I've been both a writer and customer at one time or another for lots of these places, so I have a unique POV to share. (I no longer write for them, nor do I buy content from them) I do still get email updates from the writer side on a few of them.
1. These companies demand near perfection from their writers yet pay well under minimum wage.
All of these companies are running extremely high writer turnover operations. They know darn well that the *good* writers will move on as soon as they can. Many of these companies run constant ads on Craigslist to recruit new "writers."
These writers are given your instructions and keywords and asked to create an article. Around 99% of the time, the writers will simply go off and scrape existing content form the Web. They reword it just enough so that it passes CopyScape.
So, if you're thinking that any effort is going into writing your $7 article (what they actually earn for a 500 word article) you are sadly mistaken.
The greenest writers—about 85% of all writers on these sites—don't even have their own CopyScape premium accounts. So they are just hoping that their work doesn't get flagged by the site's internal CopyScape API.
I ordered an article from one of these sites through a prominent SEO tool suite and it came back with multiple CopyScape results. I don't know what happened there, but I was not happy. The writer basically lifted paragraphs from Wikipedia and changed a few words around. I should note that this writer was one of the site's top-tier writers.
Finally, how motivated do you think a writer is to receive $7 for an hour's work? Also, don't forget, these sites have tiers. The lowest tiers pay $3-$5 per 500 words.
2. I know for a fact that when these sites are in need of writers, they go lax on quality control.
Sometimes the writer pool gets dangerously low. This is a result of the high writer turnover these sites have. At those times, the "editors" become awfully forgiving.
One of these sites recently deleted their entire article review queue, citing that they had gotten too far behind. This means that writers who had been turning in shoddy work up to that point were given a free pass. On this site, clients can rate the work, but the rating doesn't mean anything.
3. The quality is horrible.
Now this is something of a touchy point, and if you guys feel the need to flame me for this, I understand. But it should be said:
People who don't write for a living often overlook typos and grammar issues that really hurt the authority of a page. It's hard to establish authority if your writer consistently confuses "its" and "it's," "affect and "effect" or "accept" and "except."
And, to be honest, if you're only paying them $7 per 500 words, this is pretty much what you can expect.
Understand that at a lot of these sites, the editor's review queues are weeks or months behind. Furthermore, the "editors" at these sites don't review each article. No way, no how.
This means that if you don't catch these typos yourself, they will probably never be addressed.
4. If you want a good article, spend hours writing very detailed instructions.
One of the main limitations of this model is that the companies cannot afford to allow you to communicate one on one with the writers very much. (Because then, you don't need the company anymore)
To compensate, they allow you to insert instructions into a boilerplate that gets sent to the writer when they accept your article. At the same time, most of these sites only allow writers to write one article from the article pool at a time. So, if a writer needs clarification about your instructions, they are just going to throw it back into the pool. Why? They are trying to make whatever money they can to feed their kids. They don't have time for email exchanges.
If you want decent articles, be prepared to spend a lot of time outlining articles and making notations.
This also means that if your article is on an obscure topic, you may wait weeks for it. Need it now? Just pay 3x more. Meaning, of course, that you could have hired an established writer in the first place.
5. They have to placate the writers and the clients.
Most of these sites give you the option of rejecting a poorly written article. But don't be fooled. If they have plenty of writers available, they can afford to please you. If lots of writers have recently jumped ship, you will find it harder to reject an article. If you were in a hurry when you wrote your article instructions, it will show. The company can cite that your instructions were too vague and that the writer should be compensated because they tried.
To repeat: all of the writers are unhappy with these companies all of the time. You will find customer service slipping when a lot of writers jump ship at once.
So, to wrap up, what I'm saying is that these sites are not out to help your business. They don't exist to make your life easier. They exist to make someone else richer, and that's about it.
They exploit the desperate, and that rarely results in a quality product.
One more thing: All of these companies claim to be different. Don't be fooled. They are all exactly the same because they face the same limitations:
• Cheap labor pool
• Need to make profit from extremely thin profit margins
• Extremely high worker turnover
Note: I know that writing a thread like this will bring out the shills for these companies, but I figure if I save one or two people from a headache, then it's a reasonable compromise.
Just watch for the shills, they are easy to spot. They can't help but gush.
If you don't care about quality and just need tons of volume, go ahead and use these sites. Just keep the above points in mind. But these days, quality is everything.
Oh, and just because something passes CopyScape doesn't mean it's unique. CopyScape uses search engines to find content. If the content the writer scraped from is several pages back in the SERPs.....guess what? CopyScape probably won't find it.