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Articles By the Pound

October 12th, 2011 by Bob Bly

More and more these days I see marketers buying “articles by the pound” for their web sites.

By that I mean they go to the cheapest source, buy a bucket load of short articles packed with their key words, and post them on their web sites in an effort to raise their search engine rankings.

Two things they seem not to care about are (1) the quality of the writing and (2) the actual content of the articles (other than key words).

But those two things are important. Why?

As far as (1) is concerned, people judge you by the words you use. If your writing is inadequate, they assume you are inadequate, too.

For (2), search engine optimizers forget that prospects — not necessarily the bulk of visitors, but serious prospects — actually READ  your articles for the information they contain and to see if you know what you are talking about.

I was just contacted today by an entrepreneur who told me, “I read many of the articles posted on your site, and you demonstrate an understanding of the market we are trying to reach that I have seen no where else.” And he wants to hire me to consult with him.

This is a reaction you do not get when you buy and post generic, keyword-loaded articles by the bushel. So don’t.



This entry was posted on Wednesday, October 12th, 2011 at 3:00 pm and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

66 responses about “Articles By the Pound”

  1. Whitney said:

    This is something where, I think, statistics matter most. If an optimizer gets 1000 hits per month and 2 new customers, and a more socially conscious writer gets 100 hit per month (less because SEO ranking is worse) and 2 new customers, is there really a difference?

    I am not an optimizer, btw, but if it works it works.

  2. Aaron Poehler said:

    That’s kind of idiotic logic that comes into play when every customer is nothing but a number to you. Where those hits are coming from and the type of customer attracted are huge factors, so the answer is DUH YES IT MAKES A DIFFERENCE.

  3. Whitney said:

    If you can get the same amount of good, quality customers using a method that takes 5 minutes (instead of hours and hours and days and years), that does not mean you think of customers as “nothing but a number”.

    Doesn’t direct marketing teach us to pay attention to the statistics, not our own assumptions? That’s all I am suggesting. I don’t actually know what works best because I’ve never tested either method.

  4. Greg said:

    I am convinced that Google, at some point, will smoke this out and develop an improvement to their algorithm that will punish bulk, junk article publishing.

  5. William Reynolds said:

    Well-written content optimizes a lot more than our website — it optimizes your reputation and credibility. I always remind my clients that search engines are great at picking out keywords but they don’t read your content — people do. You can use SEO to draw a zillion people to your content, bur if that content stinks, you’re just announcing to a zillion people that you’re an idiot.

  6. Govind Mukundan said:

    Hi Bob, something I read on your blog some time ago stayed with me…and applies here, I think…the idea being that the price a client is willing to pay being a fuction of the a) the quality of copy and b) the importance of good copy to theis business. So perhaps – just thinking aloud here – there are businesses that need large quantities of low quality copy (and are “willing” to pay rockbottom prices)? An excerpt from what you said: “When it comes specifically to writing services, clients will only pay a premium price to hire an expensive writer if (a) the more expensive writer truly provides superior copy and (b) having superior copy is important to their business model (e.g., they are a direct marketer and if good copy boosts their conversion rates it makes them 100X more than they paid for it).

    If both those conditions do not exist, the client is just as happy to pay a lower price for a lower level of quality, as long as it meets his needs.”

  7. Ken Vaughn said:

    Well I have to admit to being surprised (in a good way) when I read Bob’s latest entry as it appears I may well have been the person he quoted in it. And yes, we have decided to take advantage of the opportunity to work with Bob. While we could have expended the resources required for this in other ways, more brochures, more catalogs, more of any other marketing material you can think of, how well would this money be spent if the message is not targeted with our unique selling proposition and circumstances in mind?

    I’m not a copywriter or an expert marketer and do not seek to make a career of either. But it seems this discussion has ended up being centered on nothing but numbers, conversion rates. Not that these things are unimportant, but what about the other factors such as credibility and the perception as to whether the source of the information is an “authoritative” one or not?

    Believe me, in my research to find marketing insight for our companies efforts I have spent many, many hours pouring over websites, articles and sources of information. And yes, I perused eLance for copywriting services and found that I could most likely get what we need done for very low prices. But will we really be getting what we need? If all we seek are a certain number of key words on a page or a certain space filled on our website maybe it would be. I have seen my share of articles that were long on words and short on unique, usable and targeted insight. And I have been thoroughly unimpressed when I see something that was obviously cobbled together by someone with some research skills but no real knowledge of, or insight into the topic at hand.

    As I’ve said, I do not seek to be a professional copywriter or internet marketer so I don’t have a dog in this hunt as we say in the South. Maybe it really is nothing but a numbers game and while things like reputation, credibility and being seen as a resource are nice they are not the most important factors. But I can tell you that as a buyer for these services if I am likely to bookmark a site (a vote of confidence in itself), link to it, tell others about it and return to it in the future, this too is about numbers. And once I have confidence that my choice was a good one I start to think about more products, more services and doing more business with those I have placed my trust in. And none of this will have to do with click throughs or conversion rates. I’m past that as I have ended the long, often frustrating search for a professional who understands that generalized, cookie cutter approaches might work to an extent, they will never be as effective as those carried out in methodical, targeted way with knowledge of the specific situation and prospects I am trying to reach. From what I have seen, places like eLance are filled with the former, but the latter is in short supply.

    Another observation, I visited the blog of a self proclaimed “expert” B2B copywriter today and the latest post was dated 2/10/2010, and another who claims a technical background who’s latest post was done on 7/5/2007. How impressive are these numbers? Seems like this is yet another concept Bob “gets”.

  8. Keywords and Quality | Better Writing in Business said:

    […] Bly – a successful copywriter and internet marketer – recently wrote a blog entry “Articles By the Pound” about the challenges of writing articles and content for […]

  9. Bruce said:

    I couldn’t agree more. I once out-tasked for 5 articles from someone in the Philippines with a high recommendation. Total crap and a waste of money.

    I have an unfocused friend who orders these things all the time and slaps them up on the web without even reading them. He also “wings it” in his various videos instead of carefully scripting them. He then marvels at the poor response he gets.

    I’m no whiz kid copywriter, but I do understand quality content. I do the best I can with an above average vocabulary and an understanding of basic grammar. This isn’t easy for me because I’m legally blind…..but it does pay off.

  10. Ryan Skinner said:

    In my experience, most of this will hinge on two – related – things:
    1) Is the businessman or woman in question a believer that marketing actually works? (I’m assuming he or she is, given they’re interested in SEO benefit), and
    2) Is the businessman or woman in question him or herself a reader? Many honestly aren’t. That is, they don’t read their own literature with a critical eye.

    In the heart of every businessperson is a procurement officer who questions every person and drives down every cost. To a businessman who doesn’t really appreciate the written word, driving down cost at the expense of quality will not cause a moment’s thought.

    And the results? Well, they’re probably mixed, but not great.

  11. Don Marti said:

    “Black hat SEO” tricks expire when the search engines figure them out. Relevant articles can go out of date and need revision, but they don’t just stop working the way that tricks do.

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