What does Google think about content syndication?

Many marketers steer clear of republishing content on other sites for fear of a big fat Google penalty. However, content syndication could be just what you need to boost your traffic.

Used selectively, content syndication can develop your reputation and online visibility. You just need to know what you’re doing and understand the limitations.

What is content syndication?

First thing’s first, content syndication is not the same as guest blogging.

Content syndication: Original content is published on your site. You then give other parties permission to post a copy to their site. This can be a complete copy or a snippet. Either can be very effective at driving traffic back to your original content.

Guest blogging: Here you write a piece for a single third-party site. It doesn’t appear anywhere else – not even your own site. Guest blogging is less scalable due to the need to create a new piece of original content every time.

The benefits of content syndication

Content syndication exposes you to another website’s audience. They’ll become aware of your brand, and hopefully hop on over to your site for more insights.

You must select your syndication partners very carefully. Post only on sites whose audience will appreciate your content. Also aim for sites who are of a higher authority than you – then you can benefit from their reputation and visibility.

You must also be careful when deciding which content to publish. Only syndicate your best stuff – you don’t want to make a bad impression.

Content syndication is a very useful tool when used correctly. Luckily, we have a great example for you:

The Content Council kindly decided to feature our recent post on documented content strategies on their website – take a look! This means that we have reached a whole new audience thanks to a republished snippet, which links back to the original piece on our site.

Why would Google have a problem with it?

The main issue Google has with content syndication is duplicate content.

For years, Google has been battling against this monster. Crawlers identify substantive blocks of text that either completely match or are very similar.

Now, most of the time this is not deceptive. Product descriptions, for example, are often duplicated across different websites. But Google prepares for the worst:

“In some cases, content is deliberately duplicated across domains in an attempt to manipulate search engine rankings or win more traffic. Deceptive practices like this can result in a poor user experience, when a visitor sees substantially the same content repeated within a set of search results.”

However, it’s not just Google who may have a problem with content syndication, it may affect you too:

  • The republisher’s site may outrank yours – Google shows the version they think is most appropriate for users in each given search.
  • You can’t collect email addresses from someone else’s site.

What is Google’s current stance and how can I use it to my advantage?

Despite issuing warnings over duplicate content, Google encourages clever and accurate content syndication. It even offers several ways to improve your syndication strategy. Here are just a few:

Publish on your site first: Even if the end game is to syndicate, publish content on your own site first and make sure Google has indexed it.

Use “rel-canonical” tags: By using a “rel-canonical” tag on your original content, you can help search engines differentiate between the ‘master’ version and any syndicated copies.

Request no index: You can also ask those who use your syndicated material to use the noindex meta tag to prevent search engines from indexing their version of the content.

By using any or all of these methods, any links to syndicated copy will accrue to the benefit of the original article.

Can I still publish on sharing sites?

Medium and LinkedIn Pulse are rapidly becoming more popular. Some marketers are worried about duplicating content on these sources – but they needn’t be.

While they cannot support the tags to tell Google that the content originally came from your site, experts haven’t seen any problems with the search giant marking pieces as duplicates.

The only issues we’ve spotted is that Medium often overtakes the original site’s rankings – but this is probably an acceptable risk for the level of exposure of achieved. Just make sure any articles you republish on Medium carry prominent links back to the originals on your site.

All in all, Google won’t penalise you for content syndication – if you do it right. Control any duplicate content that appears online, and always make sure that the content appears on your website first.

One final tip …

Keep your ratio of syndicated to original content to 1:4 or below. Why? Because if a reader follows a link back to your site, you want to show them that your site still contains plenty of content that can’t be found anywhere else.

More from: Blogging / Search Engine Marketing / SEO / Web Copywriting