What Are We Fighting About?
In a recent video, Matt Cutts offered a very neutral-sounding definition of article marketing; “…you’re writing an article and you try to include a link at the bottom and you’re hoping a bunch of other people put up copies or mirrors or duplicates of that article and that those links might flow through.”
Matt also offered a mild-mannered observation; “Typically the sorts of sites that just republish these articles are not the highest quality sites.”
Since our friend Matt seems to be fairly neutral about the nature of article marketing, what’s the problem? Well, part of the problem is that Matt Cutts is the head of Google’s Webspam which means it is his job to purge all Google search results of duplicate content, low-quality articles and shifty websites; in other words, his job is to stamp out article marketing.
Before we decide if this is worth a fight, it’s worth asking; does article marketing work? Although SEO articles may occasionally show up in search engine results, they don’t normally rank very highly (if at all). Chances are better that these articles will be identified and removed by a Google filter rather than pop up on a search results page.
One problem that contributes to low Google ranking for SEO articles is that they are seldom well written. Consequently, they are not likely to be mentioned on a blog, submitted to DIGG or Liked on Facebook.
No matter what kind of site you have, though, many friends and acquaintances will still recommend article marketing as a component of your marketing strategy. It doesn’t matter if you’re selling Yamaha piano keyboards, Kitchen Aid Mixers, or just posting retouching Photoshop articles, somebody is convinced that you can do it better through article marketing.
There are, however, five good reasons why you may not want to get into this fight.
Reason #1: You’ll Lose The Fight Over Where Your Article is Published
Writers use article directories to make their articles available to the widest audience possible. It works pretty well; a little too well, actually. Once you upload your article and hit “Submit”, anyone can publish your article anywhere they want, and no one is asking your opinion.
Of course, the best case scenario is that your article will end up on a highly ranked site and generate a highly ranked backlink to your site, but that won’t be very likely. More often, your articles will end up on low-ranking websites and generate the kind of backlinks that won’t help your Google ranking at all.
The best way to make sure you get quality backlinks from all of your articles is to have some control over who publishes your SEO articles.
Reason #2: You’ll Lose The Fight Over Duplicate Content
Google figured out many years ago that duplicate content wasn’t good for a search engine. When users see the same article half a dozen times in the top ten search results for their keyword, they become very annoyed.
By about 2004, this had become enough of a problem that Google installed a filter in their search algorithm which was designed to eliminate duplicate content from those results. It worked great, by the way.
The filter didn’t do article marketers any favors, though. What might have been a simple process of distributing backlinks for the purpose of higher Google ratings now looks like this;
- write articles and distribute them
- enjoy a slight improvement in traffic
- watch your site sink once more as the Google filters kick in
- write and submit more articles
I’ve been speaking on the subject of article marketing for some time. Although a few folks have made a bit of money by using this technique, they haven’t made a lot and never for very long. Much more money could have been made if these folks had been working with Google instead of fighting with them.
At the core of article marketing is the intention of distributing duplicate content, or at least similar content, as far and wide as possible. If you’re engaged in article marketing, you should be advised that you’re picking a fight with a very well organized search engine algorithm.
Reason #3: You’ll Lose the Fight Over Duplicate Anchor Text
Some phone calls are more useful than others.
This particular phone call was from an article marketer who was having a very bad week. He had been madly slinging his articles around to different article directories in hopes of establishing some backlinks. The backlinks, of course, were supposed to help improve his site’s Google rankings.
The plan seemed sound enough, until his website, which used to rank on Google’s page 3 for the keyword phrase, “Lasik eye surgery”, dropped to page 30 for that same keyword phrase. He called me to help him figure out what went wrong.
I wish he had called me before.
I asked one or two questions, and he shared with me that he had used the phrase “Lasik eye surgery” as the anchor text for the backlinks for every article he sent – to one hundred different websites. This practice is called duplicate anchor text, and Google doesn’t care for it.
Consider it for a minute. If even a half dozen webmasters wanted to link an article back to your website, would all six of them, or even five of them, use the exact keyword phrase, photo retouchers for the anchor text?
That would be unusual.
It would be practically impossible, then, for one hundred webmasters to use the same anchor text for the same website. More to the point, such an anomaly would definitely get the attention of the Google filters. That’s because Matt Cutts and his crew have already recognized that anomaly as something near proof of article marketing, and they will respond quickly.
The response, by the way, is a swift kick into the Google ratings cellar.
Reason #4: You Should Never Start a Fight in a Bad Neighborhood
Anyone who has ever owned a home or rented an apartment knows that location is everything. Article marketing actually has the same kind of problems. In the world of SEO, there is such a thing as a bad neighborhood, and you wouldn’t want to be in one. Your website’s neighborhood is comprised of sites that link to you in addition to sites that you link to.
Not too long ago, Matt Cutts let us know that your websites ranking’s could be negatively impacted by who was linking to you, and this is not an accident. It is the result of Google penalizing folks who use article directories.
A swarm of backlinks from disreputable websites is a sure sign of article marketing, and, just like they do with websites that engage in sending out duplicate content, Google will penalize any website that participates in the practice.
As I’ve said before, you should never give up control over who publishes your articles or where they publish them.
Reason #5: You Should Never Start a Fight With Google
Despite several years of upgrades and additions, and even the most recent Google Panda updates, some folks still assure me that “article marketing still works”.
Actually, it never really “worked”.
Article marketing is an unworkable strategy which has been propped up by several other strategies which have proved to be only temporarily workable. Anchor text stuffing, link partnering, duplicate content and article spinning were all temporary band-aids on an amputated limb. They all worked for a short time, then were knocked to the ground by Google.
Investing time and money in something just because it “works” is likely to lead to investing in something else next week because the last investment stopped “working”. Unless you happen to have plenty of cash and time to spare, you’re not likely to win this protracted fight with the world’s largest search engine.
Someone recently asked Matt Cutts “…if he recommends article article marketing as an SEO strategy?” He answered,
“…so if I had to make a prophecy or forecast about how Google feels or how search engines feel about them in general, the trend that I am hearing and the sort of complaints that I am hearing are that people are not huge fans of article marketing and don’t view it as an incredible value add in terms of the content that gets added to the web.“
Matt actually kept a straight face when he said, “So if I had to make a prophecy or forecast…” Remember what he does for a living?
Matt knows perfectly well how Google feels about article marketing, and what they want him to do about it.
His job is to knock it out of the ring.
Okay, it’s possible that Matt is just giving lip service to calm down the shareholders, but stop and think a minute. The last time you searched on Google for something, did you even have to click through to page two find the results you wanted?
Now, think about a similar search experience you may have had on AltaVista or WebCrawler a little over a decade ago. It seems to me that Matt knows what he is talking about.
Is Article Marketing Worth Fighting For?
Any serious money that could be made through article marketing was made and spent a long time ago. The rest has been spent on the ever-increasing arms race between article marketers and the well-armed Google algorithm. If you are in it for the fight, article marketing is a great but very expensive hobby. If you’re looking for a viable marketing plan, though, there’s a lot to be said for paid advertising.
I look forward to your input.
Top photo by Tarter Time Photography
Matt Cutts Photo by cvander