Once upon a time, there was Article Marketing. If you got it right, you could improve the SEO performance of your website pages in a matter of weeks. Then, along came Google with its algorithm updates. Almost overnight, article marketing as we’d come to know it was dead on its feet.
Suddenly, article directories (and millions of other websites) found that their stock had plummeted in Google’s eyes. Their rankings fell and articles that would previously have appeared in the first two or three search engine results pages (SERPs) now had little chance of SEO success.
The link value associated with an article featured on all but the best article directories was now negligible. It’s always been common knowledge of course that articles published by article directories never attracted a serious and widespread readership, despite claims that the articles would be taken up by various online publications.
Simply put, the appeal of article marketing was primarily for the SEO back-linking benefits it generated. (Now, with the explosion of social media, content can be leveraged to reach a wider audience, many of whom are ‘real’ readers.)
Pre-Panda – and the Ensuing Series of Algorithm Updates
To maximize SEO returns all you had to do was find a halfway-decent piece of distribution software (and maybe additional software that could ‘spin’ your article content to create several versions of the same article involving very little work) and the links would follow. If you had the patience, there was also the mind-numbing option of submitting your articles to the directories manually. Either way, there was a strong chance that you could influence your web pages’ SEO performance.
These SEO results could be achieved irrespective of the quality of your articles. No matter that the text contained very little that was of use or interest to anyone making an online search in need of rewarding information.
Google had long been aware of the fact that useless web pages were achieving rankings that were undeserved and disproportionate to the quality of their content. Once the algorithms had been developed to identify these pages, Google acted – with far-reaching consequences for article marketing in particular.
For all those article marketers who’d had it so good for so long, this was a rude awakening. Google was suddenly demanding quality content as the minimum requirement for ranking success.
For many article directories, doom looked inevitable. For article marketers, the umbilical cord that had for so long been essential for SEO success, had suddenly been severed. The question was, what could replace article marketing as we’d come to know it? What could possibly provide the same SEO return on such a modest investment of time and money?
The answer was: very little. Quality articles take time to write – and where could they be submitted now that so many article directories had become discredited as purveyors of mediocrity? Resourceful as ever, it didn’t take long for the online community to come up with an answer that dove-tailed perfectly with Google’s demands.
The Phoenix Factor
Yes, quality articles had to be written, but now the search was on for online newsletters and blogs that accepted article submissions and delivered the same SEO returns that had previously been the preserve of article directories.
It didn’t take long for the number of websites and blogs providing this service to mushroom. Now, instead of article directories acting as ‘black hole’, libraries where there were never any readers, we saw the emergence of ‘real’ e-zines, newsletters and blogs with human editors who actually read and approved articles submitted to them.
Even better, from the article writer’s point of view, was that many of these websites and blogs had good ‘link authority’. In other words, being published by these new (or rejuvenated) kids on the block added concentrated Google link-juice to SEO efforts, with ranking benefits to match.
That’s not to say article marketing techniques are dead. No – they’ve simply been forced to evolve in order to match Google’s demands for quality content. There has already been a mini-bubble that’s gone all-but-bust in the trend towards ‘guest blogging.’ This activity works well but, by its labor-intensive nature, can only be carried out on a relatively small scale. The ROI on time invested is therefore questionable on all but the highest-ranked blogs.
Being published on a low-authority blog is a sad waste of time – and a waste of good content! Yes, it will create a link – only one link mind – and all links aren’t equal in the eyes of Google. Even worse, posts on a low-quality blog will probably reach only a small readership. That means there’s a greatly reduced chance that your article will be linked-to by other quality sites!
It takes only a small leap of logic to conclude that seeking out higher profile, article-receptive blogs and websites makes plenty of sense. Already, we can see that many of these sites are maturing into tomorrow’s big beasts of the online jungle. They too will enjoy their moment in the sun until, inevitably, the next force of nature transforms the SEO scene all over again!
Mike Beeson is a UK freelance copywriter, journalist and PR consultant specializing in website and SEO copywriting. Mike’s company, Buzzwords Limited, was established over 20 years ago and is located in Knutsford, Cheshire (south Manchester).