Should You Let Other Sites Republish Your Content?

So you’ve slaved away on a killer blog post, compiling hours of research, and carefully selected quotes to intersperse with compelling stories. Now you have a decision to make: Should you keep your masterpiece limited to your own website, drawing more traffic to your owned platform and earning more SEO juice? Or should you try to get it republished on some big-name sites to gain maximum exposure?

If your blog readership isn’t where you want it to be, it can be tempting to distribute your post far and wide by reaching out to people and asking if they’d like to republish it. After all, everyone wants free content.

“It’s an incredible advantage to have content that drives traffic from multiple places—especially when you only have to write it once,” Buffer content crafter Kevan Lee wrote in a blog post.

In the same post, Lee points out that Buffer, which has free and paid versions of its social media management tool, had 949 new conversions in republishing efforts from four sites, so it definitely benefited from the exposure. However, the effort was preceded by a massive amount of guest posting: Buffer co-founder Leo Widrich wrote 150 original guest posts in a nine-month period, to be precise. It was the top hits from this effort that paved the way for syndication on big-name sites such as Inc., Fast Company, The Next Web, Lifehacker, and more.

It’s true that reaching a new audience can be great for business. For example, Bankrate, a consumer financial service website, widely syndicates content, tools, and consumer bank rates on brand partner sites. It even pays brand partners based on performance. Its widespread syndication—and consistently valuable content—has helped establish its brand as an authority in the industry.

But since each business, and blog, is different, it’s wise to look at metrics such as referral traffic, social media shares, and conversions to see if these republished posts are getting results. Sometimes duplicating content doesn’t have much of an impact in terms of brand awareness at all, and there can be downsides.

Joe Chernov, HubSpot’s VP of Content, is quick to point out some of these drawbacks. “Letting others republish your content is tempting, though not necessarily for the right reasons,” he says. “It’s tempting because it appeals to your ego, and when ego is involved, it becomes easy to reverse engineer reasons to do it. Generally speaking, syndication will cost you traffic—and not just any traffic, but high-value organic search traffic.”

Chernov points out that early stage companies with little brand awareness that have attracted the interest of a large publisher may want to go for it anyway, despite the drawbacks. “In this scenario, the loss of traffic may be worth the gain in meaningful exposure,” he says.

If you do decide to let others reprint your content, there are a few ways to lessen the negative SEO effects, such as asking them to include a rel=canonical tag and to link back to your original post. But SEO specialist Cyrus Shepard, senior manager of the content team at Moz, points out that this strategy isn’t foolproof.

“You’ll see cases where the syndicatee—the person who publishes second—you’ll see cases where if they have enough domain authority, they will outrank the original publisher. That’s still a problem with Huffington Post and these people who just add a sentence or two to the story,” he said in an interview conducted by Contently co-founder Shane Snow.

Google itself warns of this possibility. The duplicate content section of its webmaster tools reads: “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. However, it is helpful to ensure that each site on which your content is syndicated includes a link back to your original article. You can also ask those who use your syndicated material to use the noindex meta tag to prevent search engines from indexing their version of the content.”

“I am a huge fan of original content,” Shepard emphasized, adding that Moz doesn’t syndicate anything in either direction. “I think all the value is having something original.” He predicts that search engines will improve in their ability to determine where attribution lies and give credit to the original source in the future, while cracking down harder on reprinted content that doesn’t add value. In that vein, Shepard sees a dark future for any sites that rely on content that’s syndicated from other publishers. “Syndicated content is like giving popcorn to children. It will keep them busy for a while, but that’s it,” he said.

So that’s bad news for those on the receiving end of syndication, but back to the original question: Ultimately, should you let your content be republished or not? If you value brand awareness and exposure over valuable search traffic, and have metrics in place that you can check back on to see if you’re on track, you may be able to justify dipping your toes in. But unless you have a compelling reason to make that trade, you may want to hold off.

As Shepard says, “It’s much better to have that content on your own site where you’re earning your link equity.”

Image by Library and Archives Canada

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