Article marketing was a very popular and effective SEO technique that fell out of favor around 2012, as Google and other search engines tightened up their standards and began penalizing websites called article directories.
These sites had become overloaded with short articles that were light on value and published on multiple sites around the web, and the search engines were committed to diverting traffic away from them and toward sites with higher publishing standards.
While some marketers continued to use outdated article marketing methods in the years after the algorithm changes, many SEO experts abandoned the article directories of that era or even stopped the practice altogether.
Some marketers and experts, however, merely adapted their content and marketing strategies to the changing quality standards required by search engines and customers alike.
They found that article marketing can still be a useful practice, as long as you do it in the right way.
How Article Marketing Works
The main idea behind article marketing is this: you write articles that address topics, questions, and concerns that potential customers have and are searching for using Google, Bing or other search engines.
You embed links in these articles, and then you submit them to multiple article directories for publication.
You can also create variations of the articles so that each one is unique so that you can avoid duplicate content penalties.
The article directories allow other businesses and bloggers to publish these articles on their websites too, either for a fee or for free. As your content gets distributed around the web, you gain backlinks to your site and draw much-targeted traffic.
What Went Wrong with Article Marketing and Directories
It all seemed like the perfect plan, but problems arose when many marketers tried to squeeze as much mileage out of their content as possible by cutting corners and churning out low-quality dribble. Rather than putting out content that supplied readers with immense value and deserved to rank well in the search results, they tried instead to game the search engines.
They flooded the internet with low-quality content stuffed with keywords and links, nearly to the point that the articles were mostly unreadable or provided little information that the average person did not already know.
Many marketers used spinning software to make multiple versions of their articles to create “unique” pieces and avoid duplicate content penalties. However, this spun content was barely readable and often bordered on plagiarism since marketers sometimes didn’t even write their articles and just used someone else’s material, running it through spinners before submitting it.
They then pushed these articles out onto hundreds of article directories, which often brought duplicate content penalties on top of the flags they were already receiving for thin, poorly-written content and low-quality links.
They spammed the web with lousy articles that nobody wanted to read, and as a result, they ruined the reputation of nearly every website that published their content. Everybody was getting penalized. Everybody was losing traffic. Moreover, everybody was losing money.
Google’s Response to Article Marketers
Google’s Panda update in 2011 was a major turning point that led to the demise of article marketing as it had been practiced for the past several years. Panda penalized websites with low-quality content, decreasing their traffic levels by 80 percent or more almost overnight.
Over the next few years, more and more article directories, blogs and even e-commerce sites slid into the gutter. Many of them shut down permanently.
In January of 2014 Matt Cutts, the head of Google’s Web Spam team at the time, specifically addressed the practice of article marketing and article directories, warning marketers to avoid spammy practices and websites which allowed thin content, overly-syndicated articles and low-quality backlinks with over-optimized anchor text.
Does Syndication Guarantee Duplicate Content Penalties?
Syndicating your content, allowing other publishers to use it on their sites, will not always lead to duplicate content penalties. Remember that there are many different ranking factors that Google and other search engines consider when deciding how to rank a website and how much traffic to send to it.
There are authoritative websites that syndicate content without any problems. These include industry blogs, news outlets, and major media websites like The Associated Press and The Huffington Post. However, even smaller sites can often use syndicated content efficiently if the material is of high quality and provides readers with value.
It all comes down to providing real value and avoiding spam tactics. However, if you are afraid of duplicate content, you can submit original articles to other article directories as part of a guest blogging campaign. Both ways can be useful for you, as long as you focus on quality, relevance, and value.
Effective Article Marketing Today
So how can you use article marketing in 2018 to grow your audience and improve your website ranking without getting hit with penalties? Again, you just need to follow the rules and provide your readers with value.
Create High-Quality Articles
It all starts with writing unique, high-quality articles. It takes time to write articles that people want to read and is pleasing to Google.
The days of cranking out 20 or more articles at 250-400 words a piece every day are long gone.
If you shoot for a word count that is at least double or triple that number, you are on the right track.
Make Your Articles Valuable
Dig deep into the topic, and don’t add fluff just to pad the word count. Show your expertise and give your readers some value.
Answer common questions.
Provide expert analysis.
Give your audience content that they would be happy to share on social media and link to from their websites.
Make the Article Readable
Include images, screenshots, infographics, and videos that complement the text and make it easier for your audience to grasp the concepts presented.
Many of your readers are visual learners, which means that they are better able to comprehend content in visual form. They will appreciate the addition of optical media to your articles.
Plus, specific topics and tutorials are difficult for anyone to understand without visual reference.
In addition to adding visual elements, you must break the content up and format it correctly for the web. Laying out the article in a readable format will keep your readers interested in you and your ideas.
Don’t Violate Copyright
If you choose to include images that you did not create yourself, then make sure that you have the right to use those pictures.
You cannot just grab photos off of Google searches. Those are copyrighted images, and using them without permission is illegal.
Instead, search specifically for media that are authorized for Creative Commons usage or labeled explicitly as uncopyrighted or public domain and free to use with or without attribution for commercial purposes.
Link Freely to Other Sources
Also, don’t hog all the link juice. It is entirely acceptable to include one or possible two links to your site within the content, but don’t stuff links to your landing pages all over the article.
Instead, cite your sources and link out to other authoritative websites whose content is related to your own, as long as your readers will benefit from the link.
Don’t Write for Search Engines
Do not go overboard on your keyword density, and don’t use awkward keywords either. Read your article out loud to make sure that it does not sound weird or forced.
If you would not talk like that, then don’t write like that.
Proofread every article to correct any typos, spelling or punctuation errors and format everything to make it easy for your readers to consume.
Use subheadings and bullet points to split up the article, and break large paragraphs up into smaller sections.
Syndicate on Curated Sites and Directories
The quality of the directory is just as important as the quality of your content.
Finally, don’t just blast your article out to every article directory that will take it. The quality of the directory is just as important as the quality of your content.
Choose to work with directories with high publishing standards. Look over some of their content. Look for a lot of stuffed links, poorly-written content or even spun content. If you find anything suspicious, skip that site and find one that has higher standards.
Best Article Directories for 2018
Now you see article marketing still has value today when done correctly. Next, you will need to know great places to submit your articles. Here are 20 useful article directories for you to get started.
Be sure to read the terms of service (TOS) for the site along with their publishing standards before submitting. Some do not allow duplicate content. Some will share revenue with you, allowing you to create a stream of income directly from the articles themselves.
Also, if they allow anyone and everyone to submit articles without an editorial review, then that is a site to avoid. Only use article directories with high standards. So check these out and start submitting some articles.
Syndicated Article Directories
You upload an article, and it must be republished in its exact condition with the same links. This isn’t very useful with today’s search algorithms.
A lot of articles will be published with stuffed keyword links like best dishwashers in New Jersey. No serious website will agree to repost that.
Creative Commons Article Directories
You upload an article along with an attribution link and name. Anyone wishing to use this content for publishing on their site is free to modify and alter it. We require an attribution to the author in your republished version. (Much broader use cases here and flexibility for webmasters)
These sites will allow other users to publish on their websites. Typically has the highest editorial standards and readership. These sites can have overly involved sign-up procedures, however.