In this post, I want to provide a brief overview for people who are thinking about starting a blog on Medium and dont want to figure everything out on their own.
The blog platform launched in 2012, so it’s been around for a while. In the beginning of 2016, I decided to watch what’s happening on Medium more closely. I will share my insight here.
Medium, as a platform, is a large topic to cover in one post, so I will leave out the boring details of how to actually create an account and publish content on Medium, as there are tons articles on that. For this post, I assume you know the absolute basics about Medium, meaning you have read articles and maybe created an account there.
It offers functionality that allows businesses or individuals to run blogs on their platform. You don’t have the same freedom as on a self-hosted WordPress blog, but you also don’t have to worry about maintaining the technical infrastructure of your site. You could also just cross-post content from other sources. To get started, you can log in with your Facebook, Twitter, or Google Plus (!) account. You don’t have to worry about themes, plugins, or the security of your blog.
Content That Fits
Articles on Medium have a length that is above the average. It’s not the place for animated gifs, listicles, or photo galleries.
Let’s look at Medium’s claim:
Considering this, the site does not focus on a specific topic or want to be a place to post your public relations text, new product features, or sales offerings. Medium wants to be the original place for your content. As on every platform, to actually get noticed, you have to publish a remarkable story.
At the beginning it was known as a place for content about the startup industry, technology, design, and entrepreneurship. While Medium is still heavily used for that type of content, it attracted writers of all sorts over the years. Barack Obama has a profile, and Paulo Coelho has published there.
You can check the editor’s picks to get an impression of the content available on the platform.
English Content Only?
Medium is more or less a platform to write and discuss English content. You can post content in any language, but if your goal is to reach a broad audience, you should publish in English. The company started internationalizing its platform, but it’s still at an early stage. There is a Twitter account featuring German content on Medium.
You can also search the site for language specific content with Google Advanced Search.
Advantages Over Other Platforms
Site Structure and Community Features
Medium is very easy to understand and navigate. Each user has a profile page after signing up, and all content a user created is listed on that page. This could be published articles, comments made, articles recommended, and highlighted content.
Publications are blogs. Every user can start a publication and manage it as a team or a single writer. Publications can feature the content of several writers.
The Writing Experience
The editing process is great; It’s a real WYSIWYG experience. The thing you see while editing is the same thing the reader will see. This is cool, but when publishing text-only posts, this is not that important. If you add lots of images to your posts, this is cool to use.
Great User Experience
The whole experience when using the site, both as a writer and reader, is great. Writing content, leaving comments, adding recommendations, sharing content to social media—all the basics you expect from a blog platform—are easy to understand and use.
Like on Twitter or Facebook, you can subscribe to or follow users and publications. The follow button is in the top right corner.
Building traffic inside Medium is easier if you have a strong following on Facebook or Twitter. By signing up with your Facebook or Twitter account, people from your network who are also on Medium are automatically listed as followers on your Medium profile.
Quick Example: I have ~500 followers on Twitter, and I signed up on Medium with my Twitter account. Before publishing anything on Medium, I already have 100 Followers on Medium. These 100 users get pinged on Medium if I publish new content there.
Readers of your article on Medium can easily recommend your article within the Medium network. So, in theory, you could land a viral hit and reach thousands of readers. If you start fresh, it might be easier to attract readers on Medium compared to starting your blog on your own domain.
Medium is also sending out customized emails and push notifications in its app, which are additional sources from which you could gain traffic.
Get Featured in Others’ Publications
You can submit your content to other publications, or they can reach out and ask if you want your content to be featured. You could compare this to guest blogging, except that it’s very easy to do on Medium, as it is all within the same platform.
This recent post about verified users on Twitter by Luca Hammer received lots of attention, and it was also picked up by the Startup Grind publication. This can lead to substantial traffic on your content. What is the downside of this? Your article can only be published in a publication once, and it is branded as theirs. You are building followers for someone else’s blog.
Basic but Good Enough Statistics
Nearly every website owner is using Google Analytics. On Medium, you can’t use Google Analytics; instead, you get a custom-built overview about the absolute basics:
- Views, reads, and read ratio; and
- Referrers: On what channel do people find your content?
While this is not much compared to the data Google Analytics provides, it offers the benefit of focusing on clear key performance indicators (KPI) (more on the statistics).
Layout and Design
You can tell if a site is running on Medium or not. Even the publications that are customized look like a Medium site, but it works well for the reader. You can’t add widgets or any of that stuff, but if that’s your goal, Medium is the wrong solution anyway.
Examples of publications relying solely on Medium:
Using Medium as a Reader or Curator
If you don’t have time to blog, you can use the platform for just reading, recommending, and commenting on articles. After creating an account on Medium, your activities on others’ content are listed on your profile page.
Your profile page shows basics like a short biography and links to your connected social media profiles.
The interesting sections are the recommendations. A recommendation is made as soon as you like an article or a comment (called a response on Medium).
On Medium, you can highlight specific text areas, and they are also displayed on your profile page.
Comments you leave are also displayed on your profile page.
Medium is known for its lively discussions, and you will get more feedback on your content compared to starting fresh on your own domain. If you comment on an article and you realize the comment has turned into its own story, Medium has a feature to switch to a full screen editor and publish the comment as its own story. The story is then displayed on your profile page, and the header links back to the original story upon which your story is based. This is like the trackback or pingback feature of classic blogs.
This is a typical case for a lot of people and brands. You can configure your WordPress blog to publish each post to Medium as soon as you post your blog. The platform also offers an API. Basically, you can publish content from any source.
A few examples of blogs cross-posting content to Medium:
- The German blog nerdcore (WordPress) republished on Medium;
- Doc Searls Blog (WordPress) republished on Medium; and
- Usersnap Blog (WordPress) republished on Medium.
Cross-posting content is not community building. I noticed a lot of people doing this, and it’s based on the hope that it drives some traffic back to the original source and to get noticed. Maybe the platform will disable this feature at some point in the future, as it wants to be the original place for content.
Search Engine Optimization
Most questions I came across regarding Medium and search engine optimization (SEO) are about duplicate content. As most start by re-publishing content to Medium instead of Medium being the original source of content, that makes sense.
From my observations, I can say duplicate content does not hurt your original source. Republished stories on Medium often have additional meta information at the bottom, stating “this was first published at XYZ.com.” The official Medium WordPress plugin adds this line by default:
Let’s look at this example post:
- The post is titled “Separating advertising’s wheat and chaff” and was originally published on Doc Searls Blog. Publish Date: August 12, 2015
- The republished version on Medium is here. Publish Date: August 12, 2015
If you search Google for the post, you will find the link to the original source and not to Medium. Therefore, Google understands this behavior of republished content very well. From this simple test, it is clear it will not hurt your SEO rank.
Note: There is no way to set your blog on Medium to “be not indexed by search engines,” like the setting you may know from WordPress, if that’s your concern. However, you can publish an article as unlisted.
Regarding further SEO tuning, you have to rely on the engineering team of the platform, and I would assume that they are doing everything to gain lots of organic traffic from Google. That’s another thing you don’t have to worry about when publishing on Medium.
When Does It Make Sense to Use Medium?
- You have no resources (budget, time, skills, etc.) to set up your own blog on your own domain;
- You have a strong following on Twitter or Facebook and know that many them are active on the site;
- Your content fits. You did some research and think that it absolutely makes sense to get your articles in front of Medium users;
- You just want to republish content. If you are on WordPress, that is easy with an official Medium plugin. Alternatively, you can get started the manual way with copy and paste;
- Deeper customization is not needed: No Call2Action buttons, overlays, forms, etc.;
- You are starting fresh and don’t know how long you will be able to keep up your blogging activity. You can start on Medium and turn it into a self-hosted blog later;
- You have built a community around your other content channels and are ready to evaluate a new platform;
- You need to get comments on your new content and have not succeeded in building an audience on your self-hosted blog;
- If you are a strong brand, you could start a publication on Medium and look out for potential stories to feature in your blog. Instead of creating all the content on your own, you can utilize existing content from potentially unknown writers who produce great content;
- Should Medium fully replace your company’s blog? No, as you cannot plan the future and never know when and how Medium is going to monetize its business. Right now it is not making money.
Publishing content on Medium is super easy, and you can benefit from the large community using the site. Medium is perfectly engineered for writers and removes the duties of hosting a blog by yourself. As with every platform that you don’t have full control over, you don’t know what the future will bring for Medium. Every follower you build on Medium could potentially be lost at a later time. If you already create lots of content, you could start by cross-posting and see whether it gets picked up.