This is an issue I have been grappling with for a while: should I let other websites publish my posts on their site?
What about SEO and duplicate content? Will Google freak out? Will readers get annoyed when they see the same post in multiple places? Will I be losing blog traffic? Will I be making other people money at my own expense? Will it affect my blog’s ranking?
On the other hand, will I be getting great exposure? Will I have access to thousands of other readers who wouldn’t normally come across my work? Is this actually the big break I am looking for?
The answer is: I don’t know.
I recently found this article by Kathryn Rose, where she discusses the topic of duplicate content, along with something called rel:canonical tags (which I’d really like to more about if anyone can translate), but the article focuses on when you guest post on someone else’s blog, and then republish on your own.
My specific question is whether I should let other sites republished my content. Do the pros outweigh the cons, especially for new writers, and are there circumstances when it is a bad idea?
In January 2013, iVillage Australia (23,000 Facebook likes) asked to republish ‘A Letter of Apology to my Middle Child’. I agreed on the basis that they were a respected Australian site with a decent following. It was the first time one of my posts had been republished and I was pretty flattered: apparently the editor followed my blog Relentless. Shortly after they asked to republish The Brutal Truth About the Third Child but at the time I refused, since that single post was bringing in about half my blog traffic.
Nothing much happened for a year, then suddenly in February 2014 I had multiple requests to republish The Brutal Truth About the Third Child. First was the UK site Best Daily (31,000 Facebook likes), then came the US site Scary Mommy (164,000 Facebook Likes), the Australian site Mamamia (123,000 Facebook Likes) and finally News.Com.Au (113,000 Facebook likes).
These are big sites, and have brought me an enormous amount of exposure.
Scary Mommy recorded over 1 million shares of my article in the first week, with the editor Jill Smokler saying that only 6 or 7 posts published on her site have ever recorded those sorts of numbers. My Facebook followers have tripled over the past couple of weeks, and Relentless (and this blog) is seeing a lot of traffic coming from these sites.
So I think the first point to make is that compared to my modest number of followers, these sites are massive. The exposure alone is worth the price of possible issues with ranking (though I doubt my ranking was that impressive to start with). So while it would make little sense to allow a site with a smaller fan base than your original blog to republish a post, there are plenty of benefits of being republished on a much larger site.
What about money you say? Those sites earn money from advertising, and people reading your article are probably earning them money.
True. Sort of. In the case of Scary Mommy, Jill puts her money where her mouth is, and Scary Mommy Nation raises money to help feed families who are in need of support. I’m happy to donate my words to an awesome cause like that.
The other sites are commercial, and yes, in a roundabout way my post might be making them a (tiny) bit of money. But I made the decision long ago not to monetise Relentless (maybe it is a decision I will regret) so every time someone clicks on Mamamia and not Relentless, it is not as though I am losing money I would otherwise make.
What about duplicate content?
I’m still scratching my head over this one, because Brutal Truth has now been published on three major sites in three different countries, in addition to my original Blogspot post. That means there are four sets of identical information out there (actually, the version on Best Daily isn’t identical – they wanted me to cut it down to 500 words, an impossible task considering the original is 1,900. We settled on 1,200 words).
So far Google hasn’t seemed to spit the dummy, but what will happen if it does? When you Google ‘The Brutal Truth About the Third Child’ the original blog still comes out on top, closely followed by Mamamia. Scary Mommy had the decency to change the title of the post so that I wouldn’t lose my original traffic, and Best Daily also changed it considerably. Mamamia didn’t change the title of the post, even though I asked them to, and I suspect with their followers it’s likely it will overtake Relentless on the rankings soon enough.
I have also decided that enough is enough, and I will have to say no to future requests to republish The Brutal Truth. It’s out there now, it’s a bit like a mogwai that got fed and now is a gremlin, threatening to take everything else over. I would like to see some of my other babies get some attention.
Another thing I didn’t plan for once the post was republished on big sites, was smaller sites then duplicating their content, with or without my permission. I have found brutalised versions of The Brutal Truth, chopped and edited to pieces, without my name or blog mentioned anywhere. Needless to say, I have written some strongly worded letters asking them to cease and desist.
So what are lessons I have learned from this, and should you let other sites duplicate your content?
I think for someone in my position, the answer is an overwhelming yes.
I wasn’t make any money from the post anyway, so it’s no issue that commercial sites might be making a few dollars from my post. (It would be nice though, if I could cash in on my own success though.)
The enormous number of new readers is something I could never have hoped to achieve from my own modest blog, and it means that my writing – and my name – have now been seen by millions of readers that otherwise would never have stumbled across Relentless.
I have seen a boost in my Facebook followers and my blog readers.
Finally, I would like to think it paves the way for me to approach these sites (and others) with original work in the future, and hopefully negotiate a payment for new work. Which (I sometimes need to remind myself) is the whole reason for me being here.
What are your thoughts on having similar stories published on multiple sites? Is it annoying? Is it dangerous?