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There are two schools of thought about article marketing.  One school believes that you should produce lots of content in the form of one article that has many versions as in spun content.   The variation in content when submitted to numerous article directories will produce numerous back-links for your site, and the fact that it is “spun” content means that each article is unique. (30% recommended)  They argue that submitting the “same” article to many sites somehow gets the big G very upset with “duplicate content.”

The second school says, “not so” the whole point to writing an article is to provide great content to the article directories so that webmasters in search of that content will be glad to pick up the article and republish it on their site.   These articles tend to be longer, well researched and informative.  The goal of this type of submission is to encourage the re-publishing in syndicated email newsletters and hopefully reach a larger audience.  It may or may not result in many back-links to the author’s site, but the traffic to that site will be much greater if the syndication efforts result in the article is being sent to a larger list.  In this case the publisher will only submit to first his site and then, at the most a dozen article directories.

The “Panda” update to the Google algorithm was designed to cut out or re-rank sites that hosted low quality content.  Indeed that update hurt the page rank of many sites; several webmasters had money making “adsense” sites that disappeared from the top 100 rankings.   So called “content farms” and some “auto-blogs” suffered serious loss of traffic.  Here is the question to ask.  Was it due to “duplicate content”?

First lets clear up the controversy about “duplicate content”.  The Google webmaster guidelines are fairly clear about that. Content that appears on the same site on more than one page is considered “duplicate content”.  The explanation they give is that when the use of  ”www” seemed important to webmasters some sites were cloned on the same domain such that the reader would get the same information if he went to “http://www.yourinfosite.com” or rather visited “http://yourinfosite.com”.

The penalty if you could call it that was that Google would only recognize one instance of that content on that site.   WordPress and most other blogging platforms are built to avoid this kind of error and most webmasters are conscious of this requirement so basically it is a rare occurrence any more.   That is it; “duplicate content” can only be penalized when it on the same site.

If something really bad happens somewhere in the world that news is picked up by several sources and re-broadcast several times.  News agencies like AP and Reuters are very often quoted verbatim on local newspaper and national media sites.  These sites enjoy high page rank and certainly were not hurt in the “panda” update.

Obviously the content in this case is “duplicate” but it is spread over several sites.  The more important reason for the “panda” update was for Google to improve the quality of the content that their searchers were seeking.  Hopefully when all the “google dancing” ends that will be the case.

Did they succeed?  Depends on whom you ask.  Several independent “storefront” sites lost their page one rankings, in Great Britain the panda update was devastating to several sites and others came out in better shape.  From the Guardian Newspaper blog:

Search Engine Watch says  that “all Google results are a zero-sum game”, pointing to other sites which have benefited.

Pocket Lint , Electric Pig , Tech Radar , TechEye , The Register’s hardware site RegHardware , PC Advisor , IT Pro Portal  and the venerable Computer Weekly  sites have all been hit by the reordering, which means that they fall down in Google’s rankings on any given set of keywords – and so their traffic from search results falls dramatically.

The update also risks arousing the ire of Microsoft – and the European Commission – because it demotes Ciao, the shopping comparison site owned by Microsoft which was one of the complainants to the EC that Google was using its monopoly unfairly, and which has sparked an EC investigation. Ciao’s ranking has been cut by nearly 94%, meaning it will rarely figure in the first 10 results of a search.

In many of these cases it is hard for the casual observer to tell if it was the content or perhaps another criteria which caused the change.  In a few of the comments on blog reference was made to the fact that the originator of the content had been downgraded while the re-printing site had an increase in their rankings.

Before this goes too far afield lets’ return to the question posed above.   If you are seeking to simply get a number of back-links from your article and not necessarily looking for traffic to your site, you can certainly spin content and get lots of back-links.  The articles can be made to appear unique enough that webmasters will accept and host them.

The question is: Can all of these spun copies be compelling enough to make the reader instantly click on and visit the suggested resource box link.  I don’t know the answer to that as it is something I have tried only once and the finished product was much worse than the starting article.  The other aspect being time, it seems to take forever to make sentence and phrase revisions and it seemed just as easy to write another whole article on the subject.

There is a whole niche in the “IM” industry that makes a good income selling the spinning and linking software.  It has its fair share of followers who have been sold on the story of duplicate content.  They are also highly invested in seeking good rankings from the Google search engine… which can change at the drop of a hat as we have seen.

The article syndication orientation is a quite different.  ”Article Marketers” are counseled to write short 400 to 500 word articles.  ”The reader has too short of an attention span to sit for more than that.”   When writing for syndication the goal is 1000 plus word articles that have a give a full explanation of the subject.  In the goal of syndication article directory to which you submit the article is simply the repository.  The goal is to find webmasters who are looking for that kind of content to pass along to their readers.  Most of the time this happens in the form of an ezine style mailing list.

Syndicated article marketers do not care if their article gets high ranking on Google or any other search engine.  Their personal website traffic does not depend on the rankings, it depends on the quality of their writing.   With the research involved in producing an enticing syndicated article the number of articles written will be fewer but the results per article can be much more substantial.

So there you have it— two styles of doing business.  In the one case your time is spent spinning short versions of the same content and investing in services to distribute them.  In the other case you have the power to investigate your subject thoroughly, submit your work to a few directories and build relationships with webmasters who pick up your work.   Your product is higher quality and when it is put on a few 20,000 person mailing lists it has the power to send hundreds of visitors to your site in a very short period.  Best of all it is not dependent on search engine rankings.

Got a thought about this?  Let me know in the comments.


Michael Brown

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