Internet Business Blog

Monday, July 11, 2005

Article Announcer Review

Writing articles is one of the best ways of promoting your website. Benefits include increased targetted traffic to your site, higher search engine ranking as a result of the increased backlinks and increased credibility. Have a look at my article How to use Articles to Boost your Online Presence if you want to understand more about the benefits of article writing.

One of the headaches of using articles for promotion is the time that it takes to distribute them to article directories and ezine publishers. It's easy to spend hours and hours finding article directories and ezine publishers, filling in all the forms on each of the websites using cut and paste and keeping track of which directories you have submitted to your article. I usually manage to submit to about 50 or so directories gradually over a period of a few days and then I end up getting bored and stopping there. I would rather spend my time doing something else! There are some services whom you can pay to distribute your articles for you, but I feel that the charges for these services are a bit steep if you are on a tight budget.

For this reason I felt pretty excited when I heard that Jason Potash was releasing a product called Article Announcer to automate the article submission process.

At $379, this would be the most expensive internet marketing purchase that I have ever made, but the thought that this could save me hours and hours of time was enough to convince me that it was worth it.

So on the day of release I went straight to the site and ordered the Article Announcer package, which consisted of 4 Audio CDs & a transcript of the CDs, the Article Announcer Software itself, a user guide and video tutorial.

I paid by paypal and received the goods just a few days later, despite the fact that I live in Scotland and it was being shipped from the US.

My first instinct was to install the software immediately, but I took the advice on the letter that came with the software and decided to listen to the "Article Blueprint" Audio CDs first and spent the next 5 car journeys to and from my work listening to Jason Potash and John Reese talk about everything under the sun related to writing articles.

I've been using articles to promote my websites for just over a year now, but I found the CDs really informative and although I already knew about a lot of the stuff they were talking about I definitely learned a few things that I didn't know about before. The CDs cover all the basics of writing articles plus how to get articles ghostwritten for you, the best ways and places to submit articles, what to put in your resource box, how to approach ezine publishers, search engine optimisation for articles, keyword density, writing a good headline, copyright issues, strategies for getting the most out of your article and lots lots more. If you've never done any promotion with articles before this will tell you everything you need to know. If you've done lots of article promotion in the past, this will reinforce what you already know and you'll probably learn a few new things too.

I've still got to watch the video tutorial to so I'll update this review once I've done so, but I have installed and started using the software so I can now get to the important part of reviewing the software.

The installation of the software onto my laptop (Windows XP) was quick and easy. I then used a "Download Latest Update" button to get the latest version.

The first thing I did after installing Article Announcer was to fill my "Company Info". This basically consists of my name, address, website URL, website name etc. I then filled in the name of my SMTP server, email address and login details to allow the software to send emails to announcement lists and ezine publishers on my behalf. You can also set up an optional "wait" period to avoid sending all your emails simultaneously.

Since I didn't have a new article I decided to use one of my old articles, but only submit it to places that I hadn't done so already. This was pretty straight forward. I just pressed the "New" button in the Article List view and entered my Article Title, Category, my name and email address, Article URL and autoresponder address, keywords, resource box, short description and the article itself. You basically enter all the information that you would normally enter when you submit your article to a directory.

You then go on to the "Article Submission" part. There is a list of almost 100 article directories, 21 Announcement lists and around 1000 ezine publishers

So far I have only used the Directory submission part and plan on using the ezine publisher submission and announcement lists submissions for my next new article. I'll make an update to this review once I've used these.

To submit to the directories you just need to go through the list and check the box beside all the directories that you want to submit to. For each directory you can look at the URL, name of the site, rating of the directory from 1-10 and comments about each directory. You can sort the list on any of these fields, delete any of the directories that you want to or even add your own directories to the list.

Once you've selected the relevant directories is just a case of pressing the submit button. You'll be taken to the correct page of each article directory in turn and Article Announcer will automatically fill in 95-100% of all the required fields, using the information that you entered earlier. It's just a case of reviewing the information to make sure that you are happy with everything then pressing the submit button. Once you've done that you press the "Submit Next Site" button and your off to the next directory. I managed to submit to around 40 directories in an hour, probably about 4 or 5 times faster than doing it by hand. I've also found a whole host of other directories that I never knew about before, so the article that I used is now submitted to 40 directories on top of the 50 or so that I submitted it to previously.

As I mentioned, I've not used the announcement lists or the ezine publishers list yet, but this will also save you heaps of time as the Article Announcer software will automatically send all your emails for you, once you've filled in the necessary templates. The list of Ezine publishers is pretty impressive and you can sort them by category as well.

I am very happy with my purchase, but since I work as a software developer by day, my review wouldn't be complete without making a few suggestions for future enhancements :-)

(1) For the benefit of those who have multiple websites on completely different topics e.g. internet marketing, travel, health etc it would be good to have multiple "views" within the software e.g. a view for my internet marketing articles, a view for my travel articles etc. I could then have different company information and different "Other Settings" rather than update these settings every time I want to write an article in a different area.

(2) The idea of additional "views" would also help when submitting articles to all the directories. Currently I have to review the list of article directories before I start submitting my article, just to make sure that I don't submit to a directory that doesn't cater for my topic. E.g. I don't want to submit my travel article to a home business article directory. I then check the boxes of all the articles that I want to submit to. None of this is saved and I can't just delete the article directories that I don't want to submit to as they may be relevant for another article that I wish to submit at a later date. Either extending the "views" concept to this or allowing the directories to be sorted based on the type of directory would save time.

(3) Currently if I skip a directory due to the site being unavailable, the checkbox beside that directory is then unchecked. This means that if I return to my article submitting the next day I can't see a list of the directories that I didn't manage to submit to. I know that it is one of the directories without a recent date in the "Last Submitted" box, but I'll have to read through the list of article directories again to find them.

In summary, this software is a MUST for anyone who wants to use articles to promote their website. You will quickly recoup the cost of the product as a result of the combination of the time that you save submitting articles and the extra traffic you receive by submitting your article to the comprehensive list of directories, announcement lists and ezine publishers.

You can Buy Article Announcer Here.

You can also read a review of a less expensive competing product called Article Post Robot here. This review includes a comparison with Article Announcer.

If you have any comments on my review or want to add your own experiences, please feel free to submit a comment to my Blog!

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Internet Business Blog

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Use SSI to save Time Maintaining your Website

Last week I logged onto my stats at StatCounter to find that they were flooded with information about a website that wasn't owned by me.

Upon further investigation I found to my annoyance that someone had copied chunks of my website, including my StatCounter Javascript code and my unique ID on to their web page and then advertised it on a traffic exchange or something similar.

This meant that I no longer had access to accurate stats about my own website as they were skewed with stats on this other persons website.

I sent a polite email to the webmaster of the aforementioned site asking him if he could remove the offending code. After a few days with no reply, I posted a question on the support board at the StatCounter site and got an immediate response from someone saying that I needed to re-generate my javascript code to get a new ID, then I should turn on a security option to prevent anyone swiping the code in the future.

This part was easy. The problem was that I then had to update approximately 70 web pages with the new javascript code and upload them to web server. It took me about an hour and a half to do this, which isn't too bad, but it was an hour and a half that could have been spent doing something more worthwhile.

At this point I wanted to make sure that this never happened again, so I looked into using SSI (Server Side Includes).

One of the benefits of SSI is that it allows you to include other HTML files in your webpages. For example, if I have a website with 100 pages and each page uses the same header graphic and menu, the same footer and the same statistics code I can create three new files e.g. header.html, footer.html and stats.html. These files just contain the fragments of html code or javascript.

I then just have to include them in the correct places in my web pages.

This saves me from
a) Cutting and pasting all that HTML or javascript code into every single web page and
b) Making changes to every single web page every time I want to update my menu or change the copyright dates on my footer etc

I really should have looked into this when I first started writing my web pages, but at that time I was just so desperate to get it finished that I didn't give it any thought.

If you want to know more of the technical details about how to enable SSI and how to use it see the Apache SSI Tutorial

One good thing to note is that using SSI won't affect your search engine rank, because the search engine spiders will see the full html source after everything has been included. In fact you can't even tell that SSI includes have been used if you go to my website and do View->Source, despite the fact that I have SSI includes for my header, footer, Google AdSense blocks, search box and Statistics.

SSI includes can even help your search engine rankings. For example you can use includes to display fresh content on all your pages and change this regularly to give the search engine robots new food to chomp on.

Funnily enough, when I logged into my email today, what did I find? An email from the webmaster who had copied my Javascript code telling me that he had removed it and apologising for the delay in doing so. Normally this would annoy me, since I have gone through the pain of changing everything, but this time I'm feeling quite happy - this guy has done me a huge favour!