Commentary

Is Content Syndication The New SEO?

In a world with ad networks and exchanges, where companies are looking to aggregate content and audiences in scale, is the "destination" model still a valid business strategy? The largest destinations will continue to get significant share of media spend -- but for new content players, especially in the video category, syndication can be a critical element in getting scale -- arguably much more than SEO.  In fact, comScore's latest VideoMetrix rankings, released this week, show that online syndicators are creating scale and gaining traction in many categories.

Syndication is not a new concept.  It's historically been applied to the TV marketplace, where great content is syndicated to broadcasters and there is a share of revenue at the local and national levels. Personalities like Oprah, Dr. Phil and Dr. Oz all found their place in this market.  But the audience sizes here have to be huge to justify the infrastructure cost.  In the online world, the added benefit is the ability to syndicate in vertical audiences that aggregate more targeted audiences.   So if you can find enough skateboarding properties, and you have great skateboarding videos, you can syndicate to these sites and aggregate that audience for all the product marketers in that vertical.

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Ultimately, if you specialize in great content for a specific audience and cut deals with those who own audience, syndication is a win-win: audiences will want it and advertisers see great value in getting scale with their most enthusiastic and engaged consumers.

Syndication is not about fixed reach, it's about expandable reach.  Agency buyers need to understand the potential available and get experience with running campaigns here to understand the capacity of a content syndicator for their audience.  In a fixed destination, the metrics are more well understand around reach, but the metrics are now solved, with companies like comScore now measuring syndication companies and counting their full audience. 

Another issue has been confusion with ad networks. Content syndicators do sell across more than one site, but are very different from ad networks. Content syndication brings content and creates audience engagement and value rather than ad networks who rely on partners to bring both content and audience. Content syndicators can provide clear context with a guarantee of quality.  Instead of buying a square of real estate on a page, you're buying your ad against great content, served to an audience. With content syndication, advertisers have a guarantee of running with content they approve of and this is why it makes it more difficult.

So how do you as a media buyer effectively evaluate video content syndication companies?

1.    Quality of content: Content syndicators can be original producers, licensers, allow/not allow UGC.  Original producers have the most control over quality, but you need to decide if that's a priority for you. The quality of engagement metrics is key to deciding if that partner meets standards you want to reach for your brand. Companies that allow for high-volume content creation on a crowdsourced basis may not have quality control in place to pull content that may be offensive or have consistent quality levels across the board.

2.    Distribution quality: You can get views with all kinds of mechanisms, but what is the quality of the view? Are they selling content with sexy thumbnails but losing the audience after 10 seconds?  Auto-play vs. user-initiated streams?  Do they support AdSafe or DoubleVerify to ensure content is placed on the right kind of properties?

3.    Advertising features-enabled: What are the assets your brand wants to deliver: two minute video? A pre-roll with companion banner for call to action? Brand integration into the content experience itself? All of these are elements of an ad environment that can be molded to meet a brand's objectives. Content syndicators who know their vertical will be able to support key ad units that achieve high value in their category.

5 comments about "Is Content Syndication The New SEO?".
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  1. Jt Thayer from The Legacy Productions, LLC, September 21, 2011 at 1:41 p.m.

    this is a great article and it nails the issue. When YouTube is the second largest search engine, and producers are looking for new ways to monetize development and production of content, pre-paid syndications with guaranteed audience across narrowcast, web, mobile and connected TV platforms just makes good sense.

  2. Ashley Mackenzie from Base79, September 21, 2011 at 3:27 p.m.

    Great insights, Raj, thank you. In a search-environment, we see content as THE destination afterall this is really why the user is there in the first place. It used to be called an "appointment-to-view" in a linear TV world. The greater involvement with content a user has specifically requested results in lower drop-out and all round better results for advertisers as they are genuinely engaged. It is almost impossible for a 3rd party ad network to guarantee this quality as they are not controlling the content nor environment in which the content (ad or video) is being displayed.

  3. Matt Wright from Honed SEO, September 23, 2011 at 5:38 a.m.

    Raj,

    You're doing an INCREDIBLE job of taking video where the community is, but if you're suggesting that Healthination video content miraculously achieves organic search traffic without any optimisation then you bare no relevance in search results for your broadcasters or yourself.

    Syndication is hardly the new Search Engine Optimisation if the syndicated video doesn't appear in search.

    Yes syndication catches the emotional reference and the view counts from broadcaster audiences but the video is still not indexed as a video in search engines. I cannot visit a search engine do a relevant keyword search and then discover one of your videos on the Parade video channel.

    I'd love talking Video SEO, apologies if this comment comes across as strong.

  4. Raj Amin from HealthiNation, September 23, 2011 at 10:49 a.m.

    Thanks for the comments everyone! Matt - you are quite right. Glad you chimed in! In coming up with a catchy title, I in no way meant to say SEO for video isn't also critical. If all of my partners did employ great SEO techniques to surface my video, my numbers would likely be 5X higher! As you know most search engines did not even see video in search results a few years ago, and even now it is still a work in progress. Keep up the good work in video SEO and we'll all win even bigger as syndication and SEO together create the largest engaged audiences. I'd love to see some best practices published on this topic. best, Raj

  5. Matt Wright from Honed SEO, September 30, 2011 at 6:26 a.m.

    Thanks Raj. Great to hear back.

    Healthinutrition's syndication strategy is very inspiring. Back here in the UK there are regional online websites that are definately on the lookout for inventory to place branded content alongside.

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