Content marketing generates traffic, leads, and sales.

Anyone, anywhere can take advantage of it.

But there’s a problem:

‘Good’ content isn’t good enough anymore.

Not when there are millions of blog posts published daily. Not when only the top three positions on any given SERP see all the results. Not when the bar to create awesome content keeps rising exponentially, taking longer and longer and longer to come up with stuff that gets results.

What does all that mean?

It means average isn’t good enough. It means only the excellent stuff breaks through the noise, getting ranked, clicked, or shared. And it means your options for scaling KPI-generating blog content are getting smaller and smaller.

Freelance blog writers don’t always work well…

… and neither do content writing services, despite being one of the most popular ways to find blog writers for hire, which we’ll illustrate in this case study.

We purchased articles from five popular content writing services. We gave each of them the same writing prompt. And below, we’ll compare them not only to each other, but also the top content currently ranking for the same keyword to show you exactly why each example falls way, way short of ever delivering an ROI for you — despite the ‘low cost.’

Ready to get started? Here goes.

Case Study Contents: How These 5 Content Writing Services Stack Up

This guide is over 13,000 words. So use these links, and the ones under each section, to jump around. If you get stuck somewhere, click on the little arrow in the lower right-hand corner of the screen to come back up here. (Example)

➊  Results Comparison

➋  Method: How the Content Farm Olympics Work

➁.➀  How this Case Study Works

➁.➁  SERP Comparison #1. Content Marketing Institute

➁.➂  SERP Comparison #2. Neil Patel

➁.➃  SERP Comparison #3. Moz

➌  Objective Grading Scale: How the 5 Content Writing Services Will Be Assessed

➂.➀  How Grading Works

➂.➁  Internal and External Links

➂.➂  Article Structure and Readability

➂.➃  Plagiarism

➂.➄  Content Accuracy

➂.➅  Expert Opinions

➍  Content Farm #1. iWriter

➃.➀  How iWriter Works

➃.➁  Internal and External Links

➃.➂  Article Structure / Readability

➃.➃  Plagiarism

➃.➄  Content Accuracy

➃.➅ Expert Opinions: Aaron Orendorff, Len Markidan, and John Doherty

➎  Content Farm #2. Textbroker

➄.➀  How Textbroker Works

➄.➁  Internal and External Links

➄.➂  Article Structure / Readability

➄.➃  Plagiarism

➄.➄  Content Accuracy

➄.➅ Expert Opinions: Elisa Gabbert and Benji Hyam

➏  Content Farm #3. Crowd Content

➅.➀  How Crowd Content Works

➅.➁  Internal and External Links

➅.➂  Article Structure / Readability

➅.➃  Plagiarism

➅.➄  Content Accuracy

➅.➅ Expert Opinions: Andy Crestodina, Jason Quey, and Edward Dennis

➐  Content Farm #4. Constant Content

➆.➀ How Constant Content Works

➆.➁ Internal and External Links

➆.➂ Article Structure / Readability

➆.➃ Plagiarism

➆.➄ Content Accuracy

➆.➅ Expert Opinions: Anna Crowe and Zach Bulygo

➑  Content Farm #5. Writer Access

➇.➀ How Writer Access Works

➇.➁ Internal and External Links

➇.➂ Article Structure / Readability

➇.➃ Plagiarism

➇.➄ Content Accuracy

➇.➅ Expert Opinions: Brian Jackson and Lianna Patch

➒  Conclusion

➊ Results Comparison

Here is the comparison of each content writing service, their cost, and their rating for each objective grading criteria. (Star values for overall ratings will be rounded.)

The short answer? Somewhere between not good and not terrible. Read on below to see how we came to this conclusion, along with feedback from over a dozen other content experts.

Blog Writing Services Comparison

✅ Crowd Content came in first place with three out of five stars.

✅ Crowd Content was the only content service that got a single “Yes” from influencers when asked if they would publish on their own site. Although it was “Yes, but it would need some soft changes.”

✅ TextBroker and Writer Access had low plagiarism scores and unique article structures.

❌ Crowd Content, iWriter, and Constant Content had suspiciously similar article structures and even directly copied sections from popular content, suggesting that it was simply regurgitated rather than original, quality content.

❌ Three out of Five services (iWriter, TextBroker and Writer Access) lacked any internal or external links. Yikes!

 

➋ Method: How the Content Farm Olympics Work

Section Contents

➁.➀ How this Case Study Works

➁.➁ SERP Comparison #1. Content Marketing Institute

➁.➂ SERP Comparison #2. Neil Patel

➁.➃ SERP Result #3. Moz

➁.➀ How this Case Study Works

Content Writing Services Research Process

So, what is the Content Farm Olympics and why should you care?

The Olympics is the testing of five major content writing services. These services are used by thousands of other businesses online to get content for their websites.

You might even be here looking for reviews and information on one of these sites based on your own content writing needs. Creating good content is crucial for driving organic traffic online.

But creating it sucks. When was the last time you sat back and enjoyed spending hours writing a post? Or spending multiple days doing keyword and topic research as well as months of content strategizing?

Psh, me neither.

And content is very personalized: each business has a different tone, style, and audience, making the outsourcing of content a tricky process. We have to cater to multiple diverse personas in a single post. To tap into their fears, wants, and desires.

It’s critical to find a company that can adapt fast to different verticals, audiences, and tones. Most turn to less expensive and fast-tracked services like content writing services that can produce 1,000-word articles for $100 in 10 days time. It almost feels too good to be true.

And we’re here to find out if it is by putting these services to the test to see how the content they write would match up against current top SERP content for the following prompt:

What Is Content Marketing and Who Can Benefit From It?

In the Content Farm Olympics, we will be testing the following five services:

  1. iWriter
  2. Textbroker
  3. Crowd Content
  4. Constant Content
  5. Writer Access

Giving each of these services the same prompt, we will be testing the same pricing and service level on each platform: the highest quality article.

Each service platform will write the same prompt shown above for the same quality piece.

After completing each article, we will compare the quality to each article on the top page for the prompt search:

Who-can-benefit-from-content-marketing-search

And we’ve got some heavy hitters on the top page that we all strive to emulate: Moz, Inc, ThriveHive, WordStream, and more.

Why does it matter how these services stack up to SERP results?

Because content for the sake of content is useless. Producing content for our blogs to have nobody read it is always disheartening. If your content can’t compete for the top page results, you won’t get any traffic.

Essentially, you’d be paying for blog posts that nobody will see. Blog posts that won’t result in real, tangible sales for your business. If you are shelling out hard earned money on content marketing pieces, they should be top of the line.

Testing each service against current posts in the top search results will allow you to judge whether the content is good enough to rank, and ultimately, good enough to spend money on.

What is content marketing?

What-Is-Content-Marketing-Search

The top content on the SERP for this search term right now has some big hitters:

  1. Content Marketing Institute
  2. Forbes
  3. Neil Patel
  4. Moz
  5. Copyblogger
  6. Marketo

These are some of the biggest names in the marketing industry when it comes to thought leadership.

So, how does content farm content stack up to the current SERPs? Is it worth it?

Specifically, we’ll look at the following three SERP articles from a range of the ranking spectrum:

➁.➁ SERP Comparison #1: Content Marketing Institute

First, you can see some significant strengths in the CMI post, ranking first on this search.

Namely, the structure is very easy to follow, and it contains excellent, informative H2 and H3 subheads. Plus, there are many internal and external links.

Marketing-is-impossible-without-great-content

Tapping into both video and infographics, their post has great visuals to accompany their text. These features aren’t commonly available with content farm services.

In terms of actual length, the post isn’t that long, giving hope for this topic. The post length is less than 1,000 words.

While this is just a single topic and other topics are likely to be heavier in length, it shows that word count isn’t the only factor in ranking high.

This provides great promise for a content farm where you can get articles with low word counts fast.

The content in this CMI post is regularly updated and refreshed, something that content farms don’t do.

This is a big plus for CMI, as fresh content is key to staying relevant in the SERPs.

➁.➂ SERP Comparison #2: Neil Patel Guide

Neil Patel is widely known in the marketing space for producing some seriously long guides.

We’re talking posts with up to 30,000 words total. This one is (only) 15,537 words with a 72 readability score, much higher than anything we received from these content farms.

Neil-Patel-Document-Insights

But in those posts, you can see some quality highlights as to why his content ranks:

It goes in-depth.

Where content farms fall short, Neil doesn’t.

For instance, the content writing services we tried would merely mention a topic with a few sentences.

Neil breaks down each topic heavily, giving actionable advice to go with it:

Neil-Patel-giving-actionable-advice

Tons of external links fill his content that signal to Google for authority and topic information.

Plus, internal links are always there pointing traffic to his other related content.

The structure is easy to follow and offers a table of contents at the beginning to accompany it due to the length and depth.

Readability is also much higher than content farm pieces, making this 15,000+ word post seem easy to skim and enjoy.

Overall, it’s hard to imagine any of the content farm pieces outranking his post. It’s simply too in-depth, covering all topics like their own article and using non-stock photos (something that content farms don’t do).

➁.➃ SERP Comparison #3: Moz

Moz. The king of SEO content online.

It should come as no shock that they’ve produced a huge piece on content marketing that content farms simply can’t live up to.

Their piece on content marketing is a nine-chapter guide covering everything from content marketing’s history to background to strategy and execution.

Moz-content-marketing-chapters

The post contains countless internal and external links pointing to relevant sources and their own blog, helping to circulate traffic and build relevance.

The content is freshly updated, and you can bet that accuracy is a significant factor for them.

There were nearly 2,500 words in the first chapter. Assuming all nine have similar amounts, that’s a huge post.

Loaded with visuals and great formatting, it’s hard to see one of these five content farms being able to produce such great content.

Moz-chapter-page-example

On top of custom icons and visuals, real screenshots were a critical factor in the success of this post.

Moz-screenshot-of-Google-Trends

Explaining and showcasing tactics requires more than stock photos, the primary offering of photo purchasing from content farms.

Overall, this Moz post is stacked to the fullest with links, accurate info, screenshots, amazing structure, and more.

When it comes to SERP content for this term, we’ve deemed the following result:

Content farm pieces simply can’t hang.

Even if you purchased a 5,000-word post from one of the five we reviewed, their services still lack critical factors like original images that make these SERP pieces so great.

Here are the objective grading criteria we will use to assess article strength.

Objective Grading Scale: How the 5 Content Writing Services Will Be Assessed

Content Writing Services Grading Checklist

Section Contents

➂.➀ How Grading Works

➂.➁ Internal and External Links

➂.➂ Article Structure and Readability

➂.➃ Plagiarism

➂.➄ Content Accuracy

➂.➅ Expert Opinions

➂.➀ How Grading Works

Copywriting, blogging, and content, in general, are very subjective. I like Shakespeare, and you like Christopher Marlowe. Your boss loves storytelling, but you prefer short and sweet listicles.

You read a post and you either love it or hate it. You’re either glued to the screen or running for the hills to the next piece of content. But when it comes to content marketing for organic search, there are some objective ways to grade success.

Namely, factors that you commonly see amongst top ranking articles for a given keyword search.

For instance, writing a blog post of 500 words with no internal links, external links, or structure would obviously not rank for a popular keyword. It doesn’t meet the standards of top content for that search.

For grading the articles written at each service, we have developed an objective grading scale based on the latest studies of top content and what ranks for a given search.

On top of that, we will be comparing the content farm articles directly to top SERP posts to see if they undershoot, meet, or exceed quality standards and current competition.

Let’s dive into the factors we will analyze.

Internal links simply point to other relevant pieces of content on your site. But more importantly, they help shape site architecture (creating webs of related topics to boost authority).

Stunning-birth-photo

When writing in your niche, it’s common that topics will overlap. It’s natural, and a gives you a great chance to send traffic from your new post to related posts.

Writing content and having nobody visit it is devastating. Internal links give you a chance to showcase more of that content to visitors already on your site.

So it’s a win-win for both Google + visitors.

According to Brian Dean of Backlinko, 2-5 internal links per new post is the sweet spot. Rand says, “A lack of internal links can seriously hamper a page’s ability to get crawled + ranked.”

Relevancy is also crucial when adding internal links. It’s tempting to feel like a marketing wizard and sprinkle internal links all over the place. To keyword stuff your links and anchor text. Try to shy away from that strategy and instead, focus on 2-5 relevant topics you’ve covered before.

External links are the opposite of internal links: they link out to other websites posting relevant information. You are giving another site a backlink by doing so, but also signaling relevance to Google by referencing authoritative sites.

Plus, you’re increasing credibility in claims by referencing third-party sources that back up your points.

Brian Dean says: “Not linking out might be the #1 on-page SEO mistake that I see people make. I try to use 2-4x outbound links per 1000 words. That’s a good rule of thumb for most sites.”

Why so many links? Because linking out to relevant and high authority sites sends signals to Google that you desperately crave: trust, credibility, and topic authority.

Don’t fall into the trap of linking to link. Link to relevant studies and publications whenever appropriate.

➂.➂ ✅ Article Structure and Readability

When you’re writing, it’s natural to get into a flow state. Things start to click. You’re sitting in your favorite coffee shop drinking a black coffee (or a unicorn frappuccino, if that’s your thing) and the words just roll off your fingers onto the keys.

Hours go by, and you’ve written thousands of words of prime content filled with stories, facts, and helpful advice to your readers.

What you do next can make or break your article success: structure.

Structure and readability strike a fine line between optimization. Data tells us to optimize for keywords, anchor text, images, etc. But our human brain tells us to just write and let it flow.

Focusing too much on either side can be detrimental to success.

Being too rigid ruins the flow state of both writing and reading, but having no structure leaves readers confused and scrambling to find what they want within a detailed post.

To objectively analyze this, we’ll look at how Grammarly reports on readability:

Grammarly-Readability-Report

(Grammarly doesn’t cost much, so you can follow these exact steps.)

The higher the readability score, the better. In addition, we’ll look at the structure of the article itself:

Do they use H2 headers? H3s or bolding for subsections? Are the heading, intro, and conclusion clearly separated from the body text?

All these factors will play a role in how we score for structure and readability.

➂.➃ ✅ Plagiarism

High school and college teachers across the world are jumping for joy. Yes, plagiarism with online content is a real thing. Whether it’s copying the exact structure of existing articles or lacking citations on borrowed phrases and sections, it’s plagiarism.

And if our teachers would expect anything from us, it would be to avoid it like the plague. Unless of course, you want to get expelled. Ah, the good old days.

Back on track, there are a few ways to objectively check for plagiarism that we will implement here:

  1. Using our Premium Grammarly account that scans articles and compares them to billions of web pages: this will tell us what percentage of content is copied or used in other places on the web. Perfect for spotting direct text copy and pastes. But what about indirect plagiarism?
  2. Double-checking against top SERP results for the target keyword. The prompt we test has the main keyword of content marketing, so, chances are, writers will be searching that as a base-point for research. We will be looking into the top results for that term and inspecting factors like article structure, H2 header similarities, etc. These will give us an idea of how unique the content is, or if it’s merely recycled and re-written junk.

As you can imagine, any form of direct plagiarism where content is copied and citations are intently left out will result in a serious penalty to the overall score.

➂.➄ ✅ Content Accuracy

This one is pretty self-explanatory.

Essentially, we will be combing each article to see if the content is accurate.

For instance, are they defining tactics correctly? Did they say “XX tactic is good for this” when data proves that it’s not?

Content accuracy is key to success in content marketing.

Users in your niche can quickly tell if you know what you’re talking about or not.

Even if they can’t, they’ll find out the hard way, and it will come back to bite you.

You can’t have a writer talking about buying social followers as the best way to grow your traffic when that’s clearly not true.

When looking for content accuracy, we will review every statement and see if any are verifiably inaccurate or lacking the proper citing.

Honorable Mentions: Images and Length.

I know what you’re thinking: how has he not covered images or word count yet?

The one issue with covering these two crucial topics in this study is the simple fact that we controlled for word count and images cost extra on these services.

Due to this fact, we can’t knock the sites for not producing 2,000-word posts with 15 images when we didn’t buy them.

➂.➅ ✅ Expert Opinions

Content is subjective at the end of the day. No matter how thorough we try to objectively grade it. (And we’re talkin’ thorough, as you’ll see below.)

So we reached out to a few experts, who all perform content marketing at the highest levels, to ask them a very simple question:

Would you publish this piece on your site (yes or no)? And why or why not?

We told them to ignore word count alone, so that the writer (and blog writing service) wouldn’t be judged solely on that if we didn’t pay for a long enough piece.

Simple, right? Well, wait ’till you see what they have to say for each one.

Content Farm #1. iWriter

iWriter - Content Writing Services Comparison

Section Contents

➃.➀ How iWriter Works

➃.➁ Internal and External Links

➃.➂ Article Structure / Readability

➃.➃ Plagiarism

➃.➄ Content Accuracy

➃.➅ Expert Opinions: Aaron Orendorff, Len Markidan, and John Doherty

➃.➀ How iWriter Works

iWriter’s main premise is to write your articles, blog posts, press releases, eBooks, and pretty much anything that requires a lengthy amount of writing.

iWriter-Order-Custom-Content

It’s currently one of the most popular content farms online. When you search for a writing or blogging service, iWriter is consistently at the top.

iWriter describes themselves as:

“The fastest, easiest and most reliable way to have content written for your website. You’ll be able to post a project and 1000s of freelance writers from across the globe will have instant access to write your content quickly, professionally, and affordably.”

Here’s how the process of acquiring content with iWriter works:

How-Does-iWriter-Work?

With just five simple steps, you can open up a content request to thousands of writers, allowing you to pick which writer you get.

First, you create your free account. Next, you select the type of content you want them to write, your topic/prompt, and then your content gets written. After you approve it, you can download and freely use that content in any way that you wish.

Currently, iWriter has nearly one million writers on their platform to pick from, ranging from lower to higher levels of skill and price points.

Today-On-iWriter

No matter what niche or industry your business is in, iWriter has a writer that can cover it:

iWriter-Recent-Projects

Want blog content about carbs and nutrition? Check.

Anxiety remedies? Check.

Cryptocurrency? Check.

iWriter definitely excels when it comes to a diverse writer base and being able to fit almost any niche there is.

For pricing, you can sort by what you’re looking for in articles, blog posts, rewrites, eBooks, and more:

iWriter-price-sorting

We chose to sort by articles, as the Content Farm Olympics will be testing 1,000-word blog posts at the highest quality across all five services with the same prompt.

iWriter-pricing-tiers

The price stays the same for blog posts and article re-writes, but changes when you go to press releases, eBooks, and Kindle Books.

They structure their pricing plan by the quality of the content you are looking for, as well as the length.

Their motto:

iWriter-Motto

And indeed, these prices are extremely low when you look at total word counts. For a top-tier quality article (Elite Plus) at 4,000 words is only 260 dollars.

As far as quality goes? That’s what we’re here to test for you.

To get started, we went to the “order content” section of the home-page:

iWriter-Order-Content-Section

Here you are going to make an account and signup for a free account:

iWriter-Signup-For-Free

Once you create your account, you get thrown into the belly of the beast:

iWriter-Dashboard

What the heck is going on here? That’s a pretty complicated dashboard to start out on.

The dashboard tells you about how you can be a writer:

iWriter-Dashboard-For-Writers

Or a client:

iWriter-Dashboard-For-Clients

On the main dashboard, they have a friendly welcome message and point you toward some tutorials:

iWriter-Welcome-Message

The tutorial videos are nice and helpful as the dashboard can seem complicated for a first time user. With so many different sections and functions, tutorial videos are essential.

iWriter-Tutorial-Videos

But, they also have annoying, insane ads on the sidebars, like this one promising to turn a single piece of your content into $15,000:

iWriter-sidebar-ad

If you ever see an offer to turn your article into many thousands of dollars and “get to the top of google” by “submitting your article…all over the internet,” you should run. Fast.

Anyways, the dashboard also refers you to top writers on the site, giving you access to better content faster.

iWriter-lists-of-top-writers

When we were ready to order content, we went to the first step on “for clients” to get content.

iWriter-first-step-get-content

Then we were prompted to fill out their form to get more information on what we’re looking for:

iWriter-Submit-a-new-project-form

For example, the project type, description, category, desired length, language written, any keywords to focus on, what quality level, writing style, purpose, and any instructions.

They also give you details on total project cost which is a nice feature:

iWriter-project-cost-feature

This way you can customize settings and see your pricing in real-time, rather than waiting for a quote and going back-and-forth with a representative to finally settle on a price and quality level.

From here, we put in our information and put it to the test.

Our prompt was:

What Is Content Marketing and Who Can Benefit From It?

As for pricing, we went for 1,000 words (standardized for all five services) with their most expensive service: Elite Plus.

iWriter-Elite-Plus-pricing

On the pricing page, iWriter doesn’t give any details that distinguish each service cost from one another, unfortunately.

This makes it pretty difficult to set expectations beyond just likely a more seasoned writer.

Regardless, we made the purchase, and it was exactly the cost that it said it would be:

iWriter-payment-receipt

From here, we started to have a few issues.

The biggest issue was that our order magically disappeared along with our credits. At the top of our dashboard, we can easily access their simple “Content Creation Process.”

iWriter-Content-Creation-Process

This is an excellent feature as it simplifies the ordering process to figure out where your content is and what to expect.

But when clicking on our order section, it was blank for two straight days, showing no orders whatsoever.

Then, we checked our messaging inbox to see this message from an iWriter:

Message-from-iWriter

We’re not sure what happened here, but the order somehow disappeared and then reappeared a few days after this message:

iWriter-order

Thankfully, we got it sorted out.

We faced more issues when downloading our written piece. For example, downloading the DOCS format didn’t work, and the file wouldn’t open.

iWriter-Download-Checked-Orders

We were forced to download it as a TXT file to copy and paste the text back into a Google Doc, requiring us to reformat the entire thing.

Finally getting the content downloaded from them, here’s what they came up with in a five day turnaround time:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1c1_FXvWLZSOKeUE74FBpnHkan0H3wnNRPn-I7F-VTzA/edit?usp=sharing

Before we dive in with analysis, let’s again recap the specific details of the piece:

  1. 1,383 words (383 more than requested)
  2. Cost = $72
  3. Turnaround time – up to 10 days

Now that we’ve recapped the pricing, length, and turnaround to expect, let’s jump into the content.

Right away, I’m sure you can notice some obvious flaws with the iWriter piece.

Going back to our objective grading scale, the main factors that we will analyze in this piece are:

  1. Internal links/External links
  2. Article structure/readability
  3. Plagiarism
  4. Content accuracy (is what’s being said actually true?)

Let’s start with internal links and external links.

As you can see from the raw post that we downloaded from iWriter, there aren’t any links in the post whatsoever.

Regarding external links, this is pretty problematic due to the author actually using statistics to back up their points.

iWriter-no-source-cited

But without citing, knowing what source those statistics came from forces a reader to do the extra legwork, which is obviously not good.

Plus, lacking external links hinders on-page performance and rankings due to the lack of authority signals.

With no internal links, we can’t drive any traffic from this blog post naturally to related posts on our blog. And we have related posts.

A simple two-minute scan of our blog would allow any writer to inject a few links related to content marketing.

While we can go back into the article and add our own links, it’s nice to see that writers do the research and smaller tasks that improve personalization of the writing.

Writing shouldn’t be able to be sold to any site. The post should be made specifically for the client, and point to strengths on their existing blog too.

Looking at the statistics themselves, we can also see some flaws:

iWriter-flaws-in-statistics

First off, the delivery of the statistics is a bit overwhelming.

Backing up your claims with data is great, but merely tossing long-winded stat after stat with bullet points doesn’t do that.

Each stat is dramatically unrelated to the other, and none of them show the strength of content marketing.

This type of article is catering toward beginners looking to learn about content marketing.

So making the jump from facts on how emails and TV don’t work for marketing as reasons why content marketing is important can be confusing for a new marketer.

Why does the fact that email blasts aren’t open mean that content marketing is important?

Each statistic instead should be weaved carefully into the hook and plot of the article itself, rather than just dumped in for the sake of data.

I would have loved to see a few case studies on how content marketing has impacted companies and their success. And finding those is a single, easy Google search away:

Content-marketing-case-study

On top of that, this is the only section of the post where they use data and studies. This is potentially problematic as there are dozens of claims in the post as to why content marketing is useful.

But as a reader, you need facts that prove what the writer is claiming, and in this piece, there aren’t any.

➃.➂ Article Structure/Readability

If you took a peek at the article submitted from iWriter, you could likely tell that article structure is severely lacking.

Remember back in the college days where professors wanted you to write long-winded history papers with detailed outlines where you’d hit Z in the alphabet with bullet points?

Yeah, that’s not what keeps readers engaged in 2018.

You should write content for the reader, not the search engine or editor.

It should flow naturally from section to section with great transitions and a smooth setup.

Reading it shouldn’t be a chore, annoying, or tedious, but rather, enjoyable.

Unfortunately, the iWriter piece doesn’t do that:

iWriter-piece-lacking-headers

It has a structure in terms of paragraph separation, a clear introduction and conclusion, but there are no uses of titles, headers, or bolding to distinguish sections and make content easily read for readers that skim.

Plugging the article text (as is) into our Grammarly editor, the readability score was just a 55:

iWriter-readability-score

Scores at a minimum should reach a 60-70, preferably being much higher.

Overall, structure and readability were big downsides with iWriter.

➃.➃ Plagiarism

Most content writing sites will double check their work for plagiarism.

But we aren’t really sure on the extent to which that covers. Plus, scanning for direct text copying only does you so much.

Here at Codeless, our articles are guaranteed to have 3% or less from outside sources. And 99% of the time if an article reaches 3%, it’s just happenstance that phrases match up to a random article on the web from vastly different industries or topics. So we use the initial percentage to dive deeper into analyzing each potential plagiarism warning.

On top of that, we manually check the SERP for each piece we do to make sure that the article structure is always unique (a big problem we’ve noticed with most content writing services, and bad blog writers or freelancers).

Here are the results from our Grammarly plagiarism scan:

iWriter-plagiarism-score

The scan we conducted showed a 4% match in the entire text. That’s not bad!

Breaking down each matching source, three marketing sites popped up that brought up red flags:

iWriter-matching-sources

Looking at the text from each of these, it’s hard to imagine that they copied it on purpose as it was mostly short phrases that have likely been written on thousands of sites before.

Beyond just general plagiarism scans for directly stolen text, it’s also important that we look at the articles themselves.

Plagiarism has evolved from simply copying and pasting text without citing. That’s just being lazy.

It now involves directly copying article structures and layouts and even sections. This makes writing a whole lot easier.

Simply Google search the topic, find the top posts, create a word doc, and steal their sections for ideas, right? Wrong! That’s bad.

You don’t want re-written content. You want unique content that isn’t found using slight word variations on another site.

Looking at a highlighted source in the Grammarly scan, we noticed some glaring similarities in article structure and section structure, showing the exact same section progression and bullet point usage:

iWriter-uses-same-article-structure

While it’s impossible to really know if a writer ripped off a site intentionally, the sections progress the same as the referenced post and utilize the same bullet-pointed structure, raising a few eyebrows.

➃.➄ Content Accuracy

Last but not least, we have content accuracy, a crucial and potential success breaking point in your articles.

If you nail all of the above criteria with perfect scores yet you use wrong information, it doesn’t matter.

Nobody will seek your blog as a thought leader for expert advice.

It can stain your brand and reputation for good.

Combing through the iWriter piece, the information was accurate and updated, which is terrific.

The only gripe would be to include stats, case studies, and examples to back up these claims for readers who might not know them as truths.

➃.➅ Expert Opinions: Aaron Orendorff, Len Markidan, and John Doherty

Aaron Orendorff, Editor in Chief at Shopify Plus

aaron orendorff

1. Who are you?

Aaron Orendorff, Editor in Chief of Shopify Plus

2. Ignoring word count alone – Would you publish this piece on your site (yes or no)?

“No.”

3. Why or why not?

“Five reasons …

First, given Shopify Plus’ focus on large to enterprise ecommerce businesses – namely, our commitment to multi-channel strategies and highly-developed tech (tool) stacks – the piece is far to “entry level” for our target audience.

Second, even on my personal site – iconiContent – the piece profoundly lacks practical application. What do I mean?

Third, there are no visual examples of successful content marketing to show the reader what the various forms they list look like in action.

Fourth, there are no linked data points – particularly in the “Why is content marketing important” section – showing how content marketing can and does solve those problems.

Fifth, the questions they ask in the ‘Content Marketing Strategy’ section are too generalized (and include neither guidance nor, again, examples) to help answer them.”

 

Len Markidan, CMO at Podia

len markidan

1. Who are you?

“CMO of Podia, an online course platform. former Head of Marketing at Groove (built a $500k+/month business with content as the #1 channel), created/sold an online course on content marketing with 250k+ in sales to date.”

2. Ignoring word count alone – Would you publish this piece on your site (yes or no)?

“Nope 👎”

3. Why or why not?

“This piece is high on fluff and low on value. I’d probably do 4-5 hours of editing — approaching a full rewrite — to get this into publishing shape, so this article just got a lot more expensive. It’s full of filler sentences, along with confusing ones. I’m not the smartest guy in most rooms, and if I can’t decipher a sentence, my audience probably won’t be able to, either.”

John Doherty, enterprise SEO consultant and founder of Credo

John Doherty

1. Who are you?

“My name is John Doherty. I have been doing content marketing since before it was called that, and I have worked professionally in SEO since 2010. I’ve led SEO and digital marketing for some of the worlds largest brands. And I created Credo to help in-house marketers find top marketing talent.”

2. Ignoring word count alone – Would you publish this piece on your site (yes or no)?

“No”

3. Why or why not?

“This piece is pretty surface level and doesn’t actually answer the question of “what is content marketing?” It provides a lot of data and statistics which is good, but it doesn’t really add anything to the discussion.

Stylistically, the writing is fluffy and passive voice, when something like this should be active and drive the user to do something. When I’m thinking about content going out on my site, I think “Am I proud to publish this?” and for this one the answer is no because it doesn’t go deep enough or answer the question it is supposed to with the tile.”

 

Content Farm #2. Textbroker

Textbroker - Content Writing Services Comparison

Section Contents

➄.➀ How Textbroker Works

➄.➁ Internal and External Links

➄.➂ Article Structure / Readability

➄.➃ Plagiarism

➄.➄ Content Accuracy

➄.➅ Expert Opinions: Elisa Gabbert and Benji Hyam

➄.➀ How Textbroker Works

Textbroker’s business model centers on offering high-quality content — simply, quickly, and at a competitive price point.

Textbroker-Custom-Content

Their motto is:

“Get Custom Content. It’s fast, affordable and scalable. With the world’s leading digital content platform, you have direct access to thousands of verified US authors.”

They also claim to be the leading article and content writing service on the web:

Textbroker-leading-content-writer-service

They offer blog posts, product descriptions, technical content, and more. They also claim that they can “capture your users’ attention and increase search engine ranking.”

Plus, Textbroker packs some serious promises:

Textbroker-promises

Promising content that “breaks the mold” and focuses heavily on SEO optimization is talking a big game. It’s tough to do. And we’re here to put their promises to the test.

Currently, Textbroker has over 100,000 verified authors in the United States and more than 53,000 returning clients.

That’s a ton of writers and a ton of loyal clients, which is a great sign.

Depending on what content you want, you can order content in up to 15 languages for as little as 1.3 cents per word.

To explore pricing options, we clicked on “I Need Content” at the top of their menu:

Textbroker-I-Need-Content-option

This drops down two options:

  1. Self-Service
  2. Managed-Service

The managed service is a start-to-finish solution for outsourcing all website content. We don’t want that for this test article, so we chose self-service.

Here we are prompted with their offers and pricing section based on author and service levels:

Textbroker-Self-Service-Pricing

What’s nice here is that you can see an example of these “Author-Level” texts. Here is the 5-star example:

Textbroker-5-star-example-text

Compare that to the 2-star:

Textbroker-2-star-example-text

If you want to mess around with pricing, they also have a pricing calculator:

Textbroker-pricing-calculator

So, to get started, we clicked on “Free Client Registration.”

Textbroker-Free-Client-Registration

Here we can create our free client account to get started with ordering content:

Textbroker-Client-Account-Form

Once you create an account, you will get a confirmation message to check your email and confirm the account:

Textbroker-confirmation-message

Once confirmed, you get directed to your dashboard:

Textbroker-Dashboard

Here you have a few options. If you want to start ordering content, you can quickly create a new order:

Textbroker-Create-New-Order

At the top of our dashboard, if we want to browse authors, we can look through the author search and build a list or team that we like:

Textbroker-author-search

We decided to start at the most basic point, at the beginning of the dashboard:

Textbroker-Create-New-Order

Then, we got prompted again to select our order type:

Textbroker-Order-Type

Here we clicked on “Place Order” for the OpenOrder type.

Textbroker-Open-Order

Now you can choose from which template/product type you are looking for:

Textbroker-Template-Order-Type

We decided to go with the “Blog” template and began to fill out order information like word count, quality level, category, blog title, keywords, and instructions:

Textbroker-General-Order-Information

Repeating the same method for each content farm, we chose the highest level writing at 1,000 words, totaling to $72:

Textbroker-self-service-at-a-glance

Overall, the process is pretty simple. It only takes a few minutes to set up your account and post an article that you want them to write.

The dynamic pricing tool is excellent for customizing price on the fly without any back-and-forth.

After customizing our order preferences, we were billed just over $72:

Textbroker-payment-receipt

In our orders section, our new project was displayed instantly, a significant benefit that iWriter was struggling with:

Textbroker-Orders-Section

When ready, we just clicked on the order to pull up our piece of content:

Textbroker-Open-Order

So, how did it turn out?

Here’s the finalized article we got sent:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1gdjTuIw-bKNiErthI36TT2VQr6of1K0pk2SdZ3dKlvU/edit#heading=h.qchkg0eohpe9

Ready for the breakdown?

  1. 1,047 words (47 more than requested)
  2. Cost = $72
  3. Turnaround time – 4 days

With that information in mind, let’s break it down by the following factors as we did for iWriter:

  1. Internal links/External links
  2. Article structure/readability
  3. Plagiarism
  4. Content accuracy (is what’s being said actually true?)

First up, internal and external linking.

You know the importance of internal and external linking.

But just like iWriter, there isn’t a single link in the entire post.

This is somewhat troubling, especially that there are no external links (at the least).

Adding a few external links can help you build credibility in your blog post, and internal links are critical for circulating traffic on your site.

Unfortunately, neither are in this post.

➄.➂ Article Structure/Readability

At first glance, the article structure of the post from Textbroker is much better than iWriter. It flows naturally with a header, intro, H2s, and a clear conclusion.

That’s a great start.

It’s already much easier to digest and skim. If you wanted to, you would barely have to read the post because the subheaders tell you information on what you can expect.

Beyond basic structure, the sentence structure is a bit crowded, but that’s more subjective than objective.

It could use some line breaks to make the reading a bit more smooth:

Textbroker-article-structure

Moving on, let’s look at the readability.

Plugging the article into Grammarly, the article received a 69 readability score, which is great.

Textbroker-Readability-Score

The word length could be improved, however.

This lower score on word length raised a few red flags that I investigated.

Reading the entire post, you’ll start to notice that the tone is very strange, negatively impacting readability.

For example, the following phrases highlighted in red:

Textbroker-awkward-phrases

These awkward phrases make reading the post slightly harder.

Another example I saw of this (amongst many others) was in the e-book section:

Textbroker-E-books-section

That opening statement is very weird to read. Of course the reader wants another idea about content marketing. That’s the whole point of the post.

This sentence negatively impacts readability and isn’t needed in the first place.

Overall, the structure of the article is solid, but readability could be improved.

➄.➃ Plagiarism

Copying and pasting the article into Grammarly, we noticed that the text returned a 3% match to other online sources, none of which were marketing related:

Textbroker-plagiarism-score

That’s a wonderful thing to see.

Beyond text-based plagiarism, we analyzed content from around the web on the subject of content marketing, finding that no structure was copied directly from any other articles.

While the tactics mentioned are also used elsewhere, the exact structure of the post and headings appeared originally structured in the Textbroker article.

That’s a win in our book.

➄.➄ Content Accuracy

Reading through the Textbroker piece, we came across a few phrases that were questionable in accuracy/validity.

For example, the section about “Guest Posts.”

In this section, the writer said:

“In addition to posting content on your own blog, you can also publish content on other blogs in exchange for a link pointing to your website.”

You see, guest posting is a tricky subject nowadays. Five or six years ago, guest posting for links was a viable strategy.

But Google caught on. Even back in 2014, guest blogging was declared to be done.

Sure, you can still get links from a guest post, but if Google finds out that your entire goal of guest posting campaigns is solely for a link, you’ll face serious penalties. Not to mention that byline links aren’t as strong as natural links.

So, seeing this statement in an article about content marketing in 2018 is a bit worrisome. You wouldn’t want to post this on your website as is, as you’d be risking posting false information and misleading your customers.

Plus, more experienced users would look at your post and never return to your site.

A second statement we noticed in the article was a bit flawed in nature:

“The most useful approach is to require your prospects to enter an email address so that you can send them the e-book.”

When talking about e-books, the author of the post said that the most useful approach is using it as a lead magnet in exchange for their email.

Essentially, the author is talking about forms.

But forms aren’t the best converting approach for lead magnets anymore.

In fact, forms are likely dead. Drift proved this with their landmark, year-long study where they generated 15% more new leads, and a faster sales cycle through conversations instead of forms.

Replace-Lead-Forms-With-Conversations

(Image Source)

Saying that forms are the best way to use an e-book is not factually correct in 2018.

Instead, we would have liked to see a few ways that the e-book can be used to collect leads, whether it’s forms, live-chat or another tactic.

➄.➅ Expert Opinions: Elisa Gabbert and Benji Hyam

Elisa Gabbert, head of content marketing and SEO at WordStream

Elisa Gabbert

1. Who are you?

“I’m the head of content marketing and SEO at WordStream. Our blog gets about 1.5 million visitors a month and drives more than half of our leads.”

2. Ignoring word count alone – Would you publish this piece on your site (yes or no)? Why or why not?

“I would not. From a quick skim, it doesn’t seem that bad at first, but if you actually read it a lot of it is gibberish. Take “If you are looking for a way to grow your business and expand your reach, marketing your content can help.” Or “If you want another idea about marketing your content, consider writing and publishing short e-books.” These sentences make it clear the “writer” doesn’t even have a basic understanding of what content marketing is (it means marketing through content, not the marketing of content!). It basically seems like someone just cut and pasted sentences from other articles and changed a few phrases to make it qualify as ‘unique.'”

3. Why or why not?

“It’s really important to us that people get actual value from our blog, and even if the writing here were edited and polished, the content itself is way too superficial. It’s not actionable and there are no examples. Who would take content marketing advice from a source that’s not good at content marketing?”

Benji Hyam, co-founder of Grow and Convert

Benji Hyam

1. Who are you?

“I’m the Co-Founder of Grow and Convert – an agency that runs content marketing for companies like Patreon, Leadfeeder, and Inflow. Co-Founder of Wordable.io (Acquired). Previously ran marketing for two VC backed startups.”

2. Ignoring word count alone – Would you publish this piece on your site (yes or no)?

“No”

3. Why or why not?

“The first thing that I notice is that you can tell the writer has no experience in the subject matter they’re writing about. People who write on subjects they don’t know about tend to use filler sentences that state obvious facts, for example: ‘If you are looking for a way to grow your business and expand your reach, marketing your content can help.’

There’s a lot of cheesy statements throughout: ‘The information you discover will arm you with everything you need to move in the right direction, and the outcome will make you smile.’

It doesn’t help the reader accomplish anything. It’s basically a bunch of ideas without a cohesive structure or argument.

There aren’t any real examples in it. Content that comes from subject matter experts reference real examples to help make their argument.

If you’re using this type of content to sell to experienced practitioners, you’ll lose their attention in the first couple of sentences and the content will likely give them a poor perception of your brand instead of a positive one. The articles you produce need to solve a pain point for the buyer, educate someone (with real experience and examples), and/or entertain them. This article doesn’t meet any of the criteria.”

 

Content Farm #3. Crowd Content

Crowd Content - Content Writing Services Comparison

Section Contents

➅.➀ How Crowd Content Works

➅.➁ Internal and External Links

➅.➂ Article Structure / Readability

➅.➃ Plagiarism

➅.➄ Content Accuracy

➅.➅ Expert Opinions: Andy Crestodina, Jason Quey, and Edward Dennis

➅.➀ How Crowd Content Works

Crowd Content is a “scalable content marketplace” for anyone looking to boost their content output.

Crowd-Content

They have the goal of making the content creation process and ordering custom content super easy, while still providing high-quality products.

We-make-content-creation-simple

The setup process is simple and only takes a few minutes to get your content project out into the marketplace:

Crowd-Content-Setup-process

They offer countless options for content opportunities to purchase from blog posts to social posting and more:

Crowd-Content-Options

The pricing is very straightforward and broken down into three segments: Marketplace, Special Formats, High Volume.

We chose marketplace as we wanted to test a single 1,000-word blog post.

Crowd-Content-Pricing

These are all the options for Marketplace:

Crowd-Content-Marketplace-Options

Quality level tiers the pricing; increasing quality will obviously cost you more per word.

Crowd-Content-Marketplace-Pricing

In our order, we selected the top option (four stars) for 12 cents per word, totaling to $120 for a 1,000-word blog post.

So we decided to start now and open our account to get the process started.

Crowd-Content-Start-Now

Then we selected self-serve as we wanted to test out a single article and order custom content fast:

Crowd-Content-Self-Serve

Then you sign up and enter information to create your account:

Crowd-Content-Create-Account

Once you sign up, you input more account information and then get directed to the dashboard:

Crowd-Content-Dashboard

This dashboard is much more straightforward than others, with the ability to jump into an order immediately and easy tutorial videos on the side, without any spammy ads.

So we decided to create our first order:

Crowd-Content-Order-Form

Choosing their highest quality settings, 1,000 words and a two-day turnaround time, we were billed $120:

Crowd-Content-Order-Summary

From there, our dashboard displayed that our order was processing. Within a few hours it was confirmed and opened up to writers on the platform:

Crowd-Content-order-opened-to-writers

Soon enough, we received another notification showing that our order was being written:

Crowd-Content-Notification-of-Writer

Overall, the process on Crowd Content seemed much smoother than iWriter, Textbroker, or any other for that matter.

Hiccups only came in the fact that revision time was so low. We had almost no time to look over the article before they closed the order for good.

So, was the article any good??

Here is what we ended up getting after paying $120:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/13bo4Zm7Dooh89reqsH2DtbDfSQXi5HcLqOyUrEI2_PI/edit?usp=sharing

And now, let’s break it all down and see how it stacks up to the competition.

  1. 1,030 words (30 more than requested)
  2. Cost = $120
  3. Turnaround time – 3 days

Finally, a content farm piece that actually contains external links!

Right off the bat, you likely noticed that this piece contains three external links.

Crowd-Content-External-Links

That’s a good amount of external links for a 1,000-word blog post.

Sure, there definitely could have been more and there were even parts of the article begging for a reference, but at least there are external links.

These links are great, too.

They come from three very high domain authority websites in the marketing space:

  1. Content Marketing Institute
  2. Business Ideas Lab
  3. Contently

Off to a great start.

Unfortunately, there are no internal links in this post.

We were expecting a bit more considering the content was more expensive than other outlets.

Paying $120 for a single post on a basic topic should generate some good internal links.

➅.➂ Article Structure/Readability

Scrolling through the article from Crowd Content, you can see that the article structure is excellent.

The writer used H1, H2, and H3 headers to structure it, giving each a clear-cut headline that explains what you can expect within each section.

That’s great!

With a dedicated intro to set up the article, readers have a smooth transition from section to section.

But, there isn’t a formal conclusion to wrap up the thoughts and recap the article.

Conclusions serve as a perfect chance to display a call to action and remind the reader of actionable steps to take with content marketing.

For readability, we plugged in the article to Grammarly. Here’s what it scored:

Crowd-Content-Readability-Score

56.

That’s not great when you look at the readability suggestions.

Why is it so low?

Likely because each paragraph is massive without proper text breaks.

Crowd-Content-no-text-breaks

This breaks up the flow of reading and doesn’t cater to most internet users who skim posts.

Essentially, low readability often leads to bounce rates and lost conversion opportunities.

While the article has good structure and usage of headers, it lacks readability that keeps users around.

➅.➃ Plagiarism

When checking for plagiarism on Grammarly, we found that this article contained 5% of content to matched sources:

Crowd-Content-plagiarism-score

Thankfully, the largest portion (4% from CMI) was cited and quoted correctly, meaning that it wasn’t actually plagiarized.

Taking a more in-depth look at related content, we saw some near matched similarities in the content used.

While not directly plagiarized from written words, the topics covered were identical.

The referenced CMI post covered the history of content marketing and direct references to the John Deere example used in the writer’s piece:

CMI Source:

Crowd-Content-John-Deere-example

Crowd Content post:

Crowd-Content-post-using-john-deere-example

We also found another troubling discovery in the CMI post that our Crowd Content writer referenced.

In the Crowd Content article, our writer talked about two key benefits of content marketing….

Crowd-Content-benefits-of-content-marketing

…both of which were directly referenced in the CMI post too:

CMI-content-marketing-post

This is not great when looking to produce original content.

Simply copying the structure and exact points made by another site and changing the wording doesn’t make the content original.

It’s only regurgitated content with different copy.

➅.➄ Content Accuracy

Reading the post, we found no content inaccuracies.

But, we found sections where the writer made claims that were not backed by data to prove it.

For example, saying that content marketing increases your sales and produces brand loyalty.

While for some readers this is common knowledge, beginners are unlikely to know that it’s true, meaning a good source and data point is critical to making these claims accurate and true.

Overall, the content is up to date and accurate.

➅.➅ Expert Opinions: Andy Crestodina, Jason Quey, and Edward Dennis

Andy Crestodina, co-founder and CMO of Orbit Media

Andy Crestodina

1. Who are you?

“Andy Crestodina, Co-founder / CMO of Orbit Media 10-years of content strategy experience. Listed as a Top 25 marketer about once a week.”

2. Ignoring word count alone – Would you publish this piece on your site (yes or no)?

“No.”

3. Why or why not?

“The big problem is that these don’t align well with my content strategy (“practical advice on content strategy, Analytics and web design”) because they are all too general. Beyond that, this is undifferentiated copywriting. They are pouring a bucket of water into the ocean.

But some are better than others.

For this job, you’d need a killer opening and a lot of formatting, including these points from my content checklist. If I were writing this, I’d shoot the reader right between the eyes with a bullet list.”

 

Jason Quey, co-founder of Growth Ramp

1. Who are you?

We help startups increase traffic and profit using an SEO-driven content strategy.

2. Ignoring word count alone – would you publish this on your site (yes or no)?

Yes, but it would need some soft changes.

The definition of content marketing is vague. With this definition, someone could include almost every marketing channel. Not the fault of the writer, because I’ve seen many bloggers say the same thing.

3. Why or why not?

The content itself is targeted at a more basic level than my target audience. But that may have been avoided had the writer had the instructions. That said… The biggest challenge of content marketing is showing true thought leadership. True thought leadership:

  • Provides a useful answer,
  • Answers customers’ questions and challenges,
  • In a way your customers will find and consume.

how-to-create-true-thought-leadership-with-content-marketing-768x695
(image source)

I have a hunch that content mills AT BEST can provide useful content targeting a basic expertise level. Beyond that, they don’t have the industry expertise to give a great answer.

Edward Dennis, Digital Marketing Manager at Coredna

dennis

1. Who am I?

“Dennis – Digital Marketing Manager at Coredna. I grew our organic traffic by 363% in less than 12 months (still growing by 10% month-to-month and we don’t even publish that many content every month), so I kinda know a thing or two about content marketing and SEO.”

2. Ignoring word count alone — would you publish this piece on your site (yes or no)?

“Heck no.”

3. Why or why not?

“Let’s just assume for a minute my target audience is people who are not familiar with the concept of content marketing. The goal of every content that we publish is to generate traffic, links, and ultimately convert visitors into customers. This content looks “good” on the surface, but it doesn’t solve a specific problem. It doesn’t stand out. It’s more or less the same as what’s already out there. Bottom line is this: You can’t put a make-up on “cheap content”. Doesn’t matter how many custom images you produce for said content.”

Content Farm #4. Constant Content

Constant Content - Content Writing Services Comparison

Section Contents

➆.➀ How Constant Content Works

➆.➁ Internal and External Links

➆.➂ Article Structure / Readability

➆.➃ Plagiarism

➆.➄ Content Accuracy

➆.➅ Expert Opinions: Anna Crowe and Zach Bulygo

➆.➀ How Constant Content Works

Constant Content offers 100% unique content that is hand edited by 100,000 expert writers. Currently, they serve over 50,000 businesses.

You can either order custom content from professional writers or buy ready-made content, for example, a blog post on The Best Baseball Gear, etc.

Constant-Content

The two main content services they offer are category/product pages and blog post style writing:

Constant-Content-category-and-products

If you want more customized and specific content types, you can choose between a list of their custom content services and categories:

Constant-Content-Custom-Services

They also have a huge image library if you are looking to add images to content. But unfortunately, most of these photos are stock photos.

And as we discussed in the objective grading scale section, studies show that stock photos hinder performance.

They claim to have one of the easiest setup processes to get started ordering your content:

Constant-Content-easiest-30-second-setup

Going through the process ourselves, the setup of an account is extremely easy. But, the actual process of buying content was a nightmare. It was the worst out of all five services we tested (by far).

We’ll go into more detail on that in a minute here.

So, why choose them over the others? Here’s what they promise with their services:

Why-choose-Constant-Content?

The one annoying thing about Constant Content was the lack of pricing transparency. We couldn’t see a simple pricing page to get started looking at options, so we decided to create an account:

Constant-Content-Get-Started-in-Seconds

Once you fill in the information, you choose between the following:

Constant-Content-Request-Type

We decided to do the “Order Content” request type, rather than buying pre-made content.

In general, the pricing varies between 20 to 200 dollars per 1,000-word article. That can either be very cheap or expensive compared to the other four platforms we tested.

After creating our job listing, we were prompted to buy credits. We bought $125 worth of credits as their system said that was what we needed for the quality and length requested:

Constant-Content-Order-Confirmation

But when we checked back on our account, we saw the following message:

Constant-Content-adding-credits-to-your-account

It says, “Your credits are now available to use,” but right above this it says that you have to forward your receipt to their support email to confirm.

While this added bonus of extra account security is nice, we waited four days for them to confirm the credits. We checked back daily, and nothing happened.

So, we were forced to take matters into our own hands and use their live-chat service to get them to finally confirm it so we can order content.

Yes. We needed help to give them money.

The account setup process was a breeze. But that’s a no-brainer. No account setup process in 2018 should be hard.

But ordering content was another story. We couldn’t even use our credits that we already paid for.

After they approved our credits for usage, we began the order process by using their “Expert Request” feature to match up to marketing writers:

Constant-Content-Expert-Request

After inputting our article title and topic, our request was pending approval, waiting for a writer to claim:

Constant-Content-Pending-Approval

After a writer claimed our article, we received our content four days later. Upon receiving the notice, we found out that our content costs were $150, not $125 like their calculator told us:

Constant-Content-Unclear-Pricing

As noted earlier in the account setup process, pricing is very unclear on their site.

Even if you select the highest quality article writer, your content could vary between 20-200 dollars.

And there isn’t a single point in the buying process where you know what separates a $20 article from a $200 article.

This process is slightly annoying and feels uneasy to use.

You should always know exactly what you’re getting when paying money for content.

Regardless, we added the extra $25 in credits to our account to complete the purchase:

Constant-Content-Shopping-Cart

And here’s the content that we received:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1CwwtK_UaNrrA9sOnQc3kzzoL2KThOQge-UXVN_sDueM/edit

Constant Content was the most expensive content farm that we tried.

Comparing content from the highest price point on each site with the top ratings, here are the stats on content received from CC:

  1. 1,260 words (260 more than requested)
  2. Cost = $150
  3. Turnaround time – highly customizable, ours took five days.

So, was the price worth it?

At first look, the piece we received from Constant Content had no links.

Despite offering statistics and information from other sources in the piece, they did not directly tag links as anchor text for anything.

Scrolling to the bottom, you should notice a list of “Sources” containing links to referenced posts.

While this isn’t ideal, it’s better than having zero references or links.

At least it’s something.

But again, this forces us, the buyer, to go back into the content and find where the source was for each point.

That’s potentially an hours worth of work on our end for something that takes minimal effort from the writer to do during the construction of the article.

This signals to us a lack of effort. For a $150 post compared to the rest of the services, you’d expect to have the linking done for you.

Reading the entire post, you can see a few spots where links should be. But that means we have to go back and Google phrases to figure out their origins. And when paying for content, that shouldn’t happen.

In terms of internal links, we found zero.

A simple, quick visit to our own blog would highlight some great content to include as a link.

It’s a simple way of showing the client that you made that piece directly for them, rather than being generic and easily distributed to any other blog online.

➆.➂ Article Structure/Readability

The structure of this post covered a few of the basics that we expect to see in a blog post:

  • An introduction
  • A headline
  • Subheads

But, this post lacked a formal conclusion to summarize the post.

Plus, headers were merely bolded rather than utilizing H1s and H2s.

Generally speaking, the format was lazy:

Constant-Content-lazy-formatting

There were no spaces between introducing bullet points and even between the bullet points themselves.

This led to a cluttered post that was extremely hard to read or follow.

Like others, they simply dumped stats into bullet points rather than describing them.

This seriously hinders readability and dwell time.

When scanned with Grammarly, it generated a 49 readability score, the lowest of all content farms we tested:

Constant-Content-Readability-Score

For being the most expensive (even double other prices), that’s bad. Really bad.

Overall, the structure of the article was just not good. The lack of simple spacing or breaking down points and over-relying on bullet points made it tough to digest.

➆.➃ Plagiarism

Scanning the article with Grammarly’s plagiarism premium feature, the article used 3% from matching sources:

Constant-Content-plagiarism-score

That’s pretty solid.

But beyond text-based comparisons, there were some red flags.

Tons of the content simply wasn’t original, but re-written and regurgitated from existing posts.

For instance, the section of the post that talks about the benefits of content marketing. It directly referenced a post from the Content Marketing Institute:

Direct-reference-to-CMI

While referencing is great, the entire section was merely rewritten based on CMIs post. Compare the bullet points above to each numbered point on CMIs post:

CMI-post-on-content-marketing

That’s zero originality. References are amazing for content, but merely referencing and pasting isn’t.

References should enhance your point, pulling a point or stat from the post, not the entire post in your own words.

This occurred in a few other sections where the writer seemingly reworded content.

➆.➄ Content Accuracy

In terms of statement accuracy in the article, there were no inaccuracies.

The information cited was great and from high quality, high domain authority links.

This is all a big bonus.

You can’t afford to have and pay for outdated content.

➆.➅ Expert Opinions: Anna Crowe and Zach Bulygo

Anna Crowe, Senior Editor at Codeless

anna crowe

1. Who are you?

“Anna Crowe, the Senior Editor at Codeless, has spent 8+ years building marketing campaigns like a race-walking athlete prepares for the Olympics; with tenacious energy, mindful preparation and a relentless pursuit of greatness. I’ve worked for global brands like Marriott, IHG, McDonald’s, and Mailboat Records to name a few.”

2. Ignoring word count alone – Would you publish this piece on your site (yes or no)?

“No”

3. Why or why not?

“There’s no sugar-coating it: This isn’t the sexiest piece of content. No one wants to publish content that’s the equivalent to the launch of Eminem’s Revival album, forgettable.

The fallbacks: boring intro, hard to read sentences, and the use of a passive voice. These things don’t exactly spell out the best piece of content, do they? This article needs more TLC before I would hit publish.”

 

Zach Bulygo, former blog editor Kissmetrics

1. Who are you?

Zach Bulygo, former blog manager and editor for the Kissmetrics blog, and freelance blog editor.”

2. Would you publish this piece on your site?

“No”

3. Why or why not?

“I first notice its poor readability. Bullet points help with readability, but having bullet points consume the majority of each section is just lazy writing. It’s a shortcut for skipping detail.

Also, one of those bullet points isn’t aligned correctly. It’s like double spaces or misspelled word. It’s a sign of laziness and work that values speed over thoroughness.

Images can also enhance the readability of a post, but this one doesn’t have any. Few people today are willing to read a wall of text, especially when it’s a topic as well written about as content marketing. (The quantity of articles on this topic means that they can easily find a better article). They’ll simply click the back button and read a different article from the SERP. And that pogo-sticking will decrease rankings even further.

There are lots of places to add images, even in this post. How about an image of The Furrow or The Michelin Guide? Or some images of good white papers, infographics, ebooks, original research, etc. Show readers, don’t just tell.

The 3-5 spaces in between each paragraph is ugly and doesn’t help the reader in any way. It’s an easy fix for the person editing the post, but to me it makes it look like the writer was never properly taught how to write in a Word doc/Google Doc.

I can tell that whoever wrote this article (and maybe it was a small team that put it together) has no experience or familiarity with content marketing. They Googled information on content marketing for 10-20 minutes, and then wrote what they found and put it into this doc. If I’m going to be publishing something on content marketing, it needs to come from someone who has been in the game and knows what they’re talking about. Someone who doesn’t need to Google. It should have personal anecdotes, stories, lessons learned, non-generic advice. Something unique that they couldn’t find anywhere else.

The intro is arguably the most important piece of a blog post. The only thing possibly more important is the title. The intro (and title) need to hook readers in and inform them of what they’ll be learning about in the blog post. I like intros that are short and hook people with something unique or surprising. It could be something like, “Hey, everyone has an opinion on x. Here’s why I think they’re wrong (and the data I have to prove it).”

The intro in this post starts off with a long sentence, whereas I’d prefer a few short sentences with my intros. And then they don’t explain what will be in this post or what’s unique about it. If I was just searching for this general, broad overview I’d click the back button and read the Wikipedia page.

I like conclusions that wrap up the post, summarize what’s been discussed, and in some cases lead to a CTA. This post doesn’t do any of that – it doesn’t even mark where the conclusion is. (One of my biggest pet peeves). It just appears after the 5-6 sentence paragraph near the end.

The final reason why I wouldn’t publish this post, is because it has zero chance of ranking for any keyword. If you Google content marketing and check out some of those articles, you’ll notice that this one is 10x worse than what’s currently on the first page of Google’s SERP. And today, the only chance you have for ranking is 10x content, with backlinks. This post isn’t 10x content, and won’t get any quality backlinks (because no high DA site will link to crap content). Similarly, no “influencer” or “thought leader” would share bad content through Twitter or Facebook because it would make them look bad. So you’re paying for content that won’t get any eyeballs.

And, just a minor point, no one dumps all their sources into a list at the end of a post. This isn’t Wikipedia. It’s a blog post. You put your sources as anchor text in the blog post.

I don’t publish low quality content because it reflects poorly on the company and brand. Because if someone came to this article and saw how poorly it was put together, they’d think the same thing of the product we’re selling. If they let this shoddy work pass through, they’ll let any shoddy work pass through. Low quality standards resonate throughout the entire company.

So, this is a hard pass for me because it’s bad content. It lacks readability, depth, and proper formatting. It isn’t unique and doesn’t hook the reader in. It won’t rank for any keyword because no authoritative source will link to it. And it won’t be shared on social media by anyone with a following.”

 

Content Farm #5. Writer Access

Writer Access - Content Writing Services Comparison

Section Contents

➇.➀ How Writer Access Works

➇.➁ Internal and External Links

➇.➂ Article Structure / Readability

➇.➃ Plagiarism

➇.➄ Content Accuracy

➇.➅ Expert Opinions: Brian Jackson and Lianna Patch

➇.➀ How Writer Access Works

Writer Access’ motto is that they offer over 15,000 freelance writers with award-winning content creation and their one of a kind platform and that they can cover all industries and businesses with great content.

Writer-Access

Currently serving agencies, businesses, and global brands, Writer Access has some great social proof and credentials.

You can search for writers on their site by industry expertise, project category, or star rating:

Writer-Access-Search-and-Find-Writers

They charge by the word, and you can get any content type from articles, blog posts, case studies, web copy, editing, and white papers, from 2 cents to 2 dollars per word.

That’s cheap and diverse. Off to a great start.

Writer-Access-pricing-by-the-word

They also offer multiple types of services such as self-service where you can select editors, writers, etc. as you go to fulfill your needs for projects. Then the plans upgrade in cost up to $10,000 depending on the package.

Writer-Access-multiple-types-of-services

So, we decided to check out the pricing page for single articles, rather than contracted, long-term commitments that can be difficult to get out of:

Writer-Access-Pricing

First, we receive a few things to explain how their pricing works, how their packages work, and how their pre-pay plans work.

Writer-Access-How-Packages-Work

Currently, Writer Access has two different marketplaces:

  1. Writer Marketplace
  2. Expanded Marketplace

The Writer Marketplace is where we chose to start, as it lines up with the previous four content farm services in terms of star quality and pricing.

Writer-Access-Marketplace

We chose the highest quality selection: 6 stars for 10 cents/word (totaling to $100) under the “Specialty Writing” level:

Writer-Access-Specialty-Writing

Next, we decided to open an account and get started:

Writer-Access-Open-Account

Again, when we signup, there is an insanely confusing toggle:

Writer-Access-Prepay-Signup

You have to prepay to open an account for most of these? Confusing and risky if you are just looking to test the waters with a specific service.

We opted for the free trial before deciding which article service we wanted.

After filling out a lot of information, we finally get the account up:

Welcome-to-Writer-Access

After we confirmed our account, we got directed to the WriterAccess dashboard:

Writer-Access-Dashboard

Immediately we were confronted by a strange opt-in offer that we couldn’t get rid of:

Writer-Access-Confirm-Mailing-Address

Any book? I prefer pastry cookbooks if you’re asking. But on a serious note, that’s weird.

Anyways, we decided to proceed with an order and get started:

Writer-Access-Place-Order

When starting your order, you are prompted to fill out a detailed form just like any other content farm service:

Writer-Access-Basic-Information-Form

After inputting our order preferences, we were asked to pay $103.20, just about exactly what their pricing model said:

Writer-Access-Confirm-Order

Once paid, our order was confirmed, allowing us to visit the order management page:

Writer-Access-Order-Placed-Successfully

Here we could see the status of our order and which writer was going to accept the position:

Writer-Access-Manage-Orders

After selecting the standard 10 day delivery time, we finally got our content. Here’s what we received:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/134w2OObfD8BiVE0MLmLnSUQSliKp-0uQ6aO_x2IMU4w/edit#

Before we break down the Writer Access post, here is a quick recap of the basic facts of this service:

  1. 990 words (10 less than requested)
  2. Cost = $103
  3. Turnaround time – up to 5 days

If you took a moment to read the full article above, you likely gathered that there are zero internal and zero external links.

Yikes.

This seems to be a common trend with article services, which is strange considering we purchased the most expensive, top writing packages at each of these content services.

You would think that top quality writers on their sites are taking a few minutes to do proper research on good sources to cite and internal links to boost traffic.

Most of the content that we see that lacks links is a prime example of content that you could replicate for any business without any tweaks.

This content should be personalized, referencing specific posts on our own site, and citing relevant sources to our business.

➇.➂ Article Structure/Readability

At first glance, the article structure is ok. It’s nothing special, and it’s clearly not optimized, but it’s also not bad.

It doesn’t contain weird numeric numbers to list off each element, and at least there is a semblance of bolding to distinguish sections.

Despite that, there are no uses of H1, H2, or H3 headers.

Writer-Access-bolded-but-lacks-headers

On top of that, the text is very dense and hard to skim or read fast.

Each section could have significantly benefited from broken up paragraphs and smaller sentences.

This post contains a formal introduction (albeit the title is missing) yet lacks any conclusion whatsoever.

This makes an awkward ending for the article. It simply stops rather than summarizing the dense information just covered.

That’s not good.

Overall, the structure of the post is good but not great.

In terms of readability, the Writer Access post scored a 57, lower than we’d like to see for a basic article:

Writer-Access-Readability-Score

While word and sentence length scored high, the big chunks of blocky text that can be hard to get through likely impacted the readability.

➇.➃ Plagiarism

When scanned with Grammarly, Writer Access returned a 5% match to other online sources:

Writer-Access-plagiarism-score

While not bad, it’s definitely higher than we’d like to see for such a short article.

For reference, all of our content is 3% or below for 2,500-word posts.

In terms of related structure, we saw nothing out of the ordinary beyond basic references, giving us a good idea that the writer naturally crafted this article structure. Great!

➇.➄ Content Accuracy

The content written by Writer Access was excellent in terms of accuracy.

The statements were almost all relevant and up to date, except one:

“In general, higher visibility is associated with a higher conversion rate.”

This isn’t really true:

The more impressions you get doesn’t mean getting higher conversion rates.

In fact, in content marketing, getting more impressions usually means targeting head terms which convert worse than long-tail terms.

Why? Because head terms are more basic and bring in more traffic. While you could end up with more conversions (in total) from a head term, the conversion rate is likely to be worse.

Overall, the content (aside from this) was accurate.

➇.➅ Expert Opinions: Brian Jackson & Lianna Patch

Brian Jackson, CMO at Kinsta

Brian Jackson

1. Who are you?

“Hey, Brian Jackson here. I’m currently the Chief Marketing Officer over at Kinsta, where we offer premium and high-performance managed WordPress hosting. I’ve been blogging, writing, and working in various marketing fields for over a decade. It’s my passion, and I’ve loved every second of it.

My primary daily tasks involve a lot of SEO and strategic content creation. Putting together the puzzle pieces of what it takes to translate words on a page into first-page Google rankings is exciting as it changes almost on a weekly basis. With a little hard work and some exceptional content, we were able to increase organic traffic to our website by 571% in just 13 months. Check out our SEO checklist.”

2. Ignoring word count alone – Would you publish this piece on your site (yes or no)?

“I can easily say I would not publish this piece on our site. I was cringing the entire time I was reading it and honestly didn’t want to finish.”

3. Why or why not?

“The primary reason I wouldn’t publish this piece on our site is that everything in the article is entirely generic. This isn’t what people want and you’re not going to get any shares or backlinks with this type of crappy content. You’re just wasting your time.

You need to share applicable tips and tricks for readers to latch on to your content. Everyone at this point knows that content marketing can help them, what they want to know is what they need to do to translate this into their own marketing plans.

Also, you need stats in an article to back up what you’re saying. I wouldn’t believe you after reading this that content marketing works (even though in this case we know it does). Include references, sources, and graphs. These always do well as people can more easily relate with “proof.”

Also, sorry, but word count has to be brought up as I still see so many businesses publishing short content like this, and in most cases, it’s not going to produce the results you’re looking for. Also, it’s hard to demonstrate or show proof of anything with anything under 1,000 words.

If you do a little keyword research with a tool like Ahrefs or SEMrush you can easily see that the competition is going to crush you if you’re trying to rank for anything closely related to “content marketing” or “what is content marketing.” Search is rapidly changing as voice and longer-tail queries continue to grow. According to research from Jumpshot, 84% of desktop search queries now contain between 1 to 5 words.

My suggestion for this article would be to add a couple thousand more words (yes, I said a couple thousand more) and rewrite it to focus on a particular niche within content marketing, something that is less competitive. And don’t obsess so much on one keyword, but more on a phrase or topic (after looking up competition and search volume of course). If you continue to repeat this process and do research before writing every post, you’ll soon start to see a big difference in results. You’ll also figure out what does and doesn’t work.

In summary, always tell people how to do something, not just that it’s incredible and that they should be doing it. After that, show them it works with proof (stats, graphs, charts, references, case studies, etc.). Writer smarter not harder by researching before you start to write. And last but not least, always think about whether you would actually want to read and share the post yourself. If the answer is no, delete the draft and start over.”

Lianna Patch, conversion copywriter for ecommerce and SaaS companies

Lianna Patch

1. Who are you?

“I’m Lianna Patch! I write copy, do customer research, and come up with conversion improvement ideas for ecommerce stores and SaaS companies at Punchline Copywriting and SNAP copy. I also speak at marketing and industry events worldwide.

BUT, before I started focusing on this niche, I was an editor for 7 years. I worked with print and online publications, both writing content and editing other writers’ work. I’ve also been an inbound marketing director, responsible for commissioning content from freelancers. Later on, I wrote long-form content on retainer for multiple SaaS businesses, bringing in up to 3k per piece.

TL;DR I’m a big ol’ word nerd and I know what I’m doing.”

2. Ignoring word count alone – Would you publish this piece on your site (yes or no)?

“No.”

3. Why or why not?

“This piece is too general. There are a million articles about “content marketing” out there (and I bet you at least 75% of them start with some variation on “Content is king”).

Even putting that aside, there’s no “so what” in this article. There are no stakes! Why should I CARE? Presumably, it’s because of the results great content can bring me – but that section is buried all the way down at the bottom of the piece.

The final nail in the coffin is that on a line level, the writing just isn’t polished. It’s better than what you’d get from an article spinner on a true content mill (i.e. this piece has no egregious typos and mostly makes sense)… but sentences like “In order to view the content itself, the viewer must be properly enticed with information that he does not know” are sooooo awkward and boring and make me want to die.”

Conclusion

Are content writing services good or bad? Gaetano sums it up nicely:

Gaetano DiNardi, head of demand generation at Nextiva

Gaetano DiNardi

“Content writing services are mostly garbage quality from my experience – largely because the writing does not come from a truly credible person with hands-on expertise in a given field. Most content shops hire a bunch of outsourced researchers that are stringing together a collection of regurgitated ideas from other existing sites, so nothing is uniquely valuable. I call it, content marketing recycling. There is also a new phenomenon where crappy link building companies are trying to disguise / position themselves as a content marketing service. Some even get as sleazy as listing their prices based on the domain authority of the site they place the article (backlink) on. What’s made Sales Hacker and other companies I’ve worked with the most successful is getting contributors in the field to share their ideas, and shape it together with an editorial expert with strong SEO chops. This is the future of content in my opinion.”

Content is digital marketing.

You literally can’t generate traffic, leads, or sales without it.

And yet, most companies look to save a buck on content creation.

They focus on the cost, instead of the investment.

Having content made for the sake of filling up your blog isn’t going to work. It doesn’t work. As we’ve shown here.

Terrible content won’t rank. It won’t persuade visitors. And it won’t keep people coming back for more.

All it does is gather digital dust and cobwebs.

There is no ‘middle’ ground, either. You’re better off NOT spending money on content, if you can only ‘afford’ mediocre drivel.

Otherwise, the only way to stand out, get ahead, and start growing your top line is through awesome content. Excellent content, created by excellent craftspeople.

Yes, it’s going to cost you more. But it’s also going to actually create a positive ROI, too.

Unlike all of the content writing services we just reviewed.

Codeless - SaaS Content Creators

Jeremy Moser

Jeremy Moser

Jeremy is a Content Marketing Specialist at Codeless. His content has been featured on HubSpot, Shopify Enterprise, Kissmetrics, AdEspresso, BigCommerce and many others.
Jeremy Moser