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November 17, 2011

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

Let 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