Education

Copywriting – The Top Ten Benefits That Copywriting Clients Can’t Get From Content Mills

First-time buyers of copywriting often find themselves drawn to so-called ‘content mills’ such as Examiner, Suite101, Associated Content, eHow, and DemandStudio. These sites hold out the promise of cheap, no-frills copywriting, with the reassurance of paying for your copywriting by the word. Unfortunately, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Here are the top ten things you won’t get if you decide to get your copywriting from a content mill.
· Ability. Sounds painfully obvious, but there’s such a thing as copywriting skill, and people have varying levels of it. If you’re a white-collar professional using a content mill, you could be delegating your copywriting to someone with abilities only as good as (or worse than) your own. So what have you really gained?
· Experience. One or two cents per word does not stretch to a seasoned copywriter. But why should you pay for copywriting experience? All I can say is that the ‘broad but shallow’ knowledge picked up during my career has served my copywriting clients very well. Ideas from copywriting clients in other industries. Print techniques that work online, and vice versa. Ideas on ecommerce, SEO, social media and more. Ideas on improving value propositions. Ways to save time – and money. It all adds up – and you get a professional manner, calm demeanor and sense of humor thrown in.
· The right price. If you need to spend more, you should spend it. If my plasterer discovers rising damp, I want him to tell me, not just cover it up. Let’s say I’m working on a fixed-price copywriting job for a content mill. The client has directed me towards out-of-date sources. Halfway through, I realise this, but have no incentive to raise it since there’s no way to renegotiate the fee for the copywriting. So I just cut and run, having fulfilled the letter of the contract. The copywriting is inaccurate, and some valuable learning is lost.
· Enough time. Closely allied to cost is the need for adequate time. Many copywriting projects throw up unforeseen issues. ‘The subject is more complicated than we thought.’ ‘There’s more to say.’ ‘Our structure needs work.’ ‘We need to rethink terminology.’ ‘Our industry jargon won’t work for SEO copywriting.’ ‘We’ve identified a new market segment.’ The professional copywriter works with the client to address these problems – with a time implication, yes, but what’s the point in rushing to the wrong destination?
· Reassurance. So you’ve chosen to use a content mill. Presumably you’re completely confident about factual accuracy, grammar and spelling, copyright and fair use, trade marks, US/UK language conventions, Google penalties, duplicate content and the legal implications of publication. If not, why not work with a professional whose reputation is on the line with every single copywriting job they take on?
· Flexibility. Inspired by The E-Myth Revisited, I once dreamt of creating a one-size-fits-all ‘system’ for handling copywriting and design projects. I soon gave up. No one needed it, or wanted it. Marketing should be a bespoke suit, not a T-shirt from Wal-Mart. Smart clients appreciate that copywriting service and expertise pay for themselves.
· Rapport. Clients who tender copywriting job by job never realise the benefits of working long-term with a copywriter who truly understands them. For them, every step is the first – every piece slightly off the mark, lacking sparkle, bringing nothing extra. They’ll never feel the thrill of receiving text from their regular copywriter that absolutely nails everything they wanted to say, and more – first time. (For a regular client, I recently wrote the president’s introduction to a brochure with no brief. He approved it without change.)
· Creativity. The fixed-price deal actively discourages discussion, consideration and indeed active thought. The copywriter’s only hope is to bang that copy out quickly and pray she doesn’t get RSI. She certainly has absolutely no incentive to put forward anything creative, inventive or alternative, even if it could help the client. The risk is just too great that it will be rejected – leading to a rewrite, obliterated profits and aching wrists.
· Intelligent SEO. Even basic SEO copywriting is an art – hitting keyword density targets for multiple terms without grammar and sense collapsing completely. But competent SEO copywriters take it to the next level, offering content that actually appeals to humans too. In other words, a landing page that isn’t a bouncing page.
· Motivation. When prospects ask what I’d charge for ‘an hour’s graft copywriting’, they are perhaps puzzled as to why their enquiry fails to excite my interest. The reason is that I prefer to strike a civilized, mutually beneficial deal in an atmosphere of respect, friendship and dignity. With that in place, I’m motivated to give my very best to the copywriting project. Without it, you’ll get ‘good enough’, but no more.
Now, the most likely objection to all this is that it’s completely irrelevant to copywriting for article marketing, or the creation of banks of SEO pages. I beg to differ. For articles posted at EzineArticles and similar sites, your best chances of republication (propagating your backlinks across multiple domains) come with a compelling, high-quality article. Better to have one killer piece than five embarrassing duds. And for SEO, as I’ve argued, you need your landing pages to convert the reader, not just attract traffic.
I also feel there’s a big cloud hanging over the in-vogue strategy of gaming the search engines by posting huge amounts of nominally relevant content, hoping to boost link velocity and backlink numbers. Google’s business model depends on search results that are relevant and deliver genuine value to users. Historically, it’s never failed to weed out any attempt to reduce quality to a formula, or mere gruntwork. Would you bet against it now?

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