Look around the web for tips on getting traffic to your website and you're likely to stumble on claims that tout the virtues of article marketing. The process, the self-proclaimed article-marketing gurus will tell you (as they try to drive you into their own marketing funnels), works like magic. Write some short articles (or have someone else write them for you), include anchor text links to your site in the articles, and then shoot them off to every website that has a section that says "Write for Us," or "Article Submission Guidelines."
It all sounds like a great idea. But does it work? And if you already are somewhat familiar with Internet marketing, does it work in a post-Panda/ post-Penquin/ post-"We've detected unnatural links" world?
The answer is, "It depends." Article marketing can work if the articles you produce are authoritative, well-written, original and focused on providing information of true value to your target market. In fact, having articles published to get exposure for a business is a concept that predates the Internet.
The problem today, though, is that the majority of articles that get distributed online are unsuitable for publication on quality sites. BusinessKnowHow.com contains a mixture of staff written content, and content that has been submitted to us by outside experts. Because we have an article submission form on the website, we get more than 2500 articles submitted to us for publication each month. Out of those, it's rare when there are more then 5 or 6 that are publishable on our site.
The reason? Very often, the articles address a subject the website or newsletter doesn't cover; are poorly written; are "spun" by "article writing" software; or read like advertorials, white papers, or direct mail copy.
Although mass submitting an inferior or untargeted article may get it used on some websites (and get links to your site as a result), the sites that do use your content may not be sites you'd want links from, and they may not be sites that will bring you likely prospects for what your sell. The links may also be discredited by the search engines.
There's another, related problem with most article marketing campaigns, too. They focus on getting keyword links to a site instead of focusing on what really matters: the customers' needs – and what should be your real goal of article marketing: attracting targeted customers to your site based on the quality of the content you distribute.
As we noted above, article marketing can work if you focus on customer interests instead of SEO tactics. Here are some do's and don'ts to remember to help you use article publishing successfully as part of your marketing campaign.
Don't use software-generated "articles"
There are several ways individuals use software to create articles. Sometimes they just "spin" a new article by changing a few words and rearranging the sentences a little in an article they've already written. Other times they use software to scour the web for articles on a chosen topic. Then they proceed to steal phrases and sentences from each of the articles and string them together into a "new" article. In both cases, the articles that are produced tend to be poor quality; sometimes they're pretty close to gibberish. Where content has been stolen from other people's websites – even small amounts – the "new" article may also contain one or more copyright violations.
Don't Submit Off-topic articles
Established web sites and online newsletters cover specific topics, just like print publications do. That's because whether a publication is online or offline, the way to attract and keep an audience is to consistently provide readers with well-written articles that are accurate, timely, and provide practical tips or solutions to real life problems related to the subject matter of the publication.
So, just as you aren't likely to find articles telling you how to lose weight or learn Yoga in Entrepreneur magazine, you won't find articles like that on Business Know-How or on other popular business web sites or online publications. Nor will you find articles in business magazines about one man's experience when he had to take care of his kids one Sunday when his wife was sick.
Don't Be Self-Serving
Yes, the purpose of article marketing is to market your business., But pushing out articles that have your self-interests in mind instead of your customers' is self-defeating. Material that is nothing more than a new product release, thin white paper, or advertorial won't get you published on good sites. For instance, we get articles submitted at least once a week by web hosting companies or web designers about how to choose a web host or web designer. Most of those articles are deleted immediately because their sole purpose is to point people back to the authors' sites to buy web hosting or design services.
Don't Regurgitate What Other Writers Have Already Written
In high school and college you may have been encouraged to read numerous articles on an assigned topic and then write a paper based on what you've read. That's fine for school papers, but it doesn't work for either Internet or newsstand publications. Research is definitely important, but you need current, original research and real-life examples to give your article a chance at being published on popular web sites. Don't waste your time writing or submitting articles that deal in generalities. If your article reads like this recent submission to Business Know-How, it will quickly be deleted.
"These days there are plenty of articles
on the troubling issue of …. The general
consensus seems to be …"
Don't Sound Like Sally
There are a number of individuals and small firms that offer article writing and submission services to web site owners who want to drive traffic to their site. A few of these services are good, but like anything else, you often get what you pay for. And there are some services that seem to rewrite the same tired articles slightly for each new client.
The result: editors quickly learn what email addresses apparently are associated with such writing and submission services. And here at Business Know-How, at least, we often delete those submissions without ever reading them.
Don't "Loose" Your Mind, Spell Checker, and Fact Checker
Then there are the articles that sound interesting, but contain multiple common misspellings (such as loose instead of lose), or that contain factual inaccuracies. Good editors know the subject area their publications cover and know when something doesn't ring true. And while most editors realize it's easy for an occasional typo to slip through, the second time we read "You can avoid loosing customers by…" will be the time when we click the X to send the open email to the trash.
How Can You Get Published, Then?
Not surprisingly, the secret to getting published by popular web sites and online newsletters, isn't much different than the "secret" to getting published in more traditional publications. If you want your article published by a web site or online newsletter that reaches a large audience, keep these tips in mind:
Learn What Types of Articles the Website Publishes
Read back issues of newsletters and browse through articles visible on a web site to see if your subject matter and approach fits in with the type of articles they regularly publish. Keep in mind that while a site for home businesses might occasionally publish an article about home storage solutions, such an article would need to focus exclusively on storage solutions for home offices. If the article talks about hanging onto your furnishings for years or how to make more space in your clothes closet, a business publication isn't going to use it.
Write About Your Area of Expertise
But do so without overtly promoting your own product or service. Offer little known-facts, productivity tips, or other information that readers can use and benefit from regardless of whether they use your services or not.
Offer To Write An Article or Column Exclusively For A Particular Website
Websites like to have a steady stream of exclusive content on their sites. It helps keep visitors coming back. But if you're going to offer to write content, be sure you have samples of your writing available to show the editor. They'll want to know how well you write – and may want to see the finished piece, too, before agreeing to publish any articles you write.
Use Pertinent Anecdotes and Facts
Use specific examples to flesh out your articles. Instead of saying that many people are afraid to speak in public, give a real life example of someone who was stressed out by the thought of speaking in public, and what steps they took to conquer the problem.
Be Careful With Your Resource Box
Authors who distribute articles for free usually include a resource box at the end of their articles. Typically this includes their name, email address, brief credentials (just a couple of lines), and a link to their web site. However, some authors insist the entire resource box be included unchanged, and then include calls to action similar to what one would find in direct marketing campaigns. For instance "Subscribe to our free email newsletter today and save 10% on your next purchase." Here at Business Know-How, and on other sites as well, an ad in your resource box and a statement requiring the complete resource box to be included unchanged in the published article will get your submission deleted.
If you are sure the article you submitted to a web site or online newsletter was appropriate and well written, and that the publication to which you submitted it uses material from its audience, follow up once to be sure the editor got the article. Sometimes articles get overlooked or accidentally deleted due to the large volume of email and spam editors receive
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