Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Notes from a Novice: My Marketing Adventure

Well, here goes. I’m going to give this “writing” thing a shot, even though I’m not much of a writer. Right now, my graphic design website only gets about 100 hits a week – and that’s not even enough to show up as a blip on the radar when Google searches the Net.

I’ve tried writing search engine optimized articles in the past to sell my graphic design services and I’ve got to tell you… it didn’t do me much good. Search engine algorithms get smarter all the time, and keyword-stuffing doesn’t work nearly as well as it used to. One of my clients (who will remain nameless) asked me to do a series of SEO pieces for his band’s website -- and their site ranking actually went down as a result.

During a rare day of accelerated motivation, I was doing some Web research and came across the concept of article marketing. Fans of the practice claim that if you do it right, writing one or two articles a week about your business will drive traffic (and therefore money) right into your hands. So here’s the experiment: I want to take the $5,000 per year I make now off my online efforts and turn it into $15,000. Ideally, articles like this one will help me get there!

The concept is simple: All I have to do is write one or two of these articles per week (provided I can keep up my motivation!) and when I distribute them to online content sites, I’ll start getting links and improving my PageRank. That all sounds well and good, but I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Distributing articles to these sites is tedious!

It seems like every content site has totally different parameters: This one wants 75 characters per line, that one wants 70. This one accepts HTML coding, that one wants all plain text – absolutely no HTML. By the time I had successfully submitted my latest article to three places, I was ready to uncork the chardonnay and call it a night! It took nearly four hours just to get my words out on three websites. I was ready to give up on the Internet for good after that.

After a little more reading, I discovered that I was not alone. In fact, there were so many other people like me that some enterprising Internet gurus had created systems that would negate the need for all the busy-work. I’m not sure yet whether I want to sign up for a paid subscription to one of these sites, so I’m going to do a little further research.

The first place I looked at was isnare. They offer a free article distribution service, but in order to reach their entire list of 40,000 sites you need to pay a fee -- something that is fairly commonplace in this industry. The fees work on a sliding scale depending upon how many articles you want to submit. It costs $10 to submit five pieces, right on up to $100 for 115 articles.

The next place I looked at was PhantomWriters. Cool name, right? I pictured myself wearing a leotard and a cape, flying from website to website distributing pearls of wisdom.

PhantomWriters has a snazzy website that is quite content-rich itself. In fact, I got pretty caught up reading some of their writing tips! This service is a little more expensive, ringing in at $35 per submission, or a volume discount of $200 for 10 articles. This one seemed a little steep for my budget, so I moved right along.

My next Internet search brought me to SubmitYourArticles. They charge a flat rate of $37 per month for four article submissions, which works out to just under $10 per article. They also offer HTML editing tools and a good directory of tips and tricks to get your work published.

Another service I found was Article Marketer. They work on a subscription system, and each level of subscriber can submit unlimited articles during the course of their subscription. The quarterly subscription is $74.99 right on up to a lifetime package for just under $500. Article Marketer submits to more than 66,000 sites. They also employ a team of editors who read each subscription and check it against a 150-point Diamond Assurance checklist to make sure it’s publishable.

All four of these places have something unique to offer, and depending upon the volume of articles I submit, each of them could be a better value. In the end, it’s all up to me – and you!

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