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The Pros And Cons Of Content Syndication

Content is a valuable resource and we all want to make the most of our investment in its creation. One way to do that is to publish in more than one venue. But syndicating content is a mixed bag. It can have definite advantages: increasing the reach of content, driving traffic to a site, and generating back links. It’s not all good news though. Before you consider syndicating your blog’s content to other publishers, you should have a clear idea of the potential pitfalls.

Just to be clear before I go into the benefits and disadvantages of content syndication, I’m talking about publishing content on your blog and in other places around the web. I’m not talking about guest blogging, which is publishing content on another site without publishing it anywhere else. Guest blogging has its own set of pros and cons, but today I’m specifically talking about syndication.

The Pros Of Syndication

The upside is obvious. You take content from your site and use it to gain an audience elsewhere. Perhaps the other site has higher traffic and you hope that by establishing an audience there, some of it will trickle back to your site. If the other site has strong traffic with a demographic you’re interested in bringing to your own properties, then syndication makes a lot of sense.

The Cons Of Syndication

In two words: duplicate content. If Google deems content to be substantially similar it will likely drop one of the duplicates from its index. If you’re syndicating for traffic, engagement, or links, that might be a price you’re willing to pay. If the advantages to your site outweigh the negative implications of having content de-indexed or demoted, then it’s potentially worth taking the hit. On the other hand, your content is the only thing likely to attract people to your site in the first place, so it can be a big risk to take.

Potential Mitigation

Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that you can both have your cake and eat it. There are ways to reduce the impact of syndicated content on SEO: asking the republisher to use canonical tags or no-index their version, for example. But sites publish syndicated content for the SEO value; they are unlikely to be willing to give up the potential benefits.
So, rather than asking for the moon, you could consider alternative methods:

  • Rewrite content: This one takes a bit of work, but it’s not too difficult to rewrite articles so that they don’t ring the duplicate content alarm. I’m absolutely not talking about article spinning here; that’s a doomed strategy, but a substantial rewrite that results in an alternate version of equal quality.
  • Syndicate Only Part Of The Content: If you publish a long piece of content, it may be feasible to syndicate some portion of it without giving away the farm. For example, in a multi-section tutorial, you might syndicate the introduction and first section, but not the in-depth meat of the content.
  • Choose Wisely: Don’t syndicate all of your content. Choose a small subset of content to syndicate so that any SEO disadvantage is minimal.
  • Use Repost: Repost.us is a service that syndicates content using embeds rather than wholesale replication. SEO advantage accrues to the original site.
  • Guest Blog Instead: Guest blogging takes more effort, but it removes the risk of duplicate content altogether. Of course, guest blogging isn’t without its pitfalls either, but offering high-quality original content to other sites isn’t going to cause problems — the problems come when you try to automate the process or focus on high-volume link building and ignore content quality.

Syndication has a long history, and it can have a significant positive impact, but search engines don’t like their results pages to be full of multiple versions of the same content. Webmasters should decide on a case-by-case basis whether syndicating content is the right way to go.

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Matthew Davis

Matthew Davis

Technical writer at Future Hosting
Matthew Davis is a technical writer and linux geek for Future Hosting. Follow them on Twitter @fhsales, Like them on Facebook, and check out more of Matthew's writing on Future Hosting's web hosting blog.
Matthew Davis

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