Content syndication involves republishing content that you’ve originally posted on your own site to other platforms. You’re hoping to maximize the leverage of each piece of content you create to achieve the widest distribution possible.
Is this a good idea? A few years ago, the answer would be no, mainly due to Google’s dislike of duplicate content.
These days, it can be an extremely smart tactic if executed properly. In this episode, we talk about the technical and strategic aspects of effective content syndication to enhance your marketing.
On the flip side, we talk about content syndication’s silly cousin – digital sharecropping. That’s where you post your content first and foremost on a platform you don’t own or control.
I give some recent and historical reasons why you should be wary of digital sharecropping, even if you see some big name “influencer” doing it. While ease of use and the magical word “free” might tempt you, remember this truism:
“If you’re not paying, you’re not the customer; you’re the product.”
The Show Notes
- 255,262 Views on LinkedIn in 30 Days: Here’s Everything I’ve Learned
- Basecamp Moved Their Blog to Medium; But You Probably Shouldn't
- Rate and Review Unemployable on iTunes
Is Content Syndication Smart?
Voiceover: Welcome to Unemployable, the show for people who can get a job, they’re just not inclined to take one — and that’s putting it gently. If you’re a freelancer or solopreneur, Unemployable is the place to get actionable advice for growing your business, improving your processes, and enjoying greater freedom day to day. To get the full experience, register at no charge at Unemployable.com. You’ll get access to upcoming webinars and more. That’s Unemployable.com.
Brian Clark: Hey there, Everyone, welcome to Unemployable. I'm your host Brian Clark, and this is actually the season finale of Unemployable. Our first season started about the middle of the summer and we're going to wrap it up here just before the holidays. Take a little bit of time off, come back in 2016 with a new format and a whole bunch of really great stuff for you. We'll talk a little bit about that at the end of the episode, so stick around for that.
For our last show, I thought we would end with a listener question. We've got one from Mark. Let's take a listen to what he's asking, because it's a great question.
Is Syndicating Content on Medium Ever a Good Idea?
Mark: Hey, Brian, Mark from Toronto here. I manage content marketing for an SaaS company. Recently, I've seen a lot of people talking about syndicating content to Medium. In fact, the folks over at 37Signals recently moved their Signal vs Noise blog over to Medium and posted about why they did it.
I know you're not a fan of building somebody else's website, something you've mentioned many times before. But it seems like there might be some upside here in terms of getting additional visibility for your content that comes from participating on the Medium platform. Plus, my SEO colleagues tell me that as long as the piece gets indexed by Google on your own site first, you won't run into any duplicate content issues as Google is now smart enough to figure out what's going on.
So, I'm curious what your thoughts are on this and if syndicating content in Medium is something that you would ever consider. Thanks.
Brian Clark: Okay, Mark. Excellent. That’s an excellent question. When we talk about this thing called content marketing, creating valuable content to build an audience that builds our business, it really boils down to two things: creating content and then finding distribution for that content, getting exposure from the people that we're trying to reach.
So, you really brought up two things there. You brought up content syndication, which we'll define as the duplicate publication of content that you've already published on your own site, on your own home base. And then you also mentioned something that Basecamp did recently, which was move over to Medium completely, which is a different thing I call “digital sharecropping.” So, let's talk about these things separately because I think there's an important distinction here.
Syndication, yes, I'm not currently really doing any myself. I had actually planned to start on LinkedIn, not Medium. Although I have nothing against syndicating on Medium, I just was thinking that LinkedIn was the better platform to repurpose some of my older material. It's sitting out there, it's been published and working for me for years, why not dust it off, update it and syndicate it. So, I am definitely down with that.
In the show notes, I've got an article written by Greg Ciotti, who had some amazing results by syndicating on LinkedIn. Something like 250,000 views in the first 30 days of taking his existing content and republishing it on LinkedIn's publishing platform that they've launched, I think it was just this last year. And just amazing results. This is from content that he's already created, that he got the benefit from the first time and now, he's putting it to work for him again.
I just think it's a smart idea, again, as long as you understand what syndication means. And I think you do Mark, because you mentioned about Google understanding where the original article was. That is true.
So, let me tell you something that we're actually doing as an example of this. Obviously, we have Copyblogger, that's our big platform. It has the largest audience. We've also just recently launched Digital Commerce Institute. And a couple of components there — the Academy is our online training program and the Summit will be a live event coming in October.
We're going to start a podcast off of DCI. We're going to publish articles and other content like that as well. But obviously, that is a new site. It doesn't have a built in audience other than the paying members in Academy. So, what to do about that to get some traction, to get some distributions?
What we're going to do is publish on DCI first and then we're going to syndicate on Copyblogger to the broader audience. Now, what we're doing to make sure that Google understands where the original article is to help build up this new domain, we use what's called a canonical link. And all that is is a link pointing toward the original article that effectively tells Google, “Hey, this is a copy of this, but that piece over there is original.”
So, we're going to point from Copyblogger back to DCI instead of the other way around, so that Google realizes that this original content that got some great distribution from Copyblogger actually was originally published here. And of course, at that point, we could also republish on Medium. We could republish on LinkedIn, whatever the case may be.
You mentioned that Google is better at determining the original source. They are. I still wouldn't do it without using a canonical link to point back at the original to the extent you can do that. I don't think you can do that on LinkedIn. But if you're publishing, for example, on another site, it's a really simple thing to do.
For example, our Genesis framework has a field where you just paste in the link. The Rainmaker Platform has the same thing. Otherwise, you have to get into the code and embed the canonical link, which can be kind of a pain, but it's not that big a deal. So, content syndication, yes.
Now, let's talk about what Basecamp actually did by moving to Medium. Again, this is what we call digital sharecropping, which is you are publishing on someone else's land. You do not own it, you do not control it, but for whatever reason, you think that this is a better option for you.
So, in the article explaining why they made the move, they used to be 37Signals, they’re now called Basecamp. They certainly could build their own CMS I guess, but they don't want to do that. So, they decided, “Why not use something great that our buddy over here, Ev, has put together and just do that?”
The thing I want to talk about in particular here, first of all, is when you see big names doing things like this, don't let it influence you. Make your own decision. I get people saying, “Well, I saw Seth Godin did a course on Udemy, and Basecamp is now on Medium. Maybe I should do that.” Hey, guess what? You're not Seth Godin, you're not the guys over at Basecamp. Neither am I, but I've got enough reach to know that influencers get sweetheart deal offers all the time.
These platforms dream of getting a Seth Godin or a Basecamp on their platform. So, do you think it's just some decision? They woke up one day and said, “Hey, let's move over to Medium?” I don't have the inside scoop here, but my guess is that's not the case.
There is a better deal for high profile, high audience people for these platforms than for just people coming in off the streets. So, don't be fooled by that. Make your own decision, because you're not getting the same deal as they are, and that changes the dynamic greatly.
Finally, on this whole ease of use issue, I get that. But moving your blog to Medium is not the answer. And here's why: this is why we created the Rainmaker Platform, because a lot of people will say, “Well, why don't you just use WordPress?” And for tons of people, like 25% of the Internet, that is a great solution, but it's definitely a DIY thing. You've got to maintain it, you've got to make sure it stays secure. You've got to update your plugins, you've got to put it together in the first place. It is a build your own type thing.
That's great for hands-on type people, but we realized very early on that most people are not like that. So, we've been working since 2008 to make WordPress easier for content creators and business people. So, if you're not ready for something like the Rainmaker Platform, look at Squarespace, same thing. Upstream HubSpot was designed for the enterprise or the mid-level company that can afford that type of solution.
So, you're saying, “But those things cost money.” That's right. And that's really the gist of the matter here. And I get the attraction, “Oh, this is beautiful and it's easy to use and it's free.” The best example I can give you of why that's a bad idea is Posterous. This was a very similar publishing platform several years ago. A lot of big bloggers started talking about moving over. Some actually did. And I'm just sitting there shaking my head. This is not something I would ever do, obviously, even without knowing what happened.
But what did happen? Posterous was acquired and shut down. Now, how do you feel about that decision? It's just a bad move, because you don't control it.
People are like, “Well, wait a minute, Brian, Medium is much more solid than Posterous and they're not going away.” Okay, well, so was Facebook. That was the rationale behind people ditching their websites and going to Facebook pages, building an audience over there, and then what happened? The bait and switch happened to where you have to now pay to reach your own audience.
Look at the business model. If it's free, they have to make money somehow. That means the deal is going to change eventually, even if they don't go out of business or get acquired and shut down. So, look at the business model. When you're paying Squarespace or HubSpot or Rainmaker, that is the transaction. That is the deal. You know what's happening. You're paying this amount of money to get this kind of value in service. It's very transparent.
Just remember, if you're not paying, you're not the customer, you're the product. Just be careful out there. Control your own content assets. I've said it, I don't know, a decade now. But I think it's interesting. I saw the comments in the Basecamp post and a lot of the people were like, “Ah, this isn't a good idea at all.”
I think people get it now. That the Silicon Valley bait and switch, it's going to happen. You're not in control. They don't care about you ultimately. The sweetheart deals they pass out to the big boys are not what you're getting. So be careful.
Okay. As I mentioned, this is the last episode of this first season of Unemployable. It's been a blast. I love doing this show, which means I'm going to continue doing it. I did experiment quite a bit. We've done solo shows with just me. We've done interview shows, we've done Q&A shows like this one. And I enjoy doing all of them.
But it did give me some freedom to figure out: what does this look like going forward? Yes, there has been a little bit of inconsistency as I got busy and whatnot — that will be corrected with a rock solid production schedule in 2016. But I think a lot of that had to do with not knowing exactly which format for the show that I preferred. So, it is going to be a mix of things, but it's going to be fairly stable and predictable in its consistency going into next year.
I'd like to thank all of you for all the wonderful reviews over at iTunes. The emails that I've gotten, the social media mentions that say, “I think I'm unemployable.” I love this kind of stuff. It really is great stuff.
But, most of all, I like seeing that someone got a new idea or got on the right track, or whatever the case may be, thanks to my silly little podcast. I really appreciate you being here and listening. I hope you'll stick around with me. For next year, I think it's going to take it up a level or two. And I'm looking forward to that.
If you've got some downtime, obviously enjoy the holidays. If you want to head over to iTunes and leave a review for the show, much appreciated. It really does help. But other than that, all I can say is enjoy the holidays, have fun, relax. Think about next year, get ready, get rest.
We're going to get back together in 2016, and keep going. Take care, everyone.