Content syndication is the practice of online news sites, magazines and blogs republishing content across a range of websites. Which understandably can cause a wave of panic among content marketers, PRs and clients. It’s not unusual for people to worry that syndicating content will cause duplicate content issues, and fear a Google penalty.
There’s some logic behind this idea, as duplicating content across domains can be a ‘spammy’ tactic, but in this post I’ll explain through the theory behind it, Google’s own stance, and the benefits it can bring to your business.
Working in PR and logging coverage, we know that when an article appears in one regional media, it’s likely to also appear in multiple publications. This is known as content syndication.
The official definition is where web-based content is re-published by a third-party website. Any kind of content can be syndicated, including blog posts, videos, articles, and more.
Some of the biggest sites syndicate their content. Reach PLC, Reuters, Yahoo, Associated Press and others regularly publish content across many media titles, and PRs up and down the country strive for the coverage to hit these regional publications.
As long as the syndicated coverage and links are from high authority publishers, are relevant, and provide traffic, it is a superb way to build authority.
Here’s a recent example of syndicated content. We produced a relatable, timely, informative story for Gardening Express titled Locked-down Brits could face fines for picking wildflowers on a daily walk.
The amazing thing with this, is that it can be done from one effective story at 500 words, and one strong email pitch, which in my opinion is a pretty good ROI.
Benefits of content syndication
Receive quality links back to your site
My advice is to link your brand or your client in every story, as branded links are easiest to acquire as they are the most natural. But hitting mass link totals across syndicated content can be a bit of a lottery, to be honest. Some leave the links in and some take them out. Either way, as previously outlined, there are additional benefits to this coverage outside of links.
Increased website authority
You might well get links from the syndicated coverage, but there should be no real worries if not. It’s also worth mentioning that Google considers unlinked brand mentions as “implied” links. They may not offer as many benefits as follow links, but they certainly count.
Google can contextualise the brand mentions in high-quality content, and Google Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google Gary Illyes said “If you publish high-quality content that is highly cited on the internet — and I’m not talking about just links, but also mentions on social networks and people talking about your branding, crap like that. Then you are doing great.”
More recently as of March 1st 2020, Google started treating the “NoFollow” attribute as a hint for indexing and crawling. We don't know if Google has been using them as hints all along or if there will be any massive change that will be measurable, but what we do know is that they want us to use nofollow attributes as best practices.
All this contributes to the authority of your website.
Links = referral traffic.
Links also = link equity (juice).
The links acquired can offer referral traffic directly from the coverage, but also the links are like a vote of confidence in your website from Google, so it will support your organic performance and contribute towards increased traffic.
Increased online presence
If you are cited and published online on a regular basis, it naturally makes your brand become more visible and accessible digitally. You will reach a wider audience as syndicating your content to authoritative sites with large audiences helps your brand and content gain exposure with larger audiences than you might usually have access to.
The success and clicks come from the strength of content, as good content gives you good engagement, creating valuable opportunities to target new audiences and demographics.
Brand messaging and sentiment
With a nice placement across multiple media, you can promote yourself as an expert in your industry. You can build your brand messaging and key messages into the content. Thought leadership? Opinion story? Advice article? Whatever your approach, you need to position yourselves as experts and authoritative.
When people see your brand or name consistently on authoritative sites, they will start to see you as authoritative too. These important trust points are vital when consumers are looking to do their research in the ‘marketing funnel’.
Those all-important leads
When an external article drives traffic and prospects to your website, you have an opportunity to engage and nurture them by giving them more information about your brand. Why did they click through? Use data to make tweaks to your on-site content, more often than not it’s how your products or services can help solve their problems.
A media site sharing brand content that’s relevant and helpful for audiences, can help nurture prospects throughout the sales pipeline. Remarketing is also an option.
Google’s stance on content syndication
I’m going to start by saying that Google doesn’t actually have a duplicate content penalty.
It only really penalises websites that scrape content, or spam the web using duplicate content. In which case, Google will devalue that website.
But from an earned media perspective, Google understands that content often appears on more than one site for legitimate reasons, as is the case with content syndication.
For example, let’s think about a traditional launch to market press release. We’re launching a new product and we issue the press release to multiple media outlets who all publish the same/similar story based on the content we provided. This is the exact same principle as issuing a story or opinion piece that gets picked up. Google knows this is the way the world of PR works, and incorporates this into its algorithms.
We’re not trying to manipulate the results and rank your content multiple times; we're just trying to get more eyeballs on your content by tapping into other sites’ audiences. If Google does find multiple websites with the same content, its search bots will decide which one to rank and omit the other results.
As long as you don’t publish the content on your website it is no problem. And if you do, this can be solved by using a canonical link to ensure you hint who the original work belongs to. It basically tells search engine bots that all SEO equity relating to the content should be attributed to the original version.
Please note that the one problem you might encounter with this strategy is that many syndication sites want the right to publish the content first.
To summarise, syndicated content from a PR perspective does not violate Google policy.
For us to be successful, and generate coverage across all our clients, we often target media houses that syndicate content as a valid tactic. To do this effectively, just create great content - it really is as simple as that. We always ask ourselves, is the story:
And if so then you have a winning formula to get masses of coverage. Granted, it is easier with B2C businesses and campaigns.
We need to make life as easy as possible for the journalists, and make them look good. Remember, publications make money off advertising, and in short, more page views means more revenue.
I spoke to a journalist whose KPIs are the shares their stories are generating. So help them with their KPIs, and give them a shareable, engaging story. Always remember, what publications lack is not free content, but great content.
Content syndication as I see it is a win-win situation between the brand (our clients) and the publisher. And good PR is the link between the two!
Want to explore how you can get masses of coverage (and links)? Feel free to reach out and speak to one of our PR pros.