Are backlinks in syndicated articles really counted?
October 28, 2008 • Glenn Murray
Article marketing, article PR, article submission, article distribution… Whatever you want to call it, it’s a great way to generate backlinks. But are those backlinks really of any use? I decided to find out.
For quite a few years now, I’ve been using article PR as a link building method. For an SEO copywriter, it was an obvious choice. (Why didn’t I get more heavily into blogging? That’s a post for another day.) And for me, it really paid off. I wrote a host of good quality articles about SEO copywriting and general copywriting, and posted them to virtually every article directory I could find. It took ages, but I got a lot of links out of it and, subsequently, a very high ranking.
So backlinks in syndicated articles definitely USED to be counted. (Assuming you wrote really good quality articles, that is.)
Over the last year or two, though, a lot of people have been saying that Google now discounts backlinks in syndicated articles because of the duplicate content filter (e.g. see point 5 in this CopyBlogger post – 5 Link Building Strategies That Work). For the most part, I’ve discounted this criticism. Partly because articles have worked so well for me. And partly because much of the criticism targets those who engage in article spam. I’ve never done that, and I agree that article spam is a waste of everyone’s time.
However, I’m now doing a major overhaul of my seo ebook, and I’m up to the chapter on article marketing. So I decided to really look into the matter. I did a lot of research online and had some interesting discussions with two SEOs I really look up to, Rob Adelman from Top Rankings (Twitter @toprankings) and Mark Vozzo – ex-Fairfax search guru, now consulting to Microsoft (Twitter @markvozzo).
And the short answer is Yes! Backlinks in syndicated articles ARE still counted.
The long answer? The duplicate content filter affects merely what is shown in the SERPs. Say Google sees two versions of your article. It doesn’t want to list both in the SERPs, ‘cos it’s really after variety for searchers. So it decides which is the original, and lists that one in the SERPs. The other one misses out. But that doesn’t mean the other one is ignored. If it contains links to your site (i.e. in the byline), Google still follows those links and they still contribute to your ranking.
How do I know? Matt Cutts said so:
“if you do syndicate content, make sure that you include a link to the original content. That will help ensure that the original content has more PageRank”
So, in fact, the duplicate content filter doesn’t have any impact on the value of backlinks from syndicated articles. It simply determines which version of the article appears in the SERPs. I’ve never cared much whether my articles appeared in the SERPs ‘cos I’ve written them primarily for the links, not the direct traffic. (That’s not to say I don’t care about the traffic. And in fact, new articles always bring me a lot of traffic. It’s just not always target market traffic.)
No, the real key to the value of backlinks in syndicated articles is still the site they appear on. If it’s a crap site, the links will be worth squat. If it’s a good site, they’ll be worth heaps. Sure, your articles will always appear on crap sites; you’re giving them away, after all! But who cares? Those links may not help much, but they certainly don’t hurt. More importantly, if you write great articles, they’ll appear on great sites, and that’s when you get some truly valuable backlinks.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying that article pr is the best/only way to generate links. Far from it. For me, it’s been great, but I have to say, I don’t do it much these days. Distribution takes too long. Also, I don’t like having all of my eggs in one basket. These days, I’m focussing more on the combination of link baiting and social media (i.e. having great content on my site, and making sure the right people know about it).
Have a great day!