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Content Syndication: Setting the Record Straight

Aug 24, 2015 / by Stefanie Neyland

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It seems like new buzzwords appear in the digital marketing industry on a daily basis. But one that's often mentioned—”content syndication”, or “licensed content”—is anything but new. In fact, the practice of syndicating content has been used by trailblazing marketers since 1884.

 

Samuel Sydney McClure was the mastermind behind the concept of media syndication. His company, McClure Newspaper Syndicate, was the first service of its kind to sell editorial content —such as essays, comic strips and news columns—to newspapers, and gave publications access to something they had never had before: good content at cheap prices.


Because the company could sell its original content to multiple buyers, it was able to charge less and make more profit. Ever since, content syndication has been utilized by a variety of industries, from television to the music.


In today’s digital world, the idea of content syndication is to drive engagement by legally dispersing content on relevant third-party websites with similar readerships. This is usually done in the form of a full article, link, thumbnail or snippet—and typically in exchange for a fee.


Syndication can be a useful tool as part of a holistic content marketing strategy, but there’s still some confusion around exactly what it means. So today we’re going to play a game of true or false—syndicated content true or false—to give you the lowdown on the concept. That way you can determine whether syndication is a worthwhile distribution channel to incorporate into your content marketing strategy.


True or false: “Syndicated content is basically the same as guest posting.”

Answer: False

First things first, let’s start by clarifying the difference between content syndication and guest posting. At first glance the principles of each may seem fairly similar, but in reality they’re actually very different.

 

A guest post is when you create original content to be published exclusively on a third-party website. Generally speaking, a guest post will not be published anywhere other than the specific site you have partnered with—not even your own.


On the other hand, content syndication is where you take content that has already been published on your own media channels, and give other parties permission to post that content on their own websites. Syndicated content can be a complete duplicate of the original content featured on your own site.


Essentially, syndicated content is like supercharged guest posting. You get all the benefits without having to do as much work, because you’re using just one content piece across multiple websites.


True or false: “Content syndication is bad for SEO.”

Answer: False.

Contrary to popular belief, content syndication is not actually detrimental to SEO. A widespread misconception is that search engines penalize sites with duplicate content, and it’s easy to see why people might think that. We all know that search engines don’t like to recommend sites that contain ‘scraped’ content. But it’s important to bear in mind that there’s a big difference between scraped content and syndicated content. Just ask Google.

 

“Duplicate content on a site is not grounds for action on that site unless it appears that the intent of the duplicate content is to be deceptive and manipulate search engine results.”
(Source: Google)

So there we have it—straight from the horse’s mouth. All Google really cares about is catching those who are practicing questionable content farming tactics—it’s not looking to punish those who publish legitimate syndicated content online.


True or false: “Content syndication helps drive traffic to your site.”

Answer: True.

Syndication is an effective vehicle to help increase traffic to your own site, though some marketers worry that by syndicating their original content they may lose a portion of their endemic readers. Why? Well, simply because readers will be able to find that same content somewhere else.


But consider this: if only a handful of readers—your site’s regular users—are seeing your content, it isn’t reaching its full potential. What’s more, you’re not achieving the ROI you could be if more people were able to view it.


What it all boils down to is reach. Syndication allows you to leverage the audience of other websites, meaning your content will be consumed by more readers. So long as you’ve carefully considered the readership, relevance and reputation of the sites you plan to partner with, content syndication can be an incredibly effective means of growing your readership organically.  And the benefits of that outweigh the perceived risk of losing a portion of your traffic to syndicated sites.


The bottom line

In all likelihood, every company has some kind of content that has the potential to be syndicated. But in order to be effective, it has to be part of a larger content distribution strategy that leverages multiple channels.


To determine whether content syndication is a viable option for you, consider your goals. Let’s say you’re trying to increase blog traffic to generate leads. If this is the case, syndicating your full article content to other sites probably isn’t the best approach. Instead, consider syndicating just a headline or the first paragraph along with a link back to your blog (a strategy that is dominated by in-feed native advertising platforms).

 

Conversely, if your primary goal is simply to increase brand awareness, content syndication could be a powerful way of achieving that objective.


Once you’ve established your goals, examine the types of content you have and where you think it should be circulated for best results. Map out potential syndication partners and find out what their requirements are—do they need custom selected URLs or RSS feeds? Paragraph extracts? Thumbnail images?


Once you have answers to these questions, you’ll be in an informed position to decide whether integrating content syndication into your strategy is right for you.

 
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