I have been publishing 10 local news sites for inner city Melbourne for several months now. The local news sites aggregate posts from over 300 contributing sites, collectively syndicate over 5000 posts and new posts are being added nearly every day. To help explain how the syndication strategy works I have prepared this diagram. It illustrates the flow of content out of a contributing site to the local news sites and the links that flow back to the contributing site.
Blogs that would benefit from adding suburb data
Below are examples of Melbourne blogs that contain content with strong location relevance, yet which do not use suburb tags. I have contacted the publishers of these sites offering to include them in the 10 Melbourne local news sites, but none have responded. These sites and many other would benefit from adding suburb metadata and having their content syndicated.
1001 Dinners 1001 Nights is a restaurant review blog. Authors Elliot and Sandra are prolific and dedicated reviewers who prepare detailed posts and include a lot of photos but use no labels on their blogger hosted site. Consequently, finding a review of a restaurant near where you live, or of a particular style, is difficult.
I op therefore I am is a collaborative blog about op shopping in Melbourne that also has no suburb data, despite an external spreadsheet of addresses being provided and this data being mapped on an external map. Posts like this one could be tagged with multiple suburb labels: Sandringham, Moorabbin, Oakleigh. There are many posts for the areas covered by the 10 local news sites.
Sarah Cooks is a cooking and restaurant review site. Sarah’s recent reviews of Monsieur Truffe, Cibi and Koliba could be syndicated in the Collingwood local news sites with the simple addition of a Collingwood label.
Melbourne Fashionista is powered by a self hosted WordPress installation and such sites tend to be published by more technically competent people, as it is more difficult to manage than a free hosted site at WordPress.com or Blogger. Nonetheless it does not use its built in categories or tags to provide suburb metadata for its fashion stories.
How suburb metadata and syndication help Google give you more traffic
Suburb labels would make these sites more useful and easier to navigate, and it would also improve Google’s ability to index them. The more data you give Google, the more it can find your posts and include them in search results.
The addition of suburb metadata would also enable posts from these sites to be syndicated in the 10 Melbourne local news sites. By having post syndicated on other sites, blogs gain additional direct and indirect traffic. The direct traffic (from the sites) will be modest but the indirect traffic (from the resulting increased Google search rank) can be significant.
Syndication builds links to your site. The more excerpts you have syndicated elsewhere, the more links you build to your site. Google uses incoming links to your site to rank the relevance of your site in search results. The more your work is syndicated elsewhere, the more search traffic will be sent to your site.
Responses from contributors: good, bad and indifferent
When I comment on a blog or email a blogger to invite them to participate and I get a positive response I am always pleased. Many are reporting increased traffic and increased comments as a result of having their content syndicated in the sites.
I get a negative response sometimes from people who do not understand the concept and who are suspicious of my motives. They usually have not bothered to read the explanation I have provided and assume I am trying to exploit their work.
The 10 Melbourne local news sites are designed to provide a valuable (but free) search engine optimisation (SEO) service to Melbourne bloggers. The sites are carefully designed not to exploit their contributors.
Once I explain the concept again bloggers are usually accepting of the idea, want to contribute and are even surprised that I am delivering this service for nothing. I’m not asking for the same degree of goodwill that I am offering others, but I do appreciate the concept being properly understood.
Even worse than the negative suspicion is when I contact experienced Melbourne bloggers and receive no response. It’s difficult to convey goodwill simply by writing an email. When I get no response I assume this means the recipient either does not understand the concept, does not care or does not think they will benefit from contributing.
Entrepreneurial bloggers can’t afford to be ignorant about how the internet works
Many Melbourne bloggers are becoming more entrepreneurial and are starting to include advertising on their sites, and it is in their interest to maximise their search engine optimisation and traffic. Some bloggers want to convert their subject matter expertise into a content publishing business, and they want to make money from their work.
The system I have built appeals directly to entrepreneurial bloggers who publish location related content. Basically, more syndication = more Google search rank = more traffic. More traffic for sites with advertising driven business models = more income.
I have to keep the message simple. My explanation about increasing the utility of information for audiences and questioning the effectiveness of the advertising business model usually bores or confuses people. The moment I discuss positioning my work as a bad competitor designed to deliberately disrupt established media strategies people glaze over.
Even if you don’t (want to or plan to) make money from your site, you will benefit from the search engine optimisation the local sites deliver. Most bloggers are motivated by influence, and the increased traffic (and comments) they receive from participating motivates them to continue publishing.