A big mistake new writers to Medium make is to ignore the SEO Description for their articles. While Medium has clarified that SEO descriptions do not have a significant impact on Google rankings of articles, they are however relevant for user experience.
SEO descriptions, like a sales pitch, provide visitors an overview of the content of your article and, in a highly competitive information environment, it is often used by the reader to decide on whether to click on the link or to scroll on.
To test this hypothesis, I did a simple experiment on the effect changing the SEO description has on the readership of an article. Using my article — Leadership: Gestures vs Deeds — published on 28 Jan 2022, I updated the SEO description on 24 Feb 2022.
As you can see in the screenshot below, up till 17 Feb 2022 the article had received some engagement. Between 17 Feb 2022 and 24 Feb 2022 (the date I made the changes) there were no engagements at all. After the change, on 25 Feb 2022 readership returned. I know some will argue that correlation does not equal causality, however, as all else remained constant, we also cannot deny that changing the SEO description did have an impact on readership.
Tips on Doing It
Now that you are convinced (hopefully) that SEO description matters, here’s how you can do it for your own articles ….
A good SEO description is a compelling summary of what someone clicking on the link will read, and it must focus on the benefits for the reader. Additionally, the SEO description must include keywords to indirectly help search engines index and rank the page. The two screenshots below show the difference between the auto-generated description and my writer-generated description.