As a writer of technical blog posts, I naturally want them to be visible by the broadest audience possible. Google and other search engines certainly help with this and make it possible for this blog to be visited to thousands of people every month, and I am grateful that we have such great tools that allow people to find the content they are looking for.
In an attempt to reach more readers than those immediately searching for a specific topic I’ve been cross-publishing my blog posts to the developer blog platform DEV (dev.to) for some time. The reasoning being you can reach more people and build a following. I’m very happy with the latter – over the last year 500 people chose to follow me on the DEV platform. However, I am stopping my cross-posting experiment for one reason – Google prefers DEV over my personal blog, despite signaling this blog as the primary content source.
On DEV, you are able to add a canonical tag to your posts, indicating where the post first appeared. This helps Google and other search engines properly attribute the original source of the post and marks the other sources as non-primary in the search rankings, which should prevent them from being highly indexed in the SERP.
Unfortunately, despite this, Google still shows DEV as the primary search result for many of my blog posts. Sometimes the original source on this very blog isn’t even present in the SERP! Here is just one example:
It’s very clear which article has been overtaken by the non-canonical dev.to link because suddenly the traffic on this blog takes a dive and the traffic on DEV spikes up with thousands of reads each month. Meanwhile many blog posts I published on DEV are struggling to reach even 100 reads organically, so the idea of reaching an organic following on DEV doesn’t hold up for me.
Why won’t Google listen?
While canonical is a guiding principle it’s not a guarantee that a specific site will show up first in search results. Many other signals are evaluated – site popularity, user preferences and performance being just some of them. For me, it’s now clear that this sort of cross-posting negatively impacts small, self-hosted blogs. Naturally, a personal domain can’t match a large aggregator’s popularity, leading to your content being ‘swallowed up’ with less traffic reaching your actual site.
I want to be clear and say this is not a complaint against DEV (they do everything they can to help you) but rather Google. A canonical should be a clear signal than Google is treating it. For that reason alone I would encourage people to think twice before they decide to cross-post or syndicate their blog posts to aggregators such as DEV or Medium.
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