Since the advent of contextual advertising, many thousands of new articles sites (aka MFA or Made For AdSense sites) have been launched; their owners all hoping to strike gold. The reality is that very few do.
The theory is that by creating a site with thousands of articles which are freely available for reproduction from various sources around the web, this will attract search engine traffic and that a portion of that traffic will click on contextual advertising or affiliate links once on the site.
The problem is that the articles published on these sites can usually be found in hundreds of other places - and search engine algorithms are designed to detect this. In the perfect world, the site where the article first appeared should get the ranking kudos, although this is not always the case.
If you're considering creating an article site to cash in on the contextual advertising bonanza, step back for a moment and really think about it - what strategy will you put in place that will separate you from the pack and make your site successful? On the altruistic side of things; will you be contributing something valuable to the web, or just more clutter?
The following are some tips that will help improve your chances of making a decent living from your articles site and creating a truly useful resource:
1. Research for suitable topics
If you're going to be using other people's content that has been made freely available for reproduction, make sure there's a good supply around first - and that the information is relatively current or ageless. Don't put all your eggs in one basket by only having a few sources.
You also need to gain some idea of how lucrative the topic is in terms of advertising return - no point in expending the effort if you're only going to average a couple of pennies per click or action on any accompanying advertising.
An way to gauge click prices for the genre is via Google's Keyword Tool. It won't give you the price as such, but show you competition levels between advertisers. The more competitive the term, the higher that advertisers are likely paying. Learn more about keyword popularity
2. Attention to design
As I mentioned, articles sites have popped up everywhere in recent years, especially since the advent of contextual advertising - and many of them look rather, well, blegh. Their
owners are using a shotgun method - quantity over quality.
3. Use the right article management software
If you're going to be publishing hundreds, perhaps thousands
of articles, you may be better off using an application dedicated to the
task from the outset, such as Interspire Website Publisher - which I've described in more detail towards the end of this article.
4. Be somewhat passionate about the subject
While you may be able to generate a million bucks working the web whilst in your underpants, believe me - you'll go through
quite a few sets of underwear in the process. There is no easy money, it's
still hard work and
rarely a case of "build it and they will come".
5. Stay targeted
When content supply dries up intermittently, the temptation can be to branch into other totally different topics, or to use low quality content. Resist the temptation - if content flow is that slow, use the article site formula on a totally new site focusing on other topics.
6. Try to develop your own articles
Following on from the last point, you'll generally do much better if you also take the time to write up a few of your own articles and offer those for reproduction too. Not only will that put you in better standing with the search engines; you can also drive traffic to your site through those articles being published on other sites. Ensure you have a blurb at the end of your original articles that provides a brief bio, your site promo and also copyright information.
7. Encourage authors to submit content directly
It can be quite time consuming tracking down content, so once you have a list of authors who provide content free for reproduction, encourage them to notify you of new articles. Better still, see if you can get them to submit articles directly to your site, which is possible with some of the better article management software applications around, including Interspire Website Publisher.
Bear in mind that prolific, good authors won't take the time to submit content themselves - they are much too busy writing it, so you'll most likely need to monitor for new articles they've published yourself.
8. Optimize for search engines
Ensure that your pages are optimized for search engines. There should be relevant meta tags and title tags, use <h1>, <h2> etc tags for headings, embolden key points and phrases and ensure wherever possible that anything else on the page aside from the article is somehow relevant to the article.
Another very important aspect is the file name you use for each page, it shouldn't be too long and should describe the nature of the article. Use hyphens to separate multiple words. When you link to articles, use relevant anchor (linking) text.
Pick up more search engine optimization tips
9. Don't overly rely on search engines
Sure, search engines will be of primary concern to you as a source of traffic, but they are not the only source. What happens if you hit a rough patch in terms of your rankings? If you don't have the cash to spend on PPC advertising, simple ideas such as a
tell a friend script can help to build your
traffic via viral means.
10. Newsletter and RSS feeds
You'll want to encourage people to come back to your site, so the old faithful marketing strategy very much applies here - offer a weekly newsletter. It doesn't have to take up much of your time each week, just a summary snippet from each new article will do for starters. RSS web feeds are also set to take off in popularity, especially with Internet Explorer 7 having excellent RSS support, so this is certainly a feature you'll also want to include.
Tip: when using RSS feeds, don't publish the full article content in the feed, just a snippet. This will encourage people to actually visit your site where they will be exposed to other content and advertising.
11. Try for exclusivity once traffic is established
Once you build traffic to an appreciable level and the authors you are featuring are seeing some benefit through the exposure, try approaching a couple and ask if you can have a semi-exclusive arrangement; i.e. before they make an article available for general reproduction,
that you have exclusive reproduction rights for a period of one month or so. Don't try and prevent them from having the article displayed on their own site though;
that will certainly dash any hopes you have of a closer partnership!
I know of several major resources that use this model and it appears to be working quite well for them. It's important to note that just because you have the first reproduction up, it doesn't mean you'll get the better ranking over those who follow - it just gives you a better chance at it.
12. Important - copyright infringement.
This is something to be very careful with. When you find articles that are free, ensure that you follow the author reproduction guidelines *very* carefully. Nothing annoys authors more than their work being misrepresented.
Another thing to watch for is the black market article industry. This is where companies offer "original" content for peanuts. Pay peanuts, you get monkeys - it's that simple. Chances are that these "original" articles have been ripped from elsewhere. Learn more about my experiences with plagiarism and another article on the subject of content theft based on a Wall Street Journal report on the issue.
13. Beyond contextual advertising
There's more to revenue generation that just AdSense - search around for companies/networks in the genre covered by your articles and check out their affiliate programs. While AdSense, YPN and other contextual networks such as Chikita are definitely good earners, we still make most of our revenue through individual arrangements with companies and non-contextual affiliate networks. Learn more about affiliate marketing.
Article/content management software - ArticleLive.
I'm a big fan of InterSpire products after having used several of their applications over the last couple of years. Currently I run
Send Studio for all my email
list management needs, an adapation of WebEdit (the predecessor to their
excellent SiteStudio software) in connection with another project, plus TrackPoint
InterSpire also offer free installation services with any of their applications. For
an article site with a goal of revenue generation, I don't think you can go past
the features provided by Website Publisher, which include:
In the interests of transparency and disclosure, please note that the owner of Taming the Beast.net often receives goods and services mentioned in reviews for free, or may receive payments or affiliate commissions for advertising or referring others to merchants of products and services reviewed.
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