5 Reasons You Should AVOID Article Marketing Like the Plague

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James Martell
You’ll receive money making advice and actionable tips and strategies directly from James Martell when you subscribe to his weekly podcast by email, RSS feed or iTunes. You can also follow James on Twitter. Recognized as a leading expert in affiliate marketing training, James is the host of the "Affiliate Marketers SUPER BootCamp", and host of the "Affiliate Buzz", the first ever and longest running podcast for affiliate marketers in the industry. A sought-after speaker, James has presented at Commission Junction University, Affiliate Summit, The System Seminar, Digital River Lab, Pubcon, Affcon, and more. Google+ James Martell
James Martell
James Martell
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Does Article Marketing Work?

Are you considering using article marketing as a potential tool to boost your website’s traffic? Are you already engaged (either casually or up to your eyeballs) in the process? Is all that effort you’re putting in really getting you the results you need?

You owe it to yourself to ask some hard questions about where your business is, where you want it to be, and where it needs to be before you decide to use article marketing:

  • Are you looking to get the most “bang for your buck” with search engines, or are you just toying with Internet marketing?
  • Do you have a concrete strategy for success in place or are you lost and grasping at straws, trying to find something that works?
  • Are you doing “okay” financially but know that you could definitely do better in terms of marketing your products and services and getting those coveted conversions?
  • Have you swallowed the article marketing “bait” that some “guru” is selling but can’t make your figures jive with the ones he promised?

I’ve never been a fan of article marketing. In my opinion the process is sold as a quick and easy way to get traffic, backlinks, and increased page rankings when there is no such thing as a quick and easy solution.

In fact, if you attempt article marketing without truly understanding what you’re getting into, you may be doing more harm than good!

What is Article Marketing?

Before we get too far into a discussion about whether or not article marketing is effective, let me define exactly what I mean. Article marketing is one of those vague bits of jargon that people throw out there A) not really knowing what they’re talking about or B) using a very narrow definition of the term to skew opinions in their favor.

I’ve always defined article marketing as submitting content (usually 400-500 word articles) for mass distribution to websites (sometimes called article farms) in the hope that some webmaster will find it, read it, like it, and publish it on their own website. The whole point of the process is so that the links you incorporate into the text will direct people and search engines back to your website (this is called a backlink). But beware-not all backlinks are equal!

In fact, most of the backlinks you’ll earn through article marketing are either completely useless or very nearly so. (Read on and you’ll find out how some backlinks can even hurt your website.)

Other people have other definitions but with so many individuals and companies out there selling one-size-fits-all article marketing packages (including automation software, pre-made content, and hands-free publishing) it’s hard not to define it as I have above.

Now that we know what we’re talking about . . .

Does Article Marketing Work?

That’s a question I get asked a lot. Every time it comes up, I cringe. I’ve seen too many good people with good intentions spend way too much time, effort, and money on article marketing schemes that just don’t deliver the same results that quality content does through targeted distribution.

So the short answer is yes, article marketing will increase your traffic and may even increase your Google PageRank (and that’s a big may). However, those results are often short lived and temporary. Article marketing is a “trick” or “quick fix” that far too many people rely on instead of concentrating on tactics for long term success.

I’ve been in the Internet marketing business since 1999. After I got hit with Google penalties twice (in 2001 and 2004) I resolved that I was never again going to waste my time with crappy content, crappy backlinks that only served to degrade my Google standing, and to concentrate on tactics that really work-and will work well into the future.

Someone recently asked Matt Cutts (head of the Spam Team at Google) what he thought about article marketing as I’ve defined it above. He was a bit more polite when discussing his distaste for the practice than I have been but the key thing to take away from his response is that the number one thing you can do to earn your PageRank is to add value to the Internet.

Article marketing just doesn’t do that.

Matt says that everyone should concentrate on “great content that naturally links, some good social media marketing so that people are linking to [the content] organically. . . .”

Why Is Quality Content So Important?

If your content isn’t good:

  • The only websites that will publish it for you are low-quality ones.
  • The content doesn’t add any value to your offer (whatever it may be).
  • It will turn people off.
  • Google may penalize your content and your website. (It’s true-they’ve changed their tune. More on this to follow)

I have posted over 400 content-creation projects on Elance (a third-party agency which connects content providers with buyers) and have seen far too many people pushing fluff. I recently placed a job out there for writers to bid on for a package of 10 articles on a single topic. When some of the interested service providers gave me examples of their previous work, the content was 400 word long pieces of gibberish.

True, the English and grammar were impeccable and the articles “sounded” okay but when you got down to the nuts and bolts the “content” was so light on content it was laughable. There were no facts, no figures, no quotes or interviews-nothing of value whatsoever. Just a bunch of doubletalk.

I recognized this right away and backed away from those providers-even though they guaranteed me their content was SEO optimized and was “designed to rank” in all of the major search engines.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re promoting Golden lift chairs, chiropractic services or even kitchen stools, if you want to build long term sustainable traffic from search engines (especially Google) stay away from this type of article marketing!

How many times have you read a short 400 word piece of fluff on somebody’s website? How many times have you stopped half way through and said “this is garbage! He’s not saying anything!”

Just Why is Article Marketing Bad?

There are five major flaws with article marketing that make it and its users doomed to fail.

1.) You Have No Control Over Who Publishes Your Article

Even if you craft the best article, the most informative and witty piece of marketing ever, when you submit it to an article directory you have no control over where that article ends up. Ideally you want it on a high-ranking, well respected website but more often than not it your fine piece of article excellence ends up on the worst websites around.

Why is that bad? If your website earns a backlink from a “bad” website, search engines may now penalize your website. Even Google has reversed its long standing policy on backlinks. (More on this a little later.)

Almost just as bad: the incoming traffic you might earn from that backlink will typically be low quality traffic that will most likely bounce right off your site without a second thought.

In other words-all that time and money you spent crafting your articles will be worse than wasted, it more than likely hurt your cause!

2) Duplicate Content Is A Bad Thing!

Google not only sees low quality content in a bad light, the search engines discredits duplicate content as well. That means if you’re submitting articles to directories and those articles appear on two, three, five, or even a dozen websites Google will actually penalize your website!

This process has been going on since Google added a duplicate content filter in or around-the experts aren’t exactly sure when it came online-2004-and it’s something they are perfecting even as recently as February and July 2011 with their “Panda” algorithm updates.

Unfortunately, that’s exactly what article marketing relies on-duplicate content. It’s just a bad model to base a business on.

  • Write an article
  • Submit it to an article directory
  • Get a blip of increased traffic (that’s probably just a string of one-hit-wonders)
  • Get filtered from search results when the engines pick up on your duplicate content
  • Start all over again!

It’s an endless process with short lived results!

While people have made some solid money using article marketing in the past, they found out the hard way that Google isn’t playing around anymore. For years the search engine giant has been refining its algorithms to improve search results and every refinement took another bite out of the article marketer’s pie. The 2011 Google overhaul (designed to keep article farms and duplicate content from results pages) decimated the profitability of this process altogether and made the technique dangerous for website owners to use.

I’ve never used article marketing but even smart folks who have know it’s a bad idea. Paula and Wanda, two of my former students, have become extremely successful affiliate marketers in their own rights. While they rely on my PAD Technique to develop their traffic, they decided to toy with article marketing–“dipping their toes in” so to speak.

Thankfully, they had learned enough about how search engines and Internet marketing really works not to get fooled by the hype. Almost immediately they figured out that article marketing was a bad idea that could hurt their business. Not only that, the techniques they were already using were more efficient and produced better, longer lasting results.

They were smart to leave article marketing behind and I suggest you follow in their footsteps.

3) Duplicate Anchor Text Can Be Very Problematic

Duplicate content is not the only problem you have to watch out for when you’re effectively Xeroxing your articles.

Why? Because if you’re content gets into an article farm or even if it’s scraped off a website by some unscrupulous marketer and mass published across the Internet, the anchor text (I.e. Pride lift chair) is the same and links back to the same page on your site.

While you may think that’s going to get you a ton of traffic for that keyword, it won’t. What are the odds of even a few dozen webmasters randomly linking back to your site using the exact same keyword phrase? Zip, zero, zilch. Google knows that and they fix the problem by making sure your page never ranks for that keyword phrase.

4) Welcome To The (Bad) Neighborhood

Bad neighbors are low-quality websites that have black marks against them with search engines for deceptive practices, duplicate content, or other actions that mark them as unreliable content providers.

Google, and even Matt Cutts Google’s spam man who I mentioned above, used to tell website owners that their site would never be penalized or hurt in any way from other sites linking to them. There was seemingly no way to control who linked to who; therefore, it wasn’t fair for a search engine to penalize one website for the actions of a bad neighbor.

That’s all changed. Google and Matt both now emphatically state the search engine giant does place black marks against websites who are linked to by “bad neighbors.”

Why the change? Google is actively trying to weed out the garbage and bring solid, quality content to its users (Google is providing a service to customers after all). Therefore, they’ve gone after content farm, websites with duplicate content, and those using less than ethical linking practices to game the system.

They also know who those bad guys are and they know that article marketers are relying on those websites to get traffic and backlinks and boost their own PageRank.

You don’t want to link to bad neighbors (and most smart website owners don’t) and now you can’t afford to have them linking to your site either.

So how do you protect yourself from bad neighbors?

Actively guard your content.

Make sure that it only gets posted on the web pages you want it on.

That’s not something you can do when you submit to article directories and content

farms. Essentially, by using article farms and directories you’re actively encouraging those bad neighbors to link to your site. That’s bad business. Don’t do it.

5) Google Discourages Article Marketing (Even though people are still selling the idea)

Some website owners continue to believe that article marketing is an effective strategy to earn quality backlinks and traffic because there are so many advocates out there saying it still works.

It did at one time.

  • So did anchor text stuffing
  • So did link partnering
  • So did low quality and duplicate content
  • So did link farms
  • So did scraper sites
  • So did article spinning

All of those strategies should be avoided. The web and the people who use it have grown up and the search engines have finally realized that.

Don’t believe those people telling you article marketing still works-they’re living in the past and holding on to a dying technique.

Knowing that Google discourages article marketing, why would you do something the company doesn’t like?

Listen to what Matt Cutts (Google’s head of spam) has to say about it: “Honestly I’m not a huge fan of article marketing. . . Typically the sorts of sites that just republish these articles are not the highest quality sites.”

Matt goes on to warn website owners to avoid “copies,” “mirrors,” or “duplicate,” content. He also says that if he had to make a “forecast about how Google feels or how search engines feel about [article marketing] 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.”

Remember-create “great content” that people link to “organically.”

I Predict A Bad End for Article Marketers

People who continue to use article marketing will end up with the short end of the stick. They will continue to:

  • Be penalized by Google
  • Have their content filtered from search results
  • Earn less and less
  • And possibly even be banned from Google (it’s happened before and will again!)

Google is a company “selling” a service (Internet search) to “customers” (the people who use their website). They have begun to aggressively protect their product by filtering out garbage results in order to provide a better user experience.

In addition, Google is ferocious about keeping their algorithms effective and actively researches how people try to game the system. They are constantly upgrading, becoming more efficient, and-to some extent-more ruthless.

Can you blame them? Article marketing has flooded their search results with tens of millions of low quality articles and duplicate content. That makes their users angry. That endangers the goodwill they’ve worked so hard to earn. That endangers profits.

With this 2011 updates we’ve seen Google actively cleaning up the clutter and those creating it. Those still producing junk may be the next ones with their head on the chopping block.

So what, you say? You know all those powerful tools that Google provides website owners?

  • Google Analytics
  • Google AdSense
  • Google AdWords
  • Google Website Optimizer
  • Google Webmaster Tools

All these free to use tools that have become absolutely essential for website owners, Internet marketers, and advertisers can all be taken away. Google is well within their rights to ban anyone, delete any existing account, and refuse the creation of new accounts to anyone it chooses.

Let that sink in for a minute.

And just like smart marketers keep an eye on what Google is doing, Google keeps an eye on marketers–they know what we’re doing.

Don’t think Google won’t ban articles marketers for using strategies it finds offensive. They’ve done it before.

A little over a year ago Google permanently banned over 15,000 AdWords advertisers for unsavory practices. They were spending hundreds of millions of dollars with the AdWords program but-overnight-they were banned, permanently. That’s a sobering message to those who think they have the upper hand.

But it is one thing to think in terms of faceless advertisers and another to consider them as individuals. I personally know a natural search marketer who was permanently banned from Google. He lost access to all the tools, data, and income–everything he’d worked so hard to create.

So, will Google ban article marketers and others involved in unsavory marketing schemes? Only Google knows for sure. . . . but I’m not taking any chances. Are you?

There is a Better Way

Professional Article Distribution, or the PAD Technique.

I “by accident stumbled upon” the PAD Technique in 2004 when link farms were all the rage. I had a sense that things were going to change in the very near future and that link sharing was no longer going to get the results I needed to remain profitable. I had to find another way.

I sent out articles to a select few of my own affiliates explaining one of the successes that my wife, Arlene, had with one of her affiliate websites. I was surprised to see that her website got a noticeable spike in high-quality backlinks because I’d included a link in that article. I saw the potential for targeted distribution right away and the PAD Technique was born. All I needed to do was refine it.

The key is to craft the best quality article you can which contains 2-3 anchor text links back to the web page whose rank you want to increase. Then you find a quality website that is complimentary to the products or services you’re offering and ask that site’s owner to publish your article. Just one good site. You don’t need to publish your article on a hundred crappy ones (Google will just filter them out and penalize you anyways). Develop a couple dozen articles each including 2-3 backlinks to your site. Then have each article published on a different site. Do this and you’ll have many dozens of quality backlinks, interested traffic, and what one friend of mine calls Google Juice to spare.

The quality of the backlink is everything. A dozen or two high-quality backlinks from well-ranked and respectable websites is worth way more than thousands of backlinks earned from low (or NO) quality sites.

I’ve been teaching others about the strength of backlinks for years. I’ve focused on backlinks in my trainings and podcasts (The Affiliate Buzz and Coffee Talk with James Martell) for years.

When you control where the content goes, you control the backlink and protect yourself from poor quality websites, search engine penalties, and crappy content.

The PAD Technique is incredibly powerful yet extremely simple. While it does take some effort, the rewards it brings with it in the strength of the backlinks and the quality of the traffic is well worth it!

What PAD Is and What It Is Not!

Article Marketing

PAD Technique

â–ª primary benefit: short term click-through traffic from articles â–ª primary benefit: top rankings in Google
â–ª duplicate content quickly filtered by Google â–ª resulting ongoing traffic
â–ª “click-through traffic” dwindles (due to Google filtering) â–ª NO duplicate content (each article is original)
â–ª almost zero SEO benefit â–ª “click- through traffic” (long term because these quality articles are NOT filtered)
â–ª usually placed on low quality sites
– many no PR
â–ª articles placed on quality sites (minimum
PR3 home page)
â–ª duplicate anchor text (Google easily detects this) â–ª varied, relevant anchor text
â–ª risky, no control over where articles are published â–ª 100% control over where articles are published
â–ª known by many as JUNK LINKS


A Shift In Attitudes

Google has gone out of its way in the past few years (most recently with the 2011 update designed to penalize content farms) to beat back spam and deliver real quality results to the people who use the engine. Whereas before Internet marketers relied on “tricks” or exploitation to get better page ranking, Google is making quality and added value the primary factors in deciding where a page ranks in the results.

But not everybody seems to understand just how revolutionary this paradigm shift already is. I just read an article by a well know marketer (who shall remain nameless) which was basically a long-winded rant about the low quality results Google serves up. Two paragraphs later, the author mentions that he’s trying out brand new article spinning software in hopes of getting better results!

He, like many Internet marketers, is saying that the game has shifted to quality over quantity but he isn’t doing anything about it. Does he really know what a quality article is? Not if he’s using spinning software.

These “marketers” spend very little time doing the research and planning required to create a good article and are still trying to game the system. They:

  • Are looking for shortcuts
  • Want everything faster and quicker (and are willing to sacrifice to get it)
  • Want Internet marketing to be easy
  • Aren’t willing to actually work for their results.

The time for crap content and tricky exploitation techniques is over! Content is still king and quality backlinks are all you’ll ever need to get better search results and more qualified traffic for your website.

Internet marketing is not rocket science but it’s not kindergarten either. You have to learn the basics, put in the effort, and build a system that’s effective, repeatable, and functional. For me, that’s the PAD Technique in a nutshell.

Success Isn’t a Secret-It’s a Way of Doing Business

Google is only going to get smarter and those folks who rely on dead or dying marketing techniques such as article marketing, content farms, scraped content, and spinning software will suffer greatly (many have already). It’s the right time to try something different, something that works and will continue to work, and put article marketing aside.

  • How would you build backlinks?
  • How do you now?
  • What’s been your experience (if any) with article marketing?
  • Do you have a legitimate alternative that you’d like to share?

Let me hear about it-I would really love to hear what you have to say.

You can learn more about the PAD Technique when you subscribe to my weekly podcast