Before you can write killer content for someone, you’ve got to get to know them. At TCF, we interview new clients about their business, voice and goals; research their industry, market and competitors; talk to them about obstacles and opportunities; and hash out a strategy together — all before we pitch our first blog. The only thing we don’t always learn about our clients’ businesses is what brought them through door — and equally importantly, what keeps some potential clients away.
I’ve seen some tantalizing hints: business owners who (literally) jumped with joy when we shared copy with them, proving that we really could write compelling, topical blogs in fluent English; tense, suspicious first meetings followed by cheerful, relaxed second meetings; clients baffled at how we seemingly know exactly what to write to generate traffic (are they psychic? Was I teleported to the Marvel Universe?). It’s clear that some of our clients have worked with content writers before that, well… weren’t quite up to TCF’s standards.
I wanted to know more, so I reached outside our client base and asked businesses if they blogged in-house or outside, and why. Before we get to that, though, here’s what’s at stake if your content doesn’t show off your business:
Why Content Writing Matters: Traffic, Traffic, Traffic!
Let me just get this out of the way: Blog! Blog! Blog! You must blog! This isn’t optional — if you have a business with an Internet presence (and we hope, dearly, that by this point if you have a business, you have a website), you need a blog with lots of content.
The business blogging hype can get monotonous, but it really does affect your bottom line. On average, blogs increase both indexed links and inbound links by 97%, and lead to 434% more indexed pages. That means businesses that blog get more search traffic from Google and more visitors surfing in from other sites, which benefits sales, ad revenue, and brand loyalty. It’s not just the obsessive bloggers who reap the rewards, either. One Hubspot study found that just 1 – 2 blogs per month can boost B2B leads by 70%.
But with so many businesses blogging, Google competition is fiercer than ever. A Chitika study found that 92% of search engine traffic goes to the first page, with 33% going to the first organic result alone. Businesses that don’t have good blogging strategies risk being buried in search results, making it much harder to connect with customers.
And it’s not just traffic that’s at stake. Blogs are rated as the 5th most trusted source for online info, with 29% of consumers viewing them as more accurate than other online sources, including news sites, online magazines, and brand sites. With more consumers doing research, comparison shopping and purchasing alone (by 2020, customers will manage 85% of their relationships online without talking to an actual person), having a blog that’s accessible, trustworthy and highly ranked is crucial to gaining an edge across your business.
Why Do Companies Outsource Blog Content Writing?
For Candice Galek, outsourcing content writing is the only way to produce all the material she needs. Her online swimwear company, Bikini Luxe, outsources “the majority of the content, solely on the fact that we need so much of it.” Her company relies on outside writers for “everything from product descriptions to blog posts, newsletters and pitches to reporters.” Good content is important, and she realizes how vital it is that businesses have strong copy supporting their website:
“For our newsletters, press releases and product descriptions we have an amazing team of authors from all around the world. We find this to be a much quicker and more efficient way to get the content we need quickly.”
For most of the respondents that contacted me, however, getting an outside writer (or a few of them) was a way to complement in-house talent, rather than replacing it. Conrad Lumm, Marketing Director of online sign retailer SmartSign, runs multiple blogs with the help of outsourcing. Because his bloggers don’t have his industry expertise, he needs to be a part of the process. However, the writers bring an invaluable outside perspective to his company:
“In the same way that being too close to your own website can mean overlooking its flaws, being too close to your own company’s products can be a problem, too. We work with traffic safety products, and people in our industry sometimes have strong opinions that don’t translate well to the general public. The freelancers I work with are often better than I am at framing content when I’m looking for more consumer-oriented writing rather than B2B content.”
While talented content writers have helped both Candice and Conrad, not everyone who has tried to outsource blog content has had a fantastic experience.
How Outsourced Blog Content Writers Let Some Businesses Down
When I started interviewing business people about their blog outsourcing strategies, I expected a range of opinions, from “mystery content marketing elves take care of all my online needs!” all the way to, “hell no, no one touches my blog!” But the thing that surprised me most (aside from the fact that mystery content marketing elves aren’t real) was how many negative experiences people had had.
Some respondents had a very narrow niche, which made it hard to find the right person. Mark Aselstine, founder of wine club, Uncorked Ventures, needed bloggers immersed in the local wine culture. “It turned out to be difficult to get a real coherent blogging strategy with people we hired,” he said. “We only sell wine from California, Oregon and Washington, so articles and stuff on a Bordeaux tasting they attended didn’t seem appealing to us.” He eventually went back to blogging for himself, because he couldn’t find anyone who could keep his customers informed of wine news in his area.
Will Schneider had a similar problem with warehousing and fulfillment company FulfillmentCompanies.net:
“With each attempt at outsourcing, we ran into the same problem — the outsourced writers didn’t have enough specialized knowledge in our industry to write articles that contained specific enough information. On the flip side, as a small business, the highly specialized writers within our niche charged quite a bit more per piece, where it wasn’t as cost effective for us to outsource. We found the happy middle ground for our company was to keep it in house.”
For others, it was the quality of the writers that sandbagged their outsourcing. Margo Schlossberg, Marketing Manager at Gently Loved Jewelry, was initially told by her boss that her time was “too valuable” for content writing, but ended up taking over blogging duties when they couldn’t find the right people. According to her, the bloggers they contract with “never seemed to have a consistent voice with what our story is and how we speak as a company and as a brand.”
The whole experience left her skeptical of outsourcing. Teaching, training and explaining their brand to an outsider “who does not have the same vested interest in the organization and in its success” just proved too much of a challenge for her.
Creative Control Worries: Is This Really My Content?
The problem isn’t just unreliable bloggers or a lack of expertise, however. A lot of businesses that might benefit from outsourcing are reluctant to trust someone else with their voice. Strategist and entrepreneur Ross Simmonds is an experienced blogger and marketer, but when it comes to his coffee subscription site, Hustle & Grind, he didn’t want to give up control: