Please note: there is a new, more up-to-date version of this article available here: What is content syndication and how do I get started?
Content syndication is the process of pushing your blog, site, or video content out into third-party sites, either as a full article, snippet, link, or thumbnail.
The idea is to drive more engagement with your content by wiring it into related digital contexts, either to boost traffic to your owned property or just get exposure for your brand or your key personalities or products.
In a perfect world, syndication is part of a larger, holistic content marketing effort with the old keywords-at-the-front, metrics-at-the-back content production line in place. But even if you don’t have a formal content marketing effort, you probably have content – web pages, blog posts, videos – that could be syndicated.
Setting up Your Syndication Strategy
For some brands, it isn’t always clear what they want to accomplish from syndication. Is the goal to drive traffic to the main website in a fashion similar to SEO or paid search? Is the goal to build awareness of your products? Or is the goal something else entirely?
The first step of content syndication is to establish goals that match your business model. For example, if you’re trying to build traffic on your blog to capture leads, syndicating full article content out to partners might not be the best approach.
Syndicating a headline, the first paragraph, and a link back to the blog, however, might make sense. If you are mainly trying to build awareness of your product or brand in a broad sense, syndication of all forms may be in order.
Once you know your goal, think about the kind of content you have and where you want to send it. Map out content distribution partners, their requirements, and your content and infrastructure (software) capability.
Many syndication partners require custom RSS feeds, custom selected URLs, thumbnail images, snippets, titles, or paragraph excerpts.
Planning ahead for syndication makes sense. During a redesign or site launch, or when setting up your content strategy, content structure (think meta data schemas and content types), and content management systems, think about how you can build things to auto-generate feeds in a flexible fashion without a lot of manual work.
Selecting Syndication Partners
Basic content syndication in the form of RSS feeds has been around for a while. RSS made it easy for individuals and websites to grab your content in an automated fashion. With the rise of social networks and sharing, RSS usage has slipped, though I will still consider it table stakes in the content syndication game.
Beyond RSS, however, a plethora of new syndication options has emerged both paid and non-paid.
Paid Content Syndication Players
Flush with Venture Capital money and popping up (and occasionally down) on tons of publisher sites, paid syndication engines typically charge the advertiser or content promoter per click and then share revenue with the publisher if they are large enough.
Costs are low, starting for some vendors at around $.10 per click and going up to $.30 or more. Here are the two biggies:
- Outbrain: Outbrain describes itself as a content recommendation system, providing links to related content on major publication sites including Time, CNN, and the Washington Post. Outbrain has a self-service interface with costs set on a per-click bid model. It’s easy for a little guy to set up, but it works for big guys too.
- Taboola: Similar to Outbrain, Taboola powers recommended content links on major publication sites. Unlike Outbrain, Taboola requires each link to have an associated thumbnail image. This may or may not take more work, but it also may help to boost clicks to your content. Taboola’s engine can also be used to promote internal related content.
Non-Paid Syndication Options
There are several syndication opportunities that don’t require media-like spend. For example, financial business can have their thought leaders syndicate their content to sites like SeekingAlpha.com for free.
Related industry sites and blogs are always looking for good content and they tend to not want to pay for it. Find out what sites have an audience in your industry and ask them if they are interested in getting an RSS feed of original content. Syndication partners typically want unique content and at least some sort of delay before the content is published on your own site.
This type of relationship goes beyond the old SEO sawhorse of guest posting, since there is a long-term relationship and the value is more than a backlink – though by all means ask for that as well.
Content Sites for Manual Syndication
Tons of new and emerging sites are tempting places to distribute or cross-post content to. Consider Reddit – pick the right sub-reddit for your content, and the new Medium.com (the long-form content site from the Twitter folks). Good content, created as part of a larger content marketing effort, should be able to stand on its own on these earned platforms.
There is a lot more to discuss regarding content syndication – how to optimize content for cost-effective syndication, how to track and report syndication efforts and make sure they are managed effectively, and how to allocate budgets across syndication and other types of content promotion efforts (social network promotion, paid search, ad exchanges, etc). But those are posts for another day.
Keep on pushing that content and let me know if I missed anything in the comments.
Image Credit: Anselm Hook/Flickr