If you are a frequent browser of the venerable (or perhaps not-so-venerable) Warrior Forum, then you will be familiar with the term “article syndication”. Persons various on the Warrior Forum continue to peddle the myth of high-end article syndication, in which you can generate massive quantities of traffic, backlinks, leads, and ultimately the all-important cash money.
Of course it’s all a complete crock. But that won’t stop the high priests of this particular Internet dogma attempting to force you into purchasing article syndication services, software, and appalling training products.
To help demonstrate why article syndication sucks, I have republished (in its entirety) a guest post I submitted to “Jack Wadd’s” Gurus of the Ghetto website, which eventually came to be known as The Anti Warrior. Now Jack eventually gave up on the game; I’m sure he had perfectly good reasons for doing so. In my mind it’s a real shame, as his blogs were everything I love to read – controversial, hard-hitting, well-researched, and entertaining. Because the following piece took me so long to write, I’ve decided not to let it disappear along with Jack’s site. Some of the content might be a bit stale, but the basic message still rings true.
And Jack, if you’re reading, I hope you don’t mind that I republished this “exclusive scoop”.
I was right in the thick of the fight during the glory days of article directories. Back in 2008-2011, when you could rank on the first page of Google with Ezinearticles et al, I was pulling some serious bank in just by writing articles with redirected affiliate links in the resource box. I used to go to school for eight hours, then come home and stay up until midnight writing and submitting. $200+ days on Clickbank were the norm for me, which was pretty cool for a school student right?
I saved my e-money for university, only dipping into it for the occasional holiday, new computer, or guitar. Of course Google Panda came along in 2011 and ruined everything for us “bum marketers”, but the Internet community at large benefited greatly. However, since those halcyon days of easy money I’ve always maintained a huge interest in article marketing, article directories, and the power of the written word for making real income.
Now you know a little bit about me, it’s time to get down to the serious stuff.
On the 25th of November this year, a Warrior Forum member going by the username of “petemcal” posted a pretty innocent thread. He had submitted an article to Ezinearticles, and before you knew it his Google Analytics tracking data had revealed a strange source of traffic. He investigated further, only to discover that this traffic was coming from another website that had taken his article and republished it.
He had been syndicated.
Jubilant celebrations could be heard ringing throughout the peaceful, happy world of Warriorville – a new convert to the true religion of article syndication had passed his first test.
And who better to welcome petemcal with some innocuous teasing than the high priest(ess) of article syndication – Alexa Smith. For a “skepchick”, there is certainly one religion to which she subscribes:
“Oh ye of little faith”, come seek restitution and spiritual enlightenment at the temple of the wordsmith. Come dance ebulliently in the flowing waters of easy traffic, powerful backlinks, and duplicated content.
If Alexa Smith says article syndication works, it must do. If she uses one smiley per sentence, then she MUST be on to a winner. And with the chorus line of Myers, Uhl, and more supporting her, who could help but fall for such a brilliant sounding scheme.
“What? You mean I just need to write a big long article, post it to this mythical Ezinearticles, and people from all over the world will fall over themselves to reprint it on their authority sites. I’ve just found the Holy Grail! Thanks Alexa, thanks Paul – you guys are the best!”
So is article syndication fact or fiction?
You already knew what I was going to say, didn’t you? Article syndication is nothing but a figment of the imagination of some of the saddest yokels on the Warrior Forum. They may wish it to be real, but that does not make it so. I mean I wish Batman were real, and that he would come and shut down organized crime and vice in my neighbourhood – but we all know that ain’t gonna happen.
This is going to be a very long blog post, but I really do hope you’ll learn something valuable here. Thanks once again to my man Jack for giving me the opportunity to post this – I do appreciate it greatly.
Here’s a rough outline of where we’re heading from here:
1) Why newbies are attracted to article syndication
2) The theoretical assumptions of AS
3) The theoretical miscalculations of AS
4) Evidence supporting the ineffectiveness of AS
Why Do Newbies and WaFo Junkies LOVE Article Syndication So Much?
Look at this screen capture I took from a thread called “How do article directories work?” posted on the WaFo:
On one single message of a solitary thread, over 70 bright eyed and bushy tailed “Warriors” (I don’t think I would equate sitting at a computer hocking WSOs with being a warrior, but I digress) thanked the high priest of article syndication, Alexa Smith for sharing her life-changing insights into how article directories work for the purpose of syndication.
Just in case you aren’t up to speed, here’s how the “syndicators” believe directories such as Ezinearticles work:
As a niche article writer, you create a lovingly crafted piece of well-researched content, and then submit it to Ezinearticles.
Bloggers and webmasters various come to Ezinearticles, see that great content, and then think “hey, why not publish this on my site for the benefit of my readers?”
Everyone’s a winner – you get more link and traffic from your cleverly-placed resource box links. The bloggers and webmasters of the world get more content for their readers.
Now Alexa Smith is correctly when stating that article directories are useless for links. Unless you were submitting 24/7 to a diverse range of directories, you would rarely see any link juice. However, she is also incorrect in saying that the purpose of an article directory is to facilitate content exchange and syndication.
The purpose of an article directory is for its owners to profit from Adsense clicks placed on the user submitted content. It really is that simple.
The concept of article syndication is, in my opinion, so appealing to the Warrior Forum masses for the following reasons:
1) It is a simple concept to understand. Unlike a true money maker, such as running a profitable PPC campaign, there is no confusing nomenclature and everything can be explained in an easy manner. After all, if a true technophobe can do it, why can’t you?
2) It is all-pervasive on the forum. Much as Gangam Style only became popular because everyone else was talking about it, or Spanish Flu became a hit because everyone else had it, article syndication is only popular because it has spread through the Warrior Forum like a virus. Because it is all-pervasive, it cannot be avoided. Therefore, any newbie sucked into the web wants to dig deeper and discover what it’s all about.
3) There are so many “successful” proponents. I’ll leave the naming and shaming to Jack, because he has a knack for finding hard evidence, whereas I do not. However, for the average n00b, arriving on the WaFo to find that so many are living their dream lifestyle by writing a few articles a week and submitting them to directories, there’s got to be something behind it. I mean if one guy is making Fortune 500 money from this method, then why can’t I make at least that mythical $100 per day doing the same? Furthermore, with an “attractive” female salesman, selling the dream to the boys of the WF just became so much easier.
4) It doesn’t require any resources. During the development of my Internet marketing career, I’ve noticed that the vast majority of people hate investing in their own success. Everyone is obsessed with finding free ways to do things. Free autoresponders, free web hosting, free or 1 cent domain coupons, free content – nobody wants to pay. Imagine if, when Ray Croc got involved with McDonalds, he had refused to spend a penny to get that fledgling business of the ground. I, for one, would be significantly worse off for never experiencing the joys of a Big Mac value meal at 3am after a night on the silly sauce. You have to spend money to make money – end of story. However, for most WaFoers, the only thing they want to spend money on is more WSOs teaching how to make killer cash cloning cows overnight.
The Theoretical Assumptions of Article Syndication
So how did anyone come up with the idea that article syndication was so “killer” in the first place? Surely a mythical traffic genie didn’t appear overnight and imbue Smith et al with the secrets of writing articles and submitting them to 2nd rate websites for profit.
Of course not! My belief is that article syndication, as a concept, was spawned thus:
The framework of syndication is based on the syndicated news concept. Next time you read the paper or watch the 6pm bulletin, notice how many stories (especially international ones) are composed merely of syndicated coverage from sources like Associated Press or Reuters. Most news outlets actually have scant few “exclusives”, because it is easier, more profitable, and faster to use syndicated news. For example, my local newspaper could not afford to have reporters in every corner of the globe. Therefore, as it is owned by Fairfax Media (a large news corporation) it receives syndicated news that is shared with other newspapers.
Article directories promoted themselves as a source of free content for webmasters, bloggers, and ezine publishers. Anyone could rock up and get some free content for their readers.
On occasion, articles are republished from article directories on to 3rd party websites (of course, as I will soon demonstrate, this is less “syndication” and more “theft”)
Therefore, the concept was borne out of the notion that “if it’s good enough for journalists and news agencies selling breaking news, it’s good enough for Internet marketers trying to sell $37 weight loss ebooks and ‘killer offline goldpot techniques’.”
Basically, the early syndicators thought to themselves that because a few of their articles had been reprinted, they were on to a winner that would allow them to become, in effect, journalists (this is an important point, as I believe it helps to explain the delusion of syndicators who always claim their writing is of such impeccable quality and importance, even when it’s on dubious topics like male enhancement, dodgy auto insurance, or pay day loans).
The writers became the journalists, and the article directories became the news agencies.
Further compounding the issue is that article syndicators fervently believe there is nothing wrong with what is, in effect, duplicate content.
The usual chorus line is something like “BUT newspapers syndicate their content – so why shouldn’t we”. Or “there is absolutely not one iota of evidence that there is a duplicate content penalty, so you should stick the same article in as many places as possible”.
After all, the whole point of article syndication, according to successful marketers, isn’t to get links, boost your SEO, or even drive traffic from the article directories themselves. Instead, it’s to “boost your reputation” (whatever that means) and syndicate your content amongst a wide variety of channels, just like what happens with the news:
The rationale for the nonexistence of duplicate content penalties derives from the fact that multiple sites can rank in Google with the same content. We’ve all seen it in the past; you search for a term only to find the top ten or so results are basically the same thing.
I mean here’s a great example of duplicate content:
I consider myself somewhat of an “OG” of 90s rap. So when I look up the lyrics to Biggie Smalls infamous “Hypnotize” track, we can see that almost the entire front page of Google (and probably the next hundred thousand pages) are all comprised of duplicate content.
If it’s good enough for Biggie, it’s good enough for Paul Myers.
See how the seed was planted that duplicate content is okay?
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how article syndication was born.
The Theoretical Miscalculations of Article Syndication
Now allow me to completely tear apart this silly concept of article syndication, once and for all.
Let’s start with the whole “it’s just like the news, silly” argument. This is a total logical fallacy, because the structure and function of news media deviates massively from the modus operandi of Internet marketers. The reason news outlets syndicate their content is simple – it would be prohibitively costly for a newspaper, news program, or radio show to place reporting journalists across the globe where news happens. Even on a national or district basis, for the smaller players on the scene this could be a problem. And therefore, the structure of news media has grown to accommodate and in fact rely upon syndication.
But that is neither cheap eats nor sweet meats, because news is totally different to SEO-optimized keyword rich content, designed to attract leads and buyers. Think about it this way – when was the last time you were reading the front page of your newspaper, only to discover that you had to opt-in to read the rest of the story? Never right; that’s because news reporting and web content writing for affiliate/Internet marketers are totally different. Absolutely no parallels can be drawn between the two, and therefore it’s completely foolish to assume that “because news gets syndicated, articles do too!”
The whole point of news syndication is that the same content is republished because it comes from a reliable source, like Reuters. However, when it comes to “web content”, originality and uniqueness become far more important. Because anyone with a computer and the will to do at least cursory research can put together a niche website, there is little value in syndicating content. After all, the best quality content (with the most solid research and presentation) should float to the top.
That brings us neatly to the second foolish cornerstone of the syndicators at large: Article syndication works because there’s no such thing as the duplicate content penalty, and we’re not “duplicating” content, just syndicating it!
Let us first address this by stating a simple definition:
If something is duplicated, then it is an exact copy of the original.
Therefore, syndicated articles that are exactly the same as the original MUST be duplicates – because the fit the criteria of “being an exact copy of”.
Here’s a post that perfectly sums up Alexa Smith’s (and other syndicators’) opinions on the nature of duplicate content:
Yes, that’s right… article syndicators legitimately believe that the “laws of terminology” don’t apply to them; that something which is clearly duplicated is, in fact, the complete opposite.
Let’s have it right – SYNDICATED CONTENT = DUPLICATED CONTENT
If you really trust the opinions of Alexa Smith, Annie Pot, Paul Myers et al on the subject of article syndication and duplicate content (which is pretty unlikely if you are a frequent reader of this blog) then you need your brains tested. I’m not here to do a character assassination – that’s absolutely not my style at all. However, I am here to defend all affiliate and Internet marketers from ludicrous ideas that have no hope in Hell of ever working properly.
Remember that all the WaFo syndicators have a conflict of interest when it comes to providing you with unbiased information about article syndication: They all profit, in one way or another, from continuing the façade. Whether they are selling articles for ludicrous sums, or flogging training courses, the more newbies sucked into the grinder the better.
So who can we turn to for a reliable opinion on the validity of article syndication and the existence/non-existence of duplicate content penalties?
Firstly, let’s take a look at the Google webmaster guidelines:
Here’s what Google has to say about duplicate content:
Deceptive practices, such as deliberately trying to get the same crummy article plastered over every website under the sun, result in a poor user experience. You cannot get much more clear of a statement than “Google perceives duplicate content may be shown with intent to manipulate our rankings and deceive our users”. Sam 1, syndicators 0.
Google is saying here that if you do choose to syndicate your content around the web, you have no control over how that content appears in the search engines. At its most innocuous, this means that the article you submit to Ezinearticles may wind up being republished on a site with higher PR than your own, resulting in someone else outranking you with your own content. However, this could also have more serious ramifications – what if you wrote an article about something like “payday loans”, and then your article was republished on a spammy website that also happened to rank well? Your reputation would be negatively affected, you might receive bad neighbourhood backlinks, and you could jeopardize your position in your niche. Score 2 to me!
Now I’m not the biggest fan of Matt Cutts from Google. However, as their SEO master I must pay him his fair dues as a figure of immense knowledge on SEO (even if I disagree with about 90% of what he thinks SEO should be). There’s one thing that both Matt and I agree on, however, and that’s duplicate/syndicated content:
Avoid over-syndicated the articles that you wrote? Sound advice coming from a guy is infinitely more qualified to talk on the subject than Alexa Smith. Would you come to yours truly for advice on fixing your car? No, because I am famed as one of the world’s most impractical people (or at least that’s what my family like to claim). However, you would come to me for advice on SEO because I know what I’m talking about. Why then would you rely on the ludicrously long and windy forum ramblings of Alexa Smith, when you could get the straight dope on syndication from the horse’s mouth?
Once again, I shoot, and I score.
Now one of the most infuriating things I see syndicators, especially our favourite Ms Smith, posting all the time on the WaFo is that duplicate content relates only to posting the same article on the same website.
Imagine you own the site www.example.com, and you have an article at example.com/article 1 – then you copy that article and add it at example.com/article 2 – I’m sure the whole world would agree with me that this would be an example of duplicate content. However, this forum post from 2009 by member JayXtreme sums up the syndicators’ attitude to duplicate content once again:
Basically, they seem to believe it possible to bend the laws of physics (speaking metaphorically here) by turning lead into gold – or more to the point making something original out of a carbon copy. Imagine if someone were counterfeiting money, only to claim when busted by the police that “it’s not duplicate, it’s syndicated money ;)”. Notice the mandatory smiley to lure the unsuspecting punter in?
Now this post from JayXtreme was from 2009, long before anyone had heard of Google Panda. Here’s an excerpt from the guys at SEOmoz, whom I tend to chasten for being far too conventional and rule-abiding with their SEO, but who nonetheless are very intelligent, well-researched, and learned people:
It’s there in writing – what can’t speak can’t lie! Cross-domain duplicates can be a problem for even legitimate, syndicated content.
There is not one iota of evidence I can find to suggest that duplicate content is anything but harmful. At the very least, duplicate content is of no value, because it doesn’t add anything to the overall web experience.
The last thing I want to see as a web user is hundreds of duplicated copies of the same article. When I search up how to overclock my new graphics card, I’m glad to be greeted by discussion threads from sites like Tom’s Hardware, or overclocking guides on authority tech sites like Anandtech. Okay, these sites may all be on a similar subject – but they aren’t duplicate. Even two pages showing the same method of overclocking that GPU will have different images, different discussions, different conclusions, and different styles.
Empirically speaking, I believe there has been a massive decrease in the prominence of duplicate content in the search engines. Although I like to lampoon Google for getting it wrong with lots of their updates (as well as basically trying to force anyone wanting to make money online into Adwords) the trend towards punishing duplicate content is a good thing.
This is terribly weak from me, but here’s a Google Trends chart of the relative popularity of the search phrase “reprint articles” (something which we might reasonably assume someone looking for duplicate content would be searching):
The popularity of articles available for reprint is declining… good.
So I have managed to tear apart the logic behind article syndication on the following basis:
Syndicated articles are duplicated articles
Duplicate content penalties do exist
Duplicate content is bad
Duplicate content can exist cross-domain
Syndicate content can cause ownership and ranking issues
Furthermore, what self-respecting webmaster or blogger is going to waste their time republishing duplicate content? I’ll actually cover this in the next section of this article, where I give you some of my evidence against article syndication. However, when the overwhelming consensus amongst quality site owners is that you need fresh, quality, unique content – who the bloody Hell is doing all the syndicating?
Oh yeah, that’s right. The people clicking on your Ezine Publisher links fall into the following categories:
People with new sites that have no authority and want free content to populate their site.
Black hat marketers using auto-blogging tools to scrape your articles and post them to their sites (often removing the resource links)
Clueless marketers who think they’ve stumbled across free content nirvana
I would now like to propose a challenge to anyone reading who truly believes article syndication still works. Show me some evidence (ie an article you have submitted to Ezinearticles that has been reprinted on a high quality website, with supporting traffic statistics) and I will retract my statements. I’m not talking about guest blogging here – I’m talking only about writing and submitting articles to Ezinearticles (after publishing to your own site) in order to get them reprinted elsewhere for traffic and links.
I, for one, do not believe any $500 million empires have been built on this method.
My Personal Evidence Against Article Syndication
Now that I’ve shattered the hopes and dreams of article syndicators worldwide, I would like to present to you my personal evidence to support my argument.
As I mentioned previously, I got in when the going was good with article directories. I stumbled across Travis Sago’s Bum Marketing Method, and made very good money (at least for a high school student) by writing and submitting articles to Ezinearticles, Articlesbase, and GoArticles. However, I did not submit them for syndication (nor did any other true bum marketer). All we were doing was trying to piggyback off the then powerful rankings of article directories – and Web 2.0 sites to a lesser extent – in order to rank for long-tail keyword phrases. I would then make money by referring readers to various affiliate products with call-to-action links in my resource boxes.
In particular, I profited extremely handsomely in the Xbox 360 repair, PS3 repair, Green energy, and acne treatment niches.
Basically, I was “killing it”.
And we all knew how the game worked:
Article directories benefitted from the content users submitted, in terms of increased Adsense clicks. Users, like myself, could attack a niche literally within hours, and be making coin within a day or two. The sky was the limit, for a while.
Nobody was in it to “syndicate”, and only sillies were in it for links.
Of course those days are long gone. Yes, I miss the fact that I could make such easy money. However, the quality of search results was so terrible, thanks in part to the bum marketing revolution (I at least researched, hand-wrote, and quality controlled my articles, as opposed to flagrant spinners and outsourcers, whom I still claim ruined the party for everyone)
Without wishing to sound boastful, I would consider myself one of the foremost experts on article directories. And unlike the WaFo members, I’m willing to show you some statistics to prove it:
That is a screencapture from one of my many pen names, James Philipson. I was one of the most prolific writers in the gaming category on Ezinearticles. From 286 articles, I’ve managed over one million views, three hundred thousand resource box clicks, an impressive 30% click through rate, and (if the WaFo logic is to be followed) had my articles “syndicated” over 18,000 times.
I’m not afraid to show you the statistics behind my article directory accounts – if you want more please ask (as it stands, I’ve been banned from Ezinearticles for posting too many articles on the same subject. But this happened after Panda anyway so I don’t really care)
Now, as you would be well aware, there is no hope in hell of finding any articles on Ezinearticles from Alexa Smith.
However, there are two other prominent syndicators on the Warrior Forum. Paul Myers (the famous moderator) and Anne Pottinger/AnniePot
Here is Paul Myers rich tapestry of EZA experience:
A paltry trio of articles, published in 2006. That’s six whole years ago. In 2006, I was still rocking my PS One because I was too young to get a job and afford a PS2. Now I’m just getting nostalgic. Back to the task at hand, here’s AnniePot’s EZA account:
24 articles, the last being in May 2011 – not exactly superstar stuff huh?
Now I’m the first to admit that there is such a thing as writing under a pen name. After all, I did it with the successful James Philipson console guru persona. However, I was “bum marketing” – churning out keyword-stuffed articles for cash – and I was not selling any training or advice on this method. Therefore, I used a pen name to protect my identity and provide me with a greater deal of freedom.
Now Myers and Pottinger may have a collection of superstar EZA pen names, and if they could show me evidence of this I would happily accept it. However, if you’re in the business of teaching people how to syndicate and “kill it” with Ezinearticles and other article directories, then surely you would want to publish as much as possible under your real name? You know, to actually have incontrovertible proof that the article syndication method works.
I feel like Ali in his prime right now, ready to sink the final crushing blow into his opponent. I’ve danced all over the canvas for the past 4500 words – now it’s time to finish the job. The final thing I want to do is show you the types of rubbish sites these people count as having “syndicated” your content.
Forget high PR authority sites… heck, forget quality websites at all. Using my own articles as fodder, here are some examples of “syndication”.
Now I’ve copied this portion of text from the article:
The cause of Xbox e74 problems is actually overheating, believe it or not. What is harder to understand is why does this problem occur in the first place with such a modern, well-built piece of gaming equipment? This is simple, that heat is easily able to build up rather rapidly inside the case, due in part to a lack of sufficient cooling devices such as fans and heat sinks. This heat then disrupts your components such as the graphics processor, hard drive or DVD drive, and causes them to malfunction eventually. Your console is then forced to display the e74 code as a warning that something quite major has gone wrong with your console.
I was still a junior at high school when I wrote this, so don’t give me too much of a hard time for my crummy writing please.
What I’m gonna do is plug that string into Google, and see how many sites have been “duplicating” (whoops I mean syndicating) that content:
Now I tried to gather the number of times that article had been reprinted according to Ezinearticles, but my member dashboard wasn’t returning any good results. If I can fix this I’ll get Jack to update the post for more damning evidence.
But anyway, for now we can assume that there are roughly 550 “instances of syndication” of my Xbox e74 article.
What kind of sites have reprinted it?
If you own any of those sites, my apologies – I use the term “crap” rather loosely. I mean no offense beyond merely stating that these are not exactly quality, authority niche sites that are reprinting my articles (or should I say syndicating?)
Page two of Google is no better:
And here’s the rub – I’m getting the same kind of results for every article I check up on. If people request, I’m more than happy enough to provide more examples of the types of “bad neighbourhoods” I’ve been syndicated (I mean DUPLICATED) to.
If these sites were houses, they would be crack dens.
I’ve waffled too much, so I’m going to keep it brief. I hope you can now see that article syndication is a flawed concept that doesn’t work. I have constructed, deconstructed, and torn-apart the supporting arguments for it as a money-making method.
To the Warrior Forum syndicators – if you’re reading, I mean none of you any malice or harm. Seriously, I’m a very laid back dude at heart, and I don’t hold grudges. However, you need to understand that by propagating the article syndication lie for your own financial benefit (through the sale of training WSOs, content solutions etc) you are stopping many newbies who could otherwise be successful from ever reaching their goal.
Articles and news aren’t the same thing – what works for journalism cannot simply be transplanted to a totally different realm, packaged up as a $97 “master class”, and sold for the benefit of the community at large.
All I ask is that you either:
a) Provide irrefutable evidence you are succeeding as claimed with article syndication
b) Admit that all is not as rosy as you have made it out to be
Remember, I’ve been there with article directories. I’ve spent hours of my life writing and submitting content, and not once have I ever seen this mythical “high end” syndication. If it exists, just show the world – it will do your credibility so much good.
And to any budding marketers who are reading, I want you to take this away – focus on building a real business online, by creating a stellar website with useful content, frequent updates, and an appealing design. Write about a niche you love, or do detailed research if you’re stuck. Build up your reputation in your niche, build up a list offering quality giveaways (write them yourself to ensure they are good, unless you have super great “ready to go” content) and then either sell your own products or carefully vetted affiliate ones.
Your bank account, your visitors, and the wider Internet community will thank you for it.