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The SEO Benefits of Publishing on Sites Like LinkedIn and Medium

Search engine optimization and off-site publishing continues to be a subject of questions and debate. I went to HubSpot’s INBOUND conference in November, for example, and — during an expert presentation on LinkedIn that was otherwise very good — the speaker was momentarily stumped when asked if publishing on the platform would have a positive or negative effect on SEO for one’s own website. 

Do backlinks from social publishing platforms “count?”

Does republishing or syndicating content from one’s own blog to a third-party platform impact the value of both pieces of content through the dreaded effect of duplicate content? Is that a real thing?

Are you cannibalizing your own organic search power if you post on your blog and then compete against yourself by publishing something similar on another site? 

All good questions, and I’ve seen some people whose SEO opinions I respect struggle with the answers to these issues. 

Let’s try to provide some insight. 

Do backlinks from social publishing platforms “count?”

No. Well, sort of, but not really. It's complicated.

 “Social signals are a real — albeit minor  — factor in your search rankings,” Jayson DeMers of the Advanced Web Ranking blog writes. “All social media links themselves are nofollow links, which means Google doesn’t consider link authority to pass from them, but if someone shares an article directly from your site, that can measure as an indication to Google that the article is valuable or helpful.” So a link from LinkedIn or Facebook, for example, has value, but not the straightforward SEO value you’re really looking for from a backlink.

Let’s complicate this a little further: other self-publishing sites do carry value. A link from Medium or the Huffington Post will indeed count as an authoritative backlink.

"Looking at Medium specifically — those are dofollow links so those would provide value,” says Jordan Crawford, a digital marketing manager at Silverback Strategies. “But Twitter and LinkedIn and other traditional social media platforms are nofollow.” 

The answer here is pretty simple: it depends. You’ll have to do a bit of technical SEO work on the back end to determine if your long form social publishing will provide specific backlink value for your own website, or if you’re just passing the less-authoritative “signals.”

Does republishing or syndicating content from one’s own blog to a third-party platform impact the value of both pieces of content?

Web publishing would be a lot easier if you could treat it like the traditional publishing world: work really hard on one great article, get it published in a million newspapers or magazines, and poof! — you and your brand are household names. So easy! Sure, the percentage of people who can actually publish what they write in a vehicle for mass consumption is tiny, but still. 

Does republishing content impact the value of the original? The consensus is fairly clear on this one. Ha ha, no it’s not! It’s just as gray. In fact, Maddy Osman of Search Engine Journal published a post on this very topic last February, and the experts in the field are decidedly split. Ryan Battles implies that it won’t hurt the original if you post to LinkedIn and Medium. Andy Crestodina says it will. Neil Patel makes a suggestion that Google itself appears to contradict. Jennifer Slegg says it matters, but adds that really, it doesn’t. 

Going even further, in an article earlier this year, Daniel Threlfall mocked the idea that duplicate content was a bad thing and even laid out several reasons why it’s actually good. 

“The only downside of being flagged is that the duplicate page is removed from search results,” adds Carly Calhoon, SEO account manager at Silverback Strategies. “Depending on where crawlers find the content first, that may mean your site or the social media platform. If you're focused on branding, it doesn't matter where users find the content, as long as they do. Your content remains in search results, on your site, and on the social media site, which means more opportunities to generate impressions.” 

So what should we do? When possible, avoid publishing duplicate content. If you’re targeting a specific audience and you keep delivering them the same content, it’s going to get old fast, and everyone will see just how lazy you really are. It’s always a safe bet to make some appropriate changes to better fit the platform and the audience; the 2,500-word monster you publish on your business’s blog looks a lot less interesting when it shows up on Medium with “12 min read” next to it. It’s easy for your intended reader to skip ahead to the latest Ringer post about SNL skits instead. 

The definitive SEO impact is more vague, but you should still follow some basic best practices. 

“I think the key is getting your content out there and having crawlers crawl it first,” Carly says. “It doesn't guarantee anything, but it's one thing you can do to set you apart from the rest. Also, submit the page in Google Search Console to be crawled and wait for it to be indexed before posting elsewhere. Other factors, like authority, may impact which version ranks, but you don't have as much immediate control over that part. We can't say for sure, because Google isn't 100 percent clear on this.”

Are you cannibalizing your own organic search power if you post on your blog and then compete against yourself by publishing something similar on another site?

Rachel Wright at Bonfire Marketing says yes, you are. 

“As the search engine robots crawl the web and index pages, they will discover duplicate posts,” Wright notes. “Since LinkedIn likely sends stronger signals to the bots than your blog or site, search engines will show the LinkedIn post higher in search results. This will result in LinkedIn achieving more search traffic and backlinks than your own site. In turn, your site shows up lower in results. Meaning you could rank lower for any number of search phrases, and not just those used in your duplicate content.” 

While Wright is referring specifically to duplicate posts, it’s something to think about: what is your strategy for posting on your own blog, and posting on third-party sites? If you’re just bombing the same content out to every platform you can find in an effort to get eyeballs or build a brand, you may be working counterproductively (and, as previously mentioned, annoying the very people who could otherwise be your fans). 

Consider the value of every platform. What makes the most sense to post to LinkedIn? Medium? Facebook? Mix in multimedia, different angles and even separate topics. Knowing your audience and avoiding the shotgun approach is almost always the way to go. Otherwise, we’re back to that old-school, traditional approach we discussed at the top of this section — and you know what happened to those guys.

So — as we leave this discussion feeling a little battered and bruised — I would say that yes, there is real SEO value to publishing on third-party platforms and ample reason to make it part of your marketing and brand-building strategy. 

You can, in fact, earn backlink value from legitimate third-party publishers (guest posting isn’t dead!). Some quasi-social sites like Medium do provide backlink value. Qualified traffic that comes back to your site via links in your third-party post is a legitimate search signal

And, while you may fight your own blog content for niche topic position, you’re a.) still finding a way to get search eyeballs and b.) you’re not competing directly with the majority of your website’s keywords.