The ultimate guide to cross-posting on WordPress and Medium to increase engagement while avoiding duplicate content
I love WordPress, obvs. It’s my CMS and blogging platform of choice for so many reasons. But sometimes it seems like a party is happening on other, similar platforms, and FOMO sets in. Cool, cutting-edge people are sharing their smart, insightful thoughts and getting Recommends, Follows, and most importantly…more views and engagement.
I’m talking about you Medium.
What is Medium, and why should I use it?
Medium is kind of a blogging platform crossed with a social network. Medium’s Head of B2B Partnerships, Sophie Moura, calls it a social content platform.
Aside from Medium’s gorgeous, intuitive, ugly-proof and truly WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) writing experience, you also get access to an engaged and captive community thanks to the social networking aspect of the platform. Medium is like Twitter with long-form content: users can follow other users, Recommend posts (which is similar to Liking, heart icon and all), and respond/comment. But unlike Twitter, Medium has an algorithm (and human editors), that curates content based on interests and suggests it to users via email updates, their mobile app, and the homepage.
Some other benefits of posting on Medium:
- Domain authority: Medium’s domain authority is 80, which means pages on the site have the potential to rank well in search results.
- Email digests: Medium sends out email digests to users, so it is possible your posts will end up in front of a much wider audience.
- No need for tech skills: Medium is a hosted platforms, so users don’t have to deal with any of the technical issues that arise when hosting your own platform.
Why Hubspot and Signal v. Noise opened Medium blogs
Creating content on Medium is such a pleasant and worthwhile experience that there are some notable examples of publishers that have either completely migrated their content to Medium, or have opened up additional publications there.
Signal v. Noise is a well-known blog on the topics of design, business and tech, written by the people behind Basecamp. About a year ago, they migrated from their own homegrown blogging platform to Medium. They have been thrilled with the results: in 2014-2015 prior to moving to Medium, they had three posts that got more than 50k views. Over the last year, they have gotten over 50k views on 18 posts! They write more on Medium due to the delightful writing experience, and social sharing is easier.
Hubspot also started publishing on Medium a bit over a year ago, but they didn’t migrate their content; rather, they created a brand-spanking-new publication called ReadThink (and since renamed as ThinkGrowth). They learned a lot and stumbled a bit, but one interesting finding is that only about 10% of their Medium followers were previously known to them at HubSpot.com – even though they have been writing content for more than 10 years, and their blogs get over 4.5 million visitors per month!!
Why you shouldn’t only publish on Medium
Despite the unicorns and rainbows mentioned above, it’s never a good idea to put your precious content completely in the hands of a third-party platform like Medium. Social networks and blog platforms come and go (ahem, Posterous/Typeform/Livejournal/Vine, ahem). What if Medium changes their TOS in a way that negatively affects you? Goes out of business? Sells out? Recently Medium cut their staff by one-third. Ev Williams, the founder of Medium, framed it as a positive step so they can focus and continue to grow, and his words are convincing, but it’s still a big cut with warning signs all over it.
A self-hosted website or blog is the only piece of online real estate that you really own, and that’s why some bloggers are sticking with their own blogs despite the difficulty of staying top of mind there.
In addition, you really need to build up a following to get good engagement and traffic on Medium. It takes time and effort. So while it adds to the views your posts get on your original site, it probably shouldn’t replace it, especially at the beginning. For example, our websites get way more traffic than Medium. We have years of posts there, including old ones, that rank well in Google and bring lots of traffic our way.
And finally, Medium has some technical drawbacks, as pointed out by Rand Fishkin in Whiteboard Friday:
- There is no way to customize calls to action
- You can’t use retargeting pixels or any kind of custom tracking scripts
- Custom code of any kind is out.
So am I telling you that you should only post on your own self-hosted blog from now on? No sirree! Lucky for us we can have our Internet cakes and eat them too, dance at two weddings, and burn the candle at both ends!
Publish on WordPress AND Medium and live to tell the tale
Medium allows publishers to repost their content on Medium with a canonical tag that points back to the URL of the original post on your blog. A canonical tag is a piece of meta data in your web page’s source code that tells Google that although the content appears here, it originated somewhere else, and therefore Google should give the authority to the original URL. This is an effective way to have content appear in more than one place, without risking penalties for duplicate content. As Medium themselves put it:
This means that Medium can only boost — not cannibalize — your SEO.
Here’s what the canonical tag looks like in the source code of one of my Medium posts:
Check out that beautiful canonical tag!
One may wonder why Medium puts so much power in creators’ hands. My guess is that Medium needs fresh content more than it needs to increase its own search authority. It is one of the top 200 websites in the US, and their ranking continues to increase. By allowing writers to give authority to their own web properties, Medium has removed a serious obstacle to many who would otherwise not publish there (ahem, me).
Now that we know the What and the Why, so let’s get to the How.
Medium users do not have access to the source code, so you can’t manually add or modify canonical tags. In order to ensure that your post has the correct canonical tag pointing back to your original post, you need to use one of Medium’s tools and integrations to import your post and make the magic happen. Here they are:
Option 1: RSS to IFTTT – not recommended
IFTTT, which stands for “If This Then That”, is a very useful service that allows you to connect different services and automate tasks between them using “Recipes”.
Medium partnered with IFTTT to enable users to repost by having all new posts in a site’s RSS feed get published on Medium. The setup is very convoluted, so I don’t recommend using this option.
2) Medium Import Tool
Medium has a web-based Import Tool that is really easy to use. You enter the URL of the original post in the field, click Import, and it imports the whole post, complete with canonical tag.
This tool is good for non-WordPress sites, or WordPress sites that don’t want to install another plugin (see option 3). However, I found this to be a bit buggy, as it doesn’t always successfully import images.
3) Medium WordPress plugin FTW
The “Medium” WordPress plugin does the job really well, and it also offers some great features that the web tool doesn’t.
How to use this plugin:
- Search for the plugin called “Medium” in the Add New plugin area of your WordPress site. Install and Activate.
- The Medium settings are hard to find if you don’t know where to look. Go to your User Profile under Users > Your Profile, and you will see all the Medium settings and configuration options on that page. Here’s how we have it configured on one of our websites:
Draft status: I don’t want the posts to publish automatically on Medium, so I set them to be drafts. That way I can review and edit them, make sure they look ok on Medium, and then publish.
Default cross-link status: when enabled, this feature adds a link at the bottom of the original post, telling users that it’s also available on Medium. My hope is that this may increase my follower numbers on Medium. It also adds a link at the bottom of the Medium post to the original source, which may encourage people to check out our main website.
- Now go write and publish a post! Note that you can modify the Medium settings on a per-post basis too in the Medium meta box on the Add Post page:
See the cross-posting results in action
Here are the stats on two posts I cross-posted from WordPress sites to Medium:
Here are the Google Analytics for the same posts on their origin sites:
As you can see, cross-posting/re-posting the post garnered a significant number of additional views and reads that they probably wouldn’t have gotten if posted on the original WordPress site only. In addition, I see that my follower numbers increase the more I post on Medium, so the additional posts add to that metric as well.
So there you have it. If you liked this post, please follow me on Medium :)
Also published on Medium.