Content is king.
As noted by AdWeek, “Consumers have flat-out become fatigued with the standard fare historically represented in brand marketing.” Companies must find a way to create content that breaks the mold, engages potential customers and ultimately drives increased revenue.
And, with over 70 percent of companies outsourcing content creation, finding the best outsourcing option is critical in today’s environment.
When it comes to blogging, buying pre-written articles or ordering custom-created articles offer a way for companies short on time, expertise or capacity to quickly scale up, but what’s the best route? Are pre-written pieces the best investment, or does custom creation provide better returns?
Let’s dig into the pros, cons — and everything else — that comes with buying articles.
The Content Conundrum
Recent research shows that companies are struggling with content management. As the Content Marketing Institute points out, 72 percent of organizations say they’re “challenged with managing content strategically,” and 61 percent point to their top challenge as a lack of skilled staff to ensure content meets expectations and marketing is effective across channels.
Beyond a reliable content pipeline and the ability to ensure content regularly reaches customers, businesses also need to make sure that what they’re producing engages and excites users. In a content-rich market, potential consumers won’t bother stopping for articles, case studies or white papers that don’t immediately grab their attention and offer actionable information.
According to Business 2 Community, the sheer volume of available content now means that, “Even if you’re filling your site with countless blog posts jam packed with stellar written content, you may still be disappointed.”
Because well-written content is no longer enough to grab attention. It must also offer something unique to consumers; something they haven’t seen before.
Pre-Written Versus Content Development Services
To reach consumers and drive revenue, companies must find article sources that are reliable, high-quality and in alignment with business expectations.
There are two broad types available: Pre-written content and custom-created articles.
Pre-written articles are exactly what the name says: Already written, ready to be purchased and posted.
There’s also a subset of pre-written pieces known as private label rights (PLRs). As noted by Medium, what makes PLR pieces unique is the associated licensing. Companies can edit articles and change author attribution as needed. They can also resell the articles and basically do whatever they want with them.
Often you’ll find PLR articles in packages offering dozens for a surprisingly low price. The reason they’re so affordable is that the seller is selling the package to many people, so you can’t be sure your content is unique.
Custom content, meanwhile, is typically governed by resell rights that let companies keep 100 percent of the profits if content is resold via gateways or as part of subscription services but limits the ability of businesses to change author attributions or modify content. In general, ownership and attribution rights are typically bound by the service agreement you establish when working with your writer.
Over the past few years, pre-written content use has declined while custom writing services have enjoyed a significant uptick. Part of the change stems from evolving search engine algorithms, which tend to prioritize unique, never-before-seen content over similar articles tweaked just enough to suit businesses needs.
Social media also plays a role in this shift. Social giant Facebook now claims over 1.47 billion daily active users as of June 2018, making it more important than ever for companies to deliver content that’s easily consumable, provides a unique perspective and compels users to share it with friends and coworkers. This content needs to engage users — and be unique.
But, there’s still a case for pre-written and PLR content, since it lets organizations quickly customize and repurpose content as required.
For example, a single blog post can be purchased immediately and posted across corporate blogs, social media sites and leading industry publications. For companies looking to keep up with the pace of content consumption, PLR provides a viable solution in a pinch.
Pre-Written (and PLR) Pros
Let’s dig a little deeper. Beyond the basics, what are some of the key benefits associated with pre-written pieces?
- No waiting time: Pre-written marketplaces are full of already-written articles waiting to be claimed. You don’t need to create a content brief, find a writer, conduct edits and finally make payment — available articles are complete and ready to use.
- See before you buy: Since these pieces are already written, you can view and evaluate them before making a purchase. While this does mean some time spent searching article inventories, it makes it possible to find content that aligns with content strategies before making a purchase.
- Evergreen offerings: PLR generally only works for evergreen content (newsworthy content has a very short shelf life), since it’s been written previously and designed for on-demand modification. Many sites offer deals on evergreen content, helping to fill gaps in your content strategy or flesh out your website with articles that remain relevant over time.
- Volume discounts: If you’re willing to purchase large volumes of articles at once, it’s often possible to find bulk discounts. It makes sense. Pre-written content is often sold to many customers, so sellers can earn more money selling discounted content to multiple buyers instead of charging full price to one.
- Makes it easy to jump-start content campaigns: As noted by Forbes, “You don’t need 15 pre-written articles to launch. You just need one.” Choosing an article that covers one high-level, relevant topic can jump-start blogs or other offerings while content strategists develop next steps. The instant availability of pre-written articles also makes it easy to quickly build out campaigns across multiple social channels.
Drawbacks of PLR and Pre-Written Content
While buying pre-written articles can help get campaigns off the ground and streamline content deployment, they also come with potential drawbacks, including:
- Lack of specificity: Pre-written content wasn’t created for your brand in particular but rather based on current search and social media trends in your industry. This means PLR articles are inherently off-brand and must be either used as “filler” content or modified to empower brand-driven engagement.
- Higher cost: While the basic cost of a PLR piece is less than one produced by custom content writers, it may be more costly in the long run. Why? Because making it useful for your brand often requires significant revisions and updates, meaning staff must spend time — which costs you money — to ensure pre-written articles meet expectations. (Read: How Businesses Can Save Money by Spending More on Content Writing)
- Minimal SEO focus: Your SEO differs from other brands and similar companies in your industry. Pre-written articles may provide general SEO targeting but don’t identify specific searcher intent or address semantically related topics, making these pieces potentially less valuable than they appear.
- Lack of Unique Content: Look at 10 pre-written pieces for the same topic, and they’ll bear strong similarities. In the case of PLR articles, they might even be identical. While they’ll be different enough to pass basic plagiarism checks, this content won’t stand out from the crowd.
- Missing Links: PLR and pre-written content isn’t designed with your business in mind, so it won’t contain any links to product pages, other blog articles or thought leadership pages. You can embed these links, but this may require significant restructuring to ensure articles don’t lose readability.
- Quickly out of date: Pre-written content is continually created to match potential needs, meaning it may be weeks or months old. Considering the velocity and volume of big data and the speed of social trends, PLR pieces can quickly outlive their usefulness.
- Limited applicability: Companies must now manage multiple channels and content streams to ensure they’re reaching the right customer base. Pre-written articles are often too broad and generic to drive interest across diverse content channels.
Pre-written pieces have potential — they’re an easy way to fill in gaps in your content calendar and give you the power to change author attributions to suit business needs.
Content development services, however, have largely overtaken pre-written marketplaces as organizations recognize the need for unique, high-quality articles that deliver targeted SEO and compelling content.
The main advantage of buying pre-written articles is that you can buy them and post them instantly. This is certainly appealing, but with the extra time you need to spend editing and making the content fit your brand, it might actually take longer.
Doing the math and calculating your time spent with both options might surprise you.