Learnings from inside a tech start-up’s marketing team
Medium has rightly been lauded for its aesthetic appeal and its ease of use as an author. Ev was also a founder of Blogger so with that, and his Twitter experience, it is perhaps no surprise that Medium focuses on simplicity and web publishing with a strong social element.
But I’m a marketer so I want to know how effective Medium is as a platform for marketing?
It is still early days and I’d love your feedback and comments but here is what we at Ably have learned so far.
1. Medium for Brand
How well does Medium enable you to represent your brand?
- Medium lets you publish on a custom domain or sub domain. As you’ll see this blog is at https://blog.ably.io/ not, apparently, on Medium. More on how to do this and the options at:Migration & Custom Domains - Medium Support
Moving to Mediumhelp.medium.com
- The masthead of your brand’s publication can be strongly branded visually to look like you rather than like Medium (who even gray scale their otherwise green logo to make it less prominent):
- There is a nice trade-off between formatting flexibility but consistent user experience which means it is hard to make things look too bad! So there is a level of ‘enforced’ quality control so you do not tarnish your brand. Two great pieces you might want to read on how to present your content effectively on Medium:Tips and tricks for Medium writers
Make the best out of Medium as a writer with these hints.medium.comHow to Win at Medium
Cool stuff you can do to make your stories shinemedium.com
- Direct linking, to your site or wherever you want, is allowed so as your readers navigate your Medium content it feels entirely natural rather than like some ‘external’ platform with odd redirects etc.
- You can customize how your title/sub-title appears and you can select up to three tags for your story which is a useful form of targeting and presentation that you can make ‘on brand’.
- Medium do not try to prevent you re-posting or re-packaging content you have already created so arguably you just get incremental brand exposure and increase the return on marketing investment you have already made in content.
- The way ‘Publications’ work on Medium gives a nice balance of putting everything from one brand in one place (see our page at https://blog.ably.io/about) but further humanizing the brand by bringing together the various editors and writers.
- Medium does not stop you including other elements to reinforce your own branding. For example, the team writers at Ably include signature footers at the end of each article like mine:
- Medium might be increasingly well known among (mostly tech) early adopters but mention it to your average person and they have no idea what it is. So expecting them to appreciate the nuances above, or understand that you can ‘follow’ writers or publications, or even that they should register on yet another platform (even if via Twitter) might be asking too much. Whereas a blog that is fully part of your existing site creates no surprises.
- Most people expect to be able to click ‘home’ via some logo or link in the top left of any web page. Currently, whilst gray scale, that logo is Medium’s and not yours and it links to the Medium homepage not your brand’s homepage. Nice for Medium; not so good for your brand and it might confuse your readers. If you want to get readers to your main site, you have to embed links in the content itself.
2. Medium for Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Does Medium help with your search rankings and natural search traffic?
- Medium allows you to link directly to your site, with no redirects, and you can use any anchor text you like.
- If you are on the Medium domain then you should, in theory, be able to benefit from its domain authority. So if your own site is unlikely ever to rank well then you might be better piggybacking some of Medium’s authority.
- As Medium does not rank/promote content based on publication date then you will not be penalized for going weeks or months without posting. If you were this inactive on your own site, you may get crawled less frequently by the search engine bots.
- Medium as a platform has a certain amount of SEO ‘best practice’ built in e.g. page titling, mobile optimization, clean code, navigation and internal linking based on topics of interest, publications clustered around themes etc.
- If you use Medium’s domain, then you are helping Medium’s domain authority and not your own except via the direct links back to your site. You might succeed in getting traffic to your Medium blog but only a trickle that then clicks through to your main offering.
- It is hard to say for sure yet how well content on Medium is likely to rank versus content on another platform. But Medium seem to be doing the right things and our posts certainly rank as we would hope.
- If your content is essentially marketing for something else, then publishing on Medium makes a lot of sense. If that content *is* the business/product (e.g. a media business) then you may be better publishing on your own site/domain for the maximum SEO benefits. That said, Medium recently announced that authors will be able to monetize their readers on Medium via advertising revenue share or subscriber revenue:Revenue on Medium
Online publishers are already benefiting from Medium’s hassle-free CMS, our network of engaged readers, and our always…medium.com
If you are an SEO expert and can expand on my somewhat thin pros/cons above, then feel free to leave comments below.
3. Medium for Audience Reach
Does Medium help you reach, and grow, the right audience?
- One of Medium’s biggest selling points is that is already has a large, and growing, audience. I cannot find accurate data on the size of the user base (do you know? If so comment below). But an increasing number of businesses are abandoning their own blogs in favor of publishing on Medium because they get more traffic and reach that way e.g.We just abandoned our blog for Medium. You probably should, too.
Our blog was critical in helping our open source community reach an early critical mass. In the 18 months since we…medium.com
- One of the things that attracted us to Medium was not so much the *size* of its audience but the *quality*. We’re in a B2B niche so it’s all about value, influence, credibility, authority, domain expertise. And, particularly in tech, all the best people seem to be Medium authors or readers. Whether those people will move on as Medium becomes more mainstream remains to be seen.
- Medium tries hard to rank, and promote, content not just based on recency or popularity, which can be gamed or bought, but on quality metrics. This means you can still do well on Medium even if you are new to it, and your content can continue to do well even if ‘old’. Medium describe the ranking as follows:
“How we calculate the ranking is an algorithm that will change over time (kinda like Google’s PageRank but obviously much more simplistic at this point in time). It’s not a direct popularity ranking. It takes in a variety of factors, including whether or not a post seems to actually have been read (not just clicked on) and whether people click the “Recommend” button at the bottom of posts. The ratio of people who view it who read it and who read it and recommend it are important factors, not just the number. (This is an attempt to level of the playing field for those who don’t already have large followings and/or a penchant for writing click-bait headlines.)”
- You can tag your articles with up to three categories and Medium lets you know how many followers each tag has. This lets you better target your content to the right audience.
- We’re still learning about how this one works exactly but, if invited, you can submit your content to multiple publications. Publications are curated collections of content around particular themes or audiences. A bit like Twitter lists. So if you can get on the radar of the relevant publications and be included in them you can quickly reach a wider audience but which is still highly relevant. In the screen grab below you can see we have also been invited into the ‘Digital Founder’ publication:
- There is quite a degree of cross-over between Twitter and Medium in various ways: functionality, audience, user interface, profiles, log in etc. As such we have found that paid ads on Twitter can be an effective way to promote Medium content. This is perhaps not so much a ‘pro’ of Medium as it is a feature of Twitter, but it is a way to reach exactly the right people on Medium using Twitter. Below are the results of a short Twitter campaign I did to promote my last Medium post, achieving almost 800 clicks at £0.45 a click from 80,000 impressions, with 30 retweets, within 24hrs:
- Unless I’m missing the data somewhere there is very little available from Medium on its user base, how it is growing, how it breaks down etc. So it is hard to tell just how big an opportunity Medium is, or could become, for your particular audience. At the moment it feels great for tech/B2B/lifestyle/entrepreneur types but perhaps less good for broader ‘consumer’ markets.
- Arguably, for B2B, you could be better off concentrating on LinkedIn as a publishing and marketing platform rather than Medium. However, the easy answer is just to do both, and you can republish content, and measure/learn over time which platform delivers what results. Personally I find LinkedIn way too spammy (the stream of content just is not relevant enough), and the interface too cluttered, so prefer finding and reading content on Medium.
- Similarly to Twitter or other social media it takes time to build up a following and enough recommendations such that you have a solid enough base to truly benefit from any network effect. Medium’s daily emails typically select content from authors or topics you follow, rather than based on popularity across Medium overall, so the more followers you have, and the more popular the category your content is in, the more reach you will get via email.
- For a recent article we published on Medium around 200 views of the 2,300 we have received so far came from within Medium itself. That is not bad at almost 10% but it is not significant either. As we build our Medium following and reputation perhaps that percentage will increase.
- Medium are experimenting with their own native advertising / sponsored content solution (see link below). But it is not yet open to the likes of you and I, only mega brands. So Medium are a long way behind, say, Twitter or LinkedIn in this regard. So for now you have to work on organic reach, social amplification and your own marketing.How does branded content work on Medium?
Some of you may have seen several recent examples of sponsored stories on Medium.medium.com
4. Medium for Engagement and Conversion
How effective is Medium for engaging your audience?
- Medium is similar to Twitter in that you can @ mention other authors and organisations in order to automatically link through to them and so that they are notified that you have mentioned them. This encourages them to take a look at your content and, often, engage via comments, follows, shares, retweets etc.
- It is easy to follow authors and publications, it is easy to recommend content, and it is easy to share content. Again all in a similar way to Twitter.
- You get stats not just on views of your content but also the number of reads (active engagement) and recommends. See next section for more on stats.
- Readers can leave notes on an article and can highlight, and share, sections they particularly like. This is an effective form of engagement with the content itself.
- Given our blog is on Medium it is hard to know for sure how well it would compare to a blog on our own domain in terms of conversation rates from referred traffic. However, you can see from our Google Analytics goal data below that the blog’s conversion rate (to our various goals, not split out here) is 12% which compares pretty well with natural search and direct visits though you can also see that Quora is performing well.
- Though you can leave comments on articles they are not visually shown by default and you have to click to view more comments. So they are quite easily missed and not prioritized in the interface. Unlike, say, Quora, Medium does not focus on responses, answers and conversations.
For Medium ‘engagement’ is more about active reading and engagement with the content than social interactions and conversation.
- There is little evidence yet that Medium-referred blog traffic is any more likely to convert than any other blog platform and there are some other platforms (like Quora, possibly LinkedIn) that may perform better depending on your target customer.
5. Medium for Marketing Analytics
What level of marketing insight do you get from Medium’s analytics and reporting?
- You get stats not just on the number of views of your content but also how many people actually read the content and the number of recommends:
- You get some insight into how readers found your content via the referrer information for each article:
- Medium does not try to block you from adding tracking code to the links you embed in your content. So you can add UTM parameters (for Google Analytics) for example to get better insight into the value of the referrals your Medium content is delivering.
- The ‘out of the box’ Medium data and analytical reporting is very thin at the moment. This is a very long way from what you would expect from a basic analytical tool and a lot less than you would get from having, say, Google Analytics on your own blog.
- The list of what is missing is significant but basics like filtering by date ranges or having some insights into *who* your readers are (geo/demographics/interests etc) would be a good start.
Two other good articles worth reading for further thoughts and tips on using Medium for marketing from the teams at Buffer and Kissmetrics:How to Use Medium: The Complete Guide for Marketers | Buffer
Imagine starting a blog with zero overhead. Imagine having a place online to write your thoughts, tips, and learnings…blog.bufferapp.comThe Marketer's Guide To Medium
This guide will give an overview of publishing on Medium and look at how brands can integrate the platform into their…blog.kissmetrics.com
And, as usual, any comments below most welcome!