Let’s start with a premise: Medium is not the best choice for your company’s blog platform if you are looking to have your website benefit from your blog content, have full control over the success or failure of your blog, and truly own your content in the fullest sense of the word.
We’re not claiming that your Medium-based blog cannot perform well, rank in Google, and even potentially drive traffic back to your website. We’re saying that if you plan on blogging for a long time and making it a core part of your marketing strategy, that the front-loaded benefits of Medium might not end up providing value in the long run. If you solely want to reach the most readers possible, regardless of their relevance to your business or your ability to provide them with a clear path to connecting with your company in any way, then Medium might work for you.
What is Medium?
Medium is a blog hosting platform where amateur and professional writers and publications can publish their work. This platform incorporates the high-quality content standards of a news website with the individuality of a social media application, meaning the quality of content should be on par with established and respected publications. Topics include everything from health and politics to technology and pop culture. Blog posts can be shared and “applauded” by readers on the site, giving compelling content a chance to reach more users in the space. Paid subscribers to Medium get access to audio narrations of blog posts on the site, exclusive content, and an upgraded bookmark feature.
Why Do Companies Use Medium?
The reasons a company might use Medium are few but come with enough initial upsides that it lures lots of companies looking to start a blog.
The first reason companies often cite for using Medium is that it was easy to start, as in, no development needed. Signing up for Medium is extremely fast — you can do it in seconds, authorizing with Google or Facebook. I’m not trying to diminish the obvious upside to this. Development is expensive, and there are usually long queues of tasks that might be a higher priority in your company. Bypassing development teams to be able start a blog immediately is a significant plus. Not only does Medium make starting a blog straightforward, but they make publishing a piece of cake, which is always helpful.
Medium also offers a built-in audience of sorts, allowing you to link various social accounts and find readers. This can be an advantage too, especially for a new brand or website that doesn’t know how to get traction or find readers. Medium also can surface your content to readers of similar content. How well this works is up for debate, and we’ll dive into some of the problems with it later on.
Two other benefits include a simple text editor and quick publishing tools — both nice features not exclusive to Medium.
These are all great features and reasons why Medium is such a force in online publishing. If you do not care about the issues we’ll raise about Medium later in this post, then Medium might work just fine for you, especially compared to hot having a blog at all.
Why We Don’t Recommend Medium
UpBuild is a technical marketing agency. We love technical details. Given that preference, it’s not surprising that Medium isn’t our top choice for a CMS or platform of any kind. Medium strikes out on both the “technical” and “marketing” fronts of technical marketing: there are a plethora of technical and branding reasons not to make it your company’s blogging platform.
When you think about the technical aspects involved in creating and maintaining a blog, starting a blog for your company website might seem daunting. Depending on your familiarity with creating blogs, you may need to reach out to your dev team to see what can be created and how quickly. Many companies do not even have an in-house development or design team that could assist with getting a blog set up, forcing them to contract outside development and design shops which could be very expensive in time and money.
While content management systems like WordPress have made it easier to start a blog, even WordPress require significantly more technical setup than starting with Medium. At a minimum you’d have to have your web host install WordPress on your server (or do it yourself) and then fully configure a blog, pick a theme, style it, figure out how to track traffic on it, figure out how to secure it, get it indexed by Google, etc.
One of Medium’s most significant benefits is that it removes the barriers of starting a blog. Answer a few questions and fill in a few text fields and you’ve got a blog. That is way easier than even using WordPress.
This is all you need to do to set up a blog on Medium. Pretty easy, right?
The downside to that easy setup is that you have very little control over the blog you’re creating on Medium. You can basically change the name, description, and avatar but not much else. Maybe that isn’t such a huge deal to you, though, when weighed against the prospect of building a blog from scratch.
The simplicity Medium offers users comes with additional drawbacks, mainly stemming from the lack of control of the backend of the blog. These technical aspects that you do not have access to include:
- Web hosting
- Use of a CDN
- Search bot crawl control
- Controlling of what content users see and how
- How links work
- Where certain navigation links direct users to
On the one hand, it may seem like a great idea to let a popular platform handle those aspects of blogging for you if you want to get something up and running right away.
On the other hand, why leave such critical variables in the hands of someone you don’t know? Why put all that great content you’ve worked so hard on into the hands of essentially a black box of a website? It’s your content, and it should be handled with care through the entire process from idea to publishing, with complete control over each step.
You might not think the list of issues above are really critical to success of a blog, but they can be. They can also be the difference between two blogs that both have great content, and the above issues are where you can get a competitive advantage if you can control things, like using a CDN to get your content to users all over the world faster, or making sure Google only crawls the parts of your blog you want them to see and not waste your precious crawl budget.
These might seem like small issues compared to the actual content on your blog, but they can be difference between the first page of Google’s search results and the never being seen by the reader.
Even if we could ignore not being able to completely control every aspect of the blog (we can’t, sorry, it’s just how we are), we still can’t ignore the fact that a blog hosted on Medium is in no way benefitting your website in terms of organic search or SEO, outside of linking back to to your website in a blog post.
A blog created on Medium is part of Medium’s website, not yours. A blog at medium.com/yourblog is not benefiting yourwebsite.com, not like hosting the blog yourself at yourwebsite.com/yourblog would be.
Why is this?
In essence, when you create a Medium blog, you are just creating pages on Medium.com, and any SEO benefit that content generates benefits Medium.com, not your site.
Let’s use an example to better describe what this could mean for your business. You have a website for your pizza company — it’s called pizzaman.com. You’ve decided to start a blog and you heard from some friends that Medium is where to do it. You create a Medium blog at medium.com/pizzaman, and you post tons of great content that people love, share, and link to. All that organic leverage you’re building with your content is helping Medium.com, not PizzaMan.com, because that content lives on Medium.com not Pizzaman.com That killer link you got from the New York Times? It helped Medium.com, not Pizzaman.com. Medium.com/pizzaman might even end up outranking pizzaman.com when potential customers search for PizzaMan, which is definitely not what you want.
So, while you’ve traded the responsibility of managing technical details of a blog for simplicity, you’ve also lost the opportunity to truly benefit from those links and great content you’re working so hard to create.
Another reason we really try to deter clients from using Medium for their blogging platform is that Medium does a great job of keeping you on Medium.com and making sure every link is an internal one.
Even if you’ve branded your Medium blog with your own company’s style and look, many of the links on the page are built into a template and can’t be changed — like that big “M” logo at the top of the page in the upper left-hand corner. Why would any company want a Medium logo on their own blog? If a user clicks that button they’re taken to Medium.com where they’ll likely get lost in all the other great content on Medium and never return to your blog or visit your website.
Not only are there too many Medium-branded elements on “your” blog, but Medium also really likes to push other users’ content that is similar to yours, but not written by you. So, if a reader is reading a post on Medium.com/pizzaman, gets to the bottom and sees another great article about pizza but from Medium.com/pizzastore, then that reader might bounce from your blog and head over to a competitor instead of viewing more content from you or easily navigating to find more information about your company — which would be easy for your potential client to do if you had shared your content on your company website instead of a platform like Medium.
Finally, Medium is not a 100% free-to-read site. There are premium features and content that readers will not have access to. While you might be able to make all your content 100% free, you’re also subjecting your readers to upsells or content that they might not be able to access, which could provide a subpar experience for the reader.
Your content is generating revenue for Medium, not your own company. Medium sells a product: upgraded memeberships granting readers additional features like reading more than five articles a month, various playback features, among other items. If readers decide to join Medium to read your content, you might see some money if you are a publishing partner but Medium is generating recurring revenue off of subscribers to Medium’s premium service. We are not saying that by simply hosting your own blog will you be able to earn money from it automatically; it’s not that simple. What we are saying is that if you host your own blog, there is not a third-party standing in the way collecting money to read your content. Hosting your own content allows you to do whatever you want with it. You can make it free like most people. You can experiment with paywalls or various revenue income models. The point is, it’s up to you, not another company.
We also need to keep in mind that while Medium appears to be favored by search engines since many of its pages rank well, this is not set in stone. Medium could make changes that put it in a different light in the eyes of search engines and your content on Medium could end up not ranking well (or at all) one day. This is the problem with Medium: it’s not open source so it could disappear one day — along with all your content.
Like we stated at the beginning, Medium might be better than nothing for your blogging platform, but it’s definitely not a great, or even good, alternative to hosting your own blog.
Creating content for a blog can be a great way to develop your company or brand as a trustworthy authority in your space. Blog content can drive high-quality organic traffic to your site for years and years, and should not be an afterthought for your site. But this all becomes less likely to happen when you hand the keys to your content to another driver (Medium).