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  1. How to Write Clearer, Simpler, and Faster in Any Niche

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    No matter what industry you’re in or who your target demographics are, a powerful writing style will take your brand to the next level. For most modern online brands, this means using a combination of strong copy on your website and traditional ads as well as developing an ongoing content marketing strategy with a blog and peripheral content materials. As general advice goes, the better the content strategy, the happier your customers will be.

    There are dozens of ways to make your content strategy better, including doing better research, knowing your demographics more intimately, and including more multimedia content in your strategy; these would all serve as interesting, separate topics. Today I want to focus on three critical writing skills that apply to everyone, in any niche: clarity, simplicity, and efficiency.

    Clearer, Simpler, and Faster

    Why these three specific qualities of writing? Let’s break this down.

    The effectiveness of your content strategy is going to depend on dozens of interrelated factors. But what does it mean to be effective? It means communicating your message in a way that makes sense for your audience, and earning a positive ROI while doing so. Choosing the right audience and choosing the right message are both important, but they don’t have much to do with your writing style, or the literal process of writing.

    When it comes to the actual writing process, much depends on the industry and format—for example, a BuzzFeed-style post in the news industry might require different techniques than menu descriptions for a local donut shop. Based on this fact and the eliminative process I used above, I can think of three main categories of factors that influence the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of your approach.

    • Writing clearer is about getting your message across as completely as possible. This means diminishing the opportunities for misinterpretation and leaving “no stone unturned” when it comes to the thoroughness of your work.
    • Writing simpler is about conciseness. With decreasing attention spans and increasing competition for content, the winning articles tend to be those who pack the most amount of punch in the smallest amount of space.
    • Writing faster is about producing more, higher quality work in a shorter amount of time and with a smaller degree of effort. Over time, this will result in fewer expenditures (both time and money) and earn you a higher ROI overall.

    Tailoring Advice to Your Niche

    The advice I dispense throughout this article will apply, in principle, to any business’s content marketing strategy in any niche. Taken at face value, they’ll be applicable to straightforward forms of content (such as blogs, whitepapers, and eBooks), and much of it can be applied to other forms of content, such as personal emails, social media posts, or even web copy.

    However, it’s important for you to realize that every business and every niche is different, and that you may need to make some adjustments to make this work for your brand. For example, if your brand voice is casual and informal, striving for too much conciseness could make you come across as stuffy or unapproachable. Similarly, while clarity is always a good thing, the type of clarity you need may depend on your audience—for example, if your demographics are expressly familiar with your industry, you’ll need to explain fewer terms and get to your main points faster.

    With those caveats out of the way, let’s take a look at the ways you can make your writing better all-around.

    Clarity

    Clear writing is writing that communicates all of your intentions with as few ambiguities and as many details as possible. It’s not a new phenomenon; companies have been striving for better clarity for decades, and it’s always been a part of academia.

    Clear Writing

    (Image Source: Hubspot)

    You could just strive to “write clearer,” but that isn’t a specific or actionable strategy. Instead, let’s take a look at specific ways you can increase the clarity of your writing.

    Front-Loading

    Front-loading is the process of including more relevant information earlier on in your writing. It’s important for several reasons, and manifests in multiple different ways. For example, you can front-load an entire article by putting your most relevant information in the headline of your piece, or you can front-load a single sentence by leveraging the most useful and/or necessary information in your first few words. Why do this?

    • Attention. Your readers’ attention spans are short, valuable, and fragile. Many of them will only skim over your article, but almost all of them will catch the earliest information in your headline, intro, paragraphs, and sentences. Front-loading takes advantage of this, and gets your message to the greatest possible number of people.
    • Context. Writing is a process of introduction and clarification; just as this sentence illustrates, your job is to introduce a topic and then explain how or why it’s relevant. Introducing your main point earlier gives readers a grounding of context before they move on to your examples.
    • Memory. Introducing your valuable information earlier on gives you a chance to strengthen the overall memorability of your message, especially if you repeat that message tastefully in the rest of your work.

    The most important opportunities for front-loading exist in your headlines, sub-headers, and topic sentences.

    Organization

    The organization of your article is also necessary to communicate your points clearly. Again, there are a number of reasons for this.

    A casual reader or skimmer will be able to browse the article from a distance and pick out precisely the information he/she needs with minimal effort. In-depth readers will appreciate the logical flow of one idea to the next. During the writing process, it can even help you flesh out some of your most important ideas. Take a look at how the simple topic breakdown of the Wikipedia page for the Beatles immediately makes the long, complex page more decipherable and approachable:

    Wikipedia

    (Image Source: Wikipedia)

    This should be your goal, though you don’t need to have a strict table of contents like this. Throughout your article, you’ll want to hit on the main points of organization quality:

    • Logical transitions. Don’t include points randomly, and don’t use non-sequiturs to jump from one topic to another. Even a casual reader should be able to identify why your sections exist as they do, and feel comfortable shifting from one to the other.
    • Deliberate order. If you can rearrange the list of sub-topics you present in your article, you’ve probably done something wrong. There should be a meaningful and deliberate order to your sub-sections, even if that just means including your most valuable points at the end of the article.
    • Framing. Your introduction and conclusion are the most powerful parts of your article; use them wisely.

    This should be one of the first things you accomplish for your article, since you can do it during the outline process and it basically dictates everything else in your piece.

    Formatting

    The formatting of your article can also lend some serious clarity to your piece overall. Though some elements of formatting and organization are somewhat interchangeable, there is a truly significant distinction; organization refers to your choice and order of broad topics, while formatting refers to how you present those topics in a visual format.

    For example, breaking up your content into paragraphs of related, short sentences is far better than leaving your audience exhausted with long, rambling blocks of text. Similarly, bulleted and numbered lists offer concise, punctuated items that represent or verify your arguments, and using bold and italics can help you make certain elements of your sentences stand out.

    Formatting serves two important functions; it gives skimmers a chance to get the gist of your article, and gives other readers a “recap” that helps them return to and better understand a given section. With this in mind, your biggest job in formatting is making sure you select the best parts of your content to emphasize.

    Specificity

    Even topics that offer well-organized subtopics and decent formatting can fall victim to ambiguity if you don’t offer enough specific information to your readers. “Specific” here can mean a few different things, so I’ll explore them.

    First, specific means deliberate. Your word choices have a powerful effect on how your content is interpreted, so be choosy and only use the words that communicate your ideas best. A perfect example of this is the difference between passive voice, which uses indirect references, and active voice, which uses direct references:

    passive and active voices

    (Image Source: Writing Commons)

    Notice how all the passive phrases sound clunky and awkward, and how most of them make you think, if even for an extra second, to fully understand the phrase. The active phrase counterparts are much more straightforward and accessible.

    Second, specific means precise. Don’t use vague words or generalities when you can substitute highly targeted words and phrases for them. For example, don’t say “a lot of companies” when you could substitute something like “80 percent of companies.” Even if you don’t have access to this data, you can use more specific terms like “the majority of companies I’ve worked with” or “most B2B companies.” Leave no room for misinterpretation.

    Illustrations

    The human mind is programmed for abstract thought; it’s easier for us to think in metaphors, illustrations, comparisons, and ideas than it is to think in words and numbers. While improving the specificity of your writing is important, it only appeals to the “words and numbers” part of the brain. If you want to make your ideas as clear as possible, you need to appeal to that intuitive, abstract part as well.

    The best way to do this is with illustrations. You can take this literally and include things like charts and diagrams in the body of your work, but don’t underestimate the value of a good metaphor. For example, Einstein’s theory of general relativity is mathematically complex and almost inaccessible to the average person, but as soon as you liken the curvature of spacetime in the presence of massive objects to a bowling ball warping a taut rubber sheet, it starts to make sense.

    Don’t worry about the details here; your illustrations are not meant to be taken literally, nor are they going to be the only means your audience has of understanding your ideas. Instead, think of them as a complementary service, like condiments at a hot dog stand.

    Simplicity

    Next, we move onto simplicity. There’s significant overlap between clarity and simplicity, since the clearest writing is often simple by default. However, these are independent ideas, and if you want your content to be as effective as possible, you’ll need to simplify your message drastically.

    Take a look at this ad from Dove:

    Dove Ad

    (Image Source: Coull)

    This ad actually sacrifices some clarity by refusing to elaborate on the details of its intentions. Instead, a simple pairing of words is enough to convey the powerful idea behind this campaign—and that makes it all the more effective.

    Just as long, rambling jokes often fail to be as clever as basic one-liners, simple content outperforms weighty content almost every time. How can you accomplish this for your own writing?

    Focus

    First, make sure your focus is in the right place. You should have a clear goal for your article, even if it’s a “general” topic, or one that wanders to several different areas. Do this: try and reduce your entire article to a single sentence, or a single point that you’re trying to make. If you can’t do it, your article might be too broad, or you might need to find a way to make an argument, rather than just blindly stating facts.

    Once you have this, consider it your “keystone.” Theoretically, every word of your article should in some way point back to this keystone statement. Every sentence should either present, illustrate, or confirm a point that eventually leads back to your overall argument—if it doesn’t, it probably doesn’t need to be there.

    You can also create “keystones” for each of your sub-sections, or even each of your paragraphs. Doing so will help you stay focused and avoid deviating from the most important parts of your content.

    Strong Words

    There are over one million words in the English language. If you’re spewing thoughts from the top of your head, chances are you’re not coming up with the best possible choices and combinations. You don’t have to agonize over every word in your article, but making even a handful of simple swaps can make your content simpler and more elegant.

    For example, which is more appealing to you as a reader: “The CEO’s mistake was an especially bad one, and because he made it, there were a number of serious consequences for the company” or “The CEO’s egregious mistake was devastating for the company.” Most would select the latter as being simpler and more effective, partially due to using stronger descriptive words, and partially due to cutting out the fluff (which I’ll touch on momentarily). Don’t be afraid to consult a thesaurus, as long as you double check to ensure you’re using each new word appropriately.

    Moving On

    With the knowledge that long-form content tends to attract more shares and links than their shot-form counterparts, many businesses have exhausted themselves trying to beef up every section of their content. However, you don’t need to do this—and you probably shouldn’t.

    When you expand the individual sections of your article, your goal should be completing your point fully and efficiently. As soon as you’ve reached a definitive conclusion, it’s time to move on to the next section. This will prevent you from providing too many examples (yes, it is a thing), rambling for too long, or obscuring your original point with unnecessary additions.

    There’s no easy way to tell when your section is complete, other than by judging your content compared to your original point. Have you given your readers everything they need to get your main takeaway? If so, leave it at that.

    Cutting the Fluff

    Everyone writes fluff, whether they realize it or not. It’s a natural human tendency; our word selection processes aren’t perfect, and even if they were, we’d still often write or speak too fast for our perfectionistic selection processes to keep up. As a result, we write filler words, filler sentences, and include unnecessary modifiers in our work.

    These aren’t inherently damaging, since they aren’t detracting from your main point. However, they can obscure your main point by making it harder to find (a “diamond in the rough” effect), and if you include enough of them, they’ll bring the value per word of your content down, possibly reducing your readers’ perceptions of your content value overall.

    This effect manifests in a handful of ways. Redundancy is one of the most common offenders (using synonyms or repeating your meaning in other words), and while it won’t kill your meaning, it will make your work seem sloppy and unpolished:

    Repetitive Words

    (Image Source: Writing Commons)

    Other forms of “fluff” include meaningless modifiers like “a lot,” or “very,” and extended definitions of concepts that require only a concise description.

    Again, we all write fluff, so it’s hard to simply stop writing it. Instead of avoiding it, let it come out naturally and try not to overthink it. Then, when your draft is finished, you can go back and edit your material. Look at your work on a sentence-by-sentence level and ask yourself, “is this a necessary phrase? Is this a necessary word?” You’ll find more fluff than you bargained for, but over time you’ll naturally become a more concise writer.

    Efficiency

    While clarity and simplicity are about making sure your writing is effective in delivering a message, efficiency is about making sure your writing is worth the effort you put into it. To put it bluntly, the less time you spend on a knockout piece, the more return on your investment (ROI) it’s going to yield.

    The massive caveat to this is that your content must be high-quality. Never sacrifice the quality of your content to save time or money.

    With that out of the way, there are general “efficiency” strategies you can use to make yourself a more productive person in general, or “hack” your mind to becoming more focused and more alert. For example, you can turn off your message notifications to zero in on your most important work.

    Email Icon iPhone

    (Image Source: Specialmompreneurs)

    I’m not going to get into these strategies. There are plenty of articles on the subject, including ones I’ve written (linked above). Instead, I want to focus on strategies that will exclusively help you become a better, more efficient writer—helping you produce more work in less time without sacrificing any of your quality.

    Collecting a Team

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, good marketing is a team sport. If you have trouble coming up with ideas, get a few of your coworkers to chip in a few topic ideas. If you have lots of ideas, but can’t pick a good one, ask your coworkers for feedback. Fill your staff with other writers and marketers who know your demographics and know your brand—they’ll be able to help you come up with new directions and perfect your approaches. Even five minutes of someone’s time is often enough to help you break through a plateau you’ve encountered on your own.

    Additionally, don’t be afraid to reach outside your company. Talk to peers, influencers, partners, and mentors within your industry and those who share similar content goals. Mingling like this will help you avoid “stale” ideas, and will give you enough inspiration to keep moving through even the toughest episodes of writer’s block.

    Setting Up a Research Stream

    Most content marketers will tell you that the vast majority of their work comes in the research and planning phase; once they’ve collected all the information they need to create a good post, the actual writing process is somewhat simple. Therefore, reducing the amount of time it takes to research will definitively reduce the total time to write any given article.

    How can you do this without just decreasing the amount of research you do?

    Create ongoing streams of research and habits that keep your reading list full and your mind topped off with potential ideas. For starters, sign up for a blog reader app like Feedly, and select publishers and industries that are relevant to your brand. You’ll get top headlines to read every morning, which you can turn into an ongoing research habit. Take notes on topics that interest you and set them aside if you want to develop them in the future; it only takes a few minutes per day, but soon you’ll end up with more ready-to-go research than you know what to do with.

    You can also create research streams on social media, with your coworkers (see previous section), or in your company’s research department—the key is to start getting these topics and data automatically, so you can spare yourself the trouble of seeking it out manually.

    Always Be Writing

    Don’t think of writing as something you sit down to do for X number of hours, to stop only once the article is complete. Instead, try adapting your mind to write on a constant basis. Think through your spoken sentences as if you were drafting them, self-editing for clarity and simplicity, and when you’re stuck in traffic, or you’re out for a walk, let your mind brainstorm about possible topics.

    This open brainstorming will help you find better ways of communicating, and will help you explore new ideas at a leisurely pace, rather than trying to forcefully extract them all at once in a single session. Plus, you’ll get the perks of better communication in other areas of your life.

    Developing a Routine

    While writing is an area where new experiences and new perspectives can introduce new ideas and angles to your work, it also pays to develop a routine. Every day, you should start by reviewing some news and research, and every time you start a new article, you should have a repeatable process for how to do so effectively. This won’t happen all at once; you’ll encounter strategies that consistently work and strategies that consistently fail. Only by adjusting them and building a better overall process will you be able to consistently produce better material at a faster pace.

    The Assembly Line

    This is one example of a routine, or repeatable process you can use to write faster. It doesn’t work for everybody, nor is it guaranteed to help you write faster or better, but it does make the process more streamlined when you start managing lots of pieces at once.

    There are many stages of the content development process; research, outlining, drafting, polishing, publishing, and syndicating. Rather than following this sequence for every available piece, try to operate as an assembly line for greater efficiency; do all the research for all your posts, then all the outlining, then all the drafting, and so on. You could even delegate certain stages of this process to individuals of your team who excel at them, divvying up the process like a real assembly line.

    Bringing It All Together

    If you start implementing all (or most) of the strategies I’ve covered in this guide, I guarantee your writing will become clearer, simpler, and faster—I just can’t guarantee that it will come all at once. Like with the development of any skill, writing improvement takes time, and you’ll run into some obstacles along the way. Try to think of these recommendations as a loose guide for development, rather than a rigid checklist or dogmatic list of rules. Through trial and error, you’ll learn to apply them to your niche and your own personal style in a way that maximizes your efficiency, and at the end of it, you’ll walk away with more powerful pieces of content in every form you publish.

    Want more information on content marketing? Head over to our comprehensive guide on content marketing here: The All-in-One Guide to Planning and Launching a Content Marketing Strategy.

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  2. SEO for Beginners and Article Marketing: Checking for Duplicate Content

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    articleimage611Checking for Duplicate Content

    First, there was Google Panda. Now it’s fiercer. Watch out for Google Penguin! They provide some good reasons why you should pay attention to the tips below on SEO for beginners.

    In one of Google’s most recent updates called Penguin, the emphasis shifted even further toward the content’s uniqueness and authority. Any site that hosts duplicate content would get penalized — or the duplicate content could get removed from Google’s index altogether.

    But with the billions of contents on Google’s index, figuring out how to check for duplicate content has become a frightening prospect. Every conscientious content marketer needs to figure out how to do this efficiently, or you run the risk of getting your sites badly penalized by Google.

    Another very important thing to keep in mind about the need to come up with high-quality and unique content is that copyright laws definitely govern materials that are published online. You’ve got to respect other authors who have sweated and strained to come up with their own original material. For that, they should at least receive attribution.

    So how do you make sure that each piece of content you publish online is not only of excellent quality, but equally important, is unique?

    There are several tools you can use for free in order to check for duplicate content. (Others offer more sophisticated services for a small fee.)

    Google

    articleimage611google

    Google exists not just for finding information by searching for certain keywords. You can also actually use it to check an entire paragraph for duplicate content. Here’s how.

    Copy a line, a sentence, a snippet, or an entire paragraph from what you’ve written and paste it into Google’s search box. Copied texts show up in the search results in bold.

    So if you’ve searched for a whole paragraph and the search results come up with the entire text you pasted in bold, your copy is probably going to be tagged as a duplicate content if it gets published online.

    However, Google cannot process texts that run longer than 500 words. In that case, you’ll want to go through your content paragraph by paragraph to be really thorough and ultimately safe.

    Copyscape

    articleimage611copyscape

    For 5 cents per search you can have Copyscape vet an entire piece for you. But if your budget won’t allow that kind of expenditure, you can still use Copyscape for free. The catch with free Copyscape is that you’ll have to publish the content online first to retrieve its URL.

    Copy and paste the URL of your newly published content in Copyscape’s search box. What Copyscape does is scan the entire interwebs for any copies of the content you’ve just published.

    Copyscape is a reliable tool that many publishers depend on heavily to check for quality and originality. There are other tools very similar to Copyscape that you can use for the same purpose, such as Plagiarism Detect and InterNIC.

    Checking for duplicate content is fairly easy and simple. It’s an indispensable SEO task for beginners, but no one should take it for granted. With the right set of tools, you can comfortably ensure that your content is unique well before you publish it online.

    And by providing your readers with high-quality and unique content, you will have furnished great value.

    Conclusion

    Always strive to create original and high-value content, not just to please your audience, but also to get the search engines’ approval. Taking the time to check your content for duplication on the Internet will pay off in the long run because your readers’ trust in your integrity will rise.

    To find out more about how you can get your business to rank highly with top-notch search engine optimization services, contact us today. We have a wide range of options for your online marketing needs.

    Want more information on link building? Head over to our comprehensive guide on link building here: SEO Link Building: The Ultimate Step-by-Step Guide

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  3. Content Marketing vs. Link Building: Which is Superior?

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    In the world of online marketing, they say that content is king. With carefully crafted content, you can easily influence your audience and convert them into paying customers more effectively. And with content you can keep your audience in the know.

    On the other hand, link building is a crucial component of online marketing that no campaign should do without. By building links, you will help the search engines determine the importance and value of your brand or website.

    So . . . which should you place more value on?

    Content marketing and link building are two of the most important pieces of a successful Internet marketing campaign. However, evidence suggests that content marketing has the edge over link building.

    That’s not to say you should abandon one in favor of the other, but the following are compelling reasons to regard content marketing as having more to offer than link building.

    It’s much easier to measure the value of content than that of links
    Just what is the value that links give to a site? Experts agree it’s a bit difficult to quantify, although links certainly contribute toward improvements in a site’s ranking and traffic.

    On the other hand, with content you can measure your success by determining how many site visits and links are generated by each piece of content. Content also allows us to see how many social votes it gets and how many visits it garners from search engines and social media. We can also determine which keywords have been used by browsers to locate a piece of content.

    Can you determine how much revenue a new piece of content has generated for your business? Certainly. You can quantify how much revenue has been generated by each unit of content per day, per week, per month, or per year.

    Content creation is more natural
    By generating high-value content, you will naturally gain and create links. Great content is a natural link bait; it inspires people to share, blog about, and link to it, if they find it interesting.

    As for linking, in most cases you will find that when you analyze submission-based link-building activities, people link to your content not because they like you, but because you requested a link back to your site or you paid for those links.

    Writing great content is less costly than link building
    While there are some affordable SEOs, a lot are offering their services at expensive rates.

    Finding great copywriters isn’t very hard, though. There are plenty of great writers out there who have strong copywriting skills and are not only creative, but also provide their services at reasonable prices.

    Content marketing is more scalable
    You can either outsource your SEO needs or you can build your own team. However, you should be warned: Setting up a competitive SEO team isn’t a stroll in the park.

    There are many things you need to consider to succeed. You need to find the right people with significant experience in SEO, pay substantially for their talents and skills, and hope they turn out to be as good as they claim.

    If you hire the wrong people or people whose experience is limited, you run the risk of having to devote many hours to training them, testing them, and supervising them to make sure they do the proper job for your clients.

    On the other hand, setting up a team of copywriters is much easier. They are cheaper and not difficult to find. One look at their samples (you can test them if you must), and you should have a grasp of the quality of output you can expect from them. And if they decide to leave, you won’t be set back far because there are plenty of other great writers on the market to go around.

    You may also be surprised to find that today’s online copywriters are not only great writers; a lot of them are also well-versed in the technologies involved in blogging, video marketing, social media marketing, SEO, and web design.

    In sum, be sure you hire the right people from the get-go. Setting up a content team entails a lot less risk than building an in-house team of SEOs.

    It’s a whole lot easier to bounce back from algorithmic penalties
    When Panda and Penguin wreaked havoc during their initial launch, a lot of sites had to rethink their SEO strategies. Those who have been affected due to problems with their content did nothing more than tweak their content marketing strategy.

    Experience has shown that it’s a whole lot easier and more convenient to repair a site that has been hit by algorithmic penalties because of faulty content than to repair one that has bad linking strategies. That alone is a good reason to make content marketing the centerpiece of your SEO activities.

    Over the long haul, creating high-quality content offers more rewards and benefits than trying to figure out how to build further links for your sites. Linking strategies that work today may no longer be effective tomorrow.

    Authoritative and great writers will rule the future of online marketing
    Social media marketing works because there are real people with real skills behind it.

    With the advent of Google+ Authorship, users will now get to know the real people behind great content and a terrific blog. With this new tool, it’s much easier for writers to position themselves as able and credible creators and subject-matter experts in their field. When users can see the people behind great content, writers will earn trust easily and quickly.

    If you haven’t done so yet, set up Google+ Authorship today.

    Content marketing is more fun
    SEO is tedious work, and it takes at least a few months for your hard work to pay off. With content marketing, it’s not only a fun process, but you can also view the fruits of your labor almost instantaneously.

    It’s very gratifying to see your content appear on search engines with your name in the byline.

    Conclusion
    While content marketing has proven to be superior to link building in the long term, this doesn’t mean you should dump the latter. From now on, focus on creating high-quality content more than spending hours to build links, only to see your efforts go down the tubes when the next big algorithmic update hits the Internet.

    For inquiries on our content marketing services, contact us today. You’ll learn more about your options.

    Want more information on link building? Head over to our comprehensive guide on link building here: SEO Link Building: The Ultimate Step-by-Step Guide

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  4. Online Article Marketing for Beginners

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    Article marketing is still a bread-and-butter strategy for many online businesses. Newbie online marketers will also find article marketing a great method for launching their online operations.

    If you are new to article marketing, there are two major considerations you need to be aware of: your article must be optimized for search, and it must carry great appeal for your readers.

    So let’s get right down to business and explore some of the effective ways to write successful articles that will help launch your online business.

    Audience first, search engines last
    Many beginners assume the surest way to succeed online is by tackling the technical aspects of online marketing first; that is to say, they start out writing with an eye on the search engines. This is actually a big mistake, especially these days when the Penguin has a sharp eye peeled for spam.

    When you set out to write an article with a marketing slant, focus on the value that will appeal directly to your intended readers. Before composing a piece, ask yourself: “Is this going to be extremely useful to my target audience?”

    Keep your energy pointed at the value that you can deliver. If you suspect there isn’t sufficient value in what you’re composing, if the potential usefulness of your article isn’t very clear, then it’s not worth writing at all.

    Write naturally and don’t sweat it
    Once they’ve identified a viable topic, newbie writers often find themselves struggling to create solid content. Some fall victim to writer’s block, a perennial problem that plagues even the most seasoned bloggers.

    Don’t get overly concerned about how your article will take shape. Just start writing and recognize that you can rework it later for improvements and additional inputs.

    For more information on effective content writing, click here.

    Don’t rush it; let your creativity flow naturally
    Creativity sometimes hits people over time, not instantaneously. A creative idea may strike — or grow — when we least expect it. Some of us get our great ideas in the shower; others get inspired while driving, or require a few moments’ worth of daydreaming.

    Don’t rush things. Try to work on one small writing project at a time. Sleep on it to allow creative ideas to germinate. You can add them later as they come to you.

    Test your finished articles to see how they flow
    Here’s a great tip for writing articles: After you finish a draft, let it sit for a while. Then get back to it and read it aloud. This allows you to recruit your auditory senses to help you spot issues you might have missed while you were composing. Keep on reading your article out loud to identify more issues until you are satisfied that it all flows smoothly.

    When you are satisfied that your piece is ready for prime time, then and only then is it time to optimize it for search. The following are SEO best practices you should follow to get your articles more readership through organic search.

    Use Google AdWords Keyword Tool or another free keyword service
    Now that your article is solid, it’s time to put in some keywords so it will be fully optimized for search. Use the topic of your article as your keyphrase for your keyword research with Google AdWords Keyword Tool. The reason I recommend this tool is that, while it’s free, it offers some very good information related to keywords.

    When choosing a keyword, pick one that is right for your article. Choose just one or two keywords — one as your main keyword, the other as the secondary keyword. The keywords you use should generate enough search volume, but with as little competition as you can manage.

    For more information on using Google AdWords Keyword tool for keyword research, click here.

    And for more information on keyword-optimizing articles and blog posts, click here.

    Remember Google Penguin
    Be sure to add keywords in such a way that they read naturally. Avoid getting dinged for spamming by making sure you don’t overly optimize your article with exact-match keywords. When using keywords, be sure to vary their use by employing a selection of related terms, rather than using exact-match keyphrases throughout the piece.

    Focus on talking to your audience
    Speak to your audience. Appeal to them in such a way that they are likely to feel you have their issues in mind. If you are focusing on just one issue in your article, try to use the language your intended audience is using. Are you talking about home improvement? What sort of problems are common among homeowners? Can you empathize with them because you sort of feel their worries, too?

    Remember, when writing an article, especially one that solves a problem, try to write as though you’ve already experienced your target audience’s predicaments. That’s why articles written from experience are so often the most powerful.

    Include a resource box with a brief bio
    The resource box should inform your audience about you and point them to additional information. For articles to be submitted to article directories such as EzineArticles.com, include a link that directs readers to your main site, where interested readers can find additional information. Keep your author bio under 150 words.

    A note on linking: Use keywords or your brand as anchor text link. Just be careful to avoid overuse of exact-match keywords as anchor texts.

    Submit articles to directories
    Article submission is still a viable article marketing tactic. Keep in mind, however, that the best way to submit articles to directories without raising red flags is to submit manually. Also, submit original articles only: no duplicate content.

    Prior to submitting to any article directories such as EzineArticles.com, ArticlesBase.com, or Buzzle.com, be sure to familiarize yourself thoroughly with each directory’s rules and guidelines for publishers.

    Constantly publishing new and valuable articles can generate tremendous benefits for your website. It will have a positive impact on your rankings as well as your readership. The more high-quality content you publish, the more the search engines and your followers will love you. You will create a positive reputation for yourself — that of a great resource for reliable information.

    Conclusion
    There you have it: quick and simple tips for beginners to produce online articles.

    Include article marketing as part of your marketing efforts on a consistent basis and you will see some significant improvements in search rankings and customer growth.

    Want more information on content marketing? Head over to our comprehensive guide on content marketing here: The All-in-One Guide to Planning and Launching a Content Marketing Strategy.

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  5. 4 Guaranteed Traffic Pulling Article Marketing Tips

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    If you’re not using articles for your Internet marketing campaigns, you could be missing a lot of opportunities.

    According to SEO-news.com, Article marketing is alive and well. That’s contrary to what many gurus would have newbie Internet marketers believe: they’ve been claiming that the explosion of social media has made writing articles to boost traffic irrelevant.

    But the truth is, consumers still place value on high-quality, extremely relevant, and thoughtful articles — articles that provide them with sufficient information, back to which they can refer whenever they need to.

    Above all, from an Internet marketing standpoint, whether they are posted on blogs or in article directories, Google and other search engines still give weight to well-written and properly optimized articles.

    If you have a blog, an e-commerce site, or a YouTube video, you can use article marketing to your advantage. It remains a valid long-term tool that usually drives highly-targeted traffic.

    Let’s take a look at how article marketing, if carried out properly, can drive highly targeted traffic to your site.

    Gunning for the right keywords

    The benefits of keyword optimizing an article are twofold. First, it alerts the search engines as well as readers as to the content of your article. Second, it’s a proven strategy for off-page optimization, which positively influences the popularity and page rank of your main site.

    The following are best practices for optimizing an article:

    • Include the keyword (or phrase) in the article’s title
    • Use the primary keyword within the first and last paragraphs of the body content
    • Maintain a keyword density of about 2% to 3%, or one appearance per 100 words

    Avoid overstuffing the piece with keywords.

    Create high quality content that gets snapped up by readers

    Content is great, but only if it’s high-quality.

    High-quality content creates interest and delivers value by addressing the reader’s needs. It’s best to use an attention-grabbing headline that promises either to ease certain pains or increase pleasure.

    The promise or bold claims in the title should then be properly met within the body of the article.

    Avoid fluff when writing the body content. Instead, only include information that is succinct and concise.

    To help your readers grasp the most valuable points and not feel overwhelmed, cut the article into small chunks. You can do this most effectively by using subheaders, bullets, and ordered numbering.

    Be seductive but don’t reveal too much

    Try keep your readers’ interest high, but don’t reveal too much. The goal of article marketing is to write pieces that provide just enough useful or interesting information to leave the reader wanting more.

    In other words, provide helpful information, but save the best for your own website, to which you should direct the reader for more information. One popular way to do this is to write a “top 10” list that covers some topic in your niche, and use the article to count down the top 9. If the reader wants to see what the top #1 item is, direct them to a specific page on your website that has the information.

    Entice readers with an effective call to action

    In pieces composed for article directories, the resource box generally serves as the call to action. Don’t just tell people where your main site can be found; instead, entice them by telling them what else they’ll learn at your website.

    Use this opportunity to get readers to click on the link.

    Conclusion
    Article marketing is still a viable online marketing tool that, when used properly, can feed high-converting visitors to your website.

    Just remember to write only high-quality, well-optimized and highly informative content; nobody wants to waste their time reading lame articles!

    Want more information on content marketing? Head over to our comprehensive guide on content marketing here: The All-in-One Guide to Planning and Launching a Content Marketing Strategy.

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  6. Duplicate Content: All Evidence Considered, All Questions Answered

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    Duplicate content. One of the most hotly contested and widely shrouded-in-mystery concepts of SEO. I’m going to tackle this concept right here, right now. I decided to write about this topic for two reasons:

    1) I am about to launch a massive Website which I hope to monetize quickly, but I need to know if it’ll be a good idea to syndicate the content from the site as a viable method for obtaining direct referral traffic and backlinks without compromising its organic search traffic (more on this later).

    2) I searched for two hours last night and couldn’t find a definitive conclusion to this question.

    In this blog post, I’m going to address everything you want and/or need to know about duplicate content. This is partially for my own personal future reference as I will undoubtedly face this question again in the future, but also to share with you the fruits of hours upon hours of research, testing, and analysis that I’ve been working on. After all, sharing makes everything more fun, right? OK, take a deep breath. Here goes.

    Duplicate content: What is it?

    Here’s Google’s own definition of duplicate content:

    Duplicate content generally refers to substantive blocks of content within or across domains that either completely match other content or are appreciably similar.

    So basically, there are two types of duplicate content:

    • Duplicate content within the same domain
    • Duplicate content across different domains

    First, let’s cover duplicate content within the same domain.

    Q: Is there a duplicate content penalty?

    Ever since I started getting my feet wet in SEO, this question has swirled around forums and blogs. Somewhere, someone out there perpetuated the idea that having the same content on page A of your Website as page B of your Website would cause your site to be penalized in search engine rankings. This idea began to percolate in the internet marketing community because a bunch of spammers realized that when they had a piece of content (ie, an article) that was getting a lot of search traffic, they could fill up every page of their Website with the same content in order to pull even more traffic from the search engines. Obviously, the same article blatantly duplicated across hundreds of pages within a single domain is a malicious attempt to gain search engine traffic without actually adding any value. Google caught on pretty quickly to this method and fixed its algorithms to detect duplicate content and display only one version of it in the search rankings. Websites that engaged in this blatant activity were de-indexed and cried up a river across forums and blogs throughout the internet marketing community. Thus was born the fear of the “duplicate content penalty.”

    However, in the vast majority of cases, duplicate content is non-malicious and simply a product of whichever CMS (content management system) the Website happens to be running on. For example, WordPress (the industry-standard CMS) automatically creates “Category” and “tag” pages which list all blog posts within certain categories or tags. This creates multiple URLs within the domain that contain the same content. For example, this particular post will be on the root domain (www.jaysondemers.com, while it remains on the first page), the “single post” version (which you can find by clicking the title of the blog), and in the “Categories” and “Tags” pages. So that means this particular post will be duplicated 4 times on this domain. But am I doing that intentionally in order to get more search engine traffic? No! It’s simply a product of the automatic, behind-the-scenes work that my CMS (WordPress) is doing.

    Google knows this, and they are not going to penalize me for it. Millions of Websites are running on WordPress and have the exact same thing happening. But what if I were to take this particular post and re-post it 100 times in a row on my blog? That would definitely send red flags when Google’s crawler sees it, and one of two things will happen at that point.

    1) Google may decide to let me off with a “warning” and simply choose not to index 99 of my 100 duplicate posts, but keep one of them indexed. NOTE: This doesn’t mean my Website’s search rankings would be affected in any way.

    2) Google may decide it’s such a blatant attempt at gaming the system that it completely de-indexes my entire Website from all search results. This means that, even if you searched directly for “jaysondemers.com” Google would find no results.

    So, one of those two scenarios is guaranteed to happen. Which one it is depends on how egregious Google determines your blunder to be. In Google’s own words:

    Duplicate content on a site is not grounds for action on that site unless it appears that the intent of the duplicate content is to be deceptive and manipulate search engine results. If your site suffers from duplicate content issues, and you don’t follow the advice listed above, we do a good job of choosing a version of the content to show in our search results.

    This type of non-malicious duplication is fairly common, especially since many CMSs don’t handle this well by default. So when people say that having this type of duplicate content can affect your site, it’s not because you’re likely to be penalized; it’s simply due to the way that web sites and search engines work.

    Most search engines strive for a certain level of variety; they want to show you ten different results on a search results page, not ten different URLs that all have the same content. To this end, Google tries to filter out duplicate documents so that users experience less redundancy.

    So, what happens when a search engine crawler detects duplicate content? (from http://searchengineland.com/search-illustrated-how-a-search-engine-determines-duplicate-content-13980)

    Duplicate content
    The final word: Duplicate content on the same domain

    The final word is that, unless you are really blatantly duplicating your content across tons of URLs within the same domain, there’s nothing to worry about. One of your URLs on which the duplicated content resides will be indexed and chosen as the “representative” of that URL cluster. When users perform search queries in the search engines, that particular piece of content will display as a result for relevant queries, and the other URLs in the dupe cluster will not. Simple as that.

    However, the other side of the coin is duplicate content across different domains. And that’s a whole different monster. Ready to tackle it? Here we go.

    Duplicate content across domains: What is it?

    Sometimes, the same piece of content can appear word-for-word across different URLs. Some examples of this include:

    • News articles (think Associated Press)
    • The same article from an article directory being picked up by different Webmasters
    • Webmasters submitting the same content to different article directories
    • Press releases being distributed across the Web
    • Product information from a manufacturer appearing across different e-commerce Websites

    All these examples result from content syndication. The Web is full of syndicated content. One press release can create duplicate content across thousands of unique domains. But search engines strive to deliver a good user experience to searchers, and delivering a results page consisting of the same pieces of content would not make very many people happy. So what is a search engine supposed to do? Somehow, it has to decide which location of the content is the most relevant to show the searcher. So how does it do that? Straight from the big G:

    When encountering such duplicate content on different sites, we look at various signals to determine which site is the original one, which usually works very well. This also means that you shouldn’t be very concerned about seeing negative effects on your site’s presence on Google if you notice someone scraping your content.

    Well, Google, I beg to differ. Unfortunately, I don’t think you’re very good at deciding which site is the originator of the content. Neither does Michael Gray, who laments in his blog post “When Google Gets Duplicate Content Wrong” that Google often attributes his original content to other sites to which he syndicates his content. According to Michael:

    However the problem is with Google, their ranking algo IMHO places too much of a bias on domain trust and authority.

    And I agree with Michael. For much of my internet marketing career I have syndicated full articles to various article directories in order to expand the reach of my content while also using it as “SEO fuel” to get backlinks to my Websites. According to Google, as long as your syndicated versions contain a backlink to your original, this will help your case when Google decides which piece is the original. Here’s proof:

    First, a video featuring Matt Cutts, a well-known blogger and search engine algorithm engineer for Google:

    The discussion on syndication starts at about 2:25. At 2:54 he says you can tell people that you’re the “master of the content” by including a link from the syndicated piece back to your original piece.

    More evidence:

    In cases when you are syndicating your content but also want to make sure your site is identified as the original source, it’s useful to ask your syndication partners to include a link back to your original content.

    And finally:

    Syndicate carefully: If you syndicate your content on other sites, Google will always show the version we think is most appropriate for users in each given search, which may or may not be the version you’d prefer. However, it is helpful to ensure that each site on which your content is syndicated includes a link back to your original article. You can also ask those who use your syndicated material to use the noindex meta tag to prevent search engines from indexing their version of the content.

    Now, what I think is interesting from this last quote from Google is that they actually admit that the piece of content they choose may not be the right one. In my experience, it’s very likely not to pick the right one if the site that originated the content is relatively young or has a low PageRank. So this raises the next big issue:

    How do I get ranked as the original source for the content I syndicate?

    I’ve syndicated tons of my articles to EzineArticles only to see Google credit them with higher search results for my content, even when I made fully sure that Google had indexed my content at its original location prior to submitting it to Ezine. Vanessa Fox, who previously worked at Google and built Webmaster Central, attempts to tackle this question in her blog post, “Ranking as the Original Source for the Content you Syndicate.”

    Unfortunately, she concludes that, basically, there’s nothing you can do to ensure that you do. She suggests:

    Create a different version of the content to syndicate than what you write for your own site. This method works best for things like product affiliate feeds. I don’t think it works as well for things like blog posts or other types of articles. Instead, you could do something like write a high level summary article for syndication and a blog post with details about that topic for your own site.

    Rewriting a piece of content is not my definition of syndication. That’s just rewriting an article in different words and distributing it. Almost all information circulating on the Web has already been posted elsewhere anyway; even this blog post is composed of a ton of information that I found elsewhere on the internet. So to me, writing a new article that says the same thing in different words and distributing that to syndication partners isn’t really syndication of the original article. It’s syndication of a different article. So we’re still left with the question of the results of syndicating the exact same content that already appears on your Website: what are the effects of doing so? Can it harm my rankings in any way?

    To me, this is the most important question surrounding duplicate content. Before I jump into that analysis, let’s consider an important foundational question.

    Why would I want to syndicate the exact same content from my Website elsewhere?

    The internet really operates on a simple economy of give-and-take. The two commodities that are exchanged are unique content and backlinks. Unique Content is defined as content which Google does not identify as duplicate. There are various theories about where exactly Google draws the line of deciding whether content should be considered duplicate, but one figure I’ve heard tossed around a lot is 30%. Basically, according to the 30% theory, if Google identifies that more than 30% of a particular piece of content appears elsewhere across the internet, it’ll be categorized as duplicate. Now, I can’t attest to the accuracy of this figure, so take it for what it’s worth. There’s also various duplicate content-detection software such as CopyScape which is designed to help Webmasters check to see if their content has been stolen and duplicated across other domains. This is also a good tool to use to determine whether your content is likely to be considered duplicate by Google. And that’s what really matters.

    But I’ve gotten a bit off track, let’s get back to the discussion of why you’d want to syndicate content. I mentioned the internet economy of backlinks and unique content. Unique content is desirable because it will be indexed by Google, giving that particular Website another instance of its “name in the hat” so to speak. Basically, the more content a Website has indexed, the more chances it has of being returned in Google’s search results for relevant queries.

    But what about backlinks? Backlinks are simply links from any other Website to your own. Search engines consider it a “vote” when one Website links to another. This vote is used to determine authority & relevance in Google’s search results. In fact, it’s thought that backlinks are the single most-important factor in determining how your Website should rank for a given query. There are a ton of factors that play into backlinks and how much their “vote” counts for, but I’ll get into that in a future blog post. For now, what you need to know is that backlinks are valuable because they improve your rankings in the search engines, and that means more traffic to your Website.

    OK, so now we’ve covered the basic commodities of the micro-economy of the Web. This is important because when you syndicate your content, assuming you have included a backlink in it linking back to your original source, you get a backlink from each and every Website to which your content was syndicated. Awesome, right?

    Maybe not. The first question is how highly Google values a backlink from a piece of content that is known to be duplicate content. Frankly, I don’t know. On the one hand, it’s easy to syndicate content to a bunch of auto-accept blogs if your sole goal is to get backlinks, and this says nothing about the quality of your content or how much the originator of the content should be rewarded. On the other hand, syndication can also be a great indicator of the quality of a particular piece of content. After all, why would it be syndicated so much if it weren’t really great?

    In the end, Google probably has signals for how it answers these two questions, but the real answers are probably only known by the software engineers that coded the algorithm. Many folks try to boost the value of their syndicated content by engaging in content “spinning” which is perfectly legitimate as long as it’s not the garbage that’s often spouted out by automated software. I’ll go into more depth about content spinning in a later post. For now, we’re still trying to answer the question of whether syndicating content exactly as it appears on your own Website is a good idea or a bad idea. After careful testing I’ve come to the following conclusion:

    .

    …….

    *drumroll*

    ……

    *more drumroll*

    …..

    Maybe.

    I know, I know. That’s not the answer you wanted. Allow me to explain.

    I own over 50 domains, and I like to do a lot of testing across them. I spent a couple hours last night performing searches for my content that I had syndicated to various other blogs and directories. And what I found was both disappointing and encouraging.

    The disappointing part was that, in many cases, my syndicated content outranked my own original content. Even if a site ranked higher than mine for my own content had a backlink to my site, the originator of the content, it was like Google completely ignored that backlink and still gave more credit to the other sites. In some cases, my own site’s version of the content was nowhere to be found, obviously falling into Google’s duplicate URL cluster and being filtered out of the search results. This means that by syndicating my content, I actually, in effect, got my own content de-indexed.

    This is pretty much the worst possible scenario, but it happened. Sometimes, at least. And that’s the weird part; sometimes, my content was recognized as the original content and received the highest ranking. With other sites and pieces of content, it ranked second behind a high-authority site, usually EzineArticles. So I have to conclude the following:

    When you syndicate your content, it might:

    • Cause your own, original content source (ie, your Website) to be, in effect, de-indexed for that piece of content
    • Cause your site to rank highly for queries relevant to your content, but not highest
    • Cause your site to rank highest for your content

    Well, that pretty much covers all the bases, doesn’t it? These are all the results I observed when looking at my own sites and the results of syndicating articles that originated on those sites. Basically, I can conclude that Google just doesn’t always get it right. And, Google doesn’t like to do anything with any sort of consistency. The last thing they want is for us SEOs to completely figure out their algorithm, because once that happens, the integrity of their search results will be destroyed as folks manipulate them all to hell.

    The encouraging part was when I discovered that the backlinks from the syndicated content definitely helped my sites’ rankings for my target keywords. So there is definitely at least some value of backlinks originating from content which Google has labeled as “duplicate.”

    So, the final question remains: Should I syndicate my content?

    Let’s look at the benefits of doing so:

    Benefits of syndicating your content:

    • Get backlinks from lots of sites
    • Expand your reach and brand awareness to highly-trafficked sites
    • Get direct traffic via referrals from backlinks in your syndicated content
    • Much cheaper way of getting backlinks than writing brand-new content (or re-writing existing content) for distribution/syndication

    Drawbacks of syndicating your content:

    • The sites to which you syndicate might actually outrank you for your own content if they have higher authority than your own site, even if you follow Google’s advice and include a backlink to the original source of the content
    • Google might group the URL on which your content resides with the rest of the duplicates, hiding it from search engine results pages (effectively de-indexing it)

    So, in the end, syndicating your content is risky. You can definitely get the best of both worlds if Google decides your site is the originator of the content, thereby rewarding your content with the top position in the search results and also getting all the juicy backlinks that play into your overall rankings for specific keywords. But if Google gets it wrong (and it does, quite often, contrary to what they might think), you risk having your content never rank for relevant search engine queries.

    And this really worries me, because I’ve always held the opinion that there’s nothing else someone else can do to harm the rankings of a particular Website. After analyzing these results, I fear I’ve found a loophole in my own argument; If someone else visits my Website, copies all my content and syndicates it around the Web, it’s possible that the sites to which my content was syndicated will actually rank higher for it than my own site. Google tries to address this problem here as well as in the Matt Cutts video:

    In most cases a webmaster has no influence on third parties that scrape and redistribute content without the webmaster’s consent. We realize that this is not the fault of the affected webmaster, which in turn means that identical content showing up on several sites in itself is not inherently regarded as a violation of our webmaster guidelines. This simply leads to further processes with the intent of determining the original source of the content—something Google is quite good at, as in most cases the original content can be correctly identified, resulting in no negative effects for the site that originated the content.

    Again, unfortunately I have to point out that in my own experience, repeatedly, I’ve seen my own content rank worse than the sites to which it was syndicated. So even though Google thinks it’s good at identifying the original source of the content, my data suggest otherwise. In time, we can only hope that Google improves this aspect of its algorithm; there’s certainly nothing more we can do as Webmasters. Instead, you just have to understand the benefits and drawbacks of syndication and decide whether you’re comfortable with taking on the risks of having Google wrongly identify ownership of your content.

    Here are a couple tips to minimize the risk of Google getting it wrong (in theory):

    • Always post new content to your own Website and then wait to syndicate it elsewhere until Google has crawled and indexed your content. You can check to see if a particular page has been indexed by performing a search query of your exact URL, in quotes. If the search returns the correct result (ie, not zero results) then it has been indexed. Another neat trick you can try is to randomly select 11-12 words from your content and search for that string, again in quotes. You wouldn’t think it, but the likelihood that any 10-12 words in a specific sequence will appear elsewhere on the Web is extremely small. Try it now — copy and paste a random sentence from this paragraph into Google, surround it in quotes, and see how many results you get. You will probably only find this URL as a result, unless this article has been syndicated (this is also a great way to check out which sites have picked up your content when you syndicate it).
    • Always include a backlink in your syndicated version to the original content source URL. Google says this is the way to do it right, but it’s still not a surefire thing. Nonetheless, it certainly can’t hurt.

    What about taking Vanessa’s suggestion and re-writing your content before syndicating it?

    This would definitely solve the problem of possibly getting your own content essentially de-indexed when Google wrongly attributes content ownership, but there are some major problems with it too:

    • It’s really expensive if you have a lot of content. Think about how much time it would take you to rewrite each article you have. This post alone is over 4,000 words and took me 3+ hours to type! You could outsource the rewriting to a service like Human Rewriter but that will cost you around $4 per 500 words. That could get very expensive if you have a lot of content.
    • You are still distributing content that is topically themed around the same keywords as your original content, so it’s not a stretch to think that the rewritten content would still outrank your original content for relevant search queries, especially on high-authority sites such as EzineArticles.

    In the end, it all comes down to testing on a massive scale, getting solid data and making decisions based on that data. So here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to run a huge test and then update this post with my results. At the beginning of the post I mentioned that I am soon launching a massive Website with tons of unique content. I’m going to syndicate it all, completely unedited, as far and wide as I possibly can. As I do so, I’ll monitor traffic sources to see what keywords people are using to find my content. Then, I’ll replicate those keyword queries in Google and see where my site ranks in the search results. This should be the definitive test for the merits of syndication.

    Thanks for sticking with me through this post! Check back soon for updates.

    Further reading on duplicate content:

    Google Webmaster Central

    Demystifying the Duplicate Content Penalty

    Duplicate content due to scrapers

    Ranking as the original source for content you syndicate

    When Google gets duplicate content wrong

    How a search engine determines duplicate content

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