They say "no pain, no gain". But does that apply to blogging?
Let's talk about a kind of blogging that promises gains without pain: auto-blogging.
The promise of auto-blogging is that you can set up a fully-automated tool to duplicate, spin, or otherwise generate articles and post them to your blog. Then you monetize the traffic to the blog using AdSense, affiliate or CPA offers, etc.
What pains are involved in auto-blogging?
Cost of Tools
If the tools cost money, there's a little up-front pain involved in buying them. Of course, if the blog makes money as a result, that's not a big issue.
Cost of Hosting
Unless you're using free hosting (possibly risking getting banned if the host finds out what you're using it for), there's the cost of hosting. As cheap as hosting is these days, if the blog makes money, this may not be an issue either.
Time or Cost of Installation and Setup
The tools and blog don't set themselves up. But the tools probably come with an installation script that makes it pretty easy. Another small up-front pain.
Cost of Content
Some auto-blogging tools pull their content from a store that you have to pay for access to -- either a one-time payment, or a recurring membership. In the latter case, the question is, can you make enough to cover the membership fee?
Verdict: there's not a whole lot of pain involved in auto-blogging.
Gains of Auto-blogging
Before I get into the gains of auto-blogging, I should point out that I don't have, and have never had, an auto-blog. So I'll speak from logic rather than first-hand experience.
Every time a post is added to your auto-blog, a new page is created, which creates a little bit of PageRank. If you link from your auto-blog to a site you want ranked higher, some of that PageRank gets passed on. So there's some SEO benefit.
But how much?
First of all, PageRank isn't what it used to be. As of June 2007 -- ancient internet history -- it was just one of over 200 factors in Google's algorithm. Surely that number is a lot higher now.
Also, Google doesn't give all links the same weight. There's been a lot of talk recently about how content written by authors who get lots of credible links gets a boost, simply because it was written by a credible author. And links from credible authors get more weight than links from unknowns. How much weight do you think Google's gonna give a link from an auto-blog?
The better the search engines get at recognizing duplicate, spun, or otherwise auto-generated content, the less SEO value auto-blogs will have.
The lifeblood of a blog is its subscribers -- the people who get notified by their feed reader or by email whenever new content gets posted. How many subscribers do you think an auto-blog is going to get? Somewhere in the neighborhood of zero, right?
If you can sell your auto-blog, you might make money that way.
But unless it's pulling in traffic and making money, how much can you sell it for? If it is making money, you're trading an income stream for immediate income. Hard to say which is better.
Verdict: there's not a whole lot of "gain" in auto-blogging. And the smarter the search engines get, the less gain there'll be.
No pain. No gain.
Of course, that's not to say that gain and pain always scale equally. The right tools can handle some of the grunt work of blogging, and make the brain work easier. And a group of bloggers promoting each others' blogs can all gain with very little added pain.
One final question before we wrap up:
Pain for Who?
Another way to look at the pain question is, who is it causing pain for. There's more pain for the search engines because they have to crawl, index, and rank more pages without finding anything worth reading. And they have to develop more algorithms to recognize and filter out duplicate and spun garbage.
And when a page manages to get ranked and pull in traffic, there's more pain for the readers who get sucked in and don't find what they're looking for.
Auto-blogging's gains, whatever they may be, come by creating pain for others.
Now you know why I don't auto-blog.