Is Substack good for blogging?
This is the question I’m going to answer in this post.
How is Substack Different from a Blog?
Let’s dive deeper into the difference between substack and a blog.
Substack: The Newsletter Game-Changer
Substack was primarily designed as a newsletter platform, mind you, not a blogging service.
You can consider it a hybrid—a newsletter with the vibe of a social blog. You’re not just pushing articles into the digital abyss; you’re mailing them directly into someone’s inbox. That’s like hand-delivering a letter instead of leaving it at the post office.
It’s intimate; it’s targeted.
Ever read a captivating newsletter and felt like you were sitting across the table from the writer? That’s the Substack magic. You’re not just a reader; you’re part of a community. It’s almost like joining a book club but for articles. Isn’t that something?
Substack doesn’t require you to learn the basics of SEO to get discovered.
Blogging: The Jack of All Trades
Now, contrast that with a blog.
A blog is like your city’s central library. A treasure trove of articles, categories, multimedia content—you name it.
It’s the space where you can write, publish, categorize, and even monetize through various means.
Ads, sponsored content, selling products or courses, the sky’s the limit.
Your blog can be a one-stop shop, a digital magazine, or even a corporate platform.
You can host webinars, podcasts, or even an e-commerce site.
Can you do all that with Substack? Nah, not even close.
The takeaway here is this: Substack is different from having a blog on WordPress or Ghost. Substack’s focus is newsletters; it’s the snug, curated corner coffee shop.
Traditional blogging platforms like WordPress are more like sprawling shopping malls where you can open any type of store you want.
Building an Audience with a Blog or Substack
Blog: Master of Your Own Destiny
SEO is your ticket to long-term visibility.
Ever tried planting a garden? You till the soil, you plant the seeds, and you water diligently. The growth isn’t immediate, but boy, when those plants sprout, you’ve got yourself a constant supply of fresh produce.
SEO is like that garden; it needs tending, but once it takes off, you’ll be reaping the benefits for years to come.
Now, SEO may sound like rocket science to some.
With the right tools and advice—you’re golden. Remember, Google wants to serve up quality. Produce quality content, optimized the right way, and you’re in the game for the long haul.
Confused? Let’s break it down.
You wrote an article about “The Best Golf Techniques for Seniors.” You do your keyword research, sprinkle them in, and let it marinate.
Six months down the line, you’re ranking in the top 10 on Google, getting a consistent influx of golfers over 50 who are looking to improve their swing, opt-in for your emails, and buy your products.
All this without lifting a single finger.
Substack: A Game of Algorithmic Roulette
Sure, you can hop on Substack and get your eyes on your article.
But it’s not your eyes, it’s theirs—guided by an ever-changing algorithm. Ever played a game of roulette? You place your bet, the wheel spins, and you cross your fingers. Substack’s algorithm is that spinning wheel and your content is the ball. You’re essentially gambling every time you post.
Remember that “Best Golf Techniques for Seniors” article?
Well, it might get a few hits on day one on Substack, maybe even climb to their curated list if you’re lucky.
But what about day 15? Day 30? Are those golfers still finding you? Nope. Substack’s algorithm has moved on to newer content. The game changed while you were still learning the rules.
One day you’re the star, and the next, you’re old news. It’s not that you can’t build an audience on Substack. You can certainly grow your subscriber base. However, keep in mind the algorithm side of things. But don’t be surprised if you feel like being on a content treadmill having to produce new content all the time to stay relevant.
However, one of the interesting features Substack offers is the fact that other subscribers can recommend your newsletter to others. Think of it as a free referral program. Now, you can’t have this on your blog. Either you rank, or you don’t.
Overall, building an audience on Substack might be easier in the short run, but having a blog is better in the long run because you’ll benefit from SEO.
Cost: Which is cheaper?
A self-hosted WordPress blog will cost more than a free Substack account.
Prices start around $10/month for a self-hosted WordPress blog with a domain (that’s what you want to go for.)
Substack only takes a 10% cut when someone subscribes to your paid newsletter.
Because yes, Substack allows you to run a free newsletter or a paid one.
If you only plan to write free emails, Substack won’t cost you a dime.
Customization: Blog vs. Substack
Blog (or WordPress): A Buffet of Options
Your blog is your piece of digital real estate on the internet.
You can do whatever you want on it.
Take WordPress as an example
It’s like your local artisanal market, a place where you can handpick every single detail to fit your style, your voice, and your brand.
Ever walked into one of those gourmet burger joints where you can build your own burger? You choose the bun, the patty, the toppings—heck, even the type of mayo.
That’s WordPress for you. Each plugin and each theme is an ingredient that makes your site uniquely yours.
For example, imagine you’re building a course on “Time Management for Experienced Professionals.”
With WordPress, you can add a forum plugin for students to discuss topics, embed YouTube tutorials, and integrate a payment gateway for quick enrollments.
Want to give a quiz at the end of each module? There’s a plugin for that.
Your blog becomes this dynamic, interactive learning hub – not just a place to publish articles.
Substack: Cookie-Cutter Experience
Substack is more like a fast-food drive-thru. It’s like buying a model home—everything comes pre-installed, and there’s not much room to change anything. Ever try to get “just a little extra sauce” at a fast-food joint? Good luck.
Now, Substack isn’t completely rigid.
Think of it as a classic diner menu. You can pick your type of burger—chicken, beef, or veggie—but you can’t choose the type of cheese or add pineapple on top. For instance, Substack lets you pick a template, tweak the colors, and add your logo. That’s not too shabby, right? You can even decide how to structure your newsletter, opting for sections or sticking to long-form articles. It’s customization but within guardrails.
However, it’s also not where you go for a five-course gourmet meal. Say you’re doing a deep dive into cryptocurrency for beginners. Sure, you can serialize it over several newsletters. But could you add a live feed of current crypto prices? Or a forum for community discussions? Nope, you’re out of luck.
Substack offers a more streamlined experience with limited customization options. While users can customize the look and feel of their newsletter using customizable templates, there aren’t many functionality options beyond the basic features.
Blogs like WordPress offers limitless possibility, while Substack gives you a neat, predetermined package.
Alright, let’s get to the nitty-gritty of set-up and ease of use. Sometimes it’s not just about what you can do; it’s about how easily you can do it.
Set Up and Ease of Use
Blogging: Easier Than You Think
The myth that setting up a blog is a Herculean task needs to be busted.
Let’s get real.
We’re not in 1999 anymore.
You’re not hand-coding HTML in Notepad.
These days, setting up a WordPress blog is as easy as assembling a piece of IKEA furniture. You know, the kind with just three steps in the manual?
Host providers give you 1-click installations, and there are more “how-to” guides than there are Starbucks in Seattle.
Picture this: You’re an experienced marketing exec who wants to launch a blog about branding.
Years ago, you’d dread the setup process, right?
Now, you click a few buttons, and your website is up and running faster than you can make a cup of coffee.
You didn’t even break a sweat.
Substack: Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy
Now, where Substack really shines is in its utter simplicity.
Imagine you’re at a fast-food restaurant. You don’t worry about how they make the fries; you’re just glad they’re hot and crispy when you get ’em.
Substack is that fast-food chain.
You’re not fussing over plugins or themes. You simply type and hit ‘Publish’. It’s clean, it’s streamlined, and you can’t mess it up.
Literally, you can’t, because there aren’t that many knobs to turn.
Where Substack saves you time: It’s optimized.
No decisions to make. It’s the same layout for everyone.
Less decision-making means more time for content creation. In our fast-paced lives, who wouldn’t want to save a few precious minutes?
After all, you could use that time to perfect your next killer strategy, couldn’t you?
To wrap this up: Substack might be easier, but installing a blog right now isn’t harder.
With all the one-click installations and tutorials, setting up a blog is a piece of cake.
Where Substack saves you time is in the optimization—fewer decisions mean you hit the ground running.
Email marketing features
If you plan to use a WordPress blog, you’ll definitely add an autoresponder to the mix to be able to gather subscribers.
There are a myriad of autoresponders you can choose from.
Substack is an emailing platform, yes. But it lacks a lot of features autoresponders offer.
Example: being able to tag your subscribers based on interest, send custom follow-up sequences, and more.
In short, you’ll still need to use an email marketing autoresponder to really take your email marketing to the next level.
Conclusion: Substack vs. Blog
Substack will never replace your own personal blog.
I always recommend creators to think long-term and have their own blog, or their own piece of real estate on the internet to benefit from long-term SEO benefits.
How would you react if you stumble across someone who doesn’t even have a website?
However, Substack can be a good growth engine to grow your newsletter and find your target audience thanks to their recommendation features and algorithm.
In short: use both.
Frequent Asked Questions
Can Substack Be Used as a Blog?
Yes, but you’ll lack all the different personalization components.
Does Substack own your content?
Legally, Substack does not own your content. But in practice, if you take into consideration that you can not add a canonical URL and if you decide to delete your content, then everything is gone unless you have a backup.
Can You Use Medium Posts on Substack?
You can. However, it might mess up the SEO since Google will handle one of those as duplicate content. The workaround: Publish on Substack first, and then add your Substack URL as canonical on Medium.
How to Use Substack and WordPress Together?
If you want to use Substack and WordPress together then I would recommend using Substack as a discovery platform where you publish your newsletters and WordPress where you publish your SEO-optimized articles. You can also embed the Substack opt-in forms on your WordPress blog to gather subscribers. In that way, you get the best out of both worlds.
Is Substack the New Blog?
No, it’s not.
You could think of Substack as the new Medium, but not as a blog.
The reason is that Substack lacks essential SEO features to be considered as a new blog platform.