Do Established Businesses Really Need Web Content?

I received the following reader question from Nina Lewis, and wanted to address it to everyone, as it's an excellent question:

"In your e-book, do you explain what kind of clients need web content? You see that is what I want to specialize in however, I am not too fond of those low-paying job boards. And I may sound naive, but established businesses already have web content right?"

In the e-book I don't go into detail about types of clients because, simply put, nearly every type of site online is a prospective client for some Web writer (although it obviously varies depending on what niches and such you specialize in).

However, I do go into a list of types of Web writing. For content specifically, I can think of 3 quickly off the top of my head:

  1. SEO Web Content
  2. Authority Web Content
  3. Business Blogging

I'm not fond of those low-paying job boards either, and don't use them. You certainly don't have to. 🙂

Fortunately, established businesses rarely want to let their content go stale. Remember, Web content refers to things like articles and blog posts - not something like a company About page that may be written once and ignored for months or years (even if it shouldn't be).

Web content can do a few things, all of which businesses need on a continued basis:

  1. It helps to build an authority / expert status for the client in their industry. If the site is stale, and they're not actively keeping up on changes, news, etc., then their Web content isn't accomplishing this goal.
  2. It helps to bring in search engine traffic and ad revenue. There are always more keywords to target, and therefore more content that can be written, up to what their budget allows.
  3. Content can also entertain - when you see something like a celebrity gossip site, they need fresh Web content to keep their audience.
  4. Web content is also vital for building a recurring audience for any type of site or blog. Good content attracts them (and natural links), but the only way to keep that audience (having them come back repeatedly, spread the word, etc.) is to keep on providing more good content.

Think about the big content networks or online versions of magazines as an example (think BusinessWeek.com. They're loaded with content. They could get rid of all writers they're paying, keep the existing content they have the rights to, and make a pretty penny from ad revenue anyway. But they don't do that. They want constant fresh content on all of their sites. Why? Because that fresh content keeps traffic numbers up (and allows them to earn more ad revenue than they otherwise would), builds word-of-mouth for the company as readers link to articles and spread the word, and establishes an image for them that attracts type-in traffic (people will still come through links and search engines, but when we type in a URL manually, it's generally because a site has established an image that we trust).

In the case above, we're mostly talking about authority Web content - there's a constant demand for it, especially among established sites. The same is true with a lot of buyers looking for SEO content, albeit in a somewhat different way:

For them, it's quite possible they'll setup a static site targeting a few keywords, and then leave the site alone to earn ad revenue. Others will continue to add content to attract more traffic if it's a good niche for them. More importantly though, you need to understand that these types of webmasters rarely run just one site. If they find success with SEO content, they'll generally launch quite a few of these sites. So if you get in with one, they'll probably need a writer for future sites beyond the initial one you're hired to write for.

While this group accounts for most of the cheap writing ads you'll probably see online, there are also clients willing to pay much more. I charge $200 for a 500-word article, and I have a few clients who found me and come back when they're launching new sites, even though I don't actively solicit this type of work. The keys, as with getting any type of high-paying Web writing gigs, is in how you market yourself and how well you network.

There's just no getting around those two things if you want to avoid the freelance sites. Early on, you may find it's easier to pitch clients directly by looking for sites you'd like to write for. While many don't advertise that they need writers, hearing some good ideas from you might persuade them to give it a shot. Later on, the idea is to build a solid referral network and online visibility so that prospective clients actually come to you far more often. It takes time, but it's worth striving for.

Then there's the blogging group I mentioned. The whole point of blogging is to have the blog updated regularly with fresh content. These can also be very lucrative gigs (although very often ghostwritten). A lot of companies are looking to add a company or industry blog, but the owners, CEOs, etc. don't have time to handle the blogging themselves. In many cases they'll hire a ghostblogger. If it's a niche-oriented blog instead of a company blog, you'll be more likely to find potential bylined work.

I hope that answers your questions or concerns about the demand out there from established businesses. While there are certainly some that simply don't have the budget to keep things updated, many are in need of new Web content on a constant basis. Don't let the low-paying advertised gigs get you down. If they're not paying your rates, they're just not in your target market. Others will be. They just take a bit more digging to find early on.

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Jennifer Mattern is a professional blogger, freelance business writer, consultant, and indie author. She runs numerous websites & blogs including All Freelance Writing, Freelance Writing Pros, NakedPR, and Kiss My Biz.

Jenn has 25 years' experience as a professional writer and editor and over 20 years' experience in marketing and PR (working heavily in digital PR, online marketing, social media, SEO, new media, and thought leadership publication). She also has 19 years' professional blogging and web publishing experience (including web development) and around 18 years of experience as an indie author / publisher.

Jenn also writes fiction under multiple pen names and is an Active member of the Horror Writers Association.

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