You’ve written a great piece that you are eager to share with your followers and the rest of the world. You’ve added an image to it. Next step? Add your tags.
In this piece, I am going to help you find the best tags for your stories, add those tags to your stories, and learn why publications want certain tags. Let’s get started!
How do I find the right tags?
Even when you aren’t submitting your piece to a publication, it is important to add tags that people search for when looking for stories to read. Medium helps out with this by suggesting tags based on your piece. Sometimes those tags are good choices, sometimes they aren’t.
You want to add a tag to your piece that relates to the piece, but which is followed by enough people to be found. You can run searches on Medium for your tags and decide which ones you want to use. Or, you can use the MediumTags site.
This site lets you do two things easily: See the most popular tags. See how many people are following the tag you want to use.
The top tags option shows you the top tags within Medium. To get to the list, click the “What to Write” link at the top of the page. You will get back the 10 tags most followed on Medium. You can page down through the list 10 tags at a time. This part of the site is great for when you are stumped on what to write. Glancing through the pages lower down on the list usually prompts something I want to write about.
The Tag Search option is the one I use more. This option lets you search for a given tag and see how many people follow that tag. As you can see in the screenshot, this option tells you not just how popular the tag is, but also provides optional tags to use. In the above example, you can see that you would want to use “one line” instead of “one line poem” to get the most viewers.
How do I add tags?
You can add tags at the top of your piece by clicking the Publish button in the upper right corner of your story. There you will find the tags Medium suggests, along with space to add your own tags. If you don’t like a tag Medium suggests, click the x to the right of the tag. That will remove the tag from your piece and free up a slot for a tag of your own choosing.
Tag selection is a big deal. Medium only lets you have 5 tags, so you have to be careful how you use them. Tags are used by many publications to split stories across publication tabs. (Medium calls these feature pages.) The more tags the publication mandates the fewer tags you get to choose. We editors know this and try to leave you at least 2 of the tag slots.
To add a tag of your choosing, click the “Add a tag…” link and start typing your tag. If the tag already exists in Medium and has a number of followers, Medium will give you a list of tags to choose from. Select the tag you want to use and press enter on your keyboard. Bingo -you have added a tag to your piece.
Sometimes, you will need to add a tag that isn’t popular yet. In this case, you won’t get a list of suggested tags. That’s fine. Just type the tag and press enter. Bingo — new tag added.
You can also paste in a tag. Just be sure that you use the enter key to submit your tag. If you don’t hit enter, the tag won’t be saved. (Speaking from experience, not hitting enter is my main reason for not ending up with a specific tag on one of my pieces.) If the tag isn’t saved, go back to the tag section and add it again. If you have already submitted or published your piece, you can still edit it to add the tags… but you probably want to make the edit from the browser, not the mobile app. (There are random cases of the mobile app not letting you edit your pieces after submission. The site itself doesn’t have this problem.)
Why do publications require strange tags?
Chances are if you are submitting a piece to a publication some of your tags have been defined for you by the publication. Those tags are the difference between getting published and not getting published for many pieces.
Here’s why: Medium feature page sections can be set up in one of three ways: Single story, latest stories, or tagged stories.
- Single story is just what it says: The editor of the publication picks a specific story for the section. This option allows the most choice for the editor, but it also takes the most work. The editor has to set up each piece individually. In order to add a story to the section, you have to edit the feature page and add the story by hand. Lots of work, if the stories change frequently. Most editors use this option only for sections that change less than once per week.
- Latest stories also does just what it says: The section is filled with the most recent stories. As an editor, this type of section is easy to keep up. The page automatically grabs the most recent stories and shows them. The tradeoff here is that you have no choice whatever about which stories are shown.
- Tagged stories are the most powerful option: This option lets the editor define which feature page will show the story and where on that page the story will show. This is done by defining the tag stories in the section will have. If it has the tag, it shows. If it doesn’t have the exact tag, it doesn’t.
Using tags to set up feature pages gives the editor the most flexibility about which stories show. Feature pages set up using tags mean less work for the editor and more visibility for your stories.
For you as a writer, using the right tags can be the deciding factor in whether your piece will be seen and will be published. Selecting tags people follow will help people find your pieces. Selecting the tags requested by the editor of a publication will go a long way down the publication road!