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?
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):
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:
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’.