July 23 2013

The Value & Price Of Quality Content

You may (or may not) have noticed that I recently took the plunge into the dark, dank world of freelancing. This experience has opened my eyes to another layer within the business world and our beautiful industry. For the first time I’ve had to sell myself  instead of just previously being the not inconsiderable brain behind some genius online marketing campaigns.

One of my skillsets is writing (I know, who’d a thunk it) and although it’s a bit lower down on my list of  ‘specialities’ I have been contacted about and completed a couple of writing projects so far. From these projects and keeping my ear to the ground I have noticed an interesting but not surprising phenomenon.

Companies, brands and agencies still don’t seem to realise that producing something of high quality/value will in turn potentially have high costs.

I won’t give names but there are a large number of businesses who preach the holy arts of quality content, pleading with us that we should see the light and ask Cutts to forgive us for our keyword targeted sins.

And then outsource the creation of it for buttons.

Now don’t get me wrong this is business and most of us will understand/concede that this is the way it’s always worked. You need some articles? Some landing pages? Perhaps a guest post? Simple get on elance or odesk, add a job and don’t you dare spend more than £30 per post!

Even worse (and this is rarely aired in public) is where SEO’s will manipulate industry contacts and ‘friends’, underpaying them for content or not even paying them at all. Fortunately this hasn’t happened to me yet but I have multiple contacts within the online marketing world where this has happened to them.

Anyway, enough of the sob story.

 

How things used to be

 

Lets think about an example…

Pre Panda/Penguin agencies and businesses are still doing low level link building and creating crappy landing pages that might get long tail traffic and if they’re lucky rank for a short tail term if they chuck enough links at it. Lets call our agency White Hot SEO. Our head of SEO/content/whatever is called Tim and he outsources content to the far east for £2 per post, if he’s feeling generous and needs something extra special he’ll contact a UK or US writer and shell out £30 per post.

Tim’s clients are paying thousands of pounds per month. He is keeping costs down by outsourcing ‘smartly’ and getting good results for his clients. His staff are happy, his outsourcers are happy, his clients are happy and Tim is happy.

 

There maybe trouble ahead…

 

So, here comes trouble. Panda and Penguin rear their ugly heads and Tim is now in a world of pain. His clients who were used to the best rankings, traffic increases and positive reports are now furious. He’s been hammered by Panda because his content is awful before later being sunk by Penguin because his links are just as bad. He’s lost clients, let staff go and stopped outsourcing because “it was their fault”. What does the poor boy do?

He reads to find out what has happened, he reads to work out why it’s happened and he reads to work out how to fix it. He learns that this time content really is king. It helps attract visitors, it builds a brand, it gains links, it gets people to make that purchase. All of the things that his previous content suppliers couldn’t do.

The thing is Tim still expects the prices of content creation to stay the same regardless of his new found expectations of quality. He was paying £30 previously for a crappy keyword stuffed piece and expects the quality to improve massively whilst paying the same amount.

How does this work? This doesn’t make sense. He’s basically saying “I want you to create something of high value but at a low cost”. I’m sorry but this thought process ist kaput ja?

 

We’ve got to talk about content

 

The biggest problem is that Tim isn’t alone in thinking this way.

Like I’ve said I don’t write too often so it isn’t something I have to personally deal with but by looking at freelance sites, talking to freelancers and companies alike I see new attitudes to content value but old attitudes in its cost.

Isn’t it time that writers/creatives were paid the money they deserve? Don’t get me wrong, I am not asking for increased pay for all content creators, don’t rush to get your wallet out for just anyone. If they can’t write or create anything of note then leave them in the £30 bracket that amateurs will pay. However if you’re looking for something of value, a piece of genuine quality that will make the difference within a competitive market then it’s going to cost you.

Do you really expect any different?

It’s time the industry realised this and took it seriously.

 

9 Comments

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  • Reply

    Anthony Pensabene (or Content Muse when dressed in costume)

    6 months ago

    I’m with you, brother. I’m not sure to twist my panties tighter regarding some of our peers, who (I guess?) pride themselves on being clever in keeping costs low and money to themselves, or the variety of clients who approach them, who may scoff at the thought of now paying more for content.

    I agree with your sentiment that better quality should beget/promote a better brand trajectory, yet I feel like we’re swimming with a lot of bullshitter shark types, who on their pulpit preach real content shit, but when it comes down to implementation, do as little for as much as they can get, who take money from clients who really are concerned about revenue than relaying quality.

    I know a few things about a few things, and unfortunately, my theory is a bit more practical and applied than I wish, but that’s partly my fault for being in the industry for one, and perhaps rubbing elbows with the wrong characters..

    I wish your freelance days find like-minded and like-quality of people, mate. cheers.

    • Reply

      Sean

      6 months ago

      Thanks for dropping by dude, basically I could have summed this up by saying.

      “do as little for as much as they can get, who take money from clients who really are concerned about revenue than relaying quality.”

      And it isn’t ‘wrong’ from the client/agency perspective. I just think this issue should be discussed a bit more.

  • Reply

    Iain Bartholomew

    6 months ago

    I think that this is pretty much right. Of course the market should in theory adjust itself – the service is only ever going to be worth what someone is prepared to pay for it.

    There seems to be a number of problems – are there people agreeing to produce good work for low cost? Does the perception of quality matter more than the reality? Does the ultimate purchaser (the client/whatever) have a firm enough grasp of what constitutes quality (or what their money is being used for)? Probably loads more besides.

    • Reply

      Sean

      6 months ago

      Hey Iain, you’re right though the service is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it and as long as the majority pay a lower amount then it’s unlikely to see change.

      You make some good points:

      Are there people agreeing to produce good work for low cost? No doubt about it. I imagine the situation is do the work for cheap or not at all.

      Does the perception of quality matter more than the reality? Good question, I suppose it’s all about perception. If a piece is seen as quality by people then who cares if it isn’t really? Also does quality content have to be expensive? or do you require quality content to rank? The answer to both is no but there is a lot to be said about creating something of quality in branding/marketing terms. The SEO/content marketing world overlaps a fair bit.

      Does the ultimate purchaser (the client/whatever) have a firm enough grasp of what constitutes quality (or what their money is being used for)? Probably not and this is a big issue. Is an agency going to tell a client that this amazing piece of content is necessary when it takes up 75% of their monthly budget? I don’t think so 🙂

      • Reply

        Joel K

        6 months ago

        I take a no-bs approach to my pricing and my freelance work.

        A mentor of mine wisely shared that smart freelancers will change the conversation from clients saying “Here’s how much we’ll pay you” to freelancers saying, “Here’s my level. If you want to be on it, here’s my price.”

        I’m not saying you go out and charge absurd pricing with a thick-headed arrogance. I’m saying that if you are a good writer catering to people who want top-tier blog posts at $40/post, you are a part of the problem, not the solution.

        I am doing everything I can to find people who believe that communication is valuable and will pay to have a job done right. I don’t charge more because I’m greedy, I charge more because I believe I’m worth that hourly rate to a client. I believe in what I am doing, I believe words are powerful, I believe I can give clients better copy that gets better results.

        If I offer “better” for cheap, I lose. The whole industry loses. Until writers stop being afraid to make rent and start charging what they’re worth, we’ll ALL lose.

        Know what you believe. Know your value. Communicate both and people who agree with you will find you. At least, I hope they will. Ask me in 6 months.

        • Reply

          Sean

          6 months ago

          Great comment man and cheers for dropping by.

          This was pretty much what I was trying to get across > “If I offer “better” for cheap, I lose. The whole industry loses. Until writers stop being afraid to make rent and start charging what they’re worth, we’ll ALL lose.”

          When I released the post into the wild I was concerned that people would think it was all based around greed. Of course I want to get paid and paid well if possible but it’s more about the value of my work than it is me wanting to sit on a stack of cash. You’re more than free to write a post in 6 months discussing how it’s gone although it’ll probably better suit your site.

  • Reply

    Chris

    6 months ago

    It’s quite simple really the opportunity cost is too big…

    Investing in cheap content requires more budgets for link building…

    • Reply

      Sean

      6 months ago

      But, but, but…

      You’re right Chris this is the way it goes. I like to create stuff that attracts links over creating cheap content and link building but that doesn’t mean it’s right.

  • Reply

    SEO Diaz

    6 months ago

    You mean Tim was paying £2 per post, like in 2.7 USD?

    C’mon, I know a site where you can outsource some articles of 250-300 words each for as low as 1.5-2 bucks… just shoot me an email and watch your search traffic skyrocket B|

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