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Where content writing services fail

Julie Ewald content strategy Leave a Comment

As an entrepreneur myself, I understand the allure of a content writing service. You simply sign up, pay up, leave some instructions, and you’ll have an article delivered to you! I know, I’m making these content writing services seem pretty darn nice, right?

Content Writing Services Aren’t All Bad

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While I have quite a few thoughts on the relationship these services (also known as content mills) have with their writers, let’s cast those aside and just focus on you. Cool? Depending on your brand or business, these services really could be the ticket.

Staffed (usually) by a small army of freelancers, these services sell you custom content at pretty low prices. The rock bottom rates are for short, easy-as-pie pieces written by less experienced writers, and what you get is what you get. Unless the writer totally biffed it, no revisions or edits or even proofing is offered. If you want an experienced or specialized writer, options for revisions, editing, and other “add-ons,” the price goes up.

The actual services these various companies offer all differ. There are even those who will essentially assign a writer to you–which is rad because then you have someone who can really get to know your business. Most of them can turn around articles way faster than my agency can.

Alternatively, there are services that have commoditized content even further. Articles are pre-written for you. You just have to pick your topic and go shopping. Based on the visible excerpts, you choose the article that seems like the best fit for you and your business.

All in all, I’d say the pro column for using these kinds of content creation services are:

  • Low rates
  • Transparent pricing
  • Easy-to-use
  • Fast turnaround times
  • Different tiers of service

But, if it was all sunshine, lollipops, and neon narwhals, I’d have no reason to write this post.

Content Writing Services Are Pretty Bad Though

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This time I won’t skip over the relationship these services have with their writers. These can be frustrating gigs that either don’t have enough opportunities for writers or burn them out. They almost always don’t pay enough–I found this post on LetterPile where a seemingly competent writer wasn’t even getting paid a penny per word on TextBroker. And if I hadn’t have checked out Gignoble, I wouldn’t have even known how frustrating working for these services can be, thanks to inconsistent, constantly changing guidelines and vague requirements. That means that articles commonly get rejected for no discernible reason, and that means no pay!

Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, here’s why they’re bad for you as a customer.

First, they emphasize quantity over quality. They just want to churn your content out and collect. Minimal editing and oversight is involved, at all levels, and there’s none if you aren’t paying their version of premium pricing. Heck, for the lowest cost content from these services, their D-team simply needs to make the content legible. Yikes!

Second, you call the shots. Unless you are a marketer and an editor, that is a bad thing. Even when I work with other digital marketers to create content for their clients or their own consultancies, they don’t actually know what they want. Their specs often fly in the face of best practices or won’t make for something compelling for their own prospective customers. And don’t even get me started on selecting topics! When a client works with our agency, I get to redirect them. With a content mill, they simply take your order and your money. This is regardless of how good or bad your idea is.

Third, the writers don’t really care. The pay is so low, they have to churn out content on the quick if they want to make money. They don’t have time to worry about what your business is, who your audience is, and why the post even exists. In the time it would take them to do a bit of proper research, they could have turned out a whole ‘nother article, so that’s just not happening.

But beyond these negatives, unless you have a clear, defined, thought-out content strategy…

Content Writing Services Fail You

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Yep. Regardless of how cheap these posts are (both in price and quality), they may be a complete waste of money if you don’t have an actual cohesive content strategy in place.

Many people, including some of our own inbound leads, are looking for blog content because you are supposed to have a blog. Content like this is best practices now.

People hear that businesses get leads from blogs. They hear that blogging benefits SEO, so they want their business to blog. And while, yes, these things are very much correct, they are only true if the blog posts are being implemented in conjunction with some kind of lead capture method and proper keyword research and SEO strategy. And this is just a tiny sliver of what else needs to be taken into consideration.

Blog posts for your site (or guest posts for elsewhere), articles for placement and syndication, or whatever other tidbit of content you’re requesting should serve a purpose in the grand scheme of things. If they’re there just because you should have them or hear that they’re supposed to be beneficial doesn’t do it. 

These services fail you because they don’t take actual content strategy, purpose, brand, and your sales funnel into account. Most folks will simply plop those posts down on their blog and wonder why they don’t see more traffic and a whole mess of new leads.

For some people who have a proper content strategy in place and have a lead generation process with a mapped out sales funnel, these content services could be awesome. In the hands of a knowledgeable marketer, these posts can be optimized, tweaked for proper keyword and link insertion, and an appropriate call to action can be added. Beyond that, traffic can be properly driven to the post, and when the traffic starts to convert, there’s a process all lined up to start making sales happen.

Of course, that’s all true if you have an incredibly generic business. Or generic customers.

People like brands with personality, even in the B2B space. These brands put out authentic content that “sounds” like their brand and talks about topics that are relevant to the people likely to do business with them. A random freelancer who scoops up your assignment on one of these services definitely doesn’t know what your business sounds like, and he or she definitely won’t know what conversations your potential clients will want to have.

And your customers aren’t generic. Client personas have been popular with content marketers for some time now because developing these allows a writer or marketer to do things that will appeal to folks you want to do business with in one way or another. You need content that will resonate with your personas, and even if you have these developed, most writers with these services sure as hell don’t have time to read them.

Yay, Agencies?

As an inbound marketing agency that specializes in content, we’d love to help you out with your content and/or content strategy. But not everyone can afford an agency, and not every kind of business is in our wheelhouse. But we’re passionate about what we do, so we still want to help.

This is why we made the Content Strategy Checklist. This is a pretty simple tool to present you with the essentials you should have in a content strategy. And yes, you should have a content strategy. Once you know what your needs are, then seek out an agency or freelancer (or service, if you must) to create content that will help you satisfy your strategy and get closer to reaching your business goals.

Claim your copy of our free checklist: 

Get your content strategy checklist!

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