Where is the best place to put your blog? Where should you host it? Put the blog in a subdomain or directory? Should I integrate the blog? What about off-site options like Medium and LinkedIn?
It’s a big decision. Like a lot of decisions in digital marketing, it has implications big and small. When you decide where to blog, you’re making a decision that potentially affects each of the following:
There are at least five answers to the “where to blog” question. We’ll explore the pros and cons of each in this post. Let’s start by summarizing options and impacts in a chart…
The first two options are the classic ways to integrate a blog into a website directly. These are the nicer, but more expensive approaches.
The last three are off-site options, hosted outside of your website. They are fast and cheap, but have specific disadvantages.
Let’s break them down.
This is what you’re reading now. The blog is fully integrated into the website. It’s in its own subfolder (also known as a directory) and it’s managed through the same content management system as the rest of the website. This happens to be a WordPress website.
This kind of blog integration requires careful planning and design. It’s part web design and part content strategy. It’s true integration so blog content lives at the root domain.
Here’s a breakdown of the benefits and costs.
It’s mostly a technical decision. Your visitors may never notice the subdirectory vs. subfolder difference. Visually, blog integration can be seamless with a subdomain.
The big advantage of subdomains is that they’re fast, easy and inexpensive to set up. You can add a blog hosted on a third-party system (Hubspot, Uberflip, etc.) with little to no programming. It has no impact on your main website. For hosting, It’s over there and you’re over here. Easy peasy.
This is why so many Hubspot customers have WordPress websites but blogs hosted by Hubspot at blog.website.com. It’s cheap to set up. There’s really no other reason to do it.
Let’s dive deeper into each of these implications. First the Analytics fix, then the SEO debate.
It’s a bad idea to use a separate Analytics property or view to track blog traffic. It makes all of your Analytics less accurate.
If it is separate, you’re going to have some accuracy issues. Visitors who go from a sales page to the blog look like they exited the website. That same visitor is now counted twice. If they come back, they’re counted again.
Without proper setup, a visitor moving from your website to your blog and back again is tracked as two visitors and three visits.
In just two clicks, both visitors and visits (users and sessions) have been inflated. Your website is referring traffic to itself. Ouch.
The fix isn’t simple, but it doesn’t take long. You’ll need to create a new view and a fancy filter. Once done, Analytics will show the full URL in all the reports (including blog.website.com).
This video breaks down the step-by-step process for tracking blogs on subdomains in Google Analytics:
Now onto the SEO debate…
Is it “bad for SEO” to have your content on a subdomain? Does Google index at content on subdomains differently? Do links to subdomains pass full value to the main domain?
Google’s own statements. John Mueller answered the question in a now famous video from 2017.
The blog isn’t actually on your website. It’s on a free, hosted, third-party blogging site like wordpress.com or blogspot.com.
If you need to set up a blog before you go to lunch, this is a good way to go.
This is actually a popular option. Some companies are forgoing hosted blogs and just sending their visitors over the Medium. It might sound crazy at first, but weigh the considerations…
Yes. And it could still be at yourwebsite.com/blog as if it was part of your CMS
If you love the medium editor and want to use it to manage your blog, but want everything on your domain, you can embed a Medium blog into your website. It requires some programming (documentation here) but once complete, it will be a seamless experience for visitors with no SEO disadvantages.
Pros: The Medium editor is pretty sweet!
Cons: But now you’ve got two content management systems, one for your webpages and another (Medium) for your blog content.
Just like Medium, you can blog directly into the LinkedIn platform. It’s not a popular option for businesses for several reasons, but it is an option.
This brings us to a final idea for the location of your blog content.
‘Where to blog?’ isn’t an either/or question. You can blog everywhere. And one blog can appear in several places. It’s called syndication.
After a post has run its course on your website, shares fall off and traffic flattens out. How else to make the message visible? Post it again on LinkedIn. Literally just copy and paste the article into the editor. It’s very easy and can be delegated to a virtual assistant.
If you want to get more aggressive, replace the last part of the article with a call to action to read the full version on your website. And to measure the impact, add campaign tracking code so you can see all of this traffic separate in your Analytics.
Here are the results from the 15 articles syndicated into LinkedIn, posted to my account over the last 6 months.
Probably, the actual website traffic from these posts was much higher, because each article contained internal links which didn’t have campaign tracking code.
But, Andy, isn’t there a penalty for duplicate content? No.
I’d love input from you, dear reader, on your experience with blog integration, hosting and syndication!