How Timing of Link Attribution Affects Syndication and Search Results

I read a couple of days ago an interesting post by Bill Hartzer regarding the time it takes for link attribution to take effect on an almost dead website, that receives a high pagerank inbound link.

This is also something that affects bloggers who syndicate their content, and anyone undertaking article marketing.

New Terms

Article or blog post titles are effectively “new terms” to the search engines, in a very similar way to the names of hot new products, for instance “Day Job Killer“.

What normally happens for a specific new term is that the top of the Google search results are in a constant state of flux, with newly discovered information on more trusted domains garnering the top spots.

Thus if you publish a blog post, and it gets syndicated, quoted by others, appears on a social bookmarking site, etc, then there is a high chance that a few days after you published, even for a specific title, you will be nowhere in sight in the search results unless your own website has enough authority to retain a spot near the top, or gets indexed quickly.


For your original title to bubble to the top, the search engines generally need some help, and you can help your content do this:-

  • On your own site by ensuring your content doesn’t get buried in your archives. 2 clicks from the front page is good, 3 clicks is pretty much the limit
  • Within the syndicated content by ensuring that the syndicated content has a link back to your original content
  • Gaining deep links from other websites to your content – I am not going to write a guide on linkbaiting

Chicken and Egg Situation

Very much like I described with the Wikipedia Nofollow situation, and correct attribution, if you don’t have links back to your original content from what is syndicated, or if other websites write about what you discovered, and don’t link back to you as a source, there is no path for the search engines to follow.

Even if you do have links back to you, that doesn’t mean that a few hours, or even a few days after you publish the story, that you will rank highly as being the original source, unless you have a huge amount of authority, or an insane amount of links coming in from authority sources. In fact the last bit is speculation – there might be a certain threshold of links that can tip the balance earlier than the 5 days from Bill Hartzer’s experiment.

Blog Syndication Example

A few days ago I had an exclusive story regarding coComment Technorati integration. I had all the details because I was involved with the original suggestion, and it is so powerful, as I am sure the people whose blogs I comment at must be realising, that it will eventually become a huge benefit to a lot of people.

I thought the story was good enough to spend some time with presentation, lots of screenshots and even adding a few financial details at the end to please technology bloggers.

I then dropped an email to Pete Cashmore at Mashable, because I knew he had covered coComment in the past, and always attributes the original source. It also wasn’t the first time I had contact with him, because I once pipped him on an upgrade to Pageflakes by a few minutes, he left a friendly comment, so I knew he was approachable.
Pete included a post about coComment later in the day.

Paul O’Flahery also wrote about coComment linking through to me, and even kindly Digged the story.

So lets take a look at the search results for “cocomment technorati” after a couple of days.

technorati cocomment

Some notes in addition to the dialogue I have in the screenshot:-

  • Whilst Mashable didn’t break the story, they currently have much more authority than me, and it is also likely that the search engines discovered the story on their site first.
  • The Money Blogs probably has a similar authority to my own, but might have the edge on age of the domain, as I have only been up and running for 3 months here (though the 2 redirects I have from old sites might also give some age authority)
  • The first mention of Paul’s original post in the Google SERPs is on the 3rd page – it just happens to be one of his tag pages ;)
  • I have written about the Rojo Splog situation in the past.

I don’t expect that particular result to bubble up above Mashable, although changing the title of the page, and tweaking a few more things here will certainly help. Lots of links to it will probably help as well but that is never something you can count on but are always appreciated.

Article Syndication Examples

In my fairly recent post describing my article marketing tactics, and how mass distribution of articles still works, I highlighted an article and how it currently appears in the search results. A couple of weeks later things have moved around a fair bit in Google.

Google Lifelong Customers

In some ways as I mentioned in my article marketing post, I didn’t do things correctly with that article, as I didn’t have a link back to the source. It took a while for the article to bubble to the top, and to be honest I am surprised it did, and it is mainly because of the emphasis I place on distributing my google juice within my site with links to older content, and my extensive use of tagging.

I recently wrote a second article to act as an introduction to article marketing, and in a way to dispel some of the FUD I read frequently about spinning articles for better backlinks from “unique” content. In many ways spinning multiple versions of an article can be harmful, because then you are syndicating unique variations of the original, and you need a link back to your original to have any chance of bubbling to the top.

Articles Are Seeds of Knowledge

You will notice that after a couple of weeks it is securely holding top spot. Part of the reason is the more content I build around a single subject, the more it reinforces itself with the deep linking I use in the posts, and with my tagging.
Also of huge importance is that I linked back to where the article was posted on my blog from the author credits, thus helping the search engines to quickly work out the origin.

One thing I don’t do as well as I possibly could is titles – I think too much like an SEO rather than a marketer at times, but that might work against me. The more people read an article, the higher chance for distribution, and the more chance I will gain additional reader of a particular post here on my blog, and again get links and comments. Hopefully Michel Fortin is going to class that article worthy of a headline makeover after his generous recent offer.

Alex, a new reader actually proved my article marketing strategy much better than I ever could. The owner of an article directory is a very good target audience for a lot of people, and there are thousands of people running article directories, or feeding articles to blogs. They read articles, and often visit the sites of the authors.
Alex proved that today by visiting here, and commenting:-

Absolutely agree that articles are seeds of knowledge. I run my own article directory and during the process of approving new articles often catch myself in deep reading of different subjects that in other way I would never look for.
Thanks for your good site.

There was recently quite a lot of discussion within the Bumpzee community regarding followable links from the syndicated content. Mark wanted his content to rank on his blog, there was a long discussion on Vlads blog, and Dane picked it up in a discussion on Bupzee.

This post in part is intended to demonstrate how syndication can work. The search engines do eventually work things out. Syndication mostly doesn’t hurt how your content ranks long-term, as long as you have a link back to the source.
If you don’t have a link back to the source, it takes much longer for your content to bubble to the top, and it will only do that if your archives have more juice than the archives on the syndication site.
If you have a brand new site, and a PR10 site links to you and somehow ranks for your domain name for the next 6 months, be glad, because whilst you might be losing out on your domain name, you are also benefiting overall. To counteract that, if a few other sites also link to you, the search engines will work things out much faster.
In addition, on syndication sites content normally gets buried very fast, in the same way as content can get buried quickly on poorly optimized blogs.

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  1. says

    Andy thanks for mentioning and most important for contributing to the discussion on my blog. I actually planing to recommend you and things you do to my readers in more coherent fashion (this may take long time :) ). Thanks again!

  2. says

    you have more faith in search engines than i do, or more faith in you ability to rank than I do ;-)

    fascinating article. thanks for the mention

  3. says

    btw, I noticed your creative use of nofollow here. Like you nofollow the huge “anybeal” go home link on every page and the subscribe buttons etc.

    any rhyme or reason?

    If you have explained it already in your archives just point me a link.

    I think maybe I’ll try the nofollow on my subscribe buttons etc. no need to pass link love along to that.

  4. says

    All types of reasons for all kinds of things
    On linking structure, I suppose these 2 posts cover a lot

    On this blog I am doing things differently to what is recommended in Revenge of the Mininet because I like experimenting, and also because of relevance and a few things I have noted about tags.

    For info on the subscribe buttons

    I am probably going to create a version of Sociable 2.0 with real dynamic links rather than using nofollow and make it available for download tomorrow if you care to wait. I didn’t manage to persuade the author to include nofollow.

  5. says

    thanks for the pointers, I’m new around here so i need to be caught up…..

    nofollow an dpink boxes makes too much sense ;-)

  6. says

    I’m interested in that plugin, Andy.

    I’ve long thought that there is too much emphasis on SERPs position. I understand the reasoning and the rationality behind it, but it’s sort of like making the bible so important you forget about god, to use a religious metaphor.

    It is also important to note that the almost manic emphasis we have on SERPs flies in the face of most basic marketing principles such as “People don’t want drills, they want holes”. Really, if all we wanted were SERPs then optimizing out pages for “kjadsfhbdakjghsdf” would be an excellent strategy.

    However the point is that when we say we want SERPs what we really want is traffic (and that could go through this process a couple more times at least). So when we step back and look at things a little more closely, most of the time we are going to see that popular sites outranking us in the SERPs actually will bring us much more traffic than we would ever have gotten having the SERPs to ourselves; Provided that these sites link to us as the source.

    For one of my recent posts no fewer than three social networks and your blog were outranking me for a search on the title of the post. However, I can’t find a single keyword tool that suggests anyone has ever searched for that title, and I’ve received traffic from all of these sources that outrank me. Trafic I would not have received from that SERP.

    As I said before, and will happily say again, They can have the SERP every time if it means a net increase in traffic (and targeted traffic at that, and targeted, referred traffic to boot) for me.

    Now the one caveat to all of this, as you pointed out, the site that’s outranking you must be pointing to you as the source for all of this to work out.

    I’m getting ready to launch a new internet marketing related blog. One of the things I will be doing with that blog is releasing my content under a Creative Commons “Attribute” license. Which means that people can take the content from that blog and repost it, alter it, make it theirs, repackage and sell it, whatever they want, with the single requirement that they attribute the blog post as the original source. I’ll be adding some language to the license to control the method and text of the attributions, but it should foster reuse and lead to a lot of deep back links from sources that I fully hope out rank me in the SERPs.

    This comment is getting nearly as long as the original post, but one final thought I have for people who might be concerned about this “problem”. I saw BUMPzee in the serps in a few searches I had done, but it was not until I saw a reference to them from a trusted source that I signed up. If that trusted source had out ranked them on some of those searches i might have visited and registered sooner.

  7. says

    I am just using GPL for all my content. It is not highly specific about what classes as attribution, but I seem to have always gained some kind of link from it. I hint strongly with the author box. Feel free to use and abuse it ;)

    Of all the widgets I have added to this blog, Bumpzee has proven to be my biggest loss of traffic though many of the clicks out may already be subscribers.
    People have to leave in one direction or another, plus with tabs, it might not be an exit anyway.

    But I am sure Bumpzee has widened my reach and I have gained subscribers.

    Also it seems a good time to develop a “Bumpzee culture” – the more readers I have who frequent Bumpzee, the more chance I have of rising above the surface when I write good material, unlike Digg where it is almost impossible to gain traction. That is a long uphill battle. Stumbleupon might be easier and is something I intend to highlight more here soon.

  8. says

    I’ve just recently installed the stumble extension in firefoax and started playing with it. I haven’t really gotten a feel for it yet since so far the community seems to be completely hidden behind the toolbar.