The first time I published a story on Medium it went something like this.
Writing. Publishing. Instantly going viral.
Writing. Rewriting. Editing. Overthinking. Publishing.
And then this:
Yeah… it kind of sucked.
My article left unsupervised got me 3 views alone. T-H-R-E-E.
I suspect at least one of the three was from a friend to whom I sent the article, asking for an honest opinion. I like to hope it wasn’t him three out of three.
(I refuse to check my Referrers and choose to live in oblivion!)
Apparently, I had to come to terms with the fact that the people of Medium haven’t exactly been waiting for me to come around and turn their world upside down with my writing.
But that made me think.
I didn’t really dwell too much on why no one read my article.
Instead, I studied my own behavior when it comes to articles I pick to read.
I thought about what type of content I gulped down instantly and what type of content made me hit the close button.
I thought about what is the trigger — hiding behind words — that makes me take out of my precious time and invest it in reading someone else’s article.
I thought about how I judge what’s worth my time and energy only by glancing at a title for mere few seconds at a time…
… and then wrote this.
The aim of this article is not to make you feel bad.
The goal of this article is to help your voice be heard, no matter whether that’s here, on your blog or in any other place where you choose to hit the Publish button.
It’s to inspire you to observe and learn and improve, and never again feel like your articles are tumbleweed in the desert.
1. Your medium is wrong
Well, not Medium-Medium. This Medium is okay. I meant the medium you’re using to convey your message.
Maybe the target audience you’re eagerly looking for can’t find you because you’re not conveying your message the right way.
If you’re trying to sell lip gloss to teenage girls here on Medium, I’m not sure how successful your campaign would be, know what I mean?
Fix: find where your target audience is hanging out
When you’re building an audience in 2018, you no longer have the luxury of waiting for your audience to find you. You have to find them yourself. (before your competitors do!)
You may need to use different channels to shout out to the rest of the world: I’m writing! Here’s something for you! Soon you’ll notice which one works the best.
Only time — and plenty of observing — can tell you the answer.
2. Your title is no bueno
And by no bueno I’m politely saying that your title sucks.
Great content means little if your title is poor.
People take a glance at the title first and if you don’t grab their attention in mere seconds, then sorry — someone else will.
Fix: pick an attention-grabbing title
Observe as to how other people write their titles. If in doubt, you can’t go wrong with a How-to title anyway.
I personally am not a big fan of click-bait titles with empty content inside but I almost never click a title that doesn’t look appealing to me. I’m pretty sure your audience does the same.
3. Your structure is no bueno either
I might as well say it out loud: I HATE READING BIG CHUNKS OF TEXT.
I bet 9 out of 10 Internet users would agree with me (and the tenth one is too busy scrolling on Instagram to hear my question).
You don’t read online the same way you read offline. Then why write the same way?
Most people online read in an F-shaped pattern. You can even observe yourself and notice the same. You scan the page looking for relevant information and you don’t spend time going from detail to detail.
And that’s where a good structure comes to your rescue.
Fix: make & follow a clear structure
Your structure is the foundation of your article. Build it solid. ;-)
Divide the main body of the article with headings & subheadings. Don’t be afraid to bold and make the structure pop further out.
Finish up with some final words of wisdom, an advice or a question (so you get some comments).
PRO TIP: Your article shouldn’t even remotely look like a high-school essay but it should have all the elements of an essay regardless.
4. Your article is way too long
I’m so guilty of this.
Personally, I’m really impressed when I hear someone wrote 12,000 words on something; like, someone’s that passionate about something? WOW! But will I read those 12,000 words myself? Eeh… maybe? Maybe not?
I’m also a huge fan of Wait but Why and they’re known by their looooooooooong articles. (here’s long-form interview with the guys worth the read). I really think that if someone cares about your content, they will read it, no matter how long.
Unfortunately, it may take a while until you find those who care enough and are willing to read all the way to the end.
Fix: don’t get carried away
There’s really no need to get carried away on every single article that you do, especially if you write on more general topics.
As I said, I’m a sucker for long-form articles but for the sake of you, the reader, I try to keep my inner writer in check.
No need to publish 300-words articles if you feel like writing more on a subject. However, write 2,500–3,000 words and you’re already pushing it.
If you still decide to do an in-depth article about something, make a super-solid structure. Link to different parts of the article at the beginning, thus making the structure more visible.
Your final goal is to make it easy for the user to navigate through the article and quickly find whatever they’re looking to find.
5. You’re doing quantity, not quality
If you want to get noticed, you will have to write & write & write — true.
BUT — do you really need to pump out 25 articles per week? Can you even write 25 high-quality articles in a week? There’s only so much you can put into words before words start escaping you.
Another thing to bear in mind is overburdening your existing audience until they stop engaging with you completely.
Here’s what I noticed with people I used to follow online:
Some of them have become literal content mills.
At first, I skip an article. Then a couple of articles more, then three articles. Before you know it, I’ve stopped being an active follower of the person I’ve so eagerly followed in the past.
The more often they see you on their feeds, the more they start taking you for granted. Because they know you’ll be there the next day, and the day after that. And very likely the day after that as well.
Don’t make your audience go: Ah, not again… when they see an article of yours.
Instead, have them go: Ohhh, finally!
Fix: less is more
You can never go wrong with quality content. I tend to publish long-form articles once per week. I intend to do the same on my blog as well (still trying to figure out some developer stuff on there so pardon the mess).
On social media, it’s more than okay to post once per day. Unless you’re on Twitter, then you’re allowed to tweet more.
Instead of only writing & posting, spend some time reading other people’s content, commenting and engaging. Trust me, it’ll help you much more in the long run.
6. You’re not offering any real value to the reader
Is your writing all about you?
It’s great if you have a story to share — we all do. And readers love to read different stories — but what’s your message, the point of the story?
What did you learn from that happening to you? What is it you want to tell to the world? Did you make someone laugh? Did you feed someone’s soul?
Plenty of people are willing to learn from other people’s mistakes — and a whole lot more are willing to learn from your success. So give them what they want.
Fix: give before you ask for something in return
I don’t think you can build a loyal audience if you don’t offer your audience anything valuable. Something they can use in real life — maybe help them adopt better habits or improve their business.
Here’s something you can use for reference if you’re not sure whether you’re giving something.
In your articles, always aim to include at least one thing that’s helpful. It can be an inspirational quote, a productivity tip, a life lesson, or even a simple piece of advice, such as, to turn off the phone and go spend more time with friends and family.
Storytelling is awesome but don’t forget to share why is it important for that story to be heard. Any other way and you’re risking your story to drown in a sea of other stories as well.
7. You’re trying too much
You know how sometimes you’re trying so much to impress someone you end up killing? Yup, I do the same sometimes — and there are no words to describe just how much the end product sucks.
Readers can sniff when someone’s trying too much. Even a kid can tell when your writing feels forced. It’s just obvious that isn’t the real you.
You shy away from presenting any strong opinions or beliefs out of the fear of being rejected by the majority.
I believe this stems from the simple fact that you want your articles to be liked and accepted. Because that means you’re liked & accepted as well. (can we talk about just how lonely writers can get sometimes?)
But you know what? It’s okay if some people don’t like you.
Fix: be yourself when writing
I promise you, there will be people liking you for who you are anyway.
Don’t write for the sake of going viral — write because you feel like it. Or because you have an opinion about something. Or because you have something to share with others.
Have some faith in your writing. Trust yourself just a tiny bit more and develop a style that will be yours only — even if that means having 10% fewer readers.
8. Your readers haven’t found you yet
Whenever I read some stats showing just how much the internet has grown in the past five years or the fact that 5 billion people will use the Internet by 2020, I cannot help but think: What are we getting ourselves into?
And as the demand for all things digital grows, so will the demand for publishing content. There will be the need for more content but you know what?
The bar for high-quality content will keep moving up!
Long gone are the days when you could write a blog post about having a bad day and amass 10K views per day.
People know better nowadays — and it’s becoming more and more difficult to impress someone with your writing nowadays!
Fix: KEEP GOING!
I think we’re still lucky enough. True, making it online is not as easy as it used to be 5 years ago but imagine what it would look like 5 years from now. CRAZY, huh?
So keep writing. Don’t give up.
Join some online groups for additional support and mingle with people there. Connect with other writers (both on and off the line).
But most of all — keep learning, keep growing, keep improving.
Constant growth is something that never goes unnoticed, no matter in which crowd you’re trying to stand out from.