Monday, November 13, 2006

Article Submissions - Worth Your While or A Vast Waste Of Time?

In true Cobwebs Of The Mind tradition, this time we are going to candidly discuss in a long posting the validity for real authors to submit to Article Submission sites. The pros and cons of such submissions - what to realistically expect and what to forget about no matter what hype they try and feed you.

This post is going to be about a fairly well known aspect on the web, indeed one of the most successful viral systems - Article Submission Web Sites. (If you are not familiar with the terminology of Viral Systems, please take a look at this post here in Cobwebs Of The Mind, Blogging - Part Six: Viral Technology - An Introduction.)

Why am I returning to this subject? Well when I first dealt with it, I looked at the various aspects from a technological standpoint. Today I want to look at these systems from a "writer" or "author" point of view. Be warned though. While technologically these systems are really great and offer a great deal, the jury is still out on how much they really do offer an "Author" or "Writer" in terms of furthering a career or even helping them.

Let me make a few things clear at the outset:
  1. All the article submission sites I know of are not scams. They are legitimate.
  2. They do not take money nor do they offer money.
  3. There is a third tier that developed here, where web sites will offer you for a fee, to submit your articles to the zillion or so article submission sites automatically without you having to do so one at a time. This is a useless endeavor - it wont help you in search engines, it wont further your cause. I still would be hard pressed to call it a scam. They promise to do something, and supply a service - you pay - they do.
  4. There are others who will, for a fee, write articles for you, edit them and submit them with your name. Scam? Again hard pressed to say so. They offer a service, they deliver - you pay. (Not like the editorial services some scamming literary agents offer. Remember literary agents do not take money from you unless you make money!)
  5. None of the above will ever promise you normative publication, agents looking at your work or anything of that sort. So I really don't think scam would be the proper term here. Perhaps "useless"; perhaps "waste of time"; perhaps "worth your while if you have the time"; perhaps "take it or leave it" - but not scam.
So now we have the scam part out of the way, let us take a look at what purpose an article submission may serve for an author and what it does and what you may get out of it.

Let us make this clear as well. Even a cursory look at 99% of the articles that go up on these sites shows us medium to poor writing skills with a vast array of dullness and sameness in article after article. 1% may stand out for various reasons. So let us forget the hype and take an in depth look at this business. And lest anyone comment here and think they can be cute about it, I own a not oft used Article Submission site called Virgin Earth Article Submissions. It is up on my web site and from time to time I get submissions. But I will on purpose use my own articles submitted to one of the most popular Article Submission sites on the web for review of statistics and expectations.

Let us just recap what a real article submission site will offer you. (Please read the Post in Cobwebs Of The Mind: Blogging - Part Seven: Article Submission As A Tool To Extend Your Reach). You write an article (non-fiction) about any subject under the sun and place it within a category. The article usually must be between 400-1600 words (each site has its own demands). You place it there and maintain the copyright to the article. At the bottom of the article you are allowed to place in a "resource box" your name, copyright and links to your web sites or blogs. This becomes part of the article. Thus while giving the article submission site permission to post your article - they give you in return the promise of free publicity. Web site owners, ezine owners etc. all come to the site and are allowed to copy your article and place it on their web site - provided they keep all your information and copyright intact. Thus you get the infamous "backlink" to your site and your name and website are put in the search engines and climb the ladder. The more places that pick up your article the more "backlinks" you get, the more visible (supposedly) you are to the search engines.

This works fairly well, by the way. You may be surprised. Most places are happy to abide by the rules, the articles are placed on web sites looking for content and you get the publicity. And before you put this down, just at a check, where I usually submitted articles in the past, is listed at at 528. Which means it is the 528th most popular site on the net - and that dear people translates into millions of hits a day.

So the process works. I can attest to it. How well? I cannot translate it into hits on any blog or web site of mine, but I can tell you if you Google "Ted Gross" you will find my Ezine Article entries in the first 5 position consistently. (Though since I am listed in my literary works as Ted William Gross and in other places as Teddy Gross - it must be the "Ted Gross" search usually.)

So we must give five stars to the process. No scam, no outlandish promises, and a system that works.

Let us look at my own personal stats:
I have a total of 37 articles at (over a period of 18 months). Their stat page tells me they have been viewed a total of 13,278 times. And that they have been published 461 times on other web sites. I know that they have been published cause I can Google these articles and find links on web sites that I never heard about. The articles were mostly about Real Estate, Blogging and RSS. So it works. It certainly does. But does it do anything for me as an author? No suspense here. The answer to that is categorically, 100%, without a shadow of a doubt - NO.

But now comes the problem specifically for people who want to be bona-fide authors. Lately the article submission sites have gotten the notion that they too are able to demand "original and quality" articles. (This they do because of the increasing complex algorithms of the search engines that ignores duplicate entries.) They too are demanding "quality and originality". All this is great - except it is useless for an author's credentials.

Take a look at the EzineArticles Blog. From time to time I peek at it which I find interesting as a technologist for seeing trends and I find incredibly amusing as an author looking at the hype that goes up there. Two perspectives - two conclusions. One is that this is a helpful bona-fide business; the other that the hype going up to convince people they are "authors" is way over the top.

Now down to the author - writer part:

Fact: No agent or publisher is going to google your name and be impressed by the fact that you have written 1000 articles, no matter how many people read them. No query letter at the bottom is going to mention that the author wrote X amount of articles for an article submission site. (And if your query letter does have this - erase it forthwith!)

In short Article Submission sites are NOT in any way, shape, manner or form considered real publications.

So why do it? If you have a web site, ezine or blog you want to promote and establish more backlinks for, it is the cheapest and one of the best ways to try and disseminate that information. If you want to be associated as an "expert" in some field - it works. If you get real, real, real lucky some real editor at some real magazine may be drawn to your articles and then they may ask you to write a piece for them (but that is only after you write a series of articles that will blow their minds away - and an extremely rare occurence on the par with Yellowstone erupting tommorow. But Pipe Dreams are good.)

If you are a published author and have a blog, you are going to get traffic anyway, and should not have the time for the process nor the desire to do it. If you are breaking in - it is better to spend your time querying the magazines with your article ideas. If you are looking for traffic on your site or blog or ezine, write a posting for your blog and then use that exact same posting as an article submission.

As authors - this is a colossal waste of time if you think it is going to further your writing career. As owners of web sites, ezines or blogs it is still one of the best ways to get your name and site out there to the public for free. So the message is - don't confuse the two.

Article writing, no matter how much the owners of the sites want to tell you and legitimize themselves, is NOT going to turn you into an author or writer for real publication or landing an agent purposes. And it should never show up on your credentials when corresponding with agents or publishers.

On the other hand, if you have a business or web site or blog not connected with writing and want to get "eyeballs" and "hits" - (useless or not this is a different argument) - then article submission is certainly a bona-fide way to go.

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Talia Mana, Emotional Eating Expert said...

Interesting - I have never submitted to those ezinearticles places but it is probably a good idea to draw traffic to my website and build the proverbial "platform" (necessary for a non fiction author who is not related to the Kennedys)

Although the simplest way to do it is to keep blogging and list your blog in directories. I have found that since I have started doing that a few newspapers have picked up articles and increased my traffic.

Peggy said...

Thanks for explaining all that. I've read about article submission sites on SEO forums, and and gotten the impression that many, while not really scam sites, are repositories for any old crap people will crank out in order to get a backlink.