Will content distribution platforms help you amplify your program, or distract from your own site?

Have you ever considered writing an article about your e-learning course to a content distribution platform like Medium? If so, you’re not alone. As a vehicle for connecting influencers to audiences, Medium has an attractive sales pitch. But like many marketing ideas that seem too easy, it has its downsides.

If you’re wondering whether you should publish your latest article to a content distribution platform or on your own blog, here’s a few factors to consider.

The pro: reaching a large audience quickly.

The big benefit of using a site like Medium (or LinkedIn’s published content, or public forums like Quora or Reddit) is that it puts you in front of (potentially) a lot of people.

It’s not too difficult to write a thoughtful article that gets a few thousand views and several hundred likes (or upvotes, or +1s). And that kind of attention can be exhilarating. It can even lead to some sales. But before you start devoting all your energy in that direction, there’s another thing to remember.

The con: losing control of your own content.

The content you publish on your own site belongs to you. But when you publish on someone else’s site, you cede control of that content, if not ownership.

Let’s say the website goes the way of MySpace. All the posts you made go with it, as does the audience you worked to generate. Or, they could change how content is displayed and formatted, or update the algorithm they use to determine who to suggest your article to.

All these things have been known to happen, and when they do, it puts the energy you invested into that content at risk. And if this argument is beginning to sound familiar… well, there’s a reason for that.

Deciding where to host your content is similar to deciding where to host your course.

As it turns out, using one of these content hosting platforms is a lot like choosing a hosted learning system like Udemy for your course. You gain a lot in convenience and audience reach, but you lose control of your product, your visitors, and your information.

Now, maybe you don’t consider that such a bad thing. Not everyone is comfortable with handling everything themselves. But if you’re going to all the trouble of creating content to market your course, it’s important to factor in the returns you expect to gain from your investment.

Content distribution platforms benefit from your continued use. They benefit from your content, because having thousands of users post well-written articles to their site every day brings in a lot of traffic. And that traffic is worth a lot to them.

But only a fraction of the traffic that goes from that site to your post will eventually make it back to your website. It may still be worth it, but only if your website is ready to handle the new visitors.

Content distribution has value—but only after you’ve done work on your own site.

If you’re still set on using a platform like Medium or LinkedIn to expand your audience, there is a way to do it effectively for e-learning. Here’s how it goes:

1. Put your own blog first.

Yes. I’m serious. You still have to do this. The whole point of reaching a larger audience is to draw them to your site. If you don’t have content on your site to back up your content distribution strategy, then you will waste a lot of time.

2. Consider the audience on the platform.

If you wade into a site like Quora or Reddit with a strong sales pitch, you’ll be laughed off the site. The best you can do on sites like these is to put a link in your profile and then engage the community like a peer, not as a sales person.

On the other hand, platforms like Medium or published content on LinkedIn encourage professional expertise. You can talk much more freely about your business on these sites without fear of audience blowback.

3. Write a share-worthy article.

Easier said than done, right? But if you’ve spent enough time on your own blog honing your writing skills and refining your message, you’re much more likely to pull this step off.

4. Write, publish, and link back.

When you go to your content on your platform of choice, be sure include several links within the body of the article back to relevant articles on your own site. Again, this will be easier if you have pieces of high-value content on your site you want to link to. Your links should feel natural and user-oriented. If your link is a non-sequitur, it will only lead to a higher bounce rate, and you will lose credibility.

90–95% of your content should still be on your site.

Even when you decide to publish the occasional article on Medium, most of your efforts should remain on your own site. If you publish a weekly blog, then maybe once a quarter you might try publishing on Medium. If you publish two or three times a week, maybe you use another channel once a month.

Whatever you decide to do, it’s important to keep the purpose of your strategy foremost in your mind. These sites can help you build an audience, but that won’t do you any good if that audience has nowhere to go. So, get your content lined up, and once you have that machine running smoothly, then start thinking of more creative ways to reach new readers.

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