Medium versus WordPress

Why I chose not to move my blog from WordPress to Medium:

What Medium Does Right:

Medium has a forced level of cleanliness:

You can’t get carried away with green font on a black background, you can’t pepper the page with pictures of aliens, you can’t even toy with the margins. So, yes it takes away some creative licenses from the content creator, but what it lacks in customization it makes up for with its pure devotion to quality substance.

It has a built-in audience:

When people offer the WordPress membership as a selling point, I always encourage them to consider the old adage: would you rather be a big fish in a small pond, or a small fish in a big pond? As far as making a splash, you’re better of being a big fish in a small pond. That’s just pure logistics. So yes, Medium pales in comparison to WordPress’ size, but that’s not really a problem. Medium has this incredible way of selecting and promoting content, so that even a first time blogger on Medium has the possibility of viral readership.

It offers custom domains:

The switch to custom domain offerings was, I imagine, the moment many were waiting for. Again, there aren’t a whole lot of customization options available so a Medium blog will never match the aesthetic of your homepage, but at least the domain will. This also helps with SEO. Now, instead of writing content for Medium, you’re writing content for yourself.

What Medium Does Wrong:

Links:

Admittedly, links on Medium are both good and bad. If you write content on Medium, and link back to your homepage or site, and people actually click through, it counts as an in-bound link. That is great for SEO.

On the other side of that though, is this phenomenally glaring issue that, as far as I’m concerned, is the nail in the coffin for Medium.

Here’s a screenshot of a Medium homepage. I chose this example because 1. they have a custom domain, and 2. they wrote a post on switching their blog from WordPress to Medium.

screen-shot-2017-01-27-at-1-01-37-pm

Looking at this, do you notice anything off at all? You can click on it and explore.

After a minute or so it should become obvious that there is not a single link to the company’s actual website. Every link either reverts back to this homepage, or, and oh my gosh this is so annoying, it links back to Medium’s homepage.

So, say you just crush it on Medium. You amass a solid following, and it actually becomes your main source of referrals to your website. Even if it’s 60% of your referrals think for a minute how many people you are losing because they can’t get to your website. The easiest way for them to find you is by going to your Medium homepage, clicking on your social media icons, and then finding a link through your Twitter, or Facebook, or some other nonsense.

I actually played around with this for a bit, because I was so surprised. As far as I can tell, Medium doesn’t let you put any outbound links on your homepage. It’s actually brilliant on their part if that’s true. But for you, the average blogger, this is a fatal blow. Every page your consumers have to go through to get to your website is an added level of friction. You want it to be as easy as possible for them to find your product, and buy it. That’s it right? That’s the only reason you’re blogging in the first place, right?

What WordPress Does Right:

In my opinion, because of the outbound link fiasco on Medium there’s really no issue so egregious that I would choose Medium over WordPress. At least not as a main blog. But, there are of course faults with WordPress that I hope they change as this field becomes increasingly competitive. First, though, here’s what they do right:

Seamless Brand Integration:

Your blog should look like your website. It seems fairly obvious, but the truth is people say sayonara to consistency when there’s a question of cost. When building a product, or a website, when creating your blog, you have to imagine every step from the viewpoint of your most confused customer. If you go to a blog, find the content fascinating, admire or at least acknowledge the aesthetic, that’s the brand you’re familiar with. Then, if you go to a homepage that seems entirely separate to the blog, that disconnect can either lead to people not associating the two (which, again is the whole point), or not understanding your brand. Relevancy is important.

Intuitive Customization:

I’ve used WordPress for many years, and through it I’ve learned some useful tidbits about building a functional website. If you’re confident enough you can get into the backend and mess around with it and learn a little about HTML, CSS, PHP, or JavaScript. If you don’t want to harpoon the code, you still have a lot of layers of customization available to you, which, if not immediately intuitive, can be learned fairly quickly with only moderate hair pulling.

Plugins:

WordPress has always had great plugins. Yoast SEO on WordPress.org, is a great teaching device when trying to get started with SEO. WordPress’ newest rel=canonical plugin though, is something I feel like most bloggers have been anxiously awaiting. This plugin lets you automatically export a post to a separate site (say Medium), embedding the post with a rel=canonical tag. As most of you probably know, cross posting content can be dangerous for SEO. A rel=canonical notifies Google that the authority site is the original poster, not the cross-poster. Basically, this means Google won’t mark your content as a duplicate.

WordPress plugins also allow you to effortlessly synch up your various social media networks, so you can have a gallery of your content on any page. It also has some killer e-commerce plugins that make Shopify unnecessary.

What WordPress Does Wrong:

Building a Community:

It’s very hard to build a network of followers on WordPress. Unlike Medium, WordPress doesn’t give any boosts to its bloggers. If you have a blog on WordPress it is your job to promote it. It’s a hustle to gain the necessary following to actually pull consistent views to your blog. You need to cross promote like crazy, which means that without a built-in following on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc., you’re blog is going to go unread.

Relentless Posting:

There is no hard and fast rule about how often you should post content to a blog, but the general consensus is a minimum of twice a week, and preferably every day. I’m a full-time writer and the prospect of posting content every day seems ridiculous to me. No way can the average company ( mind you, I do work mostly for startups), afford to churn out that kind of content creation. Aside from the fact that it’s very expensive to do, no one has that much to say, they just don’t. Eventually, you reach the point as well where you have a large backlogged collection of posts which, unless they’re all immune to time, will soon become irrelevant.

Even at the bi-weekly posting schedule, I’ve found that if I skip a week the drop off of viewership is pretty substantial. With Medium, this isn’t as much of a problem. It allows for more sporadic posting because again, the audience is built in.

Where to host your blog:

Neither platform is perfect, but I think the pros of WordPress far outweigh the pros of Medium. For companies here’s what I’d suggest:

Build your blog on WordPress. Customize it to match your homepage, make sure there’s an obvious call-to-action visible on the front page. Cross-post most but not all content with a week delay to Medium using the rel=canonical plugin. If you’re finding your click through or visitors to your blog disappointing, see if it’s improving your SEO ranking.

Focus on long form, less frequent content. There’s evidence that shows posts greater than 1000 words perform better than posts at less than 500. Just make sure they’re well written, and actually deliver some sort of information. For highly technical writing, articles that discuss how you built your app etc. definitely post on Medium. This comes down to knowing your audience. Buy a custom domain. Regardless of your platform you have to invest in a custom domain, which means shelling out a titch more.

Budget wisely for a blog. Decide on how many hours you want to allot to it per month, and what your expectations are.

For more basic SEO tips take a look here. 

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