I've been working for a search engine optomization company for many years now. I still see the whole process offered by many companies as a little bit shady.
At the end of the day, nobody can make a search engine do what ever they want. You can't pay google to move you up higher in the rankings, nor can you know exactly how they work. In this way SEO is always experimental, so beware of any company that guarantee top 10 rankings. They cannot guarantee anything that they are not in full control over, if your site can move to front page searches in a matter of weeks then it's likely that you can do it yourself with little time and effort.
After looking at the way your site is set up and optomized for relevant keywords, there is also search engine marketing (SEM). This involves a few things, but today I thought I would write a quick piece about article marketing.
Alot of SEM is based around gaining links back to your site; the more the better. These can come from other websites linking to your content either through choice or by you asking them to. Paying for links has been around for a long time and is frowned upon by google who penalise sites that get reported. They don't object necessarilly to buying a link, but links that pass pagerank that make the site seem more important than it is. After all, how can they really object to paying for links when they run the extreamly successfull adwords campagin.
One way of paying for links that these companies use is article marketing. The submission of unique articles containing links back to your site to article marketing sites such as isnare who then distribute the article to thousands of other sites. I started thinking about this a few days ago when I found out how much some people pay to be included in a link directory when they find out their competitors are listed there first. At first I thought, why not just create a directory and see how many of these silly people are out there. But of course, no one wants a link from a PR0 directory, so the directory itself first has to be marketed; so...
I thought, why not experiment with a site that promotes its self and see how long, or if, it takes to have lots of traffic.
The first way I thought to do this was to fill the site full of fresh content, that is written by somebody else. Obviously these marketing sites want to spread your article to as many sites as they can, so they offer free feeds to other websites so that you can display these articles on your own site, as long as you keep the original links in the article. Well that sounded good, so I set up a cron job to automatically import relevant articles through these feeds to display on the site. This looked like it was working well, every hour the job would run and bring in any new articles from the feeds and put them onto the site. Then I started thinking...
If the article should be unique, then what benefit, if any, does displaying an article that is the same on thousands of sites (and probably written for the sake of the link and not interesting anyway) have on your website? And...why, if the article is considered to be duplicate content, do these links back to the original site have any weight when it comes to search engine rankings?
If a great article is written then it will be syndicated which other sites want to display because of the great content. How can a search engine know which articles are syndicated and which ones are marketed for a fee? I would suggest by the types of site that they are marketed on, but is google really that smart, do they like to look smarter than they actually are?
The truth seems to be, that even poorly written articles, distributed to thousands of sites still work well for increasing traffic to your site. The quality of the referal to your site is a different matter though, 10x more customers does not mean 10x more sales.
So where does this leave the sites that display the articles in the first place? I'll let you know in a few weeks when the test site has been running for a while, but I suspect nowhere. Even if the links are good for the original writer, the duplicate article probably holds little interest for search engines regarding the importance of your site, but we will soon see.
After all this ran through my head, I recalled some of the spam adverts we get sent for article 'wizards' that magically transform someone elses original content into your original content (also called article spinning), wow! Of course this results in a load of rubbish. I have seen a few of these programs and have to say that they are poorly built and performance is even worse. Sentences become unreadable (much like your website after some SEO 'experts' have butchered the content) and result in unique rubbish. There's a good article covering this topic here (an example of good article syndication) If you really want to change another article into something unique that link gives some good information on solid tools that can be used.
Even though these articles come out as rubbish, they are still regarded as unique so the links may carry more weight than those of a duplicated article. All I can think is that the sites that accept these articles must be very poor, or the articles are removed as soon as they are read by a moderator.
However, what would this do for a site that was actually publishing the unique rubbish? They would have fresh unique rubbish on a daily basis stuffed with relevant keywords.....
I could go on for hours here, but rather than just sit here and contemplate, I thought I would just put it into action and see what happens. So first, I intend to finish the site that imports the articles by rss feed, let it run and then report the results here.
Next, I'm going to recreate the site at a different domain and create a system that 'rewrites' the imported articles using the wordnet api and then compare the results of visitors to each site.
I won't give the urls of these sites now so that people who read this post don't affect the results, but I will keep you updated with what goes on, starting with the submission of the first site to search engines.