Using Article Marketing To Drive Search Engine Results

by Heather Rast |

When I was a 10, Denise Anderson gave me my first lesson in, shall we say, choice language.  I think it had something to do with the Girl Scout troop leader and that blessed song we had to belt out while marching a mile to the campsite (and back!) in the peak of June under the Florida sunshine. *shudders*

Today, I have different words for the distasteful and often irritating aspects of life online.  Spam. Bots. Cloaking.  Memes.  Link-dropping in comments. There are many more terms, and some people might throw article marketing into the mix.  But I disagree, provided you have the right objectives and are committed to producing high quality content.

Content in an analog world

Paraphrasing Wikipedia, “Article marketing has been used by professionals about as long as mass media has been around … [a] business provides useful content to the newspaper free of charge, and in return the newspaper prints the business’ contact information with the article. Because newspapers and other traditional media are expected to present content on limited budgets, this arrangement is generally advantageous for all parties involved.”

Get all scientific on me

There has been a lot of debate about the SEO value of article marketing as well as the ethics of distributing content from directory platforms and the sister practice of republishing content (“spinning” variations of the original content to skirt around the dupe content penalty).  You’ll find a good discussion about some of the technical SEO aspects over on seoMoz if this interests you.  Clearly the academic debate will go on, mainly because GoogleBot is still one of the great mysteries of the modern era – perpetuated by the constant re-invention of the product through universal search, instant anticipation, incorporation of social streams and more.

Rank:  Gotta Get Some

Let’s say you’re not a professional link builder or affiliate marketer — both tough jobs.  But you need to improve your organic SERPs to drive more traffic to your small business site.  Or maybe you own an eCommerce site in a specialty category and sell some considered purchase products — things that prospects typically research quite a bit and mull over before committing to buy.  In either case you may have already worked your on-page elements and  now want to focus on gaining inbound links and spreading the word around about your business.  You just need people to know about you is all.

Article marketing, like any tactic, isn’t a silver bullet.  Trying your article marketing hand on several sites, you might see mixed results or even run into difficulties properly attributing pieces of your larger SEO strategy to having done this or that.  Lots of moving parts.

All that said, as someone who has managed article marketing programs for several eCommerce sites across both B2C and B2B channels within several markets, there’s Google juice to be slurped.

In the land of small budgets and good web writers

If your’re competing against some highly entrenched niche brands or battling over some really competitive keywords, a constantarticle-marketing-analyticsstream of fresh, well written, and helpful content can really boost site traffic.  The screen shot at the right shows a 2-week comparison of traffic characteristics originating from an article directory.  There are always short term fluctuations, but the big picture has shown me that on average, traffic originating from a directory views more pages and spends a longer time on site.  Repeat:  the good content off-page led them to consume more good content on-page.

Ahh, but what about sales, you ask?  Well in my experience that’s been more of a secondary benefit rather than a goal.  Unless you’re distributing articles with long-tail keywords you’re really not going to pull in people in the “ready to buy” mode.  The click-through rate on the articles I’ve worked with ranges from 11.5% to as high as 14%. Whether the sale takes place immediately or through them circling back, you’re casting a wide net and catching all you can.

When people become so satisfied by your article they’re then interested in learning more (as demonstrated by the click), you have earned the chance to continue pulling them down the conversion path.  Don’t blow it with a disruption in the tone or style of the message lest you be sniffed out for being disingenuous.

You there!  Don’t do that.

Personally, I’m not a proponent of article spinning.  Most would agree that since the intent of spinning is to manipulate the system while providing no additional value to the message, spinning is cheesy.  In theory,  someone performing a search could click on several page one results and stumble onto your article or spin through multiple listings.  While dominating the front page may sound good on one level, it makes for a poor user experience.  I know some folk who have success with spinning, but I suspect the hand of the Goog will come down sooner rather than later and that will be the end of that.

Just write good stuff

As part of a comprehensive SEO strategy, there’s value in writing informative, useful content and distributing it around the web. Properly planned, well-written content can reinforce a prospect’s growing perception of a brand.  Finding your name associated with a good “3 Things you need to know about widgets” or “5 ways to save money with widgets” article can help place your brand in a favorable light while positioning it as a helpful resource.  Funny thing, we often forgo some sensitivity to price when we feel we’ve made a connection with or had our needs understood by a company.

Note:  I’m not an expert in SEO, don’t even play one in a podcast.  But I’ve picked up a few things here and there, and am presumably quite dangerous thanks to a melange of knowledge bouncing around in my cranium.

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About the Author

Heather Rast

Heather is Principal of a boutique Cedar Rapids digital marketing company. She develops brand positioning strategy and marketing communications plans to distinguish small businesses from the competition and attract their ideal customers. Her content planning, writing, and online community-building work helps larger businesses better serve their audiences with useful information that solves problems as it builds affinity for the brand.