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The Difference Between Educational Articles and Promotional Articles
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I always tell folks that in doing article marketing their articles should be educational in nature, rather than sales oriented, but I think that sometimes even by saying that articles should be "educational", that still leaves a bit of mystery as to what exactly an educational article is. 

After all, depending on how you look at things you could convince yourself that writing an article about the merits of a product that you're selling on your website is educational.

I guess in a way that would be educational (you're giving information to the reader), but that is not the type of educational article we're talking about when we're dealing with article marketing. 

It helps to be more specific, so I thought I'd really pin things down as much as possible as to what exactly and educational article is (and is not):

An educational article…

  • Possibly teaches your reader how to do something
  • Conveys valuable information, something that someone in your target market would benefit from knowing
  • Is objective and unbiased 
  • Explains an idea or concept
  • Does not refer to your website, your products, affiliate products, or your business (your resource box is the appropriate area for that information)

We are all writing articles to drive traffic to our websites, and mostly our websites are connected to our businesses, so it's not surprising that we can get a bit mixed up when we're trying to determine what an appropriate educational article might be.

The temptation is to think: "My website is about brand XYZ of chocolate, so naturally I should write articles "educating" readers as to why they should buy my product."

Yes, that may be a thought that pops into your head, but whenever you find yourself being tempted to write about the products that you sell on your own website, you can remind yourself that you're going into forbidden territory.

With article marketing, probably the #1 reason why articles are rejected by publishers is for being "promotional", meaning that the author mentions their own website, products, affiliate products or business in the article, so don't go there!

What is the big deal about talking about your own products/website/business in your article?

Publishers want content that benefits their readers. They want the type of content that their customers are in search of, and one thing that publishers steer clear of is an article that sounds like an advertisement for the author's products or website. When someone reads an article that has a sales slant to it, it decreases the reader's trust in the unbiased nature of the information that is being conveyed in the article. 

Let's look at it this way…

Suppose your favorite journalist wrote a review about a new product that came out. When you started reading the article you thought it was an objective news piece, something that you could use to help you make a decision as to whether to buy the product or not.

You read the article and were impressed by the merits of the product, but hold on a minute–you just found out that the journalist is the inventor/owner of the product and that he is trying to build up hype so that he can make more sales –that means that he is making money off of people's positive impressions of the product. 

Now, the journalist may argue that he is "educating the public" about this particular product, but a reader may have reason to doubt the perspective of the author since it's obvious that he has something to gain.

If the journalist wants to be considered a professional, objective writer, then he has a conflict of interest on his hands if he tries to present a review of his own product as an objective news piece.

The reader may wonder, "Is this an advertisement, or is this an objective informational article?" 

If you're ever not sure if the types of articles you're writing are appropriately "educational" or not, ask yourself:

"Could someone possibly think that I am trying to sell this product?"

  • If you have a link to a sales page for the product in your resource box, then yes, readers will think you're trying to sell the product.
  • If you are selling the product anywhere on your website, then yes, the reader has good reason to think that you're trying to sell the product.

It's very hard to write about a product that you sell on your site and have it not look promotional (self-serving) –this is why many publishers outright decline articles that are promotional (are about the authors own products/website/business/affiliate products)

There is one remedy for this though–don't write about the specific products that you're selling on your website!

I'm not saying that you should write about unrelated topics to your website–

DO write articles on topics that are on the topic of your website, but DON'T write about your specific products.

If you have a website that sells brand XYZ chocolate bars, write about chocolate in general, rather than your specific brand. For example, here are some article ideas:

  • "5 Ways You Can Tell If The Chocolate You're Eating Is High Quality"
  • "What is the difference between Dark Chocolate, Milk Chocolate, and Semi-sweet Chocolate?"
  • "The Health Benefits Of Eating Chocolate"

Those would all be perfectly appropriate educational articles for someone who has a product based website that sells a certain brand of chocolate. Notice that the articles are not about the specific brand–they are entirely educational, objective, teaching articles.  

That is what an educational article looks like–by reading an article about "The Health Benefits of Chocolate" no one would go away thinking that the author was trying to convince them to buy a particular brand.

But what you can do is write about your chocolate site in your resource box and give a link to that site. A reader who was interested in that article would likely also be interested in buying chocolate, so it's a very subtle way of getting the reader to make the jump from your article to your website.

Related Resources:

What is the best way to write articles to drive traffic back to my product based website? 

Photo Credit: Crayola Lincoln Logs.Originally uploaded by laffy4k

NOTE: Please be aware this content may now be outdated. For the latest quality content on how to build massive publicity for your website, please go to The vWriter Blog - Helping Businesses Grow Traffic, Build Engagement, and "Be Everywhere"

4 Responses to “The Difference Between Educational Articles and Promotional Articles”

  1. Chris says:

    I think this article makes it clear on content that is not sales oriented.
    Just avoid mention within body of your article of products or any kind of pitch.
    Everyone is ok with the resource box as it provides the link towards finding out more about you or your site.

  2. Ricardo A. says:

    Thank you for this very timely (for me) and enlightening article. I guess I’ve been thrown off by the concept of “article marketing.” I know that I need to use articles to market, and that I need to market in order to make sales and ultimately, some money.

    But this helps me in understanding how to do this.

    Many thanks – this is much appreciated!

  3. Thank you very much for clarifying the difference between an educational article and a “sales” article. I imagine that sticking with a “tip sheet”- Five Reasons To Eat Chocolate- explains it best.

    Thanks again.

  4. Well put, this was one of my biggest mistakes when I first started out in 2004 posting articles. I really didn’t realize the power behind them at that time when it came to long term marketing.

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