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Why Site Owners Must Be Careful with Syndicated Content

On a February 8th Google Webmaster Central hangout, John Mueller, senior webmaster trends analyst from Google, told website owners to be cautious when syndicating content. This could outrank the original content source in search engine results pages. What is web syndication? In a nutshell, web syndication is a type of licensing that makes original content from a website readily available on other sites. Every time the original source adds new content, summaries or full reports automatically appear on other sites. Syndicated web content may also pertain to other forms of licensing for recycling content. Syndicated content makes content not only accessible to more users but it also adds more depth and attractiveness. Syndication is effective in increasing exposure to the original source. It also drives more traffic to the website providing the content. Furthermore, syndication is neither costly nor complicated and can be a subtle advertising scheme.

What was John Mueller implying?

Google’s seasoned web analyst was saying that content syndication is a double-edged sword. When website owners decide to syndicate content, they must be ready to face the consequences. There will always be that possibility of getting outranked by a partner website, thanks to the content you graciously supplied. When syndicated content receives more traction, the original content from your website might as well be forgotten. This is unavoidable, however. So if you are a site owner, be willing to take the risks should you ever decide to pursue content syndication.

What will make a syndicated content rank better?

A website owner threw this question during Mueller’s hangout session. The original source was published months ago. It seems that syndicated content must contain a canonical tag that points to the original source. According to Mueller, several factors come into play. Google has its own criteria for identifying which content version it should recommend to users. With the use of a canonical tag, it is easier to trace the original source. Unfortunately, a canonical tag is susceptible to errors and may not be read by search engine crawlers. An incorrect canonical tag will trigger a wrong reading. Hence, search engines will treat the original source and the syndicated content as completely different pages. The website structure and other on-page SEO factors could also affect the ranking of the OC and syndicated content. While on both pages, the text is the same word by word, everything else could add or subtract value to the content. If your partner website has better on-page SEO and code structure, Google will favour it over your website. Finally, a partner website could have tons of relevant information that are not available on your website. Google will take this into consideration and give more points to websites with highly optimised and more relevant overall content.

Can site owners possibly prevent this from happening?

Google warns against web content syndication | Contact SEO Specialists for special website assistance There is no clear method for preventing syndicated content from ranking better than the original source. Regardless, site owners should be fully aware of the risks before syndicating their content. On one hand, said Mueller, syndicating content can still be good for your website. It allows you to reach out to a larger audience while improving your site’s reputation. But yes, some of the websites you teamed up with may end up ranking better than you. This is an inevitable trade-off that you need to accept should you decide to syndicate your web content. Mueller said that the situation is quite “tricky.” Google does try to asses relevant pages for certain queries and guide users there. But in the event of two different websites containing the same article but with different on-page values, algorithms would give priority to the site with better overall value.

Piece of Advice

His advice is to know what you are getting into: It makes sense to bring that information out to a larger audience by syndicating the content, but on the other hand, you have to take into account that maybe these other websites will rank above your website when it comes to searches for that specific piece of content.” On a brighter note, you are reaching out to more target prospects. And one way or another, it’s still good for your business.  
For more Google news and updates, just browse through Digital Muscle’s Knowledge Base at  Digital Muscle is an SEO company Australia offering affordable digital marketing and SEO services in both Australia and Thailand.


Arthur Choi

Arthur Choi

SEO Strategist

70% technical SEO, 30% offsite optimisation. Loves to strategise and build organic SEO campaigns for plumbers, excavators and e-commerce clients.

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