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Why Article Marketing Works and Can Be Used as Part of A Legitimate SEO Strategy

I have decided to write this post in direct response to the recent White Board Friday over at SEOmoz, I agree with some of the advice given but I think it was put across in the wrong way.

The post basically portrayed article spinning & mass article distribution as a ‘scummy’ strategy and condemned all who use it as cheap marketers or naive newbies; I have and do occasionally use article marketing and consider myself neither, so obviously I have something to say on the matter.

If you want you can check out some of my comments on the post :)

OK, let me just make something clear before I go into the defence of such techniques, links from article directories alone will not get you rankings, the sites your content will be placed on is solely set up for the purpose of content creation and building backlinks, they are not quality sites or resources, but is that the point?

Any savvy SEO knows the above but as SEO’s what are we commissioned with? In my experience and opinion whether for ourselves or clients we’re looking to increase online visibility through higher rankings and long tail content production, this in turn leads to higher revenues. If we can do this in a way that is not harmful to our sites then is it a problem that we use article marketing?

OK, let’s begin the defence.

Ease of Use

One of the criticisms Rand makes in his video is that ‘this kind of article marketing is a waste of time’ and that we can all use it more effectively.

In my opinion article marketing is a quick and easy bolt on, not an SEO strategy but a quick and easy way to distribute unique content.

Maybe you have just sent out a press release, spin it a few times and then distribute it to a few article directories, it’ll take no more than an hour and can have a significant impact on your overall campaign.

Is it Really Any Different?

Whether you fire out some articles or search for a blog to publish on, you’re doing it to get links. Sure the quality of that one link on a decent site will probably outweigh the article submissions but then why not do both?

Let’s look at it this way:

You push out a press release via a local wire, what happens? It goes out to a load of low quality hubs, all identical and most with the same template, is this any different?

You set up an opportunity to write for one of the best blogs in your niche, you write it, it gets published then scrapers come along and your content with links is on hundreds if not thousands of crap sites. By the way these crap scraper links can sometimes help! Is it really that different?

It doesn’t matter how you go about distributing content, the chances are it is going to end up on crap sites, with links pointing back to your site.

Do follow blog commenting, directory submissions etc… They are all carried out with one purpose in mind, to get more links.

Just go For Quality!

I have written about this so many times but for the sake of completeness let’s try it again.

Firstly, creating a great viral piece is not easy and whether it works or not largely comes down to luck. Not even the best in the industry can muster the perfect viral campaign every time and even when they do they will struggle getting optimised links back to their sites and will still lose out to the link buyers.

You could spend days putting a viral piece together and it could flop! Is that a waste of time? Regardless of quality?

If you’re a savvy SEO you will know that in order to stay ahead of the competition and at the top of Google you need to have a diverse strategy for acquiring links, yes spend 95% of your energy looking for quality opportunities but don’t underestimate or ignore other opportunities to get your content and links out there, to do so is crazy. If Google decides to devalue the links one day you have still got all the quality work you have done to fall back on. Why not use it?

I am pretty confident that if you had two competitors;

Competitor A – Goes after quality only and ignores the mass distribution channels

Competitor B – Does everything A is doing but adds article marketing, spinning and press releases to the mix

Who do you think will win?

B is adding all the quality of A, but boosts it with the additional, low cost distribution methods. It’s a no brainer in my opinion.

Why I think Rand’s Advice is Dangerous for Newbies

Let me start this by saying I have a massive amount of respect for Rand, what he has done at SEOmoz and the quality advice he continues to give, however I think he has got this one slightly wrong.

People that read SEOmoz include the super savvy all the way down to the SEO newbie. These new SEO’s, probably trying to build their own SEO web presence, will take everything that is said literally and will probably go out now and avoid article marketing like the plague! That’s a problem. Why?

I get the opportunity to speak with a lot of people new to SEO, don’t have a budget and are trying to promote their niche website. They hang on every word that is said online, a lot have lost confidence because they had been advised to do something, been going hard at it for 6 months and it isn’t working.

Just yesterday I was speaking with a newb who was trying to do his own SEO for his local catering company, he had read all the advice about sourcing quality resources and ignoring anything slightly spammy or cheap. The problem is 12 months had passed and he hadn’t got anywhere! He had lost all confidence in SEO claiming it was all luck!

What was basically happening was he was being killed by his more savvy competitors who were doing everything he was doing but adding a little extra to the mix.

If you’re a newb starting up and you take the advice in the video literally then you will get stomped on by more savvy competitors, you’ll lose confidence in SEO which will probably lead you to make even bigger, more damaging mistakes. Unfortunately I see it all the time.

Sure if all you do is article marketing it still won’t work, you need a combined strategy.

My Advice?

Yes quality is important and everyone doing SEO should create a strategy that allows them to acquire solid links from genuine sites, however use these cheap easy methods to give your quality strategy a boost.

e.g.

If you’re putting a quality a piece together for a top blog, do 5 – 10 re spins of it, send it out via a few directories, and maybe place it on some lower quality blogs. If the piece deserves it fire out a press release as well. The impact will be so much greater.

If you’re pushing out a press release about a new product range make sure you have 10 – 20 copies ready to go out to bloggers and push it out via article directories also.

Basically make use of every content distribution channel you have available, why not?

Penalties?

In 8 years of SEO I have never seen a penalty dished out for article marketing, press releases or any other form of mass content distribution, sure they might be devalued but if you’re using them as a bolt on to your killer strategies where is the risk??

Of course this is my opinion and I am sure some will fiercely oppose this position, please let me know your thoughts in the comments or if you have ever seen any penalties handed out.

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Author: Tim (296 Articles)

is the owner and editor of SEO wizz and has been involved in the search engine marketing industry for over 9 years. He has worked with multiple businesses across many verticals, creating and implementing search marketing strategies for companies in the UK, US and across Europe. Tim is also the Director of Search at Branded3, a Digital Marketing & SEO Agency based in the UK.

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{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

Stef August 27, 2011 at 5:04 am

Sound advice. I love SEOmoz for being a wonderful data source and providing, transparent, clean best practices backed by a lot of authority which eases my client work considerably.
But I would think they sometimes over accentuate the long term and forget about the opportunity costs when ignoring the short/medium term.

Regarding penalties: the only penalty I am aware off is one that applies to all bulk link building and is actually a filter: exact anchor text overdose. Spin better or send out another bunch :)

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Tim August 27, 2011 at 1:15 pm

Ye, any link building done wrong can land you with a filter, it wasn’t so long ago sites were being hit after pushing out optimised info graphics. Doesn’t matter what you do, just make sure you do it right.

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@GamblingSEO August 27, 2011 at 5:16 am

When people suggest that article marketing is ‘lazy’, ‘spammy’ ‘defunct’ or in-effective today – they are just either doing it wrong or watching the wrong guys do it badly IMO. As you say Tim, quality is the name of the game. Marrying quality and quantity = the magic formula.

One great example of article marketing success in my specialist vertical of iGaming is crazymonkeycasino[dot]com – a site which has been consistently ranking in top 5 for ‘live casino’ terms for years.. . It’s actually very rare (but very nice) to see a gambling site which has been crushing it on the SERPs via QUALITY article marketing, but also good to see a site do well in the SERPs using whitehat techniques (which is really the exception, rather than the norm in iGaming).

The proliferation of script kiddies using blackhat tools for automation of bulk article marketing (e.g. “article marketing robot” or AMR) certainly doesn’t help to prevent a large proportion of article site submissions being valueless spun/autogenerated garbage.

As automatic spinning tools get cleverer (e.g. spinners with inbuilt conditional logical operations facilities, semantics, schemas), and with some article creation tools able to generate content which can appear to be written by a human – I don’t see how can article marketing really be a total waste of time now or in the future. Even acquiring ‘positive social signals’ for articles is as simple as adding some boobs to your article, and getting some +1′s.

In terms of components of a SEO strategy – article marketing is still in *my* list of +EV initiatives.

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Tim August 27, 2011 at 1:13 pm

Cheers, great comment.

I think all savvy SEO’s know this, it’s just about learning to do it properly rather than wasting your days rehashing ezinearticles content :)

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Seth August 27, 2011 at 6:45 am

Almost sounds like Rand was paid by Google for that rant. Seriously.

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Tim August 27, 2011 at 1:10 pm

I think you have to understand his position, given his profile he is always going to be under the spot light and therefore is a little less blunt about certain things.

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James August 27, 2011 at 6:15 pm

It takes time to make quality content so yes, why not repurpose several times over as many months. But that is not what Rand is talking about is it? What he is referring to is directly linking your site or your client’s site to crap auto-generated content or comment spam. That stuff only gets you short term results and you have to do it again and again. A good link will never be filtered.
What he is not saying, but probably would if he could, is save the garbage links for your link wheels and keep your site and brand several steps removed.

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Aaron August 27, 2011 at 8:18 pm

Nicely put Tim,

When I was first getting started online a couple years ago, I focused my efforts on getting reciprocal to a specific niche sites… although many SEOs were claiming this technique was almost worthless at the time, I took action and had amazing success ranking my site in my niche at this time. The most important step for newbies is simply to take action… pick a strategy whether it be article marketing, guest posting, video marketing, etc… and just go with it. Don’t try to do everything at once, first master one technique and then move on to the next. Find out what your competitors are doing and try to do it a little bit better than them. It doesn’t have to be rocket science.

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Tim August 30, 2011 at 3:03 am

That’s it Aaron you have to get out there and find out what works for yourself, you can listen to me, Rand or any of the other SEO guys give advice but ultimately no one knows everything. Managing a large team of SEO’s and working in this game for the best part of 8 years now, I have come to understand the value in collective knowledge. Some of the guys that have been doing SEO only a year come out with some super ideas, I think what ever level you think you’re at you have to be prepared to listen and trial new ideas.

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Colin August 28, 2011 at 10:13 am

Hi Tim,

Loud and emotional complaints tend to be associated with things that work, work well and where there isn’t an obvious fix. I wish it wasn’t this way but this is the world G have created.
Surely on the scale of “evil” work:

Scraping ( stealing someone else’s work)

and
Blog comment spam ( dumping on someone else’s website)

are much more worthy of condemnation.

Thank you

Colin

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Tim August 30, 2011 at 3:00 am

Out of all those you mentioned article marketing is by far the cleanest. Article marketing even in it’s more modern sense is not evil or scummy, simply another avenue to push your content down. If you take short cuts with your content it doesn’t matter where you publish it, it’s always going to have a diluted effect.

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Simon August 29, 2011 at 1:18 pm

I am glad you have written this piece because I was also very skeptical about the criticism made of article marketing. The truth of that matter is that article marketing works, which is why people SEO’s continue to use it. Although the majority of the articles on articles sites aren’t high quality I have found some of them to be quite informative.

I think the reason they work is that you are in essence creating an on topic, contextual link from a high authority site, which most the big article sites are. So I think it would be very hard for Google to completely discount these kind of links, although they do not work as well as they use to pre-panda, they do still have an impact.

As you rightly mention you should not base your whole SEO strategy on article links or overstate their importance, and yes long term they might drop off – so build other quality links along side them. I find they are a good way to get a new going, helping with indexing and getting a keyword into the top 20 / 50 depending on how competitive it is. It also can help to quickly increase the number of IP’s pointing to a new site.

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Lime August 29, 2011 at 6:33 pm

Finally a bit of sanity..
SEOMOZ is starting to sound like its on a google retainer, constantly sending out mis information and googlecentric views

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Jonathan August 30, 2011 at 2:44 am

Yeah I think you have a good point here. Why overlook something that’s quick and easy?

Not all businesses have the budget to buy tonnes of links, create masterful linkbait campaigns and what not, so article marketing is still a viable option for some. And when some sites are still achieving good rankings through this method alone it’s still worth tying it into an overall strategy.

Suppose the seomoz thing is just typical Rand, great guy with a great business – but we all know he’s a PR pony for ethical SEO. Hopefully he doesn’t turn into a Robot like Matt Cutts.

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Tim August 30, 2011 at 2:58 am

Ye, we know what to expect from the guys at SEOmoz, they have to be a lot more careful about what they push out there than the average blogger like me :)

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Mike September 1, 2011 at 9:19 pm

Why the condemnation of article marketing? Sure the spun/auto generated ones have a tendancy to be total garbage, but those are usually sent to low ranking sites whose only purpose is to provide links (I just can’t see people reading such sites when higher quality stuff is available)

But well written articles submitted to popular article directories will not only provide decent link juice but also send visitors to one’s site. Sure it’s not the viral revolution, but seeing how much easier it is, there is no reason not to do it.
So I agree with you Tim.

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Innes September 8, 2011 at 6:15 am

I think article marketing is a good technique so long as the article is legitimate and the webmaster has invested the time that is needed to do it well. On the whole it can be a great way of showing off your expertise on a chosen subject

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David September 8, 2011 at 3:21 pm

Great post Tim and great comments too.

Being newish to SEO I’d be interested in the ‘right’ way to do AM.

When we talk about this being quick and easy and using variations of both articles and press releases are we talking about rewrites or good spinning (I’m not sure the later exists in my experience even the best spinners churn out garbage) and then submitting manually or automatically to the best directories.

If so what are the best directories? Ezine is probably near if not at the top of that list?

Given the value associated with these links and the time taken to write and re write content and then submit manually to the best of the best are they really worth the effort?

Seeking enlightenment…

Dave

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Tim September 12, 2011 at 12:34 pm

Hi Dave,

I think the thing you have to understand is that articles are not a ranking solution, unless you’re in a really niche industry, however submitting to some of these directories can be helpful to create freshness and target longtail variations. I personally wouldn’t manually submit to the directories, I would use a tool like the Unique Article Wizard and push it out via them, keep your content unique, add value, maybe re spin a press release, focus on brand + keyword variation and there really is no issues doing this.

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Stefan September 9, 2011 at 9:40 am

Hi Tim,
You certainly have enlightened me. I could attach myself with your post. As a newbie, I tend to follow all the big guns and as usual watched the Whiteboard Friday last sunday. I almost came to the conclusion that article marketing is not working. I even felt that I wasted most of my time with article directories. BUT, your article has helped me to regain my confidence and follow your suggestions. thank you for the post.
Cheers
Stefan

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Tim September 12, 2011 at 12:31 pm

your welcome.

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Per September 11, 2011 at 11:42 pm

I guess a quality link is also bound to the submitted article site, not only content? So what are some high quality article sites? After Panda I don’t think http://ezinearticles.com/ is a very good place to submit an article.

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Tim September 12, 2011 at 12:30 pm

I don’t think there is such a thing as high quality article site, however for a quick freshness boost they work well.

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Hannah September 15, 2011 at 12:38 am

Hi Tim,

I enjoyed your article, just to be clear from your last response to Per’s comment, you don’t believe there are any high quality article sites anymore? Surely the guys running those sites must be doing something to try to bring their quality levels back up.

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Tim September 22, 2011 at 7:15 am

Hi Hannah,

I think there are better article directories (namely the ones that have more loops to jump through), however any link on an article directory can hardly be referred to as ‘premium’. Article links are good to use for quantity link building and it can help boost rankings, however I wouldn’t class a link from an article directory as quality simply because of the fact anyone can get them. I guess the thing to remember is going after quality links only will leave you short in the rankings, you need to be diverse and use a mixture of sources.

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Zak October 17, 2011 at 1:36 am

Hi Tim,

I found your blog last week and have found it a breathe of fresh air. Practical and actionable advice that I agree with! Cheers!

There are very few good seo blogs out there imo. Seomoz is a joke and now reads like a how NOT to do effective seo.

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Franco October 22, 2011 at 7:43 pm

SEOMOZ does the high end client, you can’t charge much for spinning content and putting them on blog networks.

The fact is for local clients and low competition lower quality link building, mixed with some higher makes more sense when someone has a budget of $300.

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Erik February 21, 2012 at 2:57 pm

Hi Tim, Great Post!

When you spin and send articles are you doing it in bulk, or do you hand pick a few higher quality directories to use?

If you do it by hand, does that defeat the ‘easy, why not’ aspect of article marketing?

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Tim February 23, 2012 at 6:11 am

Hi Erik,

I would personally use article marketing for creating noise signals, re write a genuine piece of news a few times and spin it out to article directories and press hubs. Remember this is not a link building tactic on it’s own, it’s about creating the right signals.

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