Chris Ellington is the CEO and Founder of Article Marketer. With over 20 years of marketing experience and expertise, he works with small business owners clarifying strategic business initiatives. He guides them in focusing on the most important and profitable aspects of their businesses. Less than a year old, the Article Marketer site already serves thousands of authors and has successfully completed more than 3.3 million article submissions.
Question: I stumbled across your site by accident one day when I was approving articles on a list I owned. That's how I found you. Tell me how you got started in article writing and promotion.
Answer: Content is the foundation of any internet marketing campaign. No matter what you choose to do, whether it's hard-core SEO, Google AdWords, search enging marketing, email marketing, or any other form of online marketing — the web is fundamentally built around content.
Creating and providing content to the literally millions of content sites and newsletters just seemed to be a smart move. Did you know that there are now more websites on the 'net than there are people on the planet? The webmasters of those sites simply don't have time to create the sheer volume of content they need to fill their newsletters.
I started sending articles to people who wanted content, and I was amazed at the results. More targeted traffic started showing up at my various sites. With more targeted traffic comes greater conversion — which means more people to opt-in to my lists, more affiliates join my programs, and more sales of my products and services.
The problem was I was spending too much time submitting articles by hand. I knew there had to be a better way. There were services to do article submission — some charging up to $400 per article! — and there was software to download and install, but I was still chained to my desk to do the actual submission work.
My consulting work with small business owners had taught me that what the market needed was a low-cost, automated, hands-free solution. I set out to build a service that would alleviate all of the problems that I'd seen with article marketing: either time-consuming and tedious drudgework or high expense for the author, while being spam-ridden for the newsletter editors and content site owners.
I put together a team and we created completely automated submission, free article review to help each author get better results, and a team of human-spam-blockers who make sure that spam never goes through our servers. Article submission is affordable to small business owners through a unique subscription model that allows an author to submit an unlimited number of articles without having to factor in the expense of each and every article.
What changes have you seen in article writing and promotion since you started your service?
The article marketing landscape is constantly changing. Some once very popular article sites have completely vanished, overwhelmed by spam and the sheer volume of new articles being submitted. At the same time, new sites come online all the time. Keeping up with these changes is almost a full time job.
As people started understanding that they could get one-way (as opposed to reciprocal) links, better search engine placement, improved pagerank, more traffic and sales just from writing articles, we've seen the inevitable entry of spammers into the market. These are people who are not interested in providing good content, but only want a free link in someone's newsletter.
The result is that the article directories and content site owners are putting more restrictions on the articles they'll accept. While in the early days we could submit short (150-250 word) articles, these days if an article isn't at least 400 words, it's unlikely to be accepted. A number of sites have now banned the use of 'tinyurl' URL replacements because spammers mask their affiliate links or links to bad neighborhoods.
It used to be that we could incorporate URLs into the article body, but more and more article sites are rejecting anything they find with a .com address. We have worked out an arrangement with most of the content sites to allow the specific use of URLs under certain circumstances, and we teach our authors how they can effectively incorporate URLs into their articles and yet avoid having their accounts banned.
We've seen a surge of "Private Label" articles in the market. These are canned, pre-written articles that people can buy and submit under their own names. Unfortunately, only the first few people who submit those articles are successful, everyone else is an "also ran". Private Label articles are like jokes on the Internet. The first time you see one, it's funny. The 50th time it's just annoying.
What do you think article writers should be aware of when writing articles?
There are three rules when it comes to writing articles:
Rule #1: Provide Good Content
Rule #2: Provide Good Content
Rule #3: When in doubt, see Rules #1 and #2
If you follow those three rules, you'll do just fine. What is "good content"? It's approximately 750 words that allows the reader to come away with some knowledge that wasn't there before. Focus on a topic and make sure that the reader gets something of value at the end.
Authors should ask themselves this question: Must a reader buy my product/service in order to take action?
If the answer is "yes," then go back to the drawing board. Of course, the author may need to substitute "visit my website," "subscribe to my newsletter," or any of a dozen other calls to action based on the author's desires.
When providing newsletter content, it's important to remember that you are speaking directly to a specifically targeted audience. These are people who have subscribed to "Dog Weekly" or "Fish Tank Monthly," so if your thing is dogs or fish tanks, this is your perfect audience. Put your best foot forward. Give them really good information and they'll want to visit your site for more information. At that point, you can sell them something.
Another important point is that articles stay on the article banks forever. When you include a call to action in your resource box, make sure it's not a 'limited time offer.' Don't use contact information that might go away. It's always best to send your readers to a website you control (and can update) so that if your email address or phone number changes, they will still be able to reach you.
Share a few of your best article writing tips with us.
The title is key. It's the first thing people see and the first decision they make about your article. If they don't get past the title, they'll never read the rest.
A title should never be a noun. If you have a great article about fish tanks, and you title it "Fish Tanks", you're unlikely to get as many readers as you would with, for instance "How to Keep Your Fish Tank Sparkly Clean" (assuming, of course, that the article is about keeping a fish tank clean). Add some action and some excitement to your title to draw people into the content.
Your article itself should be about one thing. Don't try to cover all aspects or every angle in a single article. Break it down into component parts and explain the most important points.
Try not to write a multi-part article series. I know that goes against some other advice you may have heard, but there are some important reasons to avoid multipart articles.
The first problem is that a reader may not have access to the other parts. How terrible would it be to find "Fish Tanks, Part 2" and not know how to find the first part? The second problem is that newsletter publishers may not be willing to commit to running all 16 parts of your masterpiece, and so will not print any of your work. Each article you write must be able to stand on its own, with a beginning, a middle, and an end. Don't require that a reader be fluent in parts 1-3 before they read part 4. Never end your article with "to be continued…" or "the rest of this article can be found on my website…" because the content site owners are expecting you to provide content – all of it –
in exchange for the link and the targeted audience they'll be delivering to you.
What trends do you see in article writing and promotion, and what do you think the future holds for article writing and promotion?
We're seeing a shift in the marketplace. While at one time only "polished authors" would submit their articles, it's become much more common to get really good articles from average business owners.
People who have never written an article before are discovering that it isn't that hard. Our editors help them put out a good quality article the first time through. I can't tell you the number of emails we get thanking us for the detailed assistance provided by our review team. Anyone can write an article about a topic they're passionate about (and isn't that why they started a business in the first place?) and they can create interesting content just based on their own experiences.
I believe that the surge of "Private Label" articles will go away as people discover that only original content actually delivers the results of marketing with articles. While re-writing those articles can be effective, just replacing certain words with synonyms is not enough. You can't expect a dog newsletter owner to put "Combing Your Mutt" in the newsletter after publishing "Grooming Your Dog" in last week's newsletter.
I think people are getting more excited about bringing their own expertise to the fore. Different dog groomers can write about combing dogs and have each of them published in the dog newsletter, because each tells a specific story or anecdote, provides original tips and tricks learned "in the trenches," and brings a fresh perspective to the subject.
Will article writing and submission ever go the way of banner ads, pop ups, and FFA sites? No, because content is the foundation of the web. Other forms of marketing have come and gone — even email marketing is difficult these days — but anyone who provides good content to the content-hungry audience will see their work published all around the net, will get links from relevant sites, will see their pagerank increase, and will get more targeted traffic to their websites.