Licensed Content Is Terrible for SEO, Here Is What You Need to Know!

What is Licensed Content?

Licensed content is paying to be allowed to use content from a third party publisher on your website. It is basically renting the content for your site for a set period of time. Now licensed content is great for many things and is a good way for publishers to expand their brand and monetize their content. However licensed content is terrible for SEO. It is good for somethings but organic search is not one of them.


—– Here is how the story begins—–

One day I was siting in the office and I got an email from from a co-worker who is the Yoda of content marketing. His email basically says, “Licensed content can help SEO NewsCred said. Call b#llsh!t you must!”

Here is the title of the post so you can search for it. #nobacklinksgiven

How Licensed Content Can Help SEO: All Your Questions, Answered

I read the NewsCred article he sent me and decided we must defend our beloved craft. I believe SEO is a fundamental part of the Content Marketing process so we have to clear this up. Before we begin let me start by saying I love NewsCred and what they built. They are innovative and were able to jump in early on the content craze but we have to call BS when we see it.


Some Background

I’ve been watching NewsCred and the other content marketing platforms evolve over time.I’m a real NewsCred fan and I actually work in the same building as them. They came to give us a demo of their product about three years ago. A lot has changed since then, including them pivoting to a content creation model but we will get to that later. When NewsCred first demoed their product to me three years ago they tried to sell us hard on the benefits of licensing  content and how easy their platform can be used to do that. It’s true they make licensing good content real easy and cost effective. That’s probably why they raised a gang of cash.


Source: CrunchBase

Their sales people are great (not like the creepy stock photo dude I’m using in this article. Using him is just hilarious so I had to) they are the type of guys the ladies of Manhattan would swipe right on and could probably sell sand in a sandstorm. However back then I had two main questions that they didn’t answer right that prevented me from putting my clients on their platform.

  1. What happens when you stop paying for the Content? Does it get removed from your site?
    The answer is yes. It goes away and with it so does your traffic and any SEO value that it could potentially have provided.
  2. What SEO value do you get from Licensing Content? A the time they didn’t have an answer but I knew that it didn’t add much value to SEO especially since if you stop paying it all goes aways.

Three years later I learned that this is still the truth regardless of the article they just posted.



When you stop paying the Content is  removed from the site

Now I almost didn’t write this article. I almost let this go. However I saw one of the sales guys who survived the NewsCred purge. He was one of the same gents who came and pitched me the platform three years ago which is eons in #adlife. To be clear years in #adlife  are like dog years plus or minus depending on which shop you work in. So yesterday which is a few weeks now I see this NewsCred sales guy and I  say,” Oy you still work for NewsCred?” Juggling two Caramel Macchiatos. I was hung over and stopped at Starbucks to grab a coffee for a coworker.

He replies, “Yeah!”
I say, ” What happens to the content once clients stop paying for it?” Struggling to swipe my damn card to sign in but still focused on the point.
He retorts,” It goes away.”
He turns around and gives me his full attention and patiently waits as I struggle with life and brain damage after a classic Profero send off party at Snafu.
He continues, ” It sucks for SEO but that’s what happens.”
I really don’t know why he gave up that information. I didn’t even hint at it, was just struggling from the night before, already decided I wasn’t going to write this article and now here we are.

Will my licensed articles ever rank higher than their original sources?

out-rank-original-contentNot only did the article say that licensed content is good for SEO but it also tried to say that you could potentially out rank the original source of the article you rented.

In response to the question NewsCred says, “Experts say not to count on it, but it’s not impossible.”
Really? So what the hell is the point then for SEO? Licensed content is not helping your SEO if it’s near impossible for that content to rank especially to out rank the source.

They then show that licensed content can rank well on Google for certain terms. They point to the term “chanel fall makeup 2016” and says Rue Now ranks on the first page of Google for this term “proving SEO” works for licensed content.

Cool. Sounds good bro. Only issue is that once Rue Now stops paying for the article the search rankings, traffic and value from the article goes away. That is not a sustainable longer term SEO or Content Marketing strategy. Even if you are using this type of content to supplement your content strategy it’s better to invest in original higher quality content and post less often.



Their other tips on making the rented content SEO friendly are:

  • Change the Content: They advise you to change the content a bit by adding your thoughts before the article. They say this makes it original enough to not be duplicate content. This is potentially true.
  • Add Canonical Tags: They then say to make sure you add canonical tags to let the search engines know that the place you got the content from should be counted as the original source. This means you are not getting the credit for being the original source so probably won’t rank.


So you basically are telling me to write additional content to support what you sold me and then make sure I add the correct tags so I don’t get the credit for the content. Worst off even if I spend the time and resources to do all of this it all goes away once I stop paying you? Thanks for the advice but i’m going to go in another direction but you #rollsafe.

The Real Question Is Can Licensing  or Renting Content Harm Your SEO?

I believe licensing content has the potential to harm your SEO especially once you stop paying for it. I’ll use Pepsi as an example since it’s  one of NewsCreds case studies and a case study they showed me a while back.

Pepsi’s Results Look Great At First


However if you take a look at the pre and post check of the total keywords that Pepsi had from the content rented from NewsCred for Pulse you can see the difference.

Pepsi Pulse  in September 2015


When the rented content went on the site the total number of keywords did spike. However once the temporary content get’s removed the total keywords on the site ranks for drops drastically.


Now this means that the content did rank for some keywords (i’m guessing for low volume non competitive terms and a ton of branded terms) but as soon as it is removed they lose a ton of keyword rankings. This is because the more content you have (pages) the more terms you can potentially rank for. If you remove the pages the traffic and rankings will go away. Now the total keywords didn’t drop completely back to where it started because Pepsi added other content that wasn’t rented to the site as well which is good.

Duplicate Content Issue

The other issue is now The Pulse Spanish version of the site is still being indexed and creating a ton of duplicate content which can hurt Pepsi’s SEO.


The Real Issue is Pepsi Wasted Time, Money and Other Resources
The real issue is that Pepsi probably spent a ton and didn’t get much organic or SEO value. I’m not saying that was their goal but it really should have been. Getting long term value out of content is the point of content marketing. When I checked the keywords is ranking for you can see that:

  • Branded Keywords: They rank for a ton of brand keywords (Pepsi and other brands they own).
  • Important Keywords: Bur they don’t1 rank for very few important keywords that are relevant to them like. “Soda”.

Type “”  into the SEMRUSH tool and check for yourself.

Here are some rankings:


Pepsi is Not Ranking for Terms like Soda or Best Soda
If Pepsi focused on a real content strategy that helped them rank for keywords like “Soda.”  or “best tasting soda” they would still be getting long term SEO value from the money they spent. Currently Pepsi ranks mostly for branded terms and is not ranking for terms that can drive consumption consideration. Pepsi should be using original content to dominate organic search for all “soda” related searches. If Pepsi would have focused on that in 2015 they would be ranking on all soda terms and more.

Current Sites Ranking for Soda



NewsCreds Move to Original Content Process


NewsCred has shifted gears and added original content production to their services. This is a great move and I applaud them for this. Their original content if optimized and built using data will be very valuable for your SEO and Content Marketing strategy.

Shafqat Islam, NewsCred’s co-founder and CEO said, “We haven’t had churn on our licensed content business, and we’ve actually doubled payments to publishers,” Islam says. “But it is certainly true that our original content is growing faster than the licensing, on a relative basis.”

Regardless of if they had churn on their licensed content business brands will eventually realize that licensed content doesn’t do much for them in the long run. Especially when you have brands like Casper, TripAdvisor, NerdWallet and others all killing the game with original high quality content. Brands will feel it in their pockets and in the stock market if they don’t take this seriously.

Final Point

There are no short cuts in content marketing. If you are looking to drive real business growth using content then invest in building a team that can get it done. Then supplement that team with outsourced help and free lancers. I’ve got this model locked down and it helps me produce a ton of high quality content for my clients. Don’t give up because it seems difficult figure out a way to build the team or just ask me and i’ll help you build it. Check out this article on why SEO will never die.



One reply on “Licensed Content Is Terrible for SEO, Here Is What You Need to Know!”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *