Hi. This is an old, unmaintained blog. You may find these sites more to your liking:

Carson Brackney: This is my primary site.

Ad Astra Traffic: Content production/article writing service.

Ad Astra Traffic Team: For those who'd like to get writing gigs with Ad Astra.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Will write articles for links...When exposure matters and when it doesn't...

A little while back, I wrote a post criticizing one freelance writer's take on producing articles for distribution at article repository sites (see: "Article marketing IS a good idea...").

Basically, I took exception with her perspective that writing for "free" never made sense and defended the concept of article marketing. I stand by those conclusions. Article marketing is a great way of pseudo-synidicating material across a wide variety of sites and snagging a series of SERP-boosting backlinks along the way. It's a good strategy for businesses of all sorts, including freelance writers, who'd like to see more search engine traffic.

The method works because of its viral nature. The free article is picked up by a series of webmasters looking for content and can spread fairly quickly. It isn't a "true" viral distribution model, in that the "infection" is limited to a single level, but it still gets results. One good article can produce countless valuable backlinks.

So, I support writing for "free" in that case, because what I am really doing is creating an effective SEO and advertising tool.

I also can understand writing without financial compensation in exchange for a link in the right spot, under the right circumstances. That's really my topic for this post.

Today, at a writing forum, I saw someone trying to convince writers to offer original material for a niche site that wasn't related even tangentially to writing. The webmaster was offering a tiny bit of compensation and was dangling that oft-presented carrot of "future work" once things were making money, but the primary benefit was, ostensibly, exposure.

This is a situation where free writing doesn't make a great deal (if any) sense to me. I can't see a great deal of benefit in producing free content under those circumstances. Here's why...

Limited backlink quantity. Unlike articles "donated" as part of an article-based marketing strategy, this kind of arrangement only provides one use of the content. I'd get one backlink for my article. Not very inviting.

Limited thematic consistency. A backlink to my site from a niche site unrelated to writing, SEO, web design or some other content-related site doesn't do me a lot of good. The overlap between visitors to the particular niche site and those who would be interested in what I do is limited, if it exists at all. There is little likelihood that my donated article would ever directly produce a client. Additionally, the search engines have this alleged tendency to value thematically similar links more than strange ones that seem to "come out of left field." That single lonely link doesn't even pack a whallop.

Limited link value. Well, I just mentioned one reason why the link wouldn't be particularly valuable, but there are others. First, a new page designed primarily to warehouse a single article isn't likely to tote a lot of PR. Even if you don't worship at the temple of Page Rank, the link wouldn't carry a lot of cache by any standard. Traffic is also a big question mark, as you have no idea of the webmaster's actual competency or commitment to driving any traffic to the article pages. Thus, there isn't really even a strong likelihood of the previously-mentioned "irrelevant" exposure.

So, based on those factors, I would never make that kind of deal. I don't understand why any freelance writer would.

There are a few possible exceptions to the rule, I suppose.

One could be interested in branding himself or herself as an expert on that particular topic. If the site turned out to have serious name value and people respected it, I suppose inclusion of one's article(s) there might have some value.

Also, if the writer was also running a site of his or her own on a related topic and was given the opportunity to get the link back, it could make sense under the right circumstances. Again, though, that's unlikely in this kind of situation. The webmaster wants a freebie about "cheap American beer." I happen to run a site about "cheap American beer" (I don't, really, but play along...). It might be reasonable to offer up my article for free in hopes of siphoning some of the webmaster's traffic to my own for-profit "cheap American beer" endeavor.

Even if that strange convergence of events were to happen, I fail to see why I would get more mileage out of the pro bono article than I would from using the same material as part of an article marketing campaign. The soliciting site would have to be very good. If it was that good, they'd probably be willing to pay for content.

Another variation where it might make sense to do some pro bono work would be in a guest blogging position or something similar. If you can communicate, front page, with the other site's readers and get to meet them, add them to your social network, etc. when your work and the host blogger's compliment one another, that could be a different story--under the right conditions. Clearly, that sort of arrangement is pretty distinct from the one under consideration here. We are, again, talking about distinct niches with very little overlap and materials that might end up buried where three people and one robot for a second-tier search engine ever see them.

That's why this kind of "writing for exposure" doesn't excite me.

Short version: Writing for multiple links as part of a marketing strategy--good. Writing a niche article for site of unknown or uncertain quality that is unrelated to your business--bad.

If I wanted to write for exposure, I would write for exposure and get alot more of it than I ever would as an article donor for someone's niche site.

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