Most entrepreneurs, executives, and marketers worth their salt know that content is kinda important.
Here’s the problem: the competition is getting stiffer.
On WordPress alone, over 70 million posts make their way into the world per month. That’s not including others who use platforms such as Ghost, Medium, and Squarespace.
To put that immense number into perspective, remember that the first page of Google contains only about 10 results per search. And on the second page… well, no one really cares, because 75% of Internet users never scroll past the first page, according to Hubspot.
This means that, in order to stand a chance to make it into the promised land that is page one of Google, you’ll need to create and publish content that beats millions of other contestants.
Every. Single. Time.
“Okay lah” content doesn’t quite cut it anymore. Only “Wah, that was good” content can break through the noise and drive visits, leads, and eventually, customers, to your doorstep.
Unfortunately, at many companies across Singapore, content marketing continues to make up a mere fraction of the overall marketing budget. Much like that uncle or auntie that you have no choice but to invite to your house every Chinese New Year (you know what I’m talking about), it is always last on the invitation list.
Which begs the question: can you actually get good content writing on a tight budget?
To answer this, we turned to every entrepreneur’s favorite platform for services on a budget. For the purposes of this article, we tried out 5 of the top-rated content creation services on Fiverr Singapore.
A global freelance marketplace, Fiverr is well-known amongst scrappy entrepreneurs and business owners as they offer a wide range of content creation services at low prices.
Each of the content writers we picked had multiple 4 and 5-star reviews, and claimed to deliver “awesome,” “engaging,” and “enthralling” content.
Here’s how they measured up:
How We Assessed the 5 Content Creation Services
To ensure fair competition, we gave each of the content creation services the same writing prompt and no further instructions: What is Digital Marketing, and Why Does it Matter?
Each submission was then judged on the following criteria:
1. Structure and Readability
The structure of an article is important not only for human readers (who tend to scan rather than read every single word), but also for our Google overlords, who love HTML headings and bullet points.
High readability means that people can read your content easily. That means concise sentences and paragraphs, and as few big words or jargon as possible.
To assess this, we used Grammarly’s readability score, which is based on the Flesch reading-ease test. Scores range from 0 to 100 – the higher the number, the easier it is to read the content in question.
Grammarly recommends aiming for “a score of 60 or higher,” which would make it “easy to read for most people with at least an eighth-grade [secondary two] education.”
For instance, here’s what this blog post scored:
Not too shabby!
2. Content Accuracy
Having the sharpest content in the world doesn’t matter if it makes no sense. Besides readability, we also looked at whether the points that they made were accurate or not—which is, obviously, pretty important.
Readers need to know that you know what you’re talking about. And they’re very discerning—make a single mistake, and they might immediately write off the entire article, and the credibility of your company together with it.
3. Outbound Linking
Here’s another factor that both humans and Google adore.
The former enjoy the convenience of having relevant links that explain specific points in your article in greater detail at their fingertips. They also help Google to understand the context of your articles better.
Internal linking also plays a big role in helping Google to “find, index, and understand all of the pages on your site,” according to Backlinko. However, for the scope of this study, we decided not to request this of the content creation services.
Finally, the article’s content should not be plagiarised – to any extent.
(Kids, listen to your teachers. They know what they’re talking about.)
Google frowns upon duplicate content, causing the ranking of the culprit websites to suffer, or even removing it entirely from the Google index.
To check for plagiarism, we used Grammarly’s plagiarism checker as well as compared each submission with the top search results for what is digital marketing on Google.
To Publish or Not? Content Marketers Weigh In
To ensure that our natural bias (we are a content marketing agency, after all) didn’t skew the results, we also enlisted the help of several content marketing practitioners across Singapore to give their take on the articles.
We asked them this question: If you ran a marketing blog, would you publish this piece on your site (yes or no)? Why or why not?
How Did They Measure Up?
This was my first time working with content creation services on Fiverr Singapore, and I was surprised by how simple the experience was. All I had to do was place an order for the “gig” of my choice on the seller’s profile, and send my topic together with any additional info (optional) over.
Once the seller accepted the order, I would get my content within 3-7 working days (depending on what they promised). Easy peasy.
A little too easy, it seemed.
Out of the 5 content creation services, only 2 of them asked follow-up questions, such as whether I’d like them to focus on any specific keywords, or follow any particular style guide. Notably, just 1 seller asked if I would like any internal or external links to be added.
The results are telling. Let’s go through the judging factors one at a time.
1. Structure and Readability: Messy and Confusing
Just 1 out of the 5 articles made it into average territory, scoring 3 stars – the rest came in below that. That piece managed a readability score of 50, which is not great, but not too bad either. The rest came in between 30 to 40.
Many of the paragraphs written were chunky—some comprising 5 to 6 sentences each—with little to no spacing in between them. For Benedict Leong, who leads content marketing at ecommerce logistics startup Janio, an article reminded him “too much of a textbook.”
“It doesn’t relate to businesses on a human level, even though it does attempt to talk to businesses’ needs every now and then,” he explains.
The only exception was the 3-star article, that Benedict thought was actually “easily skimmable.”
However, basic grammatical and spelling mistakes were plentiful—none of the articles escaped the wrath of Grammarly unscathed.
Annie Teh, who is a content marketing specialist at PigeonLab, found it “impossible to understand what some sentences even meant” in one of the articles. It was clear to her that the writer had a “very poor grasp of the English language.”
2. Content Accuracy: Apparent Lack of Expertise
Si Quan Ong, who does marketing at SEO powerhouse Ahrefs, puts it well: “Managing a marketing blog today, you’ll have to publish some really good stuff as it’s a pretty crowded niche.”
To him, all the articles missed the mark by a long shot because they didn’t feel like they were written by people who were actually doing digital marketing.
“Articles like this—with no real examples or actionable next steps—just don’t work anymore,” Si Quan explains. “You need expertise or authority for a good piece of content.”
In fact, many of the points made by the writers clearly gave away that they didn’t have a good understanding of digital marketing. One article even defined digital marketing as “advertising delivered through digital channels.”
To Annie, the writers used far too many “buzzwords” and “unnecessary terms,” which she believed would only serve to confuse and overwhelm the reader.
Since the topic targets an audience which is “unfamiliar with the basics of digital marketing,” the article should “break down new concepts with simple terms” instead, she continues.
This, of course, requires a first-hand understanding of digital marketing, which the writers clearly did not have.
There was only one exception amongst the 5 articles (the same article which clinched 3 stars for structure and readability as well), which Annie felt “broke down new concepts with simple terms and was genuinely educational.” That article also got the highest score for content accuracy – 3 stars.
Another article was so far off-base that Benedict suspects it was the result of content scraping.
“Content scraping happens when certain words of plagiarized articles are changed as a feeble attempt to not look like plagiarism,” he explains. “This looks like a scraped article […] like it was written in another language then translated with Google.”
Benedicts highlights a line in the article as proof:
“This infographic takes a gander at the motivation behind why advanced showcasing could easily compare to ever previously and the various sorts of digital marketing that you have.”
In case you’re lost, he points out that “advanced showcasing” might simply be a synonym for “digital marketing,” and “gander” for “look.”
Seriously, though. When was the last time you used “gander” in an article?
3. Outbound Linking: Non-existent
Here’s where we were completely dumbfounded. With the exception of a single backlink in one of the articles, none of the other submissions had any outbound links. At all.
Which was concerning to us, since all of them referenced several facts and figures. Where did they get them from?
This really caught us by surprise, leading us to think that many of the definitions and explanations in the articles might well have been closely paraphrased from other articles…
4. Plagiarism: Cleverly Hidden
Well, they were clever enough that Grammarly couldn’t catch them, anyway. Each of the articles scored between 4 to 5% in Grammarly’s plagiarism checker, which isn’t too bad.
Upon plugging some of the definitions into Google, and cross-checking with top search results for what is digital marketing, we quickly found suspiciously similar phrases.
For instance, one article defined digital marketing as “the use of digital technologies for marketing any products or services.”
This definition came out of the article that had scored a fairly decent 3 stars for our first two judging factors, which was extremely disappointing.
Another writer defined it as “a marketing activity that applies to any forms of digital technology.”
Sounds familiar. Let me Google that…
(Copied right down to the grammatical slip, too!)
Content Quality? Too Low
With all the content creation services considered, the question remains: would any of our esteemed content marketers actually publish these articles on their marketing blogs?
Si Quan was certain that he “wouldn’t publish any of them on the Ahrefs blog.” To him, the content was far too “low-quality […] written for the sake of publishing.”
Other content marketers were slightly more forgiving. Out of the 5 articles, there was one they felt inclined to publish on their hypothetical marketing blogs.
Go big, or go home
With so much content vying for the attention of your target audience, it is pointless to publish anything less than stellar.
Why? Because it will simply disappear into the void.
Worse still, if your content is unreadable, inaccurate, not credible, or clearly plagiarised, your few readers might end up having a less-than-positive impression of your brand.
But good content writing is honed over many years. Some of the best writers we know took between 4 to 10 years to get to where they are today.
So, here’s the moral of the story: don’t trust any content creation service that promises you the moon and the stars – especially if they’re offering it for an unbelievably cheap price.
(If it’s too good to be true, it probably isn’t!)
Like any good employer, you should check that they have the relevant experience and samples to back them up.