We’ve seen a large change in the fortunes of Article Directories in the past 12 months or so, leaving many web marketers asking ‘what next.’
In case you’ve been asleep at the wheel, Google rolled out its Panda update in the first quarter of 2011 and sites like EzineArticles.com suffered badly. Now the cynics among us might say things like ‘well they should’ve seen it coming,’ but what many people fail to realize is that websites like EzineArticles were the main watering holes for thousands of web marketers. Not only has EZA suffered, many online marketers and web businesses have suffered too.
The strategy of writing articles and submitting them to article directoríes to gain back-links and direct traffic was the cornerstone of many web marketing businesses, and now the well seems to have run dry; but has it?
First, the way in which these article directories have been utilized by marketers over the past few years wasn’t really the way in which they were intended to be utilized in the first place. The concept of an ‘article directory’ was and still is this: to serve as a repository for good quality content, a place where webmasters can find articles for their websites/blogs/ezines in exchange for providing an acknowledgment in the form of a link to the author’s website.
Then the opportunity seekers moved in and turned it into something different. Just like back-link building, blog commenting, and SEO in general; the concept was taken and exploited to the point where it simply had to be ‘regulated’ (by Google).
Now, if you’re thinking about apportioning the guilt for this, well, the Article Directory owners were not entirely without fault. They could and should have tightened up their quality standards and made it more difficult for people to exploit the system by throwing low quality canned/spun articles into the directory for the reward of a couple of back-links. Instead they added more and more advertising slots around the content and made hay while the sun shone bright.
So, where does this leave us? Do we walk away from article marketing in the same way we’re walking away from low quality back-link building and other strategies of the past? Well, we shouldn’t be too hasty.
Let’s wind the clock back to the days just prior to the point where it all went south, and look in more detail at the real purpose and function of a quality Article Directory.
There are many hundreds of thousands of niche blogs and websites which have a loyal and focused group of followers. Often, the number of followers can reach into the thousands, with some of the larger blogs boasting traffic stats of many multiples of that figure.
The key to creating such a successful enterprise is to keep your followers fed on a steady and reliable diet of whatever it is that drew them to you in the first place. Usually this falls into one of two fairly distinct categories, they’re either following the personality of the blog owner, or they’re following the specific topic of interest.
In the first case, it’s hard to have a surrogate personality, so the onus is on the blog owner to continue to make him/herself available to the followers. But in the second case, there’s no reason why the information cannot come from a variety of sources, as long as it’s information which is on-topic and supportive of the general theme of the blog/website.
But as a blog owner, how on earth can you continue to feed your followers information at the rate they require to keep them ‘entertained’ and wanting more? You need to have some form of ‘outsourcing’ of content.
And this is where the larger Article Directories came into their own. People would submit quality articles in the hope of their articles being noticed by these niche (and oftentimes not so niche) websites and blogs. The blog owner would search the directories for content which he/she felt would satisfy the demands of his/her followers, and re-publish the article/content on their blog. In the spirit of any ‘exchange of services,’ the blog owner would retain the links within the article body, and/or bio box, so that the author would receive the recognition for their original work.
The blog owners would benefit from the fresh content being delivered to their readers, and some of those readers would follow the links within the article to the author’s own website. Hence the ‘exchange of services’, or mutually beneficial exchange.
What you have is simply a system of providing a service to fulfill a demand. It is called ‘syndication’ and it is widely used in the world of news and media. Associated Press is one of the best known syndication operations around. They have teams of writers who create news stories from around the globe and the subsequent articles are syndicated out to partnering websites.
So, when one looks at the concept of Ezine Articles and some of the other article directories, they began life as a valuable resource created to feed a large and hungry crowd of web users with a constant supply of information. So has that really been neutered by Google or does it still exist?
Yes, things have changed, but you can still benefit from syndication as a writer and a blog owner. In fact, now that Google has stepped in and forced a reorganization of how these sites operate, you can benefit more than ever before.
Here’s a simple and condensed strategy which you can adopt if you are a blog publisher or website owner looking for more traffic:
1 – Write an interesting and informative article on your niche. Don’t use blatant self-serving sales language, make it something entertaining and try to leave a question unanswered towards the end of your article.
2 – Create a bio box and word it to suggest that the unanswered question may be resolved if the reader would care to follow the link in the bio box.
3 – Link people to a page on your blog or website which provides a smooth continuation of the article and eventually answers the question posed in the original article.
4 – Integrate some ‘sticky’ components on the ‘landing’ page. Use a discreet opt-in box, have a step to a sales page or combine both together. If your ‘landing’ page is too commercial, too aggressive, you won’t satisfy the needs of point five.
5 – Search for blog / website owners whose content complements your in some way. If you and they are commercial enterprises occupying the same niche, they’ll be less likely to want to work with you, but there will be some who will. Now write to these blog owners and provide them with on-topic content for their blogs/sites. Offér to send them an informative article which is sure to please their readers and followers and include an example of your writing. Suggest that you’d be willing to become a regular contributor if your work proves popular with their readers. Of course, your work will contain at least a bio box with links, and you’d require that they respect you as the original author and retain your name and bio box intact.
Now simply repeat the above strategy over and over, contacting more and more blog owners with your offer of syndication. Maintain a careful record of your communication and start to build a relationship with the people who accept your work.
There will also be some syndication partners who operate ezines. These can result in a very large surge of targeted traffic to your website over a short period, so be sure that your website is equipped to handle it and that your landing pages are optimized to reap the full benefits.
Lastly, towards the later stages of your syndication effort, submit your articles to the Article Directories. They can still be a source for syndicated content and there’s no reason why your article might not be picked up directly by someone proactively looking for information to share with their readers.
As your syndication efforts pick up momentum, you’ll start to see that article syndication becomes a very real alternative to search-engine derived traffic, you’ll no longer be beholden to Google for your leads and prospects.
Of course, there’s a need to do things the right way with article syndication to avoid some common pitfalls and to get the most out of your time. In the next article in this series for SPN I’ll be looking in detail at landing page optimization and list building, and exploring some of the problems with duplicating your content around the web.
About the author: Carl Hruza, author of the popular reference guide series “The Internet – No Place for Dummies,” has operated his successful Web Design/SEO Company since 1998. To receive an advanced copy of the next article, and to learn more about the benefits of article syndication, please visit my website to learn more about the benefits of article syndication, please visit my website to learn more about article marketing techniques.