Inspiration over Information [Nick Wignall]

Insightful commentary about effective writing: Put a little cheese wiz on the broccoli

Listen to the Corey Haines podcast: https://www.swipefiles.com/everything-is-marketing/43 (1hr in)

How to grow a writing audience
  • SEO important to start
  • Something Owned (Wordpress), Something Rented (Google), Something Borrowed (Medium)
  • Inspiration over Information: "Medium really rewards writing that makes it easy on the reader"
    • 5 habits that will make you...
    • Straightforward, and plain, not too intellectual
    • No enormous paragraphs of text
    • Most people want to feel something more than they want to learn something
    • People click in to clickbait titles and find a thoughtful article - challenge expectations
    • Put a little cheese wiz on the broccoli
Transcript
  • Could you share, well, one how you built your audience we've briefly touched on. Okay. We started blogging for a medium thrown out a few times. So like, how have you built your audience that allows you to now make a living online and just any sort of, I don't know, numbers or scale you can share. It's just, some people have an idea of like where you are.
  • Yeah. So I, I had no following on line really to speak of when I started. And so I just put up a WordPress blog and I had a email newsletter and I, I sent out an email to, I don't know, maybe like 50 friends and family and I, my first newsletter probably went out to like 30 or 40 people, again, friends and family.
  • And that, that was probably the case for the. Three or four months. I like, I literally don't think it, it wasn't above like probably 70, 60 people for like three miles. Like it just really, but I do remember finally, like after every single weekly newsletter, my grandfather would always email me back saying great article.
  • Like this was really good. You know, he just always have like something nice to say, and that sounds stupid. But like that made so much of a difference to me. I knew it was kind of like corny and yes. Just to be nice. And like, I mean, I think he did like him, but it's very grandfatherly thing to do, but like, God damn it like, that actually helped, like, despite my like, cynicism, like having someone, just one person like that, it was really helpful.
  • So I, yeah, I wouldn't skip that step again. Like kind of recruiting friends and family initially the next thing, the next, like, bump that really. And I, at that point, by the way, I was getting like zero traffic to my blog. I mean, I had no. And I wasn't on any social media. Really. I was literally just putting stuff out there, like into the void, didn't know anything about SES and publish, just pressing, publish and sharing it with this really small group of people.
  • My first kind of big break came when I, I just, I had known about meeting them, but I decided I, I heard that it was like pretty easy. You can just cross post stuff. I saw, I already have these articles written on my blog, so I thought, yeah, what the hell? I'll just like, put this on medium. And so I, I put this article on medium and.
  • Within like a day, someone from an editor from one of the bigger publications they're called the startup said, Hey, like I saw this piece somehow. I don't know how I saw it. Can we publish it in the startup? And I said, yeah, sure. I guess why not? And then it, it kind of had a little mini blow up. It seemed like out of this world, to me, like at my stage, he got like, I don't know, 10,000 views or something like, and that got me probably.
  • I don't know. I mean, it bumped my, my medium follower account, but I also had a CTA at the bottom of the, of the article. So that kind of doubled my email list probably in all sorts of new people. And then. Obviously like that was super exciting. And so I was like, all right, this medium things is great. I'm just repurposing.
  • I'm just literally copying pacing. Might this article I've written already and putting it on a medium. So that kind of progressed fairly well for about a year or so. And at that time I also started learning just like the real basics of. SEO. I like, I got like the Yoast plugin and I wasn't even doing keyword research at that point.
  • I was just kinda like following the Yoast thing and, and over the course of about a year, I started getting fairly good, some, some pretty good SEO traffic. And then about, at about the year point, this is when I was talking before about, I started. Actively like trying to learn from a few of these writers, I admired on medium and developing this more conversational style.
  • And that's where my, my medium growth like really took off. I mean, I went from like a few hundred subscribers up to thousands, you know, eight, nine, 10,000. And then at the same time that I was starting to build up like SEO kind of organic traffic to my website and common misconception with medium, you can actually set the canonical link to be.
  • Like your WordPress version, so that if an article like blows up on medium, all the SEOG is still goes to your website. So I was having these pieces blow up on medium, but then I break for forum for the, my site's version. So I'd get all this more organic traffic coming to my website and yeah, so that's, so my email list was just growing, I think, after the first.
  • A year, year and a half, I was at, you know, a few thousand subscribers. And then last year I just really kind of hit my stride with medium. And I figured out like the right format, kind of like the right tone and format for writing on medium. And, and the SEO had really started kicking in. I was getting a lot of traffic.
  • There. And my, yeah, my newsletter went up to, you know, pretty quickly got up to like 15, 20,000 and that's kind of where I am today. So, but it's almost entirely been medium and SEO and that's, that's where I get probably 80%, 90% maybe of my newsletter subscribers, which is my primary kind of metric that I track is that I just include links and CTS at the bottom of all my medium articles.
  • And then. I, you know, I, again, I don't, I don't do tons of keyword research, honestly, again, I'm too selfish. Like I just write about whatever I'm interested in and I'll do a little, like kind of minimal, you know, SES stuff. But yeah, that's worked really well so far. Although to be honest, I've [00:05:00] been kind of winging it so far, but I've realized if I, if I do want to kind of get to the next level, I do need to be.
  • Thoughtful, I think about strategy and some of the more formal aspects of the approach. But I think the big thing was just like medium was just my home. Like it's like a writer's platform and I was a writer I just liked writing and it was easy. It was simple. I could just plug stuff over there. And I was, I liked the people I was reading on there.
  • And I, so that allowed me to kind of learn from them and create a voice and a style that worked well for. Audience and for the people on that platform. And so I think that, I think that's just, I think that really helped a lot. Yeah. Oh yeah. I've been kind of toying and workshopping this idea of owned, rented and borrowed platforms and just like helping people like really like break it down fundamental, like what, what is marketing?
  • What does it mean? Like how do you sort of strategically engineer something that just, you know, gets you, traffic gets attention to whatever thing it is that you do, whether it's content or a product or a service and a. You know, even. Between owned, rented and borrowed. You basically just need one platform that's like, or at least one that gets you discovered and like gets kind of those initial eyeballs and new people through the door.
  • And then you need another one that kind of keeps people around retention that, you know, lose the mints. And so, you know, very clearly for you, right? Medium was that discovery mechanism, that discovery platform, people come to the door, you get the traffic and then Google tacked on, as you know, maybe like a number two, and then you're funneling everyone to the newsletter.
  • And now they're subscribed. And I have another way to keep in touch with them and keep getting returning, returning traffic from each of your visitors and subscribe. Yeah, absolutely. And it's, the newsletter was just, so was, is so key. I mean, even just from an SEO point, like it's pretty awesome after you publish a, you know, an article now I can just link to it in my newsletter and all you out of nowhere, you get 1500 visits or something.
  • Like that's pretty, that starts to help a lot. But, but yeah, it starts with that idea of having your own, it was tiny. It was like 30 people at the beginning. Right. But this newsletter of people who just yeah. Get to know me. Style and like, and they just have that one, this to open that one email every Monday morning, they don't need to go to my website or anything and they just kind of stay in touch and it just becomes a part of their life.
  • And they were like, I so frequently have people say like, oh, I just, I look forward to Monday morning so much. Cause I know like your, your newsletter comes out and there's always something kind of interesting in there. And so, yeah, I love that, but I love that framework of kind of own rented and borrowed.
  • And that is definitely been the, you know, sort of renting or borrowing medium and, and, and SEO. And then. Owning the list. And I know it's cliche people talk about it all the time, but it really is. It's been awesome for me. Yeah. I mean, the newsletter is probably your most, your most powerful, valuable asset, but you wouldn't have gotten there without the kind of arbitrage opportunity with medium and you've been with medium through.
  • Some of the highs and lows and changes and all the things in between. Is there anything special you were doing on medium that allowed you to get good success there? And I believe, I mean, you're one of the top writers or, you know, there's some sort of accolade there with medium, but is anything that you're doing differently than other writers or is it just the consistency and sort of the psych brand and reputation that you've built up over?
  • Yeah. So I, again, this is always a little fraught because there's the, well, maybe that just worked for you survive your fish trip thing. But some of the things that I would point out in that I think have worked for me and that I've observed like common out common factors that I've observed also working for other people I know who have been successful on the platform is it kind of goes back to the first point is going back to this idea of inspiration over information.
  • I see so many. Uh, high quality articles on medium. That just totally bomb. Like they're full of really good information. And I'm sure they took a lot of time and effort went into them, but they're just. Boring. And they're like kind of stodgy and they're, they're like hard work to read through. And for whatever reason, I think medium just really rewards writing that makes it easy on the reader.
  • So like a few like particulars of that being really specific and straightforward in title. Like headlines of articles. Like it, it sounds, I've a little bit of like imposter syndrome over this, but like, I almost always for my, my titles, the exact same way, they're just, they're straight listicles. They're really straightforward.
  • It's like, you know, five habits that will make you more confident or something. Almost kind of generic founding and definitely mystically, but th th the magic there, I think at least for medium is that they're so straightforward. Like, you know exactly what you're going to get. It takes all the risk out of clicking into that article and starting reading to, to read because it's just, it's so transparent.
  • Like it's just very straightforward. And so not being, it's been a real struggle for me is cause I'm. I always have this tug to be like, my stuff should sound more intellectual and it should be more like subtle and nuanced in like, I'm just writing listicles all the time and which have kind of a [00:10:00] bad reputation.
  • But, but again, it goes back to like, you know, like fundamentally, like I'm a teacher, right. And if I'm even the most, like, you know, I don't know, Nobel prize, winning professors or whatever, they, they, they still end up teaching like one-on-one level classes. Right. And then when you do that, like you have to be approved.
  • You know, you can't just like Ram theories and complex stuff down. You have to like guide people along the process. So I, yeah, I think being very straightforward and plain in the way you kind of position your articles is, is really important on medium. And then also just the way you structure them, like medium has gone out of its way to give like tools and formatting that make writing like very beautiful and easy to do.
  • And it's amazing how many people, not only don't take advantage of that, but like actively interfere with it. They still write these like enormous paragraph blocks of texts and, yeah. Anyway, it's just like, like making it easy, making, you know, having like very clear like sections being really obvious about like what you're talking about using, using tons of examples.
  • This. Really, like, I think people comment on this all the time with my writing. They'll say like, I feel like, like you were in my head because you were describing these situations that are like, just like my life. And so whenever I make up, like often when I make points, I go, even though it's, it's probably, it feels excessive or gratuitous, I'll give like two or three examples, kind of like, and really simple, like just a sentence or two explaining some idea using lots of metaphors.
  • Being very, again, being very, I think medium really rewards approachable, straightforward writing. And so I think that's a lot of what's. Yeah. What's helped and really resonated with people on medium. Not like no jargon, like a lot of, I mean, a lot of this is pretty straight forward writing advice, but, but I think there are, again, there are like subtle reasons why this is hard.
  • Like for me personally, it's that. Like, I'm not sounding intellectual enough. I'm not like sophisticated enough in my writing. And it's constantly tempting me to use like big terms or to, you know, to write these headlines that are like, My normal style would be again, like, you know, five habits that will help you be more confident.
  • I want to ride something like, you know, confidence as courage, blah, blah, blah. You know, and that stuff just does not, it sounds fancy and intellectual. Right. And you can imagine someone going, Ooh, wow. That sound, you know what, but like the vast majority of people are going to skim right over it. Cause they're like, what the hell does that mean?
  • I don't have time for this. Right. So, anyway, that's sorry, that's kind of a brain dump, but I think medium is such a missed opportunity by a lot of people. And it's it's yeah, a lot of it is pretty low hanging fruit, actually. Um, well again, people like to poopoo on a Bali or passion, but like there's some, some truth in there and everything's on a spectrum and I think the same applies to listicles and that sort of predictable, literal, uh, expression of content and what you're writing about what you're teaching.
  • It's just like, look, this is what. Want to consume and like, just give the people what they want. Right? Like they want five ways to, you know, to improve their confidence or whatever it is. Like give them five ways and like that, let that be the title, right. It's just like, this is exactly what people want.
  • And I think it especially comes down to the medium and how people discover the content as well, because maybe for something like Google, you know, you can kind of like a, is on the fence a little bit, kind of dip their toes in two different pools where. You know, you have to match the keyword. So you're giving people what they want.
  • Right. And you can kind of get a little bit creative with it. Right. But it's not going to deviate too much, but even then, like Google tends to really, um, it makes things very simplified because you know, the broadest search terms and the most vague search terms are the, the most searched because they are by definition, the broadest, the biggest like that the most, you know, I think it's gonna apply to them.
  • Whereas something like media. Some people aren't really searching through medium as much as I understand, or the way that I use it, they're more browsing. Right. You're kind of like coming across it or maybe it's sent to you through a newsletter. You're just kind of scrolling through different things. So it's really about how can I capture someone's attention.
  • Who's scrolling through. Not how can I fulfill, you know, the information? How can I satisfy the information, need of a Google search, right. Of like this really comprehensive in-depth thing. It's just, how can I get someone to click on this? Right. And how I can get someone to read the next sentence, the next sentence, the next.
  • Exactly. And I think, yeah, when people are searching Google there, they're more primed for information like they're learning. They're more at the, like, I want to solve this problem stage, but with medium, you can't live in denial about this. Like most people, I think most people fundamentally, at least people on.
  • They want to be inspired more than they want information. They want to feel something much more than they want to learn something. Maybe eventually they want to learn something. Right. And I'm, I want to position myself to be able to help them with that. But initially, right, you just want to make them feel something.
  • They want to feel inspired. They want to see the world in a slightly new way. Right. And so [00:15:00] if a, if a listicle title and structure of an article gets people in. Then you can do this. What I think is like a pretty cool sort of magic trick where people go in thinking it's going to be like your generic kind of fluffy listicle that doesn't deliver on the like sky high expectations of the title.
  • But then you go in and it's this like really. Um, thoughtful substantive kind of friendly with just a really good article in there. And I think I hear this all the time. People are like, oh my God, I rolled my eyes when I saw your title. And I almost didn't click in, but I did. Cause I was just kind of interesting.
  • And it was so good. Like there was so much good stuff in there. I couldn't believe it. And so I think that's actually a way to like quickly win super fans is that you, like, you challenge those expectations. You sort of go, Hey, you think, you know what this is, but then actually it's something really different.
  • And it's, and the difference though, back to our earlier point is about it's about personality. And it's about, again, it's about feeling it's about helping them see the world in a different way and giving them a new way to feel about. Or making them feel like they're not alone, right? Like the way you write about something, all this thing, no one's ever described to them in the way they feel it, you you're being empathetic.
  • Right. Which kind of goes back to marketing. Right. Good marketing is about empathy. And so I think you can use, you know, you can put a little, again, you put a whole cheese whiz on the broccoli, right? You can write a, uh, a listicle title if it gets people in the door. And it's not, it's not a listicle if you actually deliver on, it's not clickbait, if you deliver on it, right.
  • If you actually give something helpful and meaningful, And so, yeah, I don't know that that's this is the little pep talk I give myself when I'm feeling that pull to do something more like annoyingly intellectual or something.
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