Content is king written on a slate board

Why cheap B2B content will kill your SEO and annoy your customers

Posted by Matthew Stibbe
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Content is important for SEO, right? Yes. The more content the better, right? Yes. But not just any content. And not at any price. 

Cheap content could be killing your brand, destroying your search engine ranking and annoying your customers. We're not saying don't give it a go. In fact, we wrote this article about how to start a blog if you want to try your hand. We're just saying, not all writing is equal.

I got this message from a friend recently:

‘Hi Matthew, you're a man in the know! Do you have any recommendations for a technical freelance writer. I work for a web development company and we need 2 blog posts per month writing. The problem is we don't have much budget. We've been paying £15 per blog post (500 words) but the quality is dreadful. The posts are written by general freelance writers and we need someone specifically technical.’

That’s 3p per word. Even if a writer can research and craft a blog post in two hours, it’s still working below the minimum wage. It’s hardly surprising that the quality is dreadful. Good content takes time and effort. Like good website development.

Verbiage is the not the same as content

For a start-up, the temptation to trim costs to fit a limited budget is understandable (if short-sighted) but I’ve heard similar stories from well-established companies and experienced marketers who should know better.

One, for example, pays a content mill to write ‘keyword-optimised blog content’ at bulk rates because ‘it’s good for search engine optimisation’ but comes to us for case studies. They don’t understand that their blog is at least as important as their case studies. Presumably, they think that customers don’t read their blog but do read their case studies. It’s a case of penny wise and content foolish.

Cheap content will kill your SEO

Google is very clear about the importance of good quality content. In its best practices guidelines it says:

  • Make pages primarily for users not search engines
  • Ask ‘Does this help my users? Would I do this if search engines didn’t exist?’
  • Avoid loading pages with irrelevant keywords

Elsewhere it says:

  • Make sure your site adds value
  • Publishers must provide unique and relevant content

And, critically for writers, it offers more guidance on building high-quality sites, in particular:

  • Is this article written by an expert or enthusiast who knows the topic well, or is it more shallow in nature?
  • Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors?
  • Does the article provide original content or information, original reporting, original research, or original analysis?
  • Does the page provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results?
  • How much quality control is done on content?
  • Is the site a recognized authority on its topic?
  • Was the article edited well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced?
  • Does this article provide a complete or comprehensive description of the topic?
  • Does this article contain insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious?
  • Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?
  • Would you expect to see this article in a printed magazine, encyclopaedia or book?
  • Are the articles short, unsubstantial, or otherwise lacking in helpful specifics?

How likely is it that a £15 blog post will meet these expectations?

Cheap content will annoy your customers

More importantly, how likely is a £15 blog post to be a good showcase for your business’s products or services?

Website visitors – you included - have very finely-honed bullshit detectors. They form almost instant judgements about websites. We’re trained to spot typos, badly-written copy and waffle because there is so much of it about. On the other hand, we’re drawn to useful, relevant, authoritative, remarkable articles.

Research into readability by the Neilsen Norman Group shows that web copy that was concise, scannable and objective was more than twice as usable.  They say:

Content rules. It did ten years ago, and it does today. People don’t use things they don’t understand. Writing for the Web is still undervalued, and most sites spend too few resources refining the information they offer to users.

Do it yourself if you can’t pay to do it properly

If you can’t afford to pay professional writers, you can produce great blog posts yourself. Infrequent but high-quality blog posts beat frequently-published trash every time. We have a lot of free advice that will help you get started:

Be remarkable or shut the hell up

There are plenty of places where you can get writing for pennies per word. I’m not going to tell you where because it’s a terrible idea. It’s like asking for the cheapest brain surgeon.

Listen, people, if you pay peanuts you’ll get monkey droppings. Don’t put monkey droppings on your website because Google will smear them in your face and your customers will think that’s the best you can do.

Instead, be remarkable. If you want help with that, contact us. We’re not cheap but we’re very good.

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