Who Wrote It Better? Content Mills vs. Freelance Journalists for Quality Content in SEO

Adrianna Mieras

Senior SEO Strategist

A major factor in driving conversions and increasing page views is the quality of the content. If it’s useful, interesting, and has a compelling call to action, it
improves your rankings. If it’s generic, riddled with misspellings, and stuffed with
keywords, it can hurt your rankings. Obviously, an experienced freelance journalist will deliver higher quality content than most of the content mills out there, but is it worth the extra cost? And will the lower quality writing you receive from the more affordable content mill be worth it when it comes to SEO? Use this guide to find out which option is best for you. 

Content Mills Pros and Cons

A content mill is basically a platform where thousands of writers can find work and businesses can order content. Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages a business owner can expect from using a content mill.

Pros

Cheapest Option: The cost for content ranges from less than one cent per word to a dollar per word for high end bloggers, and if you’re looking for content that costs less than a cent per word, content mills are your best option. They are by far the cheapest way to generate content for your website.

Quick Turnaround: With content mills, you can order the content and post the deadline and a writer will usually get to it in time. This means that if you need a rush content order completed by the end of the day, there is a good chance it will be accomplished. There are occasions when it takes longer for your order to get picked up, but for the most part, you can expect a very quick turnaround for your content.

Thousands of Writers to Choose From: Every content mill has hundreds of thousands of writers on retainer you can choose from. Though you’ll have to go through a few to find ones you like, once you find writers who deliver quality at your desired level, you can send your work directly to them.

Cons

Poor Content Is Status Quo: Sometimes you’ll receive content that needs little to no editing, but most of the time, expect low quality content. These writers are paid on commission, which means the more words they can spit out in an hour, the more they get paid. This generally means lower quality writing because they don’t take the time to check their work. 

Expect Extra Revision Rounds: Since the content will likely be poor quality, you’ll often need to request edits, sending it through the content mill once more and waiting for the writer to make the edits, hoping that they have the skill set to do so. The only way around this revision process is hiring an in-house editor who can correct the work instead.

You Must Use the Platform: You are at the mercy of the platform. If you do find a writer you like, you must contact them through the content mill’s platform, since it’s a violation of the writer’s contract to work with your company on the side. If your preferred writer is busy and can’t take your order, you must use someone else.

Foreign Writers: Though content writers generally have tests to screen for non-native English speakers, there will still be plenty of writers who do not have a thorough understanding of the English language, delivering low quality content in broken English.

No SEO Training: Most of your content is likely to be purposed for SEO, and most content mill writers don’t have the proper training. This means poor uses of keywords and limited link building abilities in every piece they write.

Duplicated Content: Content mills are infamous for producing duplicate content. If a writer picks up two similar topics, he/she will often use the same content for both, meaning that there’s another website blog out there with the same content as you. Google’s algorithm does not like duplicate content, so this can hurt your SEO rankings.

Freelance Journalist Pros and Cons

A freelance journalist is your other option for content creation. This is a writer you keep on retainer rather than keeping an in-house writer. Here are some of the pros and cons of hiring a freelance journalist.

Pros

Understanding of SEO: Most freelance journalists make it their business to know SEO best practices. You can usually give them keywords and request a type of link building and feel confident that they won’t keyword stuff and will insert the keywords and anchor text as naturally as possible.

High Quality Content: You get what you pay for with freelance journalists, and since you’ll be paying a quite a bit more than you would at a content mill, you’ll be getting much better content. You can talk specifically with your journalist to ensure they deliver the voice and style you want on your blog, while maintaining SEO best practices according to your specifications.

Other Project Capabilities: Freelance journalists are also known for dabbling in other forms of content creation besides writing, which means that you can most likely find a freelance journalist who can also create videos, infographics, screencasts, and other content for your blog or website.

Flexibility: Having a freelance journalist on retainer means that you have the benefits of a high-quality employee without paying for a full time employee. Most journalists have a flexible schedule, which means they can get you content in a timely manner, even within the same day.

More Shares and Page Views: A study performed by Chartbeat showed that readers tend to spend up to 75 percent more time on high quality content and share that content than they do on low quality articles, which means that the high quality content your freelance journalist writes for you is an important step in helping your rankings.

Cons

More Expensive Upfront: A business will generally pay a freelance journalist at least twice what they will pay a content mill, making it a pretty significant cost upfront. 

You Write the Contract: There are also more legalities involved with freelance journalists, including certain tax forms and a contract that you must compose on your own.

Unreliability Is Possible: Some freelance journalists look good on paper, but don’t show up for the job. If you’ve screened your journalists well, you likely won’t have this problem, but some irresponsible employees can still slip through, and it’s extremely frustrating to put your faith in a writer who isn’t there when you need them.

Who Wrote It Better? 

With all of this in mind, which content creation option should you go with? That all depends on your goals, and it will vary from project to project.

Content mills are riddled with vices, but they have their uses. If you have a content specialist on your team who is available to correct the work delivered by content mills, there are many pieces, such as website copy and simple blog posts that can be outsourced to content mills at an affordable rate. They are also great for startup companies who need content right away, but don’t have it in the budget to hire a journalist. Content mills are also great if you find a writer or two that delivers content you can actually use.

If you’re looking for a constant inflow of high quality work that will always be SEO optimized and require minimal revisions, a freelance journalist is your best bet. Though the initial startup cost may seem high, the returns you’ll see from your successful SEO campaign will pay for those costs and then some. You’ll have a dependable writer on retainer that you can turn to for more than just written media. This is also a great option if you want a single writer who can maintain a solid voice for your company.

When it comes to your content creation, the choice between content mills and freelance journalists really boils down to the specific needs of your company, and with this list of pros and cons, you can easily make that choice.

About the Author: Adrianna Mieras

Adrianna is an SEO Strategist at SEMGeeks. She holds a BA in Communication Studies with a concentration in Digital Communication, Information and Media from Rutgers University. She takes pride in her work and thrives off of "position one" success. Born and raised at the Jersey Shore, Adrianna spends her free time riding her bike along the beach and swimming in the ocean. She has a passion for people, places and new experiences. It is rare to find her without a smile on her face.

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