SEO and the View from the Cheap Seats

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SEO and the View from the Cheap Seats

Don’t expect to get much love from using SEO if you are a writer, especially if you are trying to make your voice heard about politics from somewhere up in the cheap seats. Supposedly, if you follow the SEO guidelines, algorithms will be able to improve your position in the search engine search-results-line-up that matches your key words. Your site will rise to the top like cream on milk back in the day.

If you are offering a product or a service in a store-front type of website where visitors can add purchases to their cart and checkout then you and your design staff can invent new creative ways to find a spot in the top ten, but spending dollars will have to be part of your strategy, unless your site goes viral which is somewhat unlikely. Searches that allow consumers to look for businesses “near me” offer many more chances for businesses to be discovered by local consumers.

All bets are off if you are a writer, or anyone who is creating internet content but not selling goods and/or services. SEO becomes rather irrelevant for content writers and it will be almost impossible to move to the top of the results in a key word search. If you write about politics as I do, you will be buried so deep in the pack of a trending key-word-search that few will have the stamina to page through multiple pages of search results to find you. You will have to try to get some clout by getting published in highly visible media sources or get yourself hired by some media outlet to be a contributor, also a long shot if you don’t have any degrees in journalism. 

For example I recently used the key words “women’s rights and #WomensRights. A Google search of this key phrase turned up 13 billion entries. Although search results give the most recent material first, posts in popular media outlets can take up several pages in the search-results-line-up. Regardless of how well you adhere to SEO guidelines you will never get close to the top of such a search. You cannot expect to be noticed and if you are noticed it will most likely just be a fluke.

Then there is the algorithm to measure “readability”. Perhaps I am a bad writer, although I don’t think so. Would getting a high readability score prove my writing skills are excellent. Again, I don’t think so. The SEO algorithm doesn’t seem to like prose – you know, well-fleshed out paragraphs following a logical argument to a reasonable conclusion. My recent article The Snowflake Games scored in the red on readability (bad). Perhaps that one was a bit wordy and focused on a limited audience (the media). But my fairly compact article Alabama and Melinda Gates was also scored with a red (no good) grade. So we are not dealing with an algorithm that judges quality of writing here; that responds to the set of complex factors that determine what qualifies as good writing. In other words the characteristics of good writing may be too abstract to conform to the current state-of-the art in AI algorithms. In fact the only article I have written recently that got a green rating for good readability is not an article at all; it is basically a meme, a list, Helicopter Love: Notice Me: Me, Me, Me.   

It bears repeating – SEO does not, apparently, care for prose. It is designed to help businesses, not writers. If you are a straight-up journalist I suppose an SEO algorithm can be designed to incorporate the usual structure for news writers and can count links and factual statements (maybe), but I would not think that writing to a formula would encourage much creativity. If you write opinion articles SEO has few structural formalities to rely on.

Advice may come your way that tells you that podcasts are popular right now, or You Tube presentations – so you might want to change to a new format. But what if don’t care to use these formats. What if you want to write – to be recognized and listened to you for your writing, either your opinions or your journalism? Let me say this one more time, SEO algorithms are not designed for writers. You will have to find creative ways to attract attention rather than trust AI to see you at all way up there in your cheap seats, even if you think you are frantically waving. You have something to add to the public dialogue and you must jump through SEO hoops but you know you don’t fit the design. If we all must conform with SEO formulas to get noticed there should be new algorithms for various categories of internet content, especially for prose. (What must poets contend with?)