You work hard to create exceptional, SEO-optimized content that would bring traffic and allow your website to get to the number one spot in SERPs. You post it on blogs and social media, and you build backlinks to it.
But the results leave much to be desired. You still need to reach more people and make them see your content, especially when trying to promote a website with a low or unengaged audience. Content syndication is a strategy that can help you here.
What is Content Syndication?
Content syndication refers to republishing an exact copy of content on one or more third-party websites. They post your piece — an article, a video, an infographic, etc. — with no edits or other changes but backlinking to you on the post, praising your authorship that way.
This strategy isn't new, but some new marketers or SEO specialists can still mix it up with content repurposing or guest posting. So, let's make it clear:
- Guest posting is writing a new, original piece of content (from scratch!) for a third-party blog, backlinking to your website from it.
- Content repurposing is changing the format of your existing content piece to breathe a new life into it or so it could fit a third-party's platform and audience. For example, you have a blog post and then change it to video to publish on YouTube or turn it into an infographic to publish on Visual.ly, etc.
- Content syndication is republishing the exact copy of your existing piece of content at third-party websites. Think of it as copy and pasting content with a backlink to the source.
The Benefits and Risks of Content Syndication for SEO
Top three of the most apparent benefits for SEO are:
1. Backlinks and referral traffic
When republishing your content, websites tell their readers where it originally appeared, therefore backlinking to you. And if readers enjoy the piece, they may click that backlink to learn more about you.
A critical detail: To get as much referral traffic from your syndicated content as possible, it would help if the original post's link came at the very beginning of that republished article. It was precisely how James Clear gained over 600 subscribers from his content syndicated by Lifehacker.
2. Sales leads
This case study from Sarah Peterson, who republished her articles on Elite Daily and was able to get over 1,000 new subscribers this way, speak volumes:
Content syndication can help you build email lists and generate leads if you republish with websites that target the same buyer personas as you. It allows you to reach an audience with high buying potential who you might not have been able to get your content in front of otherwise.
In the case with Sarah, she was able to increase the results she saw from republishing by adding a promotional backlink in her bio.
3. Automated content promotion
By syndicating content to popular websites with large and loyal audiences, you save time on content promotion: They'll do this job for you, exposing the republished piece via social media and other communication channels of theirs.
When more and more people start seeing your brand name on big websites, it creates a halo effect and works on building your brand authority. And the more often they see you, the more likely they'll buy from you in the future.
Sounds too good to be true, right?
While content syndication is a great strategy to give you more traffic, it has a few drawbacks that some SEO specialists can't ignore.
First and foremost, it's not for every SEO expert:
If your primary goal is high traffic and tons of backlinks from top DA websites, you might consider content syndication irrelevant for your strategy. Indeed, it works best for those looking for better visibility and more exposure to get their brand in front of broader audiences.
It's a long game, so it doesn't fit SEO specialists looking for immediate results. For all others, content syndication becomes a perfect strategy to generate brand awareness.
Secondly, some SEO specialists are afraid of content syndication because they believe it may lead to Google penalties for duplicate content.
There's some logic behind this idea, but we should understand a few facts here:
- Google doesn't penalize for it but may consider it a spammy tactic, which is certainly not that good for your SEO endeavors
- Google is smart enough to understand the principles of content syndication, so, when done right, it doesn't see it as duplicate content
What you can do to avoid that is to ask a syndicate to add a canonical link back to your original content.
And finally, a drawback may be the fact your syndicated post at a high-ranking website could outrank your original in SERPs.
Let's say, Lifehacker republishes your blog post. When looking for it in Google, what version do you think will go first?
If your site has a low DA and is syndicated and republished on another site with a much higher DA, Google will rank the syndicated article higher than the original. You can ensure this doesn't happen by not syndicating new articles until a few days after Google has crawled it for the first time, and ensuring everyone who syndicates your content includes a backlink to the original URL at the beginning of the article.
How to Syndicate Your Content
In the ideal world, it looks like this:
You create an impressive content piece for a website; it tops SERPs for a targeted keyword and meets user search intent; top bloggers and journalists find it, say something like, "Wow, we need it," and republish it with the backlink to you (or, as a minimum, they cite your content in their articles, referencing to you).
In reality, if you want to get the maximum benefit from content syndication, you do the following:
- Find and reach out to as many syndicates as possible
- Do it consistently
- Reformat your content if necessary to ensure a great user experience at every publication you target
But let's walk through the process in order:
1. Create and publish content
Top-notch publications will need your content only if it's excellent and promising enough to generate reads and shares. So, first and foremost, invest in creating unique content.
- Choose argumentative topics for your content pieces, also considering their traffic search potential and your target audience search intent
- Remember about on-page SEO, and also elevate your content visibility with an XML sitemap
- Make sure to structure your content so that it would align with E-A-T, and do your best to format it for better readability and user experience.
2. Find syndicates
Many websites are open to content syndication, so it won't be a problem for an SEO specialist to find them. The most accessible place to start is, surprise-surprise, a Google search.
Use search operators such as "originally published in," "originally appeared on," "republished with permission." Also, you can add a topic or a keyword to your query to find the most relevant syndicates for your content.
You can also use BuzzSumo, Moz, SEMRush or any other site explorer to spot relevant websites and do backlink analysis and content analysis to see if they are open to content syndication opportunities.
Plus, feel free to find syndicates by the author's website. Let's take the above-cited Sarah Peterson as a way of example:
Since she did content syndication with Elite Daily, chances are that she republished her works on other websites. So, you might want to find those websites and see if they could be your prospective targets.
- Put her website to a site explorer
- Go to its backlink profile
- Enter a corresponding query a la "originally published on" in the Include box
- See the list of websites open to content syndication
- Analyze if they are relevant for you to pitch
How to know what websites to choose for content syndication?
- Consider those with similar or better domain authority than yours
- Choose those providing canonical links to original articles
- Make sure their audience is related to your buyer personas
3. Reformat or split your content if necessary
Here’s the detail some SEO guides and SEO specialists forget (and the reason some still mix up content syndication with content repurposing):
When we think of content syndication, most of us imagine distributing the same content to multiple websites. Yes, it works, but only for the publications with the same content format, writing style and tone of voice we use in our content.
In other words, such an approach limits your syndication opportunities by far.
To get the maximum results from content syndication, you need to sift through each prospective syndicate of yours — and reformat your content accordingly so that it would fit their editorial guidelines best. Doing so will increase your chances of getting republished and will enable you to reach a broader audience.
You may also split your massive content piece (an ultimate guide on something, a white paper, etc.) into "mini-articles" to cover more prospective syndicates.
4. Reach out to syndicates and share your content
Once you're sure that you have got exceptional content and found a few perfect targets for it, it's time to contact their editors and ask about content syndication.
As a rule, top publications make it easy to reach them, sharing the names and email addresses of their editors online. All you need to do is write a short pitch, direct and straightforward:
Make sure you know what their audience wants. Learn the content types they publish and only send pieces that are a perfect fit. Also, remember to include some proof that you had already created some excellent content that resonated with readers: Share some of your startup resources, a link to your portfolio, etc.
What About Self-Syndication?
Writing to others and asking them to republish you is not the only method of content syndication. You can practice self-publication (free of charge) or pay corresponding platforms for collaboration and doing the syndication for you.
Here go a few paid options:
- Outbrain: With a cost-per-click pricing model, they can display your blog articles, ads, podcast or press releases on big news websites
- Taboola: Here you'll find a network of publishers ready to distribute your content to relevant readership
- Zemanta: They'll place your relevant ads and native content in front of a broader audience.
And yet, most marketers recommend starting with self-syndication through free resources. Here are a few places where you can self-syndicate for free:
- Medium: Just import your content to the tool. For that, go to your Medium account, choose Stories —> Import a story, and paste its URL there.
- Quora: Known as a social media platform for asking and answering questions, Quora also provides a blogging platform you can use for content syndication.
- LinkedIn: Ideal for B2B marketers, this platform allows you to republish content as LinkedIn articles. Just click "Write an article" and paste your content there.
Bill Peatman, Senior Content Marketing Manager at Prialto, nailed it back in 2017: Publishing blog posts at LinkedIn can result in a 20% increase in traffic and up to 10 qualified leads from each article.
- SlideShare: Here you can post graphics, videos, PowerPoint presentations and documents.
- Reddit: Republish parts of your content on relevant subreddits and backlink to the original post. Don't be overly self-promotional here.
For top-notch content promotion and SEO results, it's not enough to come up with an original content piece, build a couple of backlinks to it and wait for hundreds of followers and high rankings in SERPs to come.
Instead, consider alternative strategies such as content syndication. When done right and on an ongoing basis, content syndication allows you to increase brand awareness, referral traffic and leads.
With both free and paid platforms available for content syndication, follow the best practices:
- Consider syndicating your old content on platforms with the same or higher DA and similar audience as yours
- Guest post on high-authority websites and then syndicate that content to your websites or free publishing platforms like Medium or LinkedIn
- Do your best to create exceptional content so that other top publications would naturally want to syndicate it.
Now that you know the nature of content syndication inside out, let's pitch some of the top blogs in your niche and start building a syndication partner network for a win-win collaboration.
Lesley Vos is a text author, blogging at Bid 4 Papers and specializing in content creation and self-criticism. In love with words, coffee, and foxes. In the hope of mastering the art of proofreading before she hits "send." Feel free to check the portfolio and contact Lesley on LinkedIn.