Writing for People, Not Algorithms
Writers and SEO
Engineers, carpenters, doctors, pilots; these people don't need to make a case for their profession. They are essential and their need is quite apparent. But a writer, like all writers since the beginning of time, is an exception. A writer needs to make a case for the work he does. A writer needs to be able to answer the "Why?" on the face of a baffled stranger for the millionth time. The answer isn't the same for everyone, and it can change with the times. Unlike the urban myth of the unwanted and unemployed writer, the economy will always need writers. Writers just need to figure out why they are needed in the time they are born into, and that's half the battle.
I hear lots of talk about SEO these days (Search Engine Optimization). It rolls off people's tongues at rapid speed, whipping through marketing meetings and weaving itself into promotional material. It's a kind of phantom that everyone talks about and a lot of pe
ople seem to be experts on. I think the big dirty secret is that a lot of people don't have a sweet clue about how SEO works, but it sounds good on a list of professional services. I get the basics, but I'm certainly no expert. I don't think anyone decides to become a writer because the prospect of learning how to win the war against an army of search filters is truly exhilarating. Then again, there are plenty of people who would argue that what I do isn't particularly exhilarating either, but those are the very people who will be glad I'm around when they need something written.
A case for good writing
Now I realize I need to keep sharpening up my SEO chops, and there are a lot of great resources out there that I've been engaging with to do just that, but what I'm getting at here is that good writing for real people is always going to beat bad but technically superior SEO writing for robots. Good writing builds context, creates a story arc, imbibes characters with purpose and generates dialogue. None of those elements is mutually exclusive of SEO, but my feeling is that we've swung too far the other way. We have forgotten that more than anything, we want our writing (business or personal) to have an impact on people, page rankings be damned. We want them to talk about what they are reading. It's no good having content that can easily be found if it isn't worth finding in the first place. Yes, algorithms are improving and SEO is becoming more nuanced, but nothing will ever interpret a text with more aptitude than the human mind.
Our day and age needs writers who care about their craft because someone has to pick up the torch and carry language though the sea of meaningless tags and keywords that it could easily fall into. As difficult as it can be when I am told to create SEO-friendly content at all costs, I try to imagine a room full of actual people, and then I write for them.