There was once a wonderful character, named Balian, from Sir Ridley Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven who said, “We are, all of us, what we do,” a profound statement, though not entirely unprecedented. However, let that quote marinate in your mind for a moment, if you will.
You are what you do.
…you are what you do to whom, exactly?
…to whomever it may be that would behold you, and what you do—for perception, in most cases, is reality. Therefore, if the world sees you running, you are a runner. If the world sees you writing, you are a writer, and so on and so forth.
…But what about a search engine bot? How do websites like Google and Bing find what you post online, in order to index it for others to find when they use their search bars? If you’ve thought about why you should use articles to market your book, and decided that it would be a wise course of action for your Internet marketing plan, then this will naturally raise more questions, such as how often you should be posting them.
The short answer is that you should be updating your website as often as possible—every day even—with quality articles over 1,000 words each. If you haven’t noticed already, all of the blog articles that I publish here, for the StrataGem website, follow a minimum standard of 1,500 words each. Some are above 2,000; some are above 3,000. I have a white paper over 20,000.
You Need Both Quantity & Quality To Roll With The Big Dogs
Now relax, before you collapse into a paroxysm of anxious flabbergast, telling yourself how impossible that is to do: check out my blog list and see how often articles are now being released for StrataGem, during late March and throughout April. Check their dates; it’s totally possible; one man wrote all of those (including this very article)—me. It just depends on how seriously you take the craft of writing—how badly you want to succeed, and whether or not you want to roll with the big dogs that are competing against you (if you don’t have a bajillion dollars to spend on automated PPM marketing, but are working on a guerilla budget). Because remember, it’s not just about pumping out thousands of words of nonsense—there is no shortcut (believe me, I’ve tried every shortcut in the book); you just have to deal with the fact that you need to write high-quality articles, and the longer they are: the better, because Google (and its rivals) now rank content based upon how credible it is, how grammatically correct, etc., not just how often there are updates. What does it mean in laymen terms? In a nutshell, the higher you rank on the search engines, the more traffic you’ll get. When you do a search on Google, what are you more likely to click on: the results on the first page of Google…or the links on the tenth page of Google? Now you understand.
And not just referring to bots, but also to humans; never underestimate your audience. If you just put out thousands upon thousands of fruitless words of fluff out there, that could and would have worse of an effect on your branding efforts (the reputation you build), and turn people away as you lose credibility as an author by producing shoddy work. Make no mistake: as a writer, you are being judged by your writing, and if you’ve decided to use article writing as a vital component of your Internet marketing strategy for your book sales, potential consumers will see if you’re writing a crappy blog, in which: they’re naturally going to assume that about the actual book(s) that you’re trying to sell to them as well. They won’t follow you, and they won’t buy your work.
With every passing day, your writing needs to improve. Google bots scan and weigh virtually every imaginable aspect of your website and its content in their efforts to judge how highly they will or won’t rank you above your competitors, thus determining the kind of traffic you’ll receive, which means the sales that you’ll make. This is why it’s absolutely imperative to design a content marketing plan before you start writing anything for your blog, so that you can make a set schedule, that you determine ahead of time, keeping you on track of what you’re going to write.
At which point, you basically create a daily job for yourself (complete with working hours and due dates), an investment of time and energy that you don’t want to waste—so write well, so that your audience is moved by your work enough to give you their trust, and thus the money they have to buy the book(s) that you’re selling.
It goes without saying that to do this requires a ton of self-discipline, even if you have a boss or a coach driving you.
If You Can’t Produce At The Rate Full-Time Professionals Can
If you’re like most people who work a day job, and you don’t have the start-up funding you need to quit that day job and survive while you write full-time building your audience for your book marketing, and/or if you don’t have the funding you’d need to hire a team or a strategist like myself to do all of that work for you (or at least give you part-time support), it’s totally okay to set your crosshairs for more realistic goals pertaining to your writing career. Everyone has different cards to play as they try to work on themselves and the money that they bring in.
Remember, you don’t actually have to write that much and that often; it’s just highly recommended that you do—if you want to keep up with the competitors who are that intense, because you shouldn’t fool yourself for a second:
…yes, you have competitors.
The goal with article marketing is to establish yourself as an authority online in whatever niche that you’re specializing in, using that content to build your audience, level up their trust in you over time, and then to leverage that trust to sell your work to that. No matter what sector (fictional or nonfictional), or genre you’re marketing your work in: you have competitors. Time and attention is a currency that people invest in what you write, so why should readers choose to read your blog over someone else’s? There’s always another writer who is trying a little harder, gaining a little more ground, making a little (or a lot) more sales than you are, in the same genre and/or sector that you’re in—and it’s because they have the self-discipline, team, and funding that you don’t. A harsh truth.
If you can’t wrap your head around the fact that you’re going to actually have to try, to put a little elbow grease into your marketing efforts, that success isn’t going to just fall into your lap like some rare few individuals hit the lottery, then you should consider a different field to get into; then you have an unjustifiably large ego, and this isn’t for you—screw what you may have dreamed.
However, if you are willing to work hard, but you just don’t have the resources to compete at the mainstream level, not all hope is lost. What’s more important then, is to just post as often as you can, at the highest quality that you can, as consistently as you can. Simple. You’ll do better than someone else out there, who, in their sense of entitlement, isn’t trying at all.
In that case, don’t worry about posting 1,500-word articles every day; just do what you can. Post 800-word articles three times a week. Twice a week. Once a week. Once every two weeks. Once a month. Whatever realistically fits your schedule and the budget of time and money you have to put into it—which varies for everyone.
Just…whatever you do: keep posting. Keep being active. Keep letting the Internet know that you’re alive. Keep giving readers a reason to come back to your site, increasing your mindshare with them as they digitally spend more and more time with you and your content, building trust as they’re impressed by the good return on the investment of time and attention they put into your content for whatever it is that they’re seeking to get out of it (be it knowledge, entertainment, etc.).
You’ll eventually develop the work into a habit (especially as your typing speed gets faster, your style solidifies, etc.) and, if you’ve got any talent whatsoever, you’ll accrue some kind of a following, even if it’s small. If you’re working on a guerilla budget for advertising, (or have no budget at all) then don’t try to be something you’re not by attempting to compete with the big dogs; you’ll only burn yourself out, and fail completely when you quit. Take baby steps if that’s all you can handle at the moment…but just make sure that you keep taking them—because the Internet is a merciless place. Any free-market is.
Personally, when I first started developing my knowledge and skill in Internet marketing, I too balked at the idea of treating blogging as if it were a steady job, because at the time: writing a single 1,500-word article was very taxing on my mind. I would write one, and then admire it as a work of art, as if it were all that big of a deal (and some can be), but in actuality: I was immature and hadn’t grown into the habit of my website’s own standards.
It was like an old Japanese anime that some of you may know of, called: Berserk, a fantastical spin of what was historically the Hundred Years’ War. The lead protagonist of the show was a young boy named Gatsu, who started off forced to learn how to wield a man’s broadsword in order to survive, despite the fact that he was barely an adolescent. It burned so much of his energy to swing the sword merely once or twice, only to be laughed at as he would be tripped by his cruel mentor. However, after the passing of time, multiplying his experiences, with lots of practice and great determination—Gatsu eventually grew into a man, and with him, the size of his sword, making him one of the most feared and legendary soldiers on any battlefield, in the story.
As the CEO of this company, I decreed that our articles’ minimum word count standard should be set so high per article because that was just a matter of my ridiculous behavioral pattern; it’s always been like me to shoot for the stars, to be perfectionistic, to acclimate myself to the hardest and highest of any standards, to always play the game on extreme mode, because I know that, like young Gatsu, it may seem impossibly hard at first, but with enough time, multiplying our experiences, with lots of practice and great determination—after we grow to be able to wield our own sword—we eventually wind up becoming respected by anyone who witnesses us in action.
Remember, 1,500 words isn’t actually a requirement; the Internet doesn’t mandate you to do anything—however many words per post you choose to write is up to you, but you should know that the longer the better (over 1,000 words at least) when it comes to gaining credibility in the form of page ranking and authority. These are actual numerical values that are assigned to your website and the individual pages on your website, based on very advanced algorithms that weigh them when the bots scan them.
Following The Pareto Principle
There is another school of thinking, another approach that you could consider when updating your website, that I think important for you to be aware of, depending upon the resources and tools that you have available—what you’re willing and able to do.
Internet marketers like Derek Halpern suggest that it’s not so much how much you write, or how often you post, but how well you promote it. I was really into his advice when I first started learning Internet marketing, before I devoted so much energy as to actually go to college for it. He suggests following the Pareto Principle with your content production and marketing, that 20% of your time should be spent making content, and 80% of your time should be spent promoting it.
His philosophy comes from the understanding that you only actually need to write two or three good articles, and then just get them in front of all of the eyes within your target audience. If your content is good enough, they’ll follow you and voilà, you only need to update your website every once in a while in order to keep them interested and coming back. He criticizes bloggers such as myself for taking the approach that I do as working too hard, instead of working smart. I listened to him, back when I was trying to find any shortcut I could to build my audience, because efficiency is getting the most out of the least amount of effort. That was the initial approach that I took for this website, and I adopted his style because I saw how successful he was.
Derek Halpern is indeed a successful marketer, so I can’t knock his style; I can only explain why his way didn’t work for me, for the first year and a half of trying it. His logic is sound, in theory, but the deepest truth of what works/worked for him is not what will work for everybody, because the nature of everyone’s market is a little different, depending upon the psychology and culture of each demographic group. And as Nilofer Merchant said in her brilliant article about marketing strategy: “…culture will beat strategy, every time.”
This means that for some audiences: sure, you only need a few articles to hook them in. For other audiences, however, you need the library worth of articles to demonstrate your wealth of knowledge live and personal that they can access, so that they trust that you know what you’re doing by being able to read so much of your work. It’s a fine art, gaining the trust of your audience. And if you don’t, you’ll never make any sales.
Derek Halpern presents a strategy that’s actually completely correct and sound for what pertains to him, but you should be aware that there is no silver bullet, no one universally correct way to market; that’s why we’re called strategists, to begin with—and strategy is both an art and a science. Strategy requires both imagination and analytical thinking, which is why games like Chess light up both hemispheres of the brain when you play them.
So that’s another approach that you could take as well, not even focusing so much on how often you update your website. In my own way, I almost follow the Pareto Principle, even though I produce content for this website full-time, the rest of my team does link-building and social media marketing to drive traffic, which can, from the bird’s eye view equate to the same 20/80 approach, just applied a different way. In actuality, it’s more like a 50/50 or 100/100 with me (even though, at the time of this article, I’ve just started my current approach), in that 100% of my time is spent developing content, while 100% of my team’s time is spent marketing it. You want to be doing everything of everything to the maximum if you want to really rank in search engines, drive traffic to your website and build your audience. It’s just unrealistic to think that everyone has the same cards to play, which is why no one strategy may work the same for everyone, which is the fundamental flaw in anyone who offers to teach a particular strategy, rather than a way of thinking in their readers to figure out their own.
Use All Of Your Cards For Optimum Results
You may be an extroverted person who’s natural at networking, or you may be an introverted person (like me) who’s better at creating content from your imagination. Everyone has different cards to play, different strengths and weaknesses that they could apply to their work and their custom strategy they develop on their own from just following what works for them. Yes, there are set algorithms that your work and website are measured by that determine its rankings, but don’t stress yourself out if you can’t keep up with all of them—nobody truly can. The algorithms are intentionally designed that way for a reason, to create a free-market of content in which only the best content ranks. The search engines aren’t perfect with it, but with every day, they have people with Ph.Ds harnessing the system more and more, little by little, as time goes on.
The key is to know yourself, what your strengths are, and to play those strengths to the maximum. For me, it just so happens that I can type at over 118 words per minute while keeping long-form ideas in my head, whilst having built my writing skill over years and years of practice and experience. That’s my strength, which is why I can say: sure, write 1,500-word articles every day, no problem. But to you, that might be murder, and that’s alright. Find what isn’t murder to you, and play that card as your primary job, while finding other members for your team that compliment your weaknesses while you strive to become more well-rounded.
As a result, you’ll find that you’ll start developing your own unique style that works for you and no one else. That’s the sweet spot. Just make sure that you don’t lie to yourself, that you stay disciplined, and you always put your best out there as often as possible. If not every day, then whenever you can to keep your audience coming back to you, spending time with you, building trust with you, and thus buying from you.