Growth

How to Optimize Your Stories for Search

Optimize your stories to make sure they’re seen

Illustration: Kawandeep Virdee

You’ve just put the finishing touches on your story. You’ve taken into account the guidelines for quality and exercises to further improve your story and are about ready to publish. Before you do, take a few moments to ensure this story gets the reach it deserves. Help it stand out in search.

If your story looks great to Google, more readers will find it. The SEO team here has been hard at work making improvements to give your stories more visibility. Here are a few best practices, tools, and tips from Tatiana Colligan, Medium’s SEO product manager. Make sure to follow these guidelines — these are simple ways to further grow your readership.

Update the SEO settings for your story

These settings are available when you’re editing a story. Go to Menu → More Settings → SEO Settings, and do the following.

Set the SEO Title

Before we dive into setting the SEO Title, take a look at your story headline. It should be clear and tell your readers what the story is about. Make sure this is the case. Now we’re ready to move on and see how Google will present it.

In most cases, Google will truncate your SEO Title if you enter more than 60 characters. Your potential readers will be able to see only the first ~60 characters in Google search. Make it count. It should be informative, and compelling to click. Be literal. Be clear and precise on what the article is about. Use the words and phrases people are likely to search in Google for and place them at the beginning of your SEO Title. Place everything less important at the end. For example:

Podcast Episode #59 by John Smith — Intelligent Investing and Effective Marketing for Blockchain

This title will show up in a Google search as follows:

A better SEO Title is:

Blockchain: Intelligent Investing, Effective Marketing Podcast by John Smith — Episode #59

Which will show in Google like this:

Compare them. Which would you click? The second is more likely to come up in Google search for things like “blockchain podcast,” “blockchain investing” etc. and is also more likely to be clicked on by those who are searching for those topics. This is because the most relevant terms show up earlier in the title.

In some cases, Google chooses to show its own title for the webpage. It might do so to match the searcher’s very specific search intent or when it doesn’t trust the author-set title. This doesn’t happen often.

Set the SEO Description

The SEO Description’s purpose is to convince a Google searcher to click on your story. Briefly share what the story is about while leaving them interested and wanting to learn more. This is your chance to further market your story and increase clicks to it. In most cases, Google will truncate SEO Descriptions that have more than 156 characters:

However, there are some cases where Google shows three or four lines of an SEO Description:

Your post will take up more space in the Google search, and you’ll be able to share more context. For this reason, it’s better to write 200–300 characters while making sure your main idea is told within the first 156. If you don’t write an SEO Description, Google will automatically create one for you using the content or subtitle of your article.

Use tags

Make sure to use all five tags that can be added to a post. It is best to use tags that are relevant and popular. Think of tags as five more ways for your post to be discovered. Your stories will surface on Medium’s tag pages. For example, the “Career” tag page is at https://medium.com/tag/careers and lists articles that are tagged “career.” Again, be as relevant as possible. If your post is about how to find a job, you can also use tags “Job Hunting” and “Career Advice” while tags like “Life” or “Work” in this case might be too broad. Avoid tags that are not relevant.

Link to your other posts where relevant

Google gives more visibility to articles that many other pages on the web are linking to. So, one way to boost visibility of your posts is to link to them from other posts where relevant. For example, if you are writing an article about how to find a job, and previously you wrote a post about how to write a résumé, it might be appropriate to now link to that résumé post.

However, do not abuse this, which is called link stuffing. Only do this when there is a good fit. Google’s bots rely on A.I. and machine learning and can differentiate spam attempts from true value for the reader.

Use images

Add a feature image to your story. Readers like images. Various search algorithms know this and also like images. Unique images are always best when it comes to trying to get visibility on search engines, however, if you don’t have your own unique images to add to the post, just use what is available. Medium’s platform offers a variety of free images from Unsplash to choose from. Generally, posts with images will show in more places on the internet than those without any visual content, getting more readers for your posts. Make sure the images are at least 1200 pixels in width.

As a reminder, make sure to fill in the alt text for your image. Alt text is used by the readers with visual impairment and should have a description of what is in the image. Search engine crawlers use alt text and rely on it in trying to determine what the article is about and how to rank it.

Structure your posts

Make it easy for the readers and search bots to spot sections and separate ideas in your article. Use subtitles and sub-headers, use bullet points and numbered lists where appropriate. Check out our tips and guidelines for formatting headers.

Promote your stories on social media

Help your newly published posts get discovered by posting them on social media. At the end of the day, discovery algorithms follow a similar logic: they elevate highly popular content. The more time your readers spend reading and engaging with your posts, the higher are the chances that search bots will notice this and will bring your posts to the top of their discovery funnels for the rest of the world to see them.

Tips, tricks, and tools for Medium creators