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Is Buying Syndicated Content Worth the Price?

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Content Marketing is something most marketers are well aware of and are, or want to be, doing. For those who haven’t yet begun, getting started can be a daunting undertaking. It’s human nature to look for shortcuts.

From time to time, clients ask me about purchasing “syndicated” content. There are various agencies and services out there that provide pre-written articles specific to various industries. Content can be purchased (or, more accurately, “licensed”) for your specific use, such as blog posts, email blasts, or even printed newsletters.

Before signing up for a service like this, the most important question to ask, first, is what do you hope to achieve? Usually, when I ask our accounting, financial, legal and A/E/C clients to answer this question, their reasons are one or more of the following:

  1. “We hope to improve our SEO rankings.”
  2. “Our competitors are blogging (or sending out email newsletters, or posting to social media, etc.) so we want to keep up.”
  3. “We need to be seen as expert thought leaders in our field.”
  4. “We want to stay top-of-mind with our clients.”

Unfortunately, purchasing canned content really does not solve any of the 4 goals listed above. Here’s why:

SEO-Unfriendly

Think about it. When you enter keywords into Google, what happens? Google’s algorithms search the web for pages that include those words. But if you purchased that content, chances are others have as well. So how will Google know which page to rank higher? Good question. Luckily, Google has made their feelings on syndicated content very clear. Google doesn’t like it. You can read Google’s explanation of Duplicate Content yourself here.

When Google sees “substantive blocks of [duplicative] content within or across domains” it sends up a red flag. Google is concerned when “content is deliberately duplicated across domains” as this can “result in a poor user experience, when a visitor sees substantially the same content repeated within a set of search results.”

These sentences are most important: “In the rare cases in which Google perceives that duplicate content may be shown with intent to manipulate our rankings and deceive our users, we’ll also make appropriate adjustments in the indexing and ranking of the sites involved. As a result, the ranking of the site may suffer, or the site might be removed entirely from the Google index, in which case it will no longer appear in search results.”

So yes, there is a chance that Google will penalize you for posting content that is duplicative. And that is, of course, the opposite of what anyone hopes to achieve with SEO.

Keeping Up with the Joneses

It’s always difficult to hear a client say something like “I just read a great article by [insert a competitor’s name here] and wondered if you knew anything about that?” Or, worse yet, to find out that a client went to a competitor for work they just didn’t know you also offered. It’s important to let your clients know your areas of expertise. Cross-selling is a natural benefit of content marketing, as it helps clients think of you for more than the one or two services they may only have used you for to date. But syndicated content is generally pretty general. It lacks the focus that makes it especially interesting to your clients. It can’t be unique to you, simply because it’s not. Chances are, that really interesting article by your competitor was really interesting because it was different in some way. Maybe it talked about a specific problem and solution, or perhaps it told an insightful case story. Maybe it shared some knowledge specific to a geographic area, or offered insight on a new technology or cost saving method available to the industry.

Keeping up with your competitors is important. However, if no one reads your content, it’s a waste of time and money. Today, we are inundated with content. There is a huge supply that far outreaches demand. Generic content that can be found on dozens of other websites no longer has value and will generally be deleted from email or ignored on blogs and social feeds.

Thought Leader or Follower?

How can you be a thought leader if the content you are presenting is not original, and not new? Even if you write on a subject that has been written about before, you can put your own spin on it, look at it from a different angle, or apply it to your specific market. Syndicated content does none of the above.

Top of Mind, for the Right Reasons

Staying top-of-mind with clients is vital. But doing so, for the right reasons, is paramount. No one enjoys receiving old news, especially multiple times. Content marketing is a chance to build a relationship as well as build your brand. The words you share need to be in your voice, your style, about things of interest to your clients. We all want to see our LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and e-newsletter followers increase. Your clients and prospects are people, just like you. Think about the blogs you read and why you choose them over others. Chances are they are written in a unique way, on topics that are of specific interest to you, that help you do your job better, or make you laugh, or teach you something new.

There’s No Easy Button

The real reason why people consider purchasing canned content is because writing is hard. It takes time. And coming up with ideas—especially new ideas—takes creativity.

Long story short, as hard as it is to write original content, in the long run it pays in so many ways. Original content leads to improved SEO rankings, awareness by the media which garners speaking engagements and quotes in the press, recognition by your clients, and eventually, hopefully, new business revenue.

There are ways to create original content that are not that painful (really!) and can actually be enjoyable, once you get in the habit. Of course, you can also hire a writer to help you create content that is tied more closely to your firm’s services, and is written in a style that reinforces your brand messaging.


Vanessa’s article first appeared in SMPS Boston’s Outlook, October 14, 2015.