The Problem With False Content

MousetrapRefe Tuma (@RefeUp) is a writer, thinker and strategist with a passion for the new music industry. 

The rise of social media has led to the proliferation of false content. I define false content as any content created for the sole purpose of SEO optimization, traffic bait or conversion without additional informational value. For example, if I were to write a post called How to Make Money in Music Without Even Trying, and then filled it with content like this:

So you want to be a rockstar? You want to make it in the music industry? Don't listen to the haters! You can make tons of cash doing something you love even if you currently have no skill, experience, knowledge, or creativity! …

Then I closed it out after 6 or 7 paragraphs of similar fluff with something like this:

"But, how?" I was hoping you'd ask that! All you have to do is download my FREE ebook called How to Make Money in Music Without Even Trying!! This ebook is 100% FREE FREE FREE! Just sign up with your email address, zip code, phone number and the name of your first born son – and you will be filling up stadiums in no time! How much easier does it get?!!

That would be false content. It has no substance or value, it's misleading, and the sole purpose of the post is to draw people to my site, flash some SEO keywords and hawk my ridiculous ebook (it's no secret that most ebooks are also false content – how many social media marketing sites have you seen with headlines like this: Write an eBook to Capture More Email Addresses and Build Your Mailing List!)

False content is right up there with comment trolls and malware on the list of factors that impede users' online experience. In some respects it's harmless – the post author isn't necessarily lying to his readers, and it's not like that PDF file contains a trojan (although it certainly might!) Besides – it works! It gets me more visitors, it builds my mailing list, it drives up my affiliate sales!

So what's the big deal?

The big deal is that false content quickly erodes trust. When a visitor lands on a site filled with false content they might fall for your ebook trick and give you their email address, but once they see that your 'informative' ebook is full of the same valueless nonsense they are very unlikely to return to your site. Savvier users will bounce at the first hint of fluff.

More importantly, false content adds an enormous amount of noise to the already ear-splitting din of online communication and discovery. Much like comment trolls, false content creators are chipping away at the usefulness and usability of the internet itself.

Consider this a public service announcement. If you are relying on false content to drive traffic to your site or to drive conversions, please stop. Find more authentic and sustainable ways to market your products or extend your reach online. There are tons of blogs and internet citizens you could go to for inspiration. Drop me a line if you want some recomendations.

Real content will bring real people to your site and eventually inspire real users, fans, and customers. Content that adds consistent value will foster trust and build sustainable relationships with your audience. False content won't, no matter what the get-rich-quick brand of social media marketing 'gurus' might tell you.

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  1. Too true. As a longtime SEO hack, I do feel partially responsible for breaking the internet every time I do research.
    Pro tip: add the operator “-.com” to everything you do on Google.
    However, nobody doing this (as in financing and approving it) really cares about culture, about information vs. noise, about the potential of the internet — none of that. They’re just working a template, and that template is as old as mailing lists.

  2. I thought web 2.0 was about the “freemium”… apparently it’s just about free, or no one is happy… so here we have another advocate for the race to the bottom who is most likely NOT a professional in the record industry.

  3. I’m not sure what your train of thought is here. You would rather people use link bait, shoddy ebooks and get rich quick schemes? That seems like an odd soapbox to choose.

  4. I just sent this post to a bunch of my friends as I agree with most of what you’re saying here and the way you’ve presented it is awesome.

  5. Some of us are trying to do things the right way by posting what we really have and what we really do to build that “trust” you were talking about. And some of us believe that if people really are interested they will share our content with others. In this manner the content builds it’s credibility without the bots, the buy x# of fans for x$s, and other build your base schemes.
    How do you separate the wheat from the chaff?

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