Can you trust the content that was created by your SEO company?

Are you sure?

Here’s the dirty little secret inbound marketing companies don’t want you to know.

Can you trust the content that was created by your SEO company?

Are you sure?

Recently, I was contacted by an end client who needed my opinion. His firm was working with an SEO company that provided content creation as part of its monthly retainer. This content included guest posts, blog posts, and site content.

Here was his question:

The SEO and marketing company I’m working with keeps sending me “SEO rich” content designed for off-site placement that needs my approval. The problem is, the content they write is borderline horrendous. When I read the articles, it almost sounds like they were written by high school freshmen who will probably never be accepted into an AP English class.

My question is, when it comes to off-site content for SEO and “being recognized by various search engines as an authority figure,” how important is populating the page with “SEO rich keywords” versus having professional sounding content that actually flows when read by a real live human being? Should I trust their judgment when it comes to writing “professional content” or trust my gut and re-write it myself?

The sad thing is that I’ve heard this question before. The company providing the content may be an SEO company… or an inbound marketing agency, or a content marketing firm. They may fantastic at design or technical SEO… but not so hot when it comes to the content.

The common thread is the content is horrible, keyphrase-heavy and not fit for publication. Instead of enhancing a company’s brand, the content works against it.

What’s worse, many businesses allow content like this to fly because they think it’s “supposed” to read like that “for Google.” They don’t realize that Google wants to reward standout content that addresses the readers’ question – not keyphrase-stuffed drivel. Especially when they are receiving their content from a “content marketing agency” that builds its branding on knowing how to produce share-worthy content.

So here’s the dirty little secret some inbound marketing companies don’t want you to know.

That content you’re receiving (and paying for)?

There is a high probability that the firm outsourced the content (and paid $5-$50 dollars for the post). Often, their business model is to bring on newbie copywriters, give them some general guidelines, and set them loose.

Internally, there is no discussion about your tone and feel, your sales cycle, your reader, or your conversion goals. It’s all about cranking out the content for the lowest possible cost.

You may wonder why your company should care about how much a freelancer is getting paid. Here’s why:

  • Lower-cost content typically means lower (sometimes much lower) quality. The person who emailed me complained about misinformation appearing as early as the first paragraph. How can such a sloppy error happen? Often, the writers are incentivized to work quickly, not to create high-quality work. Think about it – if you’re getting paid $25 a blog post, how many posts would you have to write to meet your monthly expenses?
  • This low quality reflects directly on your brand. Do you think people will really want to hire you – or purchase your services – if your posts have grammatical errors, contain misinformation and are written so poorly that they’d put anyone to sleep?
  • There is no SEO benefit to cranking out a large quality of bad content. Quality is truly better than quantity.

Of course, I’m not saying all SEO or inbound companies hire dirt-cheap freelancers or very green writers. There are many companies who hire professional writers (and their prices reflect it). What I am saying, is if a monthly retainer package that offers 25 pages of original content a month seems dirt cheap, well, you get what you pay for.

So, how do you stop this from happening to you?

  • Before you sign a contract with a content provider, ask about the writer assigned to your account. You’ll want to see writing samples, get an idea of their history and background, and learn if they are primarily a blogger or a sales writer (yes, these are two different skill sets).
  • Ask how the writer’s work has performed in the past. Did the writing drive conversions? Increase social shares? Snag scads of search positions?
  • See if you can have a quick chat with the writer. Get a feel for what he/she has written before, their experience level, and industry knowledge. If you don’t “click” during the conversation, consider asking to speak with another writer.
  • Consider working with a firm that specializes in SEO content development (or even a freelance SEO writer) instead of putting all your needs in one agency basket. Hiring another firm will probably result in higher content costs. But again, you get what you pay for.
  • Finally, research if training your in-house team in SEO copywriting and content development is a smart move for your organization. Although the upfront cost would be higher, training your team is much less expensive in the long run than outsourcing. Plus, you’ll have much more control.

Don’t accept poorly written content because you think it’s “supposed” to read that way “for Google.” Now that you know this dirty little secret, you can evaluate your SEO content differently and determine the best source for your content needs.