Hosting services like GitHub are excellent for storing your important files and documents in a publicly accessible place. If you’re an engineer who spends all day pushing code with git, it makes perfect sense to use it for all those other things you need to keep safe.
Apart from the obvious convenience, GitHub also has a compelling feature list:
- Accessible on the web? Check.
- Version controlled files to track historical changes and authorship? Check.
- Reassuringly used by over 24 million people? Check
But you absolutely should not be using it to host marketing material.
And when I say “marketing material”, I’m talking about anything designed to represent your company or your brand: slide decks, documentation, and website content.
By asking people to go to github.com you’re wasting an opportunity to engage with your audience on the very thing you built with that purpose: your website.
Instead, you’re asking your users and customers to go to a third-party site to checkout your stuff. It’s a well-known third party, sure, but it still isn’t your site.
And because it isn’t your site there are some unintended consequences of sending your audience there.
You’re helping GitHub with their SEO
Everyone hopes their material connects with their audience and that it’s useful and interesting enough to get backlinks. Stop giving them up so easily to GitHub. You’ve done the hard work, you should reap the rewards.
Producing content is difficult. Hosting that content? That space is so competitive and there are numerous offerings in the market place.
(I’m picking on GitHub in particular because it’s the hosting service that I see used the most in open source circles. The idea applies equally to all other providers.)
Hosting your material on GitHub makes it the authoritative source for your content. That’s bad. You want it to be your site.
You don’t benefit from analytics data
If you want to know whether your content has any value you need to measure engagement, and that means you need analytics data.
Yes, it’s possible to track social shares with tools like BuzzSumo, but social shares are just one metric. To get a full picture you need to understand both what content is being viewed and where traffic is coming from.
Besides, when was the last time you saw someone tweet a link to a GitHub project?
GitHub’s UX doesn’t promote your brand
When you land on github.com, it’s immediately obvious that you’re on github.com and not some other site, i.e. your site. Their UX is very consistent.
Granted, you can use things like GitHub Pages to present a custom design at a custom domain, and maybe even design a nice landing page. But hardly anyone does. It’s far more common to throw code and slides up on some repository, with a horrendously convoluted URL, and tell people to go there for more information.
If you bump into someone in the hallway at a conference and want to direct them to your slide deck, there’s no way they’re going to remember your URL on github.com.
(Pro Tip: Bitly provides a partial solution because it gives you a nice short URL and tracks link clicks. Rand Fishkin from Moz crafted a great URL, bit.ly/starketing, for his talk “The 8 Ways Startups SUCK at Marketing”. I’ve never had to write it down because I can remember it.)
OK, we get it. You hate GitHub
Actually, no. I love GitHub. I personally think it’s the best hosting service around. The entire Read Modify Write site is built using jekyll, hosted by Netlify, and stored in a git repository at github.com. Of course, you wouldn’t know that if I hadn’t told you and that’s kinda my point.
This is not a tirade against git or storing your marketing collateral with source code management tools. If you want to use git to host your files, that’s fine. Just remember that you’re making a trade-off by putting them there.
The best solution, by far, is to host your marketing material on your website. That way you can use the analytics pipeline and sales funnels you’ve already got in place to understand your audience, produce great content, advertise your brand, and convert leads.
After all, isn’t that what you built your website for?