May 21, 2024

Lost in Algo-land: Are Content Syndication & SEO Still Symbiotic?

Between the time of the first sentence of this first drafting being written and you actually reading it, Google and myriad other bot-producing overlords of Algo-lands across the vast dark corridors of the interwebs will have changed, unchanged, then changed again the way their bots respond to and interact with webs of sophistically built SEO and content strategies

Kate Farley

Photo from FX

Between the time of the first sentence of this first drafting being written and you actually reading it, Google and myriad other bot-producing overlords of Algo-lands across the vast dark corridors of the interwebs will have changed, unchanged, then changed again the way their bots respond to and interact with webs of sophistically built SEO and content strategies that companies large and small have devoted countless buckets of blood, sweat, tears, and dollars on. 

But chasing these bitty bots that run in spades seemingly faster than the speed of light at the whims of their overlords has seemed growingly impossible. By the time teams of experts have caught up with one change, the bots are out again, tearing down webs of well-researched and well-tested theories of how SEO and content strategies are supposed to work. 

These overlords keep us in the dark, only offering crumbs we’re supposed to follow like Hansel and Gretel, piecemealing together what we’re supposed to do to get content to rank: cryptic updates about “spammy low-quality content” that seem like they could target syndication; Google saying links aren’t that important to build SEO; and an uncertainty surrounding how AI-generated searches will affect links and how users interact and find them in the future. 

So, where does this leave the fate of SEO and content syndication? Is it all doom and gloom, or is this powerful duo still a tried-and-true method for getting content out into the interwebs and in front of the eyeballs and screenreaders of millions of readers, users, clients, and potential customers? 

Back to Basics: SEO, Meet Content Syndication

Content syndication companies often focus on the marketing and distribution aspects, but many acknowledge the SEO benefits of their services. Here's a breakdown of their potential stance on syndication and SEO:

  • Increased Visibility: Syndication companies highlight how they place your content on relevant websites, expanding its reach beyond your site. This increases the chances of search engines finding and indexing your content, boosting SEO.
  • Backlink Potential: Some syndication platforms may allow backlinks to your original content. These backlinks act as votes of credibility for search engines, positively impacting your SEO. However, it's important to note that not all syndicated content allows backlinks, and the quality of the backlinks can vary.
  • Content Promotion: Syndication companies promote your content to a wider audience, potentially generating organic traffic to your website. This increased traffic can be a positive SEO signal for search engines.

However, there are some nuances to consider:

  • Duplicate Content Concerns: Search engines can see syndicated content as duplicate, potentially harming your SEO if not appropriately managed. Reputable syndication companies should address this using canonical tags and clear disclosures to indicate the source.
  • Platform Quality Matters: Your content's SEO impact depends on the quality of the platforms where it is placed. High-authority, relevant websites provide stronger backlinks and SEO benefits.

Content syndication can positively influence SEO through increased visibility, potential backlinks, and website traffic. Done correctly, it can also increase reputation and visibility online. It is important to syndicate to relevant, high-authority sites, only syndicate high-quality content, and be proactive to avoid duplicate content issues on the onslaught of syndication.

Great. But Back to the Question: Are Content Syndication & SEO Still Symbiotic? 

Unfortunately, this isn’t as straightforward as “Do bees fly?” or “Is Eurovision the best thing humanity has ever created? (if you don’t know that the answer to this is yes, then you, one, must be American, and two, must watch it on Peacock now. We’re not sponsored, truly, but it’ll make you feel better after spending your day imitating that Charlie Kelly from “It’s Always Sunny in Philidelphia” meme.) 

So, I’ll put it to you like this: As of writing, on May 21, at 14:39 (because the algo-overlords may change their mind later today, who knows?), the answer is yes, but with some caveats. Have you seen “Venom?” Yes, the superhero movie-comic book thing. Content syndication and SEO are symbiotic in the way Venom, and Eddie Brock are symbiotic: Venom gets to live, and Eddie Brock gets to be a cool superhero. Rad, right? But Venom occasionally also eats people, and that’s no fun for Eddie, just like it’s no fun for Venom that Eddie’s the main dude in charge of their shared human body most of the time, meaning he gets to call the shots. 

In the same vein, SEO benefits from content syndication from things like backlinks, brand authority-building, and all that other human-eating-analogy-adjacent stuff we mentioned earlier. But its no-fun, boo part of the relationship is the potential ding for duplicate content and things like Google’s new spam guidelines, which could potentially target syndicated links. 

In the Uno Reverso, content syndication benefits from SEO indirectly by using it as a tool to determine what content to syndicate, such as stories close to ranking on Page 1 of Google or stories that are just out of striking distance of the Top 10 for a specific keyword. The nasty rotting human flesh of it all comes down to, yes, duplicate content concerns again, but also concerns that brands will misunderstand the balancing act that needs to happen when using SEO for syndication and begin poor practices like keyword stuffing and developing low-quality backlinks in the name of trying to inflate the rankings artificially, strategies that may backfire of the algo-overlords catch onto them. 

To summarize, take a look at this super high-quality, professional chart I made that daftly illustrates the above: 

Alright, Nutso, But What Do the Experts Say?

I know, I know. I don’t even like superhero movies! I was the younger sibling; I was forced to watch them. What can you do? Not-me people also have some things to say about this whole debacle, if you can imagine. So, to build my ethos here, let’s bring in the reinforcements:

  • Search Engine Land: Acknowledges that syndication can create duplicate content issues but highlights solutions like rel=canonical tags to ensure search engines understand the source. This proper attribution can help transfer SEO value from the syndicated content to your original piece.
  • CognitiveSEO: They point out that backlinks from syndicated content can benefit SEO but emphasize the importance of link quality. Backlinks from high-authority, relevant websites carry more weight with search engines than low-quality ones.
  • HubSpot Blog: The blog mentions that syndicated content doesn't inherently hurt SEO, and proper practices like including a link back to your original content can help.

Further, these actual humans (as opposed to blog collectives) and SEO experts are also big proponents of the symbiotic relationship between SEO and content syndication. Here’s just a tiny sample of what they’ve got to say, plus links to more info if you’re a nerd like me and want to learn more:

1. Brian Dean: Backlink Magnet

  • Focus: Backlink building at  Backlinko.
  • Alignment with Syndication: If done well, content syndication helps generate more backlinks to your original piece. Having your syndicated content republishing on high-authority relevant sites will allow for inclusion of backlinks as confirmation votes for search engines to elevate your ranking potential. 

2. Rand Fishkin: Content is King

  • Focus: Rand Fishkin, founder of Moz and advocate for high-quality content
  • Alignment with Syndication: Syndication success rests on the quality and strength of your content. The more informative and utility-rich your content is, the greater its resonance with your audiences, likely engagement, and, most importantly, its prospects for sharing and attaining backlinks. Syndicating poor content across multiple properties is unlikely to generate SEO dividends.

3. Neil Patel: Measure and Adapt

  • Focus: Neil Patel, focuses on a data-driven approach to marketing at Neil Patel Digital
  • Alignment with Syndication: Measuring Success When syndicating content, how do you track whether it was a success? Neil Patel suggests that a Code of the Virgin Code syndicator should be regularly tracking how their syndication impacts website traffic, lead conversions (example: sign-ups) and sales, and, over time, whether syndication can elevate a brand’s awareness. Reviewing these metrics helps a syndicator refine their strategy and understand ways to place content for better leads.

4. Danny Sullivan: Algorithmic Insights

  • Focus: Danny Sullivan, Public Search Liaison at Google, provides valuable insights into Google's search algorithms
  • Alignment with Syndication: Danny Sullivan is Google’s Public Search Liaison What makes a site? Google’s search algorithms are the secret behind Google’s rise to prominence. Focus obliged. Our interview with Danny Sullivan, Google’s Public Search Liaison, reveals that Google’s algorithms are still relatively new and simple.

5. Aleyda Solis: Technical Expertise

  • Focus: Aleyda Solis, founder of RankBrain, technical SEO specialist
  • Alignment with Syndication: Technical SEO helps format your content for syndication so that it’s optimized no matter the platform it appears on At the technical level, Aleyda Solis argues in favor of optimizing syndicated content for each platform on which it appears: In particular, you should make adjustments such as tweaking meta descriptions, title tags, image format, etc, so that it aids in maximizing discovery through each platform’s search, such as Google News.

If you synthesize the SEO best practices outlined by these experts, you’ll have a content syndication strategy that can attract strong backlinks, amplify the power of substantive content, track meaningful metrics, avoid algorithmic pitfalls, and stay true to the technical aspects of SEO across platforms. This type of thinking is why content syndication is the secret sauce of much better SEO.

Well, That Last Bit Was Actually Informative At Least. What Now?

The real question isn’t how to chase the bots. Because that’s impossible unless you yourself believe you have the ability to become one of them, infiltrate their network, learn the secrets, and somehow manage to come back to the human world while still somehow also simultaneously still being a bot so you can tell us what’s the latest scuttlebutt. And until Keanu Reeves develops a sudden interest in content syndication, I think we just may be out of luck there.

If you ask me, my credentials include being a researcher of this article, owner of a super expensive piece of paper that says master's degree in editorial journalism, user of SEMrush (plus MOZ of that one month and SE Ranking for a whopping two-week free trial), and six(ish) years MediaFeeding at this here establishment, your best bet is have faith. In that, meaning have no faith that the algo-overlords will change their ways any time soon, and that instead of driving yourself crazy trying to get your “broke the code” moment (a Eurovision reference I’m sure everyone and totally, not just me understood), focus on what you know.

Just ask the basics you already know you need to ask yourself; don’t try to over-complicate or over-”algo” this: Who’s your audience? What are you trying to do? Who are you trying to reach? What are your goals? Do you know what keywords you should be focusing on? Do you know what your pillar articles are? Do you know which syndicated articles drive the most referrals back to your site? 

The bots may be spinning new silk for webs all the time, but they're still silk at the end of the day. It’s all still SEO, and it’s all still content syndication. Yes, who’s controlling the bots and what they’re telling them to do does matter, but it’s also important to remember that they’re still making the silk. So just because the overlords are changing how they spin the silk doesn’t mean you stop making webs. 

Sure, your web may not look like the one Midwestern folk put in their yards during Halloween right now, but a web is still a web. If you’re trapping organic traffic, backlinks, domain authority, brand recognition, or whatever else it is you’re trying to scoop up in that little web of yours, then by all means, web it up.* 

*Unless you’re trying to catch human flesh. MediaFeed does not condone cannibalism. 

Kate Farley

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