When you publish a content article on your web site there are several things you wish to achieve. If an article fails to do everything — meeting one or two goals is certainly a success.

1. Bring organic search engine traffic. I’m hardly a search engine optimization guru. I do know both incoming links and on-page optimization matter. Most people just can’t keep up with all the trends (let alone seperate reality from the flood of disinformation out there.) If you follow the SEO basics, avoid common pitfalls in how the site is contructed, and continue to bring in great links regularly, you have one thing left to think about: are people searching for it?

No matter how good of a search engine optimizer you are, if no one is searching the keyphrases your articles are optimized for, you won’t get any traffic. Using tools like Google Trends and Wordze, combined with auditing your own traffic logs, can help you get a damn good idea of what top key phrases people are looking for.

2. Bring your site incoming links and traffic. Just a few years ago, publishers pursued link exchanges and directory links obsessively. Today the key drivers to backlinks and direct traffic are social news sites (e.g. Digg) and blogs. When a link hits a major blog people follow the link and add it to hundreds, or sometimes thousands, of other web sites, forums, and blogs. This is what linkbait is all about.

Getting your links on these sites is a full time job. In the past I’ve had success getting links on the front page of places such as Slashdot. Its certainly a hit or miss game. You need to not only be familiar with what types of stories the editors and audience respond to, but also have the ability to get the story to stand out (there are different ways to do this, some may call it “gaming the system.”)

One of the best things you can do right now is closely watch articles that hit the front page of your niche’s blog, Digg, Netscape, Fark, wherever. You will notice patterns. Some patterns will carry through, others won’t. Here are a few examples that have stuck out to me:

-Lots of content. 10 pages? Great.
-Interactive content. Tools, live statistics, and free web applications attract lots of links.
-Unique & bizarre. When people are shocked, they can not resist telling their friends.
-Timely. Do you have a video game review web site? Make sure your review is out within hours of hitting the store shelves, not a week later.
-Understandable. Unless you are targeting a super-geeky site, the average person should be able to instantly know what the article is about. If its not clear from the headline alone, your already in trouble.

How much does quality matter? Perhaps it will vary between markets and niches. I’m seeing an awefully lot of so-so content getting hordes of links. The last thing you want to do is spend a month on a single article that flops. Writing sticky linkbait is a heck of a lot different than writing essays for college.

3. Make your site money. This is harder — but only when you do not have the traffic. Thus, it should be your final focus. Plastering your site with Adsense so you can make $4.50 a day is a waste of time. When you have a page ranking #1 on Google for a high-traffic term, then its time to split test with Adsense, YPN, and affiliate links. Until then, don’t plan on a Digging making you $10,000.

There are a lot of articles and blogs about affiliate marketing and Adsense optimization. When it comes to creating articles, focus on the content.

Where does content come from?

You can write it yourself, pay for it, or get it for free. If its free it should still be unique. Avoid those free article sites like the plague.

Writing content yourself isn’t all that bad — if you can write. When the words flow naturally it is pretty easy. Thats the way it is for my blog. Even then, you don’t want to be your site’s daily staff writer. If you have the time, you’d be better off launching another content site.

Paid article writing can be quite an adventure. Many, if not most, of the dirt cheap writers are simply rewriting someone else’s content. Besides being a poor business practice, most of this type content is lacking when it comes to spelling and gammar.

Depending how much money you are willing to sink in to your site, I suggest seeking out qualified professionals in your market to write your articles. The association alone can do wonders for the credibility of your site. In addition to making direct ad-sales easier, you may get more backlinks (perhaps from that individual’s own web site.)

Free articles are much easier to get once your web site has some standing. A large community base from your own forum is often the perfect place to get writers (free or paid.) The fact is those guys with hundreds or thousands of posts like to write. They are typing about the topic day after day. Why not put them to work?

Look at who is pulling in the links and who isn’t. Take these ideas and apply them to your own site. Trends change, different markets have different audiences. No one can give you an exact list saying — do this, this, and that, because there are just too many variables. The internet is transparent. The only advantage you can give yourself is testing out what you see other’s do, and then act on those results.

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