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Google's latest algorithm change, Hummingbird, has made it clear how important it is to have good quality content on your website that addresses your prospects needs. The problem many businesses run into is how to generate that content on a regular basis. Your marketing department has a lot of other tasks to manage, including social media, and may not have a dedicated person to write content. That's why many firms choose to outsource their content creation to freelance copywriters or a content agency.

Before you hire someone to start writing content for your company's website, there are a few things you should know about the person (or agency).

#1 - Writing Ability

It probably goes without saying, but if you're going to hire a writer, whether to work in-house or on a freelance basis, you need to assess their writing ability. Ask prospects to provide samples of their published work. If all they provide is short blog posts, ask if they have any long form articles to share. Study the samples to see how well the writer tailors his content for the web. A good content writer should be capable of the following:

  • Including images or videos
  • Breaking up long blocks of text
  • Formatting text with headers, bullet points and numbered lists
  • Including calls to action in every post
  • Breaking up content into sections or steps

Be prepared to go elsewhere if the writer refuses to show you samples, citing non-disclosure agreements or client confidentiality. This tactic is often used by less-than-reputable content writers.

The prospective writer should also provide you with two or three work references. Its important to speak with other clients to assess their working relationship. If the writer refuses to provide references, keep looking!

#2 - Industry Experience

Ideally, the writer you choose will have experience in your industry. But that's not always the case, especially if you're in an unusual niche. If you find the writer does not have experience in your industry, ask if they will do their own research, and how they will go about doing that.

#3 - Writing Style

If you're looking for help writing blog posts, make sure your writing candidate can match the style of your blog. Experienced writers can adapt the tone and style writing to match most any business or industry. Ask about style, and have the writer explain what he or she can handle. The answer a writer gives should speak volumes about their work experience and ethic.

#4 - Writing Fee

The phrase, You get what you pay for most definitely applies to writers. Don't settle for the lowest offer when you put the job out for bid. There are hundreds of writers who will be willing to accept $5.00 to write a 500-word article. But these writers are often spinning content, or copying other writers work and passing it off as their own. Are you willing to risk being penalized by the search engines just to save a few bucks? Remember, Google wants to see high quality content! If you're going to wind up rewriting the content you're paying good money for, what's the point? Be prepared to pay a decent price for well-written, well-researched copy. That's why you have a marketing budget. Use it!

#5 - Search Engine Optimization

A good content writer should be familiar with the basics of search engine optimization (SEO). They should be able to optimize the title, headers and content, and link to related content on your website. If you want the writer to do keyword research, ask them how they go about determining which keywords to focus on and how they work those keywords into the content.

#6 - Revisions

When you start working with a writer, it may take a little while for the person to connect with your style. Make sure the writer is open to making revisions. An accomplished writer will accommodate you, and may even offer to make revisions.

#7 - Strategy

Hiring a content writer can save your company a ton of time when it comes to content creation. But a writer may not have the depth of knowledge to assist you with content marketing strategy. If you need help in this area, it may pay to hire an agency instead. A content marketing agency has media contacts and research tools to help you craft a cohesive strategy for your brand. An agency has a pool of writers to choose from too, as well as editors, designers, and social media marketers. And a content marketing agency may be better able to keep up with the changing face of digital content " from blogs, vines & infographics to different social channels and measurement tools.

You'll have to perform due diligence when it comes to selecting an agency too. Review content they have created for other clients. Ask for references, and find out if the agency's work successfully generated social shares, click through rates and lead generation for the other clients. A good content marketing agency will also provide a detailed analytics report so you can gauge how well the agency is performing for your company.

Whether you're working with a content marketing agency or a freelance writer, its important to keep the lines of communication open, and provide clear instruction to help writers function at their best. Be specific about the writing project you've assigned, such as post length, deadlines, style guide, etc. With the right team in place, outsourcing your content needs may prove to be the most efficient way to build your brand.