The words “mill” and “farm” possibly didn’t have negative rings to them before they were teamed up with “content”. A content farm/mill is a website whose content is produced by hundreds, possibly even thousands of writers. The farm typically offers low pay, presumably accepts low quality content and doesn’t look good on the writer’s resume. In fact, sometimes writers are suggested they leave the content farm completely out – and if possible, don’t write for the content mills at all.
But just like anything in life, it isn’t all black and white. There are both advantages and disadvantages to writing for these sites, and it is better to go through them all before making up your mind. Yes, I have been there, and done that. I’ll include my own experiences, as well as links to what other writers had to say about them.
(Note: This article features some blogging related jargon, so if you are not familiar with terms such as link-building, seo and such, you should read the post 8 Essential Blogging Terms for Beginners first.)
- It helps you experiment with keywords, traffic and seo optimization. If you want to write for the web, you have to have at least a basic knowledge of SEO. Almost all professional writers are recommended to have a website/or blog so that they can showcase their work. And you can’t promote a blog without knowing how/where to use the keywords, or without knowing what these keywords are. So whether you start a blog before or after using these content sites, they actually help you develop your skills. Mostly they offer stats, and many sites compensate according to how much traffic you bring. So you can test your results both in page views and increased earnings.
- You meet with writers who might be in the same place as you are: You can start building a community there. These writers read and support your work (by promoting it social media), leave comments and encourage you.
- It provides back-links and provides traffic to your site. Most content farms allow you t link to your articles on their site, and your own blogs. So you can increase traffic to your site, which in turn can result in more readers and advertising revenue.
While article-marketing is not what it is used to be, link-building is still one of the most important elements of site traffic. The more people link to you, the more you easily your site gets found. But of course quality is always better than quantity, so fewer links from stronger sites (e.g. a well-respected, popular blogs) bring a lot more traffic and credibility than weaker sites (e.g. sites filled with content taken from other sites).
You can always google the content site you want to write for, look for its page rank and how many backlinks it generates.
- It helps build confidence as mostly these farms have low expectations from their writers and you have the chance to see your work on the web almost immediately.
- It provides residual income. While they pay for your coffee rather than your rent, you keep earning money long after you stopped publishing.
- Sites might change policy faster than you can say “what the…?”. One minute, Associated Content is providing you with a better $ value for 1000 visits, and the next it has joined Yahoo, only U.S. residents can take advantage of the pervious payment methods. Not to mention, they made tons of money in the process while having paid their writers peanuts. Yes, while Associated Content gave its writers a little bit more than some of its competitors, the money they made angered a lot of writer for the site or not.
Bukisa also changed from an approximately $3.2/1000 visitors to google adsense revenue. The good thing about Bukisa was that you could republish content you published elsewhere.
But guess what? Google hates duplicate content, even if it is your own content that you’re republishing. When I was first experimenting with content sites, I believed that I could edit/republish stuff the way I wanted. Well I did. As a result, google deleted my account, costing me about $120 in earnings. So advertising revenue is as unstable as the policies of the content sites. While getting money for your link-building efforts is fun, it is certainly a major disappointment that it can cost you your earnings.
- It simply takes too much time. Yes, while you see your article published after a short period oftime, it takes time to come up with a decent article, format it their way, add your visuals and then promote it. Most content mills pay you according to the traffic. Remember you also need to work on your own blog, start applying for freelance writing jobs (if you do want to pay your rent – and finding a well-paying freelance job is also tricky) and pitching article ideas to magazines. You will also keep reading to improve yourself. How much time do you really have to try and maximize your earnings from the content sites?
- Showing only your content site credits on your portfolio might cause publications not to take you seriously. While you might lend some of your initial writing jobs with links to your content mill articles, most publications won’t take you seriously. Some writers suggest getting warmed up with a couple of content mill articles and then abandoning them all together.
- The pay is BAD. You do not actually earn you more than a coffee and a donut (per month). Yes, some articles can hit the jackpot and there are some very lucky writers who made hundreds of dollars through traffic with a handful of articles. But those articles are very rare, and you’d be better off improving your writing and getting published in magazines that will pay you a reasonable amount (Unfortunately there are magazines who do pay as low as content farms.)
- They won’t help you develop a thick skin as you can publish anything as long as you follow the guidelines -which doesn’t prepare for you the rejection or no replies you will be getting throughout your querying. And if you want to make money writing, you will need that thick skin.
What Some Professional Freelance Writers Say
Anne Wayman experimented with Triond, Helium and Associated Content. This is one of her reviews.
How One Writer Grew Her Pay — and Left Demand Studios Behind by Tiffany Jansen, guest post on Carol Tice’s Make a Living Writing
How One Freelance Writer Kicked Content Mills and Earned Big by James Patterson, guest post on Carol Tice’s Make a Living Writing
What to keep in mind
- Some have a better reputation than the others.
- They are free to change policies as they like.
- If they go out of business, there is a chance your articles will disappear from the web.
- Don’t hang out there forever if you want to make a living out of writing.
- Don’t hang out there forever if you want to improve your writing, and reach a wider, more selective audience.
- Some content sites seem to be more respected than others such as Suite 101, as Anne Wayman of About Freelance Writing didn’t mind promoting it as an affiliate, and Hope C. Clark of Funds for Writers , and Jenn Mattern of All Freelance Writing (three valuable writer websites that I follow).