Why Your Medium Stories Are Not Popular

How to Use Funnel Analysis to Optimize Performance of Your Medium Stories

You may have wondered why some Medium writers’ stories consistently have great performance: frequently showing on the home page and having thousands of claps. I have been writing on Medium for a few years. Until recently, I started to apply what I learned from sales and marketing to understand the journey of Medium readers, and I have seen significant improvements in my recent stories. Last month, I broke my record for monthly earnings on Medium. For the last few days, my record for daily member reading time was broken every single day.

In this article, I will show you an easy process to analyze and optimize the performance of your stories.

The Funnel

In marketing, a funnel shows your customer’s journey with you from the initial stages when someone learns about your business, to the purchasing stage. Similarly, the reader’s journey on Medium can be described by the funnel below.

The Funnel Analysis of A Medium Story

First, we need to understand what each stage does. Beyond that, we can continue to optimize the performance of each stage.

Impressions

Impressions are the number of times your content is displayed. On Medium, it means internally how many times the title of your story is shown on readers’ homepage, suggested content on other stories, and other readers’ profile pages. It also means how many times readers have seen your story link from other websites.

At the time of writing, Medium Stats do not yet have a total of impressions on Medium. However, here are the distribution channels I have found very effective to increase impressions.

Through Popular Publications

Plenty of Medium Publications will welcome you working with them if you provide good content that fits their themes. They will add you as a writer to the publication. Your story will reach their publications’ followers, via their readers’ homepage, publication home page, and suggested content. If your story becomes popular, other stories from the publication will benefit by gaining impressions as well. It is a win-win partnership.

Through Manual Promotion

If you already have more popular stories out there, place the story link you would like to promote in those already popular stories, in a subtle and effective way. Readers who read the already popular stories may have the chance to check out your new story as well. If the two stories share no common topics, it may not be a good idea.

You could also try other channels outside Medium. Here are the websites I found it could reach quite a lot of my target audience (e.g. technology and personal finance) -

  • Hacker News
  • Quora
  • Reddit

Through Suggested Content

Understanding how Medium suggests the content is important. Let’s take a look at the places where Medium suggests -

  • Popular on Medium
  • From Your Network
  • Based on your reading history

These contents are often the results of a recommender system. It takes in various information of readers as training data and predicts the content that a reader would likely be interested in.

Views

Views are the number of visitors who clicked on a story’s page.

Topic Choice

“Niche Content for a broad audience, but not Niche Audience”

Some successful YouTubers have mentioned, their source of success is to find a niche market, but I had a difficult time making sense of the meaning of niche. For example, I wrote about how to take care of Lithops. Lithops is a rare plant. People who know about them are few. The existing tutorials are scarce. The topic could fit perfectly in the definition of niche. But this story has not been attractive.

After extensive research on popular YouTube videos and Medium stories, I concluded that the key is, making niche content for a broad audience, instead of making content for a niche audience. In another word, we should write about the topics that most people would care about but very few people write about. The ceiling of the target audience should be as big as possible.

For example, I wrote about financial independence and it was a great success, because almost all the people are interested in money and the topic about financial independence is not a lot, and in fact, not many people have done that.

Title, Subtitle, and Featured Image

Even with a great topic, the actual title, subtitle, featured image need to finish the job of increasing click through rates. Ultimately, they are the ones conveying the first impression to the readers and lead to the clicks.

While I write a story, I always keep a list of potential titles and subtitles and keep revising them. The title should be informative and enticing with suspense. The subtitle should serve as a great supplement to the title. The featured image should be clean, interesting, and still looking great in its thumbnail.

Reads

The number of Reads tells you how many viewers have read the entire story.

When the reader clicks the link to your story, the next immediate task is to retain the reader’s attention until they finish the entire story. The quality of the content needs to get to work now, syntactically, semantically, and structurally.

I use simple words over complicated words. I use short sentences over long sentences. I highlight the things as much as possible so readers can get the gist quickly.

My favorite example of a great reader experience is how Ray Dalio wrote his books, e.g. The Changing World Order. In his books, he explained complicated concepts backed by many years of research. He often wrote that, he intentionally bolded the important paragraphs so his readers could get his points sooner, and dive deep later if they want.

Actions - Claps, Follows, Comments

The funnel stage that hits the home run is the readers’ actions. Your readers love, are touched by or have learned from your story. They are going to reward you with their claps, follows, and comments. Their reactions are a confirmation of how you have delivered at the Reads stage.

Enjoy the reward! A nice thing that you can make it better is to engage with your readers by replying to your readers’ comments.

Now you may have noticed, this funnel does not just stop here. Readers’ actions will become the recommender’s training data, and the recommender will generate more impressions for your stories to reach an even broader audience. In marketing, this mechanism is called a flywheel.

The Medium Reader Flywheel

In fact, modern businesses have gradually retired the funnel model and replaced it with the flywheel model, as businesses create great customer experiences, and let the power of loyal customers propel the company growth.

On Medium, happy readers are the energy that fuels the growth of the stories.

Co-founder and CTO of Roxy. Ex-Amazon. Entrepreneur. Software Architect. Exotic plant collector. Skateboarding enthusiast.

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