 result being a post an angry blogger wrote about you stealing their content.
  • Google Penalties - ever heard of ‘duplicate content’? It’s what Google calls content that appears in more than one place on the web. I don’t know exactly how they treat this content but do know that they try to weed it out of their search results. They don’t get it all but they do get a lot of it and I suspect that a site that is largely classified as ‘duplicate’ will never be seen as an authoritative site on Google.

5. Create Something Worthwhile - my take home advice for bloggers is to create something online that is worthwhile, something that matters, something that inspires, informs and educates. Do this over the long haul and you’ll create something that not only means something but that has every chance of having lasting success.

I’ve heard from a few bloggers that they’ve had some success with automated blogging tools (although most of these were a couple of years back) but in every case they tell me that it’s usually temporary. They start blogs, see a bit of Google traffic before being banned from Google.

Their blogs never really amount to anything, they never build their own profile or become known as authorities in their niches, they never create useful sites that become niche leaders and to make money they have to keep starting new blogs over and over again.

To me this seems like an empty existence.

Me - I’d rather create something worthwhile that will not only survive but that will grow in momentum, build my brand and mean something to people.

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