Introducing Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
So, let me paint you a picture about SEO and creativity in the world of online writing. Imagine, you’ve just finished another blog post, you’ve put it into WordPress, and before you hit publish, you look at your SEO score, 65/100. Not so good, huh? So then you start changing things, you change the title, you try different keywords, you shorten the sentences, and finally you see that counter go up. Perfect! But at what cost? Is changing the way that we write really worth a better ranking on Google, or is it simply diluting our creativity to the point that we no longer recognise our own work? It seems that in today’s virtual world, technology is evolving faster than we can keep up with it. This is creating another problem for writers: the rise of the SEO algorithm.
What is SEO?
To begin, we first need to understand the system, but just what is SEO? SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation. In the most basic sense, this is the process behind figuring out where your site ranks in the search results on Google or Bing. These rankings are what help draw more views to a website and drive business.
How does SEO work?
SEO works by analysing your content and giving it a mark out of 100. The score is determined by its performance in four subcategories: Technical, Content, User Experience, and Mobile, which basically means is the format clear, is it free from typos, is it relevant, and does it work on various devices? These criteria can be hard to fulfill for writers as oftentimes creativity and SEO seem to clash with people having to choose between what they want to say versus what will improve their ranking. There are numerous other factors which can affect your SEO score, such as the keywords you use; the length of your title and your article; whether you have used images in your article or not and what size they are. All of these things must be considered when uploading your work online for all to see, a world away from the writing practices that existed before the arrival of the internet.
The importance of SEO cannot be underestimated though, given that Google processes over 3.5 billion searches per day, a good organisational system is paramount to its success. You may even have heard of things like the Keyword Golden Ratio and how to maximise your writing and views within a matter of days or even hours. As I said, with so many questions and searches taking place all over the globe every minute of every day, it is understandable that companies and people place such an importance on SEO and where they rank. It is simply the nature of the beast and if your entire livelihood is based online, then high ranking content is not just optimistic, but necessary for your survival.
But is SEO damaging to creativity?
The relationship between SEO and creativity is a complicated one. On the one hand, there are those who argue that SEO is having a negative effect on the creative writing process, whilst others say that it should take priority in the online world. For writers, it does seem as though the very language that we use is being dictated to and forced along a track of set rules. For one, search engines often struggle with puns, jokes, complicated headlines and slang, which as we all know, can make or break a piece of written work. We’ve all typed a question into Google that may have a slang word here or there, only to be met with ‘Did you mean?’. This isn’t just annoying, it’s harmful. Slang and idioms are as much a part of a language as learning the correct form of a verb and so if writers are forced to omit these words and phrases it takes away the personality and culture of the piece. It also means that people who are creating content for the sheer joy of writing may find that their work has been buried beneath an avalanche of articles that may never be read.
By changing the way that we write, SEO also challenges the value we place on written work. Let me ask you a simple question, when you think of the best, what number comes to mind? Is it the number 1? That was my thought too. So, when we are presented with the search results, we naturally assume that the top ten must be the ten best articles relating to the question. But this is not always true. Yes, they relate to the question, but they are by no means the best answers or the most well written. How many times have you started to read an article that was suggested in the top ten only to notice that perhaps it wasn’t what you were looking for or that the content was bland? With search engines becoming smarter, we have moved away from keyword stuffing and Google will always strive to give the best quality content that it can but it’s by no means a failsafe.
The future of writing
So, what’s the future of online writing? One possible future presents itself with the rise of artificial programs, such as those by conversion.ai. This site is a new software program that writes unlimited content all for the sum of $109 a month. Having watched the reviews on YouTube, it is safe to assume that many jobs we take for granted could become obsolete in the future. Though don’t despair just yet because although these programs can churn out content at the click of a button, they still require a human touch. In fact, despite the SEO algorithms and requirements, Google and other search engines strive to promote content written by humans in order to keep things organic. Not to mention that A.I., whilst advanced, is not without its flaws: writers will always be needed to add personality and flavour to a piece of written work. So, although content creation seems to have taken a backseat in favour of hitting certain criteria, personality and style will always remain true. So long as writers remain focused on the message of their work there is hope for us all!