How eHow is infesting the web

Bogdan Vitoc ('16)/ Eastside Underground Editor

You know eHow? That pesky website that seems to have a step-by-step guide for every problem any person could ever face? The one that clogs search results with useless articles?

Well, five years ago I loved eHow. I would always read an eHow article if it showed up in my search results. I liked the articles because they maintained a consistent style, they were short, and they were of decent quality, as hired “experts” wrote them.

That was five years ago, only a short time after Demand Media acquired eHow in 2006. This monster company took eHow, a perfectly okay website, and added it to its portfolio of low-quality, money-spewing companies. It essentially turned eHow into a content farm—a website that holds tons of substandard information that is specifically designed to score high ranks on search engines.

Demand Media, which also owns Livestrong.com, Trails.com, GolfLink.com, Mania.com, and Cracked.com, uses these sites to generate money from advertisements. If a company that makes money from ads wants to make more money it needs to increase its readership. To acquire more readership, a company generally has two options: one, to increase the quality of its content, or two, to increase the quantity of its content. eHow evidently chose the latter, ditching any reputation it had attained.

And so began eHow’s great quest to capitalize on search engines. To create a large sum of content in a short time, the site stopped relying on hired “experts” and began paying freelance writers. eHow pays freelancers per person that reads their guide, but even the best writer whose content attracts many people makes only about 50 dollars per guide, so to make a sizable income they must write very many articles — gaining quantity, but loosing quality. Yet, this plan to increase quantity and decrease quality worked for eHow, as the number of articles grew from 15,000 in 2006 to two million in 2010.

The assortment of eHow guides is unbelievable. From potentially useful guides like how to do a split to crazy ones like how to raise baby tigers and how to taste the differences between white chocolate and dark chocolate (also how to eat dark chocolate), it seems as if eHow has a guide to everything and anything imaginable. However, almost all of the guides are poorly written.

To address this problem, and give users access to a better web, lesser-known search engines like Blekko and DuckDuckGo have removed eHow from their search results. Even Google has developed a new algorithm to display better content, which has reduced eHow’s readership by 40 percent.

As individuals we cannot do much to stop the eHow infestation, but we can at least choose to ignore it by using an eHow-free search engine like DuckDuckGo. A truly beautiful web is an eHow-free one.

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eHow is by far the largest how-to site, but other similar sites such as wikiHow and ChaCha also exist. All that was said about eHow can generally be applied to those as well.