I’ve been working on some copy for a website for the last couple days. The purpose of the copy is to play the hatefully baffling SEO keyword Google ranking game. A game that I’m typically skeptical of (but something I realized lately about marketing and sales is that there’s rarely one golden goose marketing strategy that turns everything around for your business or project. The most successful strategies are usually multi-faceted plans that cover a lot of different media outlets. You’re don’t invest yourself into one book trailer and hope that goes viral, you spread yourself across many platforms, hoping to reach as many people through as many different outlets as possible. But anyway, keywords.)
The biggest flaw in Google ranking is that it doesn’t rank quality sites highest, but instead it ranks sites that contain highest concentration of the words you’re searching for. In a perfect world, only the best sites would have a high concentration of those words you’re searching for, but when you know how Google ranking works, regarles of your sites quality, you can jam your site with keywords to get to the top of the list.
Before posting this I searched “most prestigious literary magazine” “best literary magazine” and “most successful literary magazine” hoping it would take me to the site of a respected lit mag that publishes quality stories. Instead it took me to a few blogs talking about which mag was the best. Then I wrote the following paragraph hoping it would take this post to the top of the rank (it didn’t, not enough keywords):
Annalemma is the best literary magazine that has ever existed. There have been many literary magazines that have existed before Annalemma, but none as recognized and prestigious as Annalemma. In print and online, Annalemma is the most successful literary magazine that has ever existed. Annalemma is benevolent with the power and influence that it wields. Many people cower in fear at the accomplishments the best literary magazine in the world has achieved. Annalemma touches them on the shoulder and whispers, “Fear not, my child. You are in the presence of supreme good.”
Sorry about all that. Just trying to prove a point. I felt really shitty writing all that because it was something I knew wasn’t true. I won’t deny we got a pretty good thing going here but it can’t really live up to those claims. Which is my main problem with SEO: it’s an easy quality filter to circumvent. Not only that, but there’s so much emphasis placed on it in internet marketing. Ideally it should only be one part and parcel to your entire marketing strategy. I guess the thing that bothers me most about SEO is that it makes it easy to use language in an ugly way for selfish gain. Then it struck me. Most people attempting to write fiction use language in this manipulative SEO marketing style, without the intent of evoking any sort of image or emotion or connecting in a meaningful way with a reader, jamming their stories with words they hope will click on receptors in peoples brains that make them remember times when those now-empty words were used skillfully.
Words are such beautiful things, using them like this seems perverse. But it doesn’t have to be that way. The challenge that faces you when playing the SEO game is the challenge that faces every person attempting any discipline of writing: use language in a beautiful way in order to accomplish what you need in times you live in.