Guest Articles: Good for Some, Bad for Others

A recent debate started me thinking about how some marketing strategies can be right for one Web site, but wrong for another -- depending on the site's purpose and the underlying reasoning behind the action.

If an action doesn't directly and logically plug into site goals, then there are likely more profitable ways to spend that time and effort.

Publishing third-party articles on a Web site is one of those marketing strategies that can be right for one site, yet wrong for another.

Publishing Guest Articles as a Strategy

Publishing guest articles as one of your Web site marketing strategies can help broaden the amount and quality of content on a site, which in turn can lead to a more solid, stronger reputation. James Edwards of Umbrella-Consultancy explains:

IMO having quality articles on your site will show that you are...someone who embraces the industry and respects the work of others. Most research scientists post links to other respected scientists' work... I think it can only be good to have quality material by other people in your field posted on your site.

Helping Web Site Visitors

Another situation where adding others' articles to your site can make strategic sense is when a lot of visitors arrive looking for a solution other than the one you provide on your site. Rather than have them wander off, no closer to an answer to their problem, you can build goodwill and credibility by having articles on the Web site that give them more information.

For example, several types of people arrive at my site through the search engines:

* Some are people researching marketing consulting services.

* Some are students looking to write a paper or finish an assigned project for school.

* Some are looking for marketing software.

* Others are looking to buy printed material (e-books, templates, workbooks, etc.) in order to proceed, step-by-step, on their own.

The only ones that are going to be interested in what I have to sell are those in the last group. Instead of letting the majority of visitors go without a fight, I have articles on the site from handpicked individuals or companies.

Those articles are chosen according to how good the quality is, how well the subject matter fits, and whether I think the information will help site visitors.

Information Sites

If a site (or section of a site) is informational in nature, guest articles can be a viable Web site marketing strategy, for several reasons:

* Repeat, purchase-related visits. A good information library can help potential customers through the decision-making process. If they find the information on your site especially helpful, they will be predisposed to coming back later, when they are ready to purchase.

* Increased Web site revenue. Publishing others' work can generate more revenue for your own site. For example, when I publish a third-party article, elsewhere on the page I include one or more of the following: AdSense; an advertisement for my own products; a newsletter sign-up box; or a relevant affiliate link. That way, every path off the page satisfies one of my own goals (direct ad revenue, new newsletter subscriber, or product sales lead).

* Increased targeted traffic. Each new page of quality content has the potential to bring in a happy chunk of incremental traffic from the search engines.

* Future collaborations or other projects. An indirect benefit from publishing others' articles is contact and future collaboration with authors. For example, after one author received several new sign-ups to her newsletter through an article published on my site, she contacted me about collaborating on an audio product.

Poor Fit With Marketing Strategies

For some business models, including guest articles in a list of Web site marketing strategies does not make sense. For example, it can be counterproductive to include guest articles on Web sites where the primary goal is to sell.

Service Web Sites

If the goal is to generate direct sales and leads for your own services, it doesn't make sense to dilute the message and call to action with diversions. Karon Thackston explains:

The purpose of my site is to get those in need of copywriting services and SEO copywriting services to contact me in order to do business. People who come to my Marketing Words site are looking for information about copywriting. They are also looking to hire a copywriter.

Therefore, you will find only material written by Karon on her site.

Product Sales Sites

Some sites have a single goal: to sell product. Every page on the site is devoted to product descriptions or copy designed to move a visitor toward a purchase. In these cases, where the predominant call to action is "buy the product," articles could hurt sales by diverting visitor attention away from the products.

Visit your favorite online retail sites, and you are likely to find product descriptions, reviews, photos and other product-driven content -- but little or no guest articles. Their absence on many e-commerce sites is an illustration of the poor fit of such articles as a marketing strategy for those sites.

Understanding how different techniques support, or sabotage, Web site marketing strategies can be critical to a site's success. Align your strategies with overall goals, and your business is more likely to flourish.

About the Author

Bobette Kyle draws upon 12+ years of Marketing/Executive experience, Marketing MBA, and online marketing research in her writing. Bobette is proprietor of the Web Site Marketing Plan Network, http://www.websitemarketingplan.com, and author of the marketing plan and Web promotion book "How Much For Just the Spider? Strategic Website Marketing For Small Budget Business." ( HowMuchForSpider.com/TOC.htm )

Copyright 2004 Bobette Kyle. All rights reserved.

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