This article was originally published on the now-retired All Book Marketing blog, and will remain archived here at All Indie Publishing. Minor updates and edits have been made to ensure continued relevancy.

Article marketing is a pretty popular form of Internet marketing, including with authors. Yet most authors marketing their books through article marketing aren't doing it as effectively as they could. To understand why, we need to take a look at traditional article marketing.

What is Traditional Article Marketing?

An author will write one or more articles in their niche. They’ll include a short paragraph or “resource box” below the article, with a link to their author website, blog, book website, or sales page. They then post that article to one or more article directories. Webmasters can visit those article directories and re-publish those articles on their own websites, including the author’s links. The idea is that an author wants a lot of websites to republish those articles with their links, in the hope of driving traffic to their websites where they can then sell their books.

Why Traditional Article Marketing Isn't the Best Idea

This isn’t the most effective way to use article marketing as an author in your book marketing strategy. Here’s why:

  • The author loses control over where their content will be published. Spam / MFA (made-for-Adsense) sites are far more likely to use free content than an even remotely serious publisher (because they know that unique content is infinitely more valuable to them, and free content “cheapens” their site). By relinquishing control, you have no way of determining how targeted the reading audience is (and by the very nature of article directories appealing to anyone and everyone, you’ll naturally not have extremely targeted traffic compared to other marketing methods).
  • People won’t ever see the majority of copies of articles distributed this way. The spam / MFA style sites don’t carry natural readers who have any interest in the content. When legitimate sites pick up the article, they’re usually smaller sites and blogs without many readers yet. People aren’t going to find them via Google, because they’re considered “duplicate content.” Search results are going to return a result from the article directory; not from niche sites who later picked it up.
  • When you publish articles to an “anyone can call themselves a writer” site like an article directory you associate your own reputation with the masses (including incredibly unprofessional "writers" -- really just Internet marketers looking for links). Rather than helping to really build your name as an authority or expert source (especially important if you publish nonfiction work), this devalues everything you say by association. If you choose to publish your content on a site with a poor reputation for quality, that rubs off on you at least a little -- no matter how solid your own work might be.

Now, I’m not saying that no important site will pick up your free article. A lot of industries are incredibly “tech-stupid” still at this point, where they don’t know enough about SEO (search engine optimization) to know any better. Over time, that’s bound to change. [Update: The changes are likely to come even faster now that Google is openly cracking down on sites republishing content from these article directories and similar resources, as sites focusing on republished material are considered a degree of search engine spam.]

I’m also not saying that you won’t get any quality traffic or buyers or build any level of reputation. You will. You just won’t get the best ROI (return on investment) for the time that you put in. It’s stupid to not maximize your ROI in your marketing efforts to the best of your ability. If you’re a writer, it’s your responsibility to be as good in business and marketing as you are in your writing (better actually). The article directory variety of article marketing tactics don’t demonstrate great business sense.

You’ll hear plenty of stories from authors who will swear by this kind of article marketing, saying they sold more books, were contacted by so-and-so for something when they otherwise wouldn’t have known about them, etc. What many, if not all, of those authors fail to do is try anything else! Of course it’s going to look good if you get any kind of exposure when you haven’t tried a more effective article marketing plan to compare your results to.

More Effective Article Marketing

So how can an author use article marketing to build their name and reputation as well as sell more books, but without devaluing their work in any way or wasting valuable time? Can they do it without spending a lot more time or energy? Sure they can. Here’s how:

  • Submit articles only to hand-selected publications. Choose niche e-zines, newsletters, blogs, and sites that actually have a significant (and highly targeted) readership.
  • Offer larger publications exclusivity on publishing those free articles. A highly targeted niche newsletter with 50,000 subscribers will give you much better exposure than mass-publishing that same article non-exclusively through article directories, hoping targeted sites pick it up. So if you previously would have written ten articles and submitted them all to directories, now you would still write just ten articles, and submit them each to different publications. Just let each know that it’s a limited time offer and that they’ll need to confirm that they want to use it within a set timeframe (this allows you to send the article exclusively to someone else for publication instead of it getting rejected and having no marketing value for you).
  • Offer to be a guest poster on a blog in your niche with a large readership. If nothing else, it’s a great way to get your name “out there.”
  • Article marketing doesn’t always mean that you’re giving away your writing for free. Some publications will pay for the right to publish excerpts from your book, for unique articles in the niche, etc. As a writer (as in any type of business), it’s smart to diversify your income streams. If you can earn some money freelancing in this sense, while at the same time building your exposure to help promote your book, it’s a win-win situation.
  • If you still want to offer non-exclusive articles for article marketing for your book, publish them on your own website in a special section set aside for free articles with a notice that they’re free to be used as long as you’re credited and/or receive a link when it’s published. The benefit of doing this is that you get the SEO benefits if your article shows up in search results, because you published it first (and had it indexed first by the search engines).
  • If you absolutely still insist on using article directories, do so only after you’ve already published the article on your own website and it’s indexed by search engines. Article directories really don’t care all that much about your content (other than basic quality in some cases, because they don’t want their own reputation damaged more than it already is by unreadable or stolen content). They care about the search engine traffic they get (and then monetize through ads) because they’ve convinced people to publish free material with them first.

If nothing else, give these article marketing tips a try. If you find that they’re not your style or you’re simply not having much luck, then go back to (or try) more traditional article marketing through article directories. Just know the downsides before before you jump in or continue so you can do so with your eyes wide open.

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