In recent days, there has been a virtual maelstrom of outcry and heated opinions on Google's recent algorithm “shift”. Nowhere else has this controversy manifested itself more than in the article marketing space.
In January, EzineArticles, the largest, and still most authoritative article directory online, cracked the coveted 100 most popular web sites in the world, serving 57 million unique visitors that month. Then, striking with the suddenness of a vicious lightning bolt, on Thursday, February 24, Chris Knight, CEO of EzineArticles, confirmed they lost 11.5% of their traffic and the following day, Friday, another 35% of their traffic vanished.
Later the same night, Chris made a blog post at EzineArticles saying that next month (March 2011, that is) their traffic may fall to half the levels it achieved in January.
What is going on? Does this sudden, swift, and dramatic decline signal the death knell for article marketers everywhere? Especially those that have come to rely on EZA primarily as the vehicle to deliver that laser targeted search engine traffic to their web sites?
Opinions are heated and varied. On EzineArticles' blog, as of this writing, Chris's post has garnered over 250 responses. Similar heated debates are popping up on the Warrior Forum, and, of course, AssociatePrograms.com's own Brad Hauck discussed the duplicate content issue with respect to article directories such as EZA in the most recent newsletter.
After running an affiliate training service for almost 3 years that revolves around article marketing, and living and breathing the space, my answer to the questions posed above is both yes and no – that is, some article marketers are in for a rude awakening, while I smell opportunity for others.
Let me explain.
Chris Knight on his blog post mentioned various ways EZA intends to tighten up their rules even further. Here's the crux of his argument: “We’ve been both quietly and publicly at war with a small percentage of our membership who aim to use our site to game the search engines with what we refer to as ‘article vomit' or thinly-crafted software-spun articles.”
EZA will now spend more time on quality checks – format, grammar, spelling, and consistency – and has increased word counts to 400 words minimum for acceptance. Other possible actions include requiring articles submitted to them to be unique only to them (no longer allowing the same article to be submitted to various article directories), and more.
On Saturday, after I had time to read the various threads, Chris's comments, EZA's possible impending changes, I then performed a thorough review of the traffic being generated by members of my article marketing training service.
The good news is we, as a group, were not negatively impacted even though article marketing is the traffic source we most rely on to generate affiliate sales.
The real question is: Why?
The short answer is we keep things “legit” and “real.” It doesn't matter if you're in my training service or not. If you want to persevere and prosper with your online affiliate endeavors, I believe the same lessons will apply to you.
For example, from the outset, I have always advocated my members do the research for the industries and products we are promoting and learn to write the articles themselves under our guidance. Anyone in my service will vouch for the fact that I have always severely cautioned against using article spinners, and PLR services.
Well researched, authentic, meaty content
As a result, our members overwhelmingly produce well researched, meaty, authentic content in the niches we target, providing real value to people who come across those articles. In fact, one of the long standing perks of my service is that I personally review the first few articles students write to give them feedback on how to improve their writing – or point out things they are doing wrong.
As a corollary, because our articles tend to be highly informative, it's with very rare exception that members of my service ever write articles under 400 words as well, thereby already protecting them from “sweeps” of thin content articles that EZA is already in the process of implementing.
Because I also foresaw some potential issues with duplicate content penalty, several months back I also initiated a preemptive protective action in my service to allow any member (new or longstanding) to obtain unique, original copy for their affiliate presell web site so that no two students would have duplicate content that appears on their sites.
In addition, about half of our members build their own presell web sites, and, as a whole, do a fantastic job of keeping their content original because it's in alignment with the way we teach and do our article marketing – we don't believe in or advocate derivative material. On this latest Google shift, I checked out some of their web sites and noticed their results were still strong, often claiming top rankings for desirable keywords.
Bad news for some affiliates
Now, the bad news. If you were the type of article marketer who was churning out hundreds, if not thousands, of short (250-300) word articles quickly, and using article spinners, and PLR services, your days are undoubtedly numbered. In fact, in the days ahead, it's likely you'll see most of your articles wiped clean out of EZA directory, if it hasn't happened already.
However, if you target true evergreen products, do real research, and keep your content valuable, you're actually going to find the latest changes to your benefit in the fullness of time. As the thin content article marketers get cleaned out, I strongly believe the result will be less competition for not only members of my service but legitimate article marketers everywhere.
In addition, EZA may also be reducing the number of Google AdSense ads they serve on pages of their site as well. If they do, this should translate into an even higher click-through for legitimate article marketers who stick it out because probably the biggest diverting factor from getting the readers over to your presell site was losing them to a Google AdSense ad served on EZA's site itself. Of course, this is how EZA keeps their service free, but it's still worth pointing out this potential upside to us article marketers beginning in the near future.
Having said all of this, I am advocating certain changes to my members (and to all of you). First, I believe you should write only unique content for each article directory. If you write an article for EZA, that article should not be submitted to other article directories, and vice versa. EZA may or may not implement this rule, but I think you should be doing it anyway.
Moreover, whereas I used to think it was OK for someone to add articles they've written and own to their own web sites or blogs, I no longer advocate this. Perhaps I am being paranoid, but you never know just how far Google is going to go with the “duplicate content” thing. I suggest that members now keep their article marketing content unique and different from the content that they create on their blogs and/or presells.
Lastly, I think the days of “bum marketing” are coming to a close. “Bum marketers,” as near as I could tell, tended to focus on fad products. They did some quick, superficial research, blasted some article marketing to those fad products using thin content for a while, then rinsed and repeated the process for the next hot product of the month. Indeed, on EZA's blog post on this issue, they mentioned that sweeps of certain areas have already happened, acai berry being one example they listed – and which also happens to represent a perfect example of a fad product.
Bum marketers, by their nature of constantly jumping around and promoting new things, never really develop deep knowledge in the niches on which they are writing. They also almost never use the products they are promoting, either, and this clearly shows in the content they create. By contrast, a significant portion of the members in my training service, through the knowledge they acquire, come to believe passionately in the products we promote and end up as consumers themselves, which, in turn, creates a genuine experience and furthers their knowledge, which manifests itself in their content.
In conclusion, life throws us all numerous challenges. It's always how we react to circumstances, even if we cannot control them, that counts in the end. Of course, it's always helpful to be keenly cognizant of potential issues before they crop up and nip them in the bud.
I believe one reason for our enduring success as an affiliate training service is because we have tried to anticipate potential issues before they have arisen, just as you must, and taken action accordingly. Of course, I'm also quite certain we'll face issues in the future we had not anticipated, but our resolve will be to solve those problems when and if they arise.
The ability to adapt to change is one of the hallmarks of leading a successful and productive life, and in the Internet marketing space, change happens much quicker than it does in many other fields. If you expect to endure as an affiliate marketer for the long term, as I have for 9 years now on a full-time basis, you must always stick to creating content and promoting products worthy of longevity. Attempting to make the “fast buck” today may mean making no bucks later, whereas building a proper foundation, even if it's a bit slower out of the gate, may mean a passive income that sets you free in the years ahead.