Turn what’s working into more of what’s working.
The biggest benefit of letting data guide your writing.
Dear Friend & Subscriber,
Data is such a crucial part of becoming a writer in the digital age.
I preach this often.
But today, I want to expand on that idea—and show you what ELSE you can do with the data you’re accumulating.
The longer you stick with writing online, the more data you will accumulate about what topics resonate with the most people, what headline styles work best for you and your content, what piece structures and styles keep readers engaged the longest, etc.
For example, when you see that one of your articles, social media posts, or Atomic Essays (the format we use in Ship 30 for 30) is outperforming every other piece of content you’ve ever written, you shouldn’t just see that as a “win” and move on.
You should question why this piece in particular is resonating with so many people—and how you can expand it into a longer, more valuable asset.
This is the answer to the question, “When should I launch my own website?”
You are ready to launch your own website when you’ve reached a point where your writing can in some way, shape, or form become a business. 99% of writers want to start here, but it’s premature. They end up spending an unnecessary amount of time trying to figure out how to capture and keep people’s attention, when they could have easily answered that question by Practicing In Public and letting data give them the answer.
Writing becomes a business as soon as you start:
- Capturing people’s email addresses
- Making money from advertising revenue
- Making money from paid subscriptions
- Selling products and/or services
- Speaking, coaching, consulting, and/or advising
So if this is the goal, then it makes sense to let data inform where you choose to invest more time, energy, and resources next.
Turning Articles Into Pillar Pieces
It’s time to start your own website once you 1) know what it is people want to read about from you, 2) know how you need to position topics to resonate with your target readers, and 3) already have their attention elsewhere and are ready to move them deeper into your library of content.
For example, let’s say you’ve written a dozen or so pieces about sales advice, but there was one article in particular about “cold email outreach” that outperformed the rest.
Step one would be to double down on this topic and continue Practicing In Public to make sure this wasn’t a fluke. Is there more data confirming that “cold email outreach” is a content bucket that is performing well and resonating with your target readers? If yes, you should refine your original content bucket (Niche Audience: Sales) to be more specific (Niche Audience: Cold Email Outreach For Sales).
Step two begins once you’ve confirmed these hypotheses. You’ve written more extensively about “cold email outreach” and sales strategies specific to this target audience, and you’ve clearly seen this audience is engaging with the insight you’re bringing to the table.
You have their attention—now you want to do something with it.
In order to start capturing people’s email addresses, or directing them to some sort of paid product, you are going to need to move these readers from whatever platform they’re on over to your own website.
The difference however, and why I believe it’s so important to first start in social environments, is now you know exactly how to greet them when they walk through the door.
You know your target audience wants to learn more about “cold email outreach strategies to achieve their sales goals—so you position that, first. Maybe on your website you even say, “Looking for cold email outreach strategies? You’ve come to the right place.” Again, imagine how hard it would be to figure out the best way to “position” yourself without any of this data. You’d be banging your head against your desk, beyond frustrated.
Now, one thing I want to stress here is that just because you have someone’s attention on a social platform like Quora, Medium, LinkedIn, etc., doesn’t mean they’re going to keep giving you their attention. In fact, anytime you ask a reader to move from where they already are to somewhere else (especially your own website), you actually have to work harder to keep their attention. Every second they spend on your site, they are subconsciously asking themselves, “Why am I still here?”
So, don’t just meet their expectations.
The best way to continue earning a reader’s loyalty is to direct them from a piece of written content they already find valuable, to a longer, more extensive resource they will want to bookmark forever.
“Pillar Pieces” are the most valuable, most comprehensive, most insightful, and most engaging versions of pieces that have proven themselves elsewhere.
Instead of sending readers from an article on a social platform to the homepage of your website, what you want to do is exceed their expectations by giving them a longer, more extensive resource they almost can’t believe you’re giving away for free. If they thought your articles and written content on social platforms were valuable, they should be blown away by how in-depth your “Pillar Pieces” are on your website. If they enjoyed the short stories you were sharing on Medium or Twitter, they should be amazed you decided to publish what could have easily been an excerpt from a book (or hell, an entire book) for free on your blog.
The idea here is to make sure the first interaction a reader has with you on your own website is an incredibly positive one. They shouldn’t feel like you’re tricking them into spending time on your site. Instead, they should feel like you are taking them by the hand and walking them to the next most valuable, most relevant piece of writing in your library.
So, if you’ve been wondering how writing all these Tweets or Articles or Atomic Essays translates into moving your writing career forward, here you go.
The more you write, the more data points you gather, the more you “KNOW” (beyond reasonable doubt) which topics are worth expanding into longer-form assets, products, etc., and the more likely you are to build a profitable business out of your writing.
It’s when writers try to go the opposite direction (come up with a business idea -> then write about it) that things get messy.
Let data show you the way.
Nicolas “I Failed Math But Love Data” Cole