Defining the Problem, What is Article Marketing?
Matt Cutts gave a fairly good, though not very concise, definition of article marketing;
“…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 added,
“Typically the sorts of sites that just republish these articles are not the highest quality sites.”
Okay, aside from that, why doesn’t article marketing work? Part of the reason is that it these articles don’t rank very well, if at all. As Matt explained, SEO articles often end up on low quality sites.
Consequently, the quality of backlinks they often generate aren’t very helpful. More often, though, articles which are dropped into article directories are often detected and removed by one of various Google filters, so they may never see any kind of ranking, good or bad.
Article directories are full of articles which are marginally readable and not very useful. They were created as vehicles for various keywords and backlinks, not as a source of information or entertainment. As a result, they don’t get Liked on Facebook , submitted to DIGG or mentioned on anyone’s blog.
It seems odd that despite all this, many people still tout article marketing as The Thing to Do. Whether you’re selling Yamaha piano keyboards, Kitchen Aid Mixers, or featuring retouching photoshop strategies, one will try to convince you that article marketing will help your site, and more to the point, they can sell you some software to help you make it happen.
However, I can give you five good reasons why article marketing is no longer a viable marketing strategy.
Problem #1: You Can’t Control Where Your Article is Published
Writers use article directories in the hopes that their articles will be picked up and published on a good quality site. Unfortunately, the minute you press the “Submit” button, you give up all control over who picks up your article or where they put it down.
It would be great if your article were published on a trustworthy site which is in good standings with Google , but the odds are strongly against that. It’s far more likely that your article will end up in some low ranking Google backwater.
Writers who want the kind of backlinks that generate improved Google rankings for their own sites need to retain control over who publishes their articles and where.
Reason #2: Google Filters Eat Duplicate Content
Think for a moment what duplicate content will do to a search engine. If the top 20 search results for a given keyword all contain the same two or three articles, the result is a lot of frustrated users. By 2004, this had become a real problem for Google, and it needed to be fixed.
The folks at Google fixed this problem by upgrading their algorithm with a filter whose job was to remove duplicate content from search results. Fortunately for them, it worked great.
Unfortunately for article marketers, it worked great. Consequently, they could no longer maintain any momentum because they had to keep generating new articles. As a marketing model, it’s rather ineffective;
- create or commission articles and submit them
- enjoy a fractional improvement in Google ratings
- watch your articles get filtered into oblivion
- create or commission another article
For years now, I have been discussing article marketing. While a few folks have actually made some money from this practice, most have not. In any event, they could have made more money and made it much easier by not attempting to take on the Google filters.
Given that Google doesn’t care for duplicate content, and article directories are designed to generate duplicate content, it’s only reasonable that Google has singled them out for special attention.
Reason #3: Google Filters Eat Duplicate Anchor Text
Timing can be a beautiful thing.
A frustrated article marketer just called me with a question. He had been attempting to improve his site’s Google rankings by shooting out backlinked articles to different article directories.
He intended to improve his site’s rankings for the keyword phrase “Lasik eye surgery ”, so he asked me why his site had plummeted from Google’s page three to page thirty for that phrase.
That must have been a pretty hard thump.
I asked a few questions and discovered that he used several different articles and sent them out to on hundred different article directories. The problem was, he used the exact same anchor text in each article to backlink to his site; “ Lasik eye surgery ”. I found the problem pretty quickly. More to the point, so did Matt Cutts and the folks at Google.
Think this through for a minute. If eight random webmasters published a blog or article that linked back to your website, what are the chances that they would all use the keyword phrase, photo retouchers as the anchor text?
Naturally, the chances are pretty slim.
It follows, then, that the chances of a hundred website owners using the same anchor text to link to the same website are slim to the point of being nonexistent. The folks at Google are fully aware of this, and they see such an anomaly for exactly what it is, a clumsy attempt to manipulate their site’s Google rankings.
Not surprisingly, Google has no patience for this kind of behavior, and they have a simple and effective fix. They ensure that the web page in question never sees daylight, let alone a decent Google ranking for that keyword phrase.
Danger Signal #4: Google Filters Don’t Like Bad Neighborhoods
For the purposes of SEO marketing , there is such a thing as a bad neighborhood. Your virtual neighborhood is made up of the sites that link to you as well as the sites you link to.
In the brick-and-mortar world, real property values are affected by the location of a home as much as the “value” of the home itself. In the same manner, your website’s neighborhood could affect your rankings on Google searches.
Please don’t think this is an accidental byproduct of the algorithm, and a “fixable” one at that. Matt Cutts made it clear in a recent announcement that your websites rankings could be negatively impacted by who was linking to you, and this was being done on purpose by Google.
That settles it.
Submitting your articles to article directories causes far more trouble than you want to deal with. It opens your site up to penalties based on duplicate content, duplicate anchor text, and worst of all, links from low quality websites, which you won’t even have any control over.
Reason #5: Google Filters are Designed to Stop Article Marketing
Google’s recent spam-fighting upgrade for their algorithm is called the Panda update , and it will be a game-changer for article marketers.
Despite this, I have since been assured that “article marketing still works”.
Link partnering, duplicate content, scraper sites and article spinning all worked once, too. These techniques have since been addressed by Google, which is corporate-speak for “they don’t work anymore!”
Article marketing can only “work” if marketers keep employing a steady stream of ways to work around the Google filters, which means it never really “worked” to begin with.
Article marketing never was, and never will be, an effective use of your time or money.
All of the ingenuity, effort and cash which article marketers have poured into these short lived strategies has been wasted. Okay, a few people have benefited in the long run, but the typical article marketer must constantly keep reinventing his strategy.
Someone wondered aloud to Matt Cutts “…if he recommends article article marketing as an SEO strategy?” He simply answered
“…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.”
Our friend Matt has a strange sense of humor.
When he makes a statement like, “So if I had to make a prophecy or forecast…” remember that he gets paid to protect Google from search engine spam – which is often generated by article marketing..
He is totally aware of Google’s feelings toward article marketing, and what Google plans to do about it.
Granted, some folks could assume that Matt is providing a rosy picture for shareholders rather than veiled threats toward article marketers. On the other hand, how often do you have to look even as far as page two of the Google search results to find what you we’re looking for?
Do you remember trying to look for information on AltaVista, WebCrawler or Excite? Google has accomplished much in the past few years.
The bottom line is that article marketing pollutes search results with millions of unreadable, uninformative fluff pieces. Since it is in Google’s interest to eliminate such content, what kind of chance will you have against the next algorithm update?
Is Article Marketing Worth Your Time?
At one time, article marketing was an effective business tool. I believe is was during one weekend in early 2005. Since then, however, Google has become very adept at seeking out and destroying any content that remotely resembles search engine manipulation.
If you are looking for an expensive and time consuming hobby, then perhaps article marketing could keep you busy during a long winter. On the other hand, if you are looking for an effective, sustainable marketing strategy, it’s time to move on.
I would welcome your thoughts on this matter.
This is a guest post by James Martell, you can check out the guidelines to guest post here.
Image Credit: Pocket Hyena