Have you ever wondered why people like me spend so much time posting articles on our web sites? Perhaps we are all so arrogant that we feel an obligation to share our pearls of wisdom with the world or perhaps there is a more practical reason.
The benefits of articles
Although those that know me would claim I love to hear the sound of my own voice this is not the primary reason for me posting articles online. In fact there are a number of benefits to adding articles to your web site even if that means you have to buy them in from a third party.
Because an article is longer than an average web page (or at least should be) and they normally tackle a very specific topic they are very keyword rich. This goes a long way to helping your search engine positioning.
If your articles are well written and provide useful content users will start to link to it from their own sites. This cross linking is one of the primary ways search engines like Google determine your placement. Another factor to consider is that the more people who link to you the more traffic will be driven to your site via those links.
Encourage repeat traffic
If you update the articles on your site regularly it will encourage your visitors to return again and again. By linking your articles to newsletters and RSS feeds this will ensure users remember to come back and see what has changed.
Articles build trust
Finally articles demonstrate your capabilities and builds trust with your users. Hopefully from reading the articles on this site you have discovered that I have a good grasp of the issues involved in web design. You can see that I am knowledgeable in my field and have hopefully concluded that you would be safe trusting your project with me.
When I have suggested articles to some of my clients I have come across three common objections:
Many clients are concerned about the time and effort that have to go into their articles. To some extent they are right. Articles do take time to produce but often this is because the client perceives they have to be perfect. Obviously I can understand this concern. After all you don’t wish to publish shoddy work that reflects badly on your brand. However there is also a benefit to keeping your articles light and informal. People find them easier to read and also they feel they are getting to know you better which means they feel they can trust you. A web site is a very impersonal sales technique so anything to give it the personal touch can help dramatically.
The other objection I often get is that you are giving anyway your intellectual property. People often comment about this site that I am giving away all of my secrets and that other designers will rip off my ideas. Well possibly that is true (although I doubt anything I write here is that original) but I believe the benefits outweigh these concerns. Demonstrating my capabilities to my potential clients is more important than the fact my competitors may steal some of my ideas.
The marketing opportunity
I have had many clients embrace the idea of articles but have wanted to force people to register before getting access to them. I suppose strictly speaking this isn’t an objection but it does undermine most of the benefits of posting articles to your site. To be honest this is a classic marketing mistake where clients think they can gain valuable demographic data in return for a "free gift". Unfortunately this just doesn’t work online. Firstly users are very reluctant to give out personal information especially before some kind of trust has been built. Secondly you are asking clients to give you personal information in return for you selling to them! Doesn’t sound like a very good deal to me. Articles are such a good way of demonstrating your capability why on earth would you want to make a prospect jump through hoops to see them. Finally a search engine is not going to be able to index an article that requires the user to sign up and neither are people going to be able to link to it directly so in effect the benefits of having articles on your site have been totally undermined.