Roughly a month ago, I made a big commitment.
I was going to post a new article on Medium every weekday for a month.
Spoiler: I made it through three weeks before, frankly, my resolve petered out (more on that later), but—HOLY COW—I saw results I didn’t quite expect.
See, I’ve been re-posting blog articles from my website to Medium over the past year or two. Two even went small-time viral with a few thousand views each.
But this time, I went in with a plan. And it paid off.
My Medium strategy
My drive for this experiment largely came from Tom Keugler of FindingTom.com. He’s made himself into a bit of a Medium guru, and his experiences got me fired up.
My strategy for Medium domination was three-fold:
1. Post every day
It could be any length, on any topic. But I had to post something.
2. Submit each post to a publication whenever possible
Publications are Medium’s secret sauce. If you can get published in a publication, you instantly reach the publication’s audience. And as your piece gets attention, you have a chance to start trending in Medium’s algorithm.
You can apply directly to publications—many of them have submission requirements listed out for anyone to see. Based on Tom’s advice, I joined Smedian.com, a free network of Medium writers and publications. It allows you to apply to publications as a writer with a click of a button. I applied to 10 or so that seemed to overlap with my usual writing topics (business, freelancing, etc.). One finally accepted about 15 days later.
In the meantime, one of my first posts in this experiment started getting attention on its own, and a publication editor reached out to me directly with an invitation to join his publication. I’m not sure how common this is, but it allowed me to join a publication almost out of the gate.
Tip: It’s easier to get into publications when you have a healthy body of work already uploaded into Medium. If you’ve never posted on Medium, don’t be afraid to upload articles you’ve already published on your website. More on how to do that later.
3. Promote a related email course
In my Medium bio and at the end of every business-related article, I included a call-to-action inviting readers to join my free email course. It reads:
Building a business?
Get my FREE course in your inbox on the top 5 website mistakes business owners make — and how to fix them fast → [bitly link to subscribe page]
Some publications would remove this CTA from my articles when they published it (they become the editor, after all). That was a bummer. I also had to remove it from any article I chose to monetize through the Medium Partner Program, per their content guidelines. However, it still showed in my bio regardless.
Okay, here’s the fun part. After publishing 16 new articles, here’s the growth I saw:
At the beginning of my experiment on August 8th, I had 914 followers.
At the end, that number had grown by ~200 or so:
(They stop showing the exact number once you cross the 1K threshold)
As you can see, I was also named a “Top writer in Business, Writing, Entrepreneurship” based on the tags I used for my stories… and it’s 100% meaningless but A NICE LIL’ EGO BOOST.
Now, 200 isn’t huge growth when you’re starting at 914. However, now each post I make has a chance of reaching 200 more people, which means more traction early on… which means a higher chance for trending articles in the future.
My email list is the most valuable part of my business because it allows me to stay in touch with my readers (you). So, how many people signed up for my list based on that snazzy little email course?
According to ConvertKit (Disclosure: that’s an ad/affiliate link because I LOVE THEM), my email course form brought in 68 total subscribers, of whom 14 never confirmed (I require a double opt-in) and 8 unsubscribed, leaving a net growth of 46 subscribers. (Hi, guys! Welcome!)
Most of these folks opted in during the 3 initial weeks, but that number includes everyone who’s joined since I started the experiment (just over one month).
Having a dedicated email course definitely made the big difference here. I used to have only a link to my website in my Medium bio, and I embedded a form from Upscribe in each article inviting people to get my weekly emails. That resulted in about 10 total subscribers out of the 914 followers I’d gained over the last year or two. Not a great conversion rate. So, tip: Go the extra mile and make that subscription really worth it.
While the number of visitors to your site isn’t an all-encompassing metric, I was curious if the folks who were reading my posts were indeed checking out my website.
The answer is yes. Google Analytics shows 80 new users clicking to my site directly from Medium over the last month or so. The 30-day period before that only got 17 clicks. That’s a 371% increase.
I’m not complaining.
Two things also happened during the experiment that I thought were really interesting.
First, a few people included links to my more popular articles in their own compilation articles that they published on Medium. These were pieces like “The best articles I read this week” or something similar. I didn’t even know people did this. It was a total honor, and I’m sure it helped me reach even more readers.
Second, one of my much older posts that trended last year (How to Kick Impostor Syndrome) wound up in a friend’s Medium digest—the email newsletter from Medium that lists articles you might like. Medium seems to be giving a lot more attention to old articles these days.
How to succeed on Medium
During the experiment, I took some detours to try out different ways of posting and find what works best. Here’s what I learned overall:
Post to your blog first, then syndicate to Medium the next day
Ultimately, if the content you’re creating is relevant to your blog audience, post it on your blog first for SEO. Then, use Medium’s import tool on the Stories page to copy it into Medium. You’ll have to clean up the formatting a bit and maybe copy the images over manually, but this should tell Google that all SEO credit should go to the original post on your blog, and that the Medium version is just an authorized copy.
I used to wait a week before importing the story, but I realized that when you import it, it brings over the posting date. So if I import a story I wrote three months ago, it’s going to show as three months old on Medium. And that’s ridiculous. While Medium might promote some older posts, you can bet the algorithm isn’t highlighting articles it thinks are old and unpopular.
Consider monetizing some of your articles
At one point, one of my articles started to do well, so I decided to remove the email course CTA and instead monetize it through Medium’s Partner Program. This means that the article becomes accessible only to paid readers (through their $5/mo membership). Readers can ‘clap’ for articles they like up to 50 times, and for each clap the author gets a small portion of the reader’s membership fee as payment.
The article in particular was “How to Be Better than 90% of Freelancers,” and as of today it has 4K views,1.7K reads, 133 fans, and 906 claps. When I got my first payment, I was pleasantly surprised:
(You can see that another article I tried to monetize did NOT do as well.)
The freelancing article has since made another $8.08—nowhere near the initial spike.
Bottom line: Trying to live off of Medium articles is a poor idea, but it’s a fun perk if you’re already posting blog articles regularly to your site. However, the trade off is missing out on potential email subscribers, since you can’t include CTAs in monetized articles.
Use the right tags (meaning: high volume ones)
When you publish an article, Medium lets you tag it with a few topics to help readers find it. As you’re browsing the possible tags, Medium shows a number for each one, which I assumed is the number of articles already tagged with that topic.
I used to go for a blend of high-volume and low-volume tags. This was a bad idea.
Following Tom Keugler’s advice, I started posting only using high-volume tags. At first, I feared this would make my article get lost in the crowd. There’s riches in the niches, right? Shouldn’t I go for the smaller, more targeted topics?
However, Medium encourages readers to follow topics they might be interested in. People follow big tag topics like “Business” and “Writing.” They don’t follow “Self-employment ideas.”
And now as I’m writing this, I’m wondering if that little number doesn’t refer to the number of articles in a topic, but actually the number of followers. That would make a lot more sense.
Anyway, this ain’t Google. Stick to high-volume tags if you want a chance of being found.
Engage, engage, engage
Medium is a little funky in that any time you comment on a story, that comment is listed as a story itself under your own profile. This is intended to make it easy to write a long, thoughtful response to someone’s post. That’s great. However, I used to hesitate to engage because it annoyed me to have my “Stories” tab filled with my silly little comments instead of, you know, my stories.
That was silly. This time around, I tried to respond to comments whenever it made sense. At minimum, I gave the comments some claps so the reader knew I appreciated them. I don’t have any hard proof, but I’d guess Medium likes this behavior because an engaged author means ongoing conversation, which means more people returning to the app. So I’m thinking it helped bring a bit more traffic to some of my articles.
Also, it’s just nice to thank readers for their response.
What I’d do differently next time
All in all, I saw some good results from my efforts. However, the arbitrary “post every day” shtick had some unintended consequences.
First, I posted a lot of articles I wasn’t proud of. “Ship before you’re ready,” they say, but I think some pieces could have seen drastically better results if I had taken just one extra day to work on them.
Second, I burnt out. I meant to do a full month of posting and I only got to three weeks. This is because I tend to write longer articles (like this one), and I struggle to keep it short. Most people who write short articles talk about one little lesson from one experience. I just can’t do that. THERE’S TOO MUCH TO SHARE.
So I think I’ll stay away from a daily posting schedule, but I’ll definitely try to write more whenever I have extra bandwidth.
Finally, I’ve also heard a suggestion to find trending articles on the topic you specialize in and comment (thoughtfully!) on them. It’s a grassroots way to engage others in your space and to get in front of readers who are already interested in that topic. I didn’t do this during my experiment, but I’ll definitely try to engage with other writers more in the future
The bottom line: Medium is a fantastic syndication tool if you’re already posting regularly to a blog. If you don’t have a blog, it’s a fun training ground (but you should really start a blog ASAP for that SEO credit). Get out there!
I hope this was helpful!
Do you post on Medium? Will you start posting after reading this? Tell me about it in the comments!