Throw Money At It 2: Outsourcing Content

August 5, 2011 , 47 Comments

How and where can you get the best content for your websites? Content that is at the same time high quality, well researched and relevant, but also doesn’t cost you an arm and a leg? These were the questions I was seeking to answer since posting the first part of the Throw Money At It project.

As a quick recap, in this project I document my attempts of building profitable websites, using outsourcing and services wherever possible.

Let’s take a quick look at three content sources I tested.

The Content Authority & Text Broker

Content Outsourcing

The Content Authority and Text Broker are both pretty similar services, where you can order single articles or many articles in bulk. In both cases, they take care of assigning your writing jobs to writers and they do some quality testing on their end. With both services, articles come in four quality levels that you can choose from:


Text Broker:

  1. Two Stars – $1.20 per 100 words
  2. Three Stars – $1.60 per 100 words
  3. Four Stars – $2.20 per 100 words
  4. Five Stars – $6.70 per 100 words

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Content Authority:

  1. Basic – $1.00 per 100 words
  2. Great – $1.50 per 100 words
  3. Excellent – $2.00 per 100 words
  4. Expert Author – $5.00 per 100 words


The prices are calculated on a per-word basis, but I chose to list the prices for 100 words each, because that’s easier to interpret than something like $0.015/word. Note that Text Broker is much older than The Content Authority and the latter almost certainly deliberately set their prices slightly lower than those Text Broker offer.

Quality level 1 articles are meant for link-fodder, meaning that they will likely be low quality, they aren’t guaranteed to be free of grammatical errors and they won’t be well researched. Level 2 articles are better in every aspect, but not something I’d put on a website I want to get ranked. Although I do have a few websites that are getting good rankings with low-quality content, I don’t consider this type of content to be very future-proof. Levels 3 and four are good enough articles to be featured on your main site.

I ordered several “Excellent” and one “Expert Author” article from the Content Authority. Both types of articles had quite a long turnaround time and took almost a week to be completed. However, the articles are all very good. I ordered these articles for a niche site on a topic that I am not familiar with and they are far better than anything I could have written.

The “Expert Author” article is also very good, but it didn’t really knock my socks off. If I showed you all of the articles I ordered, I bet you’d find it difficult to pick out the “Expert Author” one among the “Excellent”-level articles. The mistake I made was that the article was on a relatively broad topic. I think the way to go with the highest quality level articles is to order them on an ultra-specific topic and add very clear instructions about what you want the article to look like.

Forum Writers

Content Outsourcing - Forum Writers

Go to any online marketing forum and you’ll be sure to find members offering content writing services. Often at incredibly low rates, as well. Of course, some of them will be good and others won’t. You can always read some of their posts to see what their command of the English language is like, to make an initial selection.

I contacted several writers and ordered one article each, to test them out. I also asked them about their experience in writing for my niche and about their own areas of expertise. Ideally, you can find someone who’s hobby or area of interest matches one of your niche site’s topics. If they also turn out to be a good writer, you’ve struck gold. I did end up with two writers from forums that are now providing me with outstanding content at very reasonable prices.

Getting SEO-Optimal Content

Some writers and content services let you specify minimum and maximum keyword densities for your articles. I generally don’t worry about keyword density or anything else where you have to twist and bend your content to fit your keyword. Here are the steps I take to make sure I get what I consider to be optimized content:

  • 800+ Words for Target Pages
    A target page is a page that I intend to run a link-building campaign for until it ranks in the top spot for a specific keyword. For such articles, I order articles of 800 to 1500 words in length and I always order articles of a high quality level.
  • Adding Images
    I add at leas one image to each target page and add the keyword into the alt-text for the image. This isn’t just an exercise in cramming in an alt-text, though. Images make content more attention-grabbing and more engaging and they can be an important conversion-factor. Especially for product-review type sites, where your commissions depend on visitors actually getting engaged with your content and making a buying decision, images play a crucial part.
  • “Real Post” Formatting
    To some of my article orders, I added a note saying that I encourage the writers to use sub-headings, bullet-points and numbered lists in the content. The result was that I got generally more “real” looking articles, as good web content is often broken down into sub-sections and comes with lists and similar formats.
  • Posts of Varying Lengths
    I always make sure that I order articles of varying lengths. For target pages, as stated above, between 800 and 1500 words, for secondary content between 500 and 800 words. While I don’t know if this is something Google pays attention to, it seems to me that a site featuring articles that are all almost exactly the same length could easily be classified as spammy.

Cheap Video Content

For a new site, I aim to find at least 5 target keywords, meaning five keywords that I ultimately want to rank for and make money from. In addition, I’ll find at least a dozen additional, related keywords or topics to create additional content around.

An easy and cheap way to create secondary content for a site is the following:

  1. Go to YouTube and search for some keywords in your niche.
  2. Find informative videos (not too long) that don’t have very strong branding and little or no calls to action. In other words, you don’t want a video that very effectively advertises a website other than yours.
  3. Embed the videos in a post or page on your site.
  4. Order a video transcription from SubPly (costs $0.99 per video minute).
  5. Add the transcript below the video.

Presto! You’ve got yourself some relevant, interesting, media-rich content!

Note that this is an experimental method. My hope is that Google sees the transcripts as a real value-addition to the videos (which they are, in my opinion) and potentially assigns my post with the video a higher relevancy for the main keyword than the original video on YouTube. I don’t know if this will actually happen, though.


In conclusion, I can recommend both Content Authority and Text Broker, provided that you use articles of quality level 3 and above. What I recommend even more is that you spend some time finding a writer who’s personal style and expertise are a good match for what you are looking for. In general, I prefer quality over quantity and I’d much rather invest $100 into 5 long, high-quality articles than into 20 junk-articles.

As for my project: for all sites involved, I will keep new content rolling in, from the sources mentioned above. The next step is getting backlinks and getting the sites ranked. I’ve made a few orders already, but it’s still too soon to report on any results. Once I’ve tested a bunch of services and gotten some link-reports and ranking movements back, I’ll let you know.

All Posts in the “Throw Money At It” Project:

  1. Part 1: The Project
  2. Part 2: Outsourcing Content – currently viewing
  3. Part 3: Real-World On-Page SEO
  4. Part 4: Results After Two Months

About ​Shane Melaugh

I'm the founder of ActiveGrowth and Thrive Themes and over the last years, I've created and marketed a dozen different software, information and SaaS products. Apart from running my business, I spend most of my time reading, learning, developing skills and helping other people develop theirs. On ActiveGrowth, I want to help you become a better entrepreneur and product creator. Read more about my story here.

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  • Hi Shane,

    I’m in the learning phase of having articles written for my sites, and it can be a bit of a roller coaster ride for sure. It’s very difficult to convey the feel and style of the content that you would like to receive. Sometimes you’re really pleasantly surprised by the result, and other times, you just think WT* is that about!

    Anyway, onward and upward.

    Best regards


  • Awesome stuff. I haven’t outsourced any content creation yet, but this is a helpful guide. I’m looking forward to your next post especially, as I’ve just started backlinking for a couple of sites.

  • Shane you read my mind this time.

    I personally looking for a good writers who could write for me without burning my wallet.

    Looking for writers is a pain but after you find them its all about creating a good relationship for long term .

  • Hi Shane,
    I’ve had excellent (and poor) results using fiverr. The key is using fiverr’s ratings to get the (probably) good writers, then test them out. Find a few winners and you have your writing handled for months.

    One caveat — you will only get 500 word articles for $5.

    Best wishes,

  • Hi Shane.

    Getting good content written can sometimes be a very frustrating process. I’ve used a number of content services including The Content Authority and have mixed results.

    I certainly don’t expect professionally written articles for the prices they charge and at least most of the services will happily have the article rewritten for you if you aren’t happy with them.

    Luckily, a while back, I came across a writer who was recommended to me. She works as a journalist, and has very good writing skills. Additionally, she asks for the style of article you need, eg: informational, review, soft-sell, story etc and will structure the article with bullets, sub headings, specified keyword density, LSI etc.

    Her prices have gone up recently, but I’m more than happy to pay the higher fees (still cheaper than the “expert” author prices you listed) for the quality.

    When you’ve got a good writer, you really want to look after them. :-)



    • Shane, when it comes to using other people’s youtube videos on your site, what are the rules? Can you just pick up the embed code code and paste it on your site. Legally speaking, what are the implications?
      Thanks for all the valuable info you share with us.

    • HI Peter, maybe you can share her contact details if she has spare writing capacity. This way you can help her get more business and we can tap into a great resource.
      Cheers, Andreas from NZ

  • I just recently started using video from YouTube because it’s quick and easy. It gets hard to generate original content regularly, especially on very boring topics. I have been thinking about transcription for those videos also. Great timing. I wonder if there are any plagiarism issues with that?

    • There could possibly be legal issues. I couldn’t find any information on this topic. The content that you put on a video sharing site like YouTube is free for people to share, though. It’s definitely legal to embed videos on your site, so I don’t know if it can possibly be a copyright violation to have a transcript of the video, since it’s the same content, just in a different form.

      People do have the option to disable video embedding, if they don’t want them to be shared.

    • All YouTube content is syndicated, individual account holders can choose not to syndicate their video in which case you will get a message saying so when they try to watch it on your site.

      Obviously any video that uses copyright material such as a music score is subject to the conditions of that license.

  • Hey Shane!

    I have not used your recommendations. But I have used writers from the WF. I have also used a company called my article express when I was trying to rank for a site.

    At the time I was using Unique Article Wizard to distribute the articles but found it was a very expensive way of doing things. You always seem to learn the hard way!


  • Quick question about the “cheap video content” idea. Are there any copyright or other professional “courtesies” surrounding the area of transcripting someone elses video / audio work? I appreciate it may add value to both the video and my own site but is it appropriate/acceptable to do? Sounds like a bit of a grey area to me but I’d love to hear your take on it.

    • It could be a gray area, yes. I’ll try to find someone in the know about law and copyright things to give me some input on this.

  • James Oliver says:

    Thanks for this Shane – I am currently working on a big seo contract (first time doing so outside all of my own marketing)… thanks to your absolutely phenomenal secockpit, which has been a god-send for this large project I have done many hundreds of root searches and gotten together over 800 excellent keyword topics (well over 100 or so are gems).

    A big part of this gig will be outsourcing content – for both on site and offsite content channels (scribd, article directories web 2 etc) and I’ve been looking both at textbroker and at the better ranking writers on forums like WF. I have done most of my primary reviews and articles in my niche myself in the past being an expert on a fairly narrow topic, but this will involve absolutely having to outsource a lot and I’m both trying to streamline a process for getting writing but also for better management of my outsourcers and projects – I’m looking at basecamp for this – does anyone have experience with it or opinions to whether it is a good solution for this?

    Also the transcription thing is great – I have done exactly this process before (though using custom mTurk gigs for the task), some of which have been online since last fall and indeed it works great to pad out a site and capture long tail phrases etc.

    Is there a reason in particular why this ‘subPLY’ is your top choice? just curious as i will also be doing a bunch of this for this big site – it is a specialty tv channel so has loads of their own video already.

    thanks as always for great stuff!

  • I appreciate this experiment and look forward to the results. I am betting that it will be successful! I know this is an approach I need to take. I have outsourced a few projects so far. I will outsource link building and article writing.

  • Great idea – just disappointed that you are only reviewing two main writing outsource sources. I have been disappointed by two others from the Warrior Forum, was happy with the Content Authority though thought it maybe a bit pricey but was hoping for more insight on a number of others – feel a bit short changed only being offered 2 options in this article.

    This blog is a very good idea though and will look back at later articles.

    All the best


    • Hi Sam,

      This was not meant as a comprehensive review of outsourcing possibilities. The “throw money at it” project is just me documenting what I’m doing with my latest few niche sites.
      Similarly, I will not be attempting to review every SEO/link building service I can find. I will just pick some and report on what happens.

  • Thanks for pointing me to SubPly! I’ll probably use it to transcribe my own videos.

    Shane, I have a somewhat unrelated question. Where do you get the images that you use for IMImpact? Do you create them youself or do you have a graphic designer you work with?

    I’m always impressed by the unique images that you have for every post you make and I would like to do the same on my own website.


  • Shane:

    Nice informative post as always! I’m also currently doing a test of various content writing services. I’ve had mixed results with several, including Fiverr, but I’m currently testing Text Broker, Articlez, and Fweez. Text Broker seems to always show up in marketers’ lists of one of the best content writers. They are more expensive but, I look at it like you, rather pay for the best quality over quantity. We’ll see how it goes???


  • Thanks for the info on out sourcing your articles and telling us the difference in the packages.I plan to try the video source you mentioned.
    Great and informative post.

  • Nice post Shane. I agree that if you can find good quality writers it is better then buying articles through content providers. I have been using a few writers that I found on Odesk and they do a bang up job for on any topic I choose, and the price is right to at $5 for a 400+ article. It just takes alittle research and you can find quality content.

  • Hi Shane,

    Your review of content services is exactly want I’ve been looking for want about Seo generals have you used them yet and how do rate them?

    • Hi Kevin,

      Yes, I’ve used SEO Generals. They are very cheap and considering the prices, the articles are pretty decent. They aren’t on the quality level of what I’m getting from the solutions mentioned above, though.

  • Hey Shane,
    I’ve been using Articlez with mixed results – so I’ll give Content Authority a shot.

    And THANKS! I’ve been following your blog for awhile now and I honestly feel like you’re giving honest, smart, and well-researched information. Keep it up brother!

  • Great article Shane.

    I do not SubPLY’s services, but from what I saw I think very good and the service is available in my language which rarely happens.

    Definitely I will request their services for some additional video that I have in some posts and some may be able to introduce more value too

    best regards…

  • hey , shane
    can you trying to use … many of my friend hove this site .

  • I recently ordered 10 articles 700 words each from (btw, they have an WSO offer and the second website
    The quality was very good but it took more then a week to get. The cost is $8 per article or $1.15 per 100 words.

    So I ordered another 10 on July 21 but didn’t get them yet. For some reason I didn’t ask them what is going on but I will today. :)

    I want to know if you Shane have your own or heard somebody’s you can trust opinion about:



  • thanks shane for this post … can you tell me when you ‘ll publish the next part of it …. ( ranking )

  • Hi Shane,

    Text broker and content authority are pretty expensive. I’d rather to use article writing service in WF.

      • That would either refer to WickedFire or Warrior Forum. Both of them forums, where you can find sections with writers for hire.

  • Shane,

    Another great post. Thanks for sharing your experiences and insight – I find it extremely valuable.

    I haven’t had much success with getting quality articles with sites like Articlez but I guess you get what you pay for, right? I think I’ll try out the two suppliers you mentioned above.

    My best experience to date is to do the legwork to find good quality English-speaking writers in SE Asia via sites like Odesk or Unfortunately, the best writers I’ve found (Philippines and Malaysia) often become unavailable down the track (eg post-grad students who no longer have time), and then you need to invest time again advertising and trying out another batch of writers to find the best who, in my experience, will again become unavailable in a few months :(



  • Thanks Shane, I’ve been trying and trying to force myself to write product reviews but you know what, I absolutely hate it. :) Even in products I want to buy. Now if I had bought them it might be easier but I find it difficult to buy 5 DSLR cameras where the price starts at $1000. Yeah, I know I need to look at something a little less competitive too. :)

    Run them all through your SE Cockpit software, one of the models, wow staggering competition. Really like that transcription idea on the video! Thanks.

    I’ve been looking at hiring writers for sometime. I think it is time. I need to put SE Cockpit to more use, wow has it been helpful for me. Make a little money so that I can afford to hire more.

  • Hi Shane, thanks for the great tip about subply but could you please clarify, do you mean that you used the video and the transcript from subply for the whole post or did you add other content there too? I also would like to ask if there might be any copyright issues around transcribing someone else’s video?
    Interesting thoughts about post length and good tips about getting more natural content by encouraging bullet points, etc when ordering posts – I hadn’t thought of that and will be doing so in future.
    As a footnote, I too have used content authority, generally found them excellent although I have had some basic articles (which I had intended for article marketing purposes) to be so good that I have used them as content and some excellent content which was not very good at all! I think this is because all new writers start at the basic level and it is a nice feature that you can add the writers who have done good work for you at the basic level to your ‘favourites’ and reorder direct from them, thus being reasonably sure of a good article at a low price!

  • Shane

    Thanks for all the info. I have used content authority and as you say, it is vital to go for levelk 3 or above. Anything less presents poor research and run of the mill splurges of words. Regarding the transcripts, the safest way to do it is to watch the video, pause it and make notes and write it in your own words. I does not take too long and the value is you save money, avoid lawsuits and get article writing prose in your own style. Thanbks again for all the great info!

  • Hi Shane,
    you didn’t mention whether you found any edge from either Text Broker or Content Authority?

    I’ve always been rather wary of these mass production article services.
    But I’ve been through around a dozen different individual writers now, and never entirely happy so maybe it’s time to put my snobbery aside ;-)

    Thanks for the tips, J

    PS I’m looking to get one of Andy Fletchers plugins while they are on special this weekend.
    Torn between WP Syndicator, Digi Article Blaster and Digi List Builder.
    Noticed you have a testimonial for WP Syndicator, would you recommend it to go with Backlink Battleplan?

    • I can’t say that either Text Broker or Content Authority were noticably better. The Content Authority had a quicker turnaround for me, though.

      WP Syndicator is very neat, yes. You can replace the Web2.0 method in Backlink Battleplan with this plugin, or at least, it’s quite similar.

      • Thanks, that was the way I was leaning.
        Will you be sending out an affiliate link for them, btw? I’ll hang on if so :-)

      • I’m not planning to promote them, no. But thanks for asking!

  • Shane,

    Question about subply, I have a great youtube video that I want to have transcribed, but I am not the owner of the video. Subply says they will not transcribe if I am not the content/copyright owner … I was going to quote the original owner of the content. What do you recommend?


  • Hello Shane,

    Thanks for the information you have provided on where to get good content and how to go about it. I will start using this today.


  • Hi Shane, thanks for the great info. I have outsourced loads of content writing and have always used elance. I really believe that you get what you pay for. I’ve had some duds and I have finally found some really good writers, but you need to pay for the quality as they are well researched.

    With regards to the length of the article, I write my own product reviews (meaning that I don’t outsource). Because I am very detailed, they end up a minimum of 1200 words. Yes, they go on an aged site, but they are indexed and found for their keywords almost immediately. I think one of the reasons is because the amount of content and natural keywords that exist in the body.

    Regarding the video transcription – great idea, just waiting to hear whether this is totally legal or not. But how do you use the video and transcription page? Is it a supporting page that you link to your main keyword pages with?


  • Hi Shane,

    Your sharing above is very useful. I never thought of outsourcing but now I think I should give them a try. Thanks for the info.


  • Yeah, outsourcing content is really a mixed bag sometimes. I started on oDesk and then gravitated toward WickedFire and others. If you want anything other than a long block of rambling text, you’ve usually got to do a lot of explaining.

    What I end up doing is applying the 80/20 rule to content creation. I just write the 1,000+ word content myself for the homepage and main targeted sub-pages then outsource the slightly less consequential pages. That way you’re spending 80% of you’re time on the 20% of the content that really matters most and only devoting 20% of your time to the 80% of content that doesn’t require such hands-on SEO expertise.

  • Great post Shane. I will offer another solution called article content machine ( I’ve also used the Content Authority, with mixed results. I don’t use these for my sites though, but I use them for content for other linking methods I learned from Backlink Battleplan. Like Article Ranks and Build my Rank. I have yet to try the adsense thing or do any affiliate marketing but I am interested in maybe giving it a shot.

  • This has pretty much blown my mind, that this world exists. I am amazed and not just a small bit amused. William S. Burroughs (quick: what’s his most famous book?) would be proud.

    As a writer I’m happy to learn of this rather devious way of making money. Now I can be paid for simple content without actually having it ever meaningfully read. I can simply write, practicing my trade, without compromising myself. What a strange world we live in.

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