Content syndication is kind of like guest posting on steroids. You get all the benefits of guest posting without the work …
However, what’s interesting is that a good content syndication strategy begins with guest posting, which builds your visibility.
And once your visibility grows, and you have a few super popular articles on your site, then you can start chasing down your syndication opportunities.
This episode will teach you how to do just that.
In this 26-minute episode you’ll discover:
- Whether you can skip the guest posting part if you already have a big audience
- What big sites think about those really popular articles on your site
- What you need to do so Google won’t punish you if you republish articles
- Whether content syndication traffic is any good or not
- How to develop a republishing relationship with a big site
- How to write a compelling email to pitch republished article
The Show Notes
- How to Grow an Audience on LinkedIn by Repurposing Content
- The Ultimate Blueprint for Guest Blogging and Syndication
- How to (Rapidly) Build an Audience with Content Syndication
- Should You Repost Your Blog Content on Other Websites? A Data-Driven Answer
- Use canonical URLs
- 6 Ways an Empathy Map Can Make Your Headlines Even Sexier
- The Ultimate Content Marketer’s Guide to Syndication and Licensed Content
The Proper (and Safe) Way to Republish Old Articles
Demian Farnworth: That’s going to say a lot more about me than if I’m associated with Bob’s SEO tool or JerrysFancyWhateverFamilySlideshowThing.com.
Jerod Morris: No offense to Bob and Jerry.
Demian Farnworth: Exactly, good sites, good guys, creating great content. Just not there yet.
Welcome back, everybody, to The Lede, a podcast about content marketing by Copyblogger Media. The Lede, as always, is hosted by me, Demian Farnworth, and my co-host, Jerod Morris, VP of Rainmaker.FM.
If you like The Lede, if you like me, if you like Jerod, and you would like more of us in some capacity — and God only knows why you would — it’s only fair to mention that you can check out our personal podcasts on the Rainmaker.FM network by jumping over to Showrunner.FM — that’s Jerod’s podcast about creating a dang good podcast show. Jerod’s got a serious podcasting history, so he knows what he’s talking about. You can find mine at RoughDraft.FM, where I drop essential web writing advice in less than 10 minutes a day, four days a week.
While you’re snooping around our podcast collection, check out a few more of the shows. For instance, we’ve got two new shows. Authorpreneur, where Jim Kukral covers the A-to-Z of modern book publishing and marketing. Jim interviews some of the world’s top authorpreneurs to show you how to use your book as the most powerful business card you’ll ever have.
Let’s not forget the podcast to end all podcasts, The Link Hole, with our CFO, Sean Jackson. Wait — it’s not The Link Hole? It’s The Missing Link? Darn, I like The Link Hole. Maybe I can lobby them to change. Anyway, Sean Jackson and the ever-smiling Mica explain how you can use one of the most misunderstood but powerful social networks in the world, LinkedIn.
By the way, all of our shows are brought to you by Rainmaker.FM, the digital marketing podcast network built on the Rainmaker Platform, a platform that empowers you to build your own digital marketing and sales empire, because yes, we all know you want to take over the world. The cool thing is, for the next 14 days, you can use the Rainmaker Platform for free. That’s right. You can get your hands on the Rainmaker Platform for 14 days without paying a dime. Just visit RainmakerPlatform.com to start your free trial. Now, on to the show.
Hello, everyone, and welcome back to The Lede, a podcast between me and Jerod talking about content marketing. Jerod, glad to be back with you this week.
Jerod Morris: I’m very happy to be here. Thank you, Demian.
Demian Farnworth: I’ve got to say, congratulations, man.
Jerod Morris: On?
Demian Farnworth: I heard your band won a Emmy for best single.
Jerod Morris: We did. It’s been an amazing week. From you writing the song to just the glorious inspiration I had when I first heard it. Then we went down and laid the track down. We cleaned it up a little bit. Again, we wanted to make sure that it was PG. It took off, and we won an Emmy. There are a lot of people I need to thank. Obviously, I need to thank you for recording it.
Demian Farnworth: You’re welcome.
Jerod Morris: I need to thank Rainmaker.FM for giving me the platform to get the song out there, and I want to thank Robert Bruce for being my vocal inspiration.
Demian Farnworth: That’s right, you got to love that guy. That’s good, man. I’m always really happy to see people that I love do extremely well. A question for you though: do you think that you’ll let your kids listen to it?
Jerod Morris: I think so, yes. Now that I’ve replaced the references to illicit substances with a more PG thing. We want you to come tour with us. Would you be willing to come on tour and maybe do it as a duet?
Demian Farnworth: Yeah, oh man. Yeah. Totally, dude. Get the band back together. Get Chris Thompson up there too.
Jerod Morris: Yeah, exactly. That’s what I was thinking.
Demian Farnworth: Get the band back together. That’s good. All right, man.
Jerod Morris: By the way, if this is the first time people have listened to The Lede, they’re going to have no idea what we’re talking about.
Beyond Medium and LinkedIn – Syndicating Content on a Larger Stage
Demian Farnworth: I know, right. We’re talking about content syndication. One of the ongoing metaphors we’ve been using to explain content syndication is that it’s sort of like a band touring. You are a band. You have this list of songs, and then you go play that list of songs around different places in the city.
Content syndication is the same thing. You have content, and then you go spread that content around at different sites. You can do social sites like Medium and LinkedIn, but you can do bigger sites, which is actually the ultimate goal. I read an article. You read an article, Jerod. And then it shows up on Huffington Post or Time magazine, maybe, but it’s the same article. It’s something that’s been republished.
We talked about, the last couple of weeks, this idea of doing it on Medium and LinkedIn — that’s small-fry business. That’s touring the small, rural towns. Now we’re going to go hit the big time, the Big Apple sort of cities.
Jerod Morris: Hang on. Let me ask you why you define those as smaller. Is it because it’s so important about the following that you have on Medium and LinkedIn in terms of exposure, whereas if you put it out on a big site you’re guaranteed to get a big exposure because it’s going out to all of their people?
Demian Farnworth: Exactly.
Jerod Morris: LinkedIn and Medium are big sites.
Demian Farnworth: They are. Like we talked about, you have to build your audience in order to get any real traction on there. It’s sort of like sharing the stage at Lollapalooza or Coachella or something like that. That’s what Medium and LinkedIn are. This is where you’re headlining, and you’re actually getting in front of this large audience that Lifehacker has, or The Next Web, because of the content that you publish.
Jerod Morris: They’re putting you on the main stage, not a side stage.
Demian Farnworth: Exactly. In some cases, it might be positioned in a category tab, so if yours is about technology or social media, then it would show up under that one. But Business Insider, showing up on their tab for social media would do a lot more than showing up in my small little blog.
In this one, we’re going to explore how to lay the groundwork for good republishing strategy. What we’re talking about is execution. Content syndication is kind of like guest posting on steroids. You get all the benefits of guest posting without the work, because you’re using one article to show up on different websites. It’s republishing. However, what’s interesting is that a good content syndication strategy begins with guest posting.
Jerod Morris: What do you mean?
Demian Farnworth: To talk about this topic I tapped Kevan Lee from Buffer. He wrote an article about Buffer’s strategy. Buffer’s content syndication strategy is pretty famous. I think they were pretty bold, pretty successful with it. Kevan is their content crafter, and he essentially writes four substantial blog posts a week.
In a May 8, 2014, article, Kevan outlined the steps Buffer took. According to Kevan Lee, the first thing is to guest post. This surprised me, too, because I was like, “Well, all right,” but it makes sense. In the early days of Buffer, Leo Widrich published — get this — 150 guest posts in nine months. One hundred and fifty guest posts in nine months, which is huge.
Jerod Morris: It’s important to make the distinction that when you say ‘guest post,’ that means a unique post for the other site.
Demian Farnworth: This was original content, right. Exactly.
Jerod Morris: Yeah.
Whether You Can Skip the Guest Posting Part If You Already Have a Big Audience
Demian Farnworth: The goal was to raise the visibility of his company, and that’s why he started with guest posting.
Jerod Morris: Okay, so he’s guest posting to raise visibility. Does that mean that if you already have a big presence, then you can skip the guest posting part?
Demian Farnworth: Indeed, exactly right. If you have a huge audience, you can still do it, but it’s not going to serve the same purpose.
Once word about Buffer grew, they then started publishing super-stellar posts on their site. I think this is so interesting. Think about it: first grow your visibility, and then create super-stellar content on your site.
For example, these are two blog posts that did exceptionally well on their site. One was 10 Simple Things You Can Do Today That Will Make You Happier, Backed by Science. This post has received nearly 125,000 ‘likes’ on Facebook. Another really popular one was called Why Facebook is Blue: The Science of Colors in Marketing. This post has received over 14,000 shares on Twitter. The reason behind these big hits is it gave them credibility.
Jerod Morris: Let me ask you something about these articles. I think most everybody knows what Buffer does. Obviously, it helps you with social scheduling and organizing your social media posting. It makes perfect sense why they would write about Facebook — that article that you mentioned, Why Facebook is Blue: The Science of Colors in Marketing. How about the other one, which is, 10 Simple Things You Can Do Today That Will Make you Happier, Backed by Science?
Did that somehow include, “Make your social media management more efficient,” or were they just writing this article generally about happiness just to get the exposure, to get the ‘likes?’ How integrated is the content? You get what I’m asking?
What Big Sites Think about Those Really Popular Articles on Your Site
Demian Farnworth: It wasn’t. I totally do, yeah. That was a thing that always surprised me early on because clearly, anybody who is working in the space couldn’t ignore Buffer because they just showed up. I remember this article when it came out, and I remember so many articles that came out, some on body language. I’m thinking, “That’s an odd post to publish on a social media tool site.” That’s exactly what they’re doing. Their guest posting was to gain visibility, and then creating these big hits was to earn their credibility.
Jerod Morris: The credibility — so the big sites would see the traffic and engagement, and then they would want the articles for their site?
Demian Farnworth: Exactly, right. Once you’ve increased your visibility and then established your credibility with these big hits, then you start making pitches to big publishers. You could potentially say, “Look, this 10 Simple Things You Can Do Today That Will Make You Happier — look how well it did on our site. How well do you think it’d do on your site?” Like Lifehacker, or Business Insider.
How to Write a Compelling Email to Pitch a Republished Article
Demian Farnworth: So that was their pitch to them. The email format is simple. It’s just a compliment about their site: “Hey, love your site. Love the work you guys do here. I wrote this post. This is what it’s about,” and then show references to other articles you’ve published so you’re validating what you do. Basically, for this email, the Buffer formula is appreciation, brevity, and then validation.
Jerod Morris: Is it hard to find the email addresses or contact information for big editors? Like Stefanie Flaxman: you can’t find her contact information anywhere.
Demian Farnworth: That’s a good question, because I think we all wonder, “These people are so unreachable and untouchable,” and in some cases they are. You have to dig, but I think for the most part, it’s pretty straightforward. Just go to the contact page, and look for the appropriate editor. Sometimes these names are in the masthead or the bloated footer at the bottom.
In my experience, I’ve found these people to be very, very responsive even if their answer is ‘no.’ They’re open to additional stuff. The thing, too, is, if you can’t find the contact information, track down someone who has guest posts for that particular site, and say, “Hey, I love your article that you posted on Lifehacker. How did you get that on there? What was the path that you took? Who did you talk to?” Start the conversation, and eventually ask them if you can have an introduction to the editor, which I found works, too. I got an invitation to talk to Sean Blanda at 99U. He’s their editor there. I went through Mark McGuinness, who had published stuff there, and I said, “Hey, how do I talk to these people?”
Jerod Morris: Clearly, the more direct contact information that you can get, the better. Even if all you can find is the general contact page or a support address, you can email that, too, because that happens with Copyblogger. People will email the support address or just send it to the general contact, and those eventually get routed to the editorial staff.
Demian Farnworth: Exactly.
Jerod Morris: It may take a little bit longer, and you could get filtered out, but it’s at least worth trying. Certainly, we had people — back when we were accepting unsolicited guest posts — that pitched us on that and went in through support. We would get them, but the more direct the better. Still, it’s worth at least trying a support or general contact form.
What You Need to Do So Google Won’t Punish You If You Republish Articles
Jerod Morris: What about SEO? We talked about this on the last episode when we were talking about LinkedIn. That’s always a concern, is that you’re going to republish this article on the other site, and if that’s a real big site — because you want to go up not down — if you’re on a site better than yours, it stands to reason that that post may then show up better in a search engine for that site. Of course, you’ve got canonical links and duplicate content, that kind of thing. What about the SEO impacts of this strategy?
Demian Farnworth: That’s a great concern, and that was my concern. I talked to Belle Beth Cooper. I interviewed her on Rough Draft about this topic, and I asked her. She told me the rule of thumb is to have a link back to the original article. Most big sites will do this for you — The Next Web, and Huffington Post will make a canonical URL for you. I’m not any sort of expert in this, but I’m told that the search engines can figure it out from there.
I received an interesting article that was written by Neil Patel last year, where he spoke about where he had a republishing strategy, and he got dinged through Panda, I think, on that because of the duplicate content issues. Clearly, he was republishing them on Inc., and Inc. was not putting the canonical URL in there. I’m not sure if they didn’t know that it was being republished, but I thought they might do it. It seems to me that they would automatically do it.
The thing is — ask. Make sure that that happens. I think most of those large sites know that that’s just part of the process. You do need to point out that the link back to the original article, even if it’s at the top of the article, will get little to no traffic.
Whether Content Syndication Traffic Is Any Good or Not
Demian Farnworth: I wrote an article for The Mention Blog. Shannon Byrne was my contact. And that article I wrote for her was 6 Ways to Use an Empathy Map to Get Sexier Headlines, and it ended up going on to The Next Web. On The Next Web, there was the page, and it had a link back to the original article, so I’m thinking I’d get a lot of traffic to that, but Shannon’s like, “No.”
Belle can confirm this. She wrote two huge, big hits, Belle Beth Cooper did. She wrote two big hits, and they ended up on these places like Lifehacker and even on Time magazine at one point. During my interview with her on Rough Draft, she mentioned that the secret to getting traffic back to your site is to leave one or two natural links in the actual article pointing to another article on your site. Those are the links that will drive traffic to your site. Does that make sense?
Jerod Morris: It does. It makes a lot of sense, because it doesn’t make sense that people would click a reference link to an article they’re already on, but they will click the link inside the article to read more, to dig deeper into a certain part of the article. The question I have is, is it good traffic?
Demian Farnworth: Yeah.
Jerod Morris: You can get clicks, but that can mean little if they don’t do anything or don’t engage.
Demian Farnworth: Exactly. It wasn’t when they were doing broad category topics. Buffer — to go back to your point, the one about happiness and the one about body language — when they were doing those, those audiences don’t care about social media tools. They actually very deliberately, Buffer, once they had gotten enough momentum, they backed away. If you go to their site now, they focus on social media. That’s what they focus on. They still do these giant, gargantuan posts, but they’re focused on social media, and it’s very targeted to that traffic because that’s exactly what they were finding. Lots of traffic, no conversions.
Jerod Morris: There was probably a benefit to doing those articles early on to build up their shares and their social media credibility with search engines and otherwise.
Demian Farnworth: Yeah, a lot of social proof stuff.
Jerod Morris: Yeah, social proof. But at some point, there’s probably a diminishing return of investing all that time to create an article good enough, so they decided to go more specific.
Demian Farnworth: Exactly.
Jerod Morris: Makes sense. You’re building your audience with a broad category, more general posts. Once you’ve got momentum, now you start narrowing it down so that you’re really targeting your customers. Like you said, it doesn’t really make sense for Buffer to invest all this time in a more general topic. They’ve gotten most of the benefits they can get from them now. Now it’s about grabbing people who might potentially become customers.
Demian Farnworth: Exactly. That’s why when you go to pitch these people, you’re only pitching your best work. Not every article you write is going to be appropriate, so you’re going to select something different for Lifehacker than you would for Business Insider, than, say, you would for the Huffington Post or any of these other sites that might republish or take content syndication.
Here’s something interesting: I mentioned that article that I wrote for Shannon Byrne at Mention, and it got picked up by The Next Web. I asked her how that happened. Because there was significant rush of Tweets that I got. My stream just blew up, and then some traffic. So I asked her, “How did you make that happen, because that was kind of fun?” She told me that they had a relationship with The Next Web already, which basically meant she emailed them every once in a while with a list of possible articles they might be interested in. In that particular batch, they liked mine and chose mine, and they republished my article.
Jerod Morris: How do those relationships develop?
How to Develop a Republishing Relationship with a Big Site
Demian Farnworth: Great question. “Introduce me to those people.”
There are a few ways to go about it, and one is to simply pitch them. Find the contact information, say, “Hey, do this.” If the accept one, they will more than likely tell you they’ll want more. I’ve seen that happen personally with Fast Company. In fact, they will probably tell you that even though they didn’t like your first pitch, to give it a second try. The thing is, these sites have such a high demand for content, and that’s why they’ve gone into this space of republishing content. They have a high demand and high need for it because they’re running five or six or seven different broad categories, so they’re publishing sometimes two or three times a day.
The other way though to form these relationships, is if a big publisher actually picks up your article, then follow up with them. This is what happened with Buffer. Time.com republished one of their posts, so Leo followed up and said, “Hey, thanks for doing that.” That’s always a great thing.
If someone picks up a post of yours without permission, don’t get upset. Don’t go try to sue them and get it taken down. Go and thank them, and then ask if you can develop the relationship into something more. A lot of times, these publishers are interested in that because they want somebody that’s proactive and who will say, “Hey, yeah. I will send you more content every week,” making your job easier. In some cases, they may even offer to take you on as a columnist. Once you’re this columnist, you don’t have to pitch anymore.
Jerod Morris: Any drawbacks or any other little potential pitfalls that people need to be on the lookout for?
Demian Farnworth: It just goes back to what we talked about, republishing articles on bigger sites. Remember, our rule of thumb is to go up the food chain. Shane Snow, the CEO at Contently, has a great comment on this in his article, The Ultimate Guide to Syndication in Licensed Content. Shane writes, “Most of the time, syndication just doesn’t make sense for free content. The one place it does work, however, is when one publication has a loyal audience that doesn’t overlap the smaller publication that produces specialized content.”
This is still Shane speaking: “People habitually visit only a handful of websites every day. Most popularly, search engines, portals, and social media sites. If a new site is lucky enough to have you as a loyal reader, it has an opportunity to show you content from other sites you might not frequent. If you’re a small publication or an individual blogger, you’ll likely want to be syndicated by one of those bigger sites.” He’s just confirming what we’ve been saying: go up the food chain.
In closing on this, in my conversation with Belle, she made a great point about, “You are the one trying to build credibility.” I asked her, “So, does it make any sense to go peer-to-peer or even syndicating everywhere is a good idea?” She said, “No, because it’s really about who you associate with.” If I’m associated with Time and Lifehacker and these big sites, that’s going to say a lot more about me than if I’m associated with Bob’s SEO Tool or JerrysFancyWhateverFamilySlideshowThing.com.
Jerod Morris: Yeah, no offense to Bob and Jerry.
Demian Farnworth: Yeah, exactly. Good sites, good guys, creating great content. Just not there yet. The company you keep says a lot about you, and that’s really what it’s about when it comes to content syndication.
Jerod Morris: You’re building credibility, and you’re giving yourself the chance to be exposed to potential audience members that you wouldn’t have a chance to be exposed to, perhaps, otherwise. Hopefully, if you are focused and choose well with the content that you syndicate, then the people who do end up coming back to your site, if you have a good strategy for allowing them to take the next step from reader to audience member, now you can grow your audience, grow your business in that way. Does that sum up the principles of what you’re trying to do?
Demian Farnworth: Exactly. Like we talked about, it’s guest posting on steroids. It’s the advantages of reaching a different, bigger audience without all the work that actually goes into guest posting. It’s a strategy. It’s one spoke in the wheel, so it’s not one that you would invest all your eggs in that one basket. It’s certainly one spoke in the wheel that is, I think, worth the time of exploring.
Jerod Morris: Good stuff, Demian.
Demian Farnworth: All right, man. Thank you.
Jerod Morris: I enjoyed this series. If anybody has any further questions about this whole idea of syndication that we’ve been talking about, feel free to send us a Tweet @jerodmorris, @demianfarnworth. We’d be happy to send you any resources or delve into it further if you have any additional questions.
Demian Farnworth: Yeah. If you know anything that I don’t know yet that’s been exposed about content syndication, feel free to share that, too. I’m always looking to learn more about this topic.
All right, man, good talking to you once again. What’s in the future for The Lede?
Jerod Morris: That’s a good question. We have a special episode planned that we’re going to record soon.
Demian Farnworth: A little bonus episode, right?
Jerod Morris: A little bonus episode. That’s a good question. We’ll have to sit down and decide that. I’d be interested to see, are there any topics or series the audience would be interested in? Tweet that too.
Demian Farnworth: Yeah, if you’ve got questions, topics you want us to tackle, maybe we’ll go down that route, too.
Jerod Morris: Maybe we just spend an entire episode writing and singing songs.
Demian Farnworth: That’s right. That’s right, man. I’m down for whatever.
Jerod Morris: I guess people will have to tune in next week and see what we decide on.
Demian Farnworth: Exactly. All right, buddy. Good talking to you.
Jerod Morris: All right, man.
Demian Farnworth: Take care, and everybody, thank you so much for listening. If you enjoy The Lede, if you enjoy the show, if you enjoy the content, the best way to support the show is to jump onto iTunes if you haven’t already. Leave us a comment. Leave us a rating and a review. We love to hear from you. We love your support. We love your feedback. Always looking to make this thing better, and we can’t do it without you. Thank you so much and appreciate you listening. Take care.
Jerod Morris: Mm-hmm.
Demian Farnworth: There you have it, folks. Three shows in the bag on content syndication: one on republishing articles on Medium, another show on republishing articles on LinkedIn, and one on republishing across the greater webosphere. Both Jerod and I hope you found this series helpful. Hopefully it tickled that itch, that content syndication itch. If you do decide to take the content syndication plunge, drop us a line, and let us know how it’s going. Tell us what you’ve learned, your discoveries, anything that we should be warned about.
As far as the future episodes of The Lede, I think Jerod and I have a few more debates up our sleeves, a few more hero-versus-villain episodes. Those are always good, so stay tuned, and until next time, take care.