An Argument Against Outsourced Content – A SEO-News Exclusive Article

spn_exclusiveLet me start off by explaining exactly what I mean when I say “outsourced content.” Just because a piece of content wasn’t written inside the four walls of your office, that doesn’t automatically mean it’s “outsourced” as I define it. Do I think hiring a freelance writer to manage your business blog counts as outsourcing? No. Do I think having a PR firm write and distribute press releases under your company’s name counts as outsourcing? No. Do I think hiring a social media marketing or SEO firm to write and promote content counts as outsourcing? No.

So What is Outsourced Content?

To me, outsourced content comes from two main sources: overseas and writer databases. Many black hat SEO firms will outsource their clients’ link building activities to India or the Philippines because it’s cheap and easy to do. Oftentimes they do the same thing with content. A writer overseas is only going to charge $5-$20 for a 500 word blog post while a professional freelance writer in the States might charge $200 for the same amount of words. (Notice I said same word count, not same post! Keep that in mind for later…)

I would also classify outsourced content as the content a business might get from a writer database. I’m sure you’ve come across something like this before – you can plug in your topic, content type (blog vs. article vs. whitepaper) and how much you are willing to pay and a handful of writers pitch you for the job. I’m not saying that there aren’t great writers to be found on these writer databases, but those few great writers are often buried under a flood of not-so-great ones.

Why Shouldn’t Site Owners Outsource Their Content?

Content is the Lifeblood of Your SEO and Social Media Marketing.

In fact, content is the driving force behind all of your online marketing tactics. I would go so far as to argue that content is the single most important asset, a website can have. Think of it this way – would you be willing to hire a random person off the street to deliver the budget planning presentation to your board of investors? Of course not! So why are you willing to hand your content over to someone who doesn’t understand your business and your goals?

If you were to hire an outside partner, like a SEO firm or professional copywriter, to handle your content writing you are bringing them on as de-facto employees. They will work with you and your team directly to ensure that the messaging and branding of each piece of content they produce is on target. They not only know how to produce great content, they also know how to optimize it for SEO and make it share-worthy to drive your social media marketing campaign. That kind of familiarity with your brand is just not something you can get with outsourced content!

In my experience, I’ve found that site owners who turn to writer databases often have to give the writer so much direction and guidance that they might as well have written the content themselves! As for content that goes overseas, you get what you pay for. There is just no way that a $5 dollar, generic and bland (because that’s what $5 is likely to get you) article can compete with something crafted for your brand with your messaging strategy and your target audience in mind.

I realize that a $5 article can have just as many links in it as a site owner could ever want, but the quality just isn’t going to be there. Besides, content marketing is about so much more than link building. Content is what builds your online brand presence, helps you connect with your target audience and positions your company as an industry authority. A spammy article isn’t going to cut it!

Generic Writing Won’t Make You Stand Out.

Most outsourced articles are a little flat, stale and overused. No one is going to produce a great piece of content for your brand for $5! Depending on how large and in-depth you want your article or whitepaper or blog post to be, a great writer could easily spend a few days doing the research, writing the article and fine tuning the messaging. Are you willing to do that much work for $5? $10? Even $100? What is your time worth? If you aren’t willing to put in that much effort, why are you expecting the person to whom you outsourced your content to?

I was working with a consulting client once that had outsourced their content. It was our first meeting and I was combing my way through the site, asking them to explain their business model and methodology to me. As he was talking, I noticed that some of his points were in direct opposition to what I was reading on his site. When I pointed out the discrepancies, he replied “Yeah, we don’t do it that way but this is what the writer we used sent me, so I just put it up.” I was blown away! I couldn’t believe that a site owner was so desperate to cut corners with his budget that he would willingly publish content that his company didn’t even believe in! He sacrificed his whole brand to save a couple hundred dollars. I think that is a prime example of “penny wise, pound foolish.”

Most outsourced content is nothing special. You might find a few diamonds in the rough here and there but for the most part it’s bland and vague (at best) or reads incredibly spammy (at worst). If there is anything site owners should have learned from the Panda updates it’s that good SEO relies on great content! If you don’t have the in-house talent or time to handle your own content creation, make sure you are putting that responsibility in capable hands.

Nick Stamoulis is the President of Brick Marketing, a white hat link building and SEO services company. With over 12 years of B2B SEO experience, Nick Stamoulis shares his knowledge by posting daily SEO tips to his blog, the Search Engine Optimization Journal (or SEO Journal) and publishing the Brick Marketing SEO Newsletter, read by over 150,000 opt-in subscribers. Contact Nick Stamoulis at 781-999-1222 or nick@brickmarketing.com

About the author


Nick Stamoulis

Nick Stamoulis is the President of Boston social SEO firm Brick Marketing. With nearly 13 years of SEO experience, Nick Stamoulis shares his knowledge by writing for the Brick Marketing Blog, hosting SEO trainings and publishing the Brick Marketing SEO Newsletter, read by over 150,000 opt-in subscribers. Contact Nick Stamoulis at 781-999-1222 or nick@brickmarketing.com.


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  • Nick,

    Content is a subject close to my heart, and I have spent years advocating the value of good, relevant, timely and salient content to website owners and others. However, you are absolutely correct that some services out there do very little in terms of SEO or, just as importantly, brand perception because the content is not sufficiently relevant, newsworthy or interesting.

    When we created the original Clip and Ping business, we provided content to clients websites and let them or their webmaster partner manage the content onto the site, but they soon lost focus and stopped managing the quality and quantities. As such, the content became less and less valuable at both an SEO and brand level.

    Now, we still allow site owners to take our content, but we are much more empowering when we host and manage the site on behalf of our customers. We still do all the normal SEO ‘stuff’ that most SEO experts would do, but we do it 24 x 7 AND overlay the site with relevant content, design and branding, as well as social media etc, as it happens!

    We find a combination of hands on technical expertise, SEO expertise and marketing/design expertise as a managed service works best of all.

    Love your articles, always on the money…well done!

    Rob – Director Clip & Ping Limited (UK)

  • On behalf of copywriters everywhere, thank you! I get so frustrated with business owners who don’t understand why it costs so much for good writing. I plan to share this article with prospective clients, so they can be educated. Thanks again!

  • Thanks Nick for the informative article.

    Personally, I wouldn’t outsource ANYTHING, primarily because like you say, most of the time it goes to foreign countries at a cheap rate and most of them struggle with the English language anyway.

  • Dittos Nick! As a solo SEO / Web developer I have tried my hand at the outsourcing content thing. The allure of “easy” work fades quickly when you see the results. You get what you pay for! That payment is either in dollars to a qualified writer, or hours spent doing it yourself.

  • Thanks for distinguishing between inexpensive overseas writers and writer databases and professionals that spend the time to understand the client’s business. With SEO, you want a partner that not only can write great content, but who also is keeping their eyes open to other opportunities to promote your business.

  • Excellent article outlining the differences between good and bad content sources. Thank you for pointing out that $5 content is just not good content.

  • Great article, Nick. It comes down to what we’ve heard before: Content is king. Your blog/website is the online face of your company. To project a strong, positive, high-quality image takes an investment of time, skill, and money. And that means being willing to pay reasonable fees for professional writing.