Content marketing is a burgeoning field and unless you've been living under some kind of virtual rock, this increasingly popular discipline has probably caught your attention.
Despite the growing need for quality content to appease search engines, engage website visitors and attract those all-important inbound links, not all organisations have the resources, inclination or budget to churn out content like a publishing house - and that's OK.
For those of you in this situation, we've put together a handy guide that'll help you track down the best content marketing services on a local, national and international level.
We could - and have - devote entire posts to the whys of content marketing, but for the sake of ease - I'll assume if you're reading this, you're already sold on the benefits of the practice.
There's a few golden rules for effective content marketing, namely:
- Post regularly
- Post relevant, interesting stuff that adds value to the visitor
- Make content attractive and easy to share
- Stick to a single topic per post
And while these are easy to describe, they take time and resources to do right - and can be difficult to implement for even the most seasoned of content strategy professionals. So it's no wonder that newcomers to the field can find things a bit daunting.
One way to sidestep these issues is by outsourcing your content strategy and production to an agency or individual with the necessary expertise. Historically, tracking down content professionals has been an issue of networking, but thankfully the internet has greatly simplified this process.
While content goes far beyond mere copy - written blogs, white papers and landing pages are likely to be a staple for newcomers to the field. So we'll focus largely on these assets for the purposes of this guide.
A good web copywriter should obviously have a decent grounding in content creation and writing - but this ideally needs to be backed up with (at least) a working knowledge of SEO and a smattering of technical skill. Fortunately, optimising content for search no longer means cramming in keywords, but rather providing a balance of high-quality copy and getting a handful of behind-the-scenes technical bits right.
You've got a number of options when it comes to outsourcing. Agencies will typically aim to provide a holistic SEO service, with content provided via an in-house or third-party team, while individuals will usually provide services in isolation (although in practice, they'll probably have several contacts for related tasks if needs be).
Many agencies and specialist consultants will also be able to advice you on your overall content strategy - offering advice on researching your key audiences, what metrics you should use to define success and how to analyse and amend your strategy periodically.
While it might be tempting to opt for the lowest bidder, do bear in mind that this can be something of a false economy. Any money you save on initial costs could potentially be offset by a loss of time and resources spent amending low-quality or off-message copy, or having to go back and forth with the writer for several revisions.
Using agencies and contractors can be useful in terms of cost-effectiveness and these are a great choice for those without the means to retain their own specialist in-house staff. However, when outsourcing - it's often a case of getting out what you put in and effective collaboration is a must if your content is to have the right tone, style, direction and alignment with your wider marketing goals.
It's important to manage your expectations when it comes to outsourcing. While it'd be ideal for many business owners to simply hand off their entire content strategy and implementation to an agency or individual, at the very least you will need to give them a coherent brief or better-still, offer feedback and collaboration over the course of the project.
The idiom of a failure to plan being a plan to fail rings especially true in the world of content marketing and if you approach it as a box-ticking activity, from a sense of guilt that it's something you should be doing, or simply have no clear goals in mind - your return on investment is likely to be sketchy at best.
Now we've got the basics sorted, lets delve into some of the choices available when it comes to outsourcing your copy and content writing.
The first thing to consider is how much work you'll need. If you're going through a full site redesign and require consultancy on content from the ground-up, it'd be well worth considering the agency route. However, if you're looking to modestly expand your suite of landing pages - it might be a good idea to get a contractor involved.
For tracking down content writers, there are several marketplace-style online services available, some of the most popular include:
Gumtree: This free site allows you to post all sorts of odd jobs and is completely free. However, it's obviously not dedicated entirely to content services and some applicants might be relative beginners in the world of freelance content creation.
Gumtree has no system for rating sellers and there's pretty much no guidance when it comes choosing a content writer via the site, which can make purchasing content and copywriting services this way a bit like taking pot luck.
Copify: This specialist site boasts hundreds of professional copywriters within the UK that are ready and waiting to take your order. I've personally used this and know several high-calibre colleagues that have developed fruitful working relationships via the site. You can specify how much you're willing to pay beforehand - but bear in mind the remuneration will likely be proportional to the quality of the writer you attract.
Similarly, the ad-hoc nature of the site means it's not ideal for those looking for guidance on strategy - although this is not prohibited by any means.
Zerys: As well as providing project management software, Zerys is also a marketplace-type service that attracts thousands of professional writers from around the world. The site is somewhat weighted in favour of the patron, however, with writers only receiving pay if the client is 100% satisfied with the finished product.
Hubspot Marketplace: We're immensely proud to be a partner of this inbound marketing giant and its reputation for quality really does proceed it. In addition to its wealth of inbound marketing advice and materials, Hubspot offers a completely free marketplace, where you can track down and contract a range of outsourced marketing services.
Content service providers can be sorted by rating or specialisation and costs are clearly defined from the outset. However, this may not be the best option for those who don't have much to spend, as things are heavily weighted towards agencies and geographically, toward the US.
While the above list is by no means comprehensive, these services are some of the best that I have personal experience with. But we're always keen to hear you thoughts, so let us know if you've got any favourites or think we've missed any good options in the comments.
The future looks bright for content marketing and the visible moves toward incorporating social signals in search can only spell better things for the field. Given this growing importance and the wealth of ways in which you can acquire quality copywriting services, there's never been a better time to jump on the bandwagon. And while you could put it off - by beating around the bush, you're ever-more likely to be left standing by competitors that get their foot in the door.
If you want to learn more about content marketing strategies or simply want to discuss how you can improve your site's performance as a sales, why not get in touch today? Alternatively, check out our free beginner's guide to content marketing now:
Images used courtesy of Stuart Frisby, One Laptop Per Child and Spot Reporting on Flickr and Wikimedia Commons.