Web content syndication is an integral content marketing tactic for many businesses. It can also be a powerful off-page SEO strategy.
If you’re looking for ways to widen your audience, build your reputation and bring new traffic to your website, then this guide is for you.
What is web content syndication?
Web content syndication is when web-based content is republished on a third-party site with the author’s consent. Any kind of content can be syndicated – think blogs, infographics, quizzes, videos and more.
In the Salesbox 2017 Content Syndication Survey, they found that 65% of the respondents (all of whom were marketers) were using content syndication as a core lead generation strategy.
There are varying approaches to syndication – some sites will publish entire articles, others will publish shortened versions, excerpts, or even just headings with a backlink to the original source.
What is the difference between content syndication and guest blogging?
As covered in my recent guide to guest blogging, guest blogs are original pieces of content written by an author with the intention that it will be published on a third-party host blog.
Where content syndication differs is that it entails republishing content on a third-party site when it already exists elsewhere online (usually the author’s own website).
For example, I could take one of my popular blogs – How AI is shaping SEO (and how to boost your RankBrain rankings) – and reach out to several different third-party sites, agreeing that they can each repost the same article.
I would be able to show potential publishers that this article has already attracted a good number of social shares, comments and visits to the SEO+ website. If a blog has performed well on its original posting, the chances are it will attract a similar response when syndicated.
This gives the host blog a chance to post tried and tested high-quality content for their audience without having to create anything from scratch.
For the author, content syndication is more scalable than blogging. You can leverage the same content multiple times, generating as much mileage from it as possible.
Generally speaking, content syndication is cheaper and quicker than writing original content for a third-party site, i.e. guest blogging.
However, many popular websites use both guest blogging and content syndication within their content marketing strategies.
What are the benefits of web content syndication?
Content syndication is a great avenue to get your blog articles in front of a new audience.
As well as increasing the reach of your content, it’s a fantastic way to build brand awareness, boost your visibility on social media, and attract social shares and follows.
Syndicating your content can also grow your presence as a thought leader within your industry. You don’t need to use overt calls to action or sales techniques. Instead, the power of content syndication is growing the sense that you’re an expert who’s featured on multiple sites and platforms.
If you can secure a piece of syndicated content on high authority domains with a great professional reputation, it acts like a vote of confidence by association.
Let’s not forget too that if you have internal links in your syndicated content to other resources on your website, it can generate link juice and authority back to your site.
Content syndication can also be a vehicle for:
- Promoting your blog
- Attracting backlinks
- Driving more web traffic to original article
And let’s not forget that, instead of letting your best content gather dust, it’s a free way to give it more mileage.
For a website that hosts syndicated content, it’s a way of diversifying what’s available and adding a larger volume of high-quality content – i.e. content that has a proven track record – to what’s on the site without spending any extra time or money.
Is content syndication right for your business?
In truth, web content syndication doesn’t suit every business but it could be the right strategy for you if your current goal is to get your ideas and content in front of a bigger audience while you grow your own following.
Certainly, if you already have a back catalogue of great content, it wouldn’t hurt to give content syndication a try.
What are the pitfalls of syndicating content?
Before you commit to a content syndicating strategy, it’s important to be aware that there are four main pitfalls with republishing your content on a third-party site.
Pitfall 1: Duplicate content
As we know, Google is not a fan of duplicate content as it throws up a variety of issues.
For a start, the search engine doesn’t want to return a results page full of links to copies of the same content (where would be the value in that for the searcher?) so which version should Google prioritise?
Also, how can Google tell if content has been plagiarised and republished without permission?
It’s these concerns that can make people a bit wary of content syndication.
People will often warn that you could get hit with a duplicate content ‘penalty’ for syndicating.
In fact, that’s highly unlikely.
Content syndication is a popular off-page SEO tactic used by many of the world’s leading marketers and SEO experts. There are steps that you can take to help Google understand syndicated content (see “rel=canonical” or “noindex” below).
In reality, the risk is more that you’ll end up competing against other versions of the same content in searches, which brings us to….
Pitfall 2: Competing against your original article in searches
In the Google Search Console support pages, the search engine warns us to ‘syndicate carefully’, saying:
If you syndicate your content on other sites, Google will always show the version we think is most appropriate for users in each given search, which may or may not be the version you’d prefer.
Faced with duplicate content, Google is likely to prioritise the site with the highest domain authority and other greater trust signals, unless you tell it otherwise (more about this in a minute).
On the flipside, having several identical versions of your content can actually build the reputation of the original. Each version is a sign to Google that the content is so good that people are reposting it for their own audiences.
Pitfall 3: People have no reason to visit your website
If you’re looking for off-page SEO strategies to bring new traffic to your website, then content syndication may not be the best place to focus your efforts.
The truth is that if someone is able to access a piece of content on the host’s website in full then they may not have any incentive to visit your site, even if you do provide a backlink to make it as easy as possible.
That being said, content syndication tends to be about the long game.
New readers may not visit your website immediately but, if they’ve enjoyed your content or found value in it, then it will have planted a seed of awareness of your brand that you can nurture with time.
Pitfall 4: Not growing your mailing list
Pitfall 4 really follows on from readers not visiting your website to access syndicated content.
Most of us use our own websites as a marketing tool with the facility to capture an email address for our website visitors. However, in most cases, you won’t be able to add a lead capture mechanism to content that’s republished.
Whether this bothers you or not will depend on your goals. If you’re looking for immediate ways to grow your mailing list, content syndication is probably not your best focus. If, on the other hand, you’re more concerned with reputation building, this pitfall won’t worry you too much.
Web content syndication through third party websites and blogs: How to get started
There are a few different ways to approach content syndication.
The first we’re going to look at is syndication through third party websites and blogs where you have to pitch your content to an editor or site host.
With content syndication it helps to have some content under your belt, whether it was written for your own blog or as a guest blogger.
Many websites that publish syndicated content ask to see examples of previous articles as an indication of the kind of standard they can expect.
If you’re able to show that you have a proven track record of creating engaging content, it will make the job of syndicating a lot easier.
As with guest blogging, you will need to identify websites that would potentially republish your content.
Look for high authority sites that share a similar audience to you or work within the same niche. The site republishing your content needs to be relevant to your business.
(Please don’t syndicate to low authority, spammy sites with no editorial guidelines).
Also, look for sites that would accept your guest blogs but then syndicate them to their own networks.
Similarly, content republished on entrepreur.com is often syndicated to Fox News through a syndication partnership.
Syndication networks like these offer a potential for content to be seen by tens of thousands of people around the world, even if you haven’t amassed that kind of following on your own yet.
Make a shortlist of the sites you’d most like to be featured on and then check whether they currently accept syndicated content.
Look for articles with a disclaimer than says something like ‘Syndicated from…’ or ‘This post originally appeared on…’
Here’s an example from Copyblogger:
Many sites also have syndication request forms or guidelines so it’s worth looking for those (they’re often hiding in the website’s footer or on the About page).
Once you’ve done your research, your next step is to contact the editor (or other most appropriate contact) to see if they would be interested in republishing your content.
Relationship building for syndication is very similar to that of guest blogging – it’s important to show why your content is relevant to the host’s audience, how well it’s performed in the past and mention any other blogs you’ve been featured on.
In Neil Patel’s Guide to Syndicating Content, you’ll find some examples of successful syndication pitch emails.
The key is to keep your message short and simple.
- Say who you are
- Who you write for
- What you write about
- Link to your own blog
- Ask if <insert website name> syndicates content (and possibly link to a syndicated article)
- Then ask if they would be interested in accepting a relevant syndicated post
You could also mention in your pitch that you would be interested in submitting original guest posts too. This gives the host editor opportunities to diversify their content.
If you get a ‘yes’ back and the host is happy to republish your content, it’s important to clarify how it will be handled to avoid duplicate content or ranking issues.
There are three main options:
- “rel=canonical” tag
The canonical tag – sometimes referred to as “rel=canonical” or “canonical URL tag” – is a page-level meta tag that is placed in the HTML header of a web page. It tells search engines that, if duplicate copies of the same content can be found elsewhere, the URL in the tag is the original version that should be prioritised in listings.
Many sites that publish syndicated content will add a canonical tag featuring the URL of the original article to the header for the republished piece. This simply points search engines from the republished version back to the author’s original.
Another option to avoid duplicate content issues is to have the host of the syndicated copy add a “noindex” tag to the article. This tells search engines that they shouldn’t bother indexing this version.
It’s worth bearing in mind that “noindex” is a directive rather than a command so Google may still index pages that bear a “noindex” tag.
- Add a disclaimer sentence pointing to the original version
Your final option – and it’s one that many sites adopt – is to add a short sentence at the beginning or end of the syndicated article saying, “Originally published on <website name with link to content>”.
Google is surprisingly adept at recognising this disclaimer – or different versions of it – and understanding that it’s viewing syndicated content and should prioritise the original version.
Once your content has been republished on a host site, you’ll need to keep an eye on how it’s performing. Are people leaving comments that need a response?
With one post under your belt and the ice broken, reach out to see if this could become a regular arrangement.
Some blogs will agree to post 100% syndicated content or you might be able to negotiate providing a mix of original guest blogs and syndicated articles each month/quarter.
On the Rough Draft podcast – Episode 46: How to (rapidly) build an audience with content syndication – writer Belle Beth Cooper says she always follows up with an email saying, “Let’s set up a partnership. We can send you more content like this. If we write more in the future would you like us to send you more?”
She describes this follow-up as the one ‘must do’ of content syndication.
Tip: If you’re syndicating the same content to multiple websites, you might want to stagger your efforts to ensure that each new version is published a couple of weeks apart. This can help to maintain the momentum of interest surrounding the original article.
Should you ever re-write your content before it’s published by a third party?
I have heard of blog hosts asking authors to rewrite or repurpose an article before they will publish it on their site. It’s usually because of duplicate content fears. The thinking is that the blog host wants to publish 100% original content.
However, I would caution against doing this.
If you’ve written a blog that attracted loads of engagement on your website, the chances are that it will perform well when it’s syndicated.
Rebadged versions of articles tend to be a watered-down shadow of the original, lacking the punch and clarity that made the first piece so popular.
As Larry Kim says on Wordstream, rewriting blogs for syndication is like asking Jerry Seinfield to edit old Seinfield episodes to give them a more original spin. As a rule, it’s not a good idea.
If they’re worried about duplicate content, hopefully you can reassure them that it shouldn’t be a problem with a canonical tag or link to the original article.
If the host site wants unique content, would they prefer you to write a guest blog aimed at their audience?
Can you invite people to syndicate your content?
In the guide to syndicating content, Hubspot writer Irina Nica gives an interesting example of a website – Universe Today – that has created a Syndication Policy (Steal our content….please) page. On this page, the company invites other platforms to republish its content without permission, as long as it includes a link back to the original article and credits the author.
This might be something you want to consider adding to your own website (or some other form of syndication guidelines).
Self-syndication networks: Everything you need to know
Content syndication to third party websites can be time-consuming due to the relationship-building aspect.
A speedier option is self-syndication.
This is when you post your own content on self-service blogging sites and publishing platforms without needing the approval of an editor or the web host.
Below, I’ve put together a list of some of the most popular self-syndication networks with some hints and tips about using them:
Medium is a self-syndication network where anyone can publish original or syndicated content.
Here are just a few of the reasons that Medium is so popular:
- The easy import tool removes all issues associated with content duplication – simply upload your content from the original URL and Medium adds the rel=canonical tag for you.
- Get in front of a ready-made audience – the platform automatically connects you to any of your Twitter or Facebook contacts who use Medium.
- Access loads of stats about who’s reading your articles and for how long.
- The more hearts (the Medium equivalent of a ‘Like’ or ‘Pin’) an article gets, the more widely it’s shared – popular stories are added to Medium’s daily digest of ‘Featured’ stories (get more than 200 hearts in a day and your article may start trending).
- There is the potential to have your content discovered by influencers and larger online publishers.
- You can attract new social media followers.
- It’s even possible to set up your own publication or to contribute to publications run by other members.
- No original content is required so there’s minimal effort on your part. You can upload a piece of content in a matter of minutes.
Optimising your content for Medium
Because Medium is such an easy to use self-syndication platform, I thought you might find some hints and tips about optimising your content helpful. Try the following:
- Add a powerful image
- Some people advertise their Medium content using Facebook or Twitter ads to try to drive up the number of hearts clicked per day.
- Look for publications on Medium and see whether they’d be interested in publishing your content.
- If an article hasn’t done as well as you think it should or would have liked, you could try deleting it and republishing it a couple of months later (think about changing the heading and image to see if this helps boost the number of views).
- Follow people who engage with your content and show an interest in what they’re saying too – their engagement is a sign that they’re interested in what you have to say.
- You need to post regularly and consistently before your presence on Medium will start to gain traction.
Success on Medium won’t happen overnight but many marketers say it’s a fantastic tool to have in your content syndication arsenal.
Republishing content on LinkedIn is great for exposure and building your professional voice and reputation.
Every time you post an article on LinkedIn, all of your connections receive a notification keeping you front of mind with your network.
Adding an article is quick and easy – you’ll just need to copy and paste the original, add a header image and title, and a short description (preferably with a couple of relevant hashtags) when it’s time to share.
As you can’t add a “rel=canonical” or “noindex” tag to articles republished on LinkedIn, the best approach is add something along the lines of “This article was originally published on…” with a link to the original article. Google is great at understanding that this means the original article is the one that should be prioritised in search results.
When syndicating content to LinkedIn, I recommend that you:
- Publish on weekdays during work hours
- Keep your titles short
- Use an eye-catching header image
- Syndicate your best content
It’s recommended that you leave at least a week between publishing content and republishing it on LinkedIn.
The Huffington Post is an American news and opinion website and blog with various international editions, including a UK platform.
It welcomes pitches for guest blogs and syndicated content – you can find the pitching strategy guide here.
On its Contributors FAQs page, the Huffington Post says, “Cross-posting from other platforms or outlets is not only allowed but encouraged, as long as you have the rights to do so and the post isn’t more than a week or so old or out of date. HuffPost bloggers retain all rights to their work and are free to re-publish their work elsewhere”.
Business2Community describes itself as “an open community where business professionals can establish their thought leadership, increase exposure for their business/organization, and network with others”.
The platform currently features syndicated content from more than 10,000 contributors – you can find out more about syndicating to Business2Community here.
Tumblr is often described as a cross between a social networking site and a blog. It’s quick and easy to create a text post into which you copy and paste the article you want to syndicate.
Another option is to feature an image and excerpt from an article with a link to the original to read it in full.
As you’re no doubt aware, there are several ways to post your blogs to Facebook (a link in your status, posts in Facebook groups, and posting blogs as Notes are all options). However, Facebook also offers Instant Articles as a dedicated syndication feature.
Buffer’s guide to Facebook Instant Articles is a good read if you want to know more about how this tool works, styling options and more.
Mix encourages users to save and share their favourite web pages in collections. There’s a handy Chrome extension that enables you to add pages to your ‘Mix’.
Many users use this feature to share their own content with the wider Mix community.
You can create your own Flipboard Magazine to share stories, videos and images that link back to your website.
Find out more on the Publishers’ Q&A page.
Paid syndication networks
In addition to the free options above, there are a number of hugely popular syndication networks that offer exceptional reach for paying members.
Most of these work on a Pay Per Click (PPC) basis.
While some of these networks are suited to big brand budgets, several platforms are affordable for smaller businesses.
You might want to explore:
Accepting syndicated content on your own blog
Finally, you might want to consider featuring syndicated content on your own blog. As we’ve explored, this can be a great way to diversify your content and increase what you’re able to offer your audience without the time it takes to write an article.
My advice is to feature a maximum of 10% syndicated content versus at least 90% original content generated for your business and audience.
You could always try reaching out to influencers in your industry to ask if there is anything they would be happy to syndicate to you – it’s quicker for them to provide content they’ve already created than to write something new for you.
If you’ve written guest blogs, you could ask the host blogger if they’re happy for you to syndicate the content on your own website using a “rel=canonical” tag that points to the original.
It’s important to check first as some guest blog hosts want a period of exclusivity to ensure the original version on their site is indexed first.
Let me know how you get on!
Hopefully, I’ve been able to show that SEO-friendly content syndication is possible and that, for businesses with a strong back catalogue of content, the benefits far outweigh the potential pitfalls.
Ultimately, web content syndication is a great way to reach new audiences and boost your reputation as someone who knows their stuff. It also creates as much mileage as possible from your high-quality content.
Is content syndication part of your off-page SEO strategy? Is it something you’re planning to do over the next 12 months? If you’re already syndicating content, what works well for you and what challenges are you facing? I’d love to hear more about your experiences, so please do leave me a comment.
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Hazel Jarrett, director of SEO at SEO+, is well-known in the SEO space, has won many awards during her 20-year career and has been published on various well-known sites. Through her services and training programs, her SEO strategies have generated 10s of millions of sales for her clients, earning her a big reputation for delivering the results that matter.
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