The problem is that many businesses are scrambling trying to figure out how to produce all of this content for the blogs and websites.
To fill this void, we’re now seeing all sorts of low-cost, low-value content creation services popping up all over the web.
And while these services might be tempting for businesses struggling to find the time to blog, using them can be disastrous for your brand.
Shady content creation practices
A couple of weeks ago, I received a pitch from a so-called PR firm. The email included a link to view the “custom content” created for my site.
Intrigued, I checked it out.
The link took me to a platform that included the blog post, headline, image and author bio in an easy-to-view format. And, it gave me the ability to easily download the post — even in HTML — to make it easy to publish. All I had to do was let the company know when I would be publishing the post and I would be all set.
Sounds like a blog publisher’s dream, right?
Although the platform was innovative, there were some serious red flags showing up.
First, the author bio was very vague. There was no photo included of the author and there were no links to his online profiles or mention of where the writer works. I searched for the author’s name and came up empty handed. There were also no links to other articles throughout the entire post.
On top of that, the content was mediocre. It certainly wasn’t the worst I’ve seen, but it also wasn’t a great fit for my site either.
Then, I researched the PR firm — there were no bios, no photos, and no information about the PR coordinator or any of the people behind the brand on their website or anywhere else online. The company’s Twitter account? Goose egg.
What’s the end game?
Because I wanted to understand what the company was trying to accomplish with this approach, I questioned the PR coordinator who reached out to me.
I discovered there’s a good reason why I couldn’t find the author when searching. It turns out that all of the company’s writers use pen names.
Here’s what the PR coordinator had to say:
“We limit the use of our authors’ real names because we had instances where competitors were cross referencing our writers and using that to pursue our clients and our publisher partners.”
But even after multiple emails, I’m completely puzzled about what the firm is trying to accomplish with this low-quality, anonymous content. It seems this pitch was a heavily veiled attempt to get me to use their blog post to eventually buy into their content mill scheme.
The problem with content mills
For the many companies who are struggling to produce content internally, it seems only natural to turn to a company that can provide low-cost (or even free) content for your site.
However, outsourcing your blog to content mills or content farms like the one I encountered can be fraught with some serious problems. Here are a few reasons why you should steer clear from these shady blog creation services:
- Questions of credibility. With anonymous content comes a serious question about the originality of the content (has it been published somewhere else?) and the credibility of the author. If you want to be a thought leader in your industry and create a blog that’s a valuable resource for readers, it’s difficult to do that if you publish content from anonymous authors with zero credentials in your field.
- Lack of quality. Link farms and content mills are only focused on juicing up their search engine results by getting links on tons of sites for their targeted keywords. As a result, the content is often low quality and irrelevant to your audience. Allowing this content onto your site could really hurt your credibility with your readers — not to mention these posts will do little to help your overall marketing strategy.
- SEO problems. With Google’s recent Panda update, many link spammers and sites with low-quality content were hit hard in search engine results. Be wary of allowing this type of content onto your site so you don’t suffer in search rankings. Additionally, Google Author Rank rewards sites with trusted, credible authors. Allowing content from anonymous authors will not help you or how your website ranks in search results. In fact, if your company blog doesn’t feature bylines from your writers, now would be the time to start including that.
- Poorly paid writers. Good writing deserves to be compensated appropriately. However, content farms are notorious for hiring writers on the cheap — often as little as a few dollars per blog post. Allowing this content on your site perpetuates this practice.
What content creation approach is best for you?
As Andy Crestodina points out, you should
take the highest road possible
when creating content for your website or blog.
Personally, I always advocate for companies to create their own content internally. Not only does that help position you and your team as thought leaders, but it also gives your company the chance to build a better connection with your audience.
And, if you don’t have the resources to handle this internally, you should find a marketing partner who can help you.
For instance, with our clients, we develop editorial calendars and provide guidance about what kind of content they should include on their blog. We also offer training and assistance to help clients get the most out of the content — including SEO optimization and blog post promotion. This kind of collaboration allows our clients to remain at the forefront, but helps them be more strategic about their approach.
However, if you decide to outsource your blog writing completely, make sure you are involved in the planning process and work closely with the company that is developing your content. That way, you can make sure the content is consistent with your brand’s voice and sticks with your company’s key messages.
Do you outsource your blog content? How do you approach it?
Image credit: Cindy Cornett Seigle