Guard Your SEO: Are News Syndication Partners Hijacking Your Traffic?

In today's fiercely competitive digital marketing landscape, amplifying your brand’s voice is crucial. Paid news content syndication partners promise to help you achieve this goal, but what happens when these partnerships start eating into your traffic instead of boosting it? This comprehensive guide explores the complex terrain of paid news content syndication and its implications for your SEO strategy.

In this article we will discuss Paid News Content Syndication Partnerships, Challenge, SEO Best Practices. We will also analyze ​Yahoo News Content Syndication impact on traffic of their partners since Yahoo News is one of the biggest news content syndicators in the US.

Disclaimer: all the data used here in the analysis are public data based on Google rankings and has no private or Google Search Console data!

Scroll all the way down to view our analysis of the Yahoo News Syndication Top Impacted Sites

 

Check our Master News SEO Series

 

Grasping Paid News Content Syndication

News Content Syndication is when a news publisher syndicate their content with other syndication partners. Syndicated content is original content that is licensed to be republished by another publishers.  Many media companies, newspapers, and other publishers have active syndications deals with Yahoo News, Bing News and other syndication partners. It is one of the revenue sources many publishers utilize to help with the growing financial challenges publishers face. Most of these syndication paid deals are either full content syndication - which pays more - or condensed content.  

Paid news content syndication involves republishing your original content on third-party news aggregators and news websites, typically for a fee. These partners promise increased brand exposure, broader audience reach, and a boost in website traffic. However, with the benefits come some SEO challenges that need careful navigation.

 

Content Syndication SEO Challenges: Outranked by Partner Sites!? 

While it can be an effective way to generate additional revenue to the site, it could also backfire if SEO is not managed properly. The biggest SEO challenge when it comes to syndication is for the syndicated content to outrank original content, which means the loss of well deserved traffic to your original content site. Often, the higher authority site (which may not be your site) gets preference. In my opinion syndicated content should not get traffic unless if it is in different language or different countries (hreflang).

I have been raising my hand for awhile now about how syndicated content outranks original content for sometime - check SEJ article. This is a major pain for many publisher especially with Google promising that they elevated original reporting in search.

 

There are few reasons why this is happening: 

1. Canonical Tags are not as strong as we once thought: 

The use of canonical tags is one of the most effective ways to avoid potential duplicate content issues with syndicated content. The canonical tag tells search engines which version of the content is the 'original' or 'preferred' version. When syndicating your content, always include a canonical link pointing back to the original content on your website. This way, Google knows where the content originated, reducing indexing duplicate content. 

In theory this is how it should work but remember Canonical Tags are simply Hints, and not directives. Google can ignore canonical links at anytime and index other URLs. 

In a recent update, Google stated that Canonical Tags are not recommended for syndication, and the most effective way is to use NOINDEX to block indexing of your content. Same recommendation is listed in Google News Help Center.

The canonical link element is not recommended for those who wish to avoid duplication by syndication partners, because the pages are often very different. The most effective solution is for partners to block indexing of your content. For more, see Avoid article duplication in Google News, which also has advice about blocking syndicated content from Google Search.

In this light, it seems Google is not willing or can't accurately determine the original content and will continue to rank either syndicated content or both original and syndicated content on their News Surfaces like top stories and Google News. Canonical Tags seems to work best when it used to reference another URL on your site but not on different sites especially around news.

 

2. Speed Matters: When it comes to news, Google can't afford delay in surfacing new news articles or surfacing old articles. In other words Speed of Delivering News is more important than finding out the original source - at least in the first few hours of a new developing story. Don't get me wrong, I believe Google has many systems to find original content and ignoring duplicates but it may be much harder when it comes to news that you need to rank immediately. 

So when it comes to Ranking news in Top Stories (News Box) and Google News Surfaces, Google may not render the full article and may depend solely on the headline and other elements. It means Google will not be able to determine if this content is duplicate content as it didn't render the content yet.

Early this tear Gary Illyes from Google said that in some cases, Google may not fully render a page before showing it in Google Search or Google News. It depends on how timely that content is and how quickly Google needs to index and serve it in Google Search. That does not mean Google won't render the page fully, it will, eventually. But if a story is breaking and Google wants to show it in Google Search within minutes of the story being published, Google might have to come back later and fully render it later. Immediately,

it's a bit more subtle than "news doesn't render". when you need to index fast, you need to have tighter deadlines and that might mean, for example, that we end up with the raw HTML in serving for a few minutes. It she's eventually fixes itself, but still

— Gary Illyes (@methode) March 23, 2023

As Barry Adams stated in his Syndication Best Practices article "Google will simply crawl any new URL for an article published on a news site, and will index that article as-is so it can start ranking straight away."

It is very obvious sometimes when Google ranks the same article from AP News that is syndicated into many news sites all at once. In the screenshot below Google ranks the same exact article from 5 different sources.

 

3. Syndicating to Higher Authority Sites: I have seen many cases where Google ignores Canonical Tags for News Syndication when 1) the syndicating site has higher authority, 2) the syndicating site has higher authority on the topic, and/or 3) when the syndicated content is discovered and indexed first before your original content.

During my analysis of the data I found many cases where Google find both original and syndicated content almost at the same time but continue to rank Yahoo Syndicated content higher than original content. That tells me it is about the site authority.

Here is a a ranking timeline of NBC Sports article (https://www.nbcsports.com/chicago/cubs/dansby-swanson-leaves-cubs-game-v...) vs Yahoo syndicated article (https://sports.yahoo.com/amphtml/dansby-swanson-leaves-cubs-game-0154551...) for the keyword 'Dansby Swanson', you notice that Google kept switching the rankings every few minutes and then selected Yahoo Article to continue to rank for April 11, 12 and 13. If you look at top news sites for Sports in the US, you will find Yahoo ranks #5, while NBC Sports ranks #20. 

 

News Content Syndication SEO Best Practices:

Understanding these potential challenges and based on my past 25 years of experience, I recommend the following SEO practices to mitigate syndication risks:

Find the high resolution PDF here.

1. Use Canonical Tags: 

As I mentioned above Canonical Tags may not work for news articles. Still it is important to provide Google with all needed signals to determine original content especially when it starts rendering the content. It is also important for syndicated evergreen content. 

 

2. NOINDEX Syndicated Content

The official recommendation by Google and Google News is to block any syndicated content on other sites to avoid crawling that content. If the site on which you're syndicating your content is open to it, you can use a 'NOINDEX' meta tag on the syndicated version. This tells search engines not to index that page, thus eliminating any potential confusion about which is the original piece of content. While this is the most effective approach, In reality very few if any paid partner will agree to this, as it reduces their ability to rank with your content. 

 

3. Backlink to Original Content 

Implement "Originally Appeared on" in the beginning of the syndicated article linking back to the original article. It is just another hint to Google when they get to render the syndicated news content.

 

4. Get your content indexed first

Ensure your content is indexed by Google before syndicating it to other publishers. This helps Google understand that the original content came from your site. This will also allow your content to rank first in Google News surfaces.

In order to do that, you need to know how long it takes Google to discover and index your content first. Then you delay all content syndication for such period of time to ensure Google indexed and rendered your content. So if it takes Google 50-60 minutes to index your new published content, delay syndication by a couple of hours.

I have seen some syndication partners pay more money when content is syndicated immediately but this is a dangerous practice especially when syndicating your content to higher authority sites. Applying Syndication Delays is a good practice for all your syndication deals.

You can find out how long it takes Google to index your content by manually tracking Google News index for your newly published content for a period of time. 

At newzDash we have created a new automated way to track indexed content in Google News Index and calculating Publish-To-Index time to detrmine how long it takes

 

5. Syndicate Condensed Content instead of Full Content

Instead of syndicating the full article, you could provide an abbreviated version or summary of the content. This prevents complete duplication. This may not prevent high authority partners from outranking you as Google may have not rendered the content yet, but it will encourage readers to visit your site for the full story. Usually abbreviated content generates less revenue than full content syndication deals.

 

6. Use Alternate Headlines

If Google only ranks a news article based on the headline till they fully render the content. Unoptimized headlines - missing main entities and keywords - will not rank. You may choose top syndicate the social headline or a less optimized headline. While you may not be able to prevent Google from indexing syndicated content on partner's sites, you may be able to weaken the headline so it won't rank.

During the 2014 FIFA World Cup I used this tactic but in an opposite way; I used to syndicate content from higher authority sports sites that had bad headlines, I changed and optimize every headline and outranked them for all their original content!

 

7. Syndicate Selectively

You don’t have to syndicate every piece of content you create. For example don't syndicate Exclusive content, high CPM content, certain high revenue affiliate content, etc.

 

8. Be part of the legal agreement

Connect with your legal team and highlight the chal;lenges with syndicated content. Get your Business Development team support and calculate the revenue loss. Work with the legal team and agree on certain terms to be included in any syndication deal like NOINDEXC, Canonicals, Dofollow Backlinks, backlinks to original content, etc. 

Make sure your contract states that syndication partners don't remove your internal links, or at least keeps X number of internal links in the content.

Also make sure that all syndicated content is counted towards your traffic in ComScore, Nielsen and other audience measurements platforms. Include in the contract the usage of tags to credit your site with the views.

 

9. Monitor Your Syndicated Content Traffic

Regularly monitor how your syndicated content is performing. Compare average search traffic you get for articles that get syndicated to the ones that didn't within same categories. Also ask your partners to provide you with search visits to your syndicated content. It is a long shot as many partners will simply refuse.

 

10. Use the Publisher Center:

Most likely if you appear in Google News Surfaces you already have a Google’s Publisher Center account. It allows you to provide RSS feeds for all your content.

 

11. Regularly Audit Your Syndication Partners:

Conduct regular audits to ensure your syndication partners are adhering to your agreement, particularly concerning link attribution and canonical tags. 

 

How to measure the impact of syndication

Many SEOs will simply search for the exact title in Google and determine if their partners are outranking them or not. This is not a good way to determine so. When you search for a specific string of text like a title, Google simply lists all documents in their index that matches that string. It is no longer a regular search query but more or less a document search. Searching Google for an Associated Press title will display so many sites, AP is not one of the top 10!

Here is how I measure the impact of syndicated content on site traffic

Measure Traffic Impact of Syndicated Evergreen Content:

You can utilize SEMrush, Ahrefs or any other SEO tool to get the traffic for your pages and compare to the syndicated content traffic. You do this evaluation on few hundreds content pieces and you get a good idea how much traffic is hijacked by your syndication partners on average. This is not scientific by any means but it provides you with a number that you can later utilize to measure revenue loss.

An example: Here is an article originally published on one37pm.com and is syndicated on Yahoo.com. Utilizing SEMrush we can estimate that Yahoo get 25% of their traffic. 

 

 

Measure Traffic Impact of Syndicated News Content:

For news it is much harder, none of the traditional SEO tools will provide good data on Top Stories. Traditional SEO tools don't track trending news keyword rankings, they track top stories in full and at best track rankings once every few days. That's why NewzDash excel at tracking news as it is near-real time - every 15 minutes - and can provide accurate estimate of True News Search Visibility.

 

How to evaluate Paid Partnerships? Should you cancel Content Syndication Deals

At my last job we have done massive SEO evaluation of our evergreen content and measure how much traffic loss by syndicating content to paid partners. We calculate the revenue loss based on the estimated traffic loss numbers and CPMs for each site and compared it to how much revenue we generate from these syndication deals. It was clear to us that some of these deals are hurting us as we were losing more money than making from those deals. So we stopped 4 or 5 syndication deals.

Paid Syndication is simply a trade off between how much money you can generate on your site and how much money you make out of these deals.

 

Paid News Syndication Partnerships Analysis

It is no secret that Yahoo and Microsoft are two of the top paid news syndication partners in the US. In this analysis below I simply examine how much traffic Google sends to Yahoo vs Original Content sites. As I mentioned measuring News Syndication impact is extremely hard, that's why I am presenting this data. In no way this is a recommendation to cancel any deal, each publisher should evaluate the impact of syndication and determine if it is worth it.

Methodology

We have analyzed millions of records for top trending news keywords in the US in Google Mobile Search Top Stories module (News Box Carousel) for the first half of 2023 (Jan to June). We compared all exact match headlines appearing in top stories of all publishers in US to those appear in Yahoo in the same day. We didn't crawl the pages themselves but we have spot checked a ton of data to ensure it is the same exact content. That being said there is a margin of error due to this fact.

All data are directional and by no means it is 100% inclusive of all news trends or syndicated content. This simply a reflection of the data in our database and not the full Google ecosystem.

 

Here is what we found 

Top Sites by Number of Syndicated URLs

Analyzing the past 6 months data for ranked URLs in Google Mobile Search Top Stories we found that Yahoo syndicated content ranked for the most URLs from NBCsports, Reuters, APnews, and USAtoday.

 

Yahoo Average Ranking Position vs. Original Content Sites:

Analyzing the past 6 months data for ranked URLs in Google Mobile Search Top Stories we found that Yahoo on average outranks most URLs from AP news, Reuters, People, CBS News, USA today, FOX News. While AOL, Parade, MSN, ABC News (go.com) outranks Yahoo.

 

Yahoo Syndicated Content Traffic Share

Analyzing the past 6 months data for ranked URLs in Google Mobile Search Top Stories we found that for most of the sites Yahoo get's a good portion of the syndicated content traffic. To help you read the chart below, take AOL for example: Yahoo gets 82% of Google search traffic for all identified AOL syndicated articles into Yahoo. 

Our News Search Visibility is the share of traffic that a website receives from its rankings in Google Mobile Search Top Stories (News Box Carousel) for tracked news queries. We calculate our Search Visibility based on the performance of domain content rankings, ranking duration, and our CTR estimates. Our News Keywords are ever changing new trending news terms that are tracked every 15 minutes. We don't take search volume into consideration when calculating News Search Visibility.

Few notes:

  • MSN is another content syndication partner. Appearing here means both MSN and Yahoo syndicated content rank
  • The list below is ordered by the Yahoo Share of Traffic not by total traffic
  • Yahoo syndicated its content to AOL, so it is AOL getting 18% of Yahoo's original content 

 

 

 

Yahoo Syndicated Content Traffic Share

Analyzing the past 6 months data for ranked URLs in Google Mobile Search Top Stories we found that for most of the sites Yahoo get's most traffic for NBC Sports, AP News, Reuters, USA Today, and People.

As a Bubble Chart to reflect both Traffic Share and Total Traffic

Recommended Reading: https://www.seoforgooglenews.com/p/syndicated-content-seo

 

 

 

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