In 1846, a group (or syndicate) of five New York City newspapers found covering the Mexican-American war too expensive and too slow to do individually. So they funded a private mail service to bring back dispatches from reporters in Texas, sharing both the content and the cost. Thus was born the Associated Press—and content syndication.
Today, content syndication is still a tactic many businesses use to maximize their content’s reach in a cost-efficient way. Sharing one piece of content across multiple publications can help you make the most of the content you work hard to create by disseminating it to a wider audience. Here’s what content syndication is and how you can get started doing it.
Table of Contents
What is content syndication?
Content syndication is the practice of republishing web content, including blog posts, videos, audio content and podcasts, and graphics, on other websites—with permission, of course. The main reason businesses engage in content syndication is to reach a broader audience than they otherwise would have publishing on their website alone.
When you repurpose content originally published on your site to other sites, that grows your audience, improves brand recognition, and drives traffic back to you, without damaging your SEO performance. As such, it’s considered a form of content marketing.
Take BestSelf Co., for example. Via content syndication, it was able to build an audience large enough (more than 3,000 subscribers in three weeks) to launch a Kickstarter that ultimately raised over $300,000.
How does content syndication work?
Syndicated content is clearly marked and always links back to where it originally appeared. The content being syndicated can appear in full or in part on other sites; sometimes it may only appear with a headline and a link. Syndicating content to a partner website can also be reciprocal: you might also agree to republish content from their blog, which gives your own blog additional content.
When it comes to search engine optimization (SEO), Google’s algorithm punishes duplicate content, but syndicated content isn’t considered duplicate when it’s correctly attributed. That means syndicated content should be clearly labeled as having appeared somewhere else first and should link back to where you originally published it on your website.
Free vs. paid content syndication
Like most business marketing strategies, content syndication entails free and paid options. When choosing where to syndicate content, take a look at your budget as well as the target audience of the outlet, making sure it matches or complements your own.
Free content syndication involves republishing content that appears on your website on another platform or publication. A content creator could do this on:
- A free, public website. Anyone can freely repost content that has originally been published elsewhere (with credit, of course) on a website such as Medium or LinkedIn. These websites can host entire articles, rather than just an excerpt or link like social media platforms do.
- Industry or special-interest blogs. Industry and special interest blogs will often be open to running your relevant content, as long as they believe it fits the needs and interests of their audience. An industry blog about shoes, for instance, might be interested in your shoe business’s blog post about the benefits of running in barefoot sneakers.
- A large media outlet. Perhaps the holy grail of content syndication is if a media outlet like HuffPost or Forbes approaches you directly, asking to repost your content. This isn’t easy to do, since media companies have their own journalistic standards about what they publish. Your content has to be good enough to attract their attention organically.
Other free platforms include community-specific forums like Reddit and niche Facebook groups. Allen Brouwer and Cathryn Lavery, co-founders of BestSelf Co., tried both. During a podcast conversation these co-founders shared their opinions on:
- Facebook groups: “We’d go into Facebook groups and we’d write a specific post targeted to that Facebook group that isn’t spamming, it’s there to provide value. If you go into Facebook groups and start copying and pasting into a hundred different groups, it’s not going to work out well for you. It’s a very manual process, but it works, it has worked for us. The problem is not many people do it because it does take effort. You need to go in, you need to create a post that’s specific to that group that talks the language inside that group.”
- Reddit: “Another example is Reddit. If you’re not speaking Reddit’s language you are going to get destroyed. I recommend going into Reddit and actually participating there before you start syndicating. Just so you can understand the lingo, understand how it works, understand how you format a written post in there. A lot of subreddits don’t even let you post until you’ve been vetted almost. It’s getting in there and understanding that target market and understanding how they talk, how they communicate, and communicating to them via value. Then they’ll reciprocate, come to your site. Hopefully if you’ve done everything correctly they’ll opt in and you’ll grow that list.”
Paid content syndication is, as its name suggests, syndication you pay for. It generally refers to two distinct forms of distribution:
- Wire services. Services such as PR Newswire and GlobeNewswire distribute content, usually press releases, publicly. The press releases, which range from a new product announcement to how a major car manufacturer is observing Earth Day, first appear on a company’s website, and the syndicate content appears on these third-party sites. These syndication services can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars per release, so it’s usually medium to large companies that pay for them.
- Native advertising services. These content syndication platforms, also called “content discovery services” include companies such as Taboola and Outbrain. They function more similarly to Google Ads in that a company pays them to distribute articles at the bottom of the page of third-party sites. The articles you see are targeted to you based on your browsing history. Notably, while marketers do consider native advertising to be paid syndication, it works differently than other types of content syndication because the article does not appear in full on another website. Instead, just the headline and image are posted on the third-party website, and the link directs traffic back to the original site. Both Taboola and Outbrain use a pay-per-click model.
Benefits of content syndication
The goal of content syndication is to increase how often your brand appears online and how many people see your content. The benefits of coming up with a content syndication strategy can include:
- Higher brand awareness. The more often your name appears online attached to a piece of content, and the more people consuming it, the more those readers will be thinking about and (hopefully) talking about your brand.
- Better website presence. Since publishing your article on other sites links back to your website, it can increase traffic to your website as users follow those links. The backlinks on third-party sites may also improve your site’s SEO.
- More sales. Content syndication can increase the amount of people who see your brand, which may encourage them to take a look at your product offerings and maybe even (one day down the line) make a purchase.
How to create a syndication strategy
Whether your site is large or small, identifying the right syndication strategy will ensure your valuable content doesn’t go to waste.
- Set goals
- Set a budget
- Create engaging content
- Set your site up for success
- Target relevant partners
- Evaluate the results
1. Set goals
What you are trying to accomplish with content syndication will call for different tactics, so it’s important to identify what you want to get out of it. A goal could be to increase brand awareness or generate new leads. An online craft store might want to get more knitting fans to sign up for its newsletter, so it would repurpose its how-to knit blog posts on Medium.
2. Set a budget
Next, decide if you want to pursue paid or stick to free syndication. If your budget is zero, you can use the free options listed above. If you have a budget, content discovery services such as Taboola can be effective for driving leads, as they refer directly to your site. Wire services can help drive investor interest, improve brand recognition, or even support organic media coverage.
3. Create engaging content
Your most valuable tool in content syndication is creating content that people want to consume. Audiences tend to connect with specific, personal stories. Make sure to edit any articles you write thoroughly so it’s clear and free of typos and other errors. If your idea lends itself to a graphic, those can also help make your article more engaging.
4. Set your site up for success
Before your content is syndicated, it needs to be housed on your website. Make sure you optimize your website for syndication. Your blog needs to use the “rel=canonical” tag for original content. This tag, located in the html code of your site, ensures that Google and other search engines identify your site as the original location of the content, which will push your site higher in the search rankings. Whether you use WordPress, Squarespace, Wix, or another website builder, you should be able to find a how-to on including this piece of code in the right place.
5. Target relevant partners
For free content syndication, look for similarly sized or larger outlets that have a similar target audience as you. Approach them with a highly customized outreach message about why your content is a good match for their audience. Persistence is key, so don’t be afraid to reach out multiple times.
For paid content syndication platforms, research your options and find a reputable partner who works with sites that are already serving your target audience.
6. Evaluate the results
Track your content’s performance against the goals you set in the beginning. Did you drive the amount of web traffic, social media follows, or leads that you set out to? Analyze what you achieved and compare it to the money (and time) you spent on it to determine if the syndication effort had a positive return on investment.
Content syndication FAQ
Can syndicating my content hurt my website's SEO?
Content syndication can hurt your site’s SEO, but it doesn’t have to. In fact, valuable backlinks and consistent traffic from syndication can even help boost your SEO. Google’s algorithm punishes duplicate content, but syndicated content—when correctly attributed—isn’t considered duplicate. Content syndicated on your partners’ sites should be labeled as having appeared somewhere else first (on your site) and should link back to where you originally published it.
How do I ensure that my syndicated content is properly attributed to me?
Well-established, reputable media outlets do not run unattributed content—so pick syndication partners carefully. It’s also important that you do the work to send the appropriate links to the original piece of content and attribution information. If you find your content on another site unattributed, that’s not content syndication, that’s content duplication, or may even be plagiarism.
What is an example of syndication?
Anything that has been published before and is being reposted or rebroadcast by a new outlet is in syndication. Classic ’90s sitcoms appear on Netflix via syndication. An AP article in The New York Times has been syndicated, as has a shoe company’s blog post that is republished on Medium.
Is content syndication the same as guest blogging?
Content syndication is not the same as guest blogging. Guest blog posts are original content created by someone outside the blog where they are published. If you have an idea for a guest blog post for a site like Forbes or Business Insider, you can pitch those publications directly. Keep in mind, though, the article must be original.