When the market demands cheap sweatshirts, manufacturers outsource to overseas sweat shops. When organizations want cheap marketing content, “content mills” are ready and waiting.
Content mills are online portals where you fill out order forms, pay a ridiculously small amount, and a writer creates content for your company blog. For a little more, you often can get webpage content or text for a brochure.
I get the appeal. It is hard work to write regular blog posts yourself. Paying $15 to $30 for someone else to write the post is enticing. But it’s a bit like junk food – the words fill an empty space on your website, but they’ll do nothing to nourish your business.
Good blog posts take time and knowledge. A ghostwriter can do a great job, but he or she needs to understand your company, your audience, your voice and the hot buttons for your readers and your industry. If a writer is able to meet all your requirements and deliver a quality result, what on earth is he or she doing working for less than a teenage babysitter’s wages?
I have been lucky enough to earn a living writing for my entire career. When I began, marketing writers were, well, “writers.” Today, they are “content providers.” I think the difference in semantics is telling. “Writer” is a creative professional that commands respect, while “content provider” sounds as if you are simply filling a void with stuff. No wonder, then, that some companies look to “content providers” to churn out words like so many widgets on an assembly line.
The irony is that content marketing is considered crucial to success in today’s world. Words have never been so important, yet some companies are cutting corners by shopping their content out to the lowest bidder. This approach may result in content filled with the desired keywords to drive search engine traffic, but does nothing to provide meaningful information that positions the company as a leader in its field.
Precision Marketing Group has worked with a few content mills when clients were interested in testing out services. Here is what we have discovered:
- Content provided by a service can be a useful starting point for a blog post, but always requires customization and enhancement.
- Content from a service is usually quite generic unless you are able to specify a writer with in-depth knowledge of your field.
- Don’t expect to save much time or money if you want blog posts that will be read, appreciated and shared by people (rather than just search engines). You’ll still need staff or marketing agency time to order the posts, review submissions, edit, rewrite and post.
If you are aiming for the equivalent of fast food content, a content mill may be able to get the job done. If you want blog posts and other content that demonstrate your expertise, attract and retain readers, and enhance your company’s image as a thought leader, you’re going to need to invest a bit more time and/or money to get something special.