Archive for November 2011

Is Article Syndication White Hat?

Article Marketing or Syndication is the process of trying to get your content republished on other websites for the purpose of getting exposure and building links.

I've been meaning to write this article ever since the article marketing product 'Article Samurai,' from the same company that makes Market Samurai, came out. More recently, I've been involved in an extensive discussion, in the comments of an article on SEO myths, about whether article syndication is a good way to build links.

There's a range of article marketing techniques that span from the very low quality to the higher quality. A point that was raised in the article and discussion mentioned above is that article syndication on quality sites is a good way to get your content distributed to targeted readers, which I don't dispute.

The focus of this article is with using article syndication as a link building technique for SEO.

There's actually two questions here;

  1. Is article syndication/marketing white hat?
  2. Is article syndication/marketing effective?
While the second question is certainly important, I'm actually more concerned with the first question as I'm looking for long term value and techniques that are not white hat will decrease in value over time as the Search Engines improve their algorithms.

Editorial Links

My main problem with article syndication is that it doesn't produce truly editorial links but rather value exchange links. Those re-publishing the articles are doing so, at least partly, because they benefit from having the content on their site, not because they think its great content.

However, it's not as straightforward as this. Some low quality sites will publish syndicated articles to their own sites with very little editorial scrutiny - these are certainly at the low quality/spammy end of the spectrum. But what about sites that only pick the very best articles to re-publish? It would seem that this is certainly an editorial process and therefore the links back should be given value by the search engines.

It seems like a difficult issue to make a decision on but I think that while the links produced are editorial to some degree, they are still value exchange links and therefore shouldn't be given as much link value as a true editorial link which makes the technique not entirely white hat. That's not to say that its black hat... I would categorise it as a grey hat technique.

In the following video, Matt Cutts talks about article marketing and syndication and he doesn't come right out and say that its a black hat technique. I think this is because he also recognises that if there's an editorial process and the articles are being published on good quality sites then the links do have some value as an indicator that the original content is authoritative.

He concludes the video by saying that the trend is that article syndication is a bad technique and that the resulting links should be devalued. There's also a great video by Rand from SEOmoz on this subject. Rand's video deals more with the lower quality end of the spectrum, but I think he agrees overall that no article syndication is entirely white hat and he then brings up the subject of opportunity cost.

Opportunity Cost
I think there's no doubt that article syndication can be an effective link building technique, especially if done in a higher quality way. But, if you're spending time on a technique that's not white hat then you know that the effectiveness of that technique is probably doing to decrease over time. You could be spending that time on white hat techniques which will have more of a long term value.

Many of the tools in the SEO's arsenal are not strictly white hat. The reason we use them is because they do have some value now so they'll produce positive results in the short term and because they're easier, quicker and cheaper to do than truly white hat techniques.

Do you do Article Syndication? Do you think its white hat?

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