How to Actually Put Your Medium Stats to Good Use
The tips and tricks that help me improve visibility, increase earnings, and understand my audience.
There’s a lot you can learn from your stats page if you know what to look for. By analyzing my stats the right way (and not obsessing over them), I understood where my earnings mostly stemmed from, what stories were popular with readers, which titles drove traffic from within Medium versus outside Medium, and how frequently I needed to publish in order to continue earning the same amount.
Let’s dive into how we can use our stats to improve our writing and increase visibility.
A brief overview of your Medium stats page
There’s a lot going on in the stats page. You can get to your own by clicking on your profile, and navigating to “Stats.” There you’ll get a chart like mine above, showing you an overview of the last 30 days.
It’s tricky to do any direct comparisons — for example, you can’t compare months to months, you can’t separate curated versus uncurated stories, and you can’t filter at all. My opinion is that this is done intentionally: Medium wants to stop us from gaming the stats, analyzing too much and churning out the “right” content versus just what we enjoy writing about.
But you can still do a fair amount of digging.
First, you’ll see your views, reads, and fans for the past 30 days. Fans are the most important number to me, and I’ll explain why a little below.
Scrolling down, you’ll see your stories in reverse chronological order. You can tell at a glance whether they’ve been curated or not (one of the topics will appear at the top of the story) as well as the headline stats for it:
I probably have one more column than you, because I’ve downloaded a Chrome plugin called Medium Enhanced Stats which shows me the number of claps a story has in addition to fans, as well as a few other useful numbers.
You can choose to order your stories by total views, claps, reads or date by clicking on that at that top of your story stats.
Finally, you can see the stats for an individual story by clicking on “Details.” This takes you to a page where you can see a graph of the performance over time, the sources, and what your audience is interested in (if you get over ~800 views or so).
Now let’s talk about how to use those numbers.
Frequency of publishing
I aim to publish twice per day. Why? Because it’s the number one predictor for earning money. If you look at my top chart, you’ll see a dot at the bottom of each bar. The bigger the dot, the more I published that day. On the days I don’t publish my stats decrease.
I learned that once you get to a certain level of quality, a lot of what makes or breaks a story is luck. So it’s better to produce lots of good stories and hope one takes off, than spend lots of time writing one great story which may or may not perform well. But it’s also useful to know that a lot of my views come from stories published longer ago — and this also plays into my rapid publishing schedule.
You can see all that based on when I publish stories. On the days I publish, there’s a bump. On the days I don’t, there’s a drop but there’s still something which is the reads from stories I published previously. And the more often you manage to publish, in my opinion, the more you will get lucky.
Using your stats to improve your chances of curation
Ah, curation! The topic on everyone’s lips. Medium is pretty cagey when it comes to telling us exactly how we can tick their boxes, but there’s a lot you can learn from which stories have been curated and which haven’t.
First of all, if you look at your own individual stories, you’ll notice that the curated ones have much more longevity than the uncurated ones. The more topics they’re curated in, typically, the more views.
This is going to help you when it comes to deciding which topics are worth writing in. Me, I’ve found that when I write about my passions and follow my curiosity, which is psychology, self-help, and cats, I do well. But I recently ventured into a data science-based story, which performed remarkably well — because it was curated in data science and programming. It’s become obvious that those topics are well-trafficked.
See which of your stories get the most views or fans, and see what they’ve been curated in. Those topics might be worth pursuing more.
How to structure your titles based on Medium stats
This is one of the trickier ones to learn from, because it’s tough to A/B test on the exact same story. However, I’ve got a little hack which can help a bit: republishing.
First, take a look at your top-performing stories. You can do this by clicking on “Views” on the main stats page. Look at all those titles — do they have something in common? Which words do they use, what structure do they follow?
Next, take a story that hasn’t done well. Delete it or mark it as unlisted, and re-title it based on what you’ve taken away from your top performers. Don’t change anything else about it if you want true scientific accuracy, but if you want to clean up some typos or structure, now might be a good time.
Then, wait. Wait a week and look at it again. How has it performed? Wait a month. Is it in amongst your top performers? That kind of title might be worth copying again and again. Once you find a winning formula, it’s worth sticking to it. You know what your readers want!
Which Medium statistic matters most?
Look, most people get caught up on views and claps. Has it had one thousand views? Does it have one thousand claps?
To me, those numbers are worthless when it comes to my vision of success on Medium, which is mostly to do with income. When I analyzed my earnings, I found the stat that most accurately predicted my weekly earnings was the number of fans I had. Each fan was worth, on average, between 50–60 cents depending on the month.
The problem is that Medium pays based on “engagement” which they don’t define for us. In practical terms, this means a story with 2.5k views and 1k reads but 10 fans are going to earn around the same as one with 100 views, 50 reads, and 10 fans.
In the past, I mostly ignored my views and reads when I considered earnings on Medium. The stat that matters most for me is fans.
Recently, since I’ve been trying to grow my following outside of Medium, I’ve also looked at views as a way to gauge how many eyeballs I’m getting on my mailing list hook, but for internal Medium use, fans are what matter most.
Understanding and using Medium sources
Go to your most-viewed story right now, and look at the individual stats for it. Go to the sources box. Where are most of those views coming from?
This tool is heavily under-utilized in my opinion. With this source page, you can see exactly where most of your Medium traffic is coming from. Sharing your posts on social media? This is where you’ll see if that strategy is working. Are you taking advantage of Medium’s really great Google ranking? This is how you’ll see if you’re appearing on Google searches. Being shared on LinkedIn a lot? Maybe your audience is business-focused.
What not to do with your Medium stats
The main thing is to remember to use your stats, not to let the stats use you. I don’t refresh my stats page, and I try not to check it too often. I like to focus on it in specific sessions where I’m digging for data, rather than checking it whenever I feel like it. That way I avoid becoming too dependent on the inevitable dopamine hit of seeing I’m getting lots of views on a particular story.
Like any other social media tool, there’s a lot of information on how you can perform better, but it’s all too easy to misuse. The Medium stats page is a Pandora’s box. If you use these numbers with care, you can improve your writing, earnings, and visibility on Medium. But once you start to dig into it, it can be hard to extricate yourself.
Understand them, use them, inform yourself on what’s working well and what isn’t. The stats can be a goldmine to learn about titles, curation, earnings, and your audience if you know where to look.
Originally published at http://zuliewrites.com on August 12, 2019.
A new online magazine about the art, craft, and business of storytelling, STORIUS is a publication for everyone interested in how stories are created, discovered, distributed, and consumed.