How to Succeed Blogging on Medium

This article is an op-ed by Michael Spencer, a popular writer in technology on Medium.

I’m following Medium’s Partner Program evolution in great detail, first of all because I’m one of the top earners on it. Thus I’m uniquely well equipped to give tips on how to succeed in blogging on Medium. I don’t believe in hacking the system (which I have taken great pains not to do), but it can still be highly monetizable. That is, you don’t have to compromise your ethics to succeed on Medium.

To monetize your blog further, you will also want to consider micropayments such as Quid for content creators.

Medium is Promising

Medium is constantly changing its algorithmic system, tweaking it to serve writers and optimize how it can grow its paywall audience, that is, paying members and readers that support active writers. It’s incredible to witness such an ecosystem that’s learning how to be a win-win that truly is a revolution for bloggers.

In Medium’s February update on its Partner Program, the editors state that $8,597.53 (USD) was the most earned by a writer for the month, and $3,509.62 was the most earned for a single (article) story.

While going viral with a single article is difficult, building a personal following on Medium isn’t impossible, it just requires some hard work and talented dedication.

How it Works

  • The Medium Partner Program distributes $ via each member’s $5/month premium subscription based on his or her applause, reading time, and overall engagement (things like read ratio and external traffic) last month.
  • You will actually have to join the Partner Program to succeed on Medium. In early 2019, Medium has further pivoted to its Partner Program and Pay-walled model. Therefore you cannot succeed on Medium without entering the Partner Program and learning to thrive with it.

Building Personal Relationship is Paramount

Building a personal connection with your audience is key, especially on a hybrid social writing platform such as Medium, where comments and human interaction really matter.

It takes a special person and the right attitude and a lot of free time to actually demonstrate you care about your audience.

In a world of echo chambers and fake influencer marketing, being authentic to your audience is the single most important thing to out-humanize the algorithms.

Optimizing Content Distribution Channels

Too many writers on Medium think writing is enough. It isn’t. I recommend spending at least 20% of your time boosting your traffic funnel to your stories. This means you must grow a presence on social media and understand where your audience hangs out online.

  • Twitter (though please note, paywalled stories are now free and unmetered on Medium when you’re coming from Twitter).
  • Reddit
  • Hacker News
  • Facebook Groups
  • LinkedIn
  • Pinterest
  • Optimize for Google | Bing | DuckDuckgo | Yahoo
  • Chrome’s Articles for you
  • App aggregation feeds such as SmartNews, Flipboard, Toutiao, Yahoo and others.
  • So many others.

The idea is you also need to add value to Medium’s growth to earn $ while providing valuable content to your audience and followers on Medium. I’ll repeat this, writing great content is not enough to earn significantly on Medium’s Paywall.

If our personal follower size and Publication size matter less (than in years past), I believe external traffic we can bring to Medium matters more.

How to Write Awesome Content

  • Write original content that’s the best you can write on a niche or trending topic.
  • Since time on site (reading time) is important in how you earn $ on Medium, consider writing quality pieces of over 7 minutes to maximize this. Long-form content is also drastically more shareable and more likely to get claps.
  • Studies have shown writing at a 6th grade level is optimal for traction with a wide audience.
  • Write frequently or at least twice a week to grow a follower base and to gain traction.
  • Choose a niche that’s already inherently popular with an existing audience on Medium such as Life Lessons, Self-Improvement, Sexuality, Relationships or Blogging itself. This will improve your odds of gaining traction since active Medium readers already love these topics.
  • Choose the right subject title for the story and have a high-resolution banner image (which I recommend placing above the title).
  • Have frequent subtitles within the article to turn skim reading into active reading. This is exceedingly important to improve your read ratios on Medium.
  • Expect to have only a single week or less of peak traffic (as of March, 2019), so share your article or story generously on other platforms especially right after you publish it.
  • Choose five tags for the story that are general enough to earn you traffic and the possibility of curators featuring it (behind the paywall).
  • Frequently change which article you feature on your profile, with a special emphasis on the number of comments the story received (not simply the number of claps).
  • Track which articles Medium’s curators featured and repeat what you learn in your work. To learn more about how to get the attention of Medium’s curators go here.

Have a Unique Voice

Medium doesn’t call its articles articles, it calls them stories for a reason. Medium wants to celebrate personal perspectives and narratives and enrich our lives with a wide spectrum of storytelling, op-eds and incredible accounts of personal experience.

Medium rewards writers and personal brands that stand out in some way. How are you going to stand out? How will you elevate your stories in a way that creates a lasting impression and a memorable reader experience? How can you thrill, educate, inform and advocate for the topics you write about, creating emotional impact? This is hugely important for success on Medium.

Play By Medium’s Rules — 90 million unique readers visit Medium each month

Medium has very specific ideas on what as writers we should be doing. While I may not agree personally with everything, conforming to them can truly help you succeed within Medium’s framework of operations. Here are some tips I can give on this after reviewing some of the literature and FAQs:

  • Review Medium Editor Picks to better recognize what they are looking for in stories.
  • Look at your own writer stats page and look for stories with favorable read to fan ratios, and fan to comment ratios along with read ratios of well above 50% to identify your best work so that you can replicate it. Stories with multiple comments means your audience was actually emotionally engaged enough to react.
  • Review the curation guidelines to make sure you understand the terms and give yourself the best possible chance of success with each story.
  • Review under your stats where external traffic has been coming from and learn to maximize it (see optimizing content distribution channels above).
  • Use images and banner images you have the rights to use. Popular picks are free resources like Pexels, Pixabay and Unsplash which are great for sourcing Creative Commons-licensed images.
  • Write a clear and descriptive title and a subtitle for your story. Headlines should accurately reflect what your story is about. Think of this as a snippet preview for your article that will help your audience engage with it.
  • Eliminate typos, spelling mistakes and janky formatting that may disqualify your story from being curated by Human editors.
  • Focus on incredible original insight, ideas or perspectives while avoiding CTAs, plagiarism or unverified accusatory information that hijacks negativity-bias of clickbait.

Putting it All Together

Succeeding on Medium will take time, luck and a steady increase in a tribe that looks forward to your work. Know your audience and write about the topics that really move you, chances are it will move them too.

You will need to write often and do an above average job of marketing yourself and building rapport with your audience to succeed on Medium. You may want at first to emulate someone you admire in your niche writing on Medium and later better define your own voice — this will help you get the first initial traction that will motivate you to work ever harder.

Additional Tools

To help you succeed on Medium you might want to use these tools or best practices to further your growth blogging.

  • Discover publications to write on via Smedian.
  • Compose a weekly Series on Medium with links to your stories (the Series notification is better seen by your followers).
  • Use an AI-assistant tool like Grammarly, especially if you are prone to having sloppy typos.
  • If you have the time, respond to every single comment on your stories. This at least shows you care about your audience and the reactions your work elicited from readers.
  • Do have a goal of getting stories “featured” by Medium on their front page.
  • Do have a goal of writing stories that are curated into multiple tags at the same time by Medium.
  • Do start your own niche publication to have a double-follower mechanism on your profile and the publications you control.
  • Do have a goal of writing one article each day. It will dramatically increase your probability of being noticed on Medium and being successful.
  • Do give other stories standing ovations of 50 (the max) claps, this will encourage reciprocity as well.
  • Do actively make ‘friends’ on Medium. It’s a writer’s paradise with an added social layer. It’s important to network and support the community.
  • Do browse what’s popular and trending on Medium to discover new pop-writers you can emulate and get a feel for what Medium’s audience actually likes and finds stimulating.

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About Michael Spencer

Michael K. Spencer is a content specialist and futurist actively supporting blockchain and FinTech startups with an active following on Medium, LinkedIn and Twitter