Reaching new networks by syndicating content: a data driven analysis
LinkedIn is enjoying something of a renaissance thanks to its mobile app and content platform called Pulse.
Pulse allows anyone with a LinkedIn account to publish blog-like posts. These are shared with their network and promoted via Pulse’s newsfeed on both the app and website.
LinkedIn makes it incredibly easy for anyone to publish content. In fact it is so easy that much of the content is noise and spam.
You don’t have to look hard to find places to share content with new networks.
Twitter has a content platform that works in a similar way to Pulse called Medium. Google+ and Facebook also allow users to share long form content with their networks.
There are also communities in almost every niche where you can syndicate content in a bid to reach new audiences. In the public relations sector there’s the CIPR Conversation.
In the last month or so I have been thinking about the value of these different ways of sharing content versus owned blogs.
First rule of content publishing
I’d advise any individual and organisation to publish their content on an owned property in the first instance.
This could be via a blog or a website. You should not rely on a third-party platform or service.
There are two reasons: first, keep the search engine optimisation (SEO) benefit of publishing content to yourself; and second, you have limited, if any, control of your content once it has been published.
When I publish content on my own website I get the SEO benefit, I can track how people interact, I can edit, I can back-up, and I have complete confidence in the continuity of service.
New audiences, networks and publics
Third party platforms have value in extending the reach of your content to discover and engage with new audiences, or publics.
There’s also a question of formality. I use Facebook and Twitter to think out loud. These are virtual sandboxes. My community typically responds noisily and informally whenever I propose a hypothesis.
By contrast, engagement on LinkedIn and Google+ tends to be more formal and considered. Therein lies a useful lesson in itself.
An experiment in syndication
As an experiment I’ve shared eight blog posts over the last 50 days on both my personal blog and LinkedIn.
My experiment examined my owned blog and LinkedIn. You can review the results of my experiment for yourself in this spreadsheet.
I’ve established an audience for my personal blog over the last two years since joining Ketchum and leaving behind the two agencies that I co-founded.
This network is strong, connected by a shared passion for the future of public relations via an email database and Twitter. Each post receives around 1,000 hits, 100 shares, and a handful of comments.
The performance of the same content on LinkedIn in terms of both hits and engagement has been surprising. Posts have received an average of 400 hits, and 40 likes, and typically many more comments than my blog.
Furthermore this week I’ve met with both a prospect and potential vendor who have engaged with my content on LinkedIn.
The content posted on my blog is also syndicated via a RSS feed with the CIPR Conversation. No analytics are available from the CIPR although I have a rudimentary understanding of how content is shared thanks to Twitter engagement and occasional comments.
The data tells a very clear story. There is huge value is sharing content with different networks.
Respect for Google
No analysis of content syndication would be complete without deference to Google.
The search giant is brutally clear about penalising the SEO-benefit of duplicate content. It regards it as spam and will penalise your domain by removing it from search results.
There are a number of ways that you can indicate your preferred domain to Google.
Syndicate with care, use Google Webmaster tools, tailor content for different platforms, and link back from syndicated platforms to the original owned-source.
If you’re unsure there’s a helpful primer on duplicate content in Google Webmaster tools.
In the coming months I’m planning to experiment with Medium as a syndication platform, as I have done with LinkedIn.
In the meantime I’d love to hear about your experience and view of content syndication and owned websites versus third-party platforms.