How to Become a Prolific Writer By Blogging Every Day
Here’s how I increased my Medium page views by 1,000% without going insane.
On August 3rd, I started a daily writing experiment. Since then, I’ve posted every weekday. That’s 20 posts.
I’m a big fan of consistency — the right consistent habit can snowball into something much bigger.
That’s what I’m curious about with writing. What will happen if I keep this up for a month? For a year? For a decade?
How’s it going so far? I’m smarter. I connected with smart people. And 40,000 people read my posts. That’s 1,000% better than the month before when I was doing intermittent posting.
Here are some lessons from the first month.
#1. The Title is Everything.
I always run my titles through the Headline Analyzer, although I don’t always follow that tool’s advice.
Headline Analyzer spits out a numeric score between 1 and 100. Any score above 70 is good (and hard to get).
Here’s how my titles scored:
The obvious goal of the headline analyzer is to help you get more people to read your posts.
Do higher scores give you more readers?
To answer that question, I plotted the Headline Analyzer scores versus page views below and then added a trend line.
As you can see, the answer is yes — headline scores translate into more page views.
Taking five minutes to revise your title will double your page views.
(I even removed the biggest positive outlier from the graph above because that post had gone so viral as to be in its own category. It scored 74.)
#2. The Title is Everything. Part 2.
The flaw of the headline analyzer is that it doesn’t know the meaning of your title. It’s just looking for common structures and types of words.
So, I’m obsessed with one more title concept, which is that the strongest titles connect with someone’s identity.
This concept comes from Scott Adams of Dilbert. He was describing the hierarchy of persuasive messages as:
“Identity beats reason. Reason beats facts.”
I’m not writing to trick people, but I am writing to help people. So persuasion is absolutely one of my goals. I want writing that moves you.
Here are two example headlines that score the same in the headline analyzer.
- How to Beat Your “Hard Equals Valuable” Bias.
- How to Write Clearly If You Are An Intuitive Thinker.
The first post had 449 views. The second had 8,200.
That’s a 18x difference even though they both had a similar mid-70s headline score.
I think the reason one did so much better is identity. This phrase from the second post, “if you are an intuitive thinker,” hits at a person’s identity.
Everyone is proud of their intuition.
#3. Performance vs. Power
One of my favorite business talks comes from Geoffrey Moore speaking to the Stanford Entrepreneur’s Corner.
He points out that often people who focus on performance metrics, like page views, overlook power or strength.
Power is hard to measure and even define. It’s related to passion. A person might grudgingly buy your product, but they aren’t going to recommend it.
A performance mindset would miss that weakness while celebrating another tally in the sales column.
A power mindset would be thinking about the future — how can they get the customer to love the product so that they recommend it to their friends and keep purchasing future products.
Here’s Moore’s talk:
In this high-energy lecture, Geoffrey Moore discusses how companies can build the escape velocity necessary to move…ecorner.stanford.edu
If you’re pressed for time, stop reading my post and just watch his talk — it’s life changing.
Now, here’s the thing that I noticed.
My least read post also got the most direct commentary from people I know and respect.
It has 158 views.
But the people who did respond were people who are big influencers in my self-improvement niche. They’re people like Buster Benson, who emailed me immediately after I posted, and Ernesto Ramirez, who is the most important person in the Quantified Self movement (I measured this).
How many anonymous page views would you trade for a single deep connection with someone?
That’s a power question. But it’s hard to answer and that’s exactly why people take the coward’s way out and just stick to easy performance measures.
#4. Dealing With Fatigue
I started to struggle with writing around day 16.
And as I thought about why, I realized it was entirely because I was checking my stats too often.
Checking stats led me to put too much pressure on each post. And suddenly writing a post started to take all day.
So, now, I’m trying to get back to focusing on process.
I want a simple, well-structured post that expresses a coherent idea.
#5. Medium Provided 55% of Page Views
I did zero promotion aside from sharing on Twitter.
So a huge number of readers were coming through Medium.
For most posts, the Medium share was 55% or more.
I don’t quite have enough data, but I think most of that was from publishing in a popular publication. Usually, I’d publish to Better Humans, which has 65k followers.
This was an argument I made and then ignored when we started the company: being on a growing network is going to trump any benefit we could get from having our own blog.
Medium is now big enough that you’d be foolish to publish elsewhere, especially if you are starting out.
#6. Having a System is Everything
I have two main systems.
One is for generating ideas. The focus is to always hit on an idea that’s going to be quick to write.
The other is for systematically turning an idea into a final draft. I need five drafts, but each draft is quick.
When those two systems are working, I can turn out a blog post in under 60 minutes.