The Bad Diagnosis
In case you’re not quite sure what article marketing is, I’ll let Matt Cutts, the guy in charge of Google’s Webspam, give you a basic description; ” 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.”
After defining article marketing so neatly, he then offers a minor warning, “Typically the sorts of sites that just republish these articles are not the highest quality sites”. The reasons for that are obvious. An SEO article is rarely well-written enough to be talked about, Tweeted about, submitted to DIGG or referenced on another website. Successful websites usually employ dedicated writers, because they are only interested in high quality articles.
This leads us to one of the main reasons that article marketing has outlived it’s usefulness;
Reason #1 – You Can’t Control the Quality of Your Backlinks
The problem is, once you’ve thrown your article into an article directory, you have no control over where it goes next. You might hope that your articles go to one of the top ten google sites for your keyword, but the likelihood is that your hard work will be snapped up by a low-ranking site with few, if any visitors.
A low-quality website produces a low-quality backlink, which won’t be very helpful for boosting your site’s Google ranking. If you’ve already put the effort into a well-written article, you may as well follow up by keeping some control over where is published.
Whether you’re trying to sell Yamaha piano keyboards or Kitchen Aid Mixers, or are just trying to post some Joovy Caboose stroller reviews, you won’t get many people’s attention if your website shows up on page 27 of the Google rankings – or not at all.
Reason #2 – You Can’t Build Backlinks with Duplicate Content
When Google first began presenting people with a system for cataloging and ranking other people’s websites, it didn’t take long for the savvy business types to realize their opportunity. Writing one good article and submitting it to lots of different websites was an easy way to raise their own Google ranking.
Predictably, it also didn’t take long for the folks at Google to catch on to the game, and they began filtering for duplicate content. That’s what it’s called when a person takes one article and posts it over and over again on different websites.
Duplicate content doesn’t result in good search engine results, so Google makes sure that people who post duplicate content do not get the results they are hoping for.
Reason #3 – You Can’t Build Backlinks With Duplicate Anchor Text
Another very effective filter on Google’s algorithm is the one that catches duplicate anchor text. Funnily enough, I just got off the phone with someone who recently learned about this filter the hard way.
He took several articles and spread them around to about a hundred article directories. Each of these articles were supposed to link back to a particular website, which would then send the aforementioned site happily up the Google ranking ladder.
It sounded like a good plan. So why, when searching for the keywords “Lasik Eye Surgery”, did his clients’ website then plummet from Google’s page three to page 30? He found the whole thing very unfair.
I sympathized, and after a few very sensitively phrased questions, I was able to figure out the problem. All 100 articles had the exact same keyword phrase, “Lasik Eye Surgery”, as the backlink. This is also referred to as the anchor text, and Google is very sensitive to it.
If you think about it, though, it’s really obvious. If 20 different webmasters chose to link to a particular website, it’s not likely that even ten of them will use the same anchor text, like Bumbleride twin reviews, for example. The chances of 100 webmasters accidentally replicating such a link, however, is about impossible.
The Google algorithm recognizes that sort of behavior for exactly what it is; a poorly conceived attempt to outsmart the world’s largest search engine. Is it any wonder that the aforementioned search engine then kicks those offending articles right out of the Googlesphere?
Reason #4 – You Can’t Raise a Website in A Bad Neighborhood
In the world of Search Engine Optimization, there is such a thing as a bad neighborhood. Your neighborhood consists of the sites that you link to, as well as the sites that link back to you. If you’re shopping for a house, you usually have some say over where you live. Once you’ve plopped your articles into a directory, however, they have no say as to where they end up.
To further complicate things, the website your article ends up on will effect the neighborhood that your website lives in. You may wonder what one has to do with the other, unless you’ve already seen the video I have seen.
It’s the one where Matt Cutts announced very publicly that your website’s rankings can now be negatively affected by the sites which are linked to you. In other words, if several lower ranking sites are linked to yours, they could actually harm your ranking rather than help it.
Reason #5 – Google Advises Against Article Marketing
Even since the recent Google Panda updates, we are still being assured that “article marketing still works”.
Sure. So did anchor text stuffing, article spinning and churning butter, but that doesn’t mean we should still do it that way.
It makes perfect sense most of the highly talented eggheads who know the best way to manipulate a search engine are already employed by Google. It also makes sense that any new or newly rediscovered method we come up with to artificially raise our site’s Google rankings will be immediately detected, tracked down and eliminated by the very folks we’re trying to work around.
All of the ingenuity, effort and money which has been poured into article marketing techniques has resulted in very little reward for article marketers. Of course, now and again certain folks have made a bit of money on these efforts, but never very much and not for very long.
What’s more, the return on investment pales in comparison to the amount that could have been made if they were working with Google rather than against them.
Someone actually asked Matt Cutts “… if he recommends article marketing as an SEO strategy?” His answer was pretty useful. “… 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.”
I got a kick out of Matt saying, “So if I had to make a prophecy or forecast…” as though it’s anybody’s guess. The guy is the head of search engine spam for Google, so he knows exactly how Google feels about article marketing, and more importantly, what they plan to do about it next week.
Granted, Matt Cutts is equal parts executive and cheerleader, so you might reasonably assume that he’s just as capable of propaganda as he is of upgrading an algorithm. However, it’s pretty hard to argue with results. Think about the last time you saw five identical articles pop up on a search engine page. Now, did the page say “Google” on the top of it, or did it say “Alta Vista” or maybe even “WebCrawler”? I rest my case.
Is Article Marketing Really Dead?
Perhaps this particular type of search engine optimizing may have a few last gasps left in it, but it has already outlived it’s usefulness. Because of the natural weaknesses of article marketing combined with the fact that Google has declared open war on it, the days of article marketing are numbered.
Your thoughts on this subject are most welcome.
James Martell is well known as an affiliate marketing specialist in outsourcing and SEO. He is also a speaker and does weekly podcasts and affiliate marketing trainings. James is host of the Affiliate Buzz podcast on WebmasterRadio.FM (the first ever and longest running podcast about the affiliate industry), and creator of the Affiliate Marketers SUPER BootCamp where he teaches others how to make money with affiliate marketing. He lives in White Rock BC, a seaside suburb of Vancouver on west coast of Canada with his wife, Arlene.