My Article Accidentally Became the #1 Search Result on Google

But How on Earth Did I Do It?

First, I’m not trying to boast at all. I’m genuinely shocked it’s performing so well. It was a topic I was passionate about and wrote in an hour or two. Still, somehow I’ve had strangers send me messages on Facebook thanking me for writing it and saying they look forward to more of my writing. I’ve also had the misfortune of people insulting and threatening me, but let’s pretend that didn’t happen.

Drama aside, how the hell did I do it? And perhaps more importantly, can I ever do it again? Let’s take a look and see if this strange fluke or not. I’ll break down the things I did well accidentally, and what I would do differently next time.

First, here’s the screenshot to prove I’m not kidding:

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Screenshot by Author

What Did I Do Accidentally?

In my Conspiracy Theory article, I can now identify a lot of SEO tricks that I had never learned. Before I go too far, SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. It’s just a fancy way of saying your article is friendly to search engines, which in turn means it will get a lot more organic traffic. Looking at it now, I’d say yes, this article has a couple of things going for it that made it SEO friendly.

Popular Keywords

Let’s look at Google Trends. Conspiracy Theories as a keyword is pretty popular, there was definitely a small peak in September when the article was published. July had a bigger peak, but still, the main takeaway here is that there is steady traffic.

I’d say this is one factor in my accidental success. I didn’t intend it by any means, but I happened to use a popular keyword at a time when it was being regularly searched.

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Screenshot by Author

Domain Authority

Medium itself is a great website to publish on because it has high Domain Authority. This is another piece of terminology that relates to SEO. It’s a score that search engines use to assign a website’s relevance to a particular subject.

My personal website probably won’t have very high Domain Authority because there are hardly any backlinks and it’s fairly new. Medium, on the other hand, has a lot of credibility. As such, I suspect publishing the article here also helped it perform very well.

Strong Headline

You want to click on it, don’t you? This headline created a curiosity gap without being clickbait. The title posed a question and the content is the answer. Also, it was broader than the other top performing articles which address fake news and the coronavirus conspiracies, which I think might be why it’s performing well compared to the other ones.

High-Quality Content

As in any article, you need to deliver on your promise. That article gave the reader a list of different reasons behind the Psychology of Conspiracy Theories. Also, since my degree is in Psychology, my writing is credible and well-sourced. Readers trust me and likely read more of the article.

You want your article to have more engagement because it’s the reader’s behaviour that tells Google it’s worth reading. You can spam keywords all you want, but if you aren’t writing something useful then it’s not going to do well. Search engines will know this immediately and lower its rank in the search results.

External links

One way to increase your article’s performance is with links to other websites. These links do a number of things. They show your article has credibility, give your viewers further reading, and potentially generate backlinks. The last one just means that other websites can link to your site if they found it useful.

Other articles of mine that have done well are about podcasting. Many podcast websites have quoted from my articles and added a link to them for their readers. That’s called a backlink and that gives your article better credibility to a search engine.

Basically, the internet is quite literally a web. Your article is just a tasty fly and the readers are hungry spiders. Adding links is like adding strands to the web and by connecting it to other strands you make it wiggle more and get more attention than flies with only 1 or 2 strands. Puns fully intended here.

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Image by Author

What Would I Do Differently?

Now that I’ve actually been studying a bit more about SEO, I can see a few things I could have done differently.

After reading plenty of articles on the web, I can see some gaps that I should have filled and will apply to my future articles. One great resource for this is Casey Botticello’s Medium Blogging Guide. His articles have lots of great information, but this one on SEO is my personal favourite and has helped me a lot. (Sure he needs an apostrophe in the word “beginner’s” but we’ll let it slide this one time).

Medium SEO: Medium Article Search Engine OptimizationA beginners guide to making your Medium stories search engine friendlymedium.com

Better Meta-description

meta-description is the short blurb below the title on google about your article. Think of it as a movie trailer for your readers. It’s a preview of what they’re going to get before they even click on it.

Now, I did actually customize the meta-description for this article, but I don’t think it was especially well done. I would rewrite it next time to be a little less goofy and maybe more professional. Still, I’m a goofball, what can I say?

Start My Headline with Keywords

Now, I don’t know if I would have rewritten this title that differently, but in future articles, I will be keeping this in mind. It’s not a do or die SEO trick, but it’s definitely something I hadn’t considered before.

In Casey’s article linked above, he talks a bit about this well. Again, I highly recommend his stuff if you’re a n00b like me.

Adding Internal Links

This is something I am only just learning about, and it will depend on the piece obviously. These are links to pages within the same website, like another related article you might like to read.

This trick probably won’t work for all my articles, but I can see it being useful on my personal website or on articles that act as resources.

Summary

Now, when I wrote this article I had minimal understanding of SEO (and still do). The success might be a fluke, but I think the basic SEO methods I used are part of what helped it do well. Hopefully, you can learn a bit from my experience and analysis as well.

If I wrote that article again, I might have done things differently, but not by much. Overall, it’s been kind of thrilling to get 1100+ views on something I wrote and to know it’s helping people.

At the end of the day, it’s nice to have an audience and recognition, but I write on Medium for myself as much as I write for everyone else. If my article is only read by one person, it’s still a success to me.

This article was first published on Medium.

Published by Victoria A. Fraser

Freelance writer, podcast producer, and comic artist.

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