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Content, Writing and Copyright Forum

Content writing and the economics post Google Panda

 10:25 pm on Jun 27, 2011 (gmt 0)

Quotes are coming in to provide content of good quality (not expert) for about US$25/250 words per article from a US source.

Administering this content is coming in at around US$100 per article That is reading it, editing it, adding internal links and loading it.

So in effect, this is $125 per article.

The reason for choosing a reliable native writer versus an offshore bureau was that the language is more natural. Typically the grammar struggles in India and doesn't seem to flow, and some of the Asian units in the Philippines repeat phrases which also appear totally clumsy.

But this price is scary for a large site. $12,500 per 100 articles and a target of 2000 articles in one year with no guarantees of sucess post Panda.

Any thoughts as to whether we are on the right track?



 10:39 pm on Jun 27, 2011 (gmt 0)

I would suggest testing internally first. See what content optimization do to your top performing products and work down. Figure out if the % increase in revenue makes sense from there and if so invest more resources.


 10:48 pm on Jun 27, 2011 (gmt 0)

suggest testing internally first

@CPC_Andrew - could you clarify what you meant. Panda is slow to test between update cycles and there is no real consensus yet on how to manage it.

So the thought is to be aggressive, but not stupid. That's the problem when combined with the economics.


 11:05 pm on Jun 27, 2011 (gmt 0)

I would test the before and after traffic / sales / conversion levels of your top 5 - 10% of your products before optimizing content and after. Determine if the change in sales is worth some kind of additional investment and move forward.

I know of clients that have aggressively invested thousands but have not seen any change in conversions, so I would recommend starting small until you can reasonably say you can expect x return from this business venture.

Also, Google continues to make changes so it just seems like there's so many variables moving on both ends (retailer and Google) that any major content investment is risky.


 11:09 pm on Jun 27, 2011 (gmt 0)

I'd like to think that if you doubled the article price you could cut the editing (etc.) cost by half, which would be a net savings of $25.00 per article.


 11:18 pm on Jun 27, 2011 (gmt 0)

Knowing that I'm no content expert, here's what I'd be looking at.

First, do you need more content? Could you spend the money better elsewhere, i.e link building to existing content?

Secondly, I don't know why 2000 articles is any sort of target. If you've got six figures for content creation, the last thing I'd do is basically what you've already touched on - hire a no-name.

Take your six figures and call two or three "real" content writers. People who have a recognized name in the industry, who write for national newspapers and magazines. People who do real research (not just read about it on the internet), who interview and have sources. You'll have a lot less volume of articles, but you'll be getting the name (and probably links) associated with having their name on your site.

I'd do that with half to two thirds of the budget. The rest, I'd put into a calculator or two or some other sort of diverse content creation.

Because frankly, $100 articles from non-expert level authors stink as bad to the public and probably Google as a $5 article. You can tell when the article was written by an expert or someone writing for the web when you browse - so can your visitors.


 11:21 pm on Jun 27, 2011 (gmt 0)

Good points - thanks.

Do the numbers look reasonable or inflated by the way you might handle things?


 11:34 pm on Jun 27, 2011 (gmt 0)

Seems a bit high to me. Really, what you've described you can get done by an English major at the college level, including the editing and uploading. $125 per article? I bet they'd be frothing at the mouth for a summer job at less than half that price. I'm saying that based on the fact that I believe that there's little increase in quality for what you're paying. Perhaps I'm wrong.

Take $100,000. Lemme assume you're in the US and doing something like mortgages or credit cards. Could you call Suzie Orman and Dave Ramsey and three more folks of that caliber and offer them $20K each for say 5-8 articles each? Maybe I'm out to lunch on that, but I can't be that far off. So now you've got 30-40 articles and you've blown your budget. But publishing 30-40 articles over the next year from those folks, what's that do to your site vs. 2000 articles written by someone else? What happens to your traffic, your backlinks, your comments....and your offers from experts in your field to guest post for free?

No guarantees, but I'd feel alot more confident of success spending that much money that way.

And further, if it was me, I'd be scheming on how to get those pros to write for me for free rather than dropping the $100K. I already work with the people of that caliber in my industry on other things, mostly to keep the relationship going. To date I've used it so that I could get them to use me as a source reference in national publications and to get blog posts on their websites. But maybe it's time I asked for a favor, for one of them to write an article in my next newsletter. Hmmmm. Anyway, perhaps a question you might consider is, can you pull a Tom Sawyer and spend the $100K or a fraction of it, to somehow get the real pros in your industry to write for free?.

Here's a twisted example. I'm doing stuff for a famous national author and TV celebrity. As a result, they called me for info on their next book, I'm getting a reference. And they gave me a series of blog posts on their blog. Now I'm asking my clients for testimonials and in exchange, I'm giving away copies of this author's latest book. But not just that - I asked the author if they would personally autograph a case of books to my clients in exchange for the testimonials. So they know I'm promoting their books as well. Lot of background work, but there's a greater than 0 chance that the author would give me a hand if I asked for an article for my newsletter. I've not done so since my motivation was links, but if it was content, same end result.

perhaps I'm meandering :). But these days I find I have to take a bit more of a twisted path to develop relationships and get my results.


 12:52 am on Jun 28, 2011 (gmt 0)

I take your point about the quality writers, but Panda seems to conflict with it as a priority, plus in our category it's hard to find something that stands out. ( I'm sure there is something, but just don't have time or focus to get my head around it ).

I have come across folks who are using offshore content writers just to bulk out the unique ratios, pre Panda, then replacing it methodically with better and better content. But I'm not convinced this is a good way per my earlier remarks.


 1:22 am on Jun 28, 2011 (gmt 0)

but Panda seems to conflict with it as a priority,

I'm no panda expert, but you're wrong. Yes, there are counter examples, and they're all posting online. But most of the sites that got hit panda were content farmers - they got hit deservedly. I'm sorry, what are you looking to do again? Oh that's right. Set up a content farm.

it's hard to find something that stands out
Shrug. Life's hard etc.

This is the weirdest update/algo slam I've ever seen. In all the other ones there were people screaming false positives as well, but at least they weren't still looking to keep repeating what they darn well knew got them penalized in the first place.

I swear I am going to get a T shirt that says "Unique Content <> Quality Content". (on the back it will say "Facebook is stupid").


 1:23 pm on Jun 28, 2011 (gmt 0)

They're going to charge you 25 bucks for the article and then 100 bucks on top of that for *reading* and *editing* it? Sounds a tad ridiculous to me.

I'm so flabbergasted I don't know quite how to phrase it. I'll try again.

You're paying a company for what should supposedly be a finished article, but then you're paying that same company another fee in part to *read* and *edit* the article.

Doesn't that sound kind of crazy to you?


 3:11 pm on Jun 28, 2011 (gmt 0)

I got the impression that the writing and editing were to be done by two different sources, not one.


 3:48 pm on Jun 28, 2011 (gmt 0)

Ahh, guess I read it wrong.

But then I don't see where "reading it, editing it, adding internal links and loading it" should cost four times as much as the article. The numbers only make sense if they're reversed.


 9:50 pm on Jun 28, 2011 (gmt 0)

There was a typo in the quote - my apologies $25 per article and $40 for review, internal linking, conversion to HTML and loading into the site. This procedure assumes about 20 mins of an SEO familiar person/s in an agency, given that we need to do this on a scalable basis, i guess expertise and company loading apply.

If we do this offshore in the Philippines or India etc. supervision will likely cost a lot more and the language and grammar will not flow, and i guess the Panda algorithmns put it at risk.

Total cost looks to be around $65 loaded and optimised, so $6500 per 100 articles. Does that look closer to what you'd expect ?


 4:13 am on Jun 29, 2011 (gmt 0)

I get right now about 5 quality article a day...

I dont pay for any of those other than with my time and my connections. I built my "whole new content creation" around book reviews. I get those books for free from the publishing houses. Not only do i get unique high quality reviewes but i "breed" experts in my niche, there are reviewers that i organsied over 100 books in the last 5 years.

I usually contact the authors of those books too (via social media), they are especially keen on reviewing books that they need for their own research. For example i got an published author the last two months books worth 2.000 dollar (didnt cost me anything), not only do i have a published authors that writes for me for free, but it also get easier and easier to get from publishers books (thanks to high quality reviewers), but those authors with their small/big fan base spread the word on my behave.

I have now a network of publishing houses, authors and scholars that is probably thicker than most of the agent in that business. I get authors asking me for contacts, I get publishing houses asking me for authors. Thanks to my connections friendships between authors have formed, they do interviews for me, often without asking me. You know for example its pretty cool when a university professor is not only doing a book review for you but also contacts the author and does an interview on my behalf...

My point is, that a niche can thrive and compete with big boys if they are "a bit different", "very personal" community driven and dont think in terms of content as commodity, its much more at least in my case. My new content is the final result of engaging with people, connect them and share resources...

I know this might not answer the original posters question, but i just wanted to point out that there are many ways to get high quality unique article, especially if you start thinking outside the box...


 4:32 am on Jun 29, 2011 (gmt 0)

btw - this thread might make interesting reading [webmasterworld.com...]

Maybe the quantity could be halved with the same effect. Quality over quantity, Google has just come out and said.


 1:38 pm on Jun 29, 2011 (gmt 0)

There was a typo in the quote - my apologies $25 per article and $40 for review, internal linking, conversion to HTML and loading into the site. This procedure assumes about 20 mins of an SEO familiar person/s in an agency, given that we need to do this on a scalable basis, i guess expertise and company loading apply.

Hmmm, 20 mins equals $40 while the time it takes to write 250 words equals $25, both presumably on a Stateside pay scale?

It's still backwards.

I over 30 years in the writing and editorial business I've never seen a pricing structure like that. Ancillary services such as you describe should be a fraction -- a fraction -- of the price for the main article.

Unless, of course, they're paying off-shore prices for the article and State-side prices for the ancillary services. Many dummy fronts have been setup over the past few years.


 2:44 pm on Jun 29, 2011 (gmt 0)

Oh, and $65 per article in toto is a good price for 250 words. But are 250 non-expert words really what you need? That's just the kind of light content to which Panda is supposed to be targeted. Spending the money in other ways, maybe along the lines of wheel's "meanderings" might be more beneficial.


 4:52 pm on Jun 29, 2011 (gmt 0)

I like viggen's approach. Having users write product reviews can be a huge time saver and add great value to your SEO. Developing that network can take time, but from a cost perspective it seems the most sustainable.


 6:13 pm on Jun 29, 2011 (gmt 0)

I like viggen's approach. Having users write product reviews can be a huge time saver and add great value to your SEO. Developing that network can take time, but from a cost perspective it seems the most sustainable.

...i like to add that a volunteer team from my discussion forum (the supporters club as we call each other) do all the editing of the submission, i am not a native english speaker, so having scholars, authors, professional editors do all the editing for free is a huge bonus and essential to our success.

In return i get my supporters club any book they want, can hang out with the authors in the supporters only chat room etc... I couldnt afford any of that if i had to pay for this...



 12:51 am on Jun 30, 2011 (gmt 0)

I like viggen's approach

It sounds good, but our sites don't fit this type of free contributor framework. But it makes me think.

I wonder if so much content needs to be written, and whether it can be reduced in favor of monies spent on better usability. The above link suggests to a Googler saying the quantity of words doesn't count, and me seeing sites with very little content flying with additional traffic up the SERP's, with this Panda update , makes me think we should be looking at a lot less words, and therefore less cost.


 1:44 am on Jun 30, 2011 (gmt 0)

There comes a time in any niche when a site has "covered it" and anything after that is gloss. What I have done over the years (pre-Panda and post) is as the evergreen ages, take a look and see if it needs pruning or a shot of fertilizer (updates, revisions). One site that started out in 1996 with 100 pages is now 1700 pages (2011) but those original 100 pages have morphed and grown and remain among the most often visited. I'd always go with quality over quantity. On a client site (ecommerce) we experimented with maintaining "Widgets" and instead of multiple pages for variations of same kept it focused on the Widget, all models, with Selectivity at Checkout. Another client went nutz with 100 word page/direct to checkout... not performing as well as it used to while the other is at least holding even (no growth, but no loss either). In the latter two cases content was either produced in house by internal copy writers or exterior freelance copy writers. The in house writers were salaried and generally performed better. The freelance writers not so well. As for the first example, I write all of that, or have guest article writers who have both desire and long term interest in maintaining/updating their work.

What will fly under the "Panda" (an as yet UNDEFINED and POORLY UNDERSTOOD) algo is still up in the air. Panda also does not appear to run under any regular schedule where we can say "this is before, this is after" testing. When swimming in muddy waters proceed with caution.


 2:18 am on Jun 30, 2011 (gmt 0)

muddy waters proceed with caution

Good to see your wisdom, foresight and steady planning paid off.


 8:46 am on Jun 30, 2011 (gmt 0)

I guess it depends on your CPM. When it comes to content that makes money from advertising I believe social media presence is the key.
I would limit number of daily texts from 6 to 3 and spend the money on getting social media presence for a quarter to see if this helps.
SM should help SERPs, too. Unfortunately, what is popular in social media is usually of very low quality


 3:16 am on Aug 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

Re size , are large articles versus small articles on a large site important?

I'm reading in many places that size doesn't matter and just to write quality content for users. From memory a Google rep recently came out and said don't concern yourselves with size as Google's algo doesn't work like this - but thought I'd check as experiences can differ. To get top quality engaging articles researched, written and SEO'd for us will likely involve 30 - 40 hours work each. Which is probably why we don't see a lot of good articles in our vertical.

Since we operate large scale product sites , there is a limit to how much we can do anyway.

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