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In my last post I talked about article submission sites. If you haven’t been submitting articles to sites like these, you’re missing out on a lot of free, targeted traffic. Here’s how to do it.

Write an article. A typical article should be between 700-1,000 words, and you must proofread before submitting it anywhere. (It’s a good idea to have someone else edit for you as well, preferably someone good at editing.) Most importantly, though, you should provide quality content. That’s why I recommend writing about something you yourself enjoy — write about a hobby, your job, what you studied in college, etc. Pick something you can write knowledgeably about; the more expertise you have, the better. A “how-to” article is, in my opinion, the best kind to submit to article directories. A person searching actively for instructions will be more likely to read your article than a casual browser and will also be more likely to click through to your web site.

It’s not enough just to write an article, though. You must include keywords and keyphrases in the title and body. But you should strive to keep your writing conversational, and trying to cram in too many keywords will sound awkward and repetitive. That’s where keyword research comes in handy — choose only the best keywords to include, and you’ve got more room to fit them in naturally.

And here’s something I recommend that no one else seems to be doing. This will help you stand out among the thousands of others trying to profit from their articles. It’s a no-brainer, really: write better articles. Just take a look through a couple of article directories — most of the authors simply don’t write well (or even coherently, in many cases). They sit down, start typing, try to cram in as many keywords as possible, forget to hit the spell check, and they’re off to submit. The whole process may have taken 10 minutes. But suppose someone else had just written a similar article on the same topic. This person took the time to plan and research his article, was careful to be clear and concise in his writing, and edited thoroughly. It might have taken him several hours, or even a day or more, but you know what? His article is more valuable than the first person’s. People will enjoy reading it more and, because they know what to expect, will be likely to go a step further and check out his web site. In the long run, it’s better to write a few high-quality articles than several crummy ones.

I recommend getting an AP Stylebook, and you may want to look into Paula LaRocque’s many excellent books on writing. Read up on it in your spare time to gradually improve your writing skills.

Submit your article. Once you have a well-crafted, informative article, the next step is to submit it to article directories. The idea behind these sites is not only that users can browse and read articles, but e-zine publishers and webmasters can also use the articles there to provide extra content to their readers. Therefore, any article you submit will be free for anyone else to publish, providing that your article and byline remain unchanged. (This is another reason to write high-quality articles — they’re more likely to be published elsewhere.) Include a link back to your site in every article, and you’ll build link popularity every time your article appears anywhere else. There are several good article directories out there, as well as services that will submit your articles to different directories for you. (I haven’t tried any of these services, but you may find them worthwhile.)

Basically, any directory you find on the first page of search results will be a high-quality site, which means high-quality links back to your site or blog. You may also want to look for more specific directories that accept articles only on your subject. Be sure to read the submission guidelines before submitting to any directory; depending on those guidelines, you may or may not want to include things like affiliate links in your articles.

Keep it up. Don’t expect to submit one article to three directories and see an instant influx of traffic. This is a gradual process, and you’ll probably need to submit several articles to a dozen or more directories before you see any results. Just focus on gradual improvement: 100 extra visitors this month, 1,000 next month, etc. Focus on quality, be consistent, and keep looking for more places to submit.

Keep in mind that the articles themselves aren’t your main source of traffic with this technique. Most times, people will simply read the article wherever they found it and not bother clicking through to your site. (You may get some traffic this way, but it won’t be much.) Rather, the point of submitting articles is to build one-way, inbound links to your site. You create one every time you submit an article and anytime someone publishes your article somewhere else. If your articles are informative and well-written, there’s a much higher likelihood that they’ll be published by reputable, high-ranking sites. You’d be surprised what an inbound link from a PageRank 6-7 site will do for your rankings.

I’ll talk more about free ways to build traffic in my next post, so check back soon!