It has been almost two years since the first Google Panda update went live. The biggest hits from that update were dealt to sites Google designated as content farms. Some well-known websites from the article marketing world suffered the greatest loss of visibility and keywords in search. These included article directories used heavily by online marketers and SEO’s such as EzineArticles with a 90% visibility loss and Hubpages with a 87% visibility loss.

In this post, we’re going to look at how these article directories are doing today as well as the top directory that was never affected by the Google Panda updates. Plus you will get some tips on how to approach a quality link building campaign through article marketing.

Article Directories Today

Curious about the state of the top article directories? Here’s what you need to know.

EzineArticles.com

EzineArticles.com currently maintains a Google PageRank of 6 and Domain Authority of 93. Since being struck by Google Panda, they have given their website a facelift and emphasize that they accept high-quality, original articles only. They have also revamped their guidelines to specify that articles cannot be rehashed (aka, spun), must be a minimum of 400 words (with a suggested length of 400 – 700 words), and should include proper HTML formatting throughout. Overall, their guidelines want to gear articles towards being reader friendly vs. just SEO friendly.

Authors get special treatment on EzineArticles with a complete bio page that includes multiple links to business websites, a blog, and a personal site. You can also get links back to your main social profiles including Google+ in order to claim authorship of your articles.

Now, let’s look at the traffic EzineArticles receives. The below graph shows their traffic prior to the first Google Panda update and after.

This shows that traffic from search has not recovered their traffic since the original Panda update. Since Google hasn’t given EzineArticles their rankings back, it is questionable whether links from these artless will hold any as much weight as they used to as far as Google is concerned.

In terms of traffic generation, SEMrush shows that out of 190K keywords they ranked for in January 2013, almost 2,200 are at the number one position. This means that you can still generate a good amount of traffic from EzineArticles depending on the keywords your article ranks for and their search volume.

Hubpages.com

Hubpages currently maintains a Google PageRank of 6 and Domain Authority of 90. After they were hit by Google Panda, they revamped their website in a big way. Author profiles and articles were moved from the main domain to personalized subdomains (author.hubpages.com). Unfortunately for the authors, all of their articles and profiles lost any PageRank and Page Authority they had gained. And while author pages are nicer looking, authors have lost the ability to place links with keyword anchor text in their bio. They can only link to one website and their social profiles using icons.

The major changes that Hubpages made did work in regaining them their rankings in search about six months after the first Google Panda update.

Although their search engine traffic has been slowly declining again, they still rank for over 2 million keywords which is much better than EzineArticles. Over 10K of those keywords are at the number one position. One of the keywords in the number one position receives 22K searches per month and outranks 24 million other items in search – including a result from Wikipedia! One can assume they are still in Google’s good graces and that links from their network count.

Squidoo.com

Squidoo.com currently maintains a Google PageRank of 7 and Domain Authority of 95. It was one of the article networks that was not affected by the original Google Panda update. In fact, their network has only seen a steady growth in rankings.

In terms of strategy, they have a similar setup to Hubpages when it comes to content. They allow you to add text, video, images, and other Squidoo type widgets. Ironically, they allowed for more spam within their articles than Hubpages with a widget that allowed visitors to Squidoo articles to add links at will – some dofollow, some nofollow.

They currently rank for over 5 million keywords.

Article Marketing the Right Way

So how can you take advantage of article marketing for links and traffic – the right way. Here are some tips!

  • Reserve your best content for your own website, then for guest blogging opportunities. Regardless of how great an article network is, you will want your best content to be on your own website first. Your next best content should be focused to guest blogging efforts in your niche. If the latter doesn’t exist, then you can apply that content towards article networks.
  • Create unique content geared towards readers, not search engines. While optimizing your articles for search is a good thing, they shouldn’t just be written for search engines. Imagine your next client was going to read an article you posted on Squidoo as their first impression of your business. Write your articles with an end goal to actually drive a visitor back to the website you link to in your article or or your author bio.
  • Skip automated spinning software. This includes any service that offers to take one piece of content and syndicate it across article networks. It goes back to unique content, and spinning software creates anything but.
  • Build up your author profiles. Most of the good article directories allow you to create a strong author bio. Be sure that yours includes important information about you and your company as well as links to your website and social profiles.
  • Claim Google authorship. Assuming you’re creating quality, unique content, you won’t mind sharing it via the authorship link between your articles and your Google+ profile. Having a picture by your articles in search could result in more clicks and more traffic back to your website.

Do you still use article marketing in your search marketing strategy or to generate traffic? What networks do you use and what additional tips would you give?