White Labelled or Bespoke Blog?
It’s a common question from clients when they are looking to get a third party to write their companies blog for them. What do I advise and why? Mass produced and sold to everyone, or custom made and yours alone? The choice is stark, to be frank white label blogs are short and cheap, whereas bespoke blogs are priced according to the length and complexity, and ultimately driven by how long they take to source content and create.
So, I can understand why some companies would go for the cheaper option. After all, you could be right in thinking that no one is really going to read more than about 500 words anyway are they, and from the examples you have been given, they seem to be quite topical and well written, and you know loads of other businesses that do it this way.
Therein lies the problem though. Understanding what the blog is there to do is the key to understanding which way to go, and believe it or not it's not about whether they get read by your customers or not, albeit if some do, then that’s a bonus. (you are reading this…)
By definition a white labelled blog is a standard template of text. A good writer, often an ex-journalist or similar will have set up a business that sells content often in chosen industries, so relevant to me and my business that would be property. The key to its success however is time and scalability and like with this piece, they will be convincing potential customers that the white labelled solution is right for them.
So, time and scalability means being able to sell as many monthly subscriptions for as much revenue as possible and whilst doing so, do as little writing as possible. Typically, around 500 words with a stock image, their customers will pay anywhere between £100 - £300 a month for a steady flow of articles they can copy and paste onto the blog pages on their website as if they have been written by the company themselves. A standard text is “white labelled” to the company paying for the service.
So, the economies of scale for the blogger come in being able to sell the same blog to as many companies as possible, and some offer the shroud of exclusivity by saying that they won’t sell the same blog to another agent in the same postcode. Google is not bothered about postcodes though, which I will come back to. In signing up these white labelled services, a business may typically expect to receive one blog a week they can add to their website, but 50, 60, 70, 100 other companies who have also signed up to the subscription model, granted in separate postcodes, will also be receiving an identical copy of the same blog to post on their website.
It’s a nice model for the blogger, kerching kerching. Have 50 clients all buying the same blog each week that takes them about an hour to write. That’s 4 hours a month, creating four blogs for 50 x £100. That’s £5000 for 4 hours work, some charge more. So, what’s the big deal if a company 50 or 500 miles away, in a different market, whose customers are different, who are in a different county, different marketplace use the same blog? No one is going to read both and spot it’s being used by the same two companies.
However, as I said above, the value of a blog is not primarily in your customer reading it, that’s a secondary objective that’s nice to achieve as well. I agree, not a single person alive will spot that the blog is posted on multiple websites, unless they are an industry practitioner or commentator like me, but I am not your customer, so it doesn’t matter. What will spot it though is Googles algorithm, and it won’t like it one little bit.
If you have a Google business account and understand the complexities of how Google ranks websites then some of this will be familiar to you, but I will break it down in as simple explanation as I can, nonetheless. Don’t get me wrong, it’s is one of the most complex subjects around, and I am no SEO expert, but I understand it to a certain level having been on some amazing courses and had the ear of some amazing marketing mentors over the years.
For those of you that do understand the next level, these are simply the basics to at least get search engines picking up that you are creating original, relevant content. If you really wanted to master the optimum way to get your content ranking as high as possible, there are specialist tools like Surfer SEO to help with this, whether keywords, titles or length.
So, if you are an estate agent in Plymouth, when someone does an organic search for an estate agent in Plymouth, perhaps because they want to buy or sell a property, Google quickly “spiders” as quickly as it can, all the potential options of which websites in which order to send that person to in the results page. Google’s purpose, its raison d’etre, its reason for being is to be the most reliable and quickest search engine on the planet, but to be able to do that it requires every single one of us to be reliable in the data we load into our websites for it to be able to do that.
For example, if you were an estate agent in Plymouth, Google wants to test that you really are what you say you are, so when it spiders your site, it’s looking for words it knows it would expect to find. These are keywords and the foundation for Search Engine Optimisation. These words are ranked in an order, that order changes as searching behaviour by the public changes, but there will always be a relevant core bunch that will improve your page ranking. For estate agents, some of them would be house, buy, sell, estate agent, valuation, property, Plymouth, viewing etc. For a baker in Plymouth, they would be Plymouth, bread, rolls, loaf, slice, brown, white etc.
Google is looking for relevance in its spidering, asking if you really are an estate agent in Plymouth. Imagine the movie Predator, where the alien thinks it’s found its target, but as it can’t really see clear images, it sniffs arounds its prey, looking for signs it is a human before it makes a choice whether to strike or move on. Right size, right shape, right smell, two arms, two legs? That’s what Google does. It cannot risk sending one of its own customers to the wrong place. If it happened too often, people might start using Bing.
Now that is perhaps a basic expectation, that a business should use keywords as often as it can in its website, but Google over the years has introduced ever more complex and behavioural rewards and punishments for website owners to get them into increase the relevance and reliability of its search results. Moz, one of the best known and respected SEO analytics providers details all the component parts of Google’s algorithm on its website here.
Considerations include whether you engage with your Google business account, whether you engage with reviews, use social media, use backlinks on your website like this one to Rightmove for example or citations are consistent (this is where you have continuity all over the web in how your business name is spelt, contact details etc. Google expects them to be identical everywhere to get maximum reward).
Then there is of course content. There are plenty of dos and don’ts. Being transparent is one. BMW got hammered back in the day, when it hid thousands of the word “car” in black font, hidden in its black branding on its homepage. So, coming to the point on blogs, one important of Googles golden rules on content is originality as well as relevance. It is looking to see that whatever content is placed on your website is unique. Mozs write a good article here on duplicate content.
Google hates plagiarism and copycats as it makes it more difficult for it to decipher who is the genuine article, who is the more relevant service provider for that search engine user. White labelled blogs fall into this category, and whilst there may be no deliberate attempt to deceive, copy or mislead, Google can’t tell the cheats from those that want a cheap, regular blog being provided for them, so anyone using duplicated content however innocent has their page ranking negatively affected.
Some blog providers are wise to this and try and increase the “uniqueness” of their white labelled blogs by creating a carcus that everyone still gets each week, but then drops some bespoke content about house prices and postcodes into each article to make them different. So one blog would say, “House prices in SW19 increased in Q1 by 3.5%”, and another blog sent to another agent would say, “House prices in RH12 increased in Q1 by 1.6%”. Problem solved? Unfortunately not.
Google doesn’t judge based on black and white. Is it an exact copy or not, yes or no? It makes is assessment based on similarities or what it calls content that is "appreciably similar”. To avoid it many content creators, most bespoke bloggers, many businesses that are wise to it use a website called Copyscape to check to see even if their completely originally written content like this piece for example, has many similarities to something that has too equally been originally created by someone else. The bottom line is, any form of white labelled blog is not going to go unnoticed by Google, and the more well-known blog provider you use, the more identical blogs will be out there, making the extent of the duplication offence in Googles eyes worse and worse.
Speaking of Google, you can google what’s the best way to write a blog, and whilst you can immerse yourself in detail that I am not even aware of, as it is a very complicated subject, but simply getting the basics right will make a massive difference between risk or reward. Remember blogging is about SEO first and creating interesting content second. If no one ever read a single blog on your website, they could all still have a very powerful impact on increasing the businesses page ranking all the same and getting it featuring more prominently in search results.
The basics aren’t that complicated either. Content has to be original. The longer (ish) the better, Google likes blogs in particular that are 1000-2000 words (up to 1709 on this one now). It’s very difficult to provide any value on much in 500 words which the white labelled blogs tend to be and Google has learnt from years of analysis that there is a correlation between length and originality and therefore authenticity and relevance. Use keywords that are relevant to your business and finally attribute credit to other people’s data or websites you reference with backlinks, the Moz guide here as an example.
So, when next considering the cost of a blogging service for your website, white labelled blogs are far more expensive and have a far greater cost to your business than you think.
If you would like to discuss how I might be help you provide some bespoke content that doesn’t break your marketing budget, please get in touch on 07970 773 847 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.