08-17-2018, Web Development
by Antoni Zolciak
It’s Pure Common Sense: Keep Your Blog in Your Domain
You have decided to start a blog for your business. You start outlining content and planning a calendar of posts. You have so much to say to your audience! But before you can publish anything, you have to decide where you are going to actually post. Should you be blogging where your readers are already hanging out online? Sure! Won’t your posts get a lot more traffic on an existing content platform than they would on your own, relatively unknown domain?
Not so fast. Turns out the grass is not quite so green on those big blogging platforms.
Do You Rent or Do You Own?
Step back from your blog for a moment and think about where you live. Is your monthly home payment going to a landlord, or does it pay down a mortgage and build equity for your future? Sure, there are major perks to renting—it is a short-term option, you are not at risk of major repair expenses, and you do not have to pour your life savings into a down payment. But you also do not have control over your domicile. If there is a leak or problem, you have to wait for the management company to send somebody out to make the fix. You do not get to choose when or how the repairs are conducted. If your landlord decides to sell the building and the buyer does not want to keep the tenants, you may need to find a new place to live when your lease is up.
If you own your home, you have to consistently put work and resources into maintaining it. But you also get to do things your way. If you do not like the kitchen cabinets, you can repaint them or install new ones. If you would prefer tile walls in your bathroom, you can put those in. Because the property belongs to you, you will never have to move out simply because some stranger decided you should not live there anymore. Renting vs. owning your home is not just a financial decision—it is a lifestyle decision, too.
We can also go with another example—a car. Nowadays, renting a car actually might make more sense. Your automobile—provided it is not a classic—will most likely lose value overtime. Your house will not. With cars, you can easily rent or lease one and not pay an absurd amount of money upfront just to watch your purchase decline in value day after day. What we are saying is that renting is not all bad. It is a tool. You just have to know when and how to use it.
What Does Renting vs. Owning Have to Do with Blogging?
Blogging on somebody else’s site is like renting your home: sure, everything is set up for you and all you have to do is put in your content and click publish. Medium is a great example of a popular blogging site with lots of high-quality content and lots of people who want to read what is posted. There are many other similar sites, and I could give you countless examples of sites that have risen and fallen in popularity over time.
The problem, for your business, is that you do not actually control your blog content by using one of these sites. What if the site you have chosen is sold or goes out of business? What if they change their algorithm and no one can find your content anymore? What if the site simply falls out of fashion and people stop spending their time there?
If you’ve built your business’ entire content strategy on what is essentially rented land, you are placing your marketing in the hands of whoever controls that site.
When you blog on your own domain, you retain ultimate control over your content. Posting content on popular sites is fine for individuals who are writing on personal topics. It is downright dangerous for a business.
Have You Heard About What’s Happening to Businesses on Facebook Lately?
As Facebook grew in popularity, there were scores of businesses that put all of their marketing eggs into the Facebook basket. They could reach their customers right where those folks were already spending their time online (and on their phones!), so much that businesses could not afford not to have a presence on Facebook. They spent countless hours coming up with witty and engaging posts, asking for reviews, and chatting with potential customers on the world’s front page.
Well, unfortunately for those businesses, Facebook changed its news feed algorithm, and one major difference was to make it more difficult for businesses to reach their followers. Many magnitudes of difficulty, actually. Facebook’s algorithm now prioritizes posts from your friends and family, so even business pages you follow are now at the bottom of your news feed.
If you based your entire content marketing strategy on Facebook, you have just taken a colossal hit. Now, this is not to say you should not be marketing on Facebook or any other social media platform. Quite the contrary—if your past, present, and future customers are using it, you would better be there too. However, you would better have something else backing up your social media strategy, something you control.
Like a blog that is not necessarily hosted on Medium.
Medium Requires an On-Platform Marketing, Too
Medium is great. Personally, I love it. Having access to a ton of in-depth articles written by world-class specialists is really something. However, I would not recommend any business to base their entire content strategy on somebody else’s land.
It is often said that Medium provides the writers with huge exposure of more than 30 million visitors a month. While that is statistically correct, it is not like all this traffic goes to your account. Moreover, it is not like all this traffic goes to your website. If you are a business, and if you want to somehow convert your readers into customers, you have to do the extra work. Your CTA is not one click away.
Another argument that is being tossed around often is that Medium lets you to start to blog instantaneously. And it does—but do you remember the renting vs. owning analogy? The more work you put into developing and maintaining a blog in your own domain, the wisely you will do it, and the more heart you put into the whole thing, the more rewards you will be able to reap afterwards. Now, I am not saying that a custom blog is cheaper. At first, it will be significantly more expensive to build the thing since you have to develop the website, learn about content marketing, or care about stuff like mobile-first indexing, AMPs, or web design mistakes. Or even the accessibility aspect. The long-term results, however, will be immensely more fulfilling than anything you might have built somewhere else.
A blog in your own domain can position your entire business. Thanks to high Google rankings, In’saneLab is signing new clients that come from organic traffic.
Medium is perfect for individuals. For example, I have an account on Medium—and to be honest, I have yet to do something about it. For now, it just serves as a reposting mechanism, which is probably why I do not get enough traction on the platform. Essentially, I neglected it so much that it even looks bad.
“But doesn’t Medium show up high in Google searches?”, you might ask. It does. The more content you provide to Medium, the higher medium.com domain will rise in rankings.
Now, I get what’s in it for you as an individual. I get what’s in it for your business from the brand and trust-building perspective. I understand the motivational aspect of clapping and a community that supports your efforts.
But you are still dependent. You are giving your traffic and SEO juice away. You are not exactly thinking long-term.
Why Do Businesses Need to Blog Anyway?
Consider why you decided to start a blog for your business. You’ve heard it helps with search engine optimization (SEO). If you post your content on someone else’s site, guess where you are driving traffic? Unless you are in the business of putting out free content for the good of mankind (which is more than okay, by the way), you are missing a major benefit of business blogging—getting people to come to your site because they googled something. Not to mention that search engines prioritize sites that are updated frequently. If you have built a beautiful business website but never change a thing, you will see your organic traffic drop over time. Further, if visitors find your content on another site, they are more likely to stay on that site, even if you include links that try to direct trafftonto your site. However, if they are on your site to begin with, they are more likely to stay there, check out more of your content, view your products, and hopefully convert into leads via a well-placed call-to-action.
Those are some of the short-term ramifications. Assuming you have built up a following for your blog, your posts are going to get an initial spike in traffic when you first publish. People who follow you on social media or subscribe to your blog via email will come to see what’s new. The real beauty of blogging, however, is that your content never goes away. No one company’s decision to change its algorithm can send your content to the bottom of the pile. Your post is not a passing trend that eventually gets pushed aside by other bloggers. You are building up a library that you will have for as long as you choose to keep your domain active.
That is not to say you do not need to come back to old posts and update—you absolutely need to maintain your older content, just as you water and prune your landscaping once it is established. But popular content with multiple backlinks will continue to surface on search engines into perpetuity, or as long as it is relevant and people are searching for it. Even content that seems less popular but is written with an eye for long-tail keywords will help you catch those niche customers who are looking for something very specific.
How Do I Use My Blog to Convert Readers into Leads?
Okay, let’s say I did a good job of convincing you to keep the blog in your own domain. What are you going to do with it? There are lots of different practices in content marketing, and which ones work for you will depend upon the nature of your business and what your potential customers are looking for when they come to your site. That said, here are a few common practices:
- Embed calls to action throughout the post, such as the one I’m going to drop right below this listing.
- Reveal some of the content in the blog post—enough to be useful and meaty, but not so much that you are giving away all of your secret sauce. At the end of the post, give readers who want to learn more a way to exchange their contact information for additional content. After they download the longer piece, build in a process for following up.
- Link to other pages on your website. Depending on what you are blogging about, these links could include your product pages, client testimonials, or other blog posts.
- Track traffic and notice which posts have a consistent readership and are successfully converting readers into leads. Look for other opportunities to drive traffic to those posts or create additional content on the same or related topics.
- Create interactivity in your posts to help you learn more about your marketplace. Again, how you do this will depend on your business.
- Blog about a problem you know you can solve for your customers. Show how your products and services will solve that problem while maintaining a helpful, informative (read: not salesy) tone.
- Create posts that are an informational resource for your sales team to send to potential customers. This can be particularly useful if you’re in a business with a longer sales cycle.
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Once you’ve created a great library of informative, useful, and engaging content, it gives anyone who comes to your website a lot to check out. Even if you get to the point where you decide to decrease your frequency of blogging or stop altogether, your past content isn’t going away. Take the time to update at regular intervals, and reap the rewards of your efforts for a long time to come.
Should I Put All My Eggs in the Blogging Basket?
Of course not. You still need to participate in social media and keep going after all the other marketing channels that work for your business. Blogging should be one important piece of a much larger marketing strategy. If your customers are on Facebook, you need to be on Facebook too! But post links to your blog there. Give them a reason to come to your site, where you own the land.
Initial investment and a brighter future, or lack of investment and trusting a third party? You decide!