Content syndication isn’t new. It’s been around in some shape or fashion since the early days of the internet, and is now amplified through social media channels where brands freely share blogs and articles. What many PR practitioners may not realize is that there is much more behind a successful content syndication strategy than just sharing free content online.
Essentially, content syndication involves republishing content such as a blog or video across third-party sites. Syndication can mean many things including paid promotions, organic social media, email marketing or republishing content on free blogging sites. Republishing content across multiple channels provides access to a bigger audience, helping increase your website’s SEO, brand awareness and more.
When discussing syndication, most practitioners are referring to the paid aspect of syndication on sites such as Taboola, PulsePoint, Outbrain or Zemanta. Typically, these ads fall into the category of “native ads” and look like they are part of the website or publisher content. This is an important distinction because studies show that consumers look at native ads 53 percent more frequently than display ads — the flashy, spammy side banners that appear on 99 percent of websites.
By using paid syndication platforms, PR practitioners can start telling their story to an audience that was once hard to reach through traditional methods. Instead of pitching an idea for a reporter to conceptualize and publish, we can create, own and broadcast our client’s stories and tell them the way we want them to be told.
Sound daunting? Actually, it’s quite easy. Once you have produced the content like a video, blog, infographic or photo montage, choose a syndication site that works best for your needs and budget. For example, paid syndication site Zemanta/Outbrain is user friendly and offers ways to customize ads based on your content and goals. With tools like this, you can create a video for your brand and share it with the world without picking up the phone or checking your inbox.
Paid syndication platforms also offer multiple targeting capabilities, allowing you to reach sites within certain industries like health or business, or reach people within certain geographic locations. Some even offer the option to target specific websites or publisher groups, although those options tend to increase the cost of a campaign.
What does it look like?
Imagine you’re reading an article on CNN, and as you reach the bottom of the page, you notice a suggested article that catches your eye. It doesn’t look like an ad. In fact, it just looks like another article on CNN. It may be the photo, or perhaps the headline, but you’re eager to read all about it. Once you click on it, you’re taken to another site to read the article.
How much does it cost?
The best part about content syndication is that it’s highly cost-effective. Most paid syndication platforms can generate a high number of impressions for less than 50 cents per click — and sometimes far less if the content is highly enticing. Some platforms have minimum spends, and others don’t, but an ideal budget can be anywhere from $200 to $1,000 per month to promote content, although you can add several different pieces of content in one campaign. Testing multiple headlines, images and audiences, you can quickly analyze what’s working or what’s not, and make adjustments accordingly.
But there are also “free” syndication platforms such as Medium, LinkedIn Pulse, Buzzfeed and Slideshare, where republishing content is welcomed. Free syndication has the benefit of leveraging another platform’s traffic, but targeting options may be limited and there’s no guarantee of visibility. Since many others are publishing content on these free platforms, brands could be left fighting for user attention in the news feed or among similar articles. But free is free, so it’s still a recommended strategy to see if it works for your brand’s content. You can still leverage stories published on free platforms through a sound social media strategy.
When choosing paid or free syndication, keep in mind it works best when targeting a broad audience and not specific audiences. For more advanced targeting, Google Adwords and social media advertising are still the best and most cost-effective advertising options. When utilized correctly, all forms of syndication can play well together, helping increase your content’s visibility substantially.
Whether you choose a free, paid or traditional approach, don’t turn down the opportunity to leverage syndication to share your brand’s story.
Michelle Olson, APR, is a 32-year PR veteran who has stayed on top of emerging trends in the industry and who regularly syndicates content for clients. She’s a director on the PRSA National Board of Directors and heads the Scottsdale, Ariz., office of Fingerpaint, a New-York-based integrated marketing firm.