We’ve already covered in detail the benefits of syndication partnerships but now let’s talk about how to engage in them without hurting your SEO. Content syndication is when another site republishes content that originally appeared on your own site. This can appear on the third-party site in several forms. Sometimes you’ll see the content in full version and sometimes it can be a partial post, the first several paragraphs listed and then link over to your original blog post.
SHE Media’s main o&o (owned & operated) properties, SheKnows.com and StyleCaster.com syndicate content with outside websites (and partners!) as well as with each other. We’ve learned a lot throughout the years from watching the data, the search results and the traffic resulting from syndicating content. We’ve learned that syndication doesn’t make sense for every blogger, but it can be such a great way to build relationships and introduce your content to another audience. Content syndication works best for bloggers whose goal is to get their brand and content in front of new eyes. What we’ve learned isn’t the best goal for syndication, is referral traffic. So, if you’re already a well known brand, it might not make sense to give your content to another site to post.
Although the fear of duplicate content penalties for syndicated content is a bit exaggerated, it’s still important to protect yourself and your content from appearing as duplicated across multiple websites. Google can definitely devalue sites who are abusing content syndication by posting the same content over and over. Where I see this risk happen most frequently is when a large group of sister properties share one piece across all their domains. For the average blogger, the main concern should be that the website who puts up your content outranks you for it in the search results.
When asked directly about content syndication, Google says
“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.”
No one knows exactly how the Google algorithms work, but let’s just say your blog is very slow with pop-up ads all over the page. If you take a post from your blog and re-publish it on a blog with an incredible user experience, Google has the right to give the user that result above your blog, even though it was the original publisher.
practices to follow:
Always request that the website re-publishing your content uses a rel=canonical tag. This tells Google that the original source of the content is your blog and not this other blog that just re-published your post. If the partner says they can’t add a canonical, request that they noindex their version. They likely won’t love this request, but asking for a canonical tag is standard process and sites should be built to use them.
Ask them to link to your original post on the front end too. This usually appears at the bottom of the page and says something like, originally posted on <link to your blog post>. One common mistake that we see here is that the partner links to your homepage and not the piece of content they syndicated. Make sure they’re linking to your actual post. Here is an example of SheKnows.com syndicating a piece of content from our partner, FairyGodBoss.com. At the bottom, you’ll see a snippet of copy that reference their original version. You’ll also notice their logo and author at the top of the page and the canonical tag.
Your original author should byline their syndicated version. Never allow them to switch up the author when syndicating your content.
Because the referral traffic back to your blog post may be minimal, ask them to include 2-3 related links to other posts on your blog.
what to avoid:
Don’t allow your content to be re-published before Google has indexed it. Depending on your publishing frequency, this should happen relatively quickly. To know for sure, in your browser bar, do a site command for that specific blog post URL. For the site command, type site: and then drop your post URL in after that and hit enter. If Google returns a link, it means they’ve indexed your page.
What we’ve learned:
We rarely see a case where content syndication drives significant traffic back to the original version, despite having the link added.
But there are other benefits! Don’t overlook the link back to your site, the exposure to another audience and the relationships you build with other brands.
Even when you follow all of the above best practices, there is no guarantee that the syndicated version won’t outrank your own content. Keep a close eye on how your syndicated content is appearing in the search results. If you’re seeing yourself out-ranked by your partner, double check that they’re following all your guidelines. You may decide that it’s not worth continuing if you’re constantly seeing someone appear above you in Google for your own post.