Article Marketing Still Works – Surprised?

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While it might seem a pedestrian road to SEO success to some, article marketing works and by all accounts it works amazingly well. If you’re an expert on the topic of your website the solution should be simple – write more articles, publish them at more sites and reap the rewards of increased traffic. Granted, that is certainly easier said than done but it is a proven means to Web success.

For example, I recently decided to write some articles with keywords relevant to a good domain name that had been sitting idle in my portfolio. I then submitted them to a few directories, linked them from a few social media profiles and now they receive some modest traffic – all from about 20-30 minutes of work. While they aren’t the best articles out there it does clearly show that, with a little strategy, article marketing still works.

This emphasizes to me that content is what ultimately sells consumers. Images, widgets and the rest are important in gaining users and visibility, but it is well-written, user-focused content that allows an audience to “find” what they are searching for and how you (and your website) will be able to ultimately meet their needs. Since content influences how users interact with a website on the whole (and ultimately our products and services), optimizing for what visitors want is the best practice if we’re in pursuit of conversions – and we are.

So how do we do that?

Establish (and stick with) Your Voice: The content of your website should be written in a consistent voice from page to page. Remember, this is as much about you as the individual visiting your site. As such, the voice you establish (whether it’s light-hearted, edgy or pastoral) needs to be one that is consistent with your niche and one that will resonate with your target audience.

Active Words: Active words are those that help users engage with content. Visitors need to be asked to do something - solve a problem, address an issue or answer a question. In short, we need to make visitors participants rather than just passive readers. The site's content should be full of active verbs that inspire visitors to take action. Some active words are explain, predict, interpret, demonstrate, tabulate, etc.

Readability/Usability: All readers are different; some like to read every single word while others prefer to skim and scan. While it should be obvious that content should always read naturally, some general guidelines to improve readability for all users is to use short paragraphs, instructive headings and informative bullets focusing on the benefits or features your users will receive.

Where and how do we publish?

Once you have written quality material, you need to make sure it gets read. And there are essentially two ways to accomplish this - on your own site and on other websites. And unless you already have streams of traffic and don't feel the need for more, you need to publish your articles on outside sites.

The benefits of outside publishing include inbound links, greater exposure to a wider audience and relationship building with others in your industry and in related industries. The downside of publishing elsewhere is that you lose much of the control of your article - specifically when it comes to formatting, layout, images, etc. And that is exactly why establishing your voice, using action words and ensuring the highest level of readability and usability are so critical to your writing - especially on someone else's site.

When publishing on your own site, you get the added benefits of a custom layout.

While it should be obvious at this stage of the game that webmasters should clearly be using CSS instead of tables in HTML, testing typography and even line-height play a role in the visual readability of your content - which influences how much time is spent on your site and even the number of page views the entire site ultimately receives.

  • Use contrast. That includes using bold, italics and other colors to get your point across.
  • Use multiple paragraphs. Breaking sentences into multiple paragraphs improves the article's visual style. It also makes the user "feel" that they will be able get through the entire article. Take a look at your favorite blog and you'll find that most paragraphs consist of only one or two sentences.
  • Use images. Images break up content and can make a long article much more readable. Couple those images with a caption and you'll surely see an uptick in time spent on site.
  • Don't be afraid of whitespace. Sometimes users need a break. And that's where whitespace is useful. Too much content can be tiring on the eyes, and too much supplementary content surrounding your article can distract readers from what's really important

There are hundreds of ways to get users to your site. But writing, publishing and promoting quality content - article marketing - remains a highly effective means of not just generating traffic, but winning loyal followers.

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Harvey Ramer 11-04-2008 3:41 PM

This is a good article, but like my thinking for the first few years of internet business, it doesn't describe a successful result. Peter, is it successful marketing to get traffic?

It is interesting, even fun to get traffic by writing articles, but where is the money? I like and use blogging/articles as a promotional tactic. However, it's a huge time waster if it doesn't generate interest from qualified prospects in your product or service.

Article marketing requires some thought to focus on the needs of your prospective customers and to address them accurately and in their voice. If that's done, it has potential to pay off with more than just traffic. We don't need "traffic" we need qualified leads!

WoodyL 11-05-2008 2:07 AM

I believe in what is said about writing articles, there is no doubt about the value they bring in gaining traffic. What I don't believe is that you wrote multiple articles, posted them around the web and  linked them to a few social media sites all in 20 -30 minutes. You must be the worlds fastest article publisher.  

BradP 11-05-2008 7:16 AM

Hi there;

You mentioned:

"I then submitted them to a few directories, linked them from a few social media profiles and now they receive some modest traffic"

Could you give some more concrete examples of where you posted them, and espcially what you mean by linking them to your social media profiles? Do you mean you posted a link to them from a Facebook/MySpace profile or did you do something else?

Thanks again for the intriguing post....

Peter A. Prestipino 11-05-2008 12:03 PM

HarveyR - each person's definition of successful marketing will be different as it's dependent on their core business objectives. You might be interested in traffic while I might be interested in sales. I should clarify that when I say "articles" it does not necessarily have to be a thoroughly objective, well-researched white paper or anything. What we need to answer first is what do our users want (in terms of information) about our product (and it's industry) and how can we (the content developer/publisher) create it? The money will come (eventually) but you need to get people to the site first. It definitely requires an investment of time, but articles which get indexed for popular search terms and generate traffic can create a long-term source of traffic. Writing ten articles may only generate ten visits today, but by the end of the year you might have 3K plus visits. Convert at a relatively reasonable rate (say 5%) and you'll have 150 conversions.

WoodyL - I should clarify; there was some thought put into the topic of the articles and what they would focus on - I even went as far as developing a mental outline. But once I sat down to write (a 350 word article) it did actually take twenty of thirty minutes. I do write quickly (evident by my frequent spelling and grammatical mistakes) but with a little preperation, I'm confident anyone can do the same.

BradP - Directories that let you embed your URL within some anchor text are what we're looking for - Ezinearticles, goarticles, etc. Social sites like Facebook (just make sure you modify your privacy settings), Digg and LinkedIn are excellent ways to get crawled quickly. Couple that with a few links from other sites (comments on blogs for example) and you're well on your way to getting indexed. Here's a bonus tip - for each of your sites, create a Google Group. For each article that you post on your website, write a brief synopsis and post a link. While it's a no-follow link, you will see traffic coming from them and in my opinion it does influence the SERPs.

SilverColt 11-05-2008 5:27 PM

Just awesome!  These are great concepts in a simple, concise format with some wonderful comments with just as great responses.  I have been trying to get a few of my clients to publish their articles more often which I have also linked to various free social and business directories.  One of the key factors I have instructed my clients as their webmaster and SEO advisor is that they ensure the keyword campaigns being focused on are used with at least 3-5% saturation in the article.  Also keep the articles short (350 words or less).  The Google Group tip you offered Peter is excellent, I will be implementing that this week!  Regarding HarveyR - I completely agree with your argument, however to achieve those quality leads it starts with quantitative traffic.  I suggest providing incentive in the articles (maybe a promotional service at the end of the article) that generates those leads from which the whole reason we are all in the biz profit will come (if we build it, they will come).  Sometimes I feel SEO and SEM is 50% science (statistics) and 50% artistry and creativity.  Good luck to all...  Peter, keep the 30 minute articles coming that is about how much time I have to spare during the day.

Stacy 11-04-2011 10:01 AM

Great article. I agree, it's important to establish a clear voice and stick to it. This will allow you to gain a persona with your writing and remain clear consistency through your web pages, blog, descriptions, etc.

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