As I continue to work on this marketing stuff - currently working on article submission - I'm finding more about marketing and more about how the web is structured. I've found two different sites which enable article submission to create different versions from the same article. The point of this is to present different articles, all pointing back to you to increase your google rank. If well written, even in the variations, these would also be of service to those who are looking for articles. However, the poorly written or variated article will still be a poor quality service.
Now, if you are just looking for pages linking back to your site, you have the perfect tools. However, what you want to reach are people who are going to buy your services, you should concentrate on the quality of the original article and then get this out to the most directories you can find. Sure, Google will throw away the bulk of these as duplicate - but the people who read them will print them off and share them with others, or blog them, or email them to friends. All these others will then, possibly, visit your site. Then you should get some sales.
If you only get 3 percent of several hundred thousand visitors buying your book, then you've created 30,000 sales or so - with a royalty of (on Lulu) $10.00 then you've just made $300,000.00 - nice. The trick is to 1) get the hundred thousand visitors, 2) get 3 percent to buy something.
I already have considerable linkage through Google, since I maintain several blogs and cross-link between my blog posts and my Lulu storefront. The trick is to get live customers. Now I know that people find sites through Google, so probably the best of both worlds might be to do both semi-automatic submission to a hundred or so sites, and then have some automatic program crunch the same basic article out to a hundred more. You get top search engine ranking and then also have lots people able to read your article and visit your site.
The jury is still out, then.
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Just found a fascinating PDF called "Article Secrets". It's flippant and entertaining, but covers one main point (in 16 pages): slow down your article submissions so that they don't all happen at once. As people found loopholes in the system, and created programs and scripts to submit articles and websites automatically, these search engine programmers would watch the spikes and work to find out what was happening. They saw that automatic submissions were a kind of spam and so were polluting the "noosphere" of the Internet. So, they changed their algorithms so that spammers were nullified - duplicate links were lowered in value or banned, just like anti-spam works in e-mail.
Now this author was pushing his program called Article Announcer (video here), which looks to be decent package.
I think you can do the same manually with a free article posting program. You simply create a set of articles and you have your list of article directories. Submit the first article to the first 10 sites. Next day, submit this article to the next ten and the next article to the first ten. Third day the first article gets the third ten, the second the second ten and the third the first ten. This then continues. The reason you do this by days is so that you can track your submisions as you go. Obviously, you will be changing your submision list as some sites go down and you find new ones. You are also going to be changing your articles, adding more. So these articles go on at the bottom and the oldest ones come off the top as you get them through all your article directories.
Now this doesn't mean that you shouldn't figure out which of the article directories show up highest. The Article Announcer author has already done this, per him. But you will refine this system as you go.
My own strategy, regardless of the above, is to take one article and go through the entire submission list to determine what sites work and what don't, and which ones aren't applicable to the subject matter I want to write. Once I get a working list (and add in all the new ones I've found through searching) then I'll dust off all my old articles and add them into the program, proceeding as above.
update (030407): This report, IMHO, is bunk. Practically, unless you are using very fast automatic software (and I haven't seen any that is free and uncomplicated), you are not going to enter any 200 sites in one day. Most of these sites are using a human to inspect every single article, so they don't show up all at once. You have a week or more before all those sites are going to accept or reject your sites - and you are going to spend one to three days to use a semi-automatic software program to do this. Now a paid site might do this overnight - but the viewpoint we are talking from is low-cost (read: free) DIY marketing. So paying even $10 per article, when you are planning to have several out per week, is bogus. Much less paying someone to ghost write your articles. Geez! The answer is to get that free software program and let it run in the background. You can then add in a few here and there through the week, then start the next week with another article.
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Where to get subject matter?
I research a lot and have a lot already written. I also blog daily to get some of these thoughts out of my head and onto the page (my blogs send my post to my Gmail account, which is accessible through Google Desktop, so I can cross research all the posts I've made as well as the sites I've recently visited). So I have a great deal of original content.
But I've also taken advantage of Gutenberg Project and other online libraries to find public domain books which can be excerpted. You also have the entirety of the Federal Government working for you - as they cannot copywrite their work. These are all ideas which will take some work, however. But you'll get some articles you can use out of this.
Now I write from my research and quote these authors, which is why I read them originally. I wouldn't say you'd be well off taking the text of a 1920 book and passing it off as your own. The language is stilted compared to today's and the prose doesn't move well enough to keep modern readers occupied on their Internet voyages. But if you study that book, do a review of it chapter by chapter, you will have real nuggets - particularly if you use bestsellers. This strategy is good for non-fiction. I don't think you could do the same for fiction works, unless you wanted to start a "Reader's Digest" classics review series of your own. Definately a niche market (but of course if you re-edited and re-published these books to your Lulu site, you might get some orders...).
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Now, next on my marketing list is to work up a newsletter list and sign-up form on my Go Thunk Yourself website. Then I'll be able to send out my latest releases to others, as well as promotion for my new books. Of course, this means working over my sales page on this site so that it really gets the sales which the articles pre-sell those coming to my site.
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Here's another idea: write your articles in a series so that you can use them as a free online/email course later. This is an easy way to get people to sign up for your newsletter, so that you can send them links to your new articles and a blurb about your latest published book, plus progress on the books you are already selling. Also, series articles - if well written - are the way Dickens and others made their living. Check out Louis Lamour and you will see what cliff-hangers are all about. There is a reason you can't set one of his westerns down except in the middle of a chapter.