SEO Article FAQs
The world of SEO article marketing has changed massively over recent months, and is now a more competitive area of online marketing than ever. Getting it right has never been so important, and getting it wrong has never been so easy.
Frequently Asked Questions About Writing & Marketing SEO Articles
- How long do SEO articles need to be?
Strictly speaking there's technically no minimum or maximum, but there are still recommendations based on sound advice. Firstly most reputable and worthwhile article directories have a minimum word count for each article. Anything less than this and your article is likely to either be declined or deleted. This minimum varies from 350 words to a more usual 400-450 words. Taking 400 words as an average minimum is the best advice. Article directories vary as far as the maximum word count or character count allowed is concerned, but this is usually likely to be between 1,000 and 1,500 words.
However, it's also important to think about two other factors, including the search engines and the real people reading your articles. If articles are too short then there will be no way in which they can incorporate sufficient subject related vocabulary to be considered by the search engines to be valuable relevant content worth ranking highly. From the point of real people it's usually unlikely that articles with a word count of less than 300 words will really offer very much of value, since this is really only one to two paragraphs' worth of material. This might be acceptable for a dictionary definition, but not for many other subjects.
Although from the point of view of the search engines there can't really be too much text, it's worth bearing in mind that anything more than about 1,500 words becomes superfluous, and the text might well be better split into separate articles, each of which is submitted individually, providing more links and more chance of being noticed. Finally, people are unlikely to read that much text on a page, no matter how useful it may be. They might just print it off, which loses you your links, and this might also mean they're only on the page for a few seconds, which could be misinterpreted by the search engines as meaning that it wasn't actually relevant.
So SEO articles are therefore best between 400-800 words. The overwhelming majority of the articles we write are 600 words in length, although obviously we're always happy to discuss individual needs.
- How do I know which keyword or keyphrase to use?
The best approach when choosing keywords or keyphrases for SEO articles is to have a selection, and to choose one or two for the first article, a different combination for the second article and so on. Once the list has been worked through you can begin again. This means that each wave of SEO articles is covering a broad spectrum of related keywords, rather than all focussing on the same keyword every time. This approach works much better from the point of view of how the search engines respond to your content.
As far as how to choose these keywords, this is a matter for each individual business. Some businesses already have a clear understanding of which keywords they wish to promote, but where this isn't as clear we can provide help with identifying the best ones to choose. This will involve looking at the amount of traffic generated for each keyword, and the amount of competition.
Using various tools, such as Google's own keyword tool, it is possible to generate a long list of subject or website related keywords and phrases, and then see for each one how many local monthly searches are made, how many global searches, and how much competition there is from other websites for those keywords. Identifying a keyword which generates a fair amount of traffic, but for which there is relatively little competition makes for the best combination, and the best chance of more rapid results.
- How do you optimise SEO articles using LSI?
The only true way to optimise effectively for LSI is by carrying out sufficient research into the topic, and have a very broad contextually relevant vocabulary. LSI stands for Latent Semantic Indexing and is one of the many ways in which the search engines analyse content for subject relevance and authority. Obviously the greater the perceived subject relevance and authority the higher the page rank and position in the search results. By cross referencing your SEO articles with known authoritative material written on the same subject the search engines can identify the likely relevance by seeing how the vocabulary matches up.
For example, you would usually expect an article about bicycles to use a vocabulary which includes words such as wheels, saddle, ride, cycle, travel, health, safety, helmet, countryside, commute and so forth. Articles written purely with a focus on the main keyword tend to have a much weaker overall vocabulary, as do articles written without the subject having been thoroughly researched and understood beforehand.
When we write SEO articles we incorporate a wide range of techniques, one of which is to focus on optimising for LSI. By researching the subject thoroughly we are able to compile a vocabulary list of subject related words and terms, which we then refer to when writing the article, trying to include as many as possible whilst still aiming for a natural writing style and an article which informs and engages real readers.
- Can I use SEO articles as blog posts, and vice versa?
Although there's nothing basically wrong with this – you own the copyright after all - there is an inherent risk which it's important to be aware of. Contrary to what many people will tell you Google does not have a duplicate content penalty. If Google did penalise websites for having duplicate or similar content then weather channels and news channels would be struggling.
However, it is also Google's intention to try to provide a broad range of results for keyword searches, and so any websites including the same content will usually be spaced apart. This means that the first or more authoritative source of the content will be listed significantly higher than the website which includes the duplicated content. Both sites will be listed, but one will obviously receive preferential treatment.
If you publish SEO articles on your blog or website you have no way in which to guarantee which instance of your article the search engines catalogue first. They might well come across the version of your article published on a major article directory first, in which case your blog or website will not be listed as high. So effectively by duplicating your own content you could potentially penalise your own website's authority and rank. It is always much better practice to have SEO articles used purely for article marketing, and blog posts or website content written purely for those purposes.
- How many SEO articles do I need to have, and how often should I publish them?
There really is no such thing as a standard answer to this question as there are many variables involved, such as the existing visibility of the brand, the visibility of the brand for specific keywords, the quantity of competition for those keywords, the number of searches carried out each month for the keywords, the length of your articles and so on.
On the whole it's usually better to have two articles of around 500 words than one article of 1,000 words, although on average most of the articles we write tend to be around 600 words, which is long enough to contain plenty of subject relevant vocabulary but not so long that people are put off by the length.
It's important to be regular when carrying out article marketing, so rather than having a dozen articles written and then submitting them all at once it's best to space them out, having a couple each week published so that the search engines see a steady stream of fresh content rather than a sudden gush followed by silence, which tends to have little effect. Remember, once an article is written and published that's not the end of the marketing, but the beginning, since those articles will remain online, working hard for your business for many years to come.
For the average small business we would tend to recommend around a couple of articles per week, but in every case we would always recommend discussing your needs with us so that we can analyse the visibility and performance of your brand and the competition so that we can make an informed recommendation rather than a guess based on the average needs of other businesses. Obviously your budget will be a deciding factor, in which case we can help you to out that budget to the most effective use.
- What keyword density should be used in SEO articles?
If you're still thinking about keyword densities then it's vital that you understand straight away that this should no longer be a consideration in terms of search engine optimisation in 2012. In fact anyone who does work towards a target keyword density is likely to find their content or articles severely penalised, performing very badly in the search results. That's if they ever get published in the first place since any worthwhile, reputable article directory these days will not allow the publication of articles with any evident keyword density.
If you are going to examine the keyword density of an article then it should only be to make sure that it is as low as possible. Generally 1-1.5% is the maximum you should accept. Anything over 2% needs to be re-written. We still do receive requests from people every day for articles and content to be written with a minimum keyword density. Sometimes this is as high as 5-6%! This SEO marketing approach went out years ago, although not everyone has realised. These days if you want to succeed in search engine optimisation and article marketing then it's important to focus not on keyword density but on keyword placement, latent semantic indexing and quality.
When we create articles or web content we make sure that the keyword or keyphrase is used a minimal number of times, but positioned in the most critical places. This means including the keyphrase once in the first 100 characters, once in the final paragraph and a couple of times within the middle of the article, with one weighted towards the upper half and one weighted towards the lower half.
But in addition to this we make sure that we incorporate a rich vocabulary which includes many words which are semantically relevant to the subject matter. Contextually relevant vocabulary is far more important than keywords.
But of course it's also important to consider quality. Stuffing keywords into every clause possibly will usually result in people closing your page and going elsewhere. This loses you traffic, loses you custom and gives a very bad impression of your business. The search engines will easily spot the behaviour of visitors reacting to your content, and this can result in your site being lowered down the search results.
Remember, if you have a keyword density of 1% in an article of 500 words that means including your keyword five times. If you include it once in the first sentence, once in the last paragraph and two to three times in the body of the article that will be more than enough. Any more than that and your writing will very rapidly start to sound unnatural and be uncomfortable to read.
- What are the elements which make up an article?
The most obvious elements are the title and the article themselves, but in fact there's a lot more which needs to be included when developing articles for online article marketing:
- The Title - The title is what grabs the reader's attention, and often it's also the page title when published on an article directory, which means that it's the most prominent text when seen in the search results. The title needs to include the main keyword or keyphrase, preferably towards the beginning, whilst also engaging the attention of readers and encouraging them to click on the link and read the article.
- The Summary - The summary or description is a two sentence introduction which will usually appear underneath the title on a page which lists recent articles or articles within a certain category. If the title manages to catch the attention of a reader the summary needs to explain a little more about the article, and persuade people to read the main article.
- The Category - Usually when publishing articles on article directories or blogs you'll need to select a suitable category. Some companies use software to automatically submit articles, sometimes to hundreds or thousands of article directories at once. The problem is that usually the categories won't be appropriate, and this often means articles are declined. However, even if an article is accepted and published within an unsuitable category, this means that anyone browsing the categories for articles related to a particular subject won't find yours. When we carry out article marketing we manually submit each and every article one by one, making sure that the most suitable category is selected every time.
- The Keywords - Although not every article directory will require these, or make use of them, the majority do. The keywords list isn't just the major keyword or keyphrase for which you're optimising, but a list of tags or keywords through which readers might come across your article.
- The Article - This is obviously the most important bit, and needs to be optimised in a whole variety of ways, including embedding keywords scarcely but in exactly the right places, incorporating a rich contextually relevant vocabulary for LSI, and of course making sure that the article is engaging and interesting, offering value to the reader, fulfils or addresses the title, has a clear introduction, development and conclusion, and is written using correct grammar, spelling and punctuation. If you're in the UK it's also important to make sure that your spell checker doesn't automatically change words to the US spelling; local optimisation is crucial if you're going to maximise your visibility within localised search results.
- The Author Resource - This is the section in which links to your website can be included. Some people use this as a brief biographical snippet relating to the author, but most use this as a chance to plug their website or client's website. It's important that this runs on from the article in a clear way, providing an opportunity for interested readers to find out more. Usually you'll be limited to two URLs, and for maximum effectiveness it's important to try to make these different from each other, pointing to two different pages on your site. It's also important that the anchor text is different too. Ideally the anchor text should be the keyword or partial keyphrase you're optimising for.
- Where should articles be submitted?
There's little point creating high quality SEO articles if all you're going to do is slap them in a few low ranking, poorly performing article directories which will do you little or no favours in terms of either traffic generation or brand visibility. Trying to hedge your bets by submitting your article to hundreds or even thousands of article directories is sheer lunacy - a tactic only promoted by those who write the software which automates this process, or by those offering to use the software on your behalf.
The truth is that whilst Google does not have a duplicate content penalty, it will prioritise content published on websites which have an excellent reputation for quality and reliability, whilst paying much less attention to websites which offer little in the way of quality or originality, automatically publishing anything, regardless of whether it's been seen a hundred times before elsewhere, or has been written purely to attract the attention of the search engine spiders.
Our standard approach is to manually submit each article to ten of the top article directories. Our list of the top ten changes from time to time, as we regularly reassess the performance of each site, adding new sites on to our list occasionally, and removing those which no longer represent the best standards possible.
It's important to check out the sort of quality of article the directories are publishing, since you don't want your high quality content rubbing shoulders with stuff a chimpanzee could have hurled out of a typewriter with enough random bashes. We don't really see there being much value in publishing your article to more than about ten directories or blogs, since in many cases it will be syndicated and republished elsewhere in any case. Stick to quality and reputation, and the search engines will come across those instances of your article long before any syndicated versions published elsewhere, giving you the best chance of improving brand visibility, brand reputation and traffic generation.
- How many directories should my articles be submitted to?
On average we tend to submit articles to around ten of the top article directories. Our list of the top ten changes from time to time as we regularly reassess the performance of each directory, but we find that ten is just about right. There's certainly no point whatsoever in submitting your article to dozens, hundreds or even thousands of article directories. You're not going to find all those instances of your article appearing at the top of the search results as any decent search engine is going to want to provide a variety of results rather than lists of duplicated results.
Often companies will offer to submit your article to hundreds or thousands of directories, for which they'll usually charge a fairly large sum. In fact all they're doing is copying and pasting your article into a bit of software which then automatically submits that article across hundreds or thousands of directories. In fact you can buy the software yourself for less than most companies charge for using it once, but there's really more likelihood of you causing harm to your brand's reputation than achieving marketing success.
To start with the software will only work with article directories which use a certain format or system, and of course none of the really worthwhile, high performing, good quality directories use that system, so you're immediately missing out on the really worthwhile sites. Secondly, the software will guess at the best category to use for your article, but very often it will get this wrong. This means that your article will either be declined, or placed in a totally unsuitable category where it will be less easy for people to find. Thirdly, if Google or any other major search engine sees you hurling your article wildly across the web with more interest in quantity than originality or quality it's very much less likely to pay much attention to your future efforts as your brand's reputation will be reduced.
We only ever carry out article submissions manually, one by one, and use only ten of the very best article directories. This is an approach which has had tremendously positive success for both ourselves and our clients.
- How should author resources be constructed?
The author's resource is a critical component of the article marketing process, and needs to be planned as carefully as any other element within an SEO article. Although some authors use the author resource simply to explain a little about who they are, with a link to their main website, most people use this section to help promote a website in a more effective manner. Here are our top tips for constructing the perfect author resource, and how we go about creating resources for SEO articles we create:
- Make sure the author resource runs on from the article. If it's just a standard bit of text stuck on the bottom of every article then it will have relatively little effect. If it appears to be a continuation of the article, or an extra tip for those who have found the article interesting and useful then it's far more likely to be read, and the links clicked.
- Make sure you use your keywords or partial keyphrase as the anchor text. In most cases you're able to include two hyperlinks in your author resource, so make sure that you include your keyphrase as the link.
- Make sure your two anchor texts are different. If you are able to include two hyperlinks then make sure that the text for each is different, otherwise there's no advantage in having two links at all.
- Make sure that each link points to a different URL. If both links point to the same page this is weak SEO, and a lost opportunity. Make sure each link points to a different page on your site.
- Make sure the pages linked to are relevant to the article. If you've managed to engage the interest of a reader enough to get them to click a link to find out more, it's not good to then dump them at the home page of your site. Try to make sure that the page they arrive at has something to do with the article, as this will help to retain the interest of your visitors for longer, and is stronger in terms of SEO.
- Make sure you double check your links work. If you inadvertently mistype the URL or include a URL for a page you haven't created yet then you may well find your article declined. Even if your article is published it's very bad SEO to have dead links pointing to your site as this will put off both real visitors and the search engines.
Also, it's worth making a note of the URLs you use in your article marketing so that you can create 301 redirects should you later change the structure of your site or the names or extensions of your web pages.
- Can links be included within SEO articles, or just in the author resource?
This varies tremendously. Some article directories allow you to include as many links within the article as you like, others won't allow you to include a single link anywhere. Some will allow you to include as many links as you like, but they will be marked as 'nofollow', providing no SEO benefits at all, whilst others will allow you to include one or two links, but only in the bottom half of your article.
Because of the fact that there is so much variation we tend to stick to one simple rule - only include links within the author resource section. Unless you're only submitting articles to one directory, or you are happy to create multiple variations of your article, some of which include links and some of which don't, it's quicker and easier to just play it safe and leave out the links.
If you must include links make sure that these are included for a genuine reason, and not just plugs for your site, as this can devalue your article and jeopardise any sense of impartiality and reliability.
- How can I quickly find all published and syndicated copies of my article?
Once you publish an article online you pretty much lose any control over it, with copies of it appearing everywhere - at least, if it's well written, interesting, provides value and is relevant. Many article directories use syndication to spread duplicate copies of your article to other directories, and of course many people will use your article within their own websites or newsletters. As long as they include your name as the author, and include your author resource and links not only is this perfectly fine, it all helps spread the word, boosts the number of backlinks and helps generate more traffic.
As long as you have chosen to publish your article on only the very best and most reliable article directories you'll find that the search engines come across that version of your article long before any syndicated copies, so you needn't worry about being undercut in terms of page authority. However, you will want to occasionally carry out a search for your articles to make sure that all copies being circulated retain your name and links. If they don't then of course you'll want to make some noise about that, making sure that the website owner takes the necessary action under copyright law.
One of the easiest ways of carrying out a search for all instances of your article is to select the first sentence and search for this online, remembering to surround it with double speech marks. By including double speech marks at the beginning and end of the phrase, clause or sentence you force the search engine to only return results which include that exact same phrase or sentence.
This will inevitably mean that you'll be looking at a whole list of locations where your article can be found. You can now go through these one by one making sure that they are acceptable.
Another option is to use Copyscape (http://www.copyscape.com) which is a service used by The Mightier Pen, and which is highly effective at identifying content online which appears to have been plagiarised. Another similar service is Article Checker (http://www.articlechecker.com).
- What is the difference between having articles published and having them syndicated?
Publishing an article is what you do, manually entering your article into the submission form of your chosen high quality article directory. Article syndication is what you hope will then happen on your behalf, with people using your article for a variety of purposes, perhaps through their blog, through newsletters or through their own website.
When you publish an article it may well only appear in around 10 article directory sites, and whilst that's good, you will often want more than this. Mass article submission is not the answer, because the article directories you'll inevitably end up using will be very low ranked sites with virtually no traffic, doing you no favours at all.
When syndication occurs this means that people are recognising the quality and value of your article, and are keen to pass this on to people they feel will be especially interested in it. So if you've written an article about photography you may find that several people running blogs which focus on photography pick up on your article and use it in their blog. This means that your article, complete with your name and links to your site, is being delivered directly to each and every person who actively follows those blogs.
Similarly if your article is published on a photography website, or delivered by email as a newsletter, your content is not just being distributed on your behalf, it's being distributed directly to your prime target audience. This is high quality article marketing.
We always create high quality articles which offer value, which is why they're always being syndicated, reaching target audiences very effectively. We've even had our articles syndicated in print, appearing in magazines around the world. Mass article submission is a cheap way of trying to replicate the effect of syndication, but in truth it comes nowhere near. As with anything online these days, quality counts for everything.
- What happens if somebody copies my article?
It's very frustrating, but sadly it's par for the course as far as online marketing is concerned. There is just no way that you can prevent people from plagiarising your articles, so it's really all about dealing with examples of plagiarism as and when you come across them. You can try to include copyright notices at the top or bottom of your article, or include 'Copyscape' banners on your site, but ultimately neither approach is likely to do a great deal except to put off the occasional casual lifter of content.
Using an online tool such as Copyscape (http://www.copyscape.com/) or Article Checker (http://www.articlechecker.com/), or simply by searching for a phrase within your article you may well come across instances of your article which have been copied directly from one of the article directories you published to. The first thing to do of course is to check to see whether they have credited you as the author, and included all of the links at the bottom which you included in your author resource. If they have done this then you may well choose to do nothing as it's all going to help your cause.
However, the time to take action is when they're lifting your content and then crediting themselves as the author, leaving out your links too. This is very frustrating, but there are things you can do. At The Mightier Pen we have created tens of thousands of articles over the years, and so inevitably we find people copying them and failing to credit the author or include links. We spend time every week scanning for these rogue copies, and this is our usual approach:
- Contact the person running the website directly. If they have a feedback form, contact form or other method of getting in touch we tend to use this first. We explain that we are pleased that they feel the article offers value, but are disappointed that they have not included the correct author's name or the original links. We offer them the benefit of the doubt and ask that the article is either removed or amended within 3 working days. It's surprising just how often action is taken by the website owner following such an approach.
- Contact the hosting company for the website. After two or three days we will contact the hosting company responsible for the website. It's easy to find out who the hosting company is. Visit http://www.whoishostingthis.com and enter the web address and you'll be given the information about which hosting company is responsible. You can do much the same thing by visiting http://who.is/whois. We send a formal notification of our intention to take legal action if the plagiarised content is not removed or amended appropriately. Often if the website owner hasn't taken action the hosting company will apply pressure, and the majority of cases are resolved by this stage.
- Submit a formal Take-Down notice to both the website owner and the hosting company. If no action has been taken after a week, and neither the website owner or the hosting company have given any indication of their intent to resolve the situation then under the appropriate copyright law a Take-Down notice is issued. As we're in the UK we issue Take-Down notices under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (http://www.websitecop.co.uk/Copyright-Pages/Copyright-DMCA.html and http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2002/2013/contents/made), which is the UK version of the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_Millennium_Copyright_Act).
Issuing a formal Take-Down notice under either law means that unless action is taken to remove the copied content legal action may commence without further warning, with a claim for damages, loss of earnings and compensation included. This can result in the offending party having to pay hundreds or thousands of pounds - something most people try to avoid by making sure action is taken. The usual practice after a Take-Down notice is submitted is for the hosting company to immediately suspend the website in question, and often the person's ISP is involved, with their internet access suspended until the case is resolved. Clearly most people try to avoid these consequences which is why it is thankfully very rare to have to go this far.