When I started my WordPress blog — this blog, way back in 2018, I was learning all about the different ways to write SEO titles (or headlines; they’re the same thing for all intents and purposes.)
They worked. On this WordPress blog. But they did not work on Medium.
Turns out, the headline game is totally different on Medium!
Why Headlines Work Differently on Medium
To understand how to craft my headlines or titles on Medium, first I had to understand the reason why they’re different.
Here’s a quick explanation:
On search engines:
People search for specific things and they want answers or solutions specific to their searches, ergo, you need to write clear titles (and often on the longer side to really outline the topic of your article) for Search Engines.
People aren’t [usually] searching for specific things. Medium is, after all, NOT a search engine! It’s a publishing platform, like an online magazine. The algorithm serves a reader stories it thinks the reader will enjoy. But what a reader will click on doesn’t depend on what they’re searching — because they’re not really searching in the first place — but on what catches their attention.
OK. We good so far? In short:
A typical SEO title clearly promises an answer to a question you think your audience is asking. And a Medium title aims to grab attention before all else.
And that is the reason why Medium titles are different from typical SEO titles.
An SEO Headline vs. a Medium Headline (Examples)
Don’t get me wrong; an SEO headline or title isn’t always different from a Medium headline. They can be one and the same, but they can also be different.
It takes a bit of practice, trials, and errors to understand what works best on Medium.
Also, it may very well depend on the topic!
In any case, take the headline (or title) of this article for example:
It’s a pretty good SEO title!
A bit on the boring side, but a good SEO title nonetheless for search engines according to CoSchedule Headline Studio (and my 5+ years of experience as a blogger and content marketer.)
While this is a great SEO title, it can be made better for Medium, at the expense of losing some of the Search Engine discoverability aspect.
So, here’s a pretty good Medium title:
Not the best SEO title (according to CoSchedule Headline Studio) but a damn good Medium title! It’s definitely more creative and attention-grabbing if you ask me!
How to Write a Medium Headline
Unfortunately, there’s no formula.
The only advice I can give you is this: practice, practice, practice.
Allow yourself to write bad titles when you’re just starting out. You won’t get this right from the get-go, but observe writers who get a ton of traction on Medium, and especially pay attention to the kind of titles they write.
Your best teachers are already on Medium. All you have to do is be attentive!
That said, this exercise should help:
Rewrite a title 20 times.
Even when you think you’ve got the perfect title, do this exercise anyway. Often you’ll be surprised what comes out when you force yourself to be creative 😉
When you have 20 different versions of the same title, choose the one that you think is more attention-grabbing.
A few more Medium headline tips
- I’ve seen 5-letter titles go viral. I’ve also seen 20-letter titles go viral. But typically, they’re 8–12 words long. In other words, don’t sweat it too much, but maybe steer clear of writing a novel in the headline.
- Occasionally, a clever title may take off. But most of the times, the titles that do well are quite clear in their meaning. In other words, choose clarity over cleverness.
- Write the most important bit of the title toward the beginning of the title. Longer titles get cut off at the end, so you want to make sure people read the most exciting bit first.
A little Medium headline gift from me to you
Earlier this year, in an attempt to understand Medium titles better, I compiled about 70 of the top-performing stories across multiple topics from last year (2022). Here are ten of those, in no particular order:
- 4 Unsexy One-Minute Habits That Save Me 30+ Hours Every Week
- 6 Programming Languages You Should Not Learn (and What To Learn Instead)
- 4 Websites That Pay Writers $200 to $400 per Article
- 7 Habits That Constantly Drain Your Energy (And How To Fix It)
- 5 Signs Someone Isn’t Interested Even If They Never Say It
- 6 Ways A Black Person Can Tell A White Person Isn’t Racist
- 3 Books That Seriously F*cked My Mind; Why You Should Read Them
- 4 Books So Powerful, They Can Rewire Your Brain
- Stop Buying Courses — Read These Books Instead
- The 9 books that completely changed the way I see the world
If you want the 60 other titles I’ve compiled, then download the list by clicking here.
FYI, this list is totally free, but it’s always appreciated if and when you can spare a few bucks 😃
Writing a Great Headline for Both Medium and Search Engines
Let’s say that you’re on the Medium Partner Program, and your income depends on how many Medium members read your story. So, naturally, your goal is to write a great title designed specifically for Medium.
But, let’s also assume that you have a second goal, which is to get as many eyeballs on your story as possible, not only from Medium members but also from search engine users. (Google traffic, for example.) So, you’ll need to write a search engine optimized (SEO) title.
Fortunately, you can do both!
Here are the steps:
- Write your Medium-optimized title as per usual.
- Then, go to your Medium story settings (click the three dots in a story page, then click “Story settings” from the drop-down), click “SEO settings” from the left menu, and then type your SEO title in the field provided (see the image below.)
- Then click the green “Save” button.
Doing this will show the regular Medium title on Medium’s feed, but if and when the story shows up on a search engine like Google, it will show the SEO title.
And that is all 🙂
Hope you found this useful to your Medium journey moving forward. If you have questions or comments, feel free to share them below.
Also, if you’re brand new to Medium, then you’ll find this ultimate guide for Medium newbies most helpful.
And if you’ve yet to join Medium, then you can do so now by clicking the button below. It costs $5 per month; cheaper than a Starbucks latte or a Netflix subscription!
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