I have a very love-hate relationship with article marketing. On one hand I come from a public relations background, so I’m a big fan of focusing on building visibility and authority status in a niche. Article marketing does that. On the other hand I hate seeing the Web filled with spammy, rehashed articles that people obviously wrote only for the backlinks. Article marketing does that too.
So where’s the line? How can you reap the benefits of article marketing without cheapening your own image on the Web? Let’s start with the basics.
What is Article Marketing?
In its simplest form article marketing is really nothing more than publishing articles. The marketing aspect refers to the fact that your by-line and / or a link to your website are included in that article. This way the articles bring name recognition, demonstrate expert or authority status in a niche, and might also bring in backlinks (for better search engine rankings) and targeted traffic.
Basic Article Marketing
When most people hear the phrase “article marketing,” they tend to think of article directories. Here’s what basic article marketing might look like:
- You write ten articles in your niche.
- You run those articles through a spinner to get five different versions of each (optional, but common and why basic article marketing can come across as search engine spam).
- You add a resource box to each article with your name and link.
- You publish those 50 articles to an article directory like EzineArticles.com.
- You wait.
Once your articles are published to article directories, you give other people the right to publish them (as long as they include your link). That gives you 50 backlinks from the article directory (and you’d probably submit them to more than one article directory), plus more links over time as publishers and bloggers pick up the articles. The strategy is straightforward — it’s all about quantity.
Advanced Article Marketing
What I refer to as “advanced article marketing” is really nothing new. It actually predates the now more common form of article marketing. In the past it was just good old fashioned PR — still is.
Here’s the key difference: You focus on quality rather than quantity. You also have to look beyond the Internet alone (and yes, you’ll still get links — higher quality ones at that). Here’s what an advanced article marketing campaign might look like:
- You write ten high quality, authoritative articles in your niche or industry. You have two options: features (evergreen material that won’t get outdated) or timely stories (playing on the news value). In some cases you’ll complete step two here before writing.
- You compile a targeted media / publication list (trade magazines, industry websites, blogs, etc.). If you’re serious, you’ll even take the time to find personal contact information for the appropriate editor and you’ll review any writer’s guidelines they might have.
- You write a brief pitch letter.
- You pitch your articles to those publications.
- They publish your articles (usually first rights, but sometimes exclusive rights).
- You wait.
Most people I know who frown on this approach don’t like it for two reasons: they assume it will be too much work, or they can’t get over the difference in quantity (10 articles published versus 50 published in more than one place). Then again, I’ve never known someone to try this approach, do it right, and go back to basic article marketing (and I’ve helped quite a few clients do just that). Here’s why:
Advanced article marketing might mean fewer pieces are published, but there’s value in exclusivity. If you can be found on every Tom, Dick, and Harry’s website with the same content published and the same links tossed in, you’re really not contributing to the niche beyond the first article on a topic. Readers do get around, and if they see the same material all the time it becomes unsolicited clutter — search engine spam basically.
Advanced Article Marketing and Building an Authority Status
When it comes to building authority, it’s not about the number of sites your articles are posted to. It’s about which sites (or offline publications) pick up your content, and what their reach is. Let’s look at it this way:
We need to pick a niche, so let’s say you’re a personal trainer (there seem to be a lot of them publishing on article directories). You want to publish fitness articles to promote a new workout DVD series, or book, or whatever amazing new weight loss product it is you’re trying to unload at the moment.
What’s going to bring in more sales?
- Publishing 50 articles (plus lots of reprints on sites barely anyone reads) to get quick incoming links, in a spammy kind of way that can make you look like a sleazy salesman to some members of your market, or…
- Publishing ten unique articles on high traffic fitness sites or women’s sites (let’s face it, weight loss products sell like hotcakes with a female audience)
Experience tells me quality will get you much further. Even if you focused on print publications the same is true. Why? Because they’ll often include your URL for readers to check it out, and if nothing else you’re credited (and authoritative publications and sites do much more to build your own authority with your audience). On top of that many, if not most, print publications also have a Web presence these days where they’ll post resources from their print editions (and sometimes even republish the print article online in full).
So let’s examine it again: 50 links from Susie Q’s blog and similar unknown sites looking for free content or ten articles found by readers in places like Self, Woman’s Day, Fitness magazine, iVillage.com, maybe a relatively high traffic network site like a fitness site on About.com, and a few top blogs read by women or those looking to lose weight. Which makes you look like a more authoritative source? I’ll give you a hint. Nobody cares about Susie Q’s blog in comparison. If you want authority status, you need to target true authority sources in your niche (and of course you have to actually have expert knowledge and not just rehashed content).
Advanced Article Marketing Leads to More Targeted Traffic
For the same reasons I mentioned above, you can see how advanced article marketing can lead to more traffic. More importantly, the traffic is often better targeted. That’s because Woman’s Day, for example, has a certain type of readership (and a nice-sized readership at that). When people really trust a site or publication, they have a better reason to trust you because the editors thought your information was worthwhile.
Let’s look at it this way: Now we’ll talk about doctors. I’m always amazed at how many doctors think they’re doing anything good for their credibility by spamming the Web via article directories in a desperate search for attention and links. Yuck. Does that really make you respect someone as a medical professional? Not me. In fact, they immediately lose credibility points with me if that’s where the information comes from. Why?
Article directories have no serious editorial control (and I don’t mean the auto-rejections if you have too many keywords — I mean real editorial control where you can be assured the information has been fact-checked and reviewed by another professional before being fed to consumers as the gospel truth). What that means is this: anyone can publish anything on an article directory. It doesn’t speak to their authority in the slightest if a kid down the street could reword their article (copyright infringement in some places so don’t do it unless you have permission folks) and publish it as their own “expert” knowledge. Without the backing of an authority source (as in the site or publication releasing your article), you really don’t know who’s doling out that medical information.
Therefore when people come across those types of articles, they don’t necessarily carry as much authority. That means they don’t instill as much trust. And that means your chances of getting targeted traffic who actually trust you after reading your article and who click your link and who then go on to buy, well, they’re just not as good.
Will you get traffic? Yes. Will you make sales? I’m sure you will. But you won’t likely maximize your return that way. As a businessperson it’s your responsibility to get the most out of everything you do, and advanced article marketing does that — it gives you more. And of course there’s that little thing about authoritative sites simply having more targeted traffic to send your way to begin with.
Advanced Article Marketing for Better SEO
SEO is about building awareness / gaining visibility. It’s really nothing more than basic PR — raise awareness, start building an image with audience (it starts with even simple things like your choice of title and description), and build a relationship from there.
Awareness isn’t about quantity any more than authority status is — at least not in terms of how many backlinks you get. What’s far more important is that you go back to quality. Yet again, articles on authoritative sites with larger audiences tend to have more value than the smaller types of sites that will pick up content from article directories. And that goes beyond the fact that relevant authority links can help your ranking more than other types. Here’s why:
In basic article marketing you essentially treat the article directory as the “authority” site. It’s not though. It might have a high pagerank, but that’s not enough – it’s not a truly relevant link (not to mention that your article will likely be pushed into the archives relatively quickly). You do it because you hope others will see it there and re-publish.
You do the same thing with advanced article marketing, but the results can be much better. Let’s say a major site in your niche publishes a timely article by you. Chances are very good that others in the niche are then going to see it and potentially cover that topic. That generally involves linking to the authority source to cite it, and then adding to the conversation in some way (if they’re not just passing the link along as an interesting read).
The more authority your original article has (based on where it’s published and your credentials), the better your chances are that the article will go viral. You’ll also likely have your name credited on those secondary, trickle-down sites leading to more exposure. Those links also increase the rankings of your article itself (if online), which means your own backlink there may eventually carry even more weight and also lead to more targeted traffic as more people are directed to your article (and therefore directed to your site).
Not too shabby for ten articles and some pitching, is it?
Advanced Article Marketing Challenge
Advanced article marketing isn’t for everyone. If your article marketing is designed to drive traffic to a relatively generic MFA site for example, then you may simply not have the credentials to get picked up in larger publications. In that case, hey, stick to basic article marketing if it does what you need it to do. I don’t advocate it unless you can manage to do it without spamming the search engines with repeat garbage, but I’m not naïve enough to think most people will stop. If, however, your site makes any effort to focus on readers rather than solely rankings and ads you can benefit (even if you just target more popular blogs than your own with guest posts).
For those who do have real credibility in their niches and who want to focus on article marketing tactics that will help them improve their image, forward their authority status, reach more targeted readers, drive higher quality traffic, and build higher quality and more relevant backlinks, I challenge you to give it a try. You may just be surprised where you could be published.
For those who do want to give it a shot, here are a few final tips for you:
- If you’re not a decent writer (decent enough to be published on those larger sites, in trade magazines, etc.), then hire a writer. Preferably, hire a writer who specializes in your niche.
- You don’t have to spend money on expensive media directories to find trade publications and their editors’ contact information. Get a copy of the latest Writer’s Market instead (or subscribe online at www.WritersMarket.com for a few dollars per month). It’s a less expensive option that targets writers who want to sell articles to these publications. Your edge is that you’re offering the articles for free. It’s a good resource for telling you how certain publications and websites like to be pitched.
- Always read the writer’s guidelines of a publication before submitting anything. They’ll tell you what word counts they need, what topics they do and don’t cover, and what their policies are about self-promotion in the article. You won’t have a problem finding publications and sites that let you include a URL and your company name.
Now go ahead. Give it a try. Pitch even one publication. The worst that can happen is that they say “no,” and you learn something about pitching. Talk to a publicist if you need help with pitching, or try to find a pitch letter template you can adapt. In time though, you’ll get the hang of it and you’ll find it easier to get accepted. Use your credentials to your advantage. Remember, you’re looking for the best return you can get when promoting your business, product, or service. If you could be doing better, then it’s time to do something about it. Give advanced article marketing a try.