Why You Should Pin an Index of Your Articles to the Top of Your Profile

You’re leaving money on the table if you don’t

Photo credit Tim Sullivan on isorepublic

In October 2020, Medium introduced the ability for its writers to pin one or more articles to the top of their profile. For the rest of 2020, I experimented with pinning my most popular articles to the top of my profile anytime I went 2 or more days without posting something new to read.

The upside of pinning articles is that doing so increases visibility for older articles that have a history of earning you revenue. After all, when new people discover your profile, you want to put your best work forward. Not only will they be more likely to read what they find pinned, but they’ll also be more likely to follow you and keep reading your new work.

The disadvantage of pinning articles is that a lot of readers don’t realize they are pinned articles and think you haven’t written anything new in a while. This can cause them to miss your latest, costing you reads and revenue.

The best solution I have found is to create an index of your work on Medium, and pin that and only that to the top of your profile. I created an index in January 2021, and many of my articles, particularly older ones, began to perform better.

My January income from writing on Medium nearly tripled that of December. Now, that’s not all due to the addition of an index — January was the first month I manage to publish all 31 days. However, I would guesstimate that about 40% of my income came from older stories that are near the top of an index page.

Would you like an extra 40% added to your Medium income? Read on.

Who benefits the most from having a pinned index?

You should especially consider creating and pinning an index if any of the following conditions apply to you:

  • You have written over 30 articles/stories/poems on Medium. When a new reader discovers your writing, they might scroll through 5 or 10 of your posts — but how many are going to scroll all the way back to the first one you wrote? Not many.
  • You write in multiple niches. If someone visits my profile to read my latest articles on the topic of creativity, but this week I have been writing about gratitude, meditation, and personal development, there’s a good chance I could lose them. An index makes clear all the things I write about and directs readers to their interests with minimal scrolling.
  • You self-publish, or you have many posts that didn’t get distributed that you nevertheless feel are quite good. Those pieces are less likely to continue to make money in the long run, unless you make an effort to get new eyeballs on them. An index does this, helping you maximize passive income.
  • You’re highly social on Medium. If you like to read other writers’ posts and leave claps, highlights, and comments, people are going to get curious about who you are and come to check out your profile. An index is your chance to sell yourself to curious people. It’s a way to market yourself.
recipe index cards
recipe index cards
Image by Roy Guisinger from Pixabay

How to create your index

Figure out your niches

Scroll back through your old posts. What was the primary topic that they got distributed in, or that you hoped they’d be distributed in? What tags did you use over and over, in multiple posts? Those are your main niches.

You want to narrow it down to 6 niches at most — and maybe 5 or 4, for reasons I’ll get to in a moment. If you have more than that, try to group by niche type. For example:

  • I group writing, creativity, ideas, and inspiration into one category. Readers interested in one of those topics would probably be interested in the others as well.
  • Posts about life lessons, self-improvement, and personal development could share a sub-index, and possibly health and fitness could fit too.
  • For programmers, posts about programming, computers, work, and entrepreneurship could fit in one sub-index, or two, or four, depending on how much you do or do not niche down.

If you have one super-popular article, let it stand on its own

If you have one article that stands head and shoulders above all your others as a money-earner, consider giving that one a link of its own in your index. You want as many people as possible to find that one easily.

For me, that article was my biography. It has the most claps of any of my posts and it gives my readers an opportunity to connect to me personally. It doesn’t hurt that it’s a 13-minute read! If you have two posts that did equally well, and you want to choose one of them to stand alone in your index, choose the longer one in order to maximize read time and revenue.

Consider an “other” catch-all niche for your index as well

Why limit yourself?

I’ve written one-offs (or two-offs) on helping the homeless, politics, family, and education, among other topics. They don’t fit into my main niches, yet I feel they deserve to be seen. An “other favorites” sub-index keeps these articles (and their earning potential) from being lost forever.

Create sub-index pages for each niche

I’ll share with you how I do these, although there are many ways you can create them.

I want my readers to know exactly what they're getting, so I title these pages “Index: (keyword 1), (keyword 2), (keyword 3) — (my name)”.

For the subtitle, I use “My most popular articles” to let my readers know they’re getting the good stuff.

I use a visual format to link the articles. What do I mean by that? Here’s an example of such a link:

To create a link in a visual format like the one above, simply copy the URL from your browser’s address bar. Start a new line in the Medium editor, paste the URL, and hit Enter or Return and wait about 3 seconds — voila, the link magically appears.

Alternately, you could do standard text links, and I’ll grant you, those take up considerably less space. However, I think the visual appeal justifies taking up the additional room on the page. You get your title, subtitle, and featured image in front of the reader, and as any good writer will tell you, those three things are 75% of “selling” your article.

Should you include links to your short forms in the sub-index pages? I personally don’t, figuring the number of reads and revenue they’ll bring in is not worth the space they would take up. However, if you have a short form that you feel is an important part of your body of work as a writer, sure, include it.

I do not recommend adding articles in chronological order, but rather in an order that is a combination of their popularity and their newness. If you have one article that has 3000 claps and no other article with more than 1000, obviously the 3000-clap article should go first, regardless of age. It’s most likely to generate the most future claps, reads, and revenue.

On the other hand, if you have an article that is only one day old and already has 950 claps, it would be a candidate for the top spot as well. You need to consider each article’s future potential as well as its past performance.

Should you put these sub-index pages behind the paywall? That’s a point that’s open for debate. If you do, you get paid for the time people spend reading those pages, and additional revenue is always welcome. On the other hand, if you don’t, you’re allowing a wider audience to be exposed to your work.

Personally, I do put my sub-indexes behind the paywall, but I see both sides of the argument. For those of you who think they should be globally visible, I invite you to share your reasons in the comments.

Tag your pages with the keywords you used in the title. You have up to 5 tags per post, so why not use them? Take advantage of every opportunity for people to discover your work.

Create your main index page and link to your sub-index pages from it

You have one goal in mind here: You want your index to fit on your profile page, without it generating a Read More… link. Anytime you make a reader click a link, you lose a certain percentage of them, especially if you have not yet fully demonstrated value.

This means you need to keep your index page as short as possible! Definitely no visual links here.

I fit more text into a smaller space by using the monospaced font that is typically used to display code. To create a box for code in the editor, type ` (the backtick character, at the upper left of most keyboards) three times.

This is text typed inside a code box. It doesn't necessarily have to be code, though. You can have bold text, italics, and links too.

Create text matching the keywords for each niche sub-index you created, then link those sub-indexes. View my profile page if you need a guideline for how to do these. You want to be as brief as possible to avoid that Read More… link showing up.

Don’t hit Publish just yet though — we have one more very important thing to add!

A very important sentence to put in the title of your main index

“Scroll down for my latest stories.”

You want to make it abundantly clear to anyone who visits your profile page that the item they see at the top of it is not your latest work! And you need to tell them how to quickly get to your latest work.

Remember, a lot of people are new to Medium, and even those people who are not so new are used to seeing a writer’s latest post at the top of their profile. You need to make sure they understand that is not the case with your profile. They’re seeing something else.

Publish your index page and adjust as needed

I recommend using your most popular 5 tags as the 5 tags for your index page.

Do you put your index page behind the paywall? If you put your sub-indexes behind the paywall, yes, otherwise no.

Hit Publish and then view your main profile page. Did the index fit without a Read More… link? If it did not, edit your index and condense it. I had to edit my index page about 5 times before I got the entire thing to display on my profile without a Read More. It’s possible, but not easy.

Don’t forget to pin your index page!

Once you’ve published your index page, click the three dots (…) at the bottom right and select Pin Story. Then reload your profile page and see if it appears up top.

You might want to create a dummy article, publish it, and make sure it appears below the index and then delete it, to verify that your index page is properly pinned.

magnifying glass over an index page of a book
magnifying glass over an index page of a book
Photo by Nothing Ahead from Pexels

Updating your sub-index pages

Once you’ve created your index pages, you’ll want to update them regularly, so that your readers can quickly find all your work.

How often should you update your sub-index pages? It’s a matter of personal taste. I’ll tell you my approach:

I don’t update my sub-index pages after I publish every article. I’m afraid I’d view it as one more chore I have to get done as part of the publishing process. I don’t want to create a mental obstacle that stands in the way of publishing as often as possible.

What I do is update indexes when whichever of the following occurs first:

  • One week since my last update; or
  • Seven new articles published

I tend to make Sunday my day for administrative work. I update the indexes with articles I have created the previous week, and I create the weekly email I send out to my subscribers on Tuesday. (Want to sign up for my email list? You can do that right here!)

Takeaways

Adding an index to your Medium profile can line your pockets with additional income. This is especially true if you’ve written over 30 articles, if you write in multiple niches, if you self-publish or have a lot of great but undistributed articles, or if you’re social on Medium.

A good index will be short — short enough to avoid a Read More… link that keeps it from fitting entirely on your profile page. It will link to up to 4 sub-indexes for your niches, and possibly also a featured article and a catch-all Other page. It will have a title to let readers know to keep scrolling for your newest articles, and it will be updated regularly.

My way of creating an index is by no means the only way — so I invite you to pull up the profile pages of your favorite writers and see if they’ve indexed their work. The more profile pages you view, the more ideas you’ll have for creating your own.

I hope this information helps you increase your reads and your revenue. Happy writing!

Let’s keep in touch! Feel free to sign up for my newsletter. Here’s another article of mine about how to put your best foot forward on Medium:

I write about writing, ideas, creativity, intuition, spirituality, life lessons. Ex-college teacher https://www.buymeacoffee.com/paulryburn Twitter: @paulryburn

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