“You write for a lot of different sites like About.com and Associated Content but I’ve seen a LOT of bad information on sites like those. How does someone like me know who to trust? How do you know that what you’re reading is real?”
You’re absolutely right to be cautious and the issue you bring up is the main reason I no longer write for those sites. I can tell you firsthand that sometimes the qualifications for writing and submitting to those kinds of content sites is pretty low. Most of the “experts” don’t have any training in the subjects they write on and even those that do often have diplomas and certifications from dubious “colleges” or diploma mills.
Why is this important? Well, think about it this way. When you walk into your doctor’s office, you know that her or she spent the better part of a decade in school. So you have at least some assurance that you’re going to get good advice. Not perfect advice, perhaps, but at least you know he or she has education and experience.
“You have to be careful of the information you see on sites like About.com, BellaOnline.com and others. Those articles are paid content pieces written specifically to sell ad space and/or attract ‘clicks’.”
Now look at the authors on a typical content site. You may find that your cancer “expert” is also writing articles on pet grooming, tuning up a motorcycle and what to watch on T.V. this weekend. It doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in their medical knowledge, does it? Worse yet, most of those sites don’t require that you submit a resume or even proof of identity before you begin to sell articles. That means that anyone can pretend to be an expert on any topic. Your herbal expert might just be a stay-at-home mom without even a high-school education. Perhaps she’s a salesperson for a multi-level-marketing vitamin company.
Worst of all are writers who don’t tell you that they’re receiving money and/or gifts to subtly push a particular product or service.
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On the other hand, there are some really talented professionals out there using sites like AssociatedContent for networking. The information you can get from someone like that may be quite good. To make sure that your “expert” is really an expert, look at the quality of his or her writing, be on the lookout for any obvious bias, avoid any article that sounds like a sales pitch, and always disregard any author who refuses to back up his or her articles with legitimate scientific proof.
There is a lot of terrible information out there and terrible health information can be especially dangerous. Take what you read online with a grain of salt and consult a real expert about the health issues that matter most to you.