Thanks for reading! So sorry that SEO has never worked for you. It's hard to understand and get your head around if you're not trained or knowledgeable in it. There are some great resources out there if you're willing to try and learn.
I will say from personal experience, that having top-notch SEO in all of my articles allows readers on and off Medium to find my over 150+ articles on writing on this platform. That has led me to not having to write or market at all on this site and still make more than a $100 just from Medium each month, while I get paid top rates for assignments in publications like Writer's Digest, WIRED, and The Writer because I'm seen as an authority due to all of my well-placed SEO driven articles.
Not to mention all the traffic I get to my school, website, and other digital products just from being a skilled SEO creative writer.
But don't worry, Jason, just cause you don't understand something, doesn't mean it doesn't work. You just need to give yourself time to grow, learn, and mature into the type of writer who understands how to write well, informed, and knowledgeable stories and articles.