When I was working as an SEO in agencies, the first thing I did was start hiring writers. We were fortunate enough to get more clients right out of the gate, and I felt we could handle a lot more work.
I had about 100 writers in my stable: a mix of freelancers, outsourced writers from other agencies, and a few people on our own team.
As soon as I started hiring all those writers, it became clear that my time was being sucked away from managing them.
It takes a ton of time to find good writers. And if you’re not careful, you’ll eventually end up with a bunch of subpar writers who are way more trouble than they’re worth.
Not only that, but your clients will start disappearing because they won’t be happy with the quality of your work.
If you want to build a content marketing team right now – or in the future – you need to figure out how big it needs to be and what roles need to be filled; then you need to decide whether to hire in-house, go for an agency, or outsource work to a freelancer.
Here’s what we’ll discuss in this article:
- What makes a good content team (jump to section);
- Whether or not hiring in-house makes sense for your business (jump to section);
- Outsourcing content marketing to agencies (jump to section);
- Hiring a freelancer to work on your content marketing (jump to section);
- And whether or not you can have the best of these three worlds? (jump to section).
What makes a good content team?
Here is an overview of what an ideal content marketing operation should look like:
A content strategist should be able to create a plan that focuses on the creation, publication, and distribution of content to meet your business goals. It answers questions like:
- What kind of content will you create?
- How will you do it?
- What channels will you use to distribute it?
- Who will be involved in its creation and distribution?
- What metrics will you use to measure its success?
A good way to get started is by using the SMART goal-setting framework: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound.
Specific: What is the goal? Is it measurable? Can it be tracked over time? Is there a way to identify when it has been achieved?
Measurable: What is the baseline for measuring progress toward this goal? Are there any benchmarks against which progress can be measured?
Attainable: Can this goal be accomplished with the resources available at hand? Will achieving this goal require additional resources (staff, budget, training)?
Relevant: Is this goal relevant for your business today?
Once you get the strategy in place, the writers start the content production process.
One of the best qualities of a great content writer is their inquisitive mind; this quality is brought about by research. A writer’s curious mind makes them a fantastic researcher who can easily find information on any topic and make connections between already-existing information and insights from experts.
Research is the only way to tell if your content is up to par with your audience’s expectations. It will also give you an idea of the trending topics and help you get ideas on how to create shareable content.
Shareable content is an essential ingredient for efficient promotions. Whether we’re talking about link building or social advertising, a promotion strategist should be able to identify which content pieces are viral-material and which are worth building links for. They should also identify where the target audience spends the most time and how they interact on these platforms.
But content marketing doesn’t end with promotion. An often overlooked aspect of content that not enough people devote time to is conversion optimization.
You can publish the best content out there, and it will eventually take off, or you can invest a bit of time each month into making sure that your conversion funnel is working properly and secure more chances of actually getting leads from your content.
Hiring in-house content marketers
Content marketing is like a three-headed monster.
You hear about it all the time from marketers and business owners: “Content is king! Content is king!”
But what they mean is “Content strategy, content creation, AND content promotion are all king!”
Only focusing on one part of this formula won’t get you anywhere. You need to create great content and distribute it to other people’s audiences and then promote the hell out of it so you can get more traffic, more engagement, and more leads. And those skills are rarely found in one person.
You might be tempted to hire a generalist or someone who’s heavily focused on providing ROI and testing.
That’s because the best marketers are the ones who focus on marketing as well as understand the psychology behind good marketing. They can tell you about every channel available to distribute content, how to get more email subscribers, and how to run A/B tests.
But they might not have the skills to write an interesting blog post that people will want to read. They don’t understand what makes a good headline and they don’t know how to write a sentence that flows like water going down a river.
The idea that you can hire one person to manage all aspects of your blog is appealing, but it is not scalable. It will cost too much, and there are likely to be communication and coordination problems that will make it hard to produce high-quality content.
You’ll likely need to hire an entire content team to manage strategy, content creation, distribution, and ideally – conversions.
Is then a content marketing agency your best bet?
Hiring a content marketing agency
Working with a content marketing agency might sound like a great option for you because:
- you don’t have the budget to hire multiple content marketing specialists;
- you don’t have the expertise to work on your content strategy yourself;
- an agency often has a robust portfolio of clients that they brought results to;
- they have a huge team that can take care of your needs – account managers, content strategists, content writers, and so on.
However, the biggest problem we’ve noticed from clients working with big agencies is a team of semi-professional writers that churn out content. By definition, they can’t be experts in your topic area because they spend their days writing about dozens of different topics. They act as content mills because agencies need client volume to be scalable.
The content that you get from these agencies is designed to provide value, but the majority of it does so in the form of broad generalizations and fluff.
At the same time, the client communicates with the account manager and sometimes the strategist. More often than not, they don’t have access to the writers or the people backstage who work on their accounts.
When you rely on an agency to write for your blog, without any input from someone specialized within your company, you might not see any results because the content isn’t designed to stand out from the competition. It’s designed to just “get the job done”. It’s not optimized for conversions and it doesn’t deliver real value to your readers.
Outsourced agencies often take two approaches:
- They create general content designed to attract clicks from generic search terms. While this may attract some traffic to your site, it’s unlikely to convert anyone into a customer. Low-quality content also damages your brand’s reputation as an expert in your niche.
- They create specific industry articles that attract prospects who are still at the beginning of the buyer’s journey and are not yet ready to buy from you (top of the funnel). These articles may generate leads and build up your email list, but they don’t generally convert.
Agencies also outsource their work to freelancers most of the time. That’s where this debate comes into play – should you work directly with a freelancer yourself?
Hiring a content marketing freelancer
A team of freelance writers is a group of independent contractors that you hire to work on different projects and tasks.
If you have an in-house team, you might find it difficult to bring in people specialized in all these different topics. Even if you did find them, you would probably end up having to hire more people than what your budget allows for, which would result in a high cost per article.
On the other hand, if you hire freelancers, it will be easier for you to find experts who have written about these same topics before and already know what works and what doesn’t when targeting your audience. They also won’t take too much time figuring out your brand voice and style guide. This will help keep costs down by increasing their productivity and reducing the number of revisions needed on each article.
While in-house content marketers have their own team they manage, you will be working with freelancers under your direct supervision.
Freelance writers are also flexible in terms of cost: you pay only for the work they complete. This allows you to try someone out before hiring them full-time or paying them a higher rate if they do well.
It’s also easier to scale your team up or down as your business needs change. If you need more writers and demand grows, you can hire additional freelancers.
One drawback to hiring freelancers is that it’s pretty difficult to find the right fit immediately. As opposed to hiring an in-house team and interviewing them or giving them a test project, you’d often have to pay a freelancer to test their writing skills. This results in more costs upfront, but once you find the right freelancer, it’d be worth it.
Also, great freelancers are more expensive. That’s because they don’t just do the writing. They also create your strategy and guide your promotions. They make sure that their content brings results because the lack of good references directly affects their solo business.
Can I have the best of all three worlds?
How you choose to build your content marketing team depends on several internal and external factors such as your budget, availability, content marketing expertise, and goals.
Ideally, you should make sure that your content team meets the following criteria:
- Customer research is included in their strategy;
- The main focus is on conversions and leads;
- Tracking and analytics are part of their monthly deliverables. You want to know where the leads are coming from;
- Most of the content aimed to acquire leads is product and problem-focused (pain point SEO);
- You, as a client, are their biggest focus, as opposed to just another number in their pipeline.
If you’re still deciding what kind of content marketing team structure would work best for you, check out how we approach content marketing at Chillital.
Have any questions? Drop us a line by completing the form on this page.