If you've been keeping up with legal marketing news, you've almost definitely heard of article submission websites—they were the most commonly used SEO tool for many law firms for several years in the mid-'00s. An article submission website works by letting you submit any content you like, then builds links to your websits based on your article and inserts the article's content into several websites all over the internet. But is this still a good idea in 2012? Today, we'll take a look at whether the humble article submission website is still a great marketing bet, or whether it has been eclipsed in favor of newer methods.
Inbound Linking and Article Submission Websites
The purpose of an article submission website is simple. Search engine rankings depend more on inbound links than on any other single factor. This puts many different websites into competition for who can get the most inbound “link juice,” which helps Google decide how much authority your website has when you talk about particular topics.
Article submission websites can give you anywhere from one to hundreds of inbound links, and depending on which article submission website you choose, you can automate some or all of the process. In order to have the best chance of your links working well, you'll also want to make sure that the content you produce is worth clicking on. The more people that link to the page with your inbound link on it, the more authority that link will have.
How Article Submission Websites Work
Typically, to use an article submission website, you'll need to have your content ready to go. After registering for an account, you'll be able to upload your content, including links with anchor text, to the website.
After you upload to an article submission website, the site begins to spawn copies of your article on other websites owned by the same company or which allow for public access and posting. Because you've included a link with anchor text in the articles you submit with article submission websites, that article is placed in many places all over the web.
Problems with Article Submission Websites
Problems can arise if you're using an article submission website, because Google doesn't particularly like when people try to game search rankings. If you wanted to be on Page 1, Google would much prefer for you to do it by paying them for a sponsored link rather than doing it for free or nearly free through article submission websites.
Because of this, Google has started doing things to identify when someone is using an article submission website. An algorithm update called Panda started devaluing links that were made directly from publicly accessible article submission websites in late 2011. In 2012, another algorithm update called Penguin started being used. This update made it so that websites that were getting too many links with the same anchor text were penalized for over optimization.
What this meant for many article submission websites was disaster. Not all of them survived the changes, and many webmasters who thought they had done a good job with search engine optimization suddenly found themselves the not so proud owners of websites with terrible SERPs.
Article Submission Websites in the Panda/Penguin Era
For any article submission website to make it after Panda and Penguin, they had to be savvy and adapt to the changing times. Today, article submission websites are more likely to post your content to contextually relevant sites, to vary anchor text, and to insert your links on high PageRank sites instead of low value ones.
Now that Penguin and Panda have been used for some time, the best way to make sure that any article submission website you're using still works is to just ask them for their data. They should be able to show you that they have had measurable post-Penguin success, and if not, you should probably find other article submission websites with a more data driven approach.
While in the “old days” of 2007 or 2008, you could pick just about any article submission website, today you're going to need to be more picky. You should also make sure that you're diversifying your link creation strategy: while article submission websites can certainly help, you will also need to have several other strategies in case a new algorithm update renders your links useless.
Should We Still Use Article Submission Websites?
Even with the potential problems of using an article submission website, they can still be a really good strategy for building inbound links. Just make sure that you're going through quality article submission websites with good results, and the risk/reward ratio is good enough that many marketers think it's worth doing.
No one can make the decision for you about whether to use an article submission website, but perhaps some of your decision should be based on how much you have to lose. An older, established law firm with a big web presence should probably use more conservative strategies and may not want to use article submission websites. On the other hand, for a brand new firm, using an article submission website presents a whole lot of opportunities for reward and is very unlikely to damage your reputation overall.
Alternatives to Article Submission Websites
If using an article submission website makes you a bit wary, there are other ways that you can build your links without taking the same risks. Consider using an advertising agency to help you draft press releases, and make contacts in the journalism industry so that your press releases are more likely to be picked up by local newspapers, radio stations, and television channels.
You can also create inbound links using directory submissions, social media, or blogging. These methods are now time tested, and you should be incorporating them as part of your inbound link building strategy whether or not you use article submission websites. Any article submission website you use will be more useful when you're also maintaining a diverse variety of links on other types of sites.