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Google: Syndicated Content May Outrank the Original Source

Google’s John Mueller advises site owners that when content is syndicated elsewhere it may outrank the original source.

That’s the trade-off that site owners need to consider when deciding to syndicate their content.

The syndicated content can end up ranking higher than the original content, and that cannot be avoided.

This information was provided during a Google Webmaster Central hangout on February 8th.

A site owner submitted the following question:

“What factors might cause a piece of content that’s been syndicated on a partner site to rank well?”

The site owner also indicated there’s a canonical tag pointing to the original content, and the original content has been published for several months.

Why is this happening?

Mueller says there are a number of factors that go into determining which version of the content is most relevant for searchers.

A canonical tag is a good way to indicate which is the original piece of content.

However, a canonical tag might not always be “correct,” in the sense that the pages are completely different.

Perhaps a block of text is the same across both pages, but everything else surrounding the text could be providing additional value.

It’s possible that users are landing on the syndicated content and finding other relevant information elsewhere on the site.

Those are things that Google takes into consideration when figuring out how to rank the two pieces of content.

Can this be prevented?

There’s no way to guarantee that syndicated content will not rank above the original source.

Site owners need to take this into account when syndicating their content, Mueller says.

On one hand, syndicating content allows it to have a larger audience.

On the other hand, other websites may end up ranking above the original source.

That’s the trade-off that site owners have to accept as a possibility when syndicating their content.

Hear the full question and answer in the video below, starting at 8:57.

“I think this is always a tricky situation. We do try to figure out which page is the most relevant for some of these queries and to point users directly there.

But if these are completely separate websites, and they’re just posting the same article, then there’s also a lot of additional value from the rest of the website.

And that could be information on that specific page. It could be additional value that the rest of the website brings that when someone goes to that one article maybe they go off and look at other things on that website.

So that’s something that can always happen, and if you’re syndicating content that’s something you kind of need to take into account.

It might happen that the content that you syndicated to some other website ends up ranking above your content. That’s not always completely avoidable. So those are kind of trade offs that you have to look at there.

I think the canonical [tag] is a good way to let us know that these two pages belong together. But it’s also the case that a canonical isn’t really correct in a case like this because the pages themselves might be completely different.

It might be that there’s this block of text that’s the same across both of these pages. But it might be that there’s a lot of other content around that page that is completely different. It could be user comments, it could be the rest of the website itself.

So, again, that’s kind of a trade off that you have to look 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.”

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Category News SEO
SEJ STAFF Matt G. Southern Senior News Writer at Search Engine Journal

Matt G. Southern, Senior News Writer, has been with Search Engine Journal since 2013. With a bachelor’s degree in communications, ...

Google: Syndicated Content May Outrank the Original Source

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