Image by Ralf Kunze from Pixabay
This article first appeared in Towards Data Science
Simple techniques for creating content that’s easy to find and exciting to read
Want to learn how to write, publish, and get noticed?
I get a lot of views on Medium. About 100,000 every 30 days. As of April, I had been writing for four months and only wrote three to five articles each month.
It’s pretty exciting.
(Update: Thanks to all of you amazing human beings, I reached 100K readers in April!!!)
Everyone wants to know how they can write, publish, and get their articles noticed in the endless expanse that is the internet. Whether you’re running a business, launching a new product, or putting everything you have into a blog, you want your content seen.
Most people think that there must be some kind of trick to it. There isn’t! You don’t need to be a part of a team that writes hundreds of articles a day. You don’t need to pay for views or hack any systems. There are a ton of simple and free things that you can do right now to make your content stand out and get noticed.
Just remember that you need to do what works for you! My posts might be different than yours and my goals might be different than yours. The joy for me is in sharing the cool stuff I know with as many people out in the world as possible. You might want something different.
The internet is full of some “common knowledge” information that people who write and publish swear by. These include things like:
- Write shorter articles. Ones that take 6–8 minutes to read are ideal.
- Publish frequently.
- Publish on weekdays.
- Find a great featured image.
- Keep your paragraphs short.
These are great tips! But as you try what “everyone” says is effective, remember to always pay attention to what works best for you as you write, publish, and move forward.
You might be surprised.
Every couple of weeks I tend to write one 15- to 19-minute piece and publish it on a Saturday. That’s pretty much it.
You do you, boo.
Publish on Medium
There’s a good chance that you’re already doing this. But if you’re out there blogging all alone and wondering if anyone will ever notice your amazing work, republish your content on Medium! Medium has somewhere in the neighborhood of a gazillion views every month. Take advantage of this when you write and publish your work! You can easily import your content from your existing blog or website and Google will not punish you for it.
Importing your content is incredibly simple. Just click on your profile picture in the top-right corner, go to stories, click on “Import a story,” paste in your URL, and you’re basically done. The directions are right here and it’s crazy easy. Your original source will automatically be referenced by a canonical URL and both Google and your SEO will be happy.
Content is key
This is critical. I know everybody always says this part, but it’s important and I’m saying again. Write, publish, and share something that you care about and take your time with it. Put your heart and soul into it and then load it up with fun visuals.
Now spend as much time editing that thing as you did writing it.
Get Grammarly. The free version is great. It will edit as you go, saving you hours of effort and anxiety. Run your post through Hemingway App too. You want to write at an 8th-grade level or below. 6th grade seems to be the sweet spot for my articles. Hemingway will help you easily determine the reading level. This is not about dumbing your pieces down. I’m a top writer in artificial intelligence and technology and write articles at about a 6th-grade reading level.
Now spend as much time working on the title of your post as you did writing and editing your post. Seriously. The title can make or break you. You can look at headline analyzers (people seem to like CoSchedule) or just pay attention to which articles you actually click and read throughout your day.
Write out your title and then Google it. Look at the results.
If you were looking for exactly the information that you just wrote about, would you click on your title first?
Go hit that “Ready to publish?” button at the top of your screen to see what your article will look like. Would you click on that? Does it say what you want it to say? Does it accurately represent your content? (You’d be surprised at how easy it is to forget that part in the quest to be funny, clever, and/or attention-grabbing.) Did you include a power word? You don’t have to, but people do like them. Did you go too far and turn it into clickbait? Medium readers and curators generally don’t like clickbait, so it’s best if you avoid that. How does your featured image look? Is it interesting and exciting.
While it does make sense to use a featured image that works with your article, you don’t need to find an image that literally represents the content that you’ve written. Find an image that evokes an emotion that works with what you’ve written. Find an engaging image that makes someone want to get more information. That can be even more powerful than a literal representation of your content.
If you want page views outside of Medium, try Googling the main words in your title. Do you get a zillion hits? Are you ready to compete with that? It’s tempting to want to use keywords that get billions of links, but are you sure you can rank there? If you’re hoping people will find your article, the last thing you want is to end up on page 2,824,716 of a Google search.
They say if you’re anywhere past page two of a Google search, your article may as well not exist.
If you’re using a keyword tool, I’d suggest that you want to stay in the middle of the road. You’re looking for keywords that a lot of people are looking for, but not ones that absolutely everyone is writing about.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that you are joining thousands of other people who are putting their hearts and souls into their pieces and then tossing them into the vast, gaping void that is the internet.
Your job is to help people find what you’ve written. Make something that’s bright and shiny and then treat links like breadcrumbs along the way to finding your post. (We’ll get to links in a minute.)
Images, images, images. And GIFs!
Whitespace is your friend. You want short paragraphs with lots of whitespace. You want visuals. Get some good pictures! Medium offers Unsplash images inside of your post. Just click the plus sign on a new line and then the magnifying glass icon and you’ll have access to thousands of images. All you have to do is search for an image that makes you happy.
Click the plus sign
And search away!
If you want to step it up a little, check out Pixabay, Pexels, and any other free (or paid) sites. Take it to the next level and grab a GIF from GIPHY! You can find one you want, click on the little link icon, and grab the GIF link. Then come back to Medium, paste that link on its own line and hit “return.” Wait for a second or two (or twenty…), and your GIF will appear like magic.
(Paste the link on its own line in Medium and hit Return.)
Always make sure you put credits and links to the places where you found your article. If you didn’t take the picture, then use the caption space below the image link to the spot where you found it. If you don’t have the right to use it, then don’t use it.
Link to yourself
How often have you been wandering aimlessly around the internet and found an article you liked reasonably well? Fairly often, right? Do you then go hunting for more articles by the same writer? How often do you take the time to go and search for a writer’s profile or website?
What if they had a link to another one of their articles right there for you to click?
I’d guess that people are approximately one million times more likely to click a link to a related story than to go hunting for more pieces from a writer they stumbled across online.
Pay attention to how you interact with articles and stories. If you’ve been on Medium for a while, you might be used to looking for people’s profiles, but what about when you were new here?
Search for something on the internet and pay attention to what you do. Do you click on clickbait titles or do you avoid them? Do you read through big walls of text, or do you like short paragraphs and interesting pictures? Every time you like something that you’ve read, do you take a bunch of time to hunt for the writer?
We all like to believe that we’re completely unique, but the reality is that a lot of other people out there will behave almost exactly the way you do across the board. Pay attention to what you do!
Make life easier for your readers and they’ll almost certainly make life better for you.
Choose your tags wisely
You can use up to five tags when you publish your article. Use them all! Medium tells you right there how many followers those tags have. Some do better than others for views and interaction. Some have more followers than others. I like to choose one or two really big tags and three medium-sized ones. Keep in mind that the more people use a particular tag for their pieces, the faster your article in that tag might be buried.
Choosing tags that are big but not enormous works really well when you’re starting out.
If you want to be seen, you probably want to submit your work to a publication. That makes all the difference. You can check out Smedian for top publications, but it can be hard to have your pieces approved and published in the large publications when you’re new to this. Don’t be afraid to start with a smaller publication. Give it a shot!
When you have great, well-edited content with images and a great title with an eye-catching featured image and solid tags go ahead and publish it.
Are you done?
Not even close.
Get out there and share that article! Put it on social media. Link to it everywhere and ask your people to clap for it if you’re new at this. Text your mom and ask for claps. I know that’s no fun, but I promise you that after your story has about 50 claps or so, the claps come a lot easier for people. No one wants to give the first few claps, so beg, borrow, and steal them if you can. You won’t need to do this forever.
Think about places you can share your posts. Put that link on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Put it on Instagram or Pinterest if that makes sense. Are you in any online groups where your link might be appropriate? Submit to Hacker News if your post is tech-related. Reddit, Stumble Upon, and Digg are always out there for sharing.
You have so many options!
If you want to go the extra mile and you have a few pieces to share, consider scheduling your posts through a social media management platform like Buffer. There’s a little work involved in loading your links and creating your posts. Once they’re in there, though, you can get things set up and forget about it for a few days. Buffer will figure out when the best times to post are and send out your social media stuff for you.
Don’t post your article once and then forget it if you want views. Keep putting it out there. No one remembers that link they saw on Twitter four days ago. Put it up again and someone new will see it!
Help people see you. The internet is enormous and no one is going to find you hiding alone out there in the dark, too proud to light a couple of flares. Use those links!
Google loves links, which is another great reason to make sure they’re out there. The Great Google Algorithm seems to prefer posts that have a lot of links to them. Go back to your old posts and add a link or two to the new one. Add a link in your new post to one or two of your old articles! Whenever you post, share a link to your article anywhere it makes sense to share it. Are you in any groups on social media where people share their posts? You should be! Share it there. Participate in those groups as much as you can.
It’s overwhelming to try to stay on top of it, but you want that community. Find a Facebook group or two! There are a lot of good ones out there. You might want to check out Medium Mastery, which is a solid and well-established group.
Whether you publish once a month or ten times a day, keep writing. The more often you can put good pieces out there, the more people will find you and read what you’ve written. Even publishing only every week or two, my stats took a hit when things got tough over here and I didn’t publish anything for three weeks.
When you finish a piece, take a minute to celebrate and then start the process over again.
Write something that you’re proud of, share it everywhere, and then write something even better and share that too. Don’t stop sharing. There are thousands of people out there who would love to read what you’ve written. Most of them will miss your post when you publish it. No one is checking every page of Medium every day. That would be impossible.
Raise your hand, shine some light, and share your hard work with the world.
As always, if you do anything cool with this information, let people know about it in the comments below or reach out anytime on LinkedIn @annebonnerdata!
If you want to take a look at some of the other pieces I’ve written for examples of whitespace, images, and post length, head on over to my profile.
Thanks for reading!