Interested in writing articles for publicity?
I started asking people this question when I realised that I was going to have my first article published at SitePoint. I knew some of them certainly had the experience to produce content for publication online, and while some people thought it was a great idea, others were too busy or thought it was a waste of their time to write content for another site.
This got me thinking. Why would it be a waste of time to write for another site?
To help answer this question, we really need to understand why anyone would write an article in the first place:
- To inform
- To promote (yourself, your site or your company)
- To profit (from selling the information)
As we’ve all heard, the two main reasons why people use the Internet are to be entertained or for information. Accordingly, most content available on the Internet is written with the intent to inform people, even if this is not the main reason why it was created. An example might be a Web host offering advice on particular hosting solutions that they happen to offer themselves.
Some people like to make their work available to anyone wishing to publish it with the aim of promoting their presence on the Web or that of their site or company. Rabbitdog, who owns and runs her own Website, finds writing new material a strain at times, but feels it’s worth the effort at the end of the day. Once her article’s online, she has something to add to her resume — and she’s helped others by explaining things in a more straightforward way.
Other people are write articles simply for the fame and prestige that comes with it. It doesn’t matter to most that this ego boost is short lived: being able to say they’ve written for a well-known site or publication is enough to earn them a bit of extra respect and credibility, particularly if they can prove it with a link to the archives. Find the right place to publish your work and you’ll find people will begin to recognise you, your site and your company.
If you want to write for profit, it would be a good idea to offer samples of what you produce for free, either in the form of quick tips, or an extensive article on your specialised subject. Why? Because Web users expect to find information online for free. However, if you can convince your visitors that you really know what you’re talking about, and they know they’re unlikely to find the information elsewhere, then they may be prepared to pay.
But regardless of your motive for writing an article, you will want to make sure that your work gets seen by as many people interested in your topic as possible. Even if you have a large Website, you’ll enjoy greater exposure if you publish your work (or references to it) across a range of different sites.
Your attitude to sharing your time and work with another site or ezine will depend on:
- your motivation for writing a piece and
- any restrictions placed on its distribution once it’s published.
- Do you already have content you can share with other sites and ezines?
- Do you regularly create your own fresh content?
- Are you, your site or your company relatively unknown?
- Are there sites or ezines out there willing to publish your already published work?
- Do the sites or ezines looking for unpublished work want the "exclusive" if they agree to publish your work? If so, how long for?
- What is the reach of the site or ezine you want to work with?
To decide whether publishing your work on other sites really is worth it, you’ll have to take into consideration the extra effort of the work, along with the potential rewards.
In my particular case, I decided to write a few articles to help get myself noticed in wider Webmaster circles. While I did take the time to write content with the intention of it being published on specific sites, I didn’t feel as if this were as waste of time. I’m always looking to expand my own Webmaster related site, so would have used the articles on my own site anyway, even if they were rejected.
However, the benefits of allowing a site the exclusive rights to publish my newer works extend beyond getting more people to my site. Often on larger, commercial sites, an editor reviews the articles published throughout their network. This precondition to publication means that the editor is in effect endorsing the content — and the author who wrote it.
This review process gives the authors that are published — and their sites — more credibility with readers at the author’s own site, as well as endorsement with readers of the commercial site’s network. If these commercial sites allowed anyone to post new articles without them being checked and reviewed, they’d swiftly lose credibility with their audiences, as the quality of content would suffer.
Crowe, another site owner, tends to agree, "I like to submit to sites that have a nice editorial policy so that you know when you see your article online, paid or not, it met their standards. I’d much rather write articles for sites like this one [SitePoint] where they are in good company."
Benefits Now and Later
Too frequently, writing articles for other sites and ezines is seen as a short-term means of getting traffic to your site. The idea is that once the article is "old", you’ll loose the trickle of traffic that follows your link from the article to your site, and you’ll have to supply a steady stream of new content to maintain the traffic flow.
Short Term Traffic
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This is partially true: if you choose your publication mediums carefully you will enjoy a burst of highly targeted traffic to your site. Even if this equates to nothing more than a handful of people, they are the people most likely to bookmark your site and return to read more of what you have to say in the future. If you happen to own an ecommerce site or sell Web services, this could mean an extra sale or new Web project. Can you really afford to forego that?
Long Term Traffic
The long-term benefits of publishing your work on other sites should be self-evident. Provided the publishing site maintains past article archives, your work will be available for readers long after the original publication date. While the stream of visitors will slow down, it shouldn’t dry out completely.
Search Result Boost
Then of course there are the search engines, which will find links to your site wherever you are published (assuming you requested a link as a condition for republishing the piece). This can only help your link popularity, which in turn will help your search engine rankings.
The Domino Effect
Don’t forget that "any publicity is good publicity", so if you’re able to have your articles published in a popular print magazine, then you can tap into a whole new market. Steelsun, one site owner I spoke to, recommends you find publications that are suitable to your target audience and be flexible about how you are rewarded for your effort. He says that not all articles he’s written have been paid for directly, but he’s benefited from mentions of his site, free copies of publications that he’s been featured in, and free classifieds for his business — to name a few of the common perks.
The bonus of writing articles, in this, the age of content syndication, was explained to me by Robert Loch, deputy editor of Dotcom Scoop:
"At the end of last year I wrote an article on Salon’s future business prospects, with part of the intention being to open up our site to a broader media audience. After getting posted on Media News the article was then picked up by about 30 different websites/weblogs, causing a flood of traffic. I ended up receiving over 120 emails in feedback. Forgetting the level of traffic though, the real bonus was the quality of the audience. It was as if every editor and journalist in the US read the article!"
Of all the site owners I talked to who had written articles for other sites, none had ruled it out of their future site promotion efforts. Writing articles is certainly an effective way of getting attention on the Net, but there is no denying the fact that who you write for plays a big part in your success or failure.
Is it Worth it?
When deciding if writing content for someone else is worth your time and effort, remember that it can bring more than just new visitors to your site. Decide what your main motives for writing are and choose your publishing partners carefully. And remember: having your article approved by an editor for publication on a well known site means a lot to the regular visitors of that site — and will, in turn, help improve your credibility.
The real challenge, though, is not writing the articles: it’s getting them noticed by the right group of people! By finding out where all these people are and how to get your words in front of them, you’ll be one step closer to getting the quality traffic you’re looking for. Your target audience is out there now, looking for your opinions and advice, so why not give them what they want? If they like what you have to offer, there is a very good chance they will visit your site to learn more.
While the bulk of the rewards for sharing your content and knowledge may be short-lived, it’s your opportunity to make an impression in wider circles. Surely the prospect of earning more respect in your profession or of developing new business or personal relationships is worth a few extra hours of your time…
So what are you waiting for? Get writing!
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