- Internet & the Web
What The Search User Wants When The User Is A Writer
The most important things to note here are that I'm not in a position to try to tell anyone else what search users want. Aside from the fact that not all searchers want the same kind of results, I'm only looking at this subject from my own, narrow, perspective and opinion after running into (what was for me) a new kind of research/reference dilemma (sort of). Also, the following situation is just one situation that I happened to run into as I started searching for some references/resources that I could use in an article (Hub) that I'm planning to write. The reason I thought the situation-in-question might be worth writing about is that it highlighted for me the fact that what many of Google's (or any search engine's) users may be happy with may not be something that a writer can afford to be happy with.
Finding Resources/References For Broad Subjects Can Be A Different Thing Than For Very Narrow Subjects
The Context Within Which I Ran Into My Search-Related Mini-Dilemma
These days (at least as far as any writing on revenue-sharing type writers' platforms goes, the only active accounts I have are on HubPages. With one account eight years old; and the one on which I'm now focusing, six years old, I've been kind of holding off with writing on that site until I feel as if I have better idea of what they want on there as they continue to make some substantial changes in the site.
Although, over the changes and with a number of changes having been made not just on that writing platform, but on most (many of which have closed), I've removed hundreds of articles/pieces; I've always liked the site mainly because of the flexibilitiy it has offered writers, but also because they're reliable and straightforward when it comes to how writers are paid. There are quite a few people who have written on the site for several years, so being familiar with the site and many of its members has been a good way of staying "tuned in" to the different ways Internet content/writing have been evolving.
Having said that, it's also the reason I've kind of been holding off with writing (or posting) some things on there. Ordinarily, writing what they want on their site these days wouldn't be a big, complicated, thing. Since the writing I do on the site is writing that I do "for me" and "instead of doing crossword puzzles or something" (as if I EVER do crossword puzzles, but you get the idea).what has slowed me down, at least for the most part, is that the subjects about which I write don't lend themselves all that well to some types of 'Internet presentation" at all.
In any case, I've kind of been holding off as I try to consider what kind of thing I may want to write these days, and whether I can write some types of things that will meet the new guidelines without becoming a full-time job (or general grind) for me. Of course, with all my holding off and stewing (not to mention a number of other things, projects, whatever, going on in my non-HubPages life (online or off), I've kind of found myself in some version of writer's block. It's not really writer's block at all or in general. It is, however, a HubPages-specific type of writer's block.
To get myself out of it I finally decided to look around for some things to write about. After writing a few too many things that, to me, still aren't what they should be (now that some of the changes in requirements/recommendations have been made), I decided yesterday to write something that I thought might be a little more "nitty-gitty useful" than the other things I've written (even in fairly recent days).
And So I Set About To Write An Article That I Thought Any Readers, HubPages, Google And I Would See (With Human Eyes Or No Eyes At All) As Being Of (My Words, Here) Reasonably Decent Quality
As I so often do, I'd gone looking for ideas for subjects in the site's "Answers" section (that what it's there for), and I ran into a question about American "millennials". I decided to write what I thought (no, knew) would be something that would lend itself well enough to the latest emphasis of the site. It's a subject with which I'm familiar. I knew what I would say. What I wanted to find was some additional light research and/or a few things to include in the Hub that would add a little back-up and/or polish to it.
That's when I ran into inspiration for this Hub (the one you're now reading) because not long after I began doing a little searching I ran into not just an article that I thought might be worth linking to in the millennial Hub, but one that I thought would have been worth sharing on say, my Facebook or Google+ pages.
It was my idea of something well worth reading, and that's most often really the only kind of thing I want to share on sites like that. I'm not above posting the occasional foolishness on my pages. When all is said and done, though (and for my own purposes and Internet-use), I mostly aim to collect and/or share material that I find well worth reading, potentially useful to me in my future writing and/or both.
Here's the problem I had with the article that not only gave me the information I wanted but gave a whole "overview type of thing" in its three pages, but that I found interesting and well worth reading: It didn't particularly lend itself well to being shared. Also, however, it was, in my opinion, a little too much work to find out much, if anything, about the author. In fact, there was a point where I didn't bother looking too much beyond what I found because it was obvious that the author's field/area of interest was in an area not particularly designed as a research source.
Since I'm reasonably familiar with what the article was about, I was also reasonably certain that the information in it was most likely completely reliable. I wouldn't, however, be comfortable including a link to that article from the Hub I planned to write in my attempt to offer a rock-solid-reliable and informative piece.
While I considered that my limited patience (with regard to looking beyond the article) wasn't helped by the fact that I began writing within an hour of waking up in the morning (not something I usually do simply because I do know it takes a clearer head than I tend to have within an hour of waking up), I eventually realized that it wasn't "just me". The only way in which having a not-entirely-clear head affected my approach to the article was that I didn't think more quickly or more immediately to look at the URL.
It didn't occur to me because the page looked so professional and attractive. It had no ads on it and looked like a really nice looking blog that was written by someone who had put some thought and/or work into the article. It was only after I read the whole article that I even started to think about sharing it, and it was only after I read it and thought about sharing it that my thoughts returned to referring to it and/or linking to it from the Hub I was about to write.
The first thing I did was kind of scan the page, looking for links to more information about the "blog" and/or the author (or at least something that would tell me more), I realized that I should look at the URL - which I did, and which, while with more effort than I might have hoped, ultimately made it clear that I hadn't been reading someone's blog but instead one article from a newsletter of an "outfit" that appeared (I say, "appeared", because I'm still
not entirely sure) to be more focused on marketing and related research than on "general research for public consumption" (even though the URL was a .org one). I almost doesn't matter. The fact is if I wanted to be good and sure about more than just the author's name, and if I wanted to get a really solid reading on whether I should or shouldn't use the article, I would have had to do yet more hunting.
I decided not to look more into who/what the author/"outfit" was because while it certainly didn't take away from what I saw as the legitimacy and/or accuracy of the article, it was just too (for lack of a less hyperbolic word, I suppose) complicated a matter. I knew I could easily find what I was looking for on a page that didn't involve "all that" looking. Maybe I was being too conscientious or picky for the future Hub's subject, but I did find it regrettable that, in my own wish to err on the side of caution and professionalism, I just thought there were a few too many little obstacles (minor as they were) to being able to absolutely feel confident in offering the link and/or too many of some types of references to the article.
If I wanted to write a Hub that I could feel 100% confident about (and in spite of the confidence I had in the article, mainly because I know the subject), erring on the side of confidence and professionalism meant not wanting "legitimacy once removed" wasn't enough for the degree of "solid" that I wanted my own article to have.
On the one hand, one might note that an article in a newsletter is not written and/or presented for the general public/Internet. It's written and presented for the recipients of the newsletter. On the other hand, because no one had done anything to make sure the newsletter's article wasn't picked up by search engines it's probably safe to assume that no one cares if the general public/Internet sees the article or finds it in search.
In other words, I'm not complaining about, or criticizing, anything about the (fairly simple but well presented) article or its author did anything. I'm not complaining or criticizing at all. It's more that the article that I actually did find "just right", including the appearance of the pages on which it appeared, highlights a point from the perspective of someone aiming to write his/her own solid article precisely for the purpose of being found by search engines.
Aside from the choice not to refer to article because issues that had nothing to do with not trusting the information (I don't imagine the author of that particular article/newsletter cares much about making things easier for other article writers anyway.)
The real point that I want to highlight is from the perspective of someone in my position - the person aiming to write a solid article with references/resources that aren't likely to be at all questioned but that, if a user wants to double check or look for, maybe, something else he may want to read, will make things as easy as possible for that user.
If someone ends up at someone else's article/information by starting at my article (Hub, in this instance) they aren't a "user once-removed". If they found (in my article) anything at all close to what they'd hoped to find when they searched I'd like to keep them reasonably (even if "once-removed") happy if/when they decide to go on to any links/references offered in my Hub.
None of this is, I'm sure, new to some people who have run into this kind of thing often, or in the past. It happened to be new for me. As is so often the case with some types of searches, one of the first things to show up in the results was Wikipedia (which I just don't use for this type of article, probably needless to say). Also among the very first things to show up were some blocks that were dictionary entries. One also had a block within it to get users to Wikipedia. If I recall correctly, there was also one of those long lists of links that showed up (although maybe I'm confusing my choices of wording).
This particular article was the one that stood out most (after possibly a couple of choices of wording, although I can't guarantee that because I didn't think at the time to pay attention to such things - and, again, there was that matter of "first-hour-after-waking-up".)
The main point I want to make is that a searcher/user, I was so happy with having found this particular article. If all I wanted was the information I would have been happy, and if I decided to be particularly curious I might been fine with going on a mini-hunting expedition (that, to truly satisfy curiosity, would have led to a little more hunting than I was willing to do.
As someone considering using that article (in some way) in my own (in other words, potentially sending traffic to it in the form of people who are already interested in the subject), I decided not to use it at all.
In some ways, I wasn't at all with the few other things Google offered the first time I searched. In some ways I was the height of a satisfied searcher when I found the ad-free page that looked so professional and refined, and that contained just what I was looking for and more. For my own purposes and angle for the subject (and they really are completely different from those of that other person's newsletter article) I set aside my own searching/writing project.
Had this been a different type of subject and a different search, I may have ended up with a site that was out-and-out obviously a solid, public, reference-worthy, source. For all I know, Google (except for the double Wikipedia thing) did send me that kind of search result. After all, I was happy enough, even impressed.
The Moral To This Particular Story - At Least As I See It
As someone aiming to write an article that offers something solid, complete with easily and quickly identifiable and solid references/resources, I became suddenly aware of the subtle difference between the bar that determines
what Google "likes" for its users/searchers and the slightly different bar that I, ideally, need to use as a measure for what actually do "like" for any users/searchers who end up mine.