The Step-by-Step Guide to Syndicating Content (Without Screwing up Your SEO)

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Do you want to give your content legs? Legs — so that your content can reach thousands of readers who perhaps don’t even know that your blog exists?

Well, there’s a way to do it. It’s called web content syndication. Content syndication is the process of republishing your content on third-party sites.

I’ll admit: I borrowed the legs analogy from James Clear. James is a big fan of web content syndication and he has had a lot of success with it.

He tells:

… an article that originally ran on my site and then was re-published by Lifehacker later on. I gained over 600 subscribers from the Lifehacker version and I didn’t have to put in any additional work writing a new article. 

600 subscribers from a republished post!  Now that’s the kind of traction that content syndication can get you (when done right).

James process is simple. He publishes a great post on his site every Monday and Thursday. After a week, he reaches out to big blogs and pitches the post to them for republishing. 

Get a cheat sheetof 6 networks you can use to syndicate your content.

Web content syndication versus guest posting

The biggest advantage that content syndication holds over guest posting is that content syndication is scalable. Essentially, you just write a post and publish it on your blog. Then, you take the blog post and republish it on several other blogs.

Republishing lets you leverage the same content multiple times.

Guest posting, on the other hand, is not scalable (unless you guest post for a site that has an awesome list of web content syndication partners!). Once you write a guest post for a popular blog in your niche, the post just sits there.

Bottom line:

Guest posting isn’t as scalable as content syndication. After all, how many guest blog posts can you write in a week or a month.

3 Possible downsides of web content syndication

While content syndication can get you great exposure, it has a few potential downsides.

Issue #1: Duplicate content issues – Duplicate content is the biggest fear of content marketers, when they want to try content syndication.

As we all know, Google discourages duplicate content. And, with content syndication, you’re required to take your entire blog post and republish it on third-party sites – so duplicate content issues do arise.

Issue #2: Outranking your own content – Suppose Lifehacker chooses to republish your blog post. Now, if someone looks for it, it’s very possible that Google shows the Lifehacker version, rather than yours.

So, your republished post could beat your original blog post.

Issue #3: Can’t collect emails – This is a huge turnoff for most people wanting to experiment with content syndication.

You can’t collect emails, because none of the big publishers will allow you to add you email opt-in widget to their site. So, while you get exposure, you can’t use it to build your email list.

While web content syndication has its share of issues, it can still be an indispensable tactic to get massive exposure. And, you CAN do it without worrying about screwing up your site’s SEO.

A 5-step process for SEO-friendly content syndication

Step #1: Start guest posting

You can launch a new blog and start your content syndication efforts immediately.  However, if you do so, it’s unlikely that the big blogs will be interested in what you might have to offer (even if it’s extraordinary).

Unless you’re an authority in your niche, web content syndication will need a lot of effort.

But, if you want a headstart, first establish yourself as a great writer. Guest posting comes in handy here.

To look for the blogs in your niche that accept guest posts, search for your keyword, along with any of the following strings.

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For example, if you have a blog in the SEO niche, look for the keyphrase: SEO + “write for us”

Doing so will show you all of the top blogs in the SEO niche that accept guest posts.

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If you need step-by-step instructions for guest posting, read my guest posting blueprint.

When you guest post on some of the most-read blogs in your niche, you’ll build samples that will be indispensable when you reach out to the big blogs with content syndication requests.

Step #2: Select web content syndication partners

A lot of sites are open to content syndication. BuzzBlogger has compiled a ton of them in this list.

Remember: the bigger the blog, the higher the quality standard.

While there are quite a few niche content syndication sites, the most popular ones only publish content on or around marketing. If you feel that your content doesn’t fit directly with any of those, give your content a twist and you can still manage to get republished on most sites.

Blogger Kristi Hines gives a great tip for this:

If your site is niche-specific, try to find a way to cater a piece of content towards one of the topics above. For example, if you are a restaurant business, you can do a post on how to get sustainable ingredients for your chefs. If you are a realtor, you can do a post on best social media techniques for real estate professionals. Just gear your niche-specific topics to one of the above sites and submit that post separately!

Step #3: Reach out to the shortlisted web content syndication partners

If you remember, from my post on guest posting, you must check if the target sites are open to guest posts, before submitting any content. Likewise, before sending content syndication pitches, confirm if the target site syndicates content.

To do so, open a few blog posts and see if they’re all originally published on the site or have an attribution message.

For example, if your target blog is Lifehacker, all that you need to do is to open a few blog posts and find if any of them are syndicated. As you can see in the following screenshot, all syndicated posts have an attribution message (like the following post, syndicated from “The Simple Dollar”).

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You can also search for terms, like “originally appeared on,” within a site – this will gather all of the syndicated content in the search engine results. So, to know if Lifehacker is open to content syndication, we’ll look for – lifehacker.com: originally appeared on

The following screenshot confirms that Lifehacker is indeed open to content syndication.

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Once you’re sure that the target site is part of a syndication network or does web content syndication, select a few of your best written and most shared blog posts and write a short email to the target blog’s editor. Most big publications make the contact information of the editor easily available.  

Keep your pitch simple, short and direct.

Look at the following 2 examples, for inspiration:

Example #1: Brian Honigman successfully syndicates content to some popular sites, like The Huffington Post and The Next Web.  

In the following pitch, you can see how he mentions some of the best sites he writes for and builds instant credibility. Next, he pitches to syndication networks by saying that he noticed a syndicated post on the blog.

A simple and straightforward message that will likely get a response.

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Remember that the most important element that an editor might look at in your pitch is proof.  They want proof that you are already creating some great content that resonated with the readers.

Without this ingredient, your pitch will likely fail. So, spend time building your portfolio.

Example #2: Gregory Ciotti, from Sparring Mind, regularly republishes his posts on Lifehacker.

Gregory used the following outreach email to Lifehacker’s editor. In his email, he mentions a syndicated post on the site and pitches his own with a snappy summary.  

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Step #4: SEO-proofing

As all marketers fear, web content syndication does create duplicate content issues.

Here’s Google’s take on content syndication (and how it handles the duplicate syndicated versions):

“If you syndicate your content on other sites, Google will always show the version we think is most appropriate for users in each given search, which may or may not be the version you’d prefer.

Since you have no control over which version Google will choose, it’s possible to get outranked on search engines for your original content. Things can get even more ugly if the syndicated posts are highly converting.

But, there are two sure ways to avoid it:

Method #1: rel=canonical tag

The rel=canonical tag is an effective solution to duplicate content issues.

When you tag a post(page) with the “rel=canonical” tag, you link Google to the original source of the content.

So, if your content syndication partner sites add the rel=canonical tag to your republished posts, they’ll tell Google where the original content is. The rel=canonical tag helps Google when deciding which version to show in case of duplicate content instances.

The rel=canonical tag doesn’t just attribute you as the original source of the content, but also lets you benefit from all of the links that the syndicated copy and a syndicated network attracts.

When we started republishing content from the Kissmetrics blog on sites like Entrepreneur and Search Engine Journal, we saw the referral traffic pick up (we got almost 9,492 visitors a month), while the organic traffic dropped after Google rolled out the Panda update.

We lost 225,418 visitors from Google each month.

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To go about solving the problem, we reached out to the syndication network sites we were syndicating content with and requested that they add the rel=canonical tag.

But:

This was quite some time back. Content syndication wasn’t as mainstream as it is now.

Remember, Google’s algorithms keep getting smarter. So, sure, use web content syndication, but use it with care. Always request that the publishing sites use the rel=canonical tag.

Method #2: NoIndex

When a post(page) is tagged as “NoIndex,” Google’s search engine bots don’t index it. And, when a blog post is not indexed, it won’t show up in the search engine results.

Essentially, you’re removing the syndicated copy from the index.

So, when you reach out to sites about syndication, ask them if they’d be willing to use the “NoIndex” tag for their version of the content. This way, you won’t lose any organic search engine traffic and you’ll secure your original content from getting outranked by your republished content.

As the NoIndex tag is a directive for the search engines to not index a page, you can’t be sure if it’s followed fully or partially. Between the rel=canonical and the noindex tag, always push for the rel=canonincal tag because Google is great at interpreting the rel=canonical tag.

If your content syndication partners don’t agree to either of the above two options, ask for a clear attribution and a backlink to your site.

Tip:

Let your original content get indexed before republishing on third-party sites. Consider waiting for a week or so after publishing your post before pitching editors with republishing requests.

Step #5: Syndicating content on an ongoing basis

To use web content syndication more effectively, you should do better than a one-timer.  That’s how you maximize content syndication – by becoming regular syndication partners with the BIG publishers and utilizing a syndication network.

Once a publisher accepts your syndication request, try to setup a regular arrangement.

You should work to ensure that the publisher republishes some of your content each month (or week or as frequently as you’d like).

Buffer engages with the editors of the different sites it republishes on. Here’s the email they send for pitching their best posts (each week).

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The content syndication caveat:

You have to be a great writer to succeed at content syndication. If you aren’t known to be a great writer or if you don’t run a popular blog, my best tip for you is to guest post for a site that has a great syndication network. That way, when you guest post, the site will pitch your  blog post to its biggest publisher partner sites.

Needless to say, your chances of getting republished will increase dramatically.

It’s true that the third party site will only link back to your guest post and not to your own blog, but now you’ll have something to refer to when you reach out to get your own blog republished.

You can remind the big blog’s editor of how your guest post got republished and that you have another post that the editor might be interested in. Another possible workaround is to guest post for the big publisher network you’re trying to syndicate content with.

As a successful guest post gives you a strong reference, it adds weight to your content syndication request.

How Buffer gets consistent traffic through web content syndication

Buffer regularly syndicates content to some huge sites: The Huffington Post, Fast Company, Inc, Lifehacker, The Next Web and more.

Its syndication journey is interesting, because it started with guest posting. Leo Widrich, Buffer’s co-founder, wrote about 150 guest posts to get exposure for their social media scheduling app and thus built a great writing portfolio.

A few of their guest posts became smashing hits. These blog posts served as excellent proof to Buffer’s storytelling skills. Armed with these posts, Buffer went on to build relationships with the top content syndicating blogs.

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Buffer’s content syndication efforts have brought thousands of readers to the Buffer blog. One of their stories that got republished by Fast Company brought Buffer 6000 additional social shares.

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Should you be worried about republishing on Medium (and LinkedIn)?

Marketers seem to love Medium. Everyone wants to try it for republishing their content to gain higher exposure. Unlike sites like Forbes, The Huffington Post and Business Insider, there’s no editor to convince, in the case of Medium. It’s a self-syndication network – anyone can republish on it.

It’s just copy and paste actually. But, to make it BIG on Medium (unless you have a massive following), your content needs some endorsement.

For example, you’ll get really popular on Medium if you make it to the Editor’s Picks. These are like featured posts and are broadcasted to a huge list of followers.

Now about the impact on SEO:

When Dharmesh Shah of HubSpot asked about his concerns about republishing content on Medium, Moz’sRand Fishkin gave these insights:

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As you can see, you could face any of the possible downsides of content syndication. Besides, there’s no way to add the rel=canonical tag or the noindex tag to your republished content.

Same goes with LinkedIn.

Quite a few people are starting to republish their posts on LinkedIn. Again, LinkedIn doesn’t support the tags that you need to tell Google that the content originally appeared on your site.

The best that you can do on these platforms is to link back to your original post. This isn’t a bad option, if you must republish on these networks.

Conclusion

When you’re just starting out, gaining maximum exposure is your priority. Web content syndication is great for this. But, to get sites like The Huffington Post, Fast Company and more to republish your content, you must first prove your writing chops. This is something you can do easily, by writing guest posts.

An effective content syndication strategy almost always begins with a great writing portfolio. Before you invest time in content syndication, pitch some of the top blogs in your niche for guest posts. This will boost your content syndication success.

Have you tried web content syndication? If so, what have your results been like?

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