Are you not feeling very creative or just want to get the writing part over already? I know the feeling, but I also know the reality of the results when taken by the yes or the no road. I was first asked this question on Quora, and wanting to write about the broader picture. The question was “Are there any downsides to republishing exact copy of your blog articles to Medium?” I gave a reasonable answer, but Quora can’t have my A+ content. They get my B+’ish material because I never depend on a third-party with my content. I have trust issues…
I thought about this question for a bit and decided to explore it from two distinct angles to allow folks that do this more insight on why they answer should be to never create duplicate content if you can help it. You want other people to copy and paste your article to their sites (with permission) and get credit for being the original creator. That is called syndication. When you do it to yourself it’s called “suicide by Google”.
You can syndicate even though I don’t like it, but I just don’t think there is a reason to do this yourself unless you are lazy, struggle with discussing the same topic in multiple ways, are you are about to board a plane and you need everyone to read the same thing on all of your platforms. None of those reasons are reasonable or helpful in any given way. Let’s start of with the first answer to this thought process done by so many, daily.
Part I: Duplicate Content Penalty
For me to properly address duplicate content as a factor in my argument, we have to know a brief history. I have tried to condense it as much as possible while keeping the content correct. If I remember correctly, there was the introduction to Pagerank (linking) which made Google boom over night, then keywords, metadata, SEO, more linking, content marketing, press releases, and so many other things to get your website seen. Let’s get through this the best we can…
This begins a history lesson condensed the best I can. You can skip this and go directly to the TL;dr below if you wish.
People who have kept up with search engine optimization over the last decade understand that an algorithm change from Google could crush companies that relied on top positions in search results to sell things, collect information, or for many other reasons. Companies have been put out of business because of these changes. In 2003-2007, articles would be written with a link included that would point at the site that needed to be pushed higher in search results. This simply means that if you go to Google’s search page and type in something you are interested in (keywords), you would be given pages of results. Sites that had those keywords inside their copy would be listed. Even stronger were websites with links pointing to them from other websites with those keywords in the anchor text would rank higher. This was a period that PageRank was always the target of many tricks. So people would write or hire a writer and put their links inside the content and drop off copies as press releases or free content in article directories. Same content on multiple sites created the duplicate content penalty.(allegedly)
If you are not familiar with this whole algorithm thing then let’s break down these into steps:
- Build content with inbound links to your site for keywords you wanted to rank for.
- Do this yourself or pay thousands of dollars to get to the first 3 top positions on page 1 in search results.
- Make money as traffic start visiting your site in waves upon waves of new visitors.
- Keep building links or paying thousands of dollars to people for blog comments, content marketing, link farms, link directory, buy high “PR Rank” links, and so on.
- Keep building your business based on this single point of failure.
- Google updates their code to mark links from link farms, directories, and duplicate content or a lesser value.
- Company loses 80% of revenue.
- Repeat for each algorithm change.
In the past, duplicate content would hurt a website if the same content copy was used on more than one website. Google would potentially apply this penalty, although it was very difficult to prove they did it because they didn’t discuss these things publicly. In 2007-2009, people used a script that would “spin content” to take a 500-word article and make it different by producing hundreds of slight variations, and thus it was not duplicate content. I did this so I know first hand and it was a crazy period because I could write so much and wind up with thousands of slightly different articles linking to my websites.
Matt Cuts has been the leading charge against people trying to manipulate the search results for years and steps out to discuss changes. Here is a quote from him back in 2014:
Over time article directories have gotten a little bit of a worse name. So just refresh everybody’s memory, an article directory is basically where you write 3-, 4-, 500 words of content and then you’ll include a little bio or some information about you at the bottom of the article, and you might have three links with keyword rich anchor text at the bottom of that article. And then you’d submit that to a bunch of what are known as article directories, and then anyone can download them or perhaps pay to download them, and they’ll use them on their own website.
Others way to gain rank would be to submit links to link directories so you had more authority than a site without a link to the. Some of the biggest directories still live on, but I have serious doubt if they are useful in any way. Aol still has the DMOZ link directory so I guess there is a little weight there. Link directories are relevant to this discussion because people would write content, publish it, then immediately start buying links that point to their article. Those days are over as well.
This ends the brief history lesson on duplicate content.
TL;dr: Duplicate content was and is considered bad. You write content, then post the exact same content to Medium. Then the first published article is now the original publish, and anything after is syndicated content and leaves the article on Medium with little to no importance in Google search results. So big deal? Meh, not really.
Part II: Duplicate Content Snoozefest
Now, this one is actually a different reason why you don’t duplicate. I would say this has been more important since maybe 2010’ish. My dates are loose, but they are about the time that I started to care more about content and less about the links. I want to be followed on Twitter, liked on Facebook, and subscribed to on YouTube! Putting the same content everywhere isn’t going to encourage people to follow, like, or subscribe to me. They will just stop by my blog from time to time to catch up. Maybe some people don’t mind being irrelevant on social, but I would like to have some kind of audience.
After years of trying to get the top search results with backlinking, I said, “fuck it!” , and threw my fingers to the keyboard and made the only purpose that my content serves is quality. Quality content is only topped by it’s context and both are needed to be relevant in today’s search. I want my content in text, audio, and video. Content re-utilization is okay on social media, but not in complete duplication . I don’t even auto-post, IFTTT, or copy & paste the same content to each platform. I ensure the images are the correct size and the content is unique. It’s that important that I go out of my way to make it happen. I want my Facebook to be different than my Twitter or Tumblr. This is why I don’t copy and paste to Medium.
My goal is always to be on top because my content is worth something to somebody.
Rarely, in the last 6 years have I considered SEO as my first goal with the exception of using Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress. That plugin makes your content get the correct appreciation from search that it deserves and not solely for gaming Google. If you use WordPress and don’t have this installed, then please go get it and use it!
I rewrite so many articles that it drives me nuts sometimes but I have to make sure that each has it’s own value. This is my own personal view so take it for what it’s worth. Creating unique, buIt’s also a lot of work which is why I can put out about 50 posts per year on my site. They are all original pieces and I never copy & paste.
How I Manage Content for Medium
A rule of thumb is that the Grade B to B+ content is on Medium and other platforms. Grade A-A+ is always on my own site. I know that if I put the good stuff up on those sites that I have a better chance of being seen through sharing and social. I feel that I still provide enough quality that it does happen organically. I only write for Medium about once per 3-6 months. I know that I should probably write more often and I hope to in the near future as I transition to a full-time writer and content creator. Medium is a beautiful place to display high-quality content and it’s very meaningful to my brand. My issues is finding the right topic, at the right time, and something I am passionate about. Those three points alone make it challenging to find a reason to write more often on Medium.
One other point I will make is that like platforms such as Blab or Quora, Medium can be a time suck. By the time I write, build images if needed, and publish I could be doing so much more elsewhere. Time is worth a lot and I have written 6 pieces on the platform which is enough for me to say that I use it. In other words, I don’t feel guilty about releasing something every week on Tuesday at 9AM EST. You shouldn’t feel guilty either because it should be about quality and not quantity. I understand that readers or fans expect XYZ, but I am upfront and make sure that folks know that this is how I release content. So far, no complaints that I am aware of.
I hope this makes sense and it helps you, and please, don’t re-use the same content everywhere. All this behavior does is encourage people to follow you in one place and never bother connecting anywhere else. I want every reader to have a reason to follow me on every platform. I may post similar content across some profiles, but they are unique enough to bring people in and give them a reason to follow, subscribe, and like my brand.