Search engine optimization and off-site publishing continues to be a topic of debate. We went to HubSpot’s INBOUND conference a couple years ago, for example, and — during an expert presentation on LinkedIn that was otherwise very good — the speaker was momentarily stumped when asked a question about LinkedIn SEO.
Does publishing content on LinkedIn, he was asked, have a positive or negative effect on SEO for one’s own website?
Time has passed, and the answers about the way LinkedIn or Medium or other quasi-social sites impact a brand's presence in organic search remain a little murky. For instance:
- Do back links from social publishing platforms to your website “count?”
- Does republishing or syndicating content from one’s own blog to a third-party platform like LinkedIn or Medium impact the value of both pieces through the dreaded effect of duplicate content? Is duplicate content even a real thing?
- Are you just cannibalizing your own organic search power if you post content on your blog and then publish something similar on another site?
All good questions, and I’ve seen some SEO experts whose opinions I respect struggle with the answers to these issues.
Let’s try to provide some insight.
Do backlinks from social publishing platforms “count?”
The answer is, it's complicated — SEO experts explain that it depends on where the backlink is from. For example, a backlink from a publisher like Medium or Huffington Post will provide SEO value, whereas a link from Facebook or LinkedIn will have "value," just not necessarily from a technical SEO perspective to purely increase a page’s linking authority.
“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, like we said, a link from LinkedIn or Facebook has value, but not the straightforward SEO value you’re really looking for from a backlink. Plus, the more eyeballs that see your shared content will naturally increase the chances of another site linking to it directly.
Self-publishing sites like Medium or the Huffington Post, however, 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 takeaway? 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.”
HACK UPDATE: There's a fellow named Chris Watson who posted on the EverSpark Interactive blog with a hack that allegedly creates do-follow backlinks from LinkedIn.
Basically, you go to your LinkedIn profile, click the little pencil in the right-hand corner to edit. Then:
- Find Contact Info, and click the little pencil to edit.
- In the section that reads Website URL, add the address of the page you want linked. "Generally, you’ll want to put your main company site as your main one," Chris writes. "However, if you want your profile to backlink to multiple sites — say, a portfolio, a company site and a personal site — you can do that."
"Now, Google knows to include these sites in your site’s backlink profile every time it is linked in a post on LinkedIn," he continues. "When you write an article with your website linked, it counts as a backlink."
So there you go.
Does republishing or syndicating content from one’s own blog to a third-party platform impact the value of both pieces of content?
Does republishing content impact the value of the original?
Unfortunately, the answer here isn’t crystal clear, and some experts have varying opinions on the best practices of republished content.
Ryan Battles implies that it (probably) won’t hurt the original if you post to LinkedIn and Medium. Andy Crestodina says it will, even when you try to spin an old post into a "new" one. Neil Patel suggests aggressive reposting, as long as publishers follow canonical rules.
So what's a content marketer to think? When in doubt, it’s best to try to go straight to the horse’s mouth to hear the answers directly from Google. In their General Search Guidelines, they’ve recently updated their section on duplicate content to try to quell any concerns about the notion of syndication:
“Syndicate carefully: If you syndicate your content on other sites, Google will always show the version we think is most appropriate for users in each given search, which may or may not be the version you'd prefer. However, it is helpful to ensure that each site on which your content is syndicated includes a link back to your original article. You can also ask those who use your syndicated material to use the noindex meta tag to prevent search engines from indexing their version of the content.”
What does this tell us? Google certainly understands that content may be well-served to be republished or syndicated at times. There is a certain level of trust we put in them to credit the original source of that content, whether that is our own site or otherwise, and rank it accordingly in search results. And while we don’t necessarily have the option of adding a noindex or canonical tag to our content on a platform like LinkedIn, including a natural backlink at the end of a post to our content is a great way to further suggest the original source.
So what should we do?
- When possible, be careful about publishing duplicate content. If you’re targeting a specific audience and you keep delivering them the same content across platforms, it can get old fast, and you run the risk of oversaturating or fatiguing your readers.
- Consider search intent. You can use search intent to understand why people are landing on your posts on your site. 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 something that’s a little less of a commitment.
Write original posts for platforms like LinkedIn and Medium that best fit the audience and the environment using the same notes you created to write that big blog post.
And — as Andy Crestodina says — avoid "spinning" content. That's the practice of taking a piece you wrote once and trying to change out enough content to fool Google. Google isn't easily fooled, gang.
Are you competing against Medium or LinkedIn SEO when you publish the same content (or very similar) on your own site?
It’s possible, but not very likely. Going back to the point above, Google actively tries to determine original content vs. republished content. And outside of trying to repurpose some of the existing content to game the system, trusting Google’s crawlers enough should allow for the original content to have the most organic visibility. We’ll place an emphasis on should, because the crawlers are unfortunately never 100% accurate with how they process information.
However, there are a few quick steps to be taken to help ensure we’re sending all the right signals to Google to process and index our content correctly. According to John Espirian, “You can republish your content as soon as the original is indexed in Google. That used to take weeks but now it might take just hours.” What do those steps include to make sure we are looking to expedite this process as much as possible? John says:
1. Publish your content on your blog first. Doing this means that Google and other search engines see the source of the content and give that credit to your website rather to LinkedIn.
2. Index your content via Google Search Console. This means that your content appears in the Google search index in a matter of hours rather than days. Search Console features a newish URL Inspection tool that allows you to plug in any URL that’s currently live on your site. Even if a new blog post is a mere minutes old, you’re able to pull its status in Google’s index, and if it’s not currently in there, request that Google considers it right away.
Note: this works for new URLs as well as pages already indexed, that you may have recently updated or refreshed
3. Publish the content on LinkedIn or Medium. Even though Google should be smart enough to detect which is the original source of the content (your website/blog, because that’s where you published first), it doesn’t hurt to end your republished article with some text that points back to the original content on your site.
Content and SEO have a strong but complicated relationship.
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 LinkedIn or other third-party post is a legitimate SEO signal.
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