Case Study: Online content writing services

Like every one else on the planet I only have a 24 hours in each day available to me. When you start out in business this 24 hours is enough time to complete most of what you need to get done in a day. However at some point you get to the stage where you need the help of other people to grow and run the processes in your business. This is generally when staff members are hired and you start seeing significant business growth.

The same thing applies to running an internet marketing business. You can complete most of your daily tasks, such as website admin, writing blog posts, responding to blog comments and building niche websites. But at some point you are going to want to scale your business to really grow your online income. The best way of scaling an internet business is to outsource your requirements to virtual assistants located around the world.


What is a Virtual Assistant?

A virtual assistant (VA) is someone who works for your business remotely and is generally a self employed individual. This means you are note responsible for paying employee tax or other fees. Generally you work with a VA with an agreed per hour rate. Since most virtual assistants live and work in emerging economies they are considerably cheaper to engage then hiring someone locally.

When you are building out a niche website often the most time consuming component of the build is content creation. Creating quality content for your niche website is key and should never be overlooked, however we only have 24 hours in a day so how can we get around this specific requirement?

The good news is that there are several content writing services on the internet that can produce this content for you. Outsourcing my content creation was one of the first things I did when I first started scaling my online business. I had a great amount of initial success using this content to fuel my income. However as I have mentioned previously in this blog this all fell apart after Google launched several updates to their algorithm in 2012.

I rolled on with the punches, learnt a few lessons and had my perspective on content changed. As Bill Gates once said ‘Success is a terrible teacher’. To be honest with you my content was very low quality and I didn’t really give my virtual assistants instructions on what my expectations for quality were. Having learnt from this I now provide detailed instructions with every request for content I commission.


Wind the clock forward to today and I currently use three main sources for my niche website content.


  1. iWriter: I’ve been using iWriter for about two years and it’s been a great source of content for my niche sites. You have plenty of options regarding length and quality of content provided.
  2. TextBroker: This is the most recent arrow to my outsourced content creation quiver. TextBroker is similar to iWriter however articles are paid for on per word basis and not per article.
  3. Odesk: I employ a virtual assistant who has been creating Amazon review articles for my Amazon niche websites. I’ve used Odesk for several years now and have paid for more than 5,000 hours worth of work. A lot of this was website admin and customer service for a drop shipping business I ran as well as content writing. Articles cost $4 per 700 words.


The Brief.

Each content provider received the same brief outlining what the project requirements were for the content I needed written. As you can see I like to provide a reasonably detailed list of instructions, sometimes I include a reference to an external webpage containing these instructions if there is not enough space to do this with within the online services specs page. On to the brief!

Keyword: Attractions in Orlando

Length: 500 words

Writing style: Friendly tone
Article purpose: This project is simple and yet difficult. I would like you to write about a personal experience you have had while visiting theme parks or other tourist attractions. This has to be a real story and written in excellent English. It’s about integrating your actual life experiences into a creative writing project.

Break the article into three parts.

  1. Talk about the anticipation of going, where you are going, why.
  2. Talk about the features of the attraction you went to, what you did, what stood out as unique.
  3. Talk about why you would recommend this to real friends, talk about the best moment and anything else you thought was ‘cool’.

Your article should tell a story. We want to use copy that engages a reader as though they were talking to a good friend.

You will have one chance to submit, no rewrites, so make sure the first one counts. I recommend you re-read our submission guidelines prior to submitting your article for review to ensure that it is up to spec. I will not be answering individual messages, that’s why we have these guidelines.

Special instructions: Read our submission guidelines prior to accepting work as we are very strict with submissions.

  • Keyword density must be around 2% of the total article. As a guide, use the keyword 2 times in a 300 word article.
  • The keyword must be used in the first sentence of the article. Find a way for it to flow naturally.
  • The title of the article you provide must be the keyword alone and no other text.
  • Do not include the keyword / title as the first line of the article. This is obvious word stuffing.
  • If the article looks even remotely spun it will be rejected.
  • If the article looks even remotely template driven it will be rejected.
  • Use of the word ‘avail’ will result in immediate article rejection.
  • Avoid using superfluous words. If there is a shorter more appropriate word available use it. Obvious attempts at word stuffing result in article rejection.

“Building confidence through putting on this kind of footwear is the ideal thing” would be rejected.
“Build confidence by wearing this type of footwear” would probably pass.
“Wearing this type of footwear is a great way to build confidence.” Would pass.

  • Obvious spelling or grammar errors will result in an instant article rejection. If you don’t know how to spell check then it’s time to learn.
  • Proper spacing is to be used after punctuation. This means one space character after every comma and a double space after every period.
  • If you start a new paragraph ensure there is one and only one full empty line between paragraphs.
  • The very first line of your article should read: I have read the submission guidelines and my content is original.
    • After this first line press enter a few times and then start writing your article.
  • Unless requested, no reference should be made to any other website or product pricing in your article.

I use Copyscape randomly on articles at the sentence level. If Copyscape turns up any duplicate content you will receive extremely negative feedback. If you cannot provide all original content then please cancel your engagement with me.

If you’ve made it this far and are still happy to write for me, excellent! I thank you and look forward to working with you. I have another 10 of these articles that need creation, if your article passes and you are interested in this extra project then please send me a private message.


The Budget

I allocated a total of $4 for each article with an expectation of 500 words. This is an average price for a low to mid quality 500 word article. My experience has shown that when you source content at this price without using a detailed content guideline then the quality you receive is very low. Using a content guideline helps prevent most of the spammy suppliers from engaging you.


The Timeframe

I gave a total of 4 days to have this content created. This was initiated on a Friday afternoon. I’ve included the actual times taken to have this content delivered in the results below.


The Results

To avoid the risk of receiving a low-quality content penalty I have inserted the results as image files.

iWriter: actual cost $3 – Time taken to deliver: 1 Day

Iwriter Content

Overall the iWriter article is the worst when it comes to quality, however keep in mind that it is also the cheapest. Grammar is sketchy as is the use of caps where appropriate eg: Jewels of the sea Aquarium versus Jewels of the Sea Aquarium.

Some terms sound a little spun (eg: delighted by the visions we witnessed) however the brief was followed and it looks as though the writer has incorporated elements of his personal life into the story. You would still want to proof this article before publishing on your own website.

iWriter overall rating 2.5 out of 5.

Textbroker: actual cost $6.30 – Time taken to deliver: 2 Days

Textbroker Writing Quality

An excellent writer from TextBroker. This was the ‘cheap’ option from TextBroker and it’s great to see that the additional costs for a basic article actually translates to higher quality content.

The brief was followed and overall grammar and spelling is spot on. I did notice that caps was used when talking about the ‘City walk passes’ and this really should read ‘CityWalk passes’. However a minor error. Plenty of keywords were used throughout the article which would also help bring in long tail traffic, a nice to see.

TextBroker overall rating 4.5 out of 5.

oDesk VA: actual cost $4 – Time taken to deliver: 4 days

VA Content Creation

Keep in mind that my VA is Eastern European and his English is good but also his second language. This content is to the level I expected from a VA at this rate. It does read a little roughly however his basic grammar and spelling is okay.

The brief was followed and he has included some broad keywords which will help with long tail traffic, however it would have been better if he had mentioned specific attractions within Discovery Cove.

Odesk VA overall rating 3.5 out of 5.



Outsourcing your content requirements is a great way to scale the process of building niche websites for Adsense, Amazon or other affiliate marketing systems. It’s also a great way to add content to your business website or blog.

The content received from iWriter and my Odesk VA was up to the standard I expected, which is not very high. But what can you expect for $3-$4. Where I was impressed was with the content received from TextBroker. After reviewing it again for a second time I am really impressed with the author. She actually managed to tell a story that engaged me.


Too often as digital marketers we forget about the importance of engaging our visitors and focus too much on engaging a search engine.


Now nothing beats creating your own content and I still do this myself every day. Both for my own niche websites as well as for my content marketing clients. There will always be a place for writing your own content and telling your own story. This is especially true if you run a small business as I think as a business owner it’s important to insert your personality into your small business.

However if you’re time short and need a good source of ongoing content using an online service like the ones we’ve just reviewed can make a lot sense.

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