It can be hard for dentists to know whether the online marketing tactics used by their marketing agencies are reasonable, effective or even current best practice.
That’s why we’ve decided to create this resource for Australian Dentists. You can visit this website and look under our [Google’s Guidelines] banner to learn what Google is saying about certain aspects of online marketing practises.
A lot of the information we’ll be sharing in this series is via Matt Cutts, who is head of Google’s Anti-Spam Team. That’s an important role.
When Matt speaks to us about how we should manage our websites, we should listen.
What Does Google Think Of Article Marketing As An SEO Tactic?
Below you’ll see a video in which Matt Cutts (Head of Google’s Anti WebSpam Team) answers the question:
Do you recommend article marketing as an SEO strategy?
In this article you’ll learn:
- How Article Marketing has been used as a Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) tactic
- That Article Marketing creates dozens or hundreds of low-quality backlinks to websites for the sole purpose of increasing that site’s position in the rankings
- Why Australian Dentists should be concerned about the use of Article Marketing to promote their practice
- What Google’s thoughts were about Article Marketing in March 2011
- What has happened to Article Marketing since 2011 as a result of changes to Google’s Search Algorithm
- What questions you MUST ask if an SEO Agency tells you they are using Article Marketing as part of their strategy to improve your website’s rankings
What Is Article Marketing?
Article Marketing is a technique that has been used by SEO companies for many years to improve the rankings of their client’s websites. The aim is to create lots of backlinks to the target website, since for many years the more backlinks that a site had, the higher it would rank for its target keywords in the search results.
The process is pretty simple: an article (usually between 300 and 500 words) is written on a topic related to the website- so for dentists it might be something like “10 Reasons Why You Should Visit Your Dentist Regularly”.
Within the article, possibly in the body text, possibly in the Author’s Bio, there will be one or more short spans of hyperlinked text. These links are typically directed back to the “target website”, that is, the website that the agency is trying to get ranked. We call this type of link a ‘backlink’. Often the backlinks are carefully selected to be important ‘keyword phrases’: so if the SEO Agency was trying to get a website ranked for the term “dentist Sydney”, then this would be the phrase that was hyperlinked back to the target website.
The article is then submitted to an Article Directory- a website that typically contains thousands of articles on all sorts of topics. In practice, the same article is often submitted to a multitude of Article Directories, and some directories then allow the articles to be published on other websites, so long as the links are kept intact.
The desired result is that dozens or even hundreds of copies of the article will appear throughout the internet, which means that dozens or hundreds of backlinks will point to the website. In times past, ‘any link was a good link’: the more backlinks a website had, the higher it tended to rise in the rankings. For a long time it didn’t seem to matter where the links were coming from.
Some Of The Challenges With Article Marketing
Many Article Directories are simply a collection of thousands of dreadful articles on all sorts of topics, poorly written and existing for the sole purpose of creating backlinks to improve the ranking of client websites. Human readers arriving on these sites often don’t remain there very long: the quality of the articles is appalling and the sites often host equally horrible ads as a means of generating some revenue, so they are ghastly places to find yourself in.
Dental articles that are found on these sites are often written by non-dental writers: in fact, many agencies outsource their article writing to services that employ people whose first language is not English. As a result, the articles representing dental practices are often of very low quality.
The quality is sometimes even further reduced by a practice called “Article Spinning”: this is where words and phrases within the article are swapped with ‘synonymous’ words and phrases, in order to create a number of new articles which are, to some extent, ‘original’. The trouble with these are that often the process of spinning is done by people with a non-english speaking background or by software, and the hundreds of ‘original copies’ seldom make any sense.
Still, for many years this didn’t seem to matter: these articles were created solely to generate backlinks, they were never designed for the human reader.
For many years, this approach worked like gangbusters!
Even when articles were not spun and were reasonably well-written, there are still problems when they are used as part of a marketing strategy for Australian Dentists: they often contain phrases, concepts and sometimes images that are not compliant with our Advertising Guidelines.
Let’s see what Matt Cutts has to say about Article Marketing:
What Has Happened Since This Video Was Published
This video was first published on Google Webmaster Help’s YouTube channel in March 2011. It’s clear that even then Matt Cutts wasn’t a big fan of article marketing as an SEO technique, but he is a rather understated sort of a guy. It’s interesting listening to this video now, two years after it was first published, and to consider it in the light of what has been happening to the Google Search Algorithm since then.
Many Article Directories have since disappeared from Google’s Index because they had been identified as sites containing ‘webspam’: low quality content that has no value other than to provide a backlink to target websites with the sole purpose of manipulating the rankings. Many of the target websites that had been benefiting from this technique found that their rankings dropped significantly as the links from these spammy directories disappeared and no longer inflated their ranking position.
Some websites were given manual penalties by Google, especially if the Web Spam team determined that the site had been too deeply involved in trying to decieve Google.
Some Article Directories still remain. There is still a rumour in some SEO circles that there are ‘safe’ Article Directories, and that the technique still has merit.
However, I don’t concur. Google is quite clear about this in their Webmaster Guidelines:
Any links intended to manipulate a site’s ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme. This includes any behavior that manipulates links to your site, or outgoing links from your site. Manipulating these links may affect the quality of our search results, and as such is a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.
Article Marketing And Australian Dental Practices
I think that most dentists would be alarmed and embarrassed by the quality of the articles that have been used on behalf of their practice as part of an online marketing strategy. At the very least, articles submitted to Article Directories are seldom professionally written- they most often aren’t compliant with the Advertising Guidelines, and they are sometimes spun gibberish. Disgraceful and dangerous!
Despite this, SEO companies and agencies in Australia may still use Article Marketing as an SEO technique for Australian Dental Practice websites. It’s important that you know exactly what information is being distributed on behalf of your practice, and that you insist that companies NEVER use a technique that could endanger your website or get you in trouble with the Dental Board.
Some SEO companies may make the distinction that they don’t do this traditional form of Article Marketing, but use a similar technique that they might call “Guest Blogging”. The distinction is that they will produce a much smaller number of better quality articles and offer them for publication to the owner of a high quality website (as opposed to Article Directories). Just a single copy of the article will be placed on a carefully-selected site, and may well offer great value to the website’s readers. What does Google think about this distinction? You’ll have to wait until our next edition of [Google’s Guidelines] to find out!
A Checklist To Aid Your Discussion With Your SEO Agency About Article Marketing
If you aren’t certain WHAT your SEO company is doing on your behalf, or you’re thinking of hiring a company to help improve your presence online, here’s a couple of questions you should ask them straight away:
- Do you do Article Marketing as part of the SEO services you are providing/likely to provide for my practice?
- Who writes the articles?
- What knowledge does your writer have about Dentistry? Australian Dentistry? The Laws and Guidelines pertaining to the advertising of regulated health practices in Australia?
- Can you please give me the URL of ten directories that your company is likely to submit articles to on my behalf (make sure you check them out)
- Can you please show me an article that you have produced for my practice/someone else’s practice.
- Does your company spin articles? By what process?
- Can I see an example of a spun article?
- Can you tell me what you know about Google’s Webmaster Guidelines?
- Actually I meant “What do you know about the fact that Google have said in their Guidelines that “Any links intended to manipulate a site’s ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme”. I’m wondering how you see Article Marketing fitting into this?”
If you need clarification about what their answers might mean, please give us a call: we are here to help. If your SEO agency has been using Article Marketing in a manner that might put your website or reputation at risk, you must be proactive. This doesn’t necessarily mean severing your ties with the company: they may just need a push in the right direction, which is something we are very happy to assist you with.
Ask the questions.
Do the research.
And call us if you need any assistance.