How to Write Long-Lasting Articles
Some stories are marigolds, here for a brief time and gone forever. Others are tulips, and bloom year after year.
The real power of Medium is that good, relevant stories can stay active for a long time. They can be recommended to readers months or years after you write them. One of my most popular stories was written over a year ago, and it still earns me money every month.
A lot of writers want “passive income,” which I think is the wrong term. You should aim for continuous income. You don’t earn your writing income passively, but wisely, over time. You don’t want to be a flash-in-the-pan writer; you want to give your readers gold, so your articles keep getting read, and keep making you money.
After nearly two years on Medium, here are my observations on what articles are more likely to stand the test of time. Of course, there’s no guarantee of success, but try these tips for yourself and see what happens.
Look beyond trends.
Articles that explore news or trends get a lot of early views, but these drop off quickly.
There’s nothing wrong with writing about the news, especially if you have access to a lot of contacts and time to investigate. But you want to diversify your writing portfolio. An article about, say, New Year’s resolutions will be popular for a week, then die off.
If you want to write really long-lasting pieces, stick to topics that are timeless. I like to write about writing and money — two rather evergreen topics.
Or, find an unusual take on a subject. Go off the beaten path. Does anything make you stop and wonder, “Why does/did this happen?” Write about it; other people may be just as curious.
Don’t delete & repeat.
Not only is it against Medium’s rules to delete and republish a story, it puts you in the wrong mindset.
Every article you release should be polished and ready to show to the world. If it doesn’t find its audience? Let me tell you a secret: a lot of articles don’t! Let it be, because maybe it will find readers someday.
Sometimes, I think an article is perfect, and am left wondering why it didn’t do well. Only when I look back on it later do I see a weak title or a premise that could’ve been clearer.
Letting your stuff stay put allows you look at a list of topics that didn’t work, and gives you a chance to figure out why. Or, you might want to go back and use your research to write about a different spin on the topic.
Use charts & original research.
Using an original chart in your article makes you 26% more likely to go viral. Okay, I made that statistic up. But doesn’t it feel right?
A chart says, “I put effort into this. I did research, and I’ll let you in on a secret.” Even if it’s just a screenshot of your stats. Charts are authoritative. Charts get things done.
Putting any sort of original research in your article (and I don’t mean anecdotes) separates you from people who keep writing about the same old stuff. You’re bringing something to the table, and readers appreciate that.
Example (which will be relevant in a minute):
Write a how-to.
One of my perennial articles is “How to Get Your Stories Curated.” I don’t really get curated more often than others, but I noticed when curation started and wrote about it. People have been reading it ever since.
On my stats page, Medium tells me where readers are coming from. Take a look at the chart above, which shows where readers found the curation article (the referring websites).
The story was about Medium, so ironically, it wasn’t curated. Why did it get popular? Most of the readers are not from Medium, but are coming from a search engine. They probably typed “how to get curated” into Google, and found me.
How-to’s with clear titles can make for good SEO. They’re also shareable on social media. People like learning stuff. Sometimes people like reading stuff they already know about, just to make sure they know about it.
Not all of those people are going to be Medium readers, but some of them may be. Or, they may decide to be members based on what they read here.
If you’re an expert on something, or you’ve just noticed that others are struggling with a topic and you’ve figured it out, write about it! Many people can benefit from your knowledge.
If all else fails, write a lot.
If you write 60 stories in 60 days, it’s likely that one or two will still be popular a year from now. If you write 5 stories a month … not so much.
Writing isn’t just a numbers game, either. Writing more helps you improve, and therefore, helps you increase your chances that one of your articles will be timeless.
I sometimes look back at some of my early articles and go, “What was I thinking?” But 300 articles later, I have a better (but still not perfect) sense for what might do well.
In writing, there are no guarantees. But there are methods you can use to improve your writing and increase your chances of success.
It will take a little while to get the ball rolling, but with hard work and practice, you can start setting up continuous income from writing.