What is Article Marketing?
I’d like to introduce a fellow named Matt Cutts. Matt is the head of Google’s Webspam, which makes him an expert at both identifying and eliminating any signs of article marketing. He defines article marketing as “…you’re writing an article and you try to include a link at the bottom and you’re hoping a bunch of other people put up copies or mirrors or duplicates of that article and that those links might flow through.”
Matt then adds a slight warning, “Typically the sorts of sites that just republish these articles are not the highest quality sites.”
Why are We Doing a Post-Mortem?
It’s time for a post-mortem on article marketing, because as a business strategy, article marketing simply doesn’t work anymore. An article posted to an article directory might eventually show up on a search engine like Google, or it might not. In any event, it definitely won’t be found on page one of the Google search results – if it’s found at all.
One reason that Search Engine Optimized (SEO) articles don’t see much daylight is that people just don’t enjoy reading them. At best, they are thinly disguised ads, and at worst they are a clumsy package of strung-together keywords and backlinks. These articles are generally never shared, Liked, plugged, or DIGGed (or DUG, perhaps?)
Despite this, sites that sell Yamaha piano keyboards and Kitchen Aid Mixers still send out poorly written articles in hopes of establishing strategically placed backlinks. It hasn’t occurred to some folks that whether they’re selling keyboards or posting reviews on retouching photoshop pictures, the article directories are not able to deliver either better Google rankings or more website traffic.
It might be too early for an autopsy on article marketing – it’s still wheezing slightly – but it’s as good as dead, and the causes of death are very easy to diagnose. All five of them are explained below.
Mortal Flaw #1: You Can’t Control Who Publishes Your Articles
The point of submitting an article to an article directory is to raise your website’s Google rankings for a particular keyword or keyword phrase. This will only work, of course if your articles are published on quality websites that Google trusts.
Unfortunately, once you’ve submitted your article, you have NO INPUT on where your article ends up. The kinds of websites that use article directories are not highly ranked in Google searches. The highly ranked sites have dedicated writers and exclusive content, so they don’t need to purchase low quality articles in hopes of filling up a page.
If you are hoping for the kind of strategically placed backlinks that lead to improved Google rankings, leave the directories out of your loop. You’ll need to retain control over who gets to publish your articles and where they are published.
Mortal Flaw #2: You Can’t Succeed By Posting Duplicate Content
Google became the world’s largest search engine for two basic reasons; it’s efficient and effective. That didn’t happen by accident.
Whenever a problem arose with the speed or efficiency of the algorithm, the folks at Google found a fix. Back in 2004, Google had a problem with duplicate content in their search results, and they fixed it by installing a duplicate content filter.
Since then, article marketers have invented and often sold new ways to distribute duplicate content to the masses via Google’s search results. Each new way was met with an updated spam filter, and so the cycle continues.
Unfortunately for the article marketers, this resulted in one of the world’s least effective marketing models;
- write an article and submit it to a directory
- notice an inconsequential improvement in Google ranking or site traffic
- notice your backlinks being systematically hunted down and vaporized
- write and submit another article
I have discussed the weaknesses of article marketing for several years now. Although a few marketers have made a bit of money with this strategy, most have not. What’s more, the amount of money made looks like chump change compared to the money which could have been generated by businesses working with guys like Matt Cutts rather than against them.
Mortal Flaw #3: You Can’t Succeed by Posting Duplicate Anchor Text, Either
I couldn’t have timed it better if I had tried.
I just got off the phone with someone who was wondering why his article marketing plan had failed so spectacularly.
This person was very annoyed because his website, which was supposed to rank well for the keyword phrase “Lasik eye surgery”, had just fallen from page 3 to page 30 in the Google rankings for that particular page.
Ouch. That must have hurt.
Eventually he explained that he had written several articles, inserted backlinks in these articles to his website, and then submitted them to 100 different article directories. In theory, this should have improved his Google rankings, not torpedoed them.
Then he mentioned that he had used the exact same phrase, “Lasik eye surgery”, as the backlink to his site, and he did this in all of his articles.
This practice is referred to as duplicate anchor text, and Google doesn’t care for it.
Consider this for a moment; if ten webmasters initiated backlinks to the same website at the same time, what are the chances that they would use the exact keyword phrase, “photo retouchers” for that backlink?
The chances are pretty poor..
The chances of a hundred different webmasters doing the same thing, then, would be about impossible.Matt Cutts and anyone who works for him would immediately recognize this anomaly as an amateurish attempt to manipulate Google’s algorithm, and deal with it appropriately.
In this case, the “appropriate” thing would be for Google to guarantee that the website in question is kicked to the curb and never sees a respectable ranking for that keyword phrase.
Mortal Flaw #4; You Can’t Succeed by Establishing a Business in a Bad Neighborhood
Web marketers recognize that certain sites can be caught in what is referred to as a bad neighborhood. Think of your neighborhood as being comprised of sites that you link to, and sites which link to you
In actual neighborhoods, when one piece of property becomes run down, the surrounding properties lose value as well. Strangely enough, the same thing can happen in a virtual neighborhood.
Matt Cutts explained this phenomenon recently by announcing that it was now possible that your website’s rankings will be negatively impacted by who was linking to you. This is not the result of some accidental function in the algorithm, by the way.
Google understands that one symptom of article marketing is a bunch of backlinks to low- or no-quality websites. Consequently, when they see a website with that symptom, they penalize it with a low or nonexistent ranking for that particular keyword.
Mortal Flaw #5: Google Doesn’t Want Article Marketing to Succeed.
Just this year, Google’s Panda update initiated some of the toughest non-defined standards yet with regards to how particular web pages were ranked, and this resulted in a flurry of reverse-engineering by outraged article marketers. In spite of this, I have been assured that “article marketing still works”.
That line is becoming harder and harder to believe, particularly since all of the strategies intended to keep article marketing “working” have been eviscerated by Google’s ever-evolving spam filters.
Anchor text stuffing, link farms, scraper sites, article spinning and link partnering have all hit their expiration dates, and The Next Big Scheme in article marketing is doomed to a similarly short life.
So, why do article marketers insist on prolonging this expensive form of life support?
A ridiculous amount of time and resources have been spent trying to outwit Matt Cutts and his small platoon of spam killers. All of those attempts, by the way, were quickly rebuffed. Just think about the amount of wealth that could have generated if those resources were spent working with, rather than against, Google’s Webspam department.
Matt Cutts was asked “…if he recommends article article marketing as an SEO strategy?” His reply was almost funny; “…so if I had to make a prophecy or forecast about how Google feels or how search engines feel about them in general, the trend that I am hearing and the sort of complaints that I am hearing are that people are not huge fans of article marketing and don’t view it as an incredible value add in terms of the content that gets added to the web.”
Think for a moment about the irony in the statement, “So if I had to make a prophecy or forecast…”
Matt is tasked with ensuring that neither duplicate content nor spun articles show up in any Google ranking resuts. He doesn’t need to guess; he already knows how Google feels about article marketing in all it’s forms.
Google would like article marketing to die a very quick death, and they’re paying Matt Cutts to devise the death blow.
Naturally, Matt could possibly be delivering Google-inspired propaganda with his veiled threats about article marketing. On the other hand, when did you last have to access the second page of your Google rankings to find the information you were looking for?
Simply put, article marketing makes for an inefficient search engine. Google has no tolerance for the inefficiencies brought on by article marketing, therefore it will be squashed whenever possible.
Is Article Marketing Dead Yet?
If article marketing were a human being, we would be making it comfortable and gathering the family for final goodbyes. However, article marketing is simply a business tool which has become completely ineffective, and an ineffective business tool is as good as dead.
If you are looking for an effective and sustainable marketing strategy for your business, it’s time to move on.
As always, your comments are appreciated.
James Martell is well known as an affiliate marketing specialist in outsourcing and SEO. He is also a speaker and does weekly podcasts and affiliate marketing trainings. James is host of the Affiliate Buzz podcast on WebmasterRadio.FM (the first ever and longest running podcast about the affiliate industry), and creator of the Affiliate Marketers SUPER BootCamp where he teaches others how to make money with affiliate marketing. He lives in White Rock BC, a seaside suburb of Vancouver on west coast of Canada with his wife, Arlene.