Why I write for Medium (and other SEOs should too)
I’m sitting in an Italian restaurant. But I’m not in Italy — I’m in Singapore.
It’s my first time at Pizza Art, and I don’t know what to order. The crowded tables overlooking the river suggest the food is good.
Before relocating to the island, I anticipated eating popular Asian dishes like Bak Kut Teh, Chicken Rice and Fish Head Curry; definitely not international dishes.
I guess that’s what happens when you DM strangers on Twitter and let them pick the restaurant.
A few minutes later, the pizza arrives. I take a bite, and any skepticism of eating Italian food in Asia is completely gone.
Obviously, my dining companion can be trusted when it comes to pizza. But does he really know anything about content marketing?
As it turns out, he does.
Ali Mese, runs a marketing agency that exclusively focuses on content. What began as a commitment to “only write when he had something important to say,” evolved into The Startup — Medium’s largest publication for entrepreneurs.
The crazy part?
Ali only published once every 2 months when he first started writing, proving quality trumps quantity.
This is consistent with what I’ve since learned growing Ahrefs’ blog from 15K to 200K visits per month (Ahrefs is a tool that helps businesses get discovered in Google).
Over the next year, the pizzeria becomes our monthly hangout for discussing life, marketing and business. After hearing my friend continually rave about Medium, my curiosity gets the best of me:
Could the strategy work for me?
Put simply, I don’t have time to execute every marketing strategy promoted at this year’s hottest conference.
I’m the CMO of a bootstrapped SaaS, consisting of 45 team members, doing 8 figures in ARR.
Not executing upon common marketing advice — drip funnels, gated content, A/B testing — actually, helps our team focus on a few things that really matter. Side note: This approach to marketing has helped us grow +60% YoY growth for the past 3 years alone.
But Ali made writing for Medium sound worthwhile; so, I decided to try it out. Here’s what I learned over the course of publishing seven articles on the platform:
1. Medium sends consistent traffic
As a content marketer, my ideal scenario is for each article I produce to generate consistent traffic years after publication.
Our marketing department’s preferred traffic generation method is SEO because it effectively builds compounding, passive traffic. Why?
Because securing passive traffic is more cost-effective, reliable and scalable than acquiring paid traffic.
However, my commitment to self-publishing keyword-rich articles often means dumping otherwise great content ideas.
Obviously, this type of ruthless prioritization can be frustrating.
You may be thinking: Couldn’t those articles with zero SEO potential still gain traction by word of mouth?
While Ahrefs’ blog has a loyal readership, this isn’t likely. Let’s look at the normal content promotion process to understand why:
- Notify your email list.
- Share with your followers.
- Invest in paid social media promotion.
- Engage influencers to further promote your post.
Following the above actions, you will immediately experience a notable spike in traffic. However, these views will fade as soon as the hustle ends.
Serial entrepreneur Rand Fishkin calls this marketing rollercoaster “the spike of hope” and “the flatline of nope.”
This is exactly what happened with my previous personal blog. The marketing gurus told me to publish every day. So, I did it.
When I still wasn’t seeing results, I wrote listicles, roundups and guest posts for high-profile blogs.
No matter the tactic, my traffic would always plateau days after publishing. Even worse, my sales were total crap. Unfortunately, there’s no such thing as going viral.
The problem was my blog wasn’t consistently generating new traffic. It wasn’t until switching to an SEO mindset that I began to experience consistent gains.
When Ali told me about Medium, I was excited about the potential of having a traffic generation platform for publishing my abandoned ideas — the opinion pieces that Google deems irrelevant.
Over the past 6 months, I’ve published zero new articles on Medium. But check out my statistics:
My past articles generated 1,757 total views and 474 total reads over the past month. That may not sound like much, but it’s consistent. The best part?
I don’t have to do anything to keep that traffic coming. Alternatively, I could publish more articles to increase my monthly passive traffic. This is exactly what I have chosen to do.
And below are the overall stats of those articles I’ve published on my Medium blog so far.
2. I can write whatever I want
Considering I work for Ahrefs, you might expect me to reject article topics with low search traffic potential.
But I often want to write about something because it’s interesting to me; search engines be damned!
The beauty of Medium is the platform’s recommendation engine, which suggests articles based on reading habits. The algorithm allows topics of interest with zero SEO potential to be found.
Take Ali’s Medium blog for example. Instead of writing for SEO, he focuses on sharing his personal insights — opinion pieces, inspirational stories, controversial arguments — on marketing and entrepreneurship. Here are his Medium stats:
All he does is speak his mind and hit “Publish.”
But how does it actually work?
While Medium algorithm is designed to float powerful stories to the surface, Medium Staff Editors also spend their days looking for great content they can handpick and feature.
And any content that floats to the surface is then exposed the followers of relevant tags, topics, publications, and authors via notifications (on Medium app), Medium’s (daily or weekly) digest emails, and other distribution methods.
Your content may even get featured on the site’s homepage, which is visited by millions.
In other words, Medium’s both manual (editors) and automated (algorithm) engines work in your favor as long as you focus on writing a compelling story instead of trying to growth hack the distribution of your articles.
That’s why your approach to writing for Medium should be different than writing an SEO-focused article.
Let me explain it using an example. Let’s say you want to write an article about the following topic:
Should I write on Medium?
According to Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer tool, this term draws 30 searches per month — that’s pretty pathetic.
Obviously, you can’t search for something you aren’t thinking about.
However, you could be interested in a topic you have yet to discover.
Again, this is where Medium shines. Had I published this article on our self-hosted blog, you probably wouldn’t be reading it right now.
Most people find Ahrefs’ blog after searching for something on Google; our content answers their questions in the form of guides, tutorials and how-tos.
For these reasons, my current blogging strategy is to:
- Publish posts with search traffic potential on Ahrefs’ Blog: Our community is strong, and our articles easily rank at the top of Google for their respective topics; AND
- Publish posts on topics without search potential on Medium: I can rely on their recommendation algorithm to send me consinsent traffic months after publishing.
Considering this is only my 7th post on Medium, I’m looking forward to seeing the strategy’s long-term effect on growth.
3. It boasts an engaged audience
Despite what you may have been told, online marketing isn’t complicated. There are only two ways to reach people online:
- Let your target audience find you on search engines.
- Find your target audience with advertisements.
However, letting people find you is more effective. Seth Godin describes the differences between the two methods as “permission marketing” and “interruption marketing.”
When someone finds your business on Google, they are giving you permission to occupy their time with information, education or entertainment. Stop showing up, and they may even complain.
Conversely, targeting someone on social media requires interrupting their attention with your advertisement.
Translation: They would rather be watching cat videos, laughing at memes or catching up with friends.
Platforms like Facebook, Instagram and YouTube do everything conceivable to target your ideal audience with ads.
But sometimes it isn’t enough — you can’t force someone to pay attention to something they don’t care about.
Ultimately, I see Medium as something in between permission marketing and interruption marketing:
“People don’t come to Medium with specific questions, nor do they visit to connect with friends — they come here to learn something cool.”
Will your content compete with hundreds of other awesome articles? Yeah, but people are here because they want to read. That alone increases your chances of being noticed tenfold.
Medium boasts an amazing audience of individuals who value personal development, knowledge and innovation. I also suspect a large segment of them prides themselves on being trendsetters.
Not only are these the kinds of people I want as friends; they are the audience I know will appreciate Ahrefs as one of the core tools in their marketing stack.
What about you…
Have you written for Medium, yet? Why or why not?
Please share your experience in the comments below.
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For more in-depth marketing articles, visit Ahrefs blog.