How to use article spinning to reach your target audience

Ross Hall

May 17, 2021
(Updated on June 17, 2021)

An illustration of a spinning wheel with words being used as thread in the spindle

Your latest content is out and results are mixed. Trying to appeal to different audiences in one article has made your copy messy and confused. It’s difficult to read, too long and the keywords used by one audience confuse another.

Article spinning creates different versions of a single article for individual audiences. Originally a technique in SEO, it aims to give people a version of your content that’s specific to their needs. By matching the structure, emphasis and language a particular audience uses, you can increase both the usefulness of your content, and lift your search engine performance.

In this article I’ll outline what article spinning is, how to spin an article for different audiences and why it can benefit your content marketing beyond search engines. I’ll also look at some ways you can harm your business if you get it wrong.

What is article spinning?

In its simplest form, search engine optimisation works by creating copy that uses specific words and phrases your target audience are using. These keywords are spread through the copy in a way that is both readable to the user and gets a high score from a search engine. A high score means your page will appear earlier in search engine results and bring more potential customers in. The difference between being on pages 1 and 2 on Google can be significant.

One challenge is finding the right audience for the copy. Content such as blog posts and feature articles are usually written for a single audience. This focus makes it easier to include the right keywords and phrases that appeal to that target market. Problems emerge when you target more than one audience as copy can quickly lose focus and become unreadable to people and search engine alike.

Article spinning takes a single core piece of content and reworks it to appeal to specific audiences. Rather than try to cram different messages into one piece, multiple pieces are created that are optimised separately. This is not writing fresh pieces for each target market though, it’s about taking that core message and adjusting it.

How does article spinning work?

Article spinning starts with a core piece of content, usually a blog post or long-form article. The piece is written for one audience and includes target keywords and phrases. Once agreed, the target keywords are swapped for the next audience’s and the affected sentences and paragraphs rewritten. Other changes, such as paragraph order, might also be made to avoid plagiarism and duplicate content warnings being triggered in search engines.

For example, the following text is aimed at financial managers and features keywords in bold italics:

The widget feature lets customers access real-time trading data, reducing their need to call support lines. The cost savings can be significant, with early testing showing at least a 30% reduction in costs and return on investment of 52% in the first quarter.

A simple keyword swap for customer services managers would produce this text:

The widget feature lets customers access real-time trading data, reducing their need to call support lines. The cost savings can be significant, with early testing showing at least a 30% reduce call volumes and increase customer satisfaction of 52% in the first quarter.

This text doesn’t make sense and has inaccuracies. A spun version of the text might be:

The widget feature gives customers real-time access to trading data, which early testing has shown customer services can reduce call volumes by 30% and increase customer satisfaction by over 50%. Operating budgets also benefit, with the new features paying for themselves within 3 months from cost savings alone.

This crude example shows how the same message (the benefits of the new widget) could be spun to target different audiences. The financial managers have phrases that appeal to them, with an emphasis on return on investment, while customer service managers focus on increasing customer satisfaction.

More than keyword swaps

Most sites don’t move beyond swapping keywords and changing the order of paragraphs. This misses an opportunity to create content that’s more relevant to the reader. Including targeted sections and cutting back on more general ones can give spun articles a strong focus for their targets.

For example, the finance manager version of an article might include a detailed section about return on investment, and a case study on how someone improved their top and bottom line. In the customer service version, the ROI might be downplayed to a sentence or two, with its own section on improving customer experience and a case study to match.

How to use Article Spinning

Posting spun articles onto a blog or newsfeed can be problematic. The repetition can be harmful to newsletter subscriber numbers, social media follower counts and engagement. All of this can work against you and do more harm than good in the short-term.

You can set up your website content management system to tackle these issues. For WordPress users I suggest using a category or tag to suppress all but one version from appearing in the general blog feed. The other versions should be tagged and categorised separately to prevent them from appearing twice in different sections of your blog.

With Social Media, I suggest rotating the different versions through your feeds. For example, if you share new posts 4 times over 2 weeks, share the different versions as part of this cycle, adjusting the messaging and hashtags to suit. This will both seed search engines and make your messages more relevant to specific audiences.

You can use the same approach if you’ve segmented your mailing lists to match your audiences. I’ve also used this technique with account managers and sales staff who send their key contacts regular mailings. A relevant message that speaks the language of your audience is more likely to connect with them and trigger action.

What results can you expect

SEO can take months to have an effect, so expecting an overnight response is unrealistic. What you have is content targeted to different audiences and you should go out of your way to use them. Send them out to your segmented mailing lists and invest in boosting them on social media and your advertising channels. If they’re newsworthy press release them. Do what you can to get the message out.

In the early 2000s, when I worked primarily with Insurance Brokers and .com companies, I had a weekly email newsletter. My readership was small (a couple of thousand subscribers) and response rates were poor. I started to spin the articles I wrote to match my audiences, segmented my mailing lists and sent out an insurance version to insurance people, a .com version to startups. Response rates almost doubled and my subscriber numbers from referrals started to increase.

What can go wrong?

Article spinning is not without its challenges. Creating 3 or 4 different versions of content takes additional time and budget. It also means there are more items in your content management system that need to be reviewed and amended regularly. I’ll usually recommend spinning is reserved for specific marketing activities rather than used in the general course of blogging.

There’s also a risk of triggering plagiarism and duplicate content warnings if the spun articles aren’t significantly different from one another. Swapping paragraphs around may not be enough to avoid this, particularly if you’re trying to protect your content against possible future penalties. My approach to tackle this is to ensure every paragraph and most sentences are touched in some way.

Finally, there are questions about whether the technique works. Traffic to each individual page can be lower than a single, generic page. While the performance of individual pages is important and should be reviewed, it may be better to focus on the package of content when assessing your return on investment.

In summary

Article spinning is a useful technique for creating versions of a core message that appeals to your different target audiences. Done well it’s a useful marketing tool to create copy that’s friendly to search engines and readers. Done poorly it risks triggering warnings that could penalise your content. Use it to support specific marketing activities, suppressing the multiple versions from appearing in general blog feeds and creating versions that are substantively different from one another.

I'm Ross Hall, a writer and researcher based in Kobe, Japan. You can talk to me about B2B, sustainability and strategic management.

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