Content marketing syndication can be a great way to boost SEO and brand reach, but if it's not done properly search engines might penalize sites for duplicate content. SES New York experts weighed in on best practices.

Marketers looking to syndicate their content for maximum exposure should think twice: Experts at SESNY spoke about the risks – and rewards – of syndicating website content. While the strategy can be a great way to build brand authority, achieve SEO link building and extend content marketing reach, it must be done right to avoid duplicate content issues. Here’s an example speaker Jenny Halasz of JLH Marketing brought to the table about the potential problems with syndication:

An article was published in the New York Times (a controversial one in which a Goldman Sachhs employee resigned). It became a huge traffic driver, and was then picked up by the Huffington Post. Granted, the Huffington Post did not publish the article in full – and it linked to the NY Times piece. It ultimately received about 19,000 shared on the New York Times site compared to close to 2 million on the Huffington Post.

Halasz believes that this represents a problem for the New York Times since (she suggests) those social links are probably helping the Huffington Post more than the Huffington Post link is subsequent traffic is helping the New York Times.

Not all of the panelists agree, with some arguing that the traffic generated thanks to the excerpt approach to syndication is making it well worth the New York Time’s while.

But the issue of social power being given to syndicators instead of creators is one of many discussed issues with content marketing syndication strategies. The leading potential pitfalls of content syndication outlined by SESNY experts include:

Search engines might see the syndicated (or worse, original!) content as duplicate content

The syndicator might outrank the content creator

So why bother to do it? Eric Enge of Stone Temple SEO highlighted some of the reasons that content syndication done right can be a big boon for a business. The benefits include:

The practice can build relationships with publishers.

Syndication can help a brand (and/or key company figures) gain brand authority

It can build valuable site links.

Enge offered three potential strategies for content syndication to help ensure the best possible SEO and thought leadership marketing opportunities for your brand.

Strategy one: Syndicate a synopsis – not the whole article.

Enge explained that this approach only works if a brand’s content is authoritative. It has to offer the syndicating site value – as the New York Times article excerpt brought social visibility to the Huffington Post page.

Strategy two: Syndicate while using the rel-canonical tag.

To illustrate this strategy, Enge offered a case study of a small ecommerce site that syndicated its content on Amazon. He explained that this approach runs the risk that a search engine won’t agree that marketers are using the tag right, but the tag prevents duplicate content issues as the syndicating sites’ version of the content won’t be indexed. Nonetheless, these pages will pass link juice.

Using this strategy, the ecommerce site he studied successfully placed product pages in Amazon, increasing the exposure to the brand’s products, driving traffic and boosting its search ranking.

Strategy three: Guest posting.

Enge urges marketers who really want to spread brand content to consider creating original content for high-quality sites. This might involve allocating resources from current content writers or building a dedicated syndication team that creates unique content for other sites based on a brand’s existing knowledge. Guest posting is a strategy that offers brands a chance to develop links from high-quality sites.

Enge’s two tenets of creating content for guest posts are,  “adapts content for the sites using it” and “ensure the content brings real added value – it you try to create content for syndication that is crap, quality sites won’t take it.”

No matter the approach you take to content marketing syndication, the experts agree that investing in quality content is essential to success. As session speaker and self-declared search specialist Peter van der Graaf said, “Content can’t be cheap! Take time to write something unique for users, even if repurposing one idea for multiple pages.”

Avoiding duplicate content across the web is especially important in light of ongoing Google Panda updates that penalize sites for low-quality or unoriginal content. As Brafton reported, the recent Panda 3.3 update rolled out last month, and Matt Cutts has said an upcoming algorithmic tweak will put even MORE emphasis on content for search visibility.

Katherine Griwert is Brafton's Marketing Director. She's practiced content marketing, SEO and social marketing for over five years, and her enthusiasm for new media has even deeper roots. Katherine holds a degree in American Studies from Boston College, and her writing is featured in a number of web publications.