Here’s what happened:
- Friday night November 10, 2017, I log in to my email and find a message from Quora: “Hello, some of your recent content on Quora appears to violate’s Quora’s policy on Spam.”
- Then I got four more of those. Bam, bam, bam, bam. All on material I’d written the day before.
- Following those five messages, I then got this message from Quora: “Quora moderation blocked you from editing on Quora for this reason: repeated policy violations.”
- The next day, I got six more on content that I’d written on Friday before the violation. So the eleven total violations were all on content written within 48 hours.
- I fire off appeal letters offering the reasons why I think that these violations happened and my plan of action, essentially saying, “Hey, I’m sorry for using links to my site. The links were relevant, and the stuff I wrote was answering the question. Regardless, I won’t do it any more!”
- Monday morning Quora replies: “Quora moderation banned you from Quora.”
And just like that I was banned.
How I got started on Quora.
I started writing on Quora in May of 2017. I’d read an article on Gary Vaynerchuk where he said he got his start answering questions about wine on Twitter. Eventually, this helped him build his massive 2.6m following.
The days of building a huge organic Twitter following without spending a ton of money were probably over, so I moved to the next best thing: Quora.
Quora, if you don’t already know, is a question-and-answer site. Users ask questions regarding a variety of topics including health, wealth, self-improvement, books, movies, whatever. Then, different users answer those questions. The best questions are awarded “upvotes” which tells Quora’s algorithms to shift the answer to the top of the list. The higher on the list you are, the more views you get.
In fact, if you have a super popular answer on Quora, there’s a chance that it can go viral and spread among all of their newsletters, to the front page, shared on Facebook, Twitter — you name it.
Quora is, without a doubt, the easiest platform to get a ton of views quickly. So, when I first started writing, I included links to my Instagram. At the time, I was growth hacking my IG account, and thought that the high Quora views would translate into quick followers, which it did.
But something crazy started to happen…
People from all over Quora would find ways to get into direct contact with me. I’d get emails. People I’d never met would message me on Facebook. There were LinkedIn requests. I even got the odd text. People were going out of their way to find me and ask me directly for advice.
Shocked by the impact I was making, I took a step back. I saw that I was on to something pretty big. The huge number of views I was getting was unlike anything I could get anywhere else, including my Instagram account (which has over 10,000 followers as of this writing).
Playing it safe…
Before jumping into a huge marketing push with Quora, I reviewed Quora’s terms-of-service to make sure that I could self-promote without too much issue. Here’s what Quora’s TOS says about spam (emphasis mine):
On Quora, spam is defined as one or more questions, answers, posts, comments, or messages whose purpose appears to be to direct traffic to external commercial sites while providing little to no value back to the Quora Community.
Answers that refer to external websites to answer the question should provide a summary of how the reference answers the question. If the gist of the answer is not understandable by the writing on Quora, then the question will violate answering policies and guidelines. Answers that drive traffic to external sites for promotional or commercial purposes and do not sufficiently answer the question are considered spam.
Astroturfing is when a user creates a large amount of content on Quora at a fast pace with a desire to promote content that is deceptive or factually incorrect, see . Astroturfing is also considered spam on Quora and may also violate the policies on self-plagiarism, see [link].
Questions that are created with the purpose of attracting spam content are also considered spam and may be deleted.
It’s alright to post about your product or company on Quora, either in an answer to a relevant question or as a post on your Quora blog, but repeatedly posting the same information or intentionally misapplying topics on posts in order to gain more visibility may be considered spamming.
If topics are misapplied to a post or a blog, then Quora might take action as described [link].
Affiliate links are not allowed on Quora and any content that use affiliate links will be considered spam, with the exception of the accounts approved for Quora’s pilot program described at [link].
If your content is determined to be spam:
Your account may be blocked or banned.
Content identified as spam may be deleted.”
So that’s the rules. Seems pretty straight forward.
What’s not-so-straight-forward, as I’d later learn, is what they consider “good content” and “bad content.” And make sure to notice the phrase “If the gist of the answer is not understandable by the writing on Quora…” Leaves a lot of room for interpretation, eh?
I started writing… a lot.
After spending a month to create a funnel website, I then spent most of my days on Quora answering questions about making money online, especially on Amazon (since that’s my chief source of income and the one I’m most knowledgeable about). In addition to Amazon, I wrote about marketing funnels, books, Instagram consulting, and even the occasional board game.
The website that I directed people to has two lead magnets attached to it. A lead magnet is a valuable piece of information offered in exchange for a prospect’s email and/or phone number. The first lead magnet was a short PDF report and was about finding profitable products to sell on Amazon. Therefore, I used that onefor answering questions that were obviously related to Amazon or more commonly “How do I make money with only a [insert number here] budget?” The second lead magnet was a free guide series titled The 26 Ways to Make Money Online. For those who were just getting started with business or weren’t totally sold on Amazon, this was the back-up plan.
Both of these guides were completely free. There was a sales page after the fact, but it was totally optional. If you didn’t want to spend money, you didn’t have to.
Additionally, nothing in the material is falsified or regurgitated from another source. When it comes to money-making methods, if I’ve done it and it works, I write about it. That’s it. No malicious intent whatsoever. Additionally, it’s all backed up with a 30-day guarantee. You don’t like the stuff I write? No problem! You get an immediate refund, no questions asked.
My first spam violations…
In September of 2017, I got a few spam violations. I totally deserved them. When you’re writing 25 answers a day, it gets tiresome. So I’d cut-and-paste a few answers. Keep in mind — this was just a few, maybe 10–15 total out of 125 answers per week. Quora let me know that I shouldn’t do that, deleted those answers, and I raised my hands in surrender: “I won’t do it again.”
I’d learned from dealing with Amazon for the last three years that when the boss says “stop” you better fucking stop.
So I changed the hustle. And let me tell you: it was intense.
Consider these stats:
- I wrote 15–25 answers a day, five days per week.
- Each of my answers was 300–500 words in length (or sometimes more). So I was putting out 10,000+ words of content some days. To put that in perspective, the average book has 50,000 words in it. So I was writing a book a week for Quora.
- Everything I wrote was 100% original. It might have been the same information repackaged or written with different words, but if I feel that the best answer to “How do you turn $2,500 into $10,000 in 12-months?” is “Amazon”, chances are the answer to“What’s the best way to start a business with $2,500?” is going to get more-or-less the same answer. Why the hell would the core information be different?
- All of this content helped make Quora a popular place. I got 5,000,000+ views in just a few short months. I was the top viewed writer in a ton of categories, too, including Business, Wanting and Making Money, and Entrepreneurship.
- I Buffered everything. So not only was I helping promote my own stuff — I was also bringing new folks to Quora.
And I won’t lie: it sent a ton of traffic to my site. I was getting 500+ new visitors a day off the content I wrote on Quora. To me, that was the trade off. “I give you a book’s worth of actionable content every week that keeps your visitors reading and you let me post links on my answers. Deal?”
But then, October 8, I got another spam smack on the wrist. This time, I wasn’t sure what for. Everything I was writing was original and it was all relevant. Furthermore, I explained how each link was related to the material. But maybe I did something stupid?
So, I wrote an appeal letter…
I’ve written these before, mostly to Amazon, because Amazon, like Quora, uses mostly algorithms to run their moderation show. Sometimes, posts get caught in the crossfire, whether the platform meant to or not.
A good appeal letter should have the following items:
- You explaining what you think happened to earn the violation.
- You explaining what steps you’ll take to fix what happened.
- You explaining what steps you’ll take to make sure it never happens again.
And that’s what I did. A couple days later, I get this message from one of their moderators (name redacted):
Thank you for writing in. We are very sorry for this experience. Your content was mistakenly flagged to be in violation of our policies, but is now reinstated.
We apologize for any inconvenience that this may have caused you.
Cool. So I was in the clear.
From that point on, nothing else from Quora…
I kept things going the way that they were. And I was told that a mistake was made. So why change what I was doing? And there were no further moderation slaps. Felt like everything was good to go.
Of course, as the month of October rolled by and November came, I kept reading from top Quorans about BNBR (be nice be respectful) violations that were banning their accounts. Some even complained that good writers were being attacked by “rogue moderators”, those that had it out for popular writers, either through jealousy, boredom, or just because they didn’t understand the policies themselves.
As one of my clients put it, “ I have always been afraid of Quoras inconsistency in banning and censorship/taking sides so I try to stay quiet.”
I guess I wasn’t that quiet.
November 10, 2017 came and I was edit blocked following 11 back-to-back violations.
Three days later and now I’m banned. Permanently.
Of course, I sent a letter to appeal the ban. And was told, promptly, that the decision was final. Sad trombone.
I’ve sent another appeal, but at this point, what’s the use? Everything I spent 6 months working on, every honest answer, every person that I’ve helped, every follower, upvote, and view… gone.
It’s as David Hamrick never existed on Quora.
Don’t hate on Quora.
Look, Quora is a cool place and a cool idea and is probably helping out a lot of people. I had a lot of fun writing on it, too. And I’m sure there are those that have fun writing and never have hadany issue with the mods.
This is just what happens when a social media platform gets too big.
During the growth stages, a platform lets a lot more slide. They’re cool with marketers and businesses, because frankly, those people provide a TON of free content. Probably way more than they should. And during those early years, the content is way more valuable than the annoyance of a commercial link here or there.
But then that platform starts getting 450,000,000 views per month. So what do they do? They say, “Okay, let’s turn the ad machine on.” And now there’s ads all over the place on the site.
For example at Quora, at an average bid of $1 per click, it’s on par with Facebook and Google.
And who’s paying for the ads? Companies that have big fat wallets. Shopify, big time gurus like Tai Lopez, or suckers who haven’t “tested the waters” yet, so to speak. It’s certainly not the little guys.
And what happens to the little guy who answers questions and posts a link and tries to carve out a niche on their site? They gotta go.
Because it’s pay-to-play, baby.
Now that they’ve got the eyeballs there, they don’t need those little guys anymore. Now, big talent starts coming on board to write answers, and they’re given free reign. Gary Vaynerchuk, Ryan Holiday, Hillary Clinton, even Barack Obama have all written on Quora. Their natural fame and notoriety is enough to bring even more people to the platform and expand their message beyond their own audience. And they’re free to do what they want, too.
Hell, I’ve even seen Gary V reposting some of his answers.
Want to guess how many mod violations he’s received?
That’s the end of the story.
Cast into exile, I can only look back on the experience as a positive one. I learned a lot and made a lot of great contacts, and while they were allowing me to grace their platform with the nonsense rattling around in my brain I actually did make some pretty decent money.
Honestly, it’s been kind of a relief, too. Writing 10,000 words a day five days a week is a ton of work. And it was getting so damn boring answering the same question over and over and over again in a new and different way each time.
These days, I think I’ll write more fun stuff here on Medium.
And don’t worry: I made damn sure to read Medium’s guidelines before I started posting.
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