What is Content Syndication?

three female bloggers looking at a smartphone and a laptop together on a couch

With regards to our own websites, The Hollywood Gossip, TV Fanatic and Food Fanatic, we have used content syndication for years to help grow our fan base, our backlink profile and our SEO rankings.

But what is content syndication really, and how does it work?

Hands typing on desktop computer.

What is Content Syndication?

Syndication of your web content means allowing other websites to use all or part of that content on their own. Anything from a full blog post, a photo, an infographic or even a video can be syndicated.

The external website gets quality, relevant content (aka your expertise, talent and hard work) for their readers, for free. That might seem crazy when you first read it, but hear me out.

What do you, the content creator, get? Exposure to a new audience, but more importantly, backlinks from a website that betters your own profile.

This can be a big deal for how search algorithms view your website as an authority, and increase the site’s rankings because of it. It has an effect on both the post and the whole website.

Syndication is nothing new. From newspapers to television, syndication has been used for decades as a way to provide someone else with good content while expanding your own audience.

I like to use the example of the television show, The Big Bang Theory, which premiered in 2007. While it was considered mildly successful for CBS in its first few years, the TV show really took off in 2011, after it began running in syndication on TBS. Before long, it ousted Judge Judy as the #1 syndicated show on television (according to Wikipedia).

Syndication allowed The Big Bang Theory to be shown to an entirely new set of eyes. Eyes that weren’t necessarily watching TV during its original time slot.

By the 2012 season, however, more people than ever tuned into this 4-year old show and many of the showrunners credit syndication with this surge in popularity.

Bloggers can use this same theory and tactic to increase their own audience, rankings and standings within the content creation community.

A woman using a laptop computer.

How do I syndicate correctly?

There’s a fair bit of argument around the best way to do this, so I’m just going to repeat Eric Hochberger’s sage advice to me some 6 years ago, “always get the backlink.”

Think of your website as being just like the Associated Press. Everyone knows who the Associated Press is, because we see their articles all over the internet from all kinds of news sources. They allow their work to be syndicated by all those news sources with proper credit, and so should you.

There are plenty of people out there that will say you must have a canonical link in order for shared content to count as syndicated.

I don’t feel this is necessary. We’ve never insisted someone give us a canonical tag when linking to a syndicated article. We don’t have any issues outranking sites that have syndicated our work.

We’ve been using syndication successfully on our owned and operated sites for more than a decade. If syndicated content were going to affect a site’s rankings in a negative way, The Hollywood Gossip would not be the largest gossip site on the internet.

If someone asks to use your content, first, pat yourself on the back! They’ve recognized your content as something amazing that will resonate with their audience!

Next, work with them to figure out how they want to use your content. Sometimes it’s a picture in a slideshow with a blurb. Other times it’s just the recipe or craft instructions. Sometimes it’s the entire article.

As long as that other website is linking back to you, call it a win. Bonus points if you get a link directly to the post. Quadruple bonus points if they use the keyword you’re targeting as anchor text. But no matter what, if you’re getting a link back from a larger, more quality website, my advice is to call it good.

If they want to use your entire post on their website, consider the backlink quality, and if it’s good enough to you, LET THEM.

A woman uses a tablet at a cafe.

But what about duplicate content?

There are also plenty of people out there who will tell you that allowing someone else to use your content in its entirety could put you at risk for duplicate content.

If you’ve ever listened to Theory of Content, or in fact spoken to me as we launched Food Fanatic all the way back in 2013, you would have heard me talk about this and why it is a myth.

Duplicate content seems to be a boogie man in the blogging industry. Many people are under the assumption that if your entire blog post is copied onto another website, that could be considered duplicate content and your rankings will suffer for it.

Google has an entire help document about duplicate content, which I will share a quote from for you:

“Duplicate content generally refers to substantive blocks of content within or across domains that either completely match other content or are appreciably similar… However, in some cases, content is deliberately duplicated across domains in an attempt to manipulate search engine rankings or win more traffic. Deceptive practices like this can result in a poor user experience, when a visitor sees substantially the same content repeated within a set of search results.”

What is Google looking for here?

Bad user experience caused by purposefully duplicated content within the same domain in order to manipulate the search engine into believing the domain is an authority on multiple related keywords.

Hands typing at a laptop computer on the Google search homepage.

An example of this would be using the same 1,000 word article to try and capture Blueberry Muffins, Lemon Blueberry Muffins, and Fresh Baked Blueberry Muffins.

Those keywords can easily be swapped out within a single piece of content in order to make three posts instead of one, and try to rank for all terms related to Blueberry Muffins.

While this sort of SEO marketing has hopefully gone the way of the dodo by now, its easily conflated definition lives on, and haunts any blogger that thinks about letting another host their work. Stop turning away these opportunities to help your site – and backlink profile – grow organically.

As my Theory of Content co-host Joshua wrote in his post The Art of Giving and Receiving Backlinks, you also shouldn’t be afraid to approach people about possible syndication.

“If you have an article that you think is great, find bloggers whose articles you think your content enhances. Consider asking them to link to it. Don’t do it with any expectations. If they link to you, awesome! If not, move on.”

Use services like Help A Reporter Out (HARO) to contribute to articles around the web. Usually a backlink will result. If you’ve got content you know is valuable, consider contacting authors that you know who create articles in the lifestyle space. There are thousands of them. In fact, as of Q1 2020 there are 6000+ Mediavine publishers and they are a powerful resource. USE THEM.

Or go bigger! If you have a great Valentine’s Day craft that sees traffic year after year, consider reaching out to Michael’s or Hobby Lobby. They just might want to run it on their blog, and that’s a valuable backlink for you! Now is the time to do it, well in advance of the holiday, when editorial calendars are being made.

Think about how your content might be useful to someone else making content, and that will help you know who to spend your time reaching out to.

Syndication can absolutely be a boon to your website and its traffic growth. Your content is awesome. Share it with more people.

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