Content syndication is where online news sites, magazines and blogs republish similar content across a range of websites. This, understandably, can cause panic among content marketers, SEOs, PRs and our clients. It’s not unusual for people to worry that duplicated content across a range of sites will cause issues, and fear a Google penalty.
There’s some logic behind this, as duplicating content across domains can be a ‘spammy’ tactic, but in this post, I’ll explain from a PR perspective the theory behind it, Google’s own stance, and the benefits it can bring to your business.
Logging coverage in PR, we know that when an article appears in one regional media, it’s also likely to appear in multiple outlets. This is content syndication.
Some of the biggest sites syndicate their content. Reach PLC, Associated Press, Reuters, Yahoo and more regularly publish content across many media titles, and public relations professionals up and down the country strive for their coverage to hit these regional publications.
As long as the syndicated coverage and links are from high authority publishers, are relevant, it is a superb way to build authority.
Here’s a recent example of syndicated content. We produced a relatable, listicle story for TheMoneyPig.com titled Seven rare books that could be worth a fortune.
Not only did this gain national coverage and gain links in media like House Beautiful, The Sun (Scottish and Irish Sun too), but it was successful around pretty much every regional news outlet across the UK.
This can be done from one effective story at 500 words, and one strong email pitch, which in my opinion is a pretty good ROI.
So, what does Google think on content syndication?
Google 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 across media sites.
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 news 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.
We’re not trying to manipulate the SERPs and rank your content multiple times; we’re just trying to get your content seen more 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.
Top tip, when searching for your coverage on Google, input the article title, go to the last page on Google, and click on ‘repeat the search with omitted results included’.
This will bring up all the coverage, rather than the top 30/40 that Google presents you.
As long as you don’t publish the same 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.
So, what are the benefits?
More online presence
If you are mentioned and published online on a regular basis, it naturally makes your brand become more visible and accessible. 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 not have access to.
Getting the brand out there
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’.
Receive relevant and quality links
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.
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 rankings and traffic over time.
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.
For Motive to be successful, and generate coverage and links across all our clients, we often target media houses that syndicate content, such as Reach PLC. To do this effectively, just create great content – it really is as simple as that. There’s not really a magic formula, you don’t always need data, and you don’t need anything that needs masses of design and development budget. We push out story led articles with strong hooks, and we always ask ourselves, is the story:
Granted, it is easier with B2C businesses and campaigns. But at the moment, with everything going on in the world, you should perhaps consider listening to what’s being said, and use this to inform your content strategy. Here’s a nice read on how to do this.
We need to make life as easy as possible for the journalists and make them look good. I spoke to a journalist once whose KPIs are the shares their stories are generating. So help them with their KPIs, and give them a shareable, engaging story. What publications lack is not free content, but great content.
Content syndication as I see it is a win-win situation between the client/brand and the publisher. And good PR is the link between the two!
If you are unsure of any of this, I always refer back to Google’s own advice to be sure. Here is a reminder about links in large-scale article campaigns in the Google Webmaster blog. Working in PR however, we want more than just links. For me ‘nofollow’ is seen as a success, and in general, there are so many wider benefits.