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July 3, 2007

Have We Really Seen The Death of Article Marketing?

Article marketing has been an effective method of website promotion that has literally been used since the inception of the public Internet. I have been online since November of 1995, and even in those early days, I would read people’s articles and click the link in their resource box to learn more about their website.

The Early Days of Article Marketing

In those early days, there were a few players who recognized the value of article marketing. The two writers who were most influential to my use of article marketing, as a promotion method, were:

  • Dr. Nunley (http://www.DrNunley.com) has been online since 1996, and this website was registered in Oct. of 1997. Dr. Nunley was influential in that he taught me the power of syndicated article content.
  • Wild Bill Montgomery (http://www.MakingProfit.com) started his website in Nov. of 1998. Wild Bill offered one of the very first article distribution websites. I received his daily mailings for nearly a year, until he shut his article system down. I subscribed to Wild Bill’s mailings, so that I could locate articles for my own publication and website, and later to distribute my own articles.

It was in the aftermath of the demise of Montgomery’s article distribution system that I wrote my first script to enable me to make better use of this promotional method for my own articles. That original script was adapted later to became the foundation for my article distribution service a couple years later.

How Article Marketing Came To Be Regarded As A Powerful Tool

For several years, article marketing remained a promotion technique utilized only by a few hundred people who fancied themselves as decent to good writers. These individuals were able to generate quite a buzz for their own websites. The buzz in turn created streams of traffic to their websites, and more importantly, sales.

Their articles were picked up regularly by ezines, which need good content to retain the attention of their readers. Publication of the articles in ezines resulted in thousands of website visitors in just a few days. My biggest ezine publication event resulted in 16,000 visitors in the first 96 hours after publication. I regularly see thousands of visitors in three-to-four days, due to publication in individual ezines.

Articles that I had written in 1999 still reside on websites where they were originally published those many years ago. And, I still see regular traffic from the placement of those articles. Yes, and I still retain link popularity and good search engine rankings, as the result of the placement of those articles on third-party websites.

Many writers were seeing the same results as I had seen, and they told others about their great success. People began to pay attention and take advantage of the technique for their own promotion.

A New Breed Of Article Marketers

In late 2004, the market changed when people decided that the only goal of article marketing was for the purpose of link building for link popularity purposes.

A few new distribution systems popped up only targeting placement of articles on third-party websites. With these new systems, the article writers had to put their own articles into the distribution services database, and they had to select a general category for the placement of their articles.

Suddenly, with these new fully automated systems, computers were left to answer the most important question of category placement. These new systems left this important question to the computers to solve.

People were being removed from the article placement process, because people cost more money to employ, leaving a lot of results to chance. But, the new breed of article marketers did not care. They liked the lower cost of human-free article placement.

The Four Primary Players in of a Successful Article Marketing Campaign

There are four primary players in the article marketing game. First of course is the writer. Then there is the distribution person or service. Third is the website owner or ezine publisher. And the final element is the person who will read the article and act upon what they read in the article.

Sometimes the writer is the same person as the distribution person. That is fine. The website owner or ezine publisher is actually the most important person in the link building process, because he or she wants to be sure that the fourth person, the reader, will be happy with what they are publishing.

Believe it or not, the website owners and the ezine publishers are frequently very selective about what articles they are willing to accept from a writer or distribution service. After all, if the readers are not happy with what is published on the website or ezine, then the reader will not feel a need to return to either one. Webmasters and ezine publishers, who are committed to success, will be even more selective in their article choices.

To see what website owners really think of many of the automated article distribution systems, read this: http://www.articledashboard.com/forum/viewtopic.php?id=4679

Any writer or article marketer, who does not pay attention or consider the needs or desires of webmasters or publishers in the process, is condemning their article marketing campaigns to failure.

Twisted Logic

When this new breed of article marketer began showing up at my article distribution service, I found myself in many strangely naïve conversations.

People would enquire about the value of our service. Naturally, I would mention publication in ezines as a method of driving thousands of targeted visitors to their website. Then I would mention the value of links on third-party websites, which results in the double benefit of targeted traffic from the third-party website and link popularity for search engine rankings.

Frequently, people would tell me that they literally “do not care about placement of their articles in ezines.” They continued to explain that they were only interested in placement on third-party websites for the purpose of influencing their search engine rankings.

Wow! Every time I heard someone make this claim, I would think to myself about the shortsightedness of this approach. In my experience, link popularity and search rankings were a long-term benefit, and the publication of an article in an ezine is what was generating the most immediate and largest amount of click-through traffic to my websites.

But, who am I? I am just some guy who had been using this marketing technique for five years at that time, and I was a person who had been providing distribution services to other writers for several years. Why would anyone want to hear my thoughts on the subject?

The Proclaimed Death of Article Marketing as an Effective Promotion Tool

I have been hearing rumors for years of the death of article marketing as an effective marketing tool. Here are a couple samples:

What I find somewhat funny and disconcerting at the same time is that most of the people making this proclamation actually admit that they have only tried article marketing with “one or two articles”. In their wisdom, you should ignore people like me who have seen success with this promotion method, and you should follow their advice to abandon all hope for article marketing as a method for website promotion.

I have asked a few people to better define the status of article marketing:

  1. Does article marketing not work? Or,
  2. Did article marketing just not work for them?

The Nail in the Paid Links Coffin

On April 14th, 2007, the Google Guy (Matt Cutts) spoke out against paid links. A firestorm of complaints from webmasters followed Cutts’ initial comments.

On June 12th, 2007, Cutts’ original comments became official Google policy as shown here (http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2007/06/more-ways-for-you-to-give-us-input.html)

Vanessa Fox (formerly) of Google summed up the issue very succinctly, “Links that are purchased are great for advertising and traffic purposes, but aren’t useful for PageRank calculations. Buying or selling links to manipulate results and deceive search engines violates (Google’s) guidelines.”

Confusion Ensues Over Paid Links

With Google officially stomping on “paid links,” a lot of confusion entered into the marketplace. The confusion really hinges on one simple question: What kinds of links does Google consider to be paid links?

Many people have extrapolated Google’s campaign against “paid links” to suggest that anytime someone pays money for a link building activity, then the links created during that activity will be construed by Google as a paid link, and that link will be discounted or ignored by Google. But, that simply is not the case.

Some have even chosen to lump “article marketing” as a “paid link”, thereby decreeing that article marketing is truly and finally dead.

But all one has to do to gain a different point of view is to listen to Matt Cutts’ comments from the SMX Search Marketing Expo in Seattle on June 4th, 2007 (http://videos.webpronews.com/2007/06/04/smx-seattle-matt-cutts-on-duplicate-and-paid-search/).

Within this video, Matt Cutts said, “If you are going to syndicate your content, try to make sure people know that you are the master or source of it. You can do it with a link from the article or link from the video, or stuff like that…”

The End of Article Marketing As We Knew It…

I don’t know about you, but I read Cutts’ last comment above as an indication that Google still considers article marketing to be a valid and Google-approved method of building links to one’s website.

But, no matter how we cut it, we have in fact passed “the end of article marketing as we once knew it.” Here is why:

  • Some people will never have the chance to read this article and make their own mind about whether what I say has merit, or not.
  • Some people will simply trust the fear mongers who have been trying to declare article marketing dead for years.
  • And, some people will decide that they are not willing to take the chance that I might be right.

Going forward, we will see a fewer people using article marketing as a promotion technique.

The fact is that many people have quit using article marketing as a promotion technique. This outcome will only strengthen the hand of those of us who continue to utilize article marketing to promote our websites. After all, with fewer people using articles to market their websites, we will have fewer writers to compete with, in order to get attention for our own articles.

Author:  Bill Platt has offered article marketingservices at The Phantom Writers, since 2001. If you are interested in guaranteed link building services, utilizing articles as the foundation for the links, then Bill’s team can help you with that as well. If you have questions that only Bill can answer, give him a call at (405) 780-7745, between 9am-6pm CST, Monday through Friday.

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