Blog SEO copywriters: Pay peanuts, get monkeys

December 1, 2008 •

Pay $10 – $25 per blog post?! Wow! Put me down for 200 of those. I imagine they’ll be top shelf link bait! Just what I need for my SEO…

C’mon! I know blogging is hard work and takes a lot of time, but do you really think the answer is outsourcing to someone cheap? How good do you think the result will be?

What’s involved in writing a really high quality post?

Let’s think about the logic for a second: it takes YOU about half a day to write a quality post, right? And you’re the subject matter expert. How long’s it going to take a copywriter? They have to get their head around your offering, your customer, your target reader, the purpose of your blog, the purpose of the post and the fundamental message of the post. Then they have to research and understand the details, plan the post, write numerous headlines and choose the one that’s most engaging, then write the post and optimize it for search. All the while, ensuring their terminology is credible!

At least, that’s what they’ll have to do to write a quality post!

How long would it take me?

Now I can’t speak for everyone, but it takes me a good day or two to get through all of that (6-12 hours), depending on the complexity of the subject matter. Of course, that’s assuming it’s about something I’m not an expert on. Which most posts are.

And I’m no slouch. I’ve been writing professionally since 1994. I’ve run a business since 2002. I have a Bachelor of Arts in English Lit and Linguistics. And I have a Master of Arts in International Communication. So I research effectively, I learn fast, I understand business and I write fast. This isn’t a sales pitch, it’s all fundamental to my argument.

How long would it take another SEO copywriter (to do it properly)?

So if it takes me a good day or two, let’s be generous and assume it’s going to take most SEO copywriters about the same. Let’s say 1.5 days per post. Now if you’re paying $10 – $25 per post, that equates to around $7 – $16 per day for the writer. That’s only $2,555 – $5,840 per year, assuming they work every day! There’s no way in the world that any decent SEO copywriter will work for that! (Well, there’s a miniscule chance you’ll find a great junior SEO copywriter who’s just starting out and desperately needs the money. But finding an SEO copywriter like that is like finding a needle in a haystack. And they won’t stick around for long. Trust me, I’ve been down that path.)

Why not send it to India?

I know it’s tempting to say, “Send it to India,” but that’s not going to solve the problem, either. A cursory scan of Indian job search site Nakuri reveals that a half-way decent copywriter can earn around 4,00,000 to 8,00,000 Rupees per year. That’s around USD $9,390 to $18,780 per year + benefits. So why would they work for $5,840 (much less $2,555) per year?

No. What you’ll get is a blog post that was written in an hour (two, if you’re lucky). Poorly written, rehashed rubbish with no subject matter expertise, and certainly no relevant opinion or thought leadership.

Be honest. Would you subscribe to, return to, talk about or link to a blog like that? Of course not!

And after all, if you’re blogging for SEO, it’s all about subscriptions, return visitors, buzz and voluntary backlinks. Which means you have to repeatedly offer original, helpful thought provoking blog posts. Blog posts that people consider worth bookmarking and worth sharing with their own visitors and networks. What’s more, if you’re touting that sort of rubbish in places like Twitter and Google+, you’ll quickly lose all credibility, and stand no chance of developing a following.

That’s why it amazes me when I hear so-called ‘social media experts’ suggesting this tactic. They should know better!

What should you do instead?

My contention is that if you’re serious about your blog (and not just blog-spamming – which is no better than article spamming), you have only four options:

  1. Write your own blog posts;
  2. Write your own blog posts and have a good SEO copywriter with social media knowledge edit & optimize them;
  3. Have a good SEO copywriter with social media knowledge ghost-write your blog posts (which will cost a lot more than $10 – $25 per post); and/or
  4. Try to attract some good guest-bloggers who’ll do some for free.

If you’re not up for any of those options, then you can forget about blogging. It’s not for you.

Conclusion

In blogging, there’s no quick and easy option. Just as there’s no quick, easy way to write your corporate web copy (Home, About Us, Products, Services, etc.). Would you settle for $10 Home page copy? If you’re serious about your blog, then you have to treat it with respect. You have to value it as highly as you value your other promotional material. It may not be selling your product or service, but it’s selling something, nonetheless. Something much more important, in the long run: your brand and your reputation. And if your purpose is SEO, it’s selling to a very jaded audience: social marketers.

Social media is the key to SEO these days. And it will remain the key for a few years to come. Certainly blogging is going to be massively important for years. WHAT we blog about may change, but the ACT of blogging will be critical for a long time. The key is expertise, usefulness, credibility, frequency and accessibility. And you’ll never get that paying $10 – $25 per post.

Pay peanuts, get monkeys! And that’s all I have to say on the matter 😉

Happy blogging!

Feel free to comment...
comment avatar
Cathie wrote on December 1st, 2008

I absolutely agree; while I think there are elements of SEO that can be outsourced very effectively, blogging is not one of them. When you spend (as we do at Geekdom) a *lot* of time working on the credibility and quality of your websites, why would you risk blowing all of that effort and energy with one poorly written, cut'n'paste post? I think the golden rule is to ask yourself if you - as a web savvy consumer - would choose to read such a post yourself. And if the answer is no, don't inflict it on your readership.

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Craig Garber wrote on December 1st, 2008

Not to mention, you'll ultimately RETAIN readers with your personality, almost exclusively. And that isn't so easy to farm out, is it? Nice post.

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Glenn (Owner) wrote on December 1st, 2008

Good point, Craig. Personality is important in blogging, just as it is in places like Twitter. People engage with people, after all.

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Angus wrote on December 2nd, 2008

I agree totally on the pay per post issue! As for the time spent on a blog post, I'd say that depends on what you're trying to accomplish. If you're blogging to establish authority and draw lots of web traffic, then yes, you should see a good return on the extra time you spend to get it right. But I don't think all business blogs need to do this - just giving a human voice to the business and creating a space for conversation is still worthwhile, even if it's mainly for existing customers. So I wouldn't want to set the bar too high if some busy greengrocer or accountant only has a few minutes to dash off a post!

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Kimota wrote on December 3rd, 2008

Give that man a ceegar... The number of times I have had this argument with bosses who obsess over the how cheaply they can get everything. "Yes, I think we should have one of those, but is there a way I can get it cheaper?" Quality ain't cheap and social media is about quality. And talent. And thought leadership. I've seen otherwise noteworthy businesses complain that blogging is obviously an overhyped fad when their blog fails after six months of outsourced posts from tired uni students at $20 a pop. I know the old mantra is 'content is king' but there are still too many who think it is possible to game the system with shortcuts.

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Tracey "Biz Doc" Dooley wrote on December 3rd, 2008

Great post! It's not just applicable to blog/SEO writing, though... I sub-contracted a so-called ‘professional’ writer (with a seemingly good portfolio) via one of those service providers similar to Elance to write a 30-page report for me. On top of her taking almost three times the agreed time to do this, the quality was poor. She was so off brief it was scary. There were typos everywhere, and some of the language used was very suspect indeed. Worse, having already collected the bulk of the payment due as a deposit, she disappeared. No contact. No one to put things right. No brief fulfilled. Later, I found out she had passed off other peoples’ samples in her portfolio as her own. I ended up out of pocket for that project. And you can imagine the frustration and disruption caused to my business. Which is what happens to a lot of business owners who think they can save money by going after cheap. Listen to experience. Don’t do it: You WILL be left with monkeys if you pay peanuts.

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Glenn (Owner) wrote on December 3rd, 2008

All great comments guys. Angus, I agree that there are some pieces that require a little less time. But I think that the only really quick ones are likely to be those where you're simply linking to some article or site and quickly commenting on it. (And in my experience, even those comments can take a while. Case in point: this comment!!!) As it's important to add value with every blog post, I think, on the whole, even short posts take as much time PER WORD, they just tend to have fewer words.

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Kamal wrote on December 5th, 2008

ya, I agree with your blog, nice.

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Rob McGuire wrote on December 9th, 2008

I totally agree with you on this. I was working for an online company that also incorporated a network of blogs and for a while all the blogging was done in house. Not the fanciest of work mind you, but at least the writing was done by people who knew something about the industry. Since I've left, I've noticed a huge difference in the writing on those blogs and it's obvious the writing has been outsourced to someone who doesn't use English as their primary language, nor are they all that informed on the industry. All the blogs we built up are now basically just spam and ads now.

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Amrit Hallan wrote on December 11th, 2008

Although I take up blog writing assignments and have more than 10 satisfied clients I agree with you that if you want to develop your brand as an expert it is always better to write your own blog posts. Having said that, there is no harm in outsourcing your blogging requirements if blogging is not your primary occupation. For instance, Glenn, you say that it takes almost a day for you to complete a blog post. I'm sure you don't spend the entire day writing the blog post because you must have other professional commitments to -- it means you work on a post for a few days and then post it. Blogging outsourcing works best for people who are busy with their own respective professions but would still like to publish regular blog posts on their business blogs for the sake of generating brand awareness and also to generate traffic. If you want to publish small posts every day on your topic and this job can be done by another person I don't think there is anything wrong in it. Then there are some people who are not comfortable with the language. Even if someone is comfortable, knowing a language doesn't mean you can write well in it. This leads us to a conclusion that don't outsource blogging to save money, outsource only when you feel that the writer can really do better than you can. Again, having said that, I totally agree that if you pay peanuts you get monkeys :-)

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Leif Kendall wrote on January 30th, 2009

Hello! I completely agree with you - it really annoys me how people think that filling a site with cheap content is going to help. I just blogged about this very subject. Would love to know what you think: http://kendallcopywriting.co.uk/2009/01/30/bad-search-engine-optimisation-seo-polluting-the-web/

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Karin wrote on April 12th, 2009

I agree wholeheartedly. Unscrupulous operators who offer extremely paltry pay for writing services show a complete disregard for the craft of writing.

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Should Google penalize sites that use paid content? wrote on April 12th, 2010

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My thoughts on ’sausage-factory’ content: Let’s set some things straight wrote on May 27th, 2010

[...] I’ve argued that if you pay peanuts to blog ghost-writers you get monkeys. [...]

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Greg wrote on March 22nd, 2011

I think all depends no how a blog owner feels about their blog. If it's just some crappy cut-and-paste job to get traffic somewhere else (a landing page), then they'll pay as little as possible. I've had clients who are like, "this site is my BABY"... those folks don't bat an eye at paying well for the content.

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Mina wrote on July 28th, 2011

Unelbivealbe how well-written and informative this was.

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Genevieve Fosa wrote on December 3rd, 2012

That post was right on! I have been through the lists searching for work, and I have written articles for some of those webmasters looking for cheap blog posts. It does take two to three days to write a well researched article with well-ordered ideas, and that reads smoothly. Including appropriate key words for search engine optimization can be at least another hour or two of work. It's not instant, and it's not magic. And i don't need to sit here repeating what you have said. I'm just very pleased that another writer agrees with me. Thank you.

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Mel Noel wrote on May 30th, 2013

I guess the old saying goes, "you get what you pay for". Very good and helpful post. Always invest wisely when it comes to your business.

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The Role of Quality Copywriting in Reputation Management wrote on September 10th, 2013

[…] – often a lot longer. How many good writers do you think work for $1/hr? That’s $8/day! Even writers from non-English speaking countries can’t live on that. Instead, they pump out 5-10 articles per hour. Imagine the quality of 200-300 word article written […]

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My thoughts on 'sausage-factory' copywriting wrote on April 13th, 2015

[…] I’ve argued that if you pay peanuts to blog ghost-writers you get monkeys. […]

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Should Google penalize sites that use paid content? wrote on April 22nd, 2015

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Akshay verma wrote on March 28th, 2018

Very well written post.

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