Marketers are increasingly turning to experts to help inform their content and earn more trust from readers and search engines alike. But you can’t expect high-level experts to create content for your site at the same rates that you pay a general writer. That’s like ordering a steak but expecting to pay for a hamburger.
Real talk: A doctor isn’t going to write your content for a few cents a word. Neither is a CPA or a lawyer. And you might not need these types of experts to author your content. Get the full story on expert content and what type of writers you need to hire below.
Why Are Brands Looking for Experts?
One of the main reasons everyone is suddenly scrambling for authoritative bylines? Google’s E-A-T guidelines. You can read more about what those guidelines mean for your content and performance in SERPs in our other posts on the topic, but the TL;DR is that Google wants to see expert, authoritative and trustworthy content from brands.
But experts also inspire confidence in consumers. In a world full of fake news and questionable online recommendations, if you can up your trust quota with readers, you’re more likely to make the conversion. For that reason, marketers are turning to expert writers (whether or not they get a byline) for content such as buying guides, reviews, and high-quality blogs and articles.
But What Makes Someone an Expert?
Here’s where we’re seeing clients misunderstand Google’s intention. The search engine doesn’t expect every piece of content to be authored by someone with a master’s degree or higher. That’s not only impossible and cost-prohibitive, but it’s silly when you consider some niches.
You don’t need a master’s degree to be an expert on fashion jewelry or what toys toddlers love. You don’t necessarily even need professional experience on your resume — a well-established mommy blogger might have the authority and expertise to write about toddler toys, for example.
Here’s what Google says about what constitutes an expert in its Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines:
“Some topics require less formal expertise. Many people write extremely detailed, helpful reviews of products or restaurants. Many people share tips and life experiences on forums, blogs, etc. These ordinary people may be considered experts in topics where they have life experience. If it seems as if the person creating the content has the type and amount of life experience to make him or her an “expert” on the topic, we will value this “everyday expertise” and not penalize the person/webpage/website for not having “formal” education or training in the field.”
What constitutes an expert depends on your niche. Google is willing to take informal experience, even for some health or financial topics. It gives the example of a forum where caregivers share tips with each other regarding caring for chronically ill family members. The caregivers are living this experience, which makes them qualified to share the advice, says Google.
The requirements do get more stringent when you’re writing content that could impact someone’s money, health, or overall life — that’s called YMYL (your money, your life) content. But the overall message is: The expertise of the writing must match the level of the subject.
A quick guide to expert types
- Credentialed experts. The initials behind their names spell out their authority. Examples: A doctor writing about cancer, a nurse writing about patient triage, a CPA writing about taxes or a licensed social worker writing about depression.
- Experts with resume experience. The writer has real-world experience demonstrated by their resume. Example: a bookkeeper writing about personal finance, a retail sales rep writing a buying guide or a zoo volunteer writing about zebras.
- Authors with publishing authority. The author has a credible history of writing in the niche with published, bylined pieces. Example: A writer has written numerous journalistic pieces on the mental health industry, though they are not a licensed social worker and have never worked in the niche.
How do you find experts that meet the needs of your content?
We asked some marketing professionals for actionable tips for finding experts to write content. Here’s what they had to say:
- “When I look for an expert, I am definitely interested in credentials. However, this doesn’t have to be a formal designation. All I really want is someone who has demonstrated his or her expertise. If they run a blog about a particular topic, this helps a lot,” says James Pollard, Founder of The Advisor Coach, which is a marketing consultancy firm that works with financial advisors.
- “One way that we’re doing this is by hiring authors who have a great reputation in their industry. We do research on writers to see where they’ve been published in the past. We also check their writing quality and their level of expertise,” says Jacob Landis-Eigsti, owner at the marketing consulting company Jacob LE.
- “When hiring experts, I look for certifications and experience. It is also beneficial if they have an established online presence so we can link to their work on other credible websites,” says Darin Evangelista, a freelance content marketing consultant and content strategist at ChatterSource.
At Crowd Content, we source expert writers for clients and our own needs daily. Here are some insider tips on how we do it:
- Draw from the existing list of writers at Crowd Content. We rely on our crowd of thousands of writers, and you can too. You can use the writer search platform to find someone who has experience in your industry or create a casting call to invite writers to apply and tell you why they’re an expert. If you don’t have time to build and manage an expert writing team, we have customer service experts and project managers who can do it for you.
- Search LinkedIn. When recruiters need to hire someone, they often start on LinkedIn to find resumes that match their needs. You can do the same when looking for writers.
- Post in industry groups. Look for forums or social groups dedicated to the niche and post about your needs, inviting interested parties to contact you.
- Reach out to specific writers. Have you ever read a blog post or article and thought, “This is exactly the type of expert content we need?” Check the byline and bio attached to the content and reach out to the writer to see if they’d be willing to work with you too.
Does Every Content Project Need an Expert Writer?
Every content project needs quality writers that can deliver well-written content that’s aligned with your brand goals, messaging and style. That doesn’t mean every piece has to be written by an expert. Content often written by non-expert writers with good results includes, but isn’t limited to, product descriptions, basic blog posts on general topics, meta descriptions, and city and local pages.
With these types of pages, the performance of the content is more about your SEO plan, the quality of the writing as it relates to SEO and keyword relevance and the ability of the writer to create compelling marketing content. You also typically don’t include author bylines on these types of pages. Instead, your brand, about us page and overall site serves as the foundation for your authority in these areas.
Evangelista agrees that not every project requires an expert, saying, “I like to utilize a mix of expert writers and more general writers, depending on the subject matter.”
Not sure if your project could benefit from an expert byline? Consult the table below for some basic guidance.
Hiring an Expert Isn’t a Guarantee
Remember that just because you hire an expert doesn’t guarantee you’ll get expert content. Expert content is comprehensive, which means it answers the full intent of the search and includes the right semantic keywords.
Experts don’t always understand the ins-and-outs of advanced SEO — after all, they’re an expert in healthcare, money management, carpentry, plumbing or whatever niche you’re creating content in. They’re not an expert in online marketing.
To help ensure readers and search engines see your content as expert, do some work before you assign a piece. That includes keyword research, SEO strategy and coming up with basic topics you want the piece to cover.
What Type of Budget Are You Looking at if You Want an Expert?
Experts cost more than generalists. It’s a fact in every industry. You pay more to see a surgeon than a general practitioner, for example. But how much more will expert writing cost? It depends on what type of expert you need.
Evangelista says, “Expert writers definitely deserve to be paid a premium. In general, I pay expert writers around twice as much as a generalist.”
Landis-Eigsti says the price multiplier on experts is even higher. “As a small business, it’s tempting to spend $30-50 on an inexpensive writer, but we’ve had better luck by finding someone who is an expert and paying 5-10 times as much.”
But that extra upfront expense does offer some benefits, says Landis-Eigsti. “When you hire an expert writer, you’ll get a better-finished article. It’s more likely to rank with Google, and we don’t spend our valuable resources on revisions and rewrites.”
But his advice does have a caveat. Landis-Eigsti is assuming you hire a writer who is an expert all around. They know your topic, have demonstrated authority, and they know how to write content that performs online. If you hire a CPA, MD, RN or other credentialed expert, remember that there’s no guarantee they write well, and they might not know how to create content for online audiences. You may need to help with that in editing.
But remember that you don’t have to splurge to have a doctor (or other credentialed pro) author all your content. You can create expertise in other ways, including:
- Using a high-quality writer and making use of quotes from credentialed experts
- Including current, authoritative research and links to back up your facts and stats
- Having a credentialed pro review the content before it’s published and listing them as the reviewer in the byline area
Do you need expert writers to create your content? Not every time. But you do need qualified, experienced writers, whether you’re publishing 150-character meta descriptions or 3,000-word articles on a medical topic.