Whenever you publish anything online, depending on where and how you post it, you could be giving away the ownership of your content. In fact, you might be surprised to hear that the only place where you can truly own and control your content is on your own website. Here are the six most common content ownership mistakes; keep them in mind whenever you’re about to post.
Mistake #1: Not Reading the Terms of Service
“Like everyone else in the world, I don’t read the countless pages of terms and conditions when signing up to a site or service, which means I’m not entirely clear myself on who owns the data I have with companies like Facebook and Google,” says Simon Mitchell, owner and head writer at Copy Octopus.
But if you want to know exactly what you’re getting into — and giving up — reading those is key. In most cases, people aren’t aware that they’re typically handing over the reins so third-party platforms can use their content however they’d like, whether that’s for marketing research or advertising.
Mistake #2: Making Your Own Site Secondary
“The one place you truly own your content is on your website,” says John Locke, founder of Lockedown Design. “By publishing on your own website first, you own the copyright on whatever you publish there. I advocate for everyone to have their own website, publish there first, and then repurpose content for social media.”
There’s no guarantee on how many people will see your content on platforms like Facebook, unless you pay for boosted posts. By publishing on your website, you don’t have that traffic artificially boosted, and there’s no fear that the platform will get acquired or shut down. Plus, publishing on your own site first creates a verifiable date that proves you had the content before anyone else.
Mistake #3: Using Only One Online Platform
“If you publish content on Facebook — say by doing a Facebook live video — you usually have to pay to get more people to see that content,” Mitchell says. “If you use Facebook for all of your content then they can basically hold you ransom and increase the price any time. And of course you’re going to pay, because otherwise your whole content marketing strategy is kaput. That’s why I think it’s really important never to put all of your eggs in one basket, whether that basket belongs to Facebook, Google, Medium, eBay or anyone else.”
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You can embrace these sites, but maintain control by adding your content to your own site first and then just post links on your social media platforms.
Mistake #4: Driving Traffic Away From Your Site
“Ten years ago, when someone handed you a business card, you’d see a website and phone number,” says Jonathan LaCour, Senior Vice President of Product and Technology at DreamHost. “Now they have just their Instagram or Twitter handle or Facebook page; people are abandoning their sites and gravitating toward content silos.”
By having your own domain name — and using that as your main platform — it can become the center of your digital presence and online identity. “Writing and posting your own content enables you to stand out from the crowd,” LaCour says. “If you’re just another Yelp or Twitter profile, there’s no way to separate.”
Mistake #5: Not Having Control of Your Interface
Another big risk is having the company that owns your content making UX or interface changes that have a negative impact on your content or business reputation.
“Let’s say you publish all your blog posts on Medium,” Mitchell says. “They offer a nice interface and make it very easy for you to publish content and get people seeing it. But then the powers that be at Medium realize they need huge amounts of advertising revenue to survive, so they redesign the site to give paid ads more prominence on all your posts. Now your carefully crafted blog posts are interspersed with banner ads for porn sites and online poker.”
That’s obviously an extreme hypothetical example, but giving up control of the UX and the decision on what ads — if any — you want to display alongside your content is a very big risk.
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Mistake #6: Using an Unreliable Web Host
“DreamHost’s model is you pay us to keep your site running and running fast, and protect your data, privacy, and information,” LaCour says. You might be able to find a cheaper or free service, but you get what you pay for, so it’s worth investing more to have confidence in the privacy of your data.