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If you spend any amount of time on internet marketing forums, you've no doubt seen the number of threads making this dire prediction about life in a post-Panda world. “Article marketing is dead!” they cry out, over and over again… But is there any truth to these statements? Or are marketers making a fuss over something that isn't really an issue at all?
Given the major slaps dealt out to content kings like EzineArticles, Hubpages and Associated Content, it would be easy to assume that article marketing is really, truly dead. After all, consider the following table from the Sistrix media research agency, which shows the specific changes in terms of ranking keywords in Google for the biggest content farms (based on a one million keyword data set):
It's true – those are some pretty substantial losses in terms of the number of keywords for which each site ranked in Google. But let's not jump to any conclusions yet. Just because a few major article engines lost authority in the latest update doesn't necessarily mean that an entire technique is being devalued.
On the one hand, consider that – even though these sites are ranking for fewer keywords – they're still ranking in plenty of SERPs, despite the changes. For example, look at the data listed for EzineArticles (long considered to be the strongest of the article engines). Even though it lost rank for about 130,000 keywords, it's still ranking for over 50,000 – a pretty impressive number for any website. So let's not discount this particular marketing strategy yet – even if it has suffered to some extent in the latest algorithm update.
Instead, we need to look at two different variables – quality and the original intent of article marketing.
As you're no doubt aware, the Panda update was all about punishing low quality content and improving the rankings of well-written, informative text. And even though EzineArticles had a manual review process in place, you can't deny that some of the content listed there was pure, unadulterated crap. Specifically, many of the EzineArticles had a few markers that indicate low quality in Google's eyes, including:
- Short length (350-500 words, on average)
- Content that was unnaturally written to accommodate specific keyword densities
- Authors who clearly weren't experts in their fields (as evidenced by links that pointed directly to sales pages or thin affiliate sites)
We can see that some EzineArticles are still ranking, along with plenty of pages on the other websites that got slapped. Based on the criteria used in the Panda update, we can assume that the pages that are still ranking are those that met Google's quality criteria. From there, it's pretty safe to assume that – as long as you publish content that's good in Google's eyes – you can still benefit from posting articles to the standard directories.
“It's been said before, but now it's more important than ever – your content has to be as unique as possible. If you were using spun content, that's no longer an option. The poor grammar and bad phrasing that result from spinning content or using low quality writers isn't going to fly anymore. Darren Olander – APSense“
However, to get more complete understanding of whether article marketing still has value post-Panda update, we also need to consider what it this technique was originally intended to do.
Article directories were never meant to be backlink repositories for over-eager website owners who spat out 350 words of junk content simply to earn the link juice back from high PR sites. Instead, they were meant to be places where information could be exchanged – where website owners could pick up content from expert authors to share with their readers and their lists.
Basically, in an ideal world, the sharing of articles should be a mutually-beneficial arrangement that helps both authors and website owners – not the one-sided system we've come to know today.
“So what a true SEO article marketing specialist should be doing is hand crafting – writing without the aid of software – legitimate articles that are intended for one and only one Website. You can submit these articles as guest posts on blogs, guest editorials on news sites, featured white papers on business sites – you can put them on many different types of sites. They're not necessarily “SEO friendly” sites but they are good sites. Michael Martinez – SEO Theory“
So instead of lamenting that article marketing is dead, we simply need to acknowledge that it's changed. In order to get the biggest possible benefits from article marketing, we need to return to type of exchanges it was initially intended for. For example, consider the following ways that you can take advantage of the benefits of article marketing, while still meeting Google's quality criteria.
- Submit your articles as guest posts, rather than to article directories.
Offering your articles as guest posts to other bloggers offers a number of different advantages. First of all, if you choose a good authority blog for your guest post, you aren't just getting the link juice that comes from posting on a reputable site. You're also likely getting traffic from the post and increasing your own perceived authority (another important factor post-Panda).
Of course, to get the most possible benefit out of this strategy, you'll want to be sure the sites you're choosing to submit your guest posts to are true authority sites. So before contact site owners to see if they're interested in your content, be sure to check the PageRank of the site (should be at least PR2), the Alexa traffic ranking (under 100,000 is ideal) and the number of email or RSS subscribers (if listed on the site).
- Submit your articles to newsletter or ezine owners.
Although ezines might sound a little out of date, there are still plenty of website owners who put out digests of helpful content week after week. And, in most cases, these writers and editors struggle – week after week – to sift through all of the junk content that's been published online to find the “needle in the haystack” content that will genuinely help their readership.
For this reason, approaching these newsletter owners with your custom content often makes much more sense than simply publishing it to a spammy directory. Sure, your article won't be published online (so you won't get the benefit of a relevant backlink), but instead, it will be sent directly to the inboxes of all the people who have subscribed to the newsletter. That's every bit as powerful as having your article published to a traditional website.
Locating sources to submit your unique articles to isn't difficult – simply search Google for niche keywords combined with “submit article”, “guest blog” or “guest post” and you should be able to come up with a list of authority sites that accept content submissions. Again, for the biggest possible benefit, the sites you choose to target should come with high traffic, high PR and plenty of readers to check out your unique content.
Yes, it's more time consuming to do article marketing this way, but ultimately – when you consider the benefit of not being subject to Google slaps, as well as the significant traffic you can generate this way – I think you'll find that article marketing isn't just “still alive”, it's alive, thriving and ready to benefit you and your website.