Are You Bingeworthy? — Unlocking The Path To Views, Followers, And Money.

Sean Kernan
Nov 9, 2019 · 6 min read

A Golden Metric To Improve Your Writing

Unsplash @Yoal Desurmont

While spending my larval days as a writer on Quora, I dealt with a nagging frustration that many of you are facing right now:

Traction.

Half of my posts were disappearing into the void, never to be seen again.

Living In The Content Dumpster

The piss poor performance of my content began to slide a motivation-damaging question into plain sight, “Why am I spending 2 hours writing just to get 20 views?”

The thought reeked of wasted effort. It was hard not to notice the flirting impulse to make better use of my time.

All of that fishing just to pull up an old soup can and a seaweed-filled military boot.

Adding insult to injury, while many of my posts sat in the sewer, a garbage post would sail by, rising higher and higher on the hot winds of praise and internet idolatry.

Stuck In The Mud

When you write content and you are struggling for traction, one of the great challenges you face is figuring out “The Why”. Sure — you can blame the forces that be to some extent, your anonymity can certainly hold you down, particularly early on.

But — as struggling writers — there will eventually come a day where you have to look yourself in the mirror and ask, “What am I doing wrong?”

It’s not an easy question to answer. If it was — we’d already be doing it.


Insights Out Of Ashes

Quora is quite similar to Medium. There is significant writer overlap and features.

One key similarity between the two platforms is the stats feature. Medium has views and claps (fans). Quora has views and upvotes. They are functionally the same: Views: Claps = Views: Upvotes. Both stats tabs look similar.

Relevant Background

I’m a Financial Analyst by trade and education. That is where I cut my 10,000 hours and honed my skills in analytical thinking. I’m trained to look for insights from numbers. It isn’t an instinct I can easily turn off.

I was trying to answer that fundamental question, “What am I doing wrong?”. My inner analyst had me wandering through the stats section, scanning the numbers from afar and then up close.

And then — I had a realization:

Posts that got lots of views — tended to maintain higher ratios of upvotes (claps) to views. Meaning, a post that garners 100,000 views, tended to convert more upvotes per 1,000 views, than a post that only garners 2,000 views.

It’s called an upvote: view ratio. But think of it as a conversion rate, how well you convert fans.

Digging Through Mud

As I followed this insight, sludging through old writing, with objective eyes that were removed from the effort-fueled attachment to recent content, it became clear:

Posts that maintained higher upvote(claps): view ratios, tended to not just perform better, they tended to be better.

In the same way that a good salesman converts more sales per 100 calls, a good post tends to convert more fans per 100 views.

Now, admittedly, it isn’t a perfect science. Good and bad writing wasn’t always reflected in the numbers.

But — overall — it was a good slice of quantitative meat to sink in to. Overall — my better writing had great ratios. My embarrassing, scramble-for-the-delete-button posts, almost always had abysmal ratios. The numbers were good at speaking the truth.

Splitting The Numbers Open, Looking Inside

On a qualitative level, I noticed that my posts with bad upvote(claps): view ratios tended to:

  • Have too much fluff (sentences that could be shortened or deleted).

It was basically — Writing 101.

Crimes Against Writing Quality — Taking Action

As a form of quality control, I took the draconian step of deleting content that failed to convert one in forty views into an upvote. Some people thought I was crazy. But I figured — I’m only as good as everything I’ve ever written. So why not delete the bad grades from the grade book? And try to get better grades?

I held myself to a 1:40 standard going forward. It did 3 things for me:

One: it forced me to think of ways to drive better engagement on my content (upvotes, shares). If stats are a reflection of the content, why not back yourself into the stats? Why not reverse engineer your way to quality content?

This became a philosophy that, through time and effort, evolved into a solution.

Two: it forced me to examine what readers don’t want. What are the red zones to be on the lookout for? (lack-of-brevity, crass opinions, excess fluff, any hint of ego or arrogance, weak ideas).

Three: it got me to think about the other big thing that drove my numbers, the other monster in the room.

The Algorithm.

All Hail Lord Algo

The Algorithm, on any digital platform, is your overlord. He stands over you as you scream below the ice, begging to be surfaced. He dictates what gets seen and what doesn’t.

His view of you is driven by the feedback he gets. If Lord Algo doesn’t like you, you don’t get seen. If you want Lord Algo to like you, he needs to hear good things about you.

This comes in the form of positive engagement from readers.

Positive engagement can include:

  • Highlighting lines on your post

What I would recommend you do. Go through some of your old content in the stats tab. Do an analysis of your content. Perhaps sort by read ratios or views, and then take into consideration claps or any other variables that might affect your numbers.

Do you notice trends with your best performing content? What made it better? This process is akin to athletes studying old game footage. They are doing forensics on their own performance.

Think about the origins of a good post. How did you think of it? What frame of mind were you in? These are all important questions to ask. The answers may add tools to your writing arsenal.

What do you notice when you read your poorly performing content?

If you read poorly performing content and can objectively say, “Yes…this isn’t my best work.”

I would consider hiding it.

The content on your profile page should be binge-worthy. A person should be able to go through each of your posts sequentially and enjoy what they read. There shouldn’t be potholes if you can help it.

And — threading the needle here — obviously, you won’t be able to please everyone. You won’t be able to fit the shape into every hole. Don’t read that closely on this advice: the key is to have an overall, objective sense of quality for your own work.

Don’t focus on the effort you put in, don’t focus on the frustrations, don’t focus the emotions you feel about your work — those are all distractions.

Focus — with highly effective neutral objectivity — on the content.

Is this quality?

Pride of authorship is your surest indicator.

You should come away from your post feeling proud of what you have written. You should want to reread it again and again, the next day, and the next day. There should be a feeling of excitement, that you have just created something special.

You should want to show it to your best friend, to your mother, to any person whose opinion you greatly value. That’s when you know.

You are your own quality control specialist. Have pride in your work.

The path to followers, claps, views, and subsequently — money — has always begun and ended with content.

Set a standard for your content — and aspire to meet it. Aspire to be binge-worthy.

Publishous

Discover tomorrow’s bestsellers today. You'll say you knew them when.

Thanks to Nicole Akers

Sean Kernan

Written by

*New to Medium* Columnist for Publishous. Quora Top Writer 2018. Quora People’s Choice Award 2017. — People say I’m nice. And my mom thinks I’m cool. —

Publishous

Discover tomorrow’s bestsellers today. You'll say you knew them when.

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