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Should I Publish Free Articles On My Blog?

Earlier today I was asked to take a look at a blog of a reader to give it a critique. On arriving on the blog I immediately noticed that at the top of every article on the front page of the blog there was a copyright notice which ascribed the copyright to a ‘free article’ website. On opening each post I saw that at the bottom of each post was a paragraph byline from an author with links back to their own websites. Classic ‘free article’ stuff.

The concept of ‘free article’ websites is simple. Authors wanting to build their web profile and incoming links to their sites write articles and submit them to a ‘free article’ website. The free article website then allows any website owner to republish those articles as long as they do so with the links that are in them in tact. In this way the author of the article gets links (which helps their search engine ranking), the article site also gets free links back to them and the person using the article gets free content.

Everyone wins right?

Wrong…..

I won’t unpack whether the article writer wins (that’s a whole other post) but as a blogger republishing free articles on your blog you could actually be doing more harm than good to your blog.

Let me illustrate this with a simple exercise:

On searching ArticlesBase.com (a free article site) for ‘blogging’ to see what articles they have there an article titled ’13 Steps to Successful Blogging’ comes up in the search results (as pictured below):

successful blogging.png

I highlighted a segment of the article and plugged it into Google within “quotes” to see how many exact matches I could get for it (to see how many times the article has been republished).

Here’s the search results on Google:

successful-blogging.jpg

Google sees that phrase ‘about’ 54,000 times!

There are three main reasons why I wouldn’t use ‘free articles’ on a blog:

1. A key to growing blogs is unique and useful information – if you want to grow a blog into a profitable and sustainable venture you need to provide your readers with useful and unique information. Post the above article and you’re 1 in 54,000 (and counting).

2. A key to growing blogs is personal voice and connection – if your blog is filled with free articles you’ll end up with a collection of content that is disjointed, that doesn’t personally connect with readers and is devoid of personality. Blog readers will subscribe and become loyal to a blog when they feel a personal connection and want to track with someone over the long haul. Not when they see a disjointed collecting of articles by a different person every day.

3. A key to ranking well in Search Engines is ‘Unique’ content – using an article that appears 54,000 times on the web almost guarantees that it’ll never be found by one of the biggest sources of traffic out there – Google. For starters you’re competing with 54,000 other versions of the same article, secondly you’re competing with the ‘free article’ sites you got the post off (remember they generate millions of links from their free articles) and on top of all that Google hates what it calls ‘duplicate content’ and works hard to not rank highly content that is republished over and over again. The article above does appear in the rankings for a search for ‘successful blogging’ in the #1 position – but the site that ranks for it is a free article site.

The long and short of it is that as a blogger you’re doing yourself and your readers a disservice by using ‘free articles’.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Shane says:

    If I find an article that I think would be interesting to my readers I include it in a weekly feature on my blog that I call “Nihon on the Net”. My niche is Tokyo and I usually provide a link to interesting Japan/Tokyo related stories with an explanation or some commentary. With that approach I feel as if I am providing a service to my readers without running the risk of duplicating content.

    I would never publish a free article that is duplicated elsewhere. I agree with Barbara Ling that it only takes a bit of time to research and create an original article on a subject. This way you are able to provide your spin or some commentary on the subject which is why your readers come to you and not someone else.

    I believe that using free articles is a lazy way out – why even have a blog if you are just copying the work of others?

  2. Noobpreneur says:

    Darren,

    I totally agree with you – the best thing to expose the blog is from within.

    Having your articles in other sites (article sites, that is) will only benefit them much, much more than you.

    Thanks for your insight!

  3. cloudsters says:

    Not to sound too ignorant, but wouldn’t submitting posts to places like Zimbio, for publication in wiki-magazines etc, be half-way down the free-directory route? A good thing?

  4. yeah i don’t know why people use articles, like it’s really that hard to come up with your own stuff. but i guess everybody’s different. like i know people who can talk out of their butt for hours straight, and others who can’t even figure out how to ask what the time is. if you’r egoing to use someone else’ article at least switch the paragraphs around for golly sake…

  5. Darren Rowse says:

    Jon – Ninja Blog Setup,

    I hear what you’re saying and I guess there is an argument for posting a free article IF it’s got high quality content in it that you couldn’t write yourself. However IF you do this you’ve got to know the risk associated with it – ie that you’re not likely to rank well for it in Google and that from what I hear it actually has the risk of hurting the overall ranking of your blog if you have too much duplicate content.

    All I can really say about ‘free articles’ is that I’m yet to read one that has really engaged with me. I am drawn to content that has a personal voice, that builds on relationship that I might have previously had with an author etc. But maybe that’s just me?

    In terms of outranking the people who write the article – that might be true but you’d need to have a very highly ranked site to outrank articles sites with hundreds of thousands of links pointing at them.

    You ask what the diff is between free articles and guest posts in the eyes of visitors – it’s a good question and on one level I see your point. However the diff in my mind is that I choose guest posters who I think have something unique and valuable to add to the conversation on my blog. I also choose people who I think have some runs on the board in their area of expertise. While you could quality control free posts I’ve not seen too many people do this. In fact most people I’ve seen use free articles post almost anything that slightly relates to their blog’s topic.

    Lastly – in terms of duplicate content being a myth – all I can say is why would you want to take the risk? I’ve seen blog after blog languish in the bottom of the SE results for publishing generic kind of content and have never seen a site rise through the ranks with free articles. If you think you can do it then go for it, but count the risk first.

  6. Charles says:

    I couldn’t agree more with this article. Publishing free articles creates duplicate content issues, their quality tends to be quite low, and frequently they result in an incoherent blog as blogs are all about the author and their style of writing.

    Guest articles are different though as the writer is usually carefully selected, the quality is higher, and the fact that it’s unique means that your readers are getting something which they can’t get anywhere else.

    If I find a free article which may be of interest to readers I’d always link to it and write my own take on it.

  7. The fact remains that the site providing these free articles has over 50,000 backlinks, and that’s only on one article!

  8. I have seen alot of good content in free articles and I think the odd one here and there can add to a blog so long as it really is a quality article tailored to the blog’s audience or niche. I know I’m in the minority here but I think there’s a place for this kind of thing.

  9. At first (since I’m new to this blogging business thing) I thought “WOW! this is cool, free articles for my site, I don’t have to write anything” then I scratched my head and said” WHOA ! hold the mayo” I remembered I read something on duplicate content; so that joy was over fast. But I guess what you can do is, read the article and write your own version or just do research and then write it.

  10. Corey says:

    I completely agree with this article. I personally feel that all of your content should be unique to give your site a “voice.” Nice statements.

  11. Kevin says:

    Occasionally, very occasionally, I will use an article from an article bank, but I will always have added something extra.

    From my experience with regular websites articles are a great way to create links and you can use this to your advantage.

    Say you’ve written an article on some specific type of holiday in Ireland. You might post that on your blog and three or four days later, when you are sure Google has indexed it – rewrite it, or write a supporting article and send it to a number of the larger ezines, with a linkback of course to that specific page on your blog.

    You should get valuable link-backs. And because Google has already indexed your article then you won’t be punished for using duplicate content.

    At least that’s my understanding – have I got it right Darren

  12. drt says:

    Hm, reading your posting, one thing came to mind. What is the negative effect of putting someone else’s videos on your site?

  13. Angelo says:

    Hi Darren, I like what you have said in this post. I tried to search one of my articles and the results are only 1 site have my post – Technorati – and I know that came from their ping service.

  14. I use free articles on my blogs. But I don’t know exactly what this means for me as I don’t really have that many readers or a high page rank. In fact for some reason my google rank has gone on my mailboxmoney blog. I have begun writing free articles and submitting them to article directories and use a lot on my blogs as they give good keywords and content but i see your point they’re not unique content and there’s a lot of listings of them in article directories. Maybe it is a waste of time and i don’t think they give that many back links either. Also I am getting the impression they are a bit like safelists as I used to post to millions of safelists and groups online for other websites I had and I never had any feedback or signups to my programs. But still if you write articles it’s quite good to be able to offer your readers content they can use on their blogs and sites and you do get more listings in search engines

  15. I can see both sides of the issue. Using free articles without any editorial control makes about as much sense as the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists republishing cookie recipes. Simply plugging in a free article with no thought to context is ludicrous on its face.

    However, when context is provided (such as a free article on SEO appearing on a blog devoted to SEO topics) and editorial judgment is used (such as spiking error-filled juvenile writing), free articles can have limited uses.

    It is a valid argument to ask where the line between free articles stops and guest posting begins. Seemingly, guest posts are those chosen by the blog editor for context, style and quality. The same should be true for free articles.

    If free articles damage a blog’s standing with Google (and that appears questionable, given comments here by marketing experts) the business would be history. Obviously it has some staying power – to the chagrin of some onlookers.

    Then, of course, is the case of another ‘free’ article model, the wire service. Each minute, thousands of new sites publish the same AP or Reuters story. Are these newspapers, television station Web sites and other online publishers crying foul? Of course not. And the answer gets back to adding value to a blog.

  16. Abdul says:

    Thank you for this great tip, it is very useful to me as a beginner blogger.

  17. Stanium says:

    The guys’s fone a great job posting his article on other 53,999 free acticle sites :) That teaches a good lesson to some of us (me included) :)

  18. Sue Walsh says:

    Great post and so true! As a writer I am always running across job ads looking for things like “20 articles about mortgages” or “15 articles about baseball” and it’s obviously the person is looking to have their blog written for them. Content is SO important and you’re right, duplicate content kills page ranks. Honestly, if you can’t be bothered to write your own blog content you shouldn’t be blogging in the first place.

    Sue
    tieroneads.com

  19. David says:

    Great post, but I would add one point. Your blog should be for the reader, not the search engines. If you occasionally stumble upon a well-written free article that fits the general scope of your blog and would benefit your readers, there is no harm in including it. Filling your blog with other people’s stuff, however, is BAD, BAD, BAD.

  20. How many of these free articles are designed for non-commercial blogs? I suspect very few. Judging by some of the requirements for article-submission (between 250 to 12,000 words, for example) and the broad-nature of subjects (‘how to start a blog’ versus the extremely-niche focus of blogs), I think the majority of the sites using such free articles are not blogs.

    The question becomes a bit of a strawman when compared to actual content models focused on blogs, such pay-per-post schemes.

  21. I agree that free articles are bad news for additional reasons. They are sometimes poorly written, sprinkled with errors and not always well-researched.

    I do love on occasion to summarize well-written blog posts, add my commentary and point my readers to read the original.

    Nothing, of course, beats original, passionately-written content.

  22. Mike says:

    I agree, based on the angle of this article, that using those sites is not useful…… BUT, it should be taken into account, that those sites were NOT designed for bloggers. Blogs should be personal and unique.

    Those sites are really designed for people publishing newsletters and collections of information. For that purpose, the sites actually have a purpose. If you can shift though all the spammy and poorly written articles, you can actually find some interesting pieces that your publication’s readers aren’t familiar with.

    So, to those who don’t understand why these sites exist.. there you go. Keep in mind that bloggers are not the only people on the net, lol. For example, if a teacher wants to start a newsletter out to all of her colleagues, she doesn’t have time to write 10 articles a week and shes not getting paid. Why not just grab some fun (free) articles about games to play with students or success stories from other teachers?

  23. Penelope says:

    I am still working on my blog.
    I have been study Article Marketing for 2 weeks now.

    Finally I am going to put this altogether.
    Your article was definitely Informative, right on time.

    Bless you for that information at the right time and
    place. A bit cliche I know but I mean it.

    And many Thanks to Mike for adding a broader view.

  24. Reginald says:

    Another point that should be considered in this post regarding free articles is the possibility of search engines giving credit to someone else for your work.

    In fact, this issue is the main reason why I restrict myself to original content.

    Besides, a blog’s voice is created by the owners writing style and voice.

    A free article would lack this particular quality.

    A personal touch on any blog enhances its appeal, in my opinion.

  25. Big M says:

    I think you are all missing the point here ?

    Free articles are aimed for bloggers/web entrepreneurs who have no interest if people come back or not, it’s to get click through on adverts or sell products. In return for using the content the writer gets a backlink.

    Like it or not that’s the way it is, and that’s the way it will go !

    Commercialization of blogs to make money.

    If it’s your own blog then it’s not much use to you.

  26. Peter Szabo says:

    I completely agree with this article. I personally feel that all of your content should be unique to give your site a “voice.” Nice statements.

  27. Alex Griffin says:

    Good points. I used to think it would be a good idea to actually submit my posts to ezinearticles.com, but after reading this post I don’t think I’ll do that anymore. Just never thought about it that way. Thanks for the insight!

  28. I agree … but half disagree.. putting some free articles in you blog.. especially for new blog .. will help to increase the traffic and look more professionals and common… its look like dummy blog. If you have done and you are already full confidence about you traffic … now you are ready to discard the free articles. In other side, you have try to post some articles to free article sites..!! Am I right..?

  29. Lee says:

    Thanks for clearing my mind now. Recently, I republished a nice ebook in my blog and I thought it will be good for my blog. After reading your points, I will reconsider again next time and avoid to republish the same article contents in my blog as in a long term, it will bring harm to my blog as well.