Whether you’re an agency that uses freelance writers to compose articles for your client’s blogs, or an affiliate marketer that needs thousands of words written on a daily basis, one fact remains constant: Good writing is expensive.
For that reason, more than one well-meaning entrepreneur has turned to content mills to craft this type of content for them. They’re drawn by the allure of paying cents (and in some cases, halves of cents) per word on what is advertised as “well-written content,” when the reality can sometimes be radically different.
Writing quality to the side, it can logically be assumed that if the majority of your competition is employing the same content mills, very little (if any) competitive edge can be gained by you using the same service. You’ll get content for sure, but the writing that you receive might not be worth much.
Instead, if you want to set yourself apart from the competition and ensure you have a strong SEO presence for years to come, you’ll need to invest in your content. It may be more expensive initially, but having a few great articles is vastly superior to a lot of really mediocre content.
Among freelance writers, the term “content mill” is a pejorative term that identifies low-budget, high-volume platforms that most tend to stay away from at all costs. Clients post a job advertising a 4,000 word “expert” article on a subject—such as “Expert Guide on Google URL Tracking”—and offer a really low budget for the finished product.
How low? In some cases, as little as $20. If you do the math, that usually comes out to a few cents per word. Unless you’re able to write thousands of words an hour, including research, editing, and revisions, that rate falls under minimum wage in the United States.
The only way a writer can make any money is by churning out article after article as fast as they can, which means the final product is—as you might expect—less than satisfactory, to put it mildly.
From a writer’s perspective, content mills can be good for gaining valuable experience, such as interfacing with clients, setting up personal writing schedules, and handling payments and taxes. Most, however, abandon them as quickly as they can.
Why? Because the quality of writing asked of them on those platforms is so low (along with the pay), that good writers often get discouraged and burnt out rather quickly. They then leave that service entirely, which means that most content mills are an ever-revolving door of new writers, rather than dedicated practitioners who are loyal to their platform and their clients.
Sites like Textbroker, for instance, bill themselves as a freelance platform that connects writers and clients. The client fills out a simple brief, decides on a budget for their article, and then posts the brief to the marketplace to be picked up by a writer with a corresponding “star level.” The writer completes the article, submits it within the timeframe, then handles revisions, if necessary.
At least, that’s how it’s supposed to work in theory. The reality is that many writers will simply choose to “spin” articles to submit on the platform. “Spinning” refers to copying a similar article into a software program, pressing enter, and then receiving another article that looks and reads similarly, but will pass plagiarism checks. The article is approved, they get paid, and the client is none the wiser.
Technically speaking, Textbroker (and most other services) has harsh rules for anyone that is found to be spinning articles, but that doesn’t mean the practice isn’t widespread. In fact, it’s a problem on most of these types of platforms, as writers consistently prioritize speed over quality.
Other sites have different interfaces with their clients, but the results can be the same. Writer’s Domain is a site similar to Textbroker, but instead of giving a brief, the client simply picks a keyword they want the article written on, such as “plumbing” or “vinyl fences.”
This ambiguity has led to many people claiming that the articles they write end up primarily on Private Blog Networks (PBNs), which are a huge no-no in the SEO world.
The defining characteristic of a content mill is the emphasis on volume. Quality, research, and any kind of proofreading are all sacrificed on the altar of speed.
Professional writing services that actively encourage good content are not hard to find, but they are more expensive. They also occupy a weird space in between part-time writers and full-blown freelancers who have built up their own client base and don’t need the help of a third-party.
A few of the more reputable professional writing services are Word Agents and NDash. These platforms strive hard to create quality content for their clients, but doing so at scale is a challenge. Every brief is analyzed, bid on, and then accepted by writers who may not be particularly loyal to one client or the other.
Competition on most of these reputable content mills can also be fierce, which forces most writers to simply abandon those types of platforms altogether and find their own clients. There, they can find long-term clients to create strong relationships with and grow their own business.
In short, because they’re convenient. Link building for agencies can be effectively outsourced if you know where to look, but many agencies still prefer to do their link building in-house. And content writing is a huge job, consisting of web pages, blog articles, tutorials, reviews, and even social media captions.
It’s also a big part of most agency’s long-term plans, so any opportunity to streamline that process is going to be considered. At most, some agencies will have a content manager that employs a team of freelancers to get content written, but that’s usually as far as it goes.
It’s not only extremely time-intensive to manage a team of professional writers, but it’s also expensive. Most content mills will charge the client a few cents per word and then pay the freelancer who wrote the content roughly half of that.
When you compare this rate to industry rates for freelance writers that are more than triple that, it’s easy to see why so many clients would choose to use content mills to generate their content.
Professional writers also take more time to create quality content. This can be a death knell to some agencies who need to upload 4,000 words of fresh content on their sites every single day.
The thought of a single writer taking two weeks to craft one blog article is simply unthinkable, especially when they can put that same brief up on a website and receive it within 24 hours for a fraction of the price.
Content that is written on the cheap for your own blog is one thing, but if you’re hoping to use it for guest posts on other blogs to drive traffic back to your site, think again.
Generating articles from content farms and then pitching those as guest posts may save you some time in the short run, but they could be catastrophic for your business over the long term. Consider these disadvantages.
Freelance writers that make money from content mills are all about speed—they have to be, in order to make a decent living.
Because of that, the amount of research that they’ll do on your particular subject will most likely be surface-level. They’ll skim a few articles, take some of the main points, and then develop a piece of content that will be approved in as short a time as possible.
The problem is that Google is getting smarter every day, and knows that the content is light on actual info. It only takes a slightly better piece of content, with more backlinks, for someone else to outrank you. There is nothing stopping someone else from posting a job on the same content mill, asking for a few more keywords, and one-upping you on the SERPs.
This emphasis on turnover will cost you in another way: accuracy. With so little time devoted to each article, you can forget about any sort of fact-checking. The writer will find a source that “seems” reliable, link to it, and send you the article to approve. Since you’re also focused on speed, you probably won’t check the source either.
Pile up enough articles like that, and you’re sitting on a time bomb. The second people realize your content is untrustworthy, your rankings will sink like an anchor. Before long, you’ll be on page thirty-eight, never to be heard from again. Or worse—the subject of a negative PR storm when one of your competitors discovers your questionable content marketing tactics.
And low quality content is unlikely to get you prestigious backlinks, because high-authority sites generally care about what they publish.
Most content mills will allow you to submit a revision request, but actually getting those changes completed could be a challenge. Writers simply aren’t incentivized to rewrite an article when it’s much easier to write another one that has a better chance of being accepted by a client that doesn’t care as much.
Most of the time, your article will find its way back into the queue to be written by someone else and you’ll lose the previous work completely. As such, your content will be completely hit or miss. Either it’ll rank semi-well, or it’ll be completely worthless, riddled with errors and typos, along with any lack of discernible direction.
Great writers are hard to find, but one that you can develop a good working relationship with is even tougher, especially if you’re only looking on a content writing service. These platforms intentionally throttle client and writer communication; any attempt to talk to each other outside of the service is strongly discouraged and can result in both parties getting thrown off the platform.
Most authors don’t feel like that risk is worth it, which means that even if you do find a writer you love, you can almost never move them off the platform without some serious consequences. When there’s no relationship with your writers, it’ll be nearly impossible to create any traction with linking or overall keyword strategy in the longer term.
The quality of your content is a major factor in the positioning of your brand. Even if you intend to use milled content purely for ranking (and not to gain actual readers), people will land on it via Google and form an opinion of your brand based on the content.
Assuming the content is in your own business niche, that means gaining a reputation for have no knowledge or understanding of your own market and products—not a good way to position your business for long-term success.
SEO is a long-term investment, and a reputable guest post service is future-proof. Google is getting smarter by the minute, and its algorithms are constantly updating themselves to weed out low-quality content. In the past five years alone, there have been forty algorithm updates to address various issues related to spam, nefarious link-building, PBN schemes, and a host of other items that Google deems low-value and unethical.
Imagine the horror of waking up one morning to find out that all of your work—every article, every guest post, every link, all of it—is gone due to an update. Your business could literally crater overnight.
A professional guest post service employs writers who care about what they write, and establishes links through ethical means on well-known websites, ensuring that your work has some legs to it. Instead of ranking today and tomorrow, you’ll also rank five, even ten years into the future.
And while everyone else is busy paying writers $0.01 per word to write the same article on plumbing that they’ve written for hundreds of other clients, you’ll have a link that is built on a solid foundation and can stand the test of time.
If you’re looking for links that you can be proud of for years to come, let’s talk! Our writers are talented and care about the topics they research, which means you’ll only get high-quality content that your readers will love.
Plus, our relationships with various website owners ensures that your links will only appear on authoritative websites. If you want to invest in your business for the long term, contact us today.
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