Once you know the basics, it’s time to get into the nitty-gritty
Medium is an excellent platform for writers. In a few simple steps, you can get your work out to a wide audience and build your reputation in any subject area that you choose to. Most of the behind-the-scenes work for each article is taken care of by Medium’s system.
There’s no need to pay domain fees, worry about your on-page optimization for each of your posts, or the site’s speed.
However, for those of us interested in improving the SEO for each article and getting a better Google ranking for our work, there are additional tools you can use. Along with basic SEO tips you should follow for good writing, the additional changes detailed below can further aid your Medium work to reach a higher placing on Google’s search results.
Round One of SEO for Medium Articles
Once you’ve crafted your piece for Medium, the first step is hitting the ‘Publish’ button. This takes you to a page where you can influence some of the SEO for your piece.
First off is the tags section. You have the option to choose up to five tags and should use them all. Tags help your content to be found on Medium. Similarly, they can indicate the topic area of your work to search engines such as Google, but they won’t create any earth-shaking results in terms of wider SEO practice.
Consistently writing for the same tags can end up with you being singled out as a ‘Top Writer’ in that subject area — if the quality of your work is high and regularly curated by Medium.
Along with tags is the option to adjust the little snippet of information about your article that will appear under the title of your piece. It’s important to note that this will not influence the meta description of your article in search engines. It only changes the way it appears in Medium’s platform. While that’s great for your Medium audience, if you want to optimise your work for the wider web, you’ll need to dig a little deeper. Refrain from hitting ‘Publish now’ until you’ve done so.
Diving Deeper for Search Engine Optimisation
When it comes to optimising your work for search engines, there are six elements you need to be conscious of. These are headings and subheadings, meta descriptions, your URL or slug, image tags, and outside interest or promotion. You’re able to influence all of these from within the Medium platform or by using different social channels you may already be active on.
When looking for relevant content to serve internet searches, Google and other search engines take a number of elements into consideration. One of these is the titles or headings for the content. Titles or headings are also referred to as H1 tags. These should be indicative of what the reader will find in the content. Keep headings to around 70 characters to optimise for Google. Generally, Google gives space for 150 characters but only displays around 60 to 70 characters or a width of 600 pixels in the SERPs. Use relevant keywords in your title, but don’t overdo it. Titles should read naturally and not like a list of search terms.
Subheadings or H2 tags are important for a couple of reasons. From a human perspective, they’ll allow your reader to quickly scan down to the sections of your content that are most relevant for them. They’ll also move your story along in a logical order and at a reasonable pace.
From a search engine point of view, the subheadings provide evidence that the heading is backed up with relevant and credible content. In Medium, use the title section as is, and for your subheadings, I like to use the little ‘T’ that comes up when I highlight the words I want to use as a subheading. Medium doesn’t confirm if this is an H2 or another tag, but it seems to work well and give structure to a piece as well as meeting SEO guidelines for subheadings.
Meta descriptions aren’t able to be defined in the first level of Medium publication of your work. To influence your meta descriptions, you’ll need to choose ‘More Settings’ for an unpublished piece or the little cog in the top right-hand corner and then the edit story option for already published pieces.
Once you’ve chosen the ‘more settings’ option, you’ll be presented with a few more tools to optimise your content for search engines.
Move down to the SEO settings section, and note that any adjustment to the snippet of information about your article that you made when you first hit ‘publish’ won’t appear here. Instead, the meta description tends to take the first few lines of your article.
Meta descriptions are important as this is where people searching learn a little more about the results their search engine of choice has served them. The main goal of a meta description is to provide a searcher with relevant info and a reason to choose your link. It’s your little advert for the content you’ve created.
Edit this section so you have a short paragraph — around 50 to 160 characters or two to three lines of text about your article. Include your main keyword, but don’t stuff it with every keyword you can think of. Make it attractive, relevant, and interesting enough to entice someone to click without being spammy. Once you’re done, click Save.
Your URL or slug can also be adjusted in the SEO settings part of your article’s additional editorial settings. Just above the section where you’ve adjusted the meta description is a small area that specifies your SEO title. If left untouched, this will simply display the title of your article as the slug, and a string of letters and numbers gets added when you publish. While you can change the slug for your article to the optimal number of characters (no more than 2,083 characters) and to a fitting description of your article — if the title doesn’t already do that (and it should) — you can’t influence the string of numbers and letters that Medium will add to the end of your SEO title here.
It is useful to note that the general format of your article’s URLs on Medium do follow good practice, and the string of numbers and letters after your optimised slug is around 12 characters long.
Further down the story settings, in Advanced Settings, there is also the chance to further customise your article’s link. Following best practice for optimised links, delete the string of numbers and letters. This can only be done BEFORE you publish your story. If you check this section after publishing your piece, there is no option to customise the link, only to customise a canonical link for stories that were published somewhere else first.
Promotion is another key area for SEO that you can influence. If self-promotion gets your anxiety levels up, it can help to think about it as wider distribution. The more people that click to view your work, the more credibility it gets in the eyes of search engines and the better rankings you’ll receive. Post links to your work online to push up the distribution of your work.
Better Marketing is great at giving authors guidance on how to do this for the pieces they publish. They encourage authors to tweet about their latest articles with a link to the piece and to share on Facebook, Quora, and LinkedIn.
If you’re not publishing through a Medium publication, it can make your work harder to find, and therefore the wider distribution via social channels becomes even more important. Some of my writing is delivered through Medium publications, some not, ALL of my Medium writing gets the full promo treatment.
Along with sharing your work on your own social profiles, it can help enormously to share it in relevant social media groups. For example, a piece on the benefits of blue spaces for mental health could be shared in social groups concerned with the topic of mental health, but also in groups interested in beaches, diving, swimming, water sports, and the outdoors. All of these groups would benefit from the work and provide a wider audience of people who are likely to click, read, and share your work with others. The more views and reads your work gets, the better income you’ll make from it. Search engines will also view it as having more authority in terms of answering a searcher’s question about that topic.
By delving a little deeper into the additional editing functions in Medium, you should be able to bump up the quality of your work’s SEO and reach a wider audience with your voice. Keep in mind the essentials of staying on topic, keywording, and including relevant links in your articles, but support this foundation with attention to the advanced SEO settings — meta descriptions, headings and subheadings, and wider distribution or promotion of your writing — to get the most from Medium’s platform for writers.