Many of my competitors have started publishing articles with the intent of attracting links, which in-turn (presumably) improves their store's search engine rankings. I have seen them use 3 different structures. 1. articles right on main domain, under a directory like "widgetshop.com/news/" 2. articles under a subdomain, like news.widgetshop.com 3. articles under a totally separate domain, like widgetblog.com, with ample links back to widgetshop.com
#3 seems a little odd to me. Perhaps the idea is that a "pure" content site will achieve a high PR, which will then get passed to the store via links.
I am interested in testing article content as a means of improving my position in the search engines, and I was wondering which structure has the best chance of success. Thoughts?
IMHO - don't use a sub-domain nor separate website. You're giving up the keyword value. Focus more on relevant content with links to your products. Don't go overboard on them 1-2 per page at most depending on how long the article is. Make sure you include outbound links to authority sites (mfrs, industry trade sites, etc).
They can but SEs also gauge your place in the community - eg islands that collect inbound links and give nothing in return aren't very community oriented. It's also a way to establish some credibility for your own site by association.