Sounds like a fantasy, right?
Well, that’s the promise that’s been made by many who operate in the internet marketing waters known as article marketing. I’ve heard so much about this approach to driving traffic, both good and bad.
Bloggers, internet and affiliate marketers and real-live brick and mortar businesses I’ve known have tried it in one form or another. Some successfully, others flat out fail. Clients ask me about article marketing all the time and, frankly, I’ve never had a great answer.
I learned a lot from our conversation, and, as you’ll see at the end of this in-depth interview, issued a public challenge to her to “prove” article marketing works…and she said YES! This is gonna be fun!
JF – Article marketing first came onto my radar as a way to drive serious organic traffic bunch of years ago. What exactly IS article marketing?
EB – Article Marketing (in my world) involves creating keyword-targeted content and submitting them to a variety of high-powered directory websites to gain links, search engine exposure and consequent traffic to your blog or website.
JF – Okay, so let’s go a bit deeper. How, exactly, does it work as a source of traffic, both directly and organically?
EB – The stand out feature of article marketing for me is the dual-purpose results you can achieve with minimal time and effort. The way I see it, there are four major sources of traffic to be found in article marketing.
1) Organically… as your article becomes syndicated, as more links are pointing back to your site, as more people are utilizing your content on their own directory or website, the links pointing back to your blog become more and more powerful – helping the overall authority of your site.
2) Search engines ranking the articles for the high volume terms (a surprisingly regular occurence) and then people being able to follow through your author bio links back to your website.
3) You can receive traffic from people who go to the directory website itself to seek out information on a particular topic. Most of the major directories have a search bar (similar to Google, Yahoo etc) but instead of bringing up a variety of different website results, it will find you related articles – one of which could be yours!
4) Content providers (generally other blog owners) may use your article as content on their own site, keeping the author bio intact and spreading your content out throughout the web for more link power.
JF – But, here’s the thing, if you’re going to write articles, why not just put them on your blog instead?
EB – Posting to your blog is obviously a crucial and irreplaceable aspect of any online business, but your efforts can be in vain if noone is getting to your blog to see the posts in the first place.
If your blog/website is new then you’re going to need a helping hand to start getting the page rank and SE authority you need to have your blog drawing in the traffic (and getting the Google tick of approval) you need to make it a standalone success.
You need to think of it like spreading seeds, seeds that will create a trail for people to follow, all the way back to your website. The way I see it is, the more trails that are leading people back to my site – the better.
To put it another way, article marketing is like advertising… Posting solely to your blog, would be like creating a product (your blog, website, opt-in page) and doing zero advertising. You’ve got a killer product ready, waiting to be found, but without advertising noone will know its there!
And it’s not akin to just plain old advertising either, it’s advertising that (assuming your content is good) is engaging with your reader, giving them a taste of what you know and how valuable it can be to them… beginning the process of having them love you and your product/website.
Posting solely to your blog is putting a LOT of hope behind people being able to find you in that one very specific location – something that is less and less likely the newer your website.
JF – Got it, so what types of articles tend to do well and why?
EB – Interesting question! There are lots of different schools of thought with this but the following are the major points I consider important..
- WORD LENGTH: 300-400 words is fine. Some people may disagree but I have experienced fantastic results from 300 word articles and have seen no proof that longer articles produce better results. This is especially important if you on a tight budget or have little time to commit to your article marketing activities, I’d much rather see you put 10 x 300 word articles out there than 5 x 500 word’ers.
- TONE: Keep it casual. The tone of the article will greatly influence your reader’s perceived connection with you and most importantly, the click through rate. I like to go with what I call a “blog-like” tone. Informal, personal and friendly while still informational at its core. Don’t write like you’re preparing for a Harvard examination, keep your language simple and conversational – your readers will pay you back in visits.
- NEUTRALITY: Be careful to not talk at your reader. Obviously you will need to be casting a positive light on the product/strategy/website but be sure to do that from a seemingly neutral standpoint. Avoid shoving the idea down their throats, you want to appear as a neutral third party who is providing helpful information and not as a “seller” which can deter people VERY fast.
In terms of a “style” of article, there are quite a few that seem to work well:
- The “How To” – These are great to give readers a taste of your product/service by providing useful tips to help them solve their issue or fulfil their need. When you provide helpful tips people are more inclined to want to find out more and thus click through to your website.
- The “Review” – This has to be one of the highest-converting article styles around – when it is done well! Providing a neutral/unbiased review on a product or service with pros and cons, previous customer testimonials, a first person angle and an overall positive tone can convert big time.
- The “FAQ” – This style follows along the same lines as the “how to” article. Providing info while solving your readers unanswered questions about the product/service can quash any remaning fears and encourage a click-through, and maybe even a purchase!
- The “Story” – A little trickier, but great when its done right… a “story” article weaves your product/service subtly into a story about a person’s problem or experience. Readers can relate to the emotion conveyed and feel connected to the writer and thus be more inclined to trust their recommendation.
JF – How often do you need to create articles to make a real dent, and for how long?
EB – I would argue that this depends almost entirely on the keywords you are targeting. The more competiting sites targeting your keyword, the more articles you will need to make the headway you need for killer rankings.
If you’ve done your keyword research well and narrowed in on some great low competition keywords then you can start to see traffic results from as little as 15-20 submissions. And the traffic flowing in from these 15-20 articles will continue to grow as the articles age and the content is syndicated further throughout the web.
Article marketing is definitely a long term investment when done right!
JF – So, I get that article marketing is a long-term commitment and most people bail long before they’ve done enough to see real results. But, one of the big complaints I’ve heard recently about article marketing is that (a) even though the biggest article directory sites have good PR, google’s algorythm doesn’t pass that much juice from the links that appear on the directory sites anymore, and (b) most of the sites that pick up/syndicate your articles and publish them on their websites have little or no authority, making the links worth very little in google’s eyes and adding little to your search ranking.
So, let’s talk about these criticisms head on. What’s been your experience with these two claims? True, false, somewhere in the middle?
EB – Some answers…
1. Google not giving as much weight to the links from article directories
This claim would fall into the category of “somewhere in the middle” that you mentioned. Certain article directories may have lost authority, but others have certainly gained authority and are bigger and more authoritative than ever. That’s why that whole phenomenon started of people trying to make money by ONLY submitting content to directories with no site of their own. It was possible because certain directories had so much authority that just publishing a piece of content there was enough to generate a front page ranking for low to mid range competition keywords. That’s not a strategy we recommend at all but this point is evidence in the case for certain article directories growing rather than diminishing in authority.
2. The sites that publish your articles not having alot of authority…
The question contains the assumption that the sites that pick up your content to publish are lower quality, less authoritative sites. This of course CAN be the case, but its not ALWAYS the case. Some sites that publish your articles will be higher quality and some will be lower quality. In any case, as long as they’re relevant and not spam sites, they’re all links to your site that have value.
Again, I refer to a point we made earlier that yes, Article Marketing isn’t shooting fish in a barrel like it used to be, it’s just changed in such a way that it takes a little more skill, a little more know how, and a little more focused effort to generate great results. It’s the same for virtually every method of traffic generation online: search engine optimization, pay per click, social bookmarking, heck, banner advertising… they all had their hey-day but none of them have stopped working. It’s only become harder for the people doing it badly to make them work.
JF – Got it. Now, a lot of my tribe are entrepreneurs, not bloggers, does this make sense for a more traditional entrepreneur or solopreneur who’s trying to drive prospects to a more commercial type of website. Or even for affiliate sites?
EB – Definitely! In fact, in markets that some entrepreneurs are in, that are less popular online and amongst content creators (bloggers) article marketing may well prove to be MORE effective than otherwise. The thing about article marketing, is that it isn’t just about the articles themselves, its about improving your site’s authority and allowing your site to climb in the Google ranks – something any online business requires.
PR and consequent Google rankings are heavily influenced by the number of links leading back to your website… Article marketing is the perfect opportunity to build powerful, multi-purpose links without trawling the web and handing out big money for paid ads or links on high PR sites – many of which have a limited lifetime unlike lifelong article directory links.
At the end of the day, if you have a website/blog and you want traffic, then in my opinion you can benefit from article marketing in some capacity.
JF – The big question I get asked on article marketing (and I’m guessing you get asked all the time, too) is, “how long do you need to wait before you see real, sustained search-driven traffic coming to your site from article marketing?”
EB – Again, it really does depend on the nature of the keywords you are targeting as to how fast you will see results. I’ve seen results within 2 weeks for low competition keywords, but generally speaking I would say 3-4 weeks to start to notice traffic trickling in and it will grow exponentially from there.
And don’t forget that its not just the traffic from the articles themselves that you can expect, its the improved rankings of your website/blog in the search engines that you will start to see and enjoy benefits from.
JF – So, let’s get this out there, you’re in the business of helping people not only create articles, but pretty much overseeing entire campaigns. But, I’ve seen a bunch of websites out there promising article marketing help and content creation…and heard horror stories. How to you know who’s for real and who’s not?
Yep, I’ve heard a ton of horror stories too. Unfortunately in the veil of anonymity that the internet often provides, it can be tricky finding the right provider.
Major things to look out for:
1) SEO and content creation experience… These are not mutually exclusive skills, you need someone who is in touch with both worlds.
2) A clear guide of the tasks they are actually performing… You want to know exactly how much content is being produced and where it is being submitted.
3) Don’t be swayed by big numbers… Don’t be tempted by big numbers of articles submitted AND big numbers of directories submitted to… Submitting 100 crappy, badly written articles to 1000 article directories, might not have the same effect as 20 well written perfectly styled ones submitted to a select group of the very best article directories.
JF – Last question, I know some people who used to swear by article marketing 3 or 4 years ago, but they’ve moved away from it, because they say it just doesn’t work the way it used to. True or false? And, if false…what gives? These are smart people. Put another way, got any proof, case-studies, evidence that this stuff still works in the massively content-clogged world of social media?
EB – We can be honest and say that it may not work as well as it used to years ago when there were so few publishers and each article was given so much authority – but that’s not to say that it doesn’t work, and shouldn’t still feature in your traffic generation efforts. I don’t advocate making article marketing your only traffic generation method, but I think its an easy and affordable means of achieving multi-faceted traffic results.
The great thing about article marketing too is that the articles (and the links) don’t just have an immediate benefit, they continue to bring in traffic for months if not years after submission. Many of the current traffic generation techniques come with a very specific lifetime such as monthly ads or high PR links that are only valid for 12 months or if you’re really daring – the length of time it takes for your spammy Twitter account or excessive forum posts to get taken down.
Obviously in my line of work, my client’s confidentiality is of utmost importance so I can’t disclose any url’s or keywords but below are 3 different case studies…
Case Study #1 – My partner and I had a weight loss site we set up back in late 2007 and we did a targeted article marketing campaign over a few months, solely to one directory. We eventually stopped working on the site (both posting and article marketing) back in mid-2008 and I just checked the stats today and we’re still hitting 400-500 unique visits a day, a third of which is coming solely from one directory – 2 years later. The quality of the links has improved over time to the point where despite the site being 100% inactive, it is still receiving traffic daily!
Case Study #2 – Another client of mine, has an article ranked on page 1 of Google for a term with 35.5 million results – just 5 weeks after submitting it. A second article we submitted, is ranked in the top half of page 2 for the same term. This is an example of the power of article marketing, because publishing the content where we did was able to receive a page 1 ranking whereas publishing to his website (which is thus far less authoritative and less established) wouldn’t have had these same results in as little time.
Case Study #3 – More recently, a client of mine got his site ranked to page 1 of Google for his two major keywords (and brought in new sales from these keywords) within 2 weeks of beginning our promotion. Obviously these were low competition keywords, but that’s the point I’ve been trying to make about the ability to receive traffic and Google ranks FAST when narrowing in on a very select type of keyword.
One last thing, I want to believe, really I do…
And, I think many in community want to believe this thing called article marketing is a viable channel for long-term traffic, authority-building and, for businesses, lead generation.
So, I asked Elysia if she’d be up for a public article marketing challenge…
On one of my other websites, I am already ranking on the front page of google for my top keyword, but I’m ranked #9. And, for another keyword, I’m nowhere near the front page. I asked Elysia if she’d be willing to take on the challenge of running an article marketing campaign designed to move my #9 ranking to #3 and put me on the front page for my second choice keyword.
I gave her 60 days to make it happen, with me not involved in any substantial way.
Over the next 60 days, I’ll be updating you on the progress of that campaign, then I’ll do a wrap-up post and de-briefing interview with Elysia once the challenge is over to find out what she did and why. So, be sure to stay tuned (and make sure you subscribe, so you can follow along).
Last thing, if you guys have more questions, I’ve asked Elysia to check-in on the comments over the next few days and answer whatever she can.
So feel free to not only share your experience with article marketing, but ask more questions below…
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