Debunking the SEO Myths of Syndicated Content for MSPs
I keep running into articles that have some pretty big inaccuracies about syndicated content and SEO that I find troublesome. There is some confusion that syndicated content is never worthy of respect or consideration. This seems especially true when it is compared to custom content. However, this is not always the case, and so there are a few points that need to be cleared up. Considering that my company has provided both syndicated and custom marketing content to MSP's since 2009, I am uniquely positioned to debunk some of the Myths you may have read about.
Myth #1 - Syndicated Content Isn’t Authentic
First off, implying that all syndicated content is of a lower quality than custom content is inaccurate. Depending on the writer, as well as the quality of the advice and the presentation, syndicated content could be a superior product. At JoomConnect, content is laboriously researched and toiled over, before being meticulously examined by our team of dedicated writers, all offering input and expertise to make the final product of as high a quality and impact as possible. It doesn’t matter if the content is written for one particular client or if it is for one of our syndicated streams, each piece goes through a similar process.
Syndicated content can be valuable and authentic to your audience. A blog article about productivity tips and tricks for Microsoft Office isn’t going to somehow be less useful if other MSPs are also sharing it. The deciding factor is whether or not the content is good at all. Is it going to provide value? It is going to show that you are a helpful, knowledgeable expert? Is it going to give visitors a reason to come back to your site?
On top of that, as long as you don’t have callback links or copyrights in the syndicated content, your audience won’t recognize the content as syndicated. Instead, they will see that you are active on social networks and on your website, providing an abundance of knowledge and value for those who aren’t even on your service (provided that the content is good).
About the only drawback to syndicated content in this regard is that it isn’t always your voice. Even if the content is helpful, it can’t always capture the more intimate insight that you might have for your specific target market. We always recommend that you modify and or paraphrase syndicated content to add your own twist. This is where the next myth comes in.
Myth #2 - You Can’t Edit Syndicated Content
While this isn’t the case all across the board, syndicated marketing content should be editable. In fact, we encourage it. Although it’s easier to just utilize an RSS feed and have the content get pulled from a centralized location, we made the decision from the very start to always give our clients full control over the content.
Our content gets pushed directly into your website with no callback URLs, no copyright information, and no references back to us. It’s also completely editable from your website (or through your JoomConnect Anywhere portal). This means you can tweak it, add your own insights, respin it, or even export it and use it for anything you want (other than reselling it).
Giving you the ability to edit and own your content is so important to us that we’ve poured tens of thousands of hours of manual labor into posting content to sites individually, before we developed our own internal agency automation platform (we call it Quick Agency) specifically for content publishing, rather than taking the easy road and having MSPs simply pull it from a centralized source. We feel that this is the best way to provide you with content to be used as your own.
Myth #3 - Syndicated Content Hurts SEO Performance
You can’t mention content without people thinking about the search engines, and for good reason. Content and user experience are two of the biggest factors in SEO, and businesses are solicited every day by companies promising quick fixes to improve their ranking on Google.
There are measurable benefits to utilizing syndicated content on your web presence, especially in terms of traffic. We typically see a significant percentage of organic traffic (to the website as a whole) coming in through interaction with our syndicated MSP blog service. That isn’t even taking into account that supplementing the syndicated content with custom can add a major boost in traffic, but again, that’s adding custom content to the already traffic-boosting syndicated content. This impact can impress your clients, giving you the bonus of a shortened sales cycle, as well as signalling the search engines that you are posting new, fresh content on a regular basis.
There’s been a lot of talk about the search engines battling against ‘duplicate content’ and the confusion lies in the vague definition. Duplicate content happens when the search engines see identical content on two URLs (pages) and need to determine which one is authentic. Here are some examples of duplicate content:
- URL Parameters (pages that use tags in the URLs for campaign tracking)
- URL Session IDs (again, for tracking purposes)
- Multiple URLs for the same page (www vs non-www, etc.)
- Print-friendly pages Black hat localization tactics (reusing the same content over and over but changing the location to try to fool the search results)
- Content scraping (stealing popular content and sharing it out for ad revenue and traffic)
Since Google implemented "Panda" in 2011, we’ve carefully monitored the performance of our syndicated content and while we do see a clear performance boost when valuable, honed-in custom content is also in play, we have never seen our syndicated content devaluing a website’s overall performance on the search engines.
In fact, we’ve seen the opposite. We use the same blog service we provide for other MSPs for our own MSP, Directive. We consistently see our blogs show up on the search engines, ranking as high as the top three organic positions on results pages.
For many of our clients, we see similar results, especially if they are also supplementing our syndicated content with their custom content, or doing anything else to differentiate themselves above their competitors.
If we did start to see a major hit for syndicated content, we would start pushing the content out as no index, no follow, which will prevent search engines from caring about it. That said, the evidence prevents us from doing that because we clearly see our clients get positive, organic search results from their syndicated blogs.
What will hurt your performance is letting your content go stale, stealing content, or trying black hat quick fixes (like just sharing tweets and articles on your blog with no substance). There are plenty of SEO myths that will come back to bite you, but that’s for another time.
Here’s Google’s Own Take on Syndicated Content!
Don’t just take our word for it. Syndicated content, content authority, and the quality of content have been huge topics in the world of SEO. As mentioned before, it comes down to the value provided by the content and how useful it is to your readers.
According to a presentation on duplicate content given by Google, the search engine authority juggernaut whose name has become synonymous with online searches, duplicate content does not get penalized. The search engines take into account other factors (like audience, social signals, and hundreds more) to determine how it gets ranked. The presentation continues to explain that the penalties are for scraper sites, which are sites that exist only to steal and duplicate content for the purpose of ad revenue and traffic, as well as doorway pages and automatic content spinning. In other words, it’s meant to hunt down spam. Google isn’t penalizing sites because they have duplicate content, it penalizes them because they are spam.
Google even addresses working with affiliate or shared content, suggesting that if you make the pages stand out on their own and provide a unique value-add, duplication is a non-issue.
This brings us back to the point that it’s about the quality of the content, and whether it’s worth coming back to and sharing. Rand Fishkin, SEO industry leader and founder of Moz, put it this way in an interview:
“Writing high quality content is, I would say, a not very actionable piece of advice, but writing content that can be amplified, and knowing who’s going to amplify it, now you’re getting into the secret sauce.”
What Fishkin is talking about here is that you aren’t just writing for your customers who happen to be buyers, but also to impress those who can increase the spread of your work.
As he goes on to say,
”...but the creative end, is really about saying, ‘How am I going to produce content that a community of people will help amplify?’ And what I mean by that is, you need to find a group of people who are going to be incentivised in some way… if you can’t answer the question who is going to get behind this content, and propel it and amplify it, then you haven’t produced something truly worthy…”
In Fishkin’s eyes, quality writing is the kind of writing that warrants reproduction, because it is worth sharing.
In All Fairness to Custom Content (After all, we produce that too)
With a Nielsen estimate of 27 million shared pieces of content daily, it’s definitely a good idea to incorporate something unique to your content strategy. Additionally, some level of personalization certainly doesn’t hurt - in fact, we recommend that whenever you are able to personalize your content, you should do so. After all, content gets better if you have something different to offer, giving your unique insights on a topic of interest, applying social proofs and making your post more personable. In this age of social media, something that resonates with someone more personally has a better chance of being shared. That sense of personalization is much easier to achieve if content has been crafted with a specific audience in mind. Furthermore, search engines love quality custom content, and will be much more inclined to spread it.
Personalization also ties in with localizing your content by name-dropping regional events, locales, and referencing local news stories. This practice of localization keeps your content higher in the rankings for the audience you want to see it.
An audience can grow weary of syndicated content if it is not of a worthwhile quality. This syndication fatigue can be exacerbated if the syndicated content is left unedited by MSP's. Impersonal content without any significant value add can swiftly lose favor among your readership, as they will receive no benefit for reading it. However, by modifying certain details of a post to make it your own, or by even producing a custom post, you can incorporate a unique benefit to your readers into your piece. This keeps your readers happy and engaged, adding value without adding too much cost.
We generate custom content ranging from training materials, webinars, info graphics, social media, sharing our coprorate culture and fun stuff about the office that we enjoy doing. A good example is our Crock-Pot Thursday recipes, we've been posting them for years on social media and just started posting them to the blogs every Thursday as well. Some time it's just a blog post, and sometimes it's a full blown video. Check out the funny one below (some of the ladies from Marketing and I did the voice overs), if you want to read the blog or get the recipe click here!
At the end of the day, this balance between syndicated and custom content comes down to the discretion of the client, who has to weigh their options in terms of their own considerations, such as their budgetary concerns, time constraints, or even their ability to write. For a little context, consider: Good content takes several hours, while really great content can wind up taking anywhere from 10 to 20 hours of work or more, start to finish (for example, this article took over 20 hours to complete, which was tracked in ConnectWise). Imagine your cost per month to hire someone new to provide you with 3 good pieces of traditionally original content compared to the $60 per month that can get you 12 good pieces of content, per month, that provide real value and are spread out by region (GEO Protection) enough that someone would, in order to find it elsewhere, have to search for a particular piece of content specifically, which prospects simply are not doing. To learn more about what we call GEO Protection check out these articles: What is GEO Protection? and GEO Protection Program Expands as Scheduled
Perhaps you would prefer your content to be prepared exclusively for you - and that’s absolutely fine. Maybe you subscribe to a syndicated service to produce your materials for you, that is fine too. There’s nothing wrong with either option, assuming it’s the right one for your company and marketing budget.
Of course, there always is a third option for you to consider, as well.
We offer the option of a hybrid content approach. These hybrid plans are composed of a syndicated content subscription supplemented with custom-written posts. This combination offers both the reliability of syndication with the SEO benefits of uniquely crafted custom content. Chances are that this will be the best approach for your marketing to take. Again, depending on the needs and abilities of your business, one approach may be better suited for you than the other. This doesn’t mean that any method is inherently better than the others, all it means is that it better meets your needs in particular.
To close, it seems appropriate to consider the real purpose of online content. First and foremost, content is meant to drive traffic to your site, through both inbound marketing and search engines. We have established that all three forms of content plans - syndicated, custom, and hybrid - can accomplish this (if written well), so it truly is left to your discretion to decide how your web presence is to be structured.
To discuss potential ideas for your inbound marketing plan, feel free to reach out to us!