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Content Syndication Is Your Friend

Duplicate content and ranking concerns outweighed by benefits

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Content duplication has been a buzz topic in SEO for a while now. You can read about it til you puke and never have to leave WebProNews.com. It’s one of the modern webmaster’s favorite things to fret over and has been for at least two years.

Google doesn’t like duplicate content.  We all get that now.  There is still the lingering perception that there is some sort of duplicate content penalty despite repeated assurances from multiple Googlers to the contrary.  Maybe there is no penalty; maybe there is some sort of mechanism at work that webmasters perceive as a penalty… it really matters very little.  At the end of the day, if you aren’t showing up for your own content but somebody else is… you probably aren’t the happiest little webmaster.

As a result, syndication has been quite unfairly vilified.  Traditionally speaking, having a site link to your content has always been perceived as a compliment of sorts (Google certainly thought it was a fair indicator of quality). That said, syndicating content… having your great content actually picked up by a larger, more influential site was even better in a lot of ways.  The syndicated content was put right in front of a whole new user base without them having to click a thing.  Generally you also got a nice link back to your site to boot. If you produced a great piece of content, why not have it show up everywhere you possibly could?

Penalty or not, it is clearly the case that the site where content originates may not always rank best for that content.  Google wants to do their best to make sure they keep the content of their results pages as distinct from one another as they can. In short, Google doesn’t want to have a result page where 4 of the 10 results are all essentially the exact same article.

Here’s the thing though syndication is good.  It can drive traffic to your site.  It can establish your reputation and credibility within a niche and it can generate high quality inbound links.  If you are upset because the larger, more recognized and more popular site’s syndication of your content outranks your own then I’d have to say you might need to rethink that one a little bit.  So what if it does? You are there because you want to be exposed to the larger site’s community.  You want the links, attention, reputation and all the good things that go along with that don’t you?  Of course you do.  So if you do a search and find that the big site is number one on a good search query with your content, you don’t get upset – you say ‘yay’.

Why do you say yay? Because your super great content would never have that top position if not for the fact that Google found it on the larger more authoritative site. Sure, if it’s that good you can probably get a decent ranking but it won’t be as good.  Beyond the ranking, even if your site is #2 and the big site is #3 for the same article, guess which one is likely to get clicked thru more; the link to your site, which is not all that well known? Or the link to a site that somebody has heard of?

If you aren’t a household name or a recognized authority in whatever areas you are covering, the fastest way to build that reputation and credibility is to become associated with the brand that is. What’s the best way to do that? Get your name, your company and your link on their domain. Because at the end of the day the likelihood of you just outranking them on your own for similar subject matter is probably going to be a tough order.

Abby Johnson talked to Eric Enge from Stone Temple Consulting at SES recently about the syndication vs. duplicate content problem.  Eric has some great tips in the video for minimizing the negative aspects of duplication on a syndication model.  Three specific items he talks about are syndicating excerpts, including a no-index tag, and writing ‘alternative’ versions of your content expressly for syndication.  He also talks about how effective a syndication model can be.  One site he’d worked with increased their traffic by over 50% using syndication almost exclusively. 

Google is also working on some stuff to help us help them (isn’t that just awesome of them?).  Read up on their new cross domain canonical tag.  It’s new, none of the other search engines support it yet, and it remains to be seen how effective it will be, but it’s a start.  Whatever you do, don’t throw the proverbial baby (syndication) out with the bathwater (duplicated content worries). There is a lot of upside to an effective syndication strategy.

Related Articles:

> Duplicate Content Owners Catch A Break From Google

> Duplicate Content On Google, Bing, & Yahoo

> 10 Search Topics That Require Further Discussion

Content Syndication Is Your Friend
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  • http://makeawebsite101.net/ Ben

    “It’s one of the modern webmaster’s favorite things to fret over” and it will continue to be, at least in my opinion. But the fact is it is over rated. The more opportunity you have to get your content in front of somebody the better off you are.

    Matt Cutt’s has gone on record saying that the duplicate content penalty (for a single domain) does not exist. Google’s algorithm picks which version of the content that it most relevant to the searcher’s query and displays that one. If for example somebody looks for “content syndication” this WPN article could pop up, but it they looked for “print content syndication” the dig G would likely server them the printable version. That is if you want to believe what Matt says.

    • Guest

      Most people here probably know that Matt plays semantic word games a lot. This is one of the worst. Google calls this a filter rather than a penalty. But if someone steals content from a site and the original source suffers by no longer ranking, it’s a PENALTY regardless of Google’s intent.

  • http://www.wredlich.com/ Warren Redlich

    My blog was syndicated by a much larger site. They displayed my articles with Google ads that often showed my competitors. While there was a link somewhere on the page, it was not so obvious. I got zero referrals from that site and it was outranking me on a number of searches. I’m very happy I discontinued syndication.

  • http://www.coloradohomefinder.com Mike

    I gotta agree with Ben. The more eyeballs on the article the better. I’ll keep syndicating until there is some definitive evidence of the “penalty”.

  • McCain

    There is a logical fallacy in the article that the large, high-ranking site is the one getting ranked better for the content of a specific page. I have a LARGE, high-ranking site of entirely original content and am constantly fighting a DMCA war with tiny rip-off sites that manage to replace our well-positioned page in the SERPs with their stolen RSS rip off page. Their page replaces ours because, as you noted, search engines don’t like more than one occurrence of a page up high in the SERPs. Bing is worse than Google, by the way, at recognizing the original source. If only things worked as simplistically as you you think. We lose tons of visits because of these faux “syndication” schemes for which we have not opted in voluntarily.

  • http://contentsyndication.tiekinetix.com/ Rick

    Hi Mike,

    Thanks for bringing this topic up. Content syndication is definitely good! I couldn

  • http://pagestat.com PageStat

    The whole duplicate content issue is still flawed, but it has gotten much better. One commentor in a previous wpn article had said he spends all his time writing good articles only to have them stolen re-posted or scraped and then the copies themselves rank higher than the original.

    OK… so is Google supposed to provide a service or enforce fair use agreement/international copyright laws? They provide a service, it is in their interest to provide the best service they possibly can. This means using trusted sources over ones that it doesn’t know anything about. This ensures the end user gets what he wants.

    Content Syndication is a great new media tool, and incorporating it into your site be it sending or receiving is good for your users.

    • Guest

      Trusted sources? Google routinely tosses ORIGINAL content when it is copied and published on spam blogs hosted by its own blogger platform. Google routinely suggests “torrent” and “rapidshare” searches.

      Google set its own bar for moral authority. Still listed on its corporate philosophy page is the following:

      “You can make money without doing evil.”

      Yet, Google insists on circumventing copyright laws by refusing to improve the accuracy of its algorithm in determining the original source of a document.

      Within this section of its corporate philosophy, Google also states:

      “Advertising on Google is always clearly identified as a “Sponsored Link,” so it does not compromise the integrity of our search results. We never manipulate rankings to put our partners higher in our search results and no one can buy better PageRank. Our users trust our objectivity and no short-term gain could ever justify breaching that trust.”

      Ah, but they do manipulate rankings the rankings with their dup content filter. More often than not, the stolen content ranks better on 1) a Google owned property and/or 2) a site with AdSense.

      On many occasions, I have had an article on my site rank #1 for several popular search phrases. It remains in that location, for weeks and months. Then someone steals my article. It doesn’t matter if they include a link or not. My article plummets. Sometimes it sits 10 or 20 spots lower for awhile, then comes back a few. But it never gets back to number one.

      Even worse, sometimes it disappears completely. That’s right. It goes from ranking #1 to not ranking at all.

      The kicker is this: Sometimes, Google decides it should just toss my whole site. So none of the content pages rank anymore for any worthwhile searches.

      Getting the duplicate article removed (which is possible less than half the time) immediately brings my site AND my original article back, not to where it ranked previously, but at least where it can be found.

      Sometimes complaining to the spam team helps. Sometimes filing reconsideration requests help.

      But every day we have to wait for someone over there to fix the problem, we lose money. Not to mention, it takes a boatload of time and energy to document and report the problem every time it happens.

      This time would be better spent writing additional content, but there is no sense in publishing when Google tosses your site because your new pages don’t accrue pagerank, they never show up in the SERPS, and often they never recover.

      Google has a major problem with its dup content filter, but their techs just like to bury their heads in the sand, because it’s an effective way to continue to a) screw people who don’t have Google Ads running on their site and b) force webmasters to buy advertising to replace the lost SERP placement.

      That is evil.

  • http://www.thewritestuff.be/ Michael

    Fess up! I’ve just done that. A run a number of focused websites. I just received information about a contest for film-makers. The people running it are not in the film business, my site is. So I very largely “quoted” from the article (which is purely informational) and set up all the relevant links to their site for the details. I then started promoting my page to the film community.

    I hope the gods of PC syndication are happy. At the end of the day, the contest organiser has someone doing a lot of grassroots promotion for him or her. Now that I think of it, I wish I had someone doing that for my sites!

    But in the meantime, I am indeed building traffic and hopefully a few ad clicks along the way.

  • http://www.mybrosgotmyback.com Jon Cook

    I know content syndication is great for driving traffic and creating valuable in-links. I noticed some of my articles on blogs where my name and link was ripped of. I even came across a couple where someone else has put their selves as the author. I find this part of syndication disturbing to say the least. I put my time and creativity into those articles and feel I should be the one getting credit for them. What I did to try and combat these bad tactics is to e-mail every sponsor of the blog that ripped of my content and tell them they are sponsoring a website that stole my articles. I don’t know if this will work butit did give me some satifaction.

  • http://www.lcasolutions.com Content is always good

    Okay, here is a brief example. An article is written up about dogs for some dog website. This is a niche website so it does get ranked well. Now lets say site two get that article and posts it. If he adds insight or insightful comments, that can essentially boost rankings for that article that is not on the original website. Adding in keywords and perhaps reaching a larger audience, having a higher page rank etc.

    So it can help with out penalty. The proof is in the pudding, take a popular article, Google it, see what you get. All sorts of combinations of that original article in different settings, blogs, and much more.

    If you are adding usefulness to your site, for people by having that article, you will get credit for it. The fact that Google cannot always find that quality content is not a fault of the crawler, but as I have always said, a perfect search engine does need to be human supervised and edited to provide the best results.

  • http://www.modernhippiemag.com Jaszy @ Modern Hippie Mag

    Ok, so I’m a neophyte and just heard of this whole business a few weeks ago. I am extremely grateful for this concise article as it answers LOTS of questions!!

  • http://www.wet-t-shirt.net/ Harley Davidson T-Shirts

    I agree I want my articles in front of people and i am not concerned about duplicate content.

  • http://www.blogginhealth.com Bloggin For Health

    I seem to agree with your point. I have experienced such that my webpages are no where near google 1st page but I get tangible traffic from syndication sites for the same keywords my site tries to rank for. The syndication pages as you might have guessed are currently on google’s first page for different keywords.

  • http://www.vancesova.com Vance Sova

    Hi Mike,

    The issue of duplicate content is always a fascinating subject and will produce a discussion for a long time to come.

    While Google probably doesn’t penalize it’s use it is for sure that it doesn’t display it liberally.
    That the display in search engines of duplicate content is limited to only a few pages can be easily proven and I won’t get into it here.

    Besides you are basically saying in your post the same thing. Having unique content is always better.

    I’ll stay as far away from duplicate content as I can when it comes to using it on my blog.
    It is definitely bad for SEO.

    However, that doesn’t mean that syndication can’t be good for traffic and exposure.
    I quite agree with your points on that.

    What the overall effect would be in the long term is still debatable though.
    And extremely difficult to prove one way or the other.

    It may be a good idea to try syndication for a while and see what the effect is before really going for it.

    Vance

  • http://dream-frog.com gugeluv

    Syndication is good for the writer and the copier, as long as they play frank. The original content will have the credit and link, the webmaster will have traffic.

  • http://inmytrends.com Jeff

    I love Syndication….. hohohoho it’s make me easier :p

    • Veech

      When I think syndication… I think being paid for content. Basically that’s what syndication primarily means. Of course, adding traffic is value- added. Who can suggest how/where I could find such synication for the blogs I have…? Yes, I think it better to be known .. than not known. http://www.zipinpolitics.com

  • bradjames.2010

    Well done, The old adage comes to mind. “Its better to be seen and not heard”. As long as your message is out there let it do the talking.

  • http://www.greenteethmm.com/dailystirrer.shtml Ian Thorpe

    I’m a little different from most Web Pro World followers I guess in that I run my site and blogs for fun not profit. The Daily Stirrer which I link above feeds numerous standalone pages of op-ed type articles and the rest of the site also presents the work of writers, perfprmers and artists. Naturally I and my contributors love syndication. Some are motivated by a desire to simply have their work read or viewed, others by a wish to promotes sales on sites such as Lulu, Cafe Press, or music download sites.

    If there was a penalty for duplicate content, and experience leas me to believe there is not, it would be very unfair to people who rely on exposure. My way of letting readers know an article can be found elsewhere is to post a note under the title and author credit, something like “This article first appeared on Boggart Blog – (date).

  • http://www.mouse-mat.com mat

    Hi Mike, fantastic article.. this does answer some questions i had about the duplicate content issues.

    Thanks and Happy New Year everyone!

  • http://kevinrbeckmosaicportal.com Kevin Beck

    I have used syndication and duplicate content across my hundreds of sites for years and have, to my mind, never suffered any ranking consequences from Google or other search engines. I think it offers a diversified source of content, opinion and article scope, to those who choose to use my sites on the Mosaic Portal.

  • http://www.naryou.com/index.html Add it. It’s better than nothing

    Add it. It’s better than nothing.

    Google

    • Guest

      People who steal content are not going to be kind enough to put this tag in. Plus, Google can’t get it right when there is a link. What makes anyone think this is going to work any better?

      Google needs to fix its dup filter to always show the original source. There’s no reason at all that someone else should outrank me for my own content. There’s also no reason why my content should disappear when it is copied. If it was good enough to rank before, it should be good enough to rank now.

  • http://www.TaiChiGala.com Loretta

    I’ve heard so much from both sides of the argument here that I don’t know what to say. I would love to hear more comments from people, from both sides of the “equation.” Thanks.

    • Audrey

      I agree with you. I have two sites. Had blog syndication with one. Signed a contract for now going two years… yet to see the advantage. Did it for making extra money on my content; that proved to be absolutely disappointing. Secondly, the added traffic did not materialize. I am thinking syndication is getting more press than it should, or probably I am working with the wrong company. http://www.zipinpolitics.com

  • http://www.e-lec.org jeffrey

    We are a news site for the electrical industry, we publish content/PR as provided by numerous agencies on behalf of the client. It is our job to get the message out to our audience as quickly as possible over and above others who may be running with the same story. Who in this case
    should be penalised, the followers or all? Is the web not supposed to be the place to get your news/message read?

  • http://www.theopensite.com Craig Daniels

    Thanks for the great interview, looks like I will be spending some time today revisiting this subject. I’d thought if Google found an article and then later found a copy of it or many copies of it that was ok because Google knew where the original was… Maybe this is true and I am misunderstanding the whole subject… I hate Monday

  • Guest

    This is irresponsible advice, at least where Google is concerned. If your main business is providing content, you had better not be syndicating your content. The short term gain you get from having your articles appear on another site, whether it is bigger or smaller than yours, will be nullified by the long term damage done to your site.

    This is exactly the kind of advice that encourages people to just take content from other sites. If they include a link, it’s nice, but it might not help. If they don’t, you could be in serious trouble.

    When you say it is better to have another site host your content and rank number #2 rather than have your own site rank #3, you are misleading people. I have seen UNAUTHORIZED duplication cause extreme harm to sites. I have seen articles rank #1 in Google only to disappear completely if they are copied onto another site (with or without permission and with or without a link).

    Google is horrible at determining the original source. Here are things that can happen if your content is syndicated.

    1) The articles that appear elsewhere might outrank your own site. Yes, you might get more traffic in the short term, but if someone does a search and finds your article on another site, you are going to get far less traffic than if your site appeared instead.

    2) All of the articles that reside in the same subsection of your site may disappear from Google. Let’s say you post your content into folders called MYPCARTICLES, MYNEWS, and MYMACARTICLES. You further divide each of these folders by date of publication.

    Now, let’s say you have 25 articles in MYPCARTICLES. Today, 5 of them were taken and republished on other sites. It doesn’t matter whether you did it or someone else did. It doesn’t matter if all of them have return links, none of them have return links, or some of them have return links. There’s a very good chance that Google will toss ALL 25 of your articles from the MYPCARTICLES folder out of its index.

    3) On the same day that these 5 articles were taken, you publish a new article to your MYPCARTICLES folder (bringing the total to 26). There is a very good possibility that this article will never accrue page rank and it might take a year or more to rank in Google.

    This may not be true with very very big sites. But with most sites run by the average small to mid-size business, this is what you are facing.

    These issues do NOT occur with the other search engines. This is a Google-specific mess.

    The best advice is this: Do NOT syndicate your content unless you do not care what Google does to your ENTIRE SITE.

  • http://www.straightalk.biz straightalk

    I have been online for over 5 years now… and have never used syndication of any sort..

    But then again, I don’t sell stuff nor advertise either…

  • http://www.vector-clip-art.com JimBeam

    Speaking of RSS syndication in view of services like FeedBurner, I recently started a feed publishing campaign through FeedBurner and have found myself amazed at how many people appear to be reading the posted content; and that traffic activity started from DAY ONE. Dozens of people a day in fact.

    In only about a week, I have 17 subscribers to the feed. And the people are apparently coming from all over the world according the “MAP OVERLAY” gadget in FeedBurner, which is indicating a lot of hits from Russia, several in Great Britain, like ONE (1) hit from Vietnam; and also a couple of hits here and there from countries that I didn’t even know existed.

    On yesterday’s date, for instance, I had 138 listed “VIEWS” and 22 “CLICKS.” Interesting enough, if I miss EVEN ONE DAY of posting any fresh material to the feed, then my subscribers showing through FeedBurner will automatically drop way down, which frankly makes ZERO SENSE to me based on anything I’ve ever thought I knew about human nature. (And I have read numerous commentaries of other people experiencing this wild fluctuation in subscribers through FeedBurner.)

    I mean, if someone likes a feed item enough to go the trouble of subscribing to it in the first place, I can see if a couple people here and there might drop off with no new content being added on any given day, but not to see 50% to 70% of my subscribers seeming to jump ship because I took the day off from work; and it is this 50% to 70% decline that I’m seeing taking place if I miss a single day of posting fresh materials. However, as long as I am diligent in adding some material, then so far all I have been seeing is an INCREASE in subscribers.

    My main question here, however, is regarding how the so-called “VIEWS” and “CLICKS” are supposed to be interpreted in FeedBurner. I have Googled every keyword combination I can come up with to try and find a valid explanation for this question, but to no avail. And the FeedBurner “HELP” faq apparently has ZERO information listed to explain the question, which would probably explain why I can’t find anything through my Googleing efforts.

    HERE’S THE THING:

    From January 23 through February 4, the stats showing for the “ITEM USE” tab in FeedBurner are stating that I have realized 426 total “VIEWS” and furthermore that I have realized — “207 CLICKS back to the site on 145 ITEMS.” Since there is no documentation on how I’m supposed to interpret that information, the only logical and face-value presumption I can make of it is that it is suggesting 207 people have clicked on items — BACK TO MY SITE. And any “CLICKS” made in the feed items would HAVE TO come back to my site, because that is where everything is linked to.

    The thing is, though, is that this information is COMPLETELY FALSE, or at least it’s false for me to be interpreting the information in that way.

    I have a HIT COUNTER installed on everything that is set to register ALL CLICKS made into any and all pages, not just to register “unique” clicks. And the problem with this whole picture is that I have only been averaging about FIVE (5) clicks a day at most on the hit counter since January 23, for a total of not more than sixty (60) total clicks.

    Bottom line is that nowhere near 207 clicks have been made back to the site. Just wondering if anyone knows the explanation to this mystery. In the absence of a logical way to interpret the information presented through the FeedBurner system, I am inclined to assume that the system is highly faulty.

    I guess I may as well add my link here: http://www.vector-clip-art.com

    Thanks for your thoughts..:)

  • http://ascome.org dolley

    Content syndication is normal, nothing wrong with it. It’s a great way to enlarge your traffic site.

  • sams page

    Google’s ranks are pathetically corporate. There is no more organic sites on the front page, and feeds will help overcome this travesty of returning the wrong content as is the case now. Feeds are a way of getting around Google’s big mistakes with putting the big corporates on Page 1 -of course because they buy their way to Page 1 instead of returning to searchers the content they really seek. I think Facebook is the place to find what you need- lets hope Google gets the message that you cannot favor your “clients first” attitude and forget the users of the internet. Also after the Twitter live Tweets and the Google Map entries – there is no more room on Google’s page one, what a mess they made.

    Besides the fact that many are seeing their ranks, their content going up and down like a school girl’s nightie….it’s a freekin nightmare to find anything on Google anymore. Too Big to Fail? Huh?