November 29, 2019

Self-hosted site outranking Medium Publication

Graeme @graeme

"Invest in your own platforms. Building audiences on any other platform can be taken away from you with the snap of a finger." - Van Schneider

I've been running a Medium publication for a few years, but suddenly Medium introduced a paywall which has gated a lot of content to paying subscribers.

As legend goes, 'don't build your house on someone else's land'. With this future-sight, I've always balanced publishing on Medium with doing so on the self-hosted Prototypr platform.

And it payed off - just yesterday a new self-hosted article went straight to #1 on Google for the keywords 'responsive drag drop' (also posted here 🐵: https://www.indiehackers.com/product/email-otter/building-a-responsive-drag-and-drop-ui--LulozAHouwlpv-WcNQG). This is a huge milestone for me, as it puts the future of the site in my own hands. Maybe the rank will drop a bit, but now my main site can outrank our big popular Medium publication. See here:

No paywall, no popups, just good technical content accessible for anyone to learn from. My advice for those blogging would be the same as the Van Schneider tweet:

'Use other platforms as a funnel, not as the base'.

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Update:
I wanted to add a bit more about publishing technical content in the Medium paywall. I think the paywall is great model for the right audience. But traditionally, educational content in the design/dev industry has been openly accessible for anyone on the web to learn from, no matter their background.

I found through trying the paywall model that people still prefer their content to not be gated. This was the reason large publications like Freecodemap and Hackernoon already moved off Medium.

I still keep the publication active and going strong for those who choose to use Medium with us, but using our own platform is much more controllable and better for making content available to anyone.

  1. 11

    Owning your platform is 🔑.
    Congrats on the move Graeme, you can't regret it!
    This kind of situation always reminds me of this Oatmeal board

    1. 2

      🤣 Love this strip cause it's so true! Thanks for posting.

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      haah yeah I was actually looking for this comic when I was writing the milestone, but couldn't remember where it was from. Thanks a lot, it's brilliant!!

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        THIS... Exactly what happened to me after I PAID for Facebook ads to get followers, specifically because it made sense on the long run. And then this garbage came

        1. 1

          uff yes the very same thing happened for me - there are 6000+ people who liked our page to get updates. And now we can't reach them without paying haha! I don't know how such drastic changes can be legal..makes me sad to use FB products, seeing this on WhatsApp makes me sick:

          https://www.prototypr.io/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/945DCFB2-04FA-46EF-8EC6-DB0F0B0C18BF.jpg

  2. 3

    Always amazed by how many people don’t build on their own platform. Sure, use the other places for exposure but post to your own site as well. You never know when the rules change (look what happened when FB throttled the reach of pages) or when the platform just disappears. Or you get thrown off.

    Starting to see it with email newsletters with the attraction of places like Substack. All the content is on their site. You got to go and paste it into your own blog as well.

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      You’re absolutely right, but be sure to remember to set up appropriate canonicals if allowed. Otherwise if the original authority isn’t clearly defined, Substack or Medium will totally eclipse the content on your own site as it’ll be seen as duplicate content.

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      Hey Paul! From the Medium experience, I agree completely with the Substack thing. It's very attractive, and will definitely work, but true - you're never safe unless you can control the platform.

      Beyond that, search engines can also destroy our own platforms too 😅

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        I think Substack might be a touch different since on Substack the eyeballs come from people who gave you their email address (it's your mailing list).

        This is different to Medium/your site where the eyeballs come from Google/Social Media.

        Taking your list out of Substack and sending them an email with another system is totally possible and will be unlikely to have a negative effect on your opens/click throughs. Whereas moving all your content from Medium to your site just won't work straight away due to SEO/authority.

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          Hey Hugo, ah didn't know that, thanks. Substack sounds much safer. It looks to me like the only thing Substack would own is the payment part - so if you ever had to move away from them, that's the hard bit to switch. Although I never used it so I'm just guessing, but it's great that you actually keep control of your list 🙌🏽

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          I think, regardless of SEO and authority you want to own your content on your own platform. Doesn’t matter if you’re using medium, substack, LinkedIn, Facebook or whatever. These guys can pull the rug from under you at any moment.

          As per @graeme above, use those platforms as funnels but don’t rely on having your content hosted there and there only.

          And, sure, google with its monopoly on search can also destroy you with an update. That’s why need to own distribution as well - your own email list.

  3. 2

    I must totally agree. I do believe content creators need to be rewarded. But unlike streaming services, I find it inefficient to put a paywall infront of articles. I also am planning to move my publications back to self-hosted Wordpress.

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      Yeah I agree content creators must be rewarded, but also listened to. It seems like they introduce the paywall without asking the users..many get alienated, whilst it's likely to attract a different type of user

  4. 2

    I agree, Medium is great for content that businesses want to publish that has no searcher intent but if you're trying to rank anything, there's no sense in doing so with an article on Medium. Sure, even if you do manage it the number of things that you're able to do with the traffic that actually lands on your content is so limited compared to what you'd be able to do if they were on your actual site.

  5. 2

    Congrat for the milestone!
    'Use other platforms as a funnel, not as the base'. - do you have particular insight on how to use medium or other publishing platforms a starting point of your funnel? For example, what is the typical conversion one can expect to the next step of the funnel? And what that next step optimally should be?

    1. 3

      Cheers! I've never tracked conversion rates. The key thing I did was have a signup form on the articles published on other platforms. I used https://upscri.be/ (shoutout @joshuaanderton) from day one on Medium.

      That helped me redirect readers to my own site whenever we publish content on our own platform. Eventually the self-hosted platform has been able to grow this way. I think you can call it 'piggybacking'. I wrote about it that approach here: https://blog.marvelapp.com/build-honest-uis/

      If you’re early enough to a platform and build on top of it right, hopefully eventually you’ll grow big enough to become a platform yourself.

      This approach let the focus be making the content good quality that could help people. Then I just vary where I post the articles - sometimes Medium, sometimes our site. There was never really any intention to using Medium as a funnel though, it just sort of happened.

  6. 1

    Nice, thanks for sharing!

  7. 1

    I'm following your publication for 2 years. and yeah - nobody like that medium changes. Keep going! and good luck

  8. 1

    how do you manage the guest posting on a new platform compare to publication hosted on Medium?

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      I haven't tried yet, guest posts are on the Medium blog

  9. 1

    What do you think will be the destiny of other MEdium publications?

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      I think the destiny of any publication lies with the audience, because that's who it serves. So imo, that depends upon the genre of the publication, and the publication audience willingness to put up with medium popups/ value it enough to pay subscription.

      If more writers from the publication want to publish outside of a paywall, then my logic says the medium publication will die a slow death. That's because content published outside the Medium paywall is not distributed on their platform topics.