Should You Publish Your Blog On Your Site Or Elsewhere On The Internet?
Periodically, I hear from prospective clients about starting up thought leadership and content marketing campaigns (shameless plug: check out my new site here).
One of the recurrent questions — beyond what to write about — is where to write it. Because these days, the (online) world would seem to be our oyster with many different channels available to chooser between.
I’ve written previously about the respective merits of publishing on Medium — as I’m doing now — or on third party websites. LinkedIn and Medium are common objects of focus — for some marketers, they’re still the flavor of the day — but the actual platforms matters less than their unique characteristics (I’ll get to those later).
Medium and LinkedIn Thought Leadership Writing | Insights by DSR Ghostwriting
As I discussed previously in this blog, thought leaders need to invest as much time in the promotion of their content…
But for those looking to skip ahead, here’s a very quick summary:
- Nobody knows the magic formula of how much to write on-site versus on guest posts. But 80% is sometimes offered as a guesstimate.
- Onsite posting should generally be preferred because it helps you build up your own SEO. There are other reasons too, but they can be summarized as “don’t build a castle on land you rent.”
- Syndicating content is fine so long as it doesn’t penalize your original authorship.
- Guest posting is a different thing entirely and can be worthwhile because it can bring you to new — and larger — audiences.
- You can rewrite ‘content’ also and funnel it across different distribution channels.
- You can build a strategy that uses different permutations of the above to try to reach as many potential readers as possible.
Onsite vs. Offsite; Owned vs. Non-Owned
Firstly, let me explain the technical fundamentals.
There are various methodologies for mapping out the differences between various content distribution channels.
But this is the one that I have (soft of) developed and refer to all the time.
It relies on only two distinctions to separate between channels: onsite vs. offsite and owned vs. non-owned. Here’s what both mean:
- Onsite: Is publishing through a platform that you own and can control- at least in digital terms. Think of buying a domain name and hosting and putting a basic website on the internet. It’s yours. Nobody can censor your thoughts or kick you off the platform as happened to Trump on Twitter. You’ll also — slowly, over time — be building up the SEO reputation of that digital asset. This is because as content-rich websites mature and get bigger, more people tend to discover them organically and then link back to them. And as backlinks and other indicators of interest accrue, the site’s content becomes increasingly easier to find. This is the magic that essentially makes inbound marketing work.
- Offsite: Offsite is a third party platform. Let’s take publishing on Medium.com. I may write here a lot, but it’s not my website. I don’t own Medium.com. Medium give me access to a content management system (a software) that’s hosted on top of their platform. I can’t control the CMS. I can’t change the platform. It’s a SaaS tool. Every time I post here, my posts are going to be published at a subdomain on Medium.com. The already massively authoritative main domain — Medium.com — is reaping some of the benefits from the content I create here. In exchange, I don’t have to worry about hosting and get to use a CMS that I love.
And here’s owned vs. non-owned:
- An owned platform is one that I have editorial control over. Unless I post for a Medium publication — in which case there will be an editorial process — nobody can control what I include in the articles that I write here. I don’t have to check for conformity to a style guide. I am the style guide.
- A non-owned platform is a platform that you don’t have editorial control over. Let’s take the case of guest posting or — in more classic terms — contributed op-ed content. A website owner or publication owns these publishing assets / distribution channels. We’re merely being invited to share a piece of content on them.
And here are three typical publishing scenarios plotted according to that matrix:
How Much Content Should I Publish Onsite?
Each of these approaches have their own pros and cons.
- If we publish content onsite for instance then we’re making a long term investment in our SEO. But at the potential expense of lower short term traction because the audience we can muster there, at the start, is likely tiny.
- If we publish our thoughts — or a blog — on an offsite owned channel (like Medium) then we’re getting our writing out in an easy to use manner.
- If the platform has a social/audience/follower functionality (see: Facebook / Twitter / Medium) then we’re effectively syndicating into those platforms’ social feeds too (in addition to hosting and publishing ‘content’ there).
While that is an advantage, the concept of channel half lives is worth mentioning here too. We’ll come back to syndication later.
The Lifespan of Content on Social Media
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The primary and secondary audiences that can be achieved through these channels looks something like this (automatic/manual means whether the secondary audience arrives from a built in feature or whether it’s something you’ll need to actively implement):
Of note (again):
The lifespan of “content” distributed through social media is remarkably short. By contrast, creating blog posts is bringing evergreen assets into digital existence. There are some caveats — for best discoverability even blog posts should be updated — but the general concept holds true.
The Pros And Cons Of Offsite Content Distribution
Leveraging non-owned / offsite channels means that you’re again forsaking the opportunity to build up your own channel while distributing your content.
But it comes with one major advantage that you’re going to be lacking if you go onsite all the way: you’re tapping into new and pre-built audiences. In some cases these are likely to dwarf the ones that you have created yourself, no matter how painstaking the process.
(The reason for this? Size. A publication like the Washington Post has many hands on deck finding ways to get ‘content’ seen. Your solo Medium blog probably doesn’t).
Some examples of non-owned, offsite channels you may wish to leverage include:
- Guest posting opportunities
- Contributed content opportunities
- Op-eds and regular spots in online publishing sites and newspapers
To wrap this up, let’s look at a couple of common questions:
How Much Content Should I Publish Onsite vs. Offsite?
There’s no right or wrong answer here.
But a common approach is to publish the majority of ‘content’ onsite while leveraging select publishing opportunities — typically secured through PR agencies — in order to periodically broaden out one’s reach and drive traffic back to an onsite resource such as a website.
The polar opposite of this approach is to publish mostly offsite.
Think guest posting blitzes or building a blog around Medium.com.
In the former case, this isn’t as easy to pull off as it once was — the ranks of pay for play guest posting hosting sites has exploded in recent years — but it can still work for established personal brands with preexisting relationships to big name networks.
How Is Guest Posting Different From Syndication?
When we look at things from a pure SEO standpoint, we’re looking at the difference between original content — where a chunk of text or piece of audio was first created and indexed on the internet — and any subsequent copies of it.
- Guest posting means creating content for distribution through some offsite channel.
- Syndication means copying content from one channel to another.
In order to syndicate well, you need to make sure that you’re using canonical tags to mark the copy as a derivative of the first work (for more details, see my comments to CMS Wire below).
2021's Guide to Content Syndication
Creating great content that targets your ideal customer, ensuring it's on all of your relevant channels, and optimized…
- Syndication is an effective means of expanding audience reach without forsaking the ability to build up a primary onsite resource. It’s sort of the best of both worlds.
- Guest posting means creating content somewhere non-owned and offsite. And very few publications will accept for publication something that you’ve published yourself first. Nor will they want you to create a duplicate on your own site.
Excerpting posts from published content and splitting them out into social posts is a different practice again. This can be a very effective means of driving audiences back to your main (onsite) resource.
What About Rewriting Articles / Blog Posts?
Another common tactic employed by those looking to expand their reach and get more mileage out of essentially the same content is to rewrite variants and publish them through different channels.
For whatever reason, the analogy I always go to here is remixing (as in music).
One song can have 100 remixes and each can bring a unique perspective on the original track. As with remixes, there’s nothing wrong with that. As with remixes, the derivative versions can sometimes be (far) better than the originals. If you’re diligent enough, you can build your own version of Soundcloud by spinning your core message in a lot of different ways.
If you’re looking to add ‘remixing’ to your strategy then you can:
- Take your (onsite) blog posts, rewrite them, and publish them offsite
- Publish initially offsite and then rewrite them as blogs
To be clear, I’m talking about fresh rewrites here that incorporate the ideas of the original without necessarily rehashing all their points. So my remix analogy is somewhat weak.
Enough! What Should I/We Do?
A common cookie-cutter recommendation might be:
- Publish 80% of your content ideas on-site
- Try to find quality guest posting opportunities for the remaining 20% that actually stand a chance of bringing your content out to fresh and widened audiences
- Syndicate and excerpt wherever appropriate
- Consider rewriting if you want to extend your reach and audience as far as it can go. That 80% of onsite content is a huge bank of content that can be rewritten and published elsewhere.
However, as trite as this may sound, each ‘case’ — or content distribution strategy — is really best assessed on its own merits.
Factors that influence what might be the best content distribution strategy include: the off-site assets that can be leveraged for placement opportunities; the level of commitment to the overall plan; and the level of patience on the part of the founder/company/brand-builder to get everything to simply ‘work.’
Daniel Rosehill is the founder of Rosehill Marcom, a marketing communications consultancy dedicated to helping tech clients including entrepreneurs and agencies to execute integrated marcom plans centered around thought leadership and content marketing.