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Blog & News

How to Utilize Syndicated Content: Strategize, Don’t Plagiarize

By Bethany Yocum | Content Coordinator

Whether you’re getting a new website or adding content to an existing one, making sure you’re adding value to your users and your SEO with the content you add is a crucial step. If you’re redesigning your website or putting together a new content marketing strategy, you and your team will start having discussions about your content strategy to ensure your content pieces serve the dual purpose of drawing in your target audiences and helping you rank on search engines.

When it comes to best SEO practices in website content, a common point of contention in many projects is content from third-party websites. Can we use content from other websites or authors? Should we use third-party content? What are the ramifications of using content that isn’t yours?

Though your website and content marketing should primarily feature content that’s unique to your business and focuses on your target audiences and what they need, there are smart and tactful ways to pull in content from other websites (if necessary) without sacrificing your brand’s integrity with search engines. With the information below, you’ll be armed to work hand-in-hand with your project team to use syndicated content on your website wisely, if needed.

What is Syndicated Content?

Syndicated content is defined as content posted to a website or distributed to your users that is copied from another website, but in a way that gives attribution to the original website that featured the piece first. Syndicated content is typically a blog post, article, newsletter, or press release.

Stealing vs. Syndicating

Many businesses see great content on other websites that they might want to use as their own, and while this is a quick way to build up expert content, is this a good strategy for website content and SEO? The short answer is no. In indexing and ranking websites, Google considers the uniqueness of content, value for users, and level of topic coverage (amongst countless other rank factors) when determining where to rank you in search results.

If most of your content is taken from another business that does what you do, you should not assume that search engines haven’t taken note. Just like a high school English teacher catching cheaters, Google knows everything; Googlebot is unlikely to rank your pages highly because the content used is already available from an original source, not to mention they can pull up those original results and see that the content is taken from somewhere else. Taking content from websites without discretion could even cause Google to remove the pages with duplicate content from their results or hit your website with a penalty that could even take your site out of search results entirely.

The difference between stealing and syndicating is like the difference between plagiarizing a college essay and properly citing sources whose information you’ve used as support in the essay.

On the other hand, syndicating content involves pulling in relevant posts or articles from outside websites on key pages or content areas on your website to add value for your users. This content should never be doing the heavy lifting of providing primary content and information, but can be used in some instances to add value and credibility to your website or marketing materials.

syndicated content for seo
What Types of Content Are Candidates for Syndication?

When done right, syndication should be done selectively, and should typically be restricted to items like articles, press releases, and timely blog posts. This fits in with the strategy of making sure the evergreen content on your website focuses on the services you offer and the ways you can serve your customers. After you’ve established rapport with your visitors through client-focused copy, you can work on providing additional support to your credibility through blog posts and news items, some of which may be syndicated.

When Might You Use Syndicated Content?

An example of a situation where syndication is appropriate would be if a press release is issued for something that involves or affects your business. The initial press release will be published on a different website, but through the syndication process, this content can be published on your website as well. If you have a parent business or are the parent of a number of smaller businesses, syndication is a great way to share key posts across the websites for your family of companies without harming the ranking of any of the websites.

No matter your industry, current events are bound to come up that affect your industry’s outlook. Utilizing syndicated content is a great option when there’s not enough time to create your own piece around the issue at hand and you need your customers to know about it right away. Syndicating news articles, blog posts, and other resources can help you get the message out without plagiarizing content.

How to Syndicate Content Without Affecting Your Search Rankings

The NOFOLLOW/NOINDEX Method

The way syndicating content affects your ranking with search engines depends partly on the method of syndication you use. If you would like to have certain blogs or articles from other sources posted on your website but do not need this information to be found on your website through search engines, marking that page with NOFOLLOW and NOINDEX tags will indicate to Google that that page should not be indexed. This method, as mentioned, will not help those specific pages get any traffic from search engines, but it will allow the content to be available on your website without Google marking it down in ranking due to duplicate content. This method can be useful for pieces of information that may be valuable to site visitors who are likely to have your site cached or bookmarked for frequent visits. It will not gain you additional visitors through SEO, but it can add value for users you know are already visiting your website.

The Canonical Tag Method

This method of syndication will allow you to leave your pages indexable by search engines without Google flagging your site for duplicate content. Your developer can add rel=canonical tags to any pages that include content from a third-party source. In canonical tags, you are able to specify the URL where the content originally comes from, indicating to Google that you know the content is from a different source and that you’re giving that source credit for the content. This specification allows your content to be safely indexed without Google concluding that you’ve plagiarized the content. Because that content originally comes from a different source where the content has been published for longer, your syndicated content page is unlikely to outrank the page that includes the original content, but your page may still turn up within search engine results for that specific topic.

The use of canonical tags is supported for all major search engines (including but not limited to Google, Bing, and Yahoo), so your content will be safely indexed on all the search engines the majority of your visitors use.

Tips to Ensure Safe Syndication

Implementing the following strategies will help you get the most out of your syndicated content and help you avoid obstacles in search engine indexing:

Link out to the original source
This is especially important if you use the NOFOLLOW/NOINDEX method. The NOFOLLOW and NOINDEX commands are likely to be followed by Google, but Google can choose to ignore them. Including a clean link out to the original source of the content at the beginning or end of the article that has syndicated content adds an extra layer of indication to Google that you’re not trying to take someone else’s content without giving them the credit. Linking out isn’t as necessary if you’re implementing canonical tags, but adding the extra layer of protection by linking out will not harm your SEO.

Syndicate selectively
As we’ve discussed, you should think of syndicated content as something that provides additional value, not your main content strategy. Working with your company’s team to select one or two key articles or press releases from other websites that can be useful for your website visitors is sufficient.

Make use of your partnerships
If your business has new or existing partners that create content that is also relevant for your target audiences, consider reaching out to them to let them know you’re interested in using a few of their articles or posts on your website. This can strengthen your partnership and provide extra value for them as well, as visitors who see their content on your website could potentially turn into new website traffic for them as well, as long as you link out to their original content.

Discuss syndication early
When you’re creating a new website or adding new content post-launch, let your website team know as soon as you know there is syndicated content you’d like to use on the site. Your team can start thinking about which syndication method should be used for your website so that you’ll be prepared by the time you’re ready to publish the content.

create content add value to your website

Syndicated content definitely isn’t a necessary component to rank well on search engines or provide your website visitors with the information they need, but if it’s a strategy that may be beneficial for your business, prepare a syndication strategy before you publish to ensure the 3rd-party content doesn’t negatively affect your search engine ranking or confuse your users.

Bethany Yocum

A native of the small town of Knoxville, Iowa, Bethany began her education at Indian Hills Community College. After getting her AA degree, she further developed her love for reading and writing at the University of Northern Iowa, where she studied English and Professional and Creative Writing. After several years working in web writing and editing in Cedar Rapids, she made a move back to central Iowa to join the Webspec team. One of her favorite parts of working with web content is exploring what makes each client unique so that she can give them the perfect voice in their web copy.

Outside of work, you might find Bethany scoping out a new restaurant with friends, collecting useless knowledge about celebrities, singing along with the alt rock station in the car, drinking tea while reading a good book, or catching up on a new favorite Netflix show.