Syndicating content from other sources can be a boon for digital publishers. Having more content created elsewhere can reduce in-house content costs, keep on-site content fresh, increase reader engagement, and improve SEO. However, if not set up correctly, syndication can come with technical landmines that can hurt your business.
In this article, we’ll explore using WordPress plugins or custom solutions, and how syndication should be set up properly on your site when it comes to:
- Author attribution
- Duplicate content; and
How Plugins work in content syndication
A quick and easy way to get started
Syndication plugins serve as turnkey solutions that can seamlessly integrate into a WordPress site by leveraging inherent hooks and filters. Many plugins also introduce bespoke hooks, enhancing functionalities such as content manipulation or embedding distinct content formats.
Popular plugins like WP RSS Aggregator, which allows you to syndicate content from outside sources, can be a good choice for users who only have straightforward requirements and want to set up the system themselves.
As with all popular plugins, the advantage of using something like WP RSS Aggregator means it comes with a vast amount of community support, tutorials, forums and documentation. This makes troubleshooting easier as there are thousands of other users and developers familiar with it. Many plugins that have been in use for a while are also updated regularly with new features, security patches and performance improvements.
Drawbacks down the road
As easy as they are to use, plugins do have their limitations, especially when it comes to customisation. Their one-size-fits-all nature means that they may not cater to your unique business requirements, forcing you to make compromises.
In some cases, these plugins can begin to present issues when you are attempting to syndicate more advanced content sources, or want to apply greater business logic or transformations.
We have seen in certain circumstances that large volume workloads can cause server performance issues. This can result in problems with either the integrity of the content being syndicated or the site experience while the server is under high load.
In the event of such performance bottlenecks, you would be dependent on third-party developers for support. This means waiting for days or weeks or until the next update for your issue to be addressed.
If content syndication is mission-critical to your publishing operation, this is a risk you need to manage when using off-the-shelf tooling to syndicate content.
Leveraging WordPress to develop bespoke syndication systems
A custom solution can avoid the pitfalls of off-the-shelf plugins, but does require a larger upfront investment. Its benefits include being able to:
- Integrate seamlessly with your existing infrastructure without conflicts;
- Leverage specific performance optimisations such as database indexing, load balancing, or caching strategies;
- Granular control over how content is transformed and presented on your site;
- Avoid the risk and reliance of third-party maintenance;
As with all bespoke engineering initiatives, the investment in time and resources to produce the required systems is higher up front, but in most cases results in lower ongoing costs with maintenance and optimisations.
These investments have paid dividends for larger media sites where they have struggled with ineffective solutions, or have simply outgrown the systems that power their content syndication.
Ensuring content syndication operates correctly
Whether you choose to use plugins or go custom, here are the most common things we see done incorrectly.
1. Appropriate Author Attribution & Setup
Syndicated content often comes with its original author information, and integrating it correctly ensures credibility and transparency.
Configurations will have to be taken into account whether or not you’re going to be creating new authors on your website for the content you’re republishing, and depending on whether you use a plugin or custom solution.
Syndicated content can be mapped to existing users or new user profiles can be dynamically created in WordPress. Take care to avoid misattribution or duplicate author entries which can sometimes happen, and result in very time consuming remediation.
2. Schema Data, Duplicate Content, and Canonicalisation
Schema data is crucial for any site, and quite commonly automated using SEO plugins. Publishers can become unstuck when content is automatically syndicated and the schema data isn’t reviewed. This can include making references to the author, as discussed above.
Leveraging canonical tags can ensure that search engines understand that you are indeed pulling content from an external source. A common case is the canonicalisation of syndicated content from the same brand but in a different geographic region. It can often be the case that because you are transforming and localising the content, you can canonicalise to yourself.
More advanced integrations will leverage schema data, canonicalisation and hreflang tags to provide the most robust explanation to search engines how the content managed to get onto your site, without being penalised for duplicate content.
The Code Company is a team of engineers and strategists with vast experience in online publishing who have helped media owners worldwide to build, operate and monetise their digital publishing platforms. We can create or rebuild your website, re-platform or migrate your data, advise you on advertising and payment platforms, scale your website, and custom-build functionality—all by using WordPress best practices. Get in touch with us to find out how we can help you grow your business with extraordinary digital publishing.