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Is Syndication Killing Your Rankings? An 8 Point SEO Inspection

heseltine-simon
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It's a situation many SEOs will face at some point. You're working on a website that has great content, but you're concerned that it isn't yet getting enough visitors or page views.

One solution is to push it out to a bigger audience on another more widely read site. Or, perhaps you're in a position where another site is willing to pay you to syndicate your fantastic content because it fills a hole in their content needs.

What can go wrong?

Well, how about when you go over to the search engines, do a search, and find one of your syndication sites ranking above you?

It's your content. Why aren't you up there? Why don't the search engines know that you're the one that created that content?

Maybe it's because you haven't told them or you've sent them mixed signals. The following steps should help you to correct this problem.

1. Your Syndication Partner Must Link to Your Original Article

Make sure the site displaying your content includes a link to your original article. This tells the search engines the location of the original after they determine that there's duplicate content.

Important: A link to your home page from the article isn't enough. The link needs to go to the original version of the article to tell the search engine which site is the original.

2. Don't Link to Your Own Content Elsewhere

Linking to your partner's copy of the article on their site will negate the link they have to your original version of the article. Typically this will only happen if there's an RSS feed to the partner site on the article page, and their version of the article is in that RSS feed, thereby generating a link from your site to their article.

If your site links to your partner's copy of the article, the timestamp will become the determinant of origination.

Last year I worked with two sites that had the same post on both sites. Site B had the copy and linked back to the original post on Site A, which meant that the search engines could see that Site A was the originator.

However, Site A was displaying an RSS feed of the latest posts from Site B. Due to the resulting reciprocal linking structure, the search engines couldn't detect which was the originator based on links.

Not a problem, though. The next determinant in line is the timestamp. Site A posted their copy first, and they showed up in the search results for this highly competitive term, while site B didn't.

Right up until someone accidently changed the timestamp for Site A's post. Suddenly the post on Site B started ranking.

As soon as we figured out what had happened, we changed the timestamp on Site A's post, and that once again became the dominant post, displaying back at the top of the page for that term.

Without that link from Site A to the copy on Site B, the change in timestamp wouldn't have switched the sites in the results. So be careful about linking to your own content elsewhere.

3. Delay Syndication of Your Article

If you aren't able to get your partners to link to your original article, or you're concerned about the reciprocal linking within the articles issue due, then one solution is to delay the syndication of full content.

This should give the search engines time to find your content and establish yours as the originator, because yours will be the first instance of that content that it finds. Plus, this will make it much more likely that your content will have an earlier timestamp than your partner.

4. Set Limits on Your Content

Have your partners only publish a limited amount of content before linking back to your site for the full content. This is a great way to ensure that you're getting the link back to your article from their article.

5. Ask Your Partner to noindex Their Copy of Your Article

You can ask your partner to noindex their copy of the article on their site. Of course, you won't be able to enforce this option with any scraper sites that take your content without permission.

The noindex will tell the search engines to not place that page in their index. As a result, it won't compete with you in the SERPs, but it will still get the eyeballs from their site traffic, and the links within your article will still give you the full benefit.

6. Cross Domain Canonicalization

If you're republishing across multiple sites that you own, you can also use cross domain canonicalization (which will only work for Google). This will tell Google which version is the one that you want them to display, regardless of the domain that the article is on.

7. Use Google News Meta Tags

You can use the "syndication-source" and "original-source" meta tags. However, it's unclear right now how much they matter because they're in "experiment" mode. Also, these meta tags only work for Google News, not for any other search engine or even Google's regular organic listings.

8. Thoroughly Examine Your Website

If, after all this, you still aren't seeing your content ranking for your terms, while your syndication partners are, then there's potentially a problem.

Examine your site thoroughly. Check the Google Webmaster Guidelines to see if you're doing anything that could have gotten your site penalized. And if you are, stop doing it!

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