We all like a bargain, and a search online for content writing services will often bring up all kinds of cheap offers, that go something like:

  • “Writers ready to help. Start as low as $1.50” (that’s for 150-300 words)
  • “Hire content writers from $1.30 per 100 words”
  • “Content writing service at $13 per page”

and so on.

Looks like there are some real bargains there, doesn’t it?

These types of services are often called ‘content mills’, or even ‘content farms’. They provide low cost, churned-out writing services, very often specifically designed to improve SEO rankings. How it all works is clients post what type of content they want and writers ‘apply’ for the job. In many cases, the writers don’t need to have any industry or copywriting experience behind them.

But like a lot of things in life, it can be a case of you get what you pay for. Here are a few reasons it’s not a great idea to use cheap content mills.

1. Quantity becomes more important than quality

Writers who work for cheap content mills are usually dreadfully underpaid. This means they have to produce a LOT of work to keep body and soul together for the next week.

The problem with this is it makes it very hard to produce work of quality – which is an absolute must these days if you want to rank at all with search engines.

Focussing on quantity can lead to fatigue, rushed work, recycled/spun work, more chance of errors, and generic content that lacks originality.

In some cases, working like this can lead to writer burnout.

On the other hand, there may be some very good writers there who are using content mills as a starting point to get work. But don’t expect them to stick around too long – sooner or later they’ll get snapped up elsewhere, or be off looking for better compensation.

Bottom line: a focus on volume is the wrong approach.

2. The content you post represents you

The content you publish on your website represents your brand. As far as your readers and search engines are concerned, you wrote it and put it there.

It should reflect your brand voice and the messages you want to convey to your audiences. This means it should be carefully curated, not churned out in production-line fashion.

The other thing to remember is that if you use a ghost-writing service, you own the copyright. Do you really want to risk being the owner of questionable quality content on your site, reflecting your business? And if Google does penalise it, that will hurt you, not the original writer.

Bottom line: take care of what you allow to represent your brand.

3. Lack of industry specialisation

Cheap content mills often use newbie writers, who are unlikely to have had a great deal of industry experience. This means you’re unlikely to be matched with a writer who has much experience or expertise in your industry.

If so, the work could be lacking in rigor and authority. And Google is very keen on content with a high level of expertise and authority!

Bottom line: the content on your site should be high in authority if you want to rate with search engines.

4. Lack of consistency

These types of services might be cheap, but you can never be really sure what you will get.

You also don’t get the opportunity to form a relationship with a writer who understands your business and in a sense becomes part of it.

To my mind, it just makes more sense to find a writer who will take the time to understand your brand voice and the messages you want to convey. That way you’re far more likely to get consistency and reliability in the content you post on your site.

Bottom line: consistency of quality is key when publishing content.

Are content mills the same as content agencies?

Kind of depends.

The term ‘content mill’ is more of a description than a category. It’s used to describe writing services that mass-produce work for a very low rate. It’s doubtful that any service is going to literally call itself a ‘content mill’, especially since it’s often used in a slightly derogatory way.

However, content agencies (or content marketing agencies) are a ‘thing’. They usually offer a range of specialist services in content marketing, including written posts and web pages.

Content agencies will often have a team of in-house writers or screened freelancers that they regularly use. A quality agency will also have a thorough client briefing process. This gives their clients more of a chance of being provided with tailored quality work.

Of course, some agencies will be better than others, and there could be some that are just tarted-up content mills. So if you are considering using an agency, it’s important to check out their testimonials and portfolio of work beforehand so you have some idea what to expect.

More reading: article on content mills and content marketing, by The Balance Small Business.

Are all content mills bad?

Possibly not, and a quick look online indicates some writers are actually quite happy to use them.

But either way, be aware that these businesses are usually based in America. This means you’ll be getting work in American English, which may not be the best look on an Australian site.

Would I write for content mills?

As a general rule, I don’t believe in slave labour. I also know my limits, and realise if I had to pump out large volumes of work I’d end up getting too fatigued to focus on high quality. And that would give me sleepless nights!

So no, I don’t do work for content mills. However, I do regularly freelance through a reputable agency, based in Australia, that provides consistent quality to their clients.

A viable alternative for SMEs

Naturally, a smaller business is not going to have the budget of a big corporation.

But there is a middle ground – that of customised content writing that doesn’t look like it came off a production line and that doesn’t cost the earth.

If you’d like to know more on content writing for small business, get in touch.