Does syndicated content affect organic search rankings?
In some cases, syndicated content is viewed as spam.
In others, it can outrank the original content.
And yet syndication is a widely accepted practice in journalism and content marketing alike.
But is it a ranking factor in search ranking algorithms?
In this chapter, we’ll determine if syndicated content is a Google ranking factor.
The Claim: Syndicated Content is A Ranking Factor
Content syndication happens in a number of ways.
Individual content authors may choose to syndicate their content in an attempt to reach larger audiences.
For example, a CEO may publish a blog on their company website.
They may then syndicate the same blog post to LinkedIn, Medium, or elsewhere.
This enables them to tap into the audiences of each network and possibly link back to the main company website.
Publications and blogs can also choose to syndicate content.
This happens when a publisher (content creator) agrees to share their content with a partner (the syndicator) – or even multiple partners, with the goal of further expanding the reach of that piece of content and the brand behind its creation.
The syndicated content piece, when it appears on the third-party site, could end up being:
- Identical (all content is the same except for the URL where it lives).
- Condensed (e.g., perhaps only the first paragraph or some portion of the article appears).
- Edited significantly (e.g., it has a different headline, or has had portions edited, removed, or rearranged).
When syndication happens without the creator’s consent, this piracy can result in duplicate content rather than syndicated content.
Let’s call this what it really is: Content theft.
Some websites use software to scrape content from other websites.
These websites may only scrape content about a particular topic to syndicate.
Others may scrape anything that is popular in an attempt to attract search traffic.
The Evidence Against Syndicated Content As A Ranking Factor
Google Search Central has specific quality guidelines for webmasters. In the Advanced SEO section, they specify two scenarios related to syndicated content that constitute webspam:
- Publishing auto-generated content created by scraping RSS feeds or search results.
- Publishing scraped content using automated techniques that add no additional value to or modify the original content.
In either scenario, your content is unlikely to rank in search results.
The authors of the original content may also be able to file for copyright infringement.
In 2012, Google Search Central released a video on webspam content violations.
This video reiterates the use of automation and scraping to create syndicated content as spam.
In 2018, John Mueller, Google Search Advocate, talked about how syndicated content had the potential to outrank original content.
This happens when the syndicate site has additional valuable content surrounding the pirated content.
In 2021, in an article published on Google Search Central for developers, Google discussed how to handle duplicate content.
In regards to syndicated content, they suggest the following:
“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 tag to prevent search engines from indexing their version of the content.”
Syndicated Content As A Ranking Factor: Our Verdict
If you are using content syndication to reach new audiences on popular networks with high-quality content, you can boost your visibility in search by ranking on other networks.
But simply syndicating content will not help the rankings of the original content in search results.
Therefore, we’ve classified it as unlikely to be a ranking factor.
Featured Image: Robin Biong/Search Engine Journal