I have received literally hundreds of requests for an article on Medium SEO, so I am happy to be finally writing this!
Because many writers are unfamiliar with Search Engine Optimization, this guide will attempt to distill relatively complex topics into understandable bits.
This article contains three main sections:
- What is SEO?
- Why Should Medium Writers Care About SEO?
- What On-Page Factors Affecting SEO Can Medium Writers Optimize in Their Articles?
If you are already well-versed in SEO, you can probably skip the first section and go straight to the section on Medium-specific SEO.
What is SEO?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, which is the practice of increasing the quantity and quality of traffic to your website through organic search engine results.
To expand on the terms used in this definition:
- Quality of traffic. You can attract all the visitors in the world, but if they’re coming to your site because Google tells them you’re a resource as a Medium (a person said to have psychic abilities), and not a resource for Medium (the writing platform), that is not quality traffic. Instead you want to attract visitors who are genuinely interested in your content.
This is illustrated below by the (successful) differentiation of content for the two sample similar key word phrases from above:
- Quantity of traffic. Once you have the right audience clicking through from those search engine results pages (SERPs), more traffic is better.
- Organic results. Ads make up a significant portion of many SERPs. Organic traffic is any traffic that you don’t have to pay for. This is especially important for Medium writers to understand as they are creating content (their stories) which naturally generate organic traffic by populating the search results. One of the greatest benefits of writing on Medium is that due to the site’s perceived value by search engines, content published on that platform tends to rank high.
As an example, I wrote an article for my publication, Strategic Communications, called 5 High Authority Social Media Platforms to Boost SEO (That You Don’t Already Have):
5 High Authority Social Media Platforms to Boost SEO (That You Don’t Already Have)
Beyond the obvious platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn
This article appears first in the Google search results for the phrase:
high authority social media platforms
So without spending money on ads, this article organically generates traffic.
Why Should Medium Writers Care About SEO?
- Medium writers are constantly struggling to increase views, expand their audience, and create content that serves as a gateway to their other articles.
- Medium has very high domain authority and has improved its built in SEO tools for writers over the past two years.
7 Amazing Medium Platform Statistics
Reasons you should be publishing your writing on Medium
- Other than building an email list or increasing your rate of curation, increasing the external visibility of your articles is one of the best ways to expand the reach of your content.
- Like most functions, Medium makes SEO basics very easy for writers to use (once they know what they are and how to find them).
- SEO is extraordinarily valuable to understand if you ever plan to create your own blog in addition to your Medium account.
What Factors Affecting SEO Can Medium Writers Optimize in Their Articles?
On-page SEO is the practice of optimizing individual web pages in order to rank higher and earn more relevant traffic in search engines.
On-page refers to both the content and HTML source code of a page that can be optimized, as opposed to off-page SEO which refers to links and other external signals.
This guide will focus on the On Page SEO factor’s that Medium easily allows users to modify or create.
I based the topics on the 16 On Page SEO concepts in the image above. All the explanations below have been tailored to Medium articles. Some require a lengthy explanation, others require little explanation as Medium automatically completes some portion or all of a specific on-page SEO tip.
What Are SEO Keywords?
Throughout this article I reference SEO keywords. Your SEO keywords are the keywords and phrases in your web content that make it possible for people to find your site via search engines. A website that is well optimized for search engines “speaks the same language” as its potential visitor base with keywords for SEO that help connect searchers to your site. Keywords are one of the main elements of SEO.
For the purposes of most Medium articles, the keywords are the word or phrases that best describe the topic you are writing about.
1. Create SEO Friendly URLs
- Readability — A reader should be able to make an accurate guess about the content of a web page simply by reading the URL. To accomplish this, a URL should include an accurate phrase or term that pertains to the page content.
Medium makes this process easy, since it automatically makes your article’s URL match its title by default (which, typically, includes your keyword).
For example, in the Google search results for the phrase “how to create a medium publication” my article How to Create a Medium Publication appears with a URL that clearly articulates what readers can expect when they click on the link.
Note: A Medium article URL is customizable when you are editing a draft, but it is one of the only features you cannot change after publication.
- Include Keywords in URLs — It is a best practice to optimize every web page around one keyword, and this keyword should be included in the URL. Remember though, do not overuse keywords. Search engines recognize keyword stuffing and will penalize your website for those actions.
- Use Hyphens to Separate Words — Using hyphens to separate words in URL phrases is important to both user readability and search engine optimization. Google recommends using hyphens (-) instead of underscores (_) in URLs because hyphens are treated as spaces between words, while words connected by underscores are viewed as one word.
Not Optimized: http://example.com/blog/url_optimization_tips
- Keep URLs Short — The URL of a web page should be as descriptive and brief as possible. A short URL is quicker to type and read. Also, the fewer the words the more value each word receives from a search engine spider. Too many similar words in a URL can be viewed as keyword stuffing and could result in a drop in search rankings.
2. Start The Title with Your Keyword
You do not need to always start your title with your keyword, but if you have some flexibility in your article title, it is worth doing. It is important to put the most important keywords in the beginning of the URL because search engine spiders do not give as much significance to words toward the end of a URL.
3. Add Modifiers To Your Title
What Are Keyword Modifiers?
Keyword modifiers are words that you add to your main keyword to produce a more specific longtail keyword.
Using modifiers like “2019”, “best”, “guide”, “checklist”, “fast” and “review” can help you rank for long tail versions of your target keyword.
In the structure of a keyword, modifiers usually come at the beginning and the end of the keyword:
modifier | head | modifier
The modifiers change an aspect of the keyword but not its meaning.
Some examples (modifiers in bold):
Best-selling money making mobile apps in 2020
Beginner stock photography guide
DSLR cameras under $1000
- How To Find Keyword Modifiers — One of the simplest ways to figure out what modifiers exist for your keyword (and whether there are already prominent websites “holding” these spots) is to perform a simple Google search.
For example, if we are trying to come up with modifiers for the keyword marketing, based on search history of Google users, we can simply enter the term “marketing” in the search bar. The bolded words for each result are almost always some type of modifier:
4. Use H1 Tag in Your Blog Post Title
Medium automatically formats your Title with the H1 tag so there is nothing to worry about for this SEO aspect!
However, Medium does let you customize your title, which can definitely be useful for boosting an article’s appearance:
Medium Titles, Subtitles, and Kickers
How to format the size and style of Medium article titles, subtitles, and kickers
5. Use Multimedia in Your Medium Post
Adding multimedia to your website is an effective way of drawing in more viewers and building your brand. People have become extremely visual. It would be nearly impossible effectively position your brand today without including audio, video and supporting images to build brand recognition. Put simply, building your brand requires the use of every multimedia asset available to you.
Images — They are easy to share and can spice up your content. If you have high-quality images included on your website, you can guarantee they will be seen, and possibly shared.
Slideshows — Slideshows enable you to feature multiple images, video and even audio. A well-organized slideshow generates a strong visual impact and can keep visitors fully engaged. Viewers have become so accustomed to seeing slideshows that it has to be unique and eye-catching in order to make an impact.
Videos — Video content is more likely than text to appear on the first page of search engine results. Additionally, just having the word ‘video’ improves click-through rates by an estimated 55%. This is the easiest way to make your content more appealing and shareable.
6. Use Subheadings in H2 Tags
- Like H1 tags, H2 tags are created automatically when you click the subtitle and subheading button:
7. Put your Keyword in The First 100–150 Words
Include most of your keywords in the first 100–150 words. Don’t just create a long intro — use all this space to include as many keywords as possible. Remember — keywords should be relevant and included organically in the content. Like with a keyword-rich title, keywords in your content should be logically connected and should briefly describe the topic of your article.
8. Use Responsive Design
Google has designed a mobile ranking system favoring mobile-friendly websites, making it almost necessary to invest in responsive design. Google has favoritism towards responsive design for a few reasons.
Luckily, one of the many advantages of using Medium as your publishing platform is that pages are optimized for mobile viewing and tend to load quickly compared to many blogs (this is not an SEO factor you need to worry about).
9. Use Outbound Links
- Outbound links, also called external links, direct visitors from pages on your website to other sites on the Internet. Unlike inbound links, which send visitors to other pages on your website, outbound links send visitors to entirely different sites.
- If another website links to you, it is considered an outbound link. At the same time, if you link to another website, it is also an outbound link.
- Typically, external links pass more value than internal links. This is because search engines believe that what other people say about you is more important than what you say about yourself. In other words, if more websites link to your site, you will appear to be a more credible source.
- External links are also harder to manipulate, so they are one of the best ways for search engines to determine the popularity and relevance of a particular website or page.
- An example of a good outbound link would be if a site in your writing niche were to link directly to your Medium article.
- This not only bolsters your reputation as a subject matter expert, but it actually increases the “link value” of your Medium article.
10. Use Internal Links
Internal linking is linking to one page to another page within your site. It helps to optimize your site for search engine. Because Medium is such a large site and your articles index relatively quickly, this is not a major concern, SEO-wise. A good example of this is when Medium writers reference a previous article they wrote, in one of their other articles on Medium.
For example, my article, The Best Medium Formatting Guide, contains links to other Medium articles I have written. In the example below, I reference a related article about Medium Canonical Links (which I also wrote and helps link together my articles.
If you have a publication, this is also demonstrated. If you Google “medium blogging guide” you will see that underneath the main link to my publication, are links of articles found in that publication. This took months of linking new articles before Google finally indexed the content in this format:
11. Improve Site Speed
When it’s come On Page SEO site speed is very important. Luckily when it comes to site speed, Medium has already taken care of that (unlike a self hosted blog).
12. Use LSI Keywords
LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing) keyword is a keyword it’s semantically related to your target keyword.
This topic is a bit complex, and not necessary for most writers to worry about. But if you are really looking at all the relevant SEO factors, you cannot ignore LSI keywords.
What Are LSI Keywords?
Simply put — semantic web is the aim to prepare web contents in a way that they’re not only understandable by human readers, but also to machine readers.
Semantic Web aims to organize web contents as the entities they represent instead of text, image and codes.
Machine readers includes things like search engines, web crawlers or even web browsers, especially Google Chrome.
Making your contents understandable to machine readers will grant significant benefits. Few examples:
- Getting ranked better in relevant searches and along with it, more meaningful traffic.
- Getting ranked less in irrelevant searches, avoiding less clutter traffic that causes decreased page-on-time and increased bounce rate.
- Getting your website included and featured in Google Knowledge Graph
- Getting your website contents featured in answer boxes for question-type searches — a huge sign of authority.
Finding LSI Keywords
First of all, you need a way to gather LSI keywords for your content. There are various tools and methods available for finding LSI Keywords. Some of the examples:
- BiQ — Since SEOPressor announced its collaboration with BiQ, I was given the first-hand experience to try out this tool. This is an SEO suite that has innovated the pricing model by providing granular cost control. What caught my eye was their unique approach stating, “Pay Only For What You Use & Don’t Pay For What You Don’t Use. From keyword intelligence to link intelligence, (there’s more!) they’ve designed it perfectly for SEOs and marketers like us.
- Google Autocomplete — Google search engine itself is a good way to get some ideas on LSI keywords. When you start typing a focus keyword in the Google search box, Google will try to predict your search as you type based on popular searches. These predictions or suggestions often include usable LSI keywords.
- Google Related Searches — When you do a Google search, usually Google will provide a list of related searches at the bottom of the SERP. You can also find some LSI keywords here.
- LSIGraph — LSIGraph in my opinion is the best tool you can use to get LSI keyword suggestions. You can simply type in your target keyword and it will generate a huge list of LSI keyword suggestions.
13. Image Optimization
One of the most important steps to take under the SEO umbrella is image optimization. Google itself acknowledges the importance of imagery and shares some helpful tips on image optimization on their guidelines for image publishing.
One of the most overlooked features of Medium article’s is the ability to add alt text to images.
Medium Article Image Alt Text
How to tag your Medium article images with alt text to improve their SEO
Also called “alt tags” and “alt descriptions,” alt text is the written copy that appears in place of an image on a webpage if the image fails to load on a user’s screen. This text helps screen-reading tools describe images to visually impaired readers and allows search engines to better crawl and rank your website.
Whether or not you perform SEO for your Medium articles, optimizing your article’s image alt text is your ticket to creating a better user experience for your visitors, no matter how they first found you.
If you’re creating content on a topic that requires the support of visuals, consider how your audience might prefer to find answers to their questions on that topic. In many cases, Google searchers don’t want the classic blue, hyperlinked search result — they want the image itself, embedded inside your webpage.
One of the most important things image alt text can do for you is turn your images into hyperlinked search results — giving your website yet another way to receive organic visitors.
How to Add Alt Text to Your Medium Article Images
- For an existing article, click the “edit story” tab in the upper right hand corner:
2. Click on the image you wish to add alt text to. Click on the new “Alt-text” button.
3. Write a brief description of this image for readers with visual impairments or to optimize SEO.
4. Click the “save” button and you are done.
14. Post Long Content
Long form content has proven to be more engaging, more shareable, and better for SEO. Simply put, studies show that longer content dominates page one of search rankings.
SerpIQ ran a study charting the top 10 results in search queries by content length.
Here’s the Graph:
The first result typically has 2,416 words and the 10th result has 2,032 words. This shows that Google prefers content rich sites.
The fact that not one of the results on an average page falls below 2,000 words is pretty compelling on its own.
Does this mean you need to make all your Medium articles this long?
But it is a good reminder that readers and search engines toward to gravitate toward longer content (assuming all else equal).
15. Boost Dwell Time
Dwell time, the amount of time a user spends on your page before going back to the search results to find something else is an important user experience metric. It gives website owners an idea of how useful readers find their content and whether or not it meets their needs.
Search engines take this user behavior into account although it’s not officially a ranking factor. When users spend very little time on a website after clicking on its search, it gives search engines reason to demote it in SERPs. They could potentially do this because it signals that the search result wasn’t able to answer the visitor’s question and they had to go back and look for a different result. On the other hand, if a user does spend a considerable amount of time on a website, the search engine would improve its ranking in SERPs because it indicates that the visitor was satisfied with the content on that page.
One creative way to boost dwell time, that I have personally utilized, is creating a narrated version of of your article.
In addition to increasing dwell time, anecdotally, Google also seems to favor content that exists in multiple formats (illustrative images, written content, audio, etc.).
16. Use Social Sharing Buttons
Medium takes care of social share buttons so there is no need to worry about programming them.
Thanks for reading this article! Leave a comment below if you have any questions. Be sure to sign up for the Blogging Guide newsletter, to get the latest tips, tricks, and news about writing on Medium and to join our Facebook group, Medium Writing, to share your latest Medium posts and connect with other writers.
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Casey Botticello is a partner at Black Edge Consulting. Black Edge Consulting is a strategic communications firm, specializing in online reputation management, digital marketing, and crisis management. Prior to founding Black Edge Consulting, he worked for BGR Group, a bipartisan lobbying and strategic communications firm.
Casey is the founder of the Cryptocurrency Alliance, a Super PAC dedicated to cryptocurrency and blockchain advocacy. He is a graduate of The University of Pennsylvania, where he received his B.A. in Urban Studies.