I’ve been writing on the internet since the golden days of GeoCities (I was in Area51 Neighborhood if you must know and have any idea what any of those words mean.). That’s where I cut my teeth on HTML, hacking together image maps and making egregious use of the <marquee> tag.
It’s also where I learned not to trust someone else’s platform with my content. Every week GeoCities would try something new to monetize what people were doing on the platform, usually making something worse for the people who hosted sites there (bandwidth limits, more ads, etc). They never had a business plan and over time, as they alienated their users trying to find one, they didn’t have a business.
And all that writing and HTML, as well as the community built around it was lost to the ether. Most of it was terrible, but it was ours.
Since then, I’ve always run my own site. I post there and only put up links to that content on social media and other sites. That’s been the conventional wisdom in web marketing for several years – own/control the platform, build your audience on the platform, profit.
But the web is changing, search engines are losing ground to social media in regard to how people find content. It’s really weird, but the world is shifting back toward the community models of the early web. It got too loud and confusing, so we’re pulling back to our tribes and filtering out the noise.
Earlier this year, I decided to try something new – posting original content to LinkedIn and making my own site secondary. After 21 weeks, here are the results and some lessons learned.
LinkedIn should not replace your blog
While social platforms like LinkedIn and Medium might strengthen your brand among your existing audience and give a small increase in follower growth, you are beholden to their content algorithms, which, especially in the case of LinkedIn, suck.
Here’s what 21 weeks of article views for LinkedIn looks like.
On an exponential scale, view growth is effectively flat, even as my number of followers increased by about 25% over the same period. Based on what I’ve noticed of how LinkedIn’s tech shows content to users, I’m pretty sure if my follower count hadn’t increased, view growth would have actually been negative.
I think the biggest issue is probably over-exposure, especially given the quick upward trend early on, followed by a plateau. It’s also possible I started writing crappier headlines and less interesting posts over time. I’m entirely open to that possibility.
LinkedIn seems to rank on-platform content higher than off-platform content when choosing what to show in user feeds. Theoretically, this is a good thing, but think about the people you see in your feed, the ones that are constantly posting things. They start to fade into the background over time. The more they post, the less attention you pay to them.
Content targeting is a hard problem to solve, which is why LinkedIn, Facebook, Medium and others are all dedicating resources to it.
Even though I led with LinkedIn, I always posted to my own site after the fact. Old-school SEO people would probably scream at me for doing this, since search engines downgrade duplicate content to punish content scraping sites. But the web is changing, more content is being shared across multiple social platforms and the search engines know this.
Based on the minimal amount of SEO analysis I did for each post, it appears that Google is smart enough to know the difference between a social site crosspost and a content farm.
I’ve since flipped the process to post on my site first and then LinkedIn and there doesn’t appear to be any difference in traffic/ranking to either.
I’m going to keep experimenting and see what else I can learn. I still believe that your own site is where your core content should be, but playing with variants of that content on different platforms opens up a lot of opportunities to experiment and engage different groups of people.
Search is becoming less relevant. Social is becoming the way people find your stuff. Experiment, learn, adapt.
Image Credit: Mars P.