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A guide to SEO on Substack
Simple steps to improve the search and discoverability of your writing
For some writers, the idea of SEO and “simple” don’t seem to go together.
But Substack’s SEO tools are designed to offer customization where it counts. We take care of making posts appear in search, so you can focus on writing.
This guide aims to empower writers with knowledge about Substack’s tools to improve the search and discovery aspect of your work.
Identifying keywords for your publication
Keywords are the ones most commonly used by people typing words and phrases into search engines to discover writing, podcasts, or videos like yours.
You intuitively know some of the words and phrases your target audience is searching to find you. It’s a worthwhile exercise to sharpen your understanding of keywords by stepping back to think like the searcher outside of your day-to-day writing.
Who am I trying to reach? Jot down a sentence about the group of people you want to reach. Include key traits they bring as readers (e.g. relevant skills, interests, motivations, experiences, or backgrounds). Describe their reading habits and think about how they might typically discover new writers.
What might they be looking for? Think about your readers’ motivations and the language they might be using when searching. A lot of searches start as a question. What kinds of questions might the person trying to reach you ask? Make a list of keywords and phrases that come to mind.
If you want to do a deep-dive keyword exploration for your publication, check out's keywords 101 post.
Advanced SEO options in posts
In the post settings, there is an option for SEO optimizations. Here you have the option to edit the SEO title (title tag), SEO description (meta description), post URL, and social preview image.
These fields do not impact how your post appears when sent to subscribers via email or in the app, or how viewers see it displayed on your Substack website. The job of the SEO title and SEO description is to talk directly to search engines and suggest how they might display your post in search results.
We set your SEO title, SEO description, and post URL by default based on the title and content of your post. The default is strong, and many writers never need to touch it. For writers who want extra control, below we walk through best practices to customize these fields.
The SEO title is the title tag of your post and is meant to be a clear and concise description of a post’s content. This is the information search engines use to create the clickable headline in search results.
Some writers will include keywords in their regular post titles, while others might go for something more abstract. Having a separate SEO title allows you to create a straightforward title with keywords relevant to the post and your audience.
To write a good SEO title, consider the following:
Be brief. If your title is too long, search engines may change your display title by adding an ellipsis (“...”), removing words, or rewriting the title entirely. The recommended length for a title tag is under 60 characters.
Use your keywords wisely. Search engines can tell when you stuff a title with keywords, and this ultimately leads to a bad experience for search users. The SEO title should be legible and coherent, not just keywords mashed together.
Give your post a unique title. For writers who run ongoing series with the same name, using a unique post title can help search engines recognize your posts as distinct pieces of content and lead to a higher click-through rate.
Use your brand. If you have a recognizable name or project name that people often search for, use it! Putting your name, or brand, at the end of an SEO title is valuable for search.
The SEO description, or the meta description, acts as a brief summary of your post on search engine result pages. The default uses the post subtitle.
For SEO descriptions, some best practices are to:
Avoid repeating yourself. Move the title forward with new context and information that will ultimately make people want to click. A good meta description expands on the title and includes other keywords and phrases that are relevant but don’t fit in the title.
Think like an advertiser. Use your keywords strategically, and remember the reader you are trying to reach on the other side.
A good URL is readable by both search engines and real people. It’s better to think in phrases over codes or numbers.
For every Substack post, a unique URL is automatically generated based on your post title, with hyphens in place of spaces. It should look something like this: https://yourdomain.substack.com/p/post-title.
More often, this default URL is the best URL for your post. You might consider editing the end of the URL, also called the slug, if you have an obscure post title and changed the SEO title to something more legible. Follow the same SEO title best practices for your URL.
Remember: You only want to edit the post URL before you publish a new post. If you edit the post URL after the post is published, all existing links, for example any links shared on social media or private messages, will break.
Social preview image
Posts with social preview images get an average of twice as many signups and 40% more clicks than those without images. The default social preview image is the first image in your post. If you don’t have an image in your post, it will default to your publication logo.
You can add or update a social preview photo from your post settings.
Images also have a downside. Search engines like Google penalize your website when images are too large. To ensure that your images don’t hurt your SEO ranking and offer the optimal reader experience, Substack compresses your images, without distorting the quality. For mobile devices, we automatically resize the images for the size of the device to save bandwidth and allow faster load times on cellular connections.
We also tell search engines when you have multiple images in posts so they can prioritize downloading the images at the top of the post first and loading the remainder of the images as the reader scrolls.
SEO optimizations for your publication
Going back to the basics and doing some hygiene for your publication can strengthen your SEO. Below we share guidance on picking the best Substack URL and the best places to link to your Substack.
What’s the primary keyword people who know you and your work search for when they try to come back to it? For some writers, that will be their name, and for others, especially groups of writers working together, this will be a brand or project name.
If people primarily search for your name to find your work, we recommend using your name in your Substack URL, also called the subdomain.
You can still use a unique name for your publication. In a few words, a good title captures what your publication is about at the highest level. Test your ideas by imagining that you are on a podcast saying your publication name aloud. Is it memorable, short, and easy to say and spell?
Note: On Substack, you have the option to create a custom domain or use the default yourdomain.substack.com. There is benefit in the default, as you can borrow from the existing, strong Substack SEO reputation.
Link to your Substack everywhere
The more places where your Substack URL link lives, the stronger your SEO reputation is. We encourage you to link to your publication everywhere you can.
Add your Substack URL to your personal website. You can embed a signup form directly on your personal website.
Update your social media bios to include your Substack URL. Not only is this good for SEO, it’s a best promotional practice.
The best way to improve your SEO ranking is to get more inbound links to your Substack publication. An inbound link is a link on another site that directs readers to your Substack.
Search engines change often. At the end of the day, the best SEO work you can do for your publication is to write high-quality content with your target reader in mind.
To go deeper on SEO, visit:
If you’re considering starting a blog or a newsletter, don’t start it on your own and fight for traffic. Start on Substack—we’re on your team.