6 Dangers of Working with Content Mills (How to Avoid Them and What to Do Instead)

You might have heard the saying, “Content is king” when it comes to marketing. And this is certainly true! Great content is one of the key drivers in any successful marketing plan.


This is why marketers and business owners alike are often scrambling for content services. They search for freelance writers, content agencies, writer directories, and more to find fantastic (and, hopefully, affordable) content. 


The danger is in getting snagged by a “content mill” that’s churning out low-quality content at volume. While this may save you a few bucks, there are many other risks to look out for.


Here’s what you need to know about content mills and why you should be cautious of working with them.


What are Content Mills?


Content mills (also called “content farms”) are content agencies that employ a high number of writers at an extremely low cost with the goal of producing a lot of content in a short amount of time. Content mills pay writers a minimal rate to produce tons of content or copy for clients. 


The quantity produced by content mills is high (because content farms can produce hundreds of short articles in a very limited amount of time), but the quality is usually on the low end. And while cheap content may sound like a steal, the writer who produces it is compensated very little for their time and effort.


Examples of Content Mills to Avoid


This list is far from exhaustive, but here of some of the most egregious content mills (based on quality and low writer compensation) you should avoid:


  • Textbroker: pays writers less than $.05 per word for content writing (even as low as .7 cents per word)\
  • CopyPress: only pays writers around $15 per article. Produces poor quality content, despite claiming their content is “ROI-focused”.
  • Contena: shady refund policy, low writer rates, and “pay-to-play” model gets you locked into paying for more than what you get.

Types of Content Mills


One of the biggest problems with content mills is that they often seem like an enticing option that can help business owners save time and money. And if you didn’t know any better, you might think the same thing.


Fortunately, you do know better! And when you know what’s really true in the world of SEO copywriting, you can recognize the many ways that content mills disguise themselves. 


Here are a few types of content mills to know:


  • Content brokers and agencies – Content brokerage sites accept a large number of applications from aspiring writers. Applicants must go through several grammar tests or skills assessments before they’re awarded with writing projects. Once “hired,” writers perform freelance work in exchange for payment through the platform.


  • Freelance content job boards – Job boards can be a great way for beginner writers to find new opportunities and make connections. Unfortunately, open boards may also serve as a way for content mill editors to collect information from writers willing to work for low rates. Be cautious of any job boards that solicit lengthy articles for minimal cost.


  • Pre-written pieces for sale – There are also websites and marketplaces where writers can write articles and post them for sale. Although the writer takes the initiative in this case, many pieces are advertised for much lower than true market value.

Are Content Mills ‘Dead’?


No, content mills are far from dead. However, many writers and business owners are becoming more informed about their risks and have moved to better avenues for content work. 


While we can’t share the news that they’re gone for good (maybe one day), we can highlight some of the evidence that points to declining popularity in mass-market content mills.


Google’s Stance on Content Mills 


The Google search algorithm is constantly evolving, but we know one thing is always true—high-quality content beats low-quality content every time


As Google’s search algorithm helps users discover timely and relevant content, the bad apples get kicked to the curb. For content mills, this means that poorly-produced content falls to lower rankings, while well-produced content rises to the top.


What do these updates mean for business owners looking to purchase and publish well-written content? 


It’s time to invest


High quality, SEO-optimized content always offers a higher return on investment than generic pieces that you find through content mills. 


And remember—high quality doesn’t mean that you have to completely blow your budget to produce content that actually means something.


Top Dangers of Working with Content Mills


"The Dangers of Content Mills" with listed dangers

Before you make any big decisions regarding your content marketing for the year, it’s important to know what you’re getting into. Unfortunately, many business owners simply don’t know what goes on behind the scenes at content mills.


To help you navigate this uncharted content territory, we’ve chosen six of the top dangers of working with mills when producing new content for your business.


1. You run the risk of low quality or plagiarized content. 


Typewriter with paper that says "Copyright claim"

Hear us out—it’s not that every writer working for a content mill is a bad writer, but the truth is, there’s simply no way to know. 


The vetting and application process for content mills isn’t the same as it is when you work with another small business or marketing agency, which means that many writers are hired regardless of previous experience or skill level. 


Unfortunately, the result is often low-quality content that isn’t always original or even accurate—not a great combination when you’re trying to grow your business online.


What’s the big deal? Unoriginal and plagiarized content is a huge problem when it comes to Google rankings and penalties (not to mention the negative effect it can have on your overall image and reputation).  

2. Industry-wide content depreciation is common.


Eyeglasses sitting on top of a piece of paper

If you’ve ever heard the phrase “A rising tide lifts all boats,” you may already recognize the value of collective growth. As an industry, content writing benefits when every party is working together to achieve better standards.


Content mills simply don’t contribute to an increase in high-quality content. On the surface, their efforts can make it appear as though the benchmark for published pieces is relatively low. In reality, this couldn’t be further from the truth.


To expand your brand’s visibility, you need to be better than the competition. Content mills aren’t typically interested in tailoring the experience to your unique business, goals, or vision. Instead, the focus is on churning out content for profit… and that’s it. 

3. Content mills offer inadequate pay for hours of work.


Tiny piggy bank

At content mills, dismally low pay rates cheapen the work of well-meaning writers who deserve to be compensated for their time and effort.


Although this may not have as much to do with the quality of the final product, it can be a question of conscience. 


Are you comfortable supporting a business model that places such a low value on both people and work?


If the answer to this question is No, avoid hiring content mills simply because you need a quick content solution. Although other professional services may cost more, you can rest easy knowing that you’re investing in quality work and paying an ethical wage. 

4. Poor content can hurt a business’s reputation. 


Person with sad face paper bag over head

Content mills often have lax standards when it comes to the content they produce. Since speed and volume are priority, quality can take a hit. And this can lead to writers cutting corners in terms of research, accuracy, and citations.


When you use content mills for your content, you risk publishing content that hasn’t been fact-checked or includes outdated sources. Without a thorough editing process, you might publish this content without catching these issues. This can put your own brand reputation on the line.


Take for example that many business owners source ghostwritten content that’s published under their own byline. This content is directly tied to their name and business. Having someone call you out for inaccuracies in your content can really hurt your reputation and even your business. 


If you do choose to use content mills, be sure to read your content from start to finish and ensure it meets your editorial standards. If you go ahead and publish content you’re not fully confident in, you could damage an otherwise healthy corporate image.

5. Many content mills don’t produce optimized content. 


Computer screen with Google Search

Even when you purchase content from mills or high-output content affiliates, you may discover that the work isn’t over once you receive a piece. 


There’s a high probability that the pieces you get may require further editing according to your branding standards. This includes issues with SEO optimization.


Buyer beware—when content mills advertise SEO content, you may not have access to SEO and keyword research, content planning, and strategy. These components are crucial to building an SEO-optimized content library that actually expands your business.


As you publish new content, don’t settle for keyword-stuffed articles that add very little value for your readers, customers, or site visitors. Further, don’t automatically trust that a content mill knows “how to SEO” your content. 


6. Content mills practice an unsustainable business model.


Busy, messy desk

In many ways, content mills are subject to the judgment of Google and other powerful search engines.


In the early days (when number of impressions mattered most), content mills could play the game by churning out content to satisfy those impression numbers—no strings attached.


Because the Google algorithm has changed, low-quality content no longer gets a free pass. 


These changes have led to the rise and fall of many content mills, some of which are no longer able to operate profitably. In these models, there’s very little money left to pay writers and very little way to keep the wheels turning.


If you’re someone who regularly requires good content, what would you do if your content provider suddenly disappeared? When you opt for the content mill solution, this could happen at any time.

How to Upgrade Your Content this Year 


As a content marketer or business owner, you should be proud of what you publish. Now is the time to make a positive upgrade, improve your search rankings, and grow your business.


Develop an SEO Content Strategy


If you don’t have one already, an SEO content strategy should be your first plan of attack. Strong SEO research informs what kinds of content you need to produce, what audiences you should address, and what search terms you should target.


Invest in the Best Resources


Content with high ROI is rarely created as a solo endeavor. You may need to pull in new people, resources, or research methods to accelerate your SEO results.


Plan ahead and start investing. The sooner you do, the more quickly you’ll experience results and grow your business.


Publish Content that Offers Value


Content mills often produce content that’s generic and devoid of value – two things readers absolutely hate. Is your goal to just get eyes on your page, or is it to turn visitors into engaged potential customers?


I’d assume the latter is the case. That’s why you should aim to produce content that:


  • Answers popular questions with accuracy
  • Is easy to read, scan, and interpret
  • Provides value to the searcher or reader
  • Adheres to the rules of SEO optimization


When it comes to high-performing content, the general rule is to never trade quality for quantity. Making a tradeoff could hinder your site’s growth for months and years to come.


Discover High Quality SEO Copy


If you’re looking for an SEO copywriter that understands optimization and strategy, you can’t rely on content mills to deliver. Also, if you pay peanuts, expect to get monkeys. Finding experienced SEO writers is the way to go!


At Keys&Copy, we provide proven well-researched SEO content that converts. The best part? You’ll never have to wonder where it came from or whether it was produced ethically.


Start the conversation and get a free quote for your next content project.