Content Mills: The Pit Falls Of The Word Mines

When you’re running a business and have, like, a million thing to do, regular blogging is tough. Hiring a copywriter is a tempting prospect. Whether it’s for one post here and there, or on a regular basis, knowing there’s someone to lift that burden is a serious comfort. It’s a godsend. But copywriters are expensive. I’m not going to belly dance about the bush on that point. Hiring a copywriter isn’t cheap. The better they are, the more they cost, and it’s tempting – so very tempting – to turn to content mills for posts to fill your blog schedule.

At first blush, content mills are the holy grail – a super-easy way to get a massive amount of content, for a reasonable price.

But there’s a BUT. And it’s a BIG BULBOUS BUT.

Before we explore the deep crevasse of that enormous BUT, let me fill in a few details…

What Are Content Mills?

Content Mills (or The Word Mines as I like to refer to them) are websites dedicated to producing content. Business owners and bloggers provide keywords or topics they want posts on, pay a nominal fee, and receive bucket loads of content.

Here’s an example: Copify

I’m using this site because I’ve worked for them as a writer myself, so I can provide the view from both sides.

Copify is a well-respected, very popular site. They have high standards when it comes to the writers they hire – I know copywriters now at my level, charging the same as me or higher, rejected by Copify. They demand experience, qualifications, and all applicants must write sample posts. If you pass, you join the ranks of the Copify Typing Monkeys. If you fail, your arse hits the curb pretty darn quick.

How Much Do Content Mills Cost?

Let’s talk prices – that’s what you really want to know, right?

Copify have very reasonable fees. You can buy content for the measly price of £0.04/word (believe me, that’s cheap), or you can sign up to a monthly plan and pay £69 for a set amount of content each month.

Sounds glorious, doesn’t it?

£69 a month on Copify will buy you four posts per month, Royalty Free images, auto-publishing, and Social Media sharing.

For the same price, you can get a single blog post from me, with change.

Not kidding.

You’re probably sat there thinking, “Why the hell are you telling me this? Now I’m never going to hire you!”, and you may have a point. But before you scamper off to sign up to Copify, or one of the many other content mills out there, read on…

Pitfalls riddle The Word Mines, and if you’re not very careful, that £69 will be wasted.

Blogging Is A Bloody Hard Slog

I’m not lying. Running a successful blog is difficult. I’m not patronising you. It’s tough.

Even I find blogging tough, and I blog for a living!

Regular blogging is a bloody hard business. It takes a lot of thought, planning, and a serious commitment.

Time. Energy. Patience.

And the work isn’t done once your post is written…in fact, it’s only just begun.

Because you now have to market it.

Blogging is one of those things that we know, as modern business owners, is essential.

But content marketing requires two things in abundance: content and marketing!

I know! Shocking. Also true. You need to have a lot of quality content, you need to post it consistently, you need to make sure it’s tailored to your ideal client, that it’s going to drive sign ups and sales, that you are monetising it as much as humanly possible, and you need to share it everywhere, like, A LOT.

And we’re back to the million things you have to do.

There are several huge differences between hiring a copywriter and using content mills. They go something like this…

#1 You Get What You Pay For

You’re a savvy Lady Boss. You already KNOW buying cheap content means poor quality compared to what you’d get hiring a professional. An individual. A person to crawl inside the machine that is your blog and treat it with the loving tenderness Scotty always showed The Enterprise*.

There’s a difference between churning out four posts a month, four little shrimpy posts in a sea of other bland, monotonous content. and treating your blog like a PRIZED PEDIGREE. One of these people will get the job done as quickly as possible and move one, without further thought for you, your blog, your content, or the posts they’ve just written. The other will love your blog. She will groom it, nurture it, feed it, see that it gets out and meets other, high breed, Crufts Champions. She’ll spend hours training it, teaching it really cool tricks, and carefully choreographing the Freestyle Routines that will ensure you, and your blog-pooch, are the next duo stealing the show.

You get what you pay for.

You know this.

But what you probably don’t know is exactly how little you’re paying the writer for the post they are providing.

You’re thinking like a freelancer. We are psychically linked, I hear your thoughts: “£69 for four posts, that’s not too shabby, £18 a post. Not brilliant, but how long can’t take that long. That’s far more than minimum wage!”

Nope. It’s not.

It’s not even close.

You pay Copify (or whoever) £69/month. The writer only gets a quarter of that.

Copify pay £0.01 per word for their basic package posts.

YOU think you’re paying a writer a fair amount for a reasonably good piece of work.

How It Really Works

The reality is rather different.

At the time of writing this, minimum wage is £7.20/hour in the UK. That means writing 720 words per hour, just to make minimum wage. Those words also need to be researched, edited, proofread, checked to make sure they meet the client’s brief, style, and include any necessary links, and possibly make amendments. You have to do all that, for every one of those 720 words, in every hour of your working day.

Just to make minimum wage.

You can only ‘claim’ one job at a time. So you can’t sit down in the morning, decide which jobs you’re doing that day, and work until they’re complete.

You have to do one job, and pray there are still more left when it’s finished.

The upshot is that those words get churned out as fast as physically possible. And that is no reflection on the writer. It’s not that they don’t care, they simply need to eat. Pay the rent. Keep the lights – and their computer! – running.

You think you’re paying them £18 per post. In reality they’re getting £3.50.

I’m not kidding – 350 words/post is all you get on the £69 package.

To put that in perspective, this section (‘#1 You Get What You Pay For’) is twice as long as a post you’d get from most content mills.

If you want more words, you have to pay more.

£69 a month will buy you four posts, of 350 words each, written as hastily as possible, by someone who doesn’t know you, your business, or your blog, and has no plan in place to sustain growth and drive sales for you. Not only that, different people will write your posts.

If you want one specific person, you have to pay more.

A writer in a content mill will spend 10-15 minutes writing your post.

I spend at least two hours just writing every post I craft. Add in the bells and whistles and it’s three hours a post.

YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR.

#2 Quality Over Quantity

A small amount of something very high quality is always better than a massive amount of crap.

This particularly true when blogging because your blog represents your business, your brand, and YOU.

Your blog can consist of a massive amount of crap, telling clients and prospective leads that your business is a pile of shit. Or you can have QUALITY CONTENT that’s been primped and preened like a CRUFTS CHAMPION, telling clients and prospective leads your business is THE SHIZ**.

Your blog can either be shit, or SHIT HOT.

It can either be a tub of Sea-Monkeys…***

Sea Monkeys

OR a PRIZED PEDIGREE…

Dexter - King Charles Cavalier Spaniel

It may seem counter intuitive to say this after pointing out the posts from Content Mills are ‘only’ 350-500. Surely they’re better, because they’re shorter?

Not so.

The latest research into blogging and content marketing shows that posts of 2000-2500 words are better for your business. They perform more consistently over time, offer more value to your clients, and are far more meaningful.

You will notice that the main posts on this site (like this one) are always in that range.

There’s a reason for that!

For £70 a copywriter will give you a quality post, of about 1000-2000 words (more if needed). You may ‘only’ be getting one post, but the post is worth far more than four, low quality posts, of only a few hundred words. You’re churning out more posts, but you’re giving your readers far less value. You will get a far higher return on your investment purchasing one professionally written post per month than you will spending the same amount on four posts from a content mill.

#3 Social Sharing Does Not A Social Media Manager Make

Content Mill packages come with a lot of lofty promises: blog scheduling, Royalty Free images, and social sharing. I know a lot of people who have fallen into the MAJOR PIT FALL of thinking that a content mill kills two pesky birds with one reasonably priced stone.

You want content marketing to be at the heart of your business, but you don’t have time to write posts, you don’t have time to schedule them, and you don’t have the time (or inclination) to spend hours searching for suitable images, formatting everything, and repeatedly sharing it across social media.

A true copywriter knows you and your business, understands your vision, your brand, your products, your goals. She knows what you’re aiming for. How much time you have to devote to various aspects of the business. How much time she needs to put in to make sure everything is to the highest possible standard. She’ll write in your voice, for your ideal clients, according to the topics you decide are most important. She can design your whole blog schedule for you, taking out all the guess-work.

She’s the spirit in your website.

Unseen, unacknowledged, an invisible force that breathes life into your blog.

A true social media manager picks up that life, the essence of your business, and flings it to the four winds. She’ll ensure your blog runs like clockwork, that your posts go out on time, every time, and are shared and re-shared across all your social media channels. She will research hashtags, compose tweets, write status updates, find relevant external links to share, create memes and other visual content, and ensure that every single social media platform you have is a lively, buzzing place filled with happy, engaged readers, who regularly visit your website and buy your products.

She is the alchemist. The sorceress that keeps everything running like magic.

A writer in a content mill is a shrimp, in a sea of shrimp, struggling to reach maturity because there’s never enough to eat!

A content mill will push a few messages on your Twitter or Facebook, and that will be the end of it.

If you’re very, very lucky, you will find a copywriter who excels at both writing and social media management. Someone who is your copywriter and your social media manager (for blog posts at least). If you find such a gem, hold on to her! She’s worth her weight in gold.

The writers in content mills may become this proficient (many do), but they’re not there yet. They’re at fledglings, or struggling to find work elsewhere.

It Boils Down To This

Content mills have their place. They’re very useful for creating large volumes of content that (by necessity) need to be short, sweet, and requires no research and minimal skill to write. This is NOT because these writers are incapable of quality research and writing. But few are willing to work hard for so little. They’re not lazy or greedy: they need to earn a living!

If you’re looking for bulk product descriptions or website copy that doesn’t need to be pristine or perfectly on-brand, a Content Mill is PERFECT for you. Away with you and fill your boots!

If you’re building a defined brand with a clear voice and message, and/or use content marketing as the core (or a large element in) your business, YOU NEED TO HIRE A COPYWRITER.

It doesn’t need to be me!

It DOES needs to be someone who can plan a proper schedule for your blog, work on your branding, help you hone your voice, ensure consistency, quality, and take the weight off your shoulders.

The whole point of outsourcing your blog posts is for you to have less to do, and less stress in your business. Make sure you find someone who can do that for you.

 The Divine Blogging Design - Claim Your Free Professionally Written Blog Post

 You must forgive the occasional Star Trek reference. I’m a geek. I’m unashamed.

** The Shiz: The antithesis of shit, meaning: awesome; cool; fabulous; so freaking fantastic people are overcome with JOY at the shizzyness of your blog.

*** Sea Monkeys are brine shrimp you get in a funny little tub.

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Hazel is an author, copywriter, content marketer and blogger. She specialises in helping creative entrepreneurs, coaches and small business owners harness the power of the pen (or keyboard!) to market their products and services through soulful selling. She's had several academic papers published internationally, and featured on sites such as The Huffington Post. In addition to her professional work as a writer, Hazel is also a fiction author. She has published several books and short stories, including The Uber Author Planner, Chasing Azrael, a Urban Fantasy novel, and Bleizgeist, a Dark Fantasy novella. Hazel has a regular weekly column on Sci-Fi Fantasy Network, and is currently working on her next novel, Death Becomes Me.

Comments

  1. Great post!

    I think even Copify know that the content produced on the lower tier of their service is junk – at least, that’s the sensible implication when you realise they also offer a “pro” tier. I don’t think *anyone* wins when they use Copify – apart from Copify of course.

    • Thanks, Ben! And yes you’re quite right – they don’t pretend to be anything other than what they are. They’re well aware what the writers do to produce content for the lowest tier, and that’s why they offer two higher (MUCH more expensive tiers). But even their higher tiered content isn’t even remotely comparable to what you’d get spending the same amount on an actual copywriter – one person to get inside your blog and work their magic, and that they’re decidedly more reluctant to admit to!

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