Why SEO Matters to Writers Using the Medium Blogging Platform

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Should you optimize your Medium stories and posts for search engines | by The Side Blogger
Does SEO matter for writers on the Medium blogging platform? The short answer is that yes, it does.

At least, based on certain niches and based on writers’ expectations and goals from this platform, SEO may matter to many of them, while not so much to certain others.

In this post, I’m going to give you some scenarios where SEO may or may not matter to Medium writers.

But first, are you even on Medium? If not, you may want to! Join Medium today and start reading! And writing! Your subscription to the platform gives you unlimited access to everything on the platform 🙂

OK, now that you’re on Medium, check out this blog post about how to get started writing on Medium — a comprehensive guide for beginners:

How to Write on Medium in 2023 (and Make an Easy Side Income)

In this post:

Some Medium and SEO Terminologies

Knowing the following terms and definitions will help you understand the content and the context throughout this blog post.

What is SEO?

SEO or Search Engine Optimization refers to online content structuring and formatting in ways that improve your visibility on search engines when people search for things using words or phrases or questions (also known as keywords.)

Can you use SEO on Medium?

Medium has a domain authority (DA) of 95; so, it’s a damn good platform to grow your blog and rank on Google.

[Higher domain authority (on a 1–100 scale) typically signals how easy it may be to start ranking on Google.]

If you’re a bit rusty with SEO, read this ultimate SEO guide for bloggers.

What is a canonical link (or URL)?

A canonical link is a link with the rel=“canonical” HTML element that tells search engines that in the presence of duplicate content on the internet, the canonical link is the preferred and primary URL.

[Learn more about canonical links here.]

What is the Medium Partner Program?

Writers on Medium can sign up to receive payment for their writing. It’s a special program within Medium and is called the Medium Partner Program. Payment is calculated based on various factors; one of them is how long paid Medium subscribers spend reading the writer’s stories.

[Learn more about the Medium Partner Program here.]

Now that we know the terminologies, let’s see why and when SEO matters for writers on the Medium blogging platform.

Why SEO Matters to Medium Writers of Nonfiction Essays and Articles

Unless you’re writing for the pleasure of writing alone and with zero hopes and expectations of making any money from Medium, then you can disregard this post and move on; I don’t want to waste your time.

But, if you’re on Medium to make money (and of course, also for the pleasure of writing, the joy of sharing your wisdom and/or opinion, or out of fear that humanity is going to go extinct sans your doomsday warnings) then please, read on.

**Please note that this post focuses on the benefits of using SEO as a writer on the Medium platform.**

SEO can expose your Medium stories to a broader audience

(If reaching as many people as possible is your goal.)

Medium’s internal audience is limited to only Medium members, which, compared to all the people looking for stuff online every second of every day, is minuscule.

If you lock your content behind the paywall (which is how Medium writers make money,) then your audience is even more limited — to the paid Medium members only.

Medium’s algorithm helps readers find the kind of stories they’re interested in. But this is a closed loop. Meaning, that the algorithm works only within the Medium platform for people who’re on Medium already.

But what about people who’re not on Medium yet? How do you get those folks to read your stories?

That’s where SEO comes in. By optimizing your content for search engines, you can make it so that people find your stories outside of Medium as well.

SEO can improve referral income

(If income is your priority.)

It used to be that if earning through the partner program was your primary reason for starting a blog on Medium, then SEO didn’t matter as much. That’s because Medium members’ earnings were limited to paying Medium subscribers’ reading time (there may be other factors involved, but nobody really knows…)

So, if a bunch of non-Medium members found your story on Google, it didn’t mean that you’d make more money.

But this changed last year when Medium introduced referral income. Meaning, that if someone signed up to be a paid Medium member using your unique referral link, then you’d continue to get ~50% of their subscription fee as long as they stay subscribed.

So, for example, as of writing this, I have four referral members, and I make a sweet $9.08 per month (which comes down to $2.27 per referred member.)

Here’s the thing: If only current Medium members are reading your stories, then you likely won’t be converting any new folks, and you won’t have enough referral income. But if Google starts to rank your Medium stories and you start driving more outside traffic to this platform, then you have a higher chance of bringing more referred members to this platform = more referral income!

Using Medium to Improve Your Main Website’s SEO

Some people, sometimes myself included, will publish the same content on both our “main” website (on a separate platform like WordPress, Squarespace, or something similar) and on Medium, and then use the canonical link to *tell* search engines that they should prioritize the main website URL and not the Medium URL.

If you’re publishing the same content on both your website and on Medium, make sure to specify which is the canonical URL on both platforms. So, you’ll set a canonical URL on your main site as well as on Medium, and assuming you want your main website to rank on Google and other search engines, your canonical link will be the blog post link on your main site.

How is it beneficial to use a canonical URL back to your own site?

This is a smart practice if you’re trying to rank your main website on Google, build a brand around your own website, start a proper business, etc.

 This is good for your main website’s ranking factor because search engines will treat the traffic to your Medium story as traffic to your canonical link (on your main website.) 

How to set a canonical link on Medium

Publish a blog post on your main site. Then publish the same content on Medium.

After publishing the story on Medium, go to the story, and click the three dots next to the story title. This will open a dropdown. Click “Story Settings” from this dropdown.

Screenshot of the three dots next to Medium story title
Screenshot of the three dots next to Medium story title

On the next page, click “Advanced Settings.”

Expand “Advanced Settings,” and check the box that says “This story was originally published elsewhere.”

When you check that box, Medium will show an empty field where you can enter the original post link. Enter it, and then save.

Screenshot of Medium’s Advanced Settings for stories and the canonical link field.
Screenshot of Medium’s Advanced Settings for stories and the canonical link field.

The caveats of using canonical links with respect to referral income

So, one of the reasons you may want to SEO your Medium stories is to drive outside traffic to your content for referral income. You do that by adding a referral link to your Medium stories.

On the Medium platform itself, this makes total sense.

All Medium members who’re also part of the partner program automatically get a referral link; all you have to do is add it to your Medium stories.

But remember, if you’re primarily a blogger on a different platform and using Medium to syndicate content (another word for publishing duplicate content with a canonical link back to your own website,) then Google and other search engines will rank your canonical link, and not your Medium story’s URL.

Now, here’s what writers can do:

You can add a Medium referral link to your original blog post on your main website. Such as I have done a few times already within this blog post, and right here too.

This method makes perfect sense only when your blog post is about Medium (like this post.) But what if you’re writing about a different topic that has no relation to Medium whatsoever? Inserting a link to Medium will be irrelevant and will make you look spammy; I don’t recommend it.

On the other hand, on Medium, even if you’re writing about a different topic, you can still plug your Medium referral link because your story is on Medium, so it doesn’t look out of context. In fact, if your Medium story is locked behind a paywall (meaning, only paid Medium subscribers can read it,) then you’re doing your readers a service by offering them a link to join Medium as a paid member.

So, what’s the caveat, you ask?

Well, remember how I said SEO can increase your referral income? Well, using a canonical link won’t help with that unless you’re writing about Medium itself, for the reasons I mentioned above.

Here’s the method I recommend:

So, you’ve written a blog post that’s not about Medium, but you want to syndicate it on Medium and use a canonical link to your primary source (your main website.)

On your main site, don’t use the referral link.

But on Medium, do use it!

This way, you can still earn *some* referral income from non-paid Medium members who may find your stories on Medium, through Medium.

And yes, you do NOT have to have the exact replica of the content on Medium in order to use the canonical link. In fact, I often change certain things (the language, some images, links, and of course, the Medium referral link) when I republish content on Medium.

When SEO on Medium Doesn’t Matter As Much

There are a couple of scenarios that I can think of where you may not care about SEO on Medium:

  1. What you write cannot be optimized for search engines
  2. You’re a hobby writer and you simply don’t care (really though???)

Your content cannot be optimized for search engines

Think about what SEO is and what it does. Basically, when people search for certain things using keywords, search engines show relevant results in the search engines.

So, the question you have to ask yourself is this: What are people searching for?

People search for information or solutions to a problem. So, if you write fiction or poetry or draw cartoons, then naturally, SEO isn’t going to apply to you. For some types of nonfiction pieces (opinions, memoirs, and the likes) SEO isn’t going to matter either.

Here’s an example:

Let’s say that you write about the climate crisis. You’ve written two pieces: 1) 20 ways you can reduce your carbon footprint, and 2) A memoir about the events that lead you to become a climate activist.

Quiz time: Which piece will you optimize for search engines?

Click for answer.

Answer: #1 → This is a typical list post, and also a solution (reduce carbon footprint) to a problem (how to.) This is something that people are actually searching for, so you can easily optimize it for search engines.

#2 on the other hand is a piece of personal history (memoir) that is applicable to the author alone, and is not a solution to a problem nor a piece of information people are searching for; therefore, you cannot intentionally optimize it for search engines.

You’re a hobby writer

Other than the content type, there’s another reason you may not want to SEO your stories: You’re a hobby writer and you couldn’t care less if people read your stuff or not.

Fair warning though, hobby bloggers don’t make much on Medium (or on any platform for the matter.) To make anything more than a couple of hundred bucks, you’ll have to treat your writing on Medium like a job, write and publish a lot, provide value, etc.

But if you’re going to do so much work anyway, why not also work on your SEO and try to get some referral earning in the meantime, eh?

Sure, SEO isn’t for all Medium writers, hobby or not.

But if you’re an online writer, you should definitely learn more about SEO because not only will it help you get more readers and earn more money on both Medium as well as on your main website, but it may also bring you more freelance clients and other types of opportunities.

It’s your turn now. Do you write on Medium? Have you considered writing on Medium? What are your thoughts on the platform? Questions? Comments? Share with me in the comments below!

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Should you optimize your Medium stories and posts for search engines | by The Side Blogger

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