Ecommerce Content Syndication: Frequently Asked Questions

Here’s where you’ll find answers to the most commonly asked questions about ecommerce content syndication. If you would like additional information about content syndication, please let us know. We’ll track down answers to your syndication questions and post them here.

About content creation and assembly:

What types of content can be syndicated?

While each syndicator offers its own proprietary tools and each retailer has its own rules governing the types of content it accepts, you can generally syndicate the following types of content: product descriptions, product and lifestyle images, interactive product tours, 360-degree product tours, product videos, product specs, and product and installation manuals.

Who produces content for syndication?

The quick answer is that you are responsible for producing most of the content assets, such as product descriptions, images, videos, 360-degree tours, product manuals, and installation guides. Syndicators either offer a do-it-yourself tool with which you can assemble the content for syndication (Easy2 and Webcollage provide this), or assemble the content for you (SellPoint and CNET do this). Most syndicators also offer limited content creation services for some of the assets (check with each syndicator for details), but for the most part, you are responsible for either producing your content assets in-house or outsourcing their production.

What are the advantages, if any, of allowing syndicators to produce and/or assemble product detail content?

The obvious advantage to handing over your content pieces to a syndicator for assembly, or contracting with them to produce your content, is simplicity–you don’t have to bother with it. But the real question to ask is this: Does your syndicator know your product or your brand like you do? Is your syndicator in the business of content production, or syndication?

If you decide to use a syndicator’s content services, make certain you understand their work flow, what pieces of the content you are responsible for, and whether or not they offer a content review process that allows you to revise your content before publication. Remember, these are your products, representing many thousands, if not millions, of dollars of investments. Don’t let your customers rely on poorly formed content that does not represent your products properly. They will turn to your competitors if you don’t offer compelling and accurate content.

What are the advantages, if any, of creating and/or assembling the content yourself?

The greatest advantage is that you control how your content is presented to your customers. By creating your own content and working through one of the syndicator’s DIY platforms, you can control branding and messaging. The obvious disadvantages are time and resources: Does your organization have the capability to build and assemble the content? If you have a team of content providers or experienced interns who can help with your syndication content, it may make sense to do it yourself.

Of course, we have a vested interest in this question, but in our experience working with over 500 manufacturers and multiple product lines, product detail content creation and assembly is best left for a company like content26. We can gather your raw assets (spec sheets, images, manuals, etc.), and create concise and compelling product detail content designed to inform and sell. You review each step of the process to make sure the messaging is on target. We can then work with your syndicator’s DIY tool to ensure your product presentations are optimized for that tool and ready for prime time.

About in-line content, microsites, and SEO:

As analyst Geoffrey Bock points out, while manufacturers “need to invest the time and the money in sending a consistent and authoritative message across all their online channels,” syndicators, in turn, “need to deliver content that can be optimized for search engines and enhance online merchandising…” Currently, most syndicated content is SEO neutral and cannot be searched. To understand the implication of this, a few questions are in order.

How is content delivered to the consumer?

Each syndicator has its own network of e-tailers, value-added resellers (VARs), and technology partners that take their content. At the receiving end, each site has basically two choices of how to accept the content: as “microsite” or “in-line” content.

What is microsite content?

WebCollage micrositeEach syndicator assembles your content into a virtual product tour, designed with your logo and branding elements and offering several sections, or tabs, dedicated to each content piece (product description, 360-tour, video, product manuals, etc.) To access the tour, a pop-up link sits on the product page with “view it in action” or “see the product tour” wording. The details vary from site to site. But for all microsites, the product tour sits on the syndicator’s server and is “called” when a consumer clicks on the link. While each syndicator offers its own design and proprietary set of features, microsites are similar in that they are designed to hold all the pertinent information about your product in a compact presentation.

What is in-line content?

WebCollage InlineRather than being presented as a microsite, in-line content sits on the retailer’s product page as readable text, with links within the text to the product detail’s assets, such as the manuals, video, etc. Each website determines how the content is laid out, and because the width of each product detail page varies from site to site, the design of your product descriptions and content will not appear across all sites in a consistent fashion.

One important issue to consider is whether the in-line content on your important channels is hard-coded or fed by JavaScript. In most cases, retailers and other sites place a piece of JavaScript that “calls” for the content as consumers scroll down the page. The content is hosted by the syndicator and “appears” as part of the product detail page. In some cases, syndicators have teamed up with retailers to get the content hard-coded directly on the page. The implications of these options have to do with searchability of the text and search engine optimization (SEO).

What is better, microsite or in-line content?

The advantage to a microsite is your content will be delivered in a consistent fashion to the syndicator’s network of websites. However, syndicators and retailers report that in-line content offers a higher conversion rate than microsite content (as much as 4 times higher, according to some reports). Before you commit to syndication, research how your most important channels display syndicated content to make sure you are getting the biggest bang for your buck.

What are the SEO and search implications of syndicated content?

Google and other major search engines ultimately determine how content is indexed and what priorities various types of content receive. In other words, the answer to this question will change. At this point in time, however, microsite content hosted at the syndicator level and in-line content fed by JavaScript are SEO neutral and are not searchable.

In other words, unless your content is hard-coded onto the e-tailer page, your product content will not improve organic search results. And although consumers can access your content, it does not sit in a retail site’s servers, so your content cannot be “searched” on the site level. Depending on the e-tailer, tags or other key attributes added to your content are searchable and will allow consumers to find your product when they use a site’s search bar. But the content itself–specific phrases, for instance–is not searchable.

Editor’s note: content26 is a privately held, independent company, and we are not affiliated with any retailer or syndicator. We have performed work on behalf of Easy2 clients, and we are currently helping Webcollage clients build their product tours and content for syndication.

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