How Google's PANDA Updates Changed Article Marketing

Saturday, October 29, 2011

By: Weston Bonnelle October 29, 2011

Article Marketing before PANDA
Before PANDA, low and mixed quality sites such as Ezine, Associated Content, Suite 101, Squidoo and Hubpages dominated Google --to the dismay of the sites that they repurposed information from. These sites enjoyed high page rankings because they had thousands to millions of pages within Google’s index and they used SEO strategies that manipulated the search results. These sites started with the mission to give everyone with a voice the platform to express themselves while the site owners earned money through ads. Consequently they had low standards and provided a straight forward avenue for bloggers and small business owners to gain exposure and drive targeted traffic to their blog or website. This avenue was article marketing. Article marketing is usually achieved by writing articles for content farms, article directories or e-zines and then posting your expertise and website information in the byline. The hope is that satisfied readers will find the article so useful they they click on the link to read more from the author. Even writers who want to gain exposure that do not have a blog can use article marketing to obtain more clients. A recent article on Suite 101, “Thailand Flooding – Escaping Crocodiles and Other Dangers” has a byline leading to her personal static website where she advertises her services as a freelance travel writer.

The author's blog was like
 the treat at the end of the maze.
A variety of other techniques were employed. Either you could write shorter general articles so that the traffic would click on your sites for more in-depth information. Or you could post longer high quality articles that impressed readers so much that they eagerly click on the website link to check out your blog. Many websites either didn’t pay the authors or they paid per view, therefore they used backlinks as another form of payment to authors. Therefore authors could internally link their blog posts or personal website in the articles. These links were supposed to provide more reference and detailed information for the reader. An older article on Squidoo, How to Start Freelance Writing, used the phrase, “how to be a freelance writer” to lead to the author’s blog, Master-Dayton, with the tag line “Tired of Looking for Freelance Writing Advice and Getting a Sales Pitch? This Blog Might Not Be Pretty, But It’s Here to Help Starting Freelance Writers.” Other authors cast even a wider net and directly state, “read more from this author” without specifically linking to other blog posts.

Ezine was widely used by small business owners to inform readers about a concept while indirectly marketing their site, products and/or services. For example, in a recent article on Ezine titled “The Many Faucets of Logo Embroidery” the author used the words “custom logo shirts” and “logo embroidery” to link to his website Vision Embroidery Inc. Another article called “Financial Tips for Small Businesses” has the words “business checks” and “black check” hyperlinked, which leads to his business, TechChecks. 

In the past web surfers were more na├»ve about the web. In fact just a few years ago people were learning how to use search engines; therefore people didn’t understand the underhanded motives of many content producers. It was significantly easier to entice readers to click on links and ads. As article marketing became more popular and touted a method to gain more exposure, these sites started getting flooded with shallow content. This diluted the effect of article marketing. Over time readers have become more skeptical and savvy. They are now more likely to avoid links from untrusted sources. Even worse was that article marketing got abused by people with harmful intent. Scraping and plagiarism outraged producers of original content, links began to lead to scams, duplicate spammy content bored readers as they shuffled from one repetitive article to the next and in attempts to post as many articles as possible, the quality of these articles downgraded. I doubt that you want to solely associate your brand with these types of sites or people, therefore quality bloggers and small business owners should begin adopting new strategies.

The Effects of PANDA on Traditional Article Marketing Platforms
The PANDA updates slammed these general, high volume sites. First Google targeted scrapers and sites that engaged in such behavior such as e-zines and article directories. Content farms and mills were the next to experience significant decreases in traffic. Google is using PANDA to lessen the incentive to participate in unscrupulous activities. Even sites such as Technorati, Consumer Affairs, and Businesswire lost visibility. However these sites are destination sites, therefore the impact was probably less damaging. “Panda has caused huge problems for publishers because it cut off massive amounts of traffic in a bid to force publishers to produce higher quality content”, Tom Foremski of explains.

Not only have content farms, e-zines and article directories lost their traffic but the negative publicity has also caused them to lose trust and legitimacy among Internet users. Their poor reputation also results in lower click through rate on the search results page. They are perceived as less authoritative among the high power Internet users, the type that share content and consume high volumes of content such as blogs. Even with the high amount of traffic these sites used to have, they never became destination sites. Users didn’t develop a deeper connection to these sites therefore they have higher bounce rates. Users may not even stay on the page long enough to click on your links. These sites no longer have the power that they used to have. Even Dayton acknowledges that he “can no longer recommend HubPages to beginners or anyone really for that matter. Some of my hubs are staying up because I just don't have websites where some of those articles will fit, and you can still get an occasional backlink but based on a lot of reasons, I would recommend not spending your time here.”

The New Face of Article Marketing
Article marketing is still a viable option however it has transformed into brand marketing. In fact many people are still using content farms, article directories and e-zines as demonstrated by the recent examples. However you cannot just settle with those options or use traditional article marketing a primary source of traffic or backlinks. Now instead of submitting articles to lower quality sites you should focus on writing blog posts that attract backlinks, guest posting, contributing to destination sites, internally linking blog posts and making quality comments on other blogs and sites.

The Strategies:
1. Backlinks – If your article is featured or used as a reference, the clicks to your article are more genuine and probably even at a higher rate because you have been identified as an authoritative and relevant source of information. Generally high quality articles are backlinked by other sites therefore users assume that since you are being linked, your blog or site is informative. This further establishes your legitimacy.

2. Guest Posts- Blog owners are quite picky on which posts to accept, especially after witnessing PANDA’s rebuke of poor content. Therefore if your posts are on popular and educational sites, then the audience will be more receptive to your blog. Guest postings help you gain more credibility and increase your familiarity among readers in your niche. 

3. Internal Linking- Wikipedia has mastered the art of internal linking. Users may have found your first post in the search results. Since they had the initial interest in the topic, if your post is high quality, they will be more willing to click on internal links to read more about the topic from you.

4. Destination Sites- Small business owners and full time bloggers should consider trying to make posts on authoritative destination sites. Destination sites are sites that dedicated users intentionally read for information or entertainment. It's the difference between being the restaurant that friends meet at on Fridays or the restaurant that travelers decide to eat at haphazardly without any prior plans to go there. First try smaller sites then once you have more writing experience try to write for more established brands. For example an owner of small business that sells technology can write for smaller blogs and then more on to sites such as CNET. If you are writing for a destination sites as a full time blogger, new readers will take your blog more seriously and associate it with expertise.

5. Commenting- Comments on blogs and news articles are almost like your snippets of genius. You can draw in traffic by making entertaining, insightful, educational or informative posts. If your comment seems to be coming from an expert, it will stand out from the rest, which will encourage people to click on your link.

6. Submit to Social Bookmarking sites- Bloggers generally submit their best articles to sites such as Digg, Reddit, Stumbleupon, etc. Theoretically your winner post should draw in an audience that will be interested in your other content. It’s even more effective if your content is submitted by others because you are being vouched as a valuable and/or enjoyable source of information.

Which method has been most effective for marketing your blog or website?

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samsung tablet said...

It is indeed a good move from google as these article directories are sometimes publishing rubbish contents. Good and unique contents are must for survival today and I hope many article directories might have learnt their first lesson after PANDA.

Dianne Heath said...

@ samsung tablet
Rubbish is correct! Some people were so lazy that they couldn't even write their own thin content, but plagiarized & scraped other people's thin content instead, lol. Google keeps doing Panda updates, because people are still not learning their lesson. Thank you for commenting!

Shoaib Ibn Abdullah said...

This is a very good post.

Dianne Heath said...

@ Shoaib Ibn Abdullah
Thank you! I definitely enjoyed writing it. I'm pretty intrigued by PANDA.

corrado said...

hey Diane, really loved this article. very interesting and full of informations. keep on w/the good job

Roshni said...

I resumed blogging after a long time and was just chatting with an old friend when i heard about panda. I googled and found ur blog in search engine.Personally i found it very informative and interesting to read.keep up to good work soon google will start recognising genuine effort and pay accordingly to the bloggers effort.

ewan said...

thanks for article, would be great to provide update in reference to latest Penguin change and how it relates to article marketing on network blogs etc

Dianne Heath said...

Unlike most SEO sites, I like to wait awhile and see what's happening before giving advice after algorithm changes. I have some theories but right now I've been doing intensive reading about the Penguin updates.