Online marketing companies in developed countries do everything they can to appear among the top 10 results on the Internet search engines, and the trickle-down effect of that is the creation of jobs to youths in developing countries.
The companies employ strategies to “convince” search engines that they deserve featuring among the 10 results on the first page.
For example, for a website to appear on Google’s first page it has to satisfy the algorithms of the search giant that it has the most relevant information to a user’s query, and that it has a steady flow of links to it.
One of the tactics used to appease the algorithms is search engine optimisation (SEO).
This involves a variety of activities, ranging from uploading the right photo of the product being marketed to posting articles with the right keywords on the marketing website.
It is this strategy of posting articles with the right keywords that opens employment opportunities.
The writing of such articles is technical. From here, it requires someone with time to spare and a good command of English. It is an area that job-seeking graduates could exploit.
The articles, commonly known as SEO, pay a lot of attention to a keyword. One is provided with a set of words, say, “best dog biscuits”, and instructed on how many times they should use the expression per paragraph to make a 500-word article.
Arnold Mutugi, 26, is one of the youths who have earned income from writing SEO articles. He started soliciting for jobs online in 2010 after finishing his undergraduate studies in Moi University.
“A friend referred me to iwriter.com, where I would log in whenever I wanted, pick an assignment, write, and then send it to whoever had placed the assignment,” Mr Mutugi says.
Now a marketing officer with a local bank, Mr Mutugi says writing SEO articles was the easiest way he could make money at that time.
“The most impressive part was that I could work when I wanted, day or night,” he reminisces, pointing out that he would make an average of $50 (about Sh4300) per week.
Ms Martha Omaita, an alumnus of Egerton University, has SEO writing to thank when she needed money most.
“As I awaited a chance to go back to class after differing with my employer in 2011, I spent most of my time writing SEO and BMR articles,” she says.
BMR stands for Build My Rank. It is another category of articles that are created to improve the visibility of a webpage on a search engine.
The articles are shorter than SEO ones, and they pay more attention to a hyperlink directing a reader to a specific website.
Ms Omaita talks of a month she raked in Sh50,000 out of the work, but is quick to note that it took lots of sacrifice to earn that amount.
“The amount I could make without too much hassle was Sh20,000 a month,” she says.
For 27-year-old Paul Njenga, writing SEO articles has become a full-time occupation. With an office in Eldoret and five full-time article writers under him, Mr Njenga says he will need lots of convincing before he looks for a nine-to-five job again.
“After leaving Makerere University with a Social Science degree, I did SEO writing shortly before I got a full-time job. However, I was fed up with the job after a year and I had to go back to SEO,” he says.
All his five employees, he adds, are graduates from local universities.
And for Mr Geoffrey Moni, who has placed adverts in the Daily Nation on several occasions looking for writers, more youths should embrace SEO.
“Why should the youth suffer when there is a lot of money to be made online?” he wonders.
Mr Moni, a man in his 50s who currently employs more than 20 writers, says there are endless employment opportunities online.
“A dollar is the least one can fetch from writing an SEO article, which takes less than 30 minutes to write. With that, can someone fail to be $10 (about Sh860) richer each day?” Mr Moni wonders.
Anyone with a computer and reliable Internet access can benefit from the search-engine induced windfall. However, there is a slow-bump when it comes to payment.
Mr Njenga, who know banks on Western Union money transfer, says he used to experience problems while withdrawing money paid by a US-based employer.
“Most employers paid via PayPal, an online money transmission system. Because PayPal’s withdrawal methods in Kenya are limited, I could encounter lots of problems,” he says, adding that he would use third parties to channel money home.
Such difficulties in the transmission forced Ms Omaita to form a working relationship with a relative of hers staying in the US.
“My cousin would withdraw my PayPal money through her US bank account then channel it to me via MoneyGram,” she explains.
For someone not as lucky as Ms Omaita, there are third-party sites that can convert PayPal money and send it to a provided M-Pesa number at a fee.
They include epay-kenya.com, nandi-hills.com, babawatoto.com and sambazanow.com.
Money transmission aside, there is also a possibility of working for employers who do not pay for work done.
“It is a gamble. Someone may go mute after you have submitted your articles,” says Mr Mutugi, who has once been a victim.
To lessen the possibility of such a scam, Mr Mutugi says, one has to source for jobs from employers who have been reviewed.
“Most freelancing websites provide room for workers to review different employers. If one notes many complaints in the reviews of a certain employer, it might be an indicator that he is a sham,” he says.
Some of the sites from where assignments for SEO and BMR article writing can be sourced are odesk.com, freelancer.com, ifreelance.com, vworker.com and elance.com.