A few years back, I read an article about how beneficial it was to allow other websites to publish your articles. You supposedly got free promotion for your site and gained links pointing to your site. During that time, there seemed to be a proliferation of places that would publish your articles for free, and places where you could submit your articles for publication. I was caught up in that fever in those years, and actually wound up having some of my early articles syndicated across the web. I have since stopped that practice, learning that it has its own problems as well as benefits. This article deals with some of the lessons I learnt from that period.
I do not deny that there are numerous benefits from syndicating your articles. The traditionally cited advantages are, in my experience, true.
When your articles are published by numerous websites and newsletters across the web, with your name or company's name displayed in the byline of those articles, one major benefit is that your (or your company's) name becomes well-known. So if visitors frequently come across your name when reading articles about (say) "mobile phones", in their minds, you will become an authority on that subject. The next time they encounter your recommendations, they are more likely to give it a higher regard.
In ages past, when I used to syndicate my articles, visitors would arrive at my site after having read those articles on other sites, hoping to find more articles relevant to them. Naturally, when you write articles, your byline should include your URL to take advantage of this.
Needless to say, your article also needs to have some substance of use to the visitor. An article that is an advertisement in disguise will probably not fool many people.
Google counts a site's importance by the number of links pointing to it. If your article is syndicated by many sites, the number of links pointing to your site will also increase (provided of course those sites publish your byline with a direct link to your site).
For more information on how Google ranks a website and how you can improve your ranking on Google, check out my other article on Google Search Engine Placement Tips at http://www.thesitewizard.com/archive/google.shtml.
If everything is as rosy as it seems above, why aren't more people syndicating their articles? There is, of course, a downside to syndicating your article.
Unless your article deals with a topic that is static and never changes, you will face the problem of your article becoming out-of-date as the years go by. Unfortunately, when you syndicate your article to other sites, you usually lose control over your article since it is typically hosted on someone else's website. In fact, if you're particularly successful in getting other sites to publish your article, your article may be on hundreds of websites across the Internet. You no longer have the freedom to simply edit the article to update it.
The problem with obsolescence is that instead of increasing brand-name awareness, those articles can damage your reputation, since when it becomes obsolete, knowledgeable people reading those old articles will get the impression that you don't know your stuff.
Another problem that I've encountered when syndicating articles is that the webmasters that publish your article sometimes feel that they have a right to edit your article, even if you have explicitly forbidden this in the licence that you issued them.
They may edit this to divide your article into many pages so that they can display more advertisements on your article; or they may change the links on your article to point to their affiliate links; or they may move your byline and URL to a common page for authors (negating the usefulness of your syndication in getting more visitors or search engine links); and so on.
The list of things webmasters do to articles submitted to them is very long.
In view of this, syndicating your articles is not a simple submit and forget process. You have to monitor what happens to your articles, deal with recalcitrant webmasters, and the like.
A related problem is when you submit certain articles for republication, but reserve others to be published only on your site. Some webmasters, having obtained one of your licensed re-publishable articles, don't bother to read the copyright and licence statements on the rest of your site and grab your other articles for republishing on their site. It seems that the moment you allow any of your articles to be republished, you have to be vigilant in policing the sites you submit to for infractions of this nature.
If your articles are the main content of your site, ie, your site exists for the sole purpose of publishing those articles, like thesitewizard.com does, then it is likely that your site derives its income directly or indirectly from those articles (such as from the advertising that is displayed on the same pages as the articles). By allowing other sites to publish those articles, you have in effect, worked for free to allow the other sites to earn their income.
Notice how I have qualified my statements above. I referred only to sites whose sole purpose are the articles they publish. Some sites publish articles to promote their main business, a product or service. For example, I have read numerous articles published by various web hosts about web hosting. Their main business is web hosting. The articles they write, whether they recommend their own company or not, are designed to ultimately promote their business of web hosting (even if it's just to increase brand-awareness). Such sites do not suffer from the disadvantage listed here.
Certain search engines, notably Google, frown on mirrors. Or perhaps more accurately, if it detects that a site is a mirror of another, it seems to give the mirror site a page rank of zero, resulting in the mirror site never showing up on the initial pages of a search.
When you distribute your articles for publication on the web, you're in effect mirroring your articles. If all your articles are mirrored on other sites, there is the danger that Google may decide that you are a mirror of those sites, and drop your site's page rank to zero. I have no idea if this has ever occurred to anyone as a result of syndicating their articles, but it seems to me the danger is real enough to be cautious about wildly syndicating all your site's content. It is possible that it will not occur if there are sufficient differences - but since I'm not sure about this, I have no intention of running the risk.
You should also beware of simply allowing anyone to re-publish your articles in their email newsletter. The problem is that if you do not know the person, and issue a licence to him/her, and that person publishes your article in a newsletter that later becomes the target of a spam complaint, your site might become associated with spam.
In spite of the long list of disadvantages listed above, certain sites benefit more from syndicating their articles than others.
As I have already mentioned above, if you are actually selling something on your site, whether it be goods or services, writing an article related to your product or service and syndicating it might perhaps bring more benefit to your business than harm.
For example, if you're a bicycle manufacturer, you might want to write an article on the features of a good bicycle. Your byline should include your website URL, but don't write your article as a blatant advertisement for your product. If your article appears somewhat neutral, some hobby sites would probably be willing to republish your article as a general article with tips on choosing bicycles. Visitors reading it might like it so much that they click your URL to check out your site.
On the other hand, if your site comprises mainly of your articles, you might prefer to have people visit your site directly for the content, and forgo the benefits of syndication. But of course your mileage may vary, according to how you actually go about doing this.
For example, let's say that you wish to syndicate a few lines from one of John Donne's poems. Normally you would have to write the following HTML fragment:
Others syndicating that article would simply include the following lines in their web pages to have your entire article appear when it is loaded. I'll assume (for the sake of this example) that you've saved the script above as "donne.js" and that your website is at http://your.domain.example.com.
The article is hosted on your own web space. You can thus update it any time you wish.
You avoid the problem of the other websites modifying your article without your consent.
The disadvantages are:
As you have probably realised by now, there's more than meets the eye to syndicating your articles than pure promotion of your website. I have attempted to give you an overview of the things I have discovered when I syndicated my articles some years back. However, ultimately, whether or not you wish to syndicate your articles and the method you use to do it would depend on what you consider more important and the nature of your site. In certain situations, article syndication can indeed boost your site's prominence and ratings as is frequently promised.
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