WordPress vs. Medium: What Should Your Business Do?

by Katie Joll

There’s been a bit of talk around the old watercooler lately. Talk of some businesses moving away from content created on their own “turf” and focusing on borrowed territory, such as Medium or LinkedIn.

Of course this raises a lot of questions in content circles. What’s better? Should I too completely shift to Medium? Or am I better off sticking with my WordPress blog?

From the Audience Ops “watercooler” (and of course with some empirical evidence!), we have a few thoughts on the matter.

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WordPress

To clarify, when we say “WordPress” we’re talking about using WordPress software on your own hosted domain, not the blogging site WordPress.com.

We like WordPress as a software because it is relatively easy to use and there are a lot of additional applications which you can run along with it (for example, ecommerce software and integrations with various marketing tools).

One of the most important reasons we like running WordPress blogs however, is that your content creation acts to provide SEO for your business website and drive traffic directly to your online place of business.

When you get the traffic directly to your site, you get the opportunity to convert it to email subscribers. When you build your email list (which every business online should be doing), you now have a prime asset for directly contacting people, helping them get to know you better, and hopefully leading them toward becoming a customer.

Your website blog is a touchpoint with your brand which gets visitors closer to using your product or service. In short, you want people to be coming directly to your website.

Your Own “Real Estate”

This is a point which we feel is important. If you’re investing time and money into creating high-quality content, don’t you want to maintain control of it and ensure that it’s working in the interests of your own business?

Julie Neidlinger pointed this out back in 2013 while Medium was still growing its platform—and it hasn’t changed. If you invest resources into producing content just for Medium, you’re still effectively “building your house on the neighbor’s lot.”

You probably shouldn’t invest in producing content which will exclusively live on Medium (or any other social network for that matter), simply because you won’t “own” that content. If Medium goes the way of Myspace a few years from now, or their algorithm changes, or who knows what… what happens to your content? Those things are out of your control.

There’s even a previous example of a blogging platform suddenly going down and taking all the posts of users with it. Posterous lost 15 million blogs with 63 million pages when it closed up shop. Ouch.

posterous
Nightmare, really. Source: Search Engine People

Of course we’re not saying Medium is likely to go the same way. By all accounts, it has become very popular and successful. But still, there’s always that element of uncertainty when you don’t have control over the destiny of the platform.

At the very least, if your content investment is going into your own WordPress blog, you do control what happens to it. Why hand all your SEO juice and content assets to Medium?

Medium

There’s no question that since its inception in 2012, Medium has become a content behemoth. They don’t disclose exact numbers of active users and daily posts, but their site receives 25 – 30 million monthly visitors.

They’ve raised $87 million in funding and have 85 employees—they’re not looking like a platform likely to crumble anytime soon.

Apart from the large number of visitors, one of the pulls of Medium is how they’ve set out to create something easy to use and visually appealing to the reader.

Founder Ev Williams: “If you remember MySpace, the obsession was about the design of your page,” Williams says. “We’ve taken a great care to create a writing environment that gives you just the tools you need in terms of formatting to focus on your words.”

Medium is great for providing a platform that is simple to use, while producing a highly-engaging visual experience. This can be achieved with the right combination of coding and plugins on WordPress blogs, but admittedly is more work for the user.

Getting Your Content Seen

Obviously, with so much traffic to the site, Medium presents a great opportunity to get your content seen by a broad audience. But, you’re also competing with a (large but unknown) number of other content creators on there.

Medium bucks the usual norms of seeing content in reverse-chronological order, by pushing the most popular content to the top. This means that the better-quality articles should be pushed to the top, but those who have larger social influence also tend to be at an advantage.

Users can choose to follow you and receive push notifications when you put out new content—a definite improvement on the old RSS feed subscription. But, of course, you still need to attract those followers in the first place.

That being said, there are numerous success stories (such as some reported here by Kira Hug for Copyhackers), of people reporting that they’re generating large work pipelines or extra customers purely from their content on Medium. It does work well if you’re creating appealing content for which you’re getting recognized.

Daniel Pataki for Winning WP even goes as far as recommending Medium over WordPress for professional writers: “Perhaps the rule of thumb should be that if you make a living from writing publication-worthy articles — ones you could potentially see in Time, Newsweek or The New Yorker — Medium is probably the place for you.”

Maybe. Perhaps if building any kind of list or directly selling products or services doesn’t really matter to you.

One Over The Other?

This is straight from the horse’s mouth – our founder, Brian Casel: “My view is you shouldn’t go exclusively on one or the other. But you can use Medium strategically, and that’s what we do as part of our service.”

This is what we feel is a more palatable solution for businesses out there. Do both, but if you’re concerned about extra time investment in creating content, use Medium to strategically place the best-performing articles from your blog.

At Audience Ops, we use this strategy, selecting the better-performing articles from blogs 3-4 weeks after their original publication date and publishing them on Medium. This means clients have the added opportunity of exposure on Medium, while retaining the benefits of having the content asset which lives on their own domain.

In the Medium version, we add a sentence at the top that says “This article was originally published on the (name of blog -link)”. We also include CTAs throughout for any “content upgrades” which went with the original article and link these back to the blog.

What About Duplicate Content?

We often get asked whether “duplicate content” is an issue if republishing to a site such as Medium or LinkedIn Pulse. From observation over time, this is just not the issue that it used to be. Our strategy is to republish a few weeks after the original was published, so Google has already crawled your site and indexed the original page the article is published on first.

Of course, we did scout around to confirm whether we’re on the right track with this, and found that Google agrees with us.

This is from Search Engine Journal: “However, with all this speculation, there is confirmation from Google. Gary Illyes has stated that republishing articles won’t cause a penalty, and that it’s simply a filter they use when evaluating sites. Most sites are only penalized for duplicate content if the site is 100% copied content.”

The Search Engine Journal article contains advice from others which is similar to what we are doing: wait at least one week after the original article is published to republish on Medium.

So Why Did Some Move Solely To Medium?

You can read all about it here, why Basecamp’s Signal vs. Noise blog moved exclusively to Medium. For them it came down to the ease of use of the platform, exposure to a large audience, and the fact that they no longer needed to prioritize maintenance of their own blog site.

Others such as Owen Williams are impressed with Medium for similar reasons, and their commitment to attention-to-detail in the whole experience.

One thing we would point out, though—those who have moved over exclusively and are doing well tend to already have very well-developed platforms and audiences. We’re not likely to forget who Basecamp is, right? They’re so well-established at this point that they really don’t rely as heavily on content marketing and SEO as their competitors might.

It’s worth noting that other high-profile users have “broken up” with Medium. Paul Jarvis is well-known, particularly in freelancing circles, and was an early adopter of Medium. However, he found that his articles on Medium were out-ranking those on his own site, and he just wasn’t getting the newsletter signups like he does on his own site.

It also came back to control: being able to control branding, add sign-up forms, and create remarketing initiatives.

paul-jarvis

To each their own, but our overriding view is that for most businesses, it makes sense to place your content investment on your “owned” platform as an ongoing asset for SEO and email subscribers.

Want your content found on Medium? Our best-practice guide will show you how.

Final Thoughts

The Audience Ops “watercooler” concludes that it’s not really a one or the other deal. Businesses shouldn’t be too hasty to lose the advantages of having their content on their own real estate, because in the end, SEO and email sign-ups help to drive business.

If you’re so big and well-established that you don’t need to rely on content marketing to help people find you, then Medium might be a nice, low-maintenance option for you.

Otherwise, for everyone else who needs to continue building exposure, perhaps seeing Medium as a strategic partner is a wise idea. Take the best of your blog content, republish on Medium, and (hopefully!) reap the benefits of additional exposure.