If you’re regularly creating your own content via your blog, one concept that you may be considering is that of Content Syndication. Essentially, using an RSS feed, you grant one or more other websites explicit permission to publish your content to their sites, at some point after it’s been published on your own site. The question, of course, is should you do this? Is it a good idea to let someone else publish your content? What are the potential benefits and pitfalls of such a strategy? I’m going to go through all of that with you, as well as share my own experiences, and you can judge for yourself whether or not Content Syndication is a good idea for you and your blog content.
The Rewards of Content Syndication
Let’s start with why you might want to syndicate your content. Generally, sites that have syndication programs set up are larger, more established websites. Typically, the purpose of such sites is to be a source of news and information on topics relating to your business and industry. In other words, these sites are usually seen as an authority or repository of authorities by your potential customers and peers.
So having your content, and your name, appearing on and associated with such sites would be seen as having a positive impact on your reputation and brand image. You get exposed to more readers, and get to say that you’ve been published on these other sites. For some industries, it can be a huge benefit and a means for demonstrating your expertise and authority to show that you’ve been published on other websites.
This is very similar to being a Guest Blogger for another website, but the other benefit to content syndication is that it takes place automatically. Once you’ve been approved and have set up your account, your site’s RSS feed will automatically feed your latest posts into the syndicating website.
And unlike guest blogging, it’s understood that the content will first appear on your site. You would still share your own posts and refer back to your posts in future articles, while the typical guest post would remain unique on that other site and not exist on your site at all, unless they gave you permission to post it after a certain amount of time had elapsed.
For instance, I original wrote “WOW Your Customers with Social Media Lists” as a guest post for one of Rand Wilson’s blogs, and then published it on my own site a couple of weeks later with his permission. Once it was published there, it was syndicated to Social Media Today, Business2Community and Yahoo! Small Business Advisor.
The Risks of Content Syndication
So if Content Syndication is so great, why shouldn’t everyone do it?
First, if your content is being published elsewhere, it’s less motivation and incentive for readers to get it from you. It may help expand your readers and pique the interest of more people, but if the content is always available on the aggregate site, there’s no incentive for them to visit your own site.
Second, and perhaps most critical, is that for many bloggers, the syndication site may have a higher Google ranking and more traffic than your own site. As a result, when you publish content and it gets syndicated, it’s the syndicated version that ranks in Google searches. Myself and other bloggers have noted that not only does our own original content often rank lower, it sometimes doesn’t rank at all! This results in less search engine traffic to your site, even though these potential searchers are reading your content – they’re reading it somewhere else.
The Social Media Hat Content Syndication
Make no mistake, this is not an article about the best way to accomplish something. Rather, it’s more of a “here’s what I did, where I made some mistakes, and maybe you can benefit from the knowledge” kind of post.
In my case, early in 2013, I set up automated content syndication of all new content from The Social Media Hat to SocialMediaToday.com and Business2Community.com. My RSS feed imported each new post, and their editorial staff determined whether or not publish it (and most articles were posted). Additional sites like Yahoo! Small Business Advisor take their content from one of the two sites I had set up, so my posts received further reach and syndication. That went on for months, and hundreds of posts were syndicated to those sites.
But then a reader and fellow blogger asked me on Google+ about this very issue. She had noticed that when searching on actual blog post titles, the syndicated sites came up and her own site with the original article ranked lower, and sometimes not at all. As I started to look at my own posts and search results, I came to the same conclusion. My articles were not ranking as well as through should have, even for exact-match title searches.
Furthermore, after 6 months of creating 6 – 10 new posts and articles a week, resulting in hundreds of pages of content, I was shocked to see that my search engine traffic was still meager, at best. My site was getting lots of traffic overall, but it was predominantly from social and direct referrals – not organic search results.
Once it was clear to me that there was an issue, I stopped all automatic syndication. I left my accounts and existing posts of course, but from that point forward, all new content that I published would not be automatically syndicated anywhere.
After a couple of months, it was clear that was the right decision. While making virtually no other changes to my site or content from an SEO perspective, not only has my search engine traffic begun to rise at a more rapid rate, it almost doubled from September to October. See for yourself:
What’s the Best Practice for Content Syndication?
That’s the real question isn’t it. And I think the answer is a mixed bag. It seems to depend on your site, the syndication sites, what your goals are, and what the tangible benefits of syndicating to the sites in question may be.
Jeff Bullas of JeffBullas.com says that, “It is a tension between distribution and ranking. I don’t lose too much sleep over it as I think that being in a lot of places equals ubiquity and that is only good. My major objective is to get my content embedded and linked to by as many websites as possible. That means you increase visibility and that is a great thing. Over time you will rise to the top.”
Because of the deep search issues I noted earlier with The Social Media Hat, while I tend to agree with Jeff, it is going to be a while before I resume any kind of automated syndication. Instead, I entertain individual offers to re-publish specific articles. HootSuite, for instance, has been kind enough to publish some of my HootSuite Series posts to their blog. Because of the exposure and authority such publishing gives me, and the fact that they’re publishing the articles weeks, sometimes months, after I originally published them, the risk seems far less than before.
And don’t get me wrong, I have nothing but respect and appreciation for Social Media Today and Business2Community. They have great sites and were extermely helpful and beneficial to me. And for many bloggers, they’re a great fit.
If you haven’t already, I would at least recommend that you consider syndicating content from your blog. Take a look at the available options for your industry and see if they offer automated syndication options, or perhaps accept the occasional re-published post.
UPDATE: Be sure to check out Wishpond’s unique solution to this situation, which has allowed them to continue syndicating while at the same time maintain consistent growth in search results and authority.