How I outsourced blog writing to 20k unique readers/month

How I outsourced blog writing to 20k unique readers/month

On June of 2019, the BariBuilder blog published its first post. By July 2020, we were generating over 3,000 unique visitors/week, as tracked by Google Analytics:

Google Analytics screenshot of blog viewership growth.
The blog went from 0 to well over 10,000 uniques/month in the space of about 12 months.

This blog was run by me, a weight loss surgeon (Dr. G) who signed off on the medical accuracy of the articles, and a team of freelancers operating on a per-article basis. The target audience was US patients who have had or are interested in getting weight loss surgery: a total addressable market of a few million people.

The freelancers involved:

  • A handful of writers picking blog topics off a queue
  • A grammar editor who received content from writers and formatted them into our CMS
  • A blog manager who tracked and moved articles along the publication pipeline

All in, I was able to build this blog at a cost of about $200/week to produce the content (2 articles per week), maybe $100/yr of overhead (domain name, CMS), 30 minutes/week of Dr. G's time, and some of my own time to do up-front SEO keyword research. Our publication steps looked like this:

Airtable screenshot of blog publication stages.
The 7 stages to publishing a blog post, managed by our blog manager.

Outsourcing this content writing and pipeline proved to be a very effective strategy for the BariBuilder blog - and it's a strategy you can pick up and apply to other niches beyond weight loss surgery.

How to hire writers for your blog

When hiring freelancers to produce content for the BariBuilder blog, I didn't want just generic content creators.

We now know that E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness) is an important consideration for ranking well on Google. So we laid out two specific criteria for BariBuilder authors:

  • Credentialed nurse (e.g. RN) or dietitian (e.g. RD)
  • AND/OR weight loss surgery patient, post-operation

Either of these two qualifications put a writer in a position where they are able to research and write credibly on the topics we wanted to write about. And we made sure to include bio's of the authors with every post.

We found almost all of the writers through Upwork - a great place to hire affordable writers for your blog.

Upwork logo
UpWork is a freelancer marketplace full of people interested in taking on blog writing.

There are many other strategies we could have employed: scraping LinkedIn, reaching out to conference attendees, posting on Facebook community groups. But we found that UpWork had the right mix of people already looking for writing gigs, and simultaneously got enough applications from people with the appropriate criteria that we didn't need to expand our search.

Paying outsourced content creators

The biggest cost component of running an outsourced blog is how much you pay your freelancers.

I was paying each writer $50-75 per ~1,000 word article, with pictures they sourced from free databases like Unsplash. Sometimes I asked for a longer article or special project which the writers took on for $100+.

In other niches, you might expect deep expertise in a field to command $200-$500 per article of that length: maybe higher if the writer is an exceptional expert.

Besides the writers, I paid the grammar editor $15/article to take a pass through basic grammar corrections and formatting. And I paid a virtual assistant $10/hour to carry the articles through the publication pipeline without my involvement (save for final sign-off).

Assigning content topics to writers

Because my goal was to generate organic Google search traffic, step one was to understand what weight loss surgery patients were typing into Google.

This keyword research process can be long and involved. Because the weight loss surgery niche doesn't change often - the science and medical concerns in the space only tend to progress every few years - I was able to do most of this work up front. The queue of topics that resulted then allowed for the writers to pick them off a queue and deliver them at their own pace.

The end result here was a self-service Airtable form, linked to my database of topics, that writers could open and select from:

Airtable form screenshot
An Airtable form that populates from the still-available list of topics.

Ensuring quality content

The biggest hesitation with outsourcing a blog is often the question: will the content be any good?

Of course, there is no guarantee that every writer you hire will push out amazing content. But through a combination of leveraging existing tools, being willing to invest in seeking out effective writers, and doing some light quality assurance yourself, you can get there.

With BariBuilder, I've hired over a dozen different writers. At least half weren't very good. A few others fell off the radar after a while - such is the nature of hiring freelancers - but the last few have stuck around and form a very reliable foundation for creating new content.

It starts by providing guidelines to your authors. In my case, I kept it simple:

  • Use the provided "focus keyword" as the topic of the article
  • Use some or all of the "related keywords" as subheaders within the body, or elsewhere in the article
  • Make sure the content is useful for someone typing those keywords into Google. Double check your understanding here by typing the keywords into Google yourself.
  • Deliver 1,000 - 1,500 words, but don't force it
  • Add internal links to existing articles if you mention anything relevant
  • Include plenty of external links to reputable sources of information

Beyond that, I had our editor add a layer of quality control:

  • Yoast SEO plugin (for Wordpress):  Readability score, focus keyphrase usage
  • Breaking up paragraphs to stay short
  • Ensure formatting looks good in the CMS

Dr. G, as the subject matter expert, was the fact-checker, and I gave my final signoff on articles right before they were published.

And then finally our blog manager collected feedback from all stages of that process, funneled the feedback back to the author, and eventually the process ran like a well-oiled machine with my final check being just a formality.

Want someone to build a blog for you?

I'm available to consult on and spin up projects like this. Reach me here.

Before starting BariBuilder, I had little to no knowledge of the weight loss surgery industry. I still wouldn't call myself an expert, but I was able to ramp up and get results by focusing on analyzing keyword data and understanding Google searcher behavior.

I can turn this system into something that'll work for just about any industry, and I'd love to hear your use case. Get a free consultation with me by filling out this form.

If we work together on this kind of project, I'd guide you through the above process and either consult or execute on each step. I'd give you full insight into how I perform each step, including but not limited to:

  • Upwork / job posting templates
  • LinkedIn or other scraping and outreach for hiring as needed
  • Keyword research custom to your niche
  • Training and vetting for new writers

Chat soon!