Have you ever wondered how some of these famous entrepreneurs find time in their lives to manage three successful businesses, a satisfying personal life, multiple speaking engagements, dinners, and meetings, all while maintaining two blogs and contributing to three more? For some of us it’s hard enough to keep up a weekly blogging schedule when it’s the only thing we have to do.
Trust me; it’s not their brilliant time management skills, it’s not their genius with writing, and it’s not a heaping amount of performance enhancing drugs. No, it’s the little magic we call “outsourcing.”
A lot of these professionals, entrepreneurs, and business owners have huge support teams ready and waiting to take the burden of lesser tasks off of them, usually in exchange for a little money. That infographic they’re promoting? They hired a graphic designer to make it. Those statistics in their blog post? Compiled by a freelancer on Fiverr. Those email responses? Personal assistant in Malaysia. Those blog posts? Ghostwritten by either an on-staff writer or a freelancer.
I say all this just so that you know there is no shame, and nothing inherently wrong with, buying blog posts for your site. I would venture to say that the majority of the content online is ghostwritten in some form or another. It might be a low majority, but between content producing robots, article spinners, and prolific freelancers, there are a ton of ways to get content without writing it yourself.
That said, there are right and wrong ways to buy blog posts. You need to avoid the obvious pitfalls and the less obvious traps in the writing world. You’re trying to spend money to save time, but you don’t want to spend too much money or end up wasting time.
So, let’s discuss ways buying blog posts can go wrong.
There are a lot of sources out there for blog posts. You can get a 500-word blog post for $10 on Fiverr, or $7 on Textbroker, or cheaper from even worse sources. Prices scale up, of course, for added features, from length to delivery time to black hat directory submission.
The problem with buying your blog posts from the lowest priced sources is that the content you get is going to have flaws. Sure, you might find some legitimate writers working for the equivalent of pennies, but those writers don’t tend to last long. What you usually end up with are writers who spin articles, who steal content, or who barely know English in the first place. You get writers who pump out the blandest, most generic content possible, just to make a few bucks. After all, if a 500-word blog post is only paying them $7 or less after a site commission, they need to write 2-3 or more per hour to make even the beginnings of a living wage.
High quality blog writing is not cheap. Different types of blog posts, for different purposes and different lengths, typically cost different amounts of money. A high level business that is very serious about web advertising might be paying $4,000 or more for a single landing page, while a search-optimized blog post might run them between $100 and $1,000.
Web writing is very much a “you get what you pay for” world. You want deeply researched, high quality content engineered to convert, you aren’t getting it for $10.
Blog posts that follow your interests don’t seem like a bad thing, do they? You might be wondering why, then, that this is considered one of the mistakes you can make.
The answer lies in something too few bloggers actually use; an editorial calendar. A successful blog is all about planning your content. You need to monitor what topics you’re covering, what you’re writing, and how you’re publishing your content. By following your whims in content buying, you’re probably wasting opportunities and missing others.
Issues that can come up from lacking an editorial calendar and a content overview include:
It’s generally a good idea to have a document of some kind that indicates what content you have already published, what content you have purchased and are preparing to publish, and what content you have ideas for but have not purchased or created. You can also have a document for brainstorming ideas and for monitoring trends so you can keep up to date, rather than coming in behind the pack.
If you read any popular blogs – and you probably should – you’ll notice that many of the top tier bloggers have very casual attitudes and betray a confidence and almost arrogance in their knowledge of their subjects. This isn’t affected; it’s a very real attitude to have when you reach a certain level. How, though, can those people buy blog posts?
The answer is, typically, to hire high quality ghostwriters. You’re not just buying content from any old source; you’re buying content from people who know and understand the concept of voice and tone in web writing.
Your blog has a voice. It’s casual or formal, it’s down to earth or stuffy, it’s humorous or serious. It’s somewhere in the broad spectrum of the use of language as a whole. It’s an extension of you, and of what you want people to think of your business.
If you’re buying a bunch of blog posts in bulk from a dozen different writers on a content mill, voice becomes an issue. You either have posts coming in with a wide range of tones, points of view, and perspectives, or you have to spend time writing detailed guidelines that make the best writers of the content mill turn away because the assignment is too much work.
When you don’t have the introspection or self-awareness to recognize your voice, or the knowledge to write it down, you need to be hiring a writer who has the ability to dissect it for you and mimic it.
I mentioned that there are a few good writers on the low quality content mills and mediocre sites, but they’re the exception rather than the rule. The opposite is also true. In the broader world of freelancing, using sites like Constant Content or Upwork or even individual writer personal sites, you end up with writers who really aren’t very good, but who are marketing themselves as if they’re the cream of the crop. These people want exorbitant fees for their writing, but the words they string together are bog-standard and boring.
Always, always, look over the writing produced by any writer you want to hire before you hire them. If you have to, negotiate a trial assignment to see how they fit with your site. You don’t want to pay someone’s $900 fee for a 1,000-word post only to find that their content is essentially a rewrite of existing content. At that point you won’t be hiring them again, but they don’t care; their business model isn’t about repeat customers, it’s about one-time scams.
The caveat to this is that you should always be prepared to pay for what content is really worth. If you go to approach a high quality writer and ask to hire their services at half their usual rate, they’re just going to laugh at you. Well, they’ll laugh at you behind your back; they’ll send you a polite rejection in email first.
For a long time, a blog was something you made and let sit, to boost up your search ranking while you worked on other things. Then Google decided it liked fresh content more than stale content, and people started fighting to have the most up to date blogs. This has continued almost to present day, but I have a secret to tell you.
You don’t need to blog every day.
One of the mistakes I see a lot of bloggers making is operating under the impression that they need daily blog posts to succeed. Meanwhile, if you take a look at the top tier blogs on the web, you see two very different types of sites. On one hand, you have sites like Gawker and the various news outlets that thrive on 2-10 posts per day, covering a broad range of subjects, contributed by a dozen or more writers. On the other hand, you have the high profile individuals who blog once a week or less.
It’s easy to think that, because you’re paying people to do the writing for you, you can fall into the first category. The thing people miss is that in order to do so, you need a tight grasp on content schedule, you need a lot of resources and tips for new content, and you essentially need to become a combination of trendsetter and journalist. Business blogs, for the most part, can’t live up to this ideal. So, if you’re trying to buy 7+ blog posts per week, you’re probably wasting both time and money. It’s better to dial back to 1-3 posts per week, but focus on deeper posts with more detail and better topics.
There are two philosophies when it comes to links in content you buy. Some people decide they will put in their own links, and will demand that whoever they hire does not include links whatsoever. This adds an additional step to your content publication process, though, and it means that you’ll occasionally find a writer who cited a statistic you can’t find a source for, leading to factual issues.
The other side of the coin are the people who don’t want to have to deal with links, and so tell the writers to include a few to cite their sources. This saves you time, but also opens you up to abuse. I recommend it, though. Why? Because you can check the sources the writers use, and you can judge them via those sources.
The last one is the real problem. Including links – followed links especially – to spam sites or unrelated sites makes your content seem worse, and it gives Google a bad impression of your business.
I always figure that the writer providing link is going to save you time, both because you can judge the writer and because you don’t have to find them yourself. You just need to audit them to make sure they’re not going to hurt your site.
Different writers have different needs and preferences when they write content for a site. Some of them like detailed instructions. Some of them prefer some general guidelines and a topic. Some of them work best when they are left with a keyword and a completely free-form opportunity.
There is also the consideration for the type of relationship the writer wants, and what other ongoing projects they have. Some writers prefer an exclusive contract, while others are juggling dozens of clients. Some can have same-day turnaround, others prefer weekly delivery or a fixed X-day deadling on any assignment.
Writers are not machines you can feed money into and get words from. Such machines do exist, but they don’t produce anything near the quality you would want to publish. Writers are people with lives and jobs, with needs and patterns and pets. Treat your working relationship as a relationship with a person and not a machine, and that writer will likely reward you. In this business, kindness and compassion can go a long way.
By contrast, being overly demanding, nitpicking over tiny errors you can just fix yourself, and heaping on requirements on top of tight deadlines doesn’t earn you any favors.
One persistent problem with buying content from a variety of freelancers or a content mill is the lack of continuity. With a content mill, you’re putting an assignment out to the wind, and whoever picks it up is the person who writes it. With an in-house or dedicated contract writer, you know who they are and you know what they have written before.
Continuity is important for maintaining the illusion that there is one person – you – writing for your blog. It’s important for being able to refer to past posts. It’s important for treating your readers like real people who are reading your posts, rather than just people who stumble on your site in a vacuum and have never read anything before.
Any time, for example, you see me link back to a previous post on this blog, or reference that “we’ve written about this topic before,” it’s continuity. Without a writer who knows who you are, knows your blog, and can either research it or has written for it before, you don’t have that natural continuity.
There’s a bit of a prevailing attitude that the general web user doesn’t really read a blog. If they find your posts, they skim them more than read them. Most people only read titles, maybe a few bullet points, and move on. This isn’t really true, but it ties in with another issue.
When your blog is small, it may seem and feel like you don’t have many readers. It’s really hard to have the motivation to keep writing when no one is reading. It’s a lot easier to buy posts and publish them, but that comes with another problem. Instead of disliking the effort of writing for no return, you’re disliking the expense and the editorial requirements with no return.
Don’t compromise your standards or your focus just because it seems like no one is watching. Even if no one is watching, you’re hurting yourself. If you have a high quality blog, someone can find it and start promoting it as a diamond in the rough. If your blog is fluff you’ve been buying just because people say you need a blog, well, they won’t have that same interest. It just doesn’t work.
I glossed over this a bit above, but it kind of ties everything together. Direction, in terms of working with a writer and making sure they know what you want, is crucial to a well-run blog and high quality content. Take the time to determine what you want, what you need, and how you need it presented. Take the time to find a writer or two who can provide that for you. Work with them to establish how much guidance they need, and strive to provide that, without giving too little or being overbearing. It’s a tough line to find, and it’s what makes buying content so tricky.