Should Blogs Syndicate?

As a blogger, I’m continually facing the question of whether I should syndicate my content and how actively I should attempt to get it syndicated.  There are a lot of potential aggregators out there.  They have a lot of different practices.  My goals are to increase visibility and ultimately to build an active readership who will comment and participate in a discussion.  It’s really part of trying to Amplify Your Blogging.

Ardath Albee’s recent post Using Content for Inbound Marketing: Mine or Yours? talks to various pros and cons for syndication.  It raises a lot of very interesting questions about whether bloggers should syndicate.  Briefly, she lists the following:

Pros:

  • Exposure and Awareness
  • Reputation by Association
  • Reach
  • Increased Inbound Traffic

Cons:

  • Lost Traffic
  • No Updates
  • Dispersed Conversations
  • Lost Links
  • Ranking in search engines

I think that Ardath was being fairly diplomatic about the topic.  My personal belief is that choices made by aggregators have a big impact on whether it makes sense for you to syndicate your content.  Let’s examine that a bit.

Types of Aggregators and Syndication Choices

Essentially there are three kinds of aggregators.

  1. Editor-Driven: A human editor selects articles / posts for publication.
  2. Crowd-Driven: The selection of articles / posts is handled by a crowd of people as is done in social news sites such as Sphinn, Digg, Reddit, etc.
  3. Computer-Driven: The process is handled by an algorithm as happens in Google News.

Aggregators make the following syndication choices:

  • Full vs. Snippets – Does the aggregator make a full copy of the source article or only show a snippet?
  • Full Link – Does the aggregator include a link (not a nofollow link) back to the original source?
  • Title Used as Anchor Text – Does the aggregator use the original title as the anchor text in the link?  Some aggregators provide a link but use the anchor text of “Read Full Article” or “Original Post” – this hurts the original source from an SEO perspective.
  • Link to Publication/Blog – Does the aggregator also include a link to the blog or publication?
  • Commenting on Original Source – Does the aggregator create a competing place for comments or do they push to have comments back on the original source?

Aggregators certainly make different choices about these things.  Some aggregators, especially those that are editor-driven make choices that are less favorable to bloggers.  For example, Social Media Today (SMT) makes full copies of human selected articles.  These include a link to the original post, often with the anchor text as something like “original post”.  Because of this, some bloggers find that their original posts get beat out in Google search results by the equivalent post on SMT.   SMT also has commenting on their site.  Because editor-driven aggregators generally require greater effort they often attempt to keep traffic on their site in order to increase page views and grow subscribers.

Paper.li and Browse My Stuff are both computer and crowd-driven aggregators and have made choices that are more favorable to bloggers.  They only show snippets.  They provide full links back to the site.

If you go back and look at the cons associated with syndication on Ardath’s post, they are not associated with aggregators like Paper.li and BrowseMyStuff.

One Response to “Should Blogs Syndicate?”

  1. Ener Hax January 31, 2011 at 2:39 pm #

    i am going to be recalcitrant not because i am a dork but to assuage my concerns in participating in something like this (plus i’m french canadian and have a reputation to maintain!) =)

    for Ardath’s pros i will list my thoughts after each for you to address (if so inclined, do not feel you need to)

    Exposure and Awareness – my exposure has been established by having over 1,000 blog posts and a blogging frequency of about 1.3 posts per day – this falls inline with those older Technorati “online authority” statistics and after two years i have high awareness in the very niche community i blog toward. while an aggregator would get my posts in front of more people, they are not my audience and few would find value. just like i could spend $3 million for a SuperBowl commercial and have incredible traffic for a day, but so what

    Reputation by Association – how about reputation by merit? as indicated above, i have reached a certain level of online authority the old-fashioned way – by creating lots of content useful for my audience. to sound snobby, association with others would do more to dilute me than to build me up. i can’t think of anyone today that would add to my reputation in my niche. in other words, i have become an expert in my field – a true expert with a specific message that is unique. the “uniqueness” of my posts are what my readers have come to rely upon. they know that my posts are the “real me” and have come to trust that and to understand and benefit from my unique perspective

    Reach – a bit like awareness. a simple search within my niche finds me in the first page of search results. because my readers are somewhat “do-it-yourselfers” this helps qualify them for commenting that is more constructive than passive. i also enjoy great and effective reach via an organically grown twitter base

    Increased Inbound Traffic – my SEO is extremely high (per Hubspot) and considering how niche i am, being in the top 4% of all web traffic is sufficient. i don’t sell anything except free useful information and some levity

    i suppose my concern is that for the pros listed, this would benefit someone that does not have the extensive amount of content out there (including 11,000 Flickr images). i guess i look at them and think of someone looking for an easy way to get to where i am and frankly, there are no easy ways, it takes creating real content, real solutions, and real inspiration to achieve a certain level of online authority. an aggregator can help, but you ultimately have to pick up the ball (booyah! brought it full circle with that SuperBowl example!) =)

    as to the cons, i agree with your final sentence, your vision does not fit into those cons

    thanks for indulging my snarky response, it’s part of what i am online but i am curious as to the boat i have likely missed and am aware that my paradigm is flawed and far from perfect =)

Leave a Reply