Writers and SEO

I can’t speak for all writers — heck, maybe I shouldn’t even speak for a roomful of them — but one of my greatest frustrations in recent years has been the whole SEO (search engine optimization) phenomenon of writing news stories or commercial copy.  I understand the basic point — letters and numbers woven into an online post in such a way to lure unsuspecting search engines (OK, Google) to your lair, have your way with them and afterward watch your metrics quiver.
It’s not a completely foreign concept — repeated words and concepts have always been a fixture in ad and marketing copy. Rinse and repeat.
But still. Maybe its my age, maybe my stubbornness or just plain backwardness, but I’ve always gotten a queasy feeling when a prospective client asks me to do keyword-driven content (that was a term thrown at me once, so I’ll stick with it). “Depends on the keywords,” I’ve joked. But it’s a request that drains all creativity out of an assignment, at least for me.
That’s why this Wall Street Journal piece by Ben Elowitz gives me a bit of hope I can keep doing what I do. Humans — suggestible but ultimately unpredictable — will always be one step ahead of the robots. As for me, I’ll just keep on writing for the humans and see how it all shakes out.

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