Blogging | 03/29/2017
Why You Need to Own Your Content
A funny thing can happen when you use something you don’t own – the actual owner can choose to stop letting you use it at any point. Whether you’re renting a car, house, or bouncy castle, everything has to go back to its owner eventually.
Trusting that your content will live forever online on someone else’s site is a lot like expecting to live forever in a house you don’t own. Eventually, the day of reckoning will come.
For advisors who have been using NerdWallet’s “Ask an Advisor” program to extend their visibility to investors, that opportunity is now gone. They’re being evicted at the end of March.
This isn’t the first time a popular website has closed down an outlet for contributors – Yahoo and Huffington Post both closed their contributed content sections in the last couple years – and it won’t be the last time.
Just a few months ago, popular blogging site Medium laid off fifty staff members and closed two offices. Now, I don’t believe Medium is going anywhere (and I’m a fan of posting content there), but for anyone using Medium as their sole content distribution method, those numbers should give a little pause.
The bottom line is that you need to own the content you distribute online, and it all starts with your website.
What Does It Mean to Own Your Website?
Your website should be ground zero for your digital content strategy. When you choose a website company to create and host your site, you need to make sure you own the site itself. I don’t mean just the web address – I’m talking about the words you write, the elements of design, and all the little things that make a website.
It’s a given that any content you post to your site is yours, intellectually and otherwise, but the actual site? That’s a little murkier.
Often times, a website design company will retain the rights of ownership once they create and design your site for you. Yes, you’ll have total access to it, but only as long as you continue to pay the design company’s monthly fee. This is often the case with simplified website solutions. If you decide to end your relationship with any of those companies, your site will be shut down, and you’ll have to move the whole thing over to a different server.
The main problem with some of these other providers is that many industry-specific companies lock you into proprietary platforms or proprietary overlays on open source platforms. In other words, you’re locked into their platform whether it’s best for you or not.
It’s like if you wanted to paint an oil painting on canvas and they said you had to paint it on construction paper. It’s not the right medium, and it’s going to cause some problems down the line, but you just have to live with it, because it’s all they have. In case you couldn’t tell, we’re not fans of this approach. In fact, we think it’s broken. It limits your potential, even if it’s not immediately clear.
If you’re looking to move your existing website or create a new one, start by asking every potential designer: “Do I own this website once I pay you for the design, and can I easily move my website to a new host in the future? What limitations does your platform present?”
A close second is to ask if you can make updates to your site once it’s built, or if all those little updates (like changing a sentence or two, for example) have to run through the web design company and their support queue.
If the answers you get back are less than forthright, there are better options out there.
To give you a little peace of mind, when you build a site with Mineral, you own your site and we will give you the keys to update it. We won’t hassle you by zipping and exporting your site into a .csv or some other strange method if you choose one day to move to a new host.
And while we’re happy to maintain your site for you, we don’t require you to go through our team for every single update that needs to be made.
What Does It Mean to Own Your Content?
If you want to truly own your content, you want to post it on a site you own, as well.
The best way to get around this issue is to make your website the foundation of your content marketing. When you have an idea to disseminate, want to promote an article, or drop a new video, put it on your website to ensure that you can control it and claim all the rights to its first publication.
One caveat to this would be if you want to publish your content somewhere like Forbes or CNBC. Publications like that often require first rights to publication, so you’ll have to hold off on posting the full thing to your own website until they’ve had it up for at least a few days. But that does not apply to Medium or any other personal blogging site.
Why You Should Still Cross-Promote
After all that’s been said, we still believe in increasing your digital footprint through cross-promotion.
Returning to the idea of posting content to Medium, I think it’s a great secondary outlet for your content. But it shouldn’t be the sole repository for storing your company’s thoughts online.
When I think about marketing, one of the key pillars of a good strategy is to go where the people are. If it helps your readership and reach to post your blogs to Medium after you’ve posted them to your website, then you should do it. You can use this strategy beyond just Medium – for instance, you could post your latest article to LinkedIn so your connections can read it.
If you do post an article to these types of sites, include a link back to your site. This can be as simple as ending each with a hyperlinked sentence that says, “View the original post on our website.” If someone finds your article and likes what you have to say, you want to make it easy for them to get in touch with you. Don’t trust people to Google your firm. Do the work for them.
Posting to question and answer platforms, like what NerdWallet allowed for, can also be a viable secondary content strategy – especially if you have an established Twitter audience.
Sites like Investopedia present the option for you to contribute in their Advisor Insights section, where you can answer people’s questions. It’s no different than sites like Quora or Yahoo Answers, that have been around for what seems like forever, but it’s more targeted to your profession.
The basic idea is that you should try various formats and channels to distribute content. After you’ve done it for a while, re-evaluate and decide what’s working and where you might want to allocate your resources toward other channels.
Remember though, start from a home base of owning your website, post your content to that site as your primary distribution strategy, and then branch out from there.
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