SEO content mills are (almost) dead. Now what?

You’ve probably heard the buzz that Google was going to start treating content mill articles much differently. A post on the Official Google Blog states,”…We hear the feedback from the web loud and clear: people are asking for even stronger action on content farms and sites that consist primarily of spammy or low-quality content.

Can I get an “Amen?”

I’ve railed on content mills before – companies that focus more on quantity (paying writers low-dollar for keyword-stuffed SEO content) and how dangerous they are for the industry. Good for Google for taking action and (hopefully) pushing the “delete” button on these poor-experience pages. Hopefully, this means that the concept of content mills really is (almost) dead in Google’s eyes – and we can expect better quality results.

But that brings up another question: How do we help companies understand that, if they want good SEO content (you know, content that isn’t going to cause problems in Google and Bing,) that means paying for it.

The thing is, content mills did so darn well because they offer cheap copy (don’t believe that they’re doing well? Check out Demand Media’s IPO.) Clients choose cheap over quality because, well, they can. If you have a choice of paying $25 an article, or $500 – and you don’t know any better – which would you choose?

And it’s not just clients. Many SEO companies pay their writers peanuts, expecting them to churn out optimized sales pages for less than $20/page. Low rates encourages writers to work fast, work sloppy and churn out sub-standard work. It’s copywriting for SEO at its worst.

Sadly, in the end, it’s the client that loses. Because many times, they don’t understand that the SEO copy is bad. They think it “has” to read this way. And heck, if you’re going to have crap content on your site, you don’t want to pay very much for it.

I believe that now is the time to take action. We as an industry need to educate clients on what good Web SEO copywriting is – and what it is not. We need to demonstrate the value of SEO content, rather than just saying, “You need good content” and figure we’ve done our job. That means more education, more content-oriented conference sessions and clear quality content examples.

Lee Odden and the good folks at TopRank Marketing do an excellent job spreading the word. As does Joe Pulizzi from Junta42 and Byron White at IdeaLaunch. Jill Whalen has discussed “quality content” since the beginning of SEO time. We need more evangelists like these folks.

Plus, we need to educate clients (and perhaps each other) on realistic prices for quality content. No, that doesn’t mean $2,000 a page (although it might, depending on the project.) But it could mean much more than clients expect – and perhaps more than the SEO company was paying previously.  It’s funny how some SEO companies (and the majority of agencies) will charge our clients five or six figures for site optimization, but skimp on content generation.

As a call to action to my fellow copywriting peeps, and I say this with the utmost love and compassion: If you are a writer working for $5 per 1,000 word article, stop it. You’re worth more. You really are. And I bet you would feel much better about your writing if you were compensated appropriately.

If Google makes it clear what quality SEO copy is not, we now, have a fantastic opportunity to discuss what quality Web SEO copywriting is.

I’m pretty excited. How about you?