As usual the answer is not black and white. It certainly doesn’t work as well as an SEO tactic as it used to. Panda devalued most if not all article marketing directories, so consequently they don’t rank as well and for fewer keywords. Most SEO firms will tell you that guest posting is the new article marketing and to not bother with article marketing at all. But is Article Marketing completely dead? No, depending on your competition and your keyword it’s still an easy way to get some exact match anchor text links to your site, and for some narrow niches that can be enough. It’s certainly better than buying links.
But before you rush out and create a bunch of articles and upload them to every article directory you can find, you might want to read through a case study I recently did exposing article marketing’s dirty little secret. When I was recently studying a client’s backlink profile who had lost traffic due to Google’s Penguin I started noticing what people had done with articles from these directories. So I took it one step further and did a small case study on what happens to the articles once they are published.
The idea behind article marketing is that not only do you get a backlink back from the article directories themselves, but if other people like your article, they will publish on their website as well, creating more backlinks to your site. It’s this second part that was the subject of my case study. What I found is that, many times, your article gets published on other website – but often without the bio box that contains the link back to your site. Which is of course why you wrote the article in the first place.
Now some caveats. My little case study focused on articles in a certain niche and is probably not big enough to be statistically conclusive. However I did spot check articles in other niches and found similar patterns. I would love it if someone did the same study on another set of articles, controlling for how many article directories were published in, the type of niche …etc.
Here’s the methodology I used:
Ready? Here we go. Of the 35 results I looked at:
So article marketing is not completely dead. In a small uncompetitive niche it can be a backlink that helps. But given the dirty little secret I uncovered and the Google devaluation of these directories; it seems like your efforts could be better spent elsewhere.
Update: August 1, 2013: It’s been a year since I wrote this post and I’ve now done a number of Penguin recoveries. Yes, people scrape articles without giving you credit, but worse yet; we now know for sure that Google penalizes article directory backlinks. For a successful recovery from a manual penalty or from one of the Penguin algorithm releases, you need to remove or disavow all links from article directories. In this searchenginewatch article, Eric Enge (towards the end of the post) gives an example of a site that recovered 100% after removing article directory links.
Kathy Alice Brown is a SEO expert specializing in Technical SEO and Content. In her spare time she loves to get outside.