Destined to Obscurity

Vanity… all is vanity.

I think Solomon had it right.

Yet in an age of Information Flood, part of our task is to help relevant and useful information be found.

In the process, we’re just going to have to sacrifice quality.

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Eyes and Ears

It’s come to my attention that I am destined to obscurity.

I’m at peace with that, because I’ve finally put my finger on why. It’s because I write for the ear.

It’s part of my training, as a broadcast journalist. You write the way people talk.

Actually, I did that long before. The only knocks I ever took in English classes was for my Inappropriate Use of Commas. “The comma doesn’t belong there,” my teachers would tell me.

“But that’s where I pause when I speak, and I want the reader to know that for purposes of inflection!”

No matter. In television, it’s been common practice to replace the comma with an ellipsis… for further dramatic pausation.

(I once worked with an anchor who wore the period off his keyboard. We counted 127 periods in his eight scripts.  It was… highly… unusual… the way it… was punctuated… almost… as though… it was being prepared… for… William Shatner…)

I don’t write for the eye, I write for the ear. That’s why it’s been so easy for me to add an audio version to these posts. But that’s only a grammatical analysis, and doesn’t take into account thought, organization, storytelling and analogy.

The Web Is Built For Spiders

Often, the best way to communicate is to come right out and say something. However, that only works when your goal in communicating is sheer information. There are many reasons to communicate:

  • To inform
  • To persuade
  • To teach
  • To inspire

I’ve probably left a few off my list. Feel free to add some in the comments. (Oh, see… I left off “To engage… that’s at least one more…)

However, other than sheer information and raw data, our algorithms are still not very good at parsing text. In fact, they are quite un-good. They are great at determining backlinks and finding keywords, but they are awful at drawing from analogy and parallel structures. They are Flatlanders, who only know what the Spiders find in the First Dimension.

I am not a Spider. I am a Human Being. And I write for other Human Beings, with varied and nuanced purposes. For that, I shall be banished to obscurity!

Ends Fall Prey To Means

If you look up SEO Copywriting on Google, you get more than 3-million hits. It’s a great thing to write about, because the rules are always changing. We’d hope that the algorithms would get better, but they can only go so far, because they can’t tell where you are going with a narrative!

I use quite a bit of parable and analogy in my writing. I figure that if I can get you in the right frame of mind, and instill the right paradigm, that it will be easier to get you to understand and even adopt my conclusion. If I do it properly, you will even feel a slight “Aha!” as you put the pieces together. It makes you feel smart, because you found the punchline before it was exposed. It’s the same feeling you get when you figure out a movie or a television show before they get to the Big Reveal.

But you can’t do that in a way that Search Engines and their Spiders will like.

If the subject of your post and the point you’re making are buried in the last stanza, your content will be miscategorized. This site is littered with posts that use a long prelude that sets up a point, without being the point.

I guess that makes me a lousy blogger, an insane writer, but an above-average teacher.

I’d like to think that most of what I write is accessible, and my readers learn things.

But now I know that as valuable and instructive as they might be, they’ll never be read by very many, because the Spiders aren’t smart enough to keep up.

For the algorithms, the Means matter more than the End. And I will not write for insects arachnids.

(Do you think there might be room for a summary at the top of the sidebar?)

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  1. Well said! SEO writing is often stale and “dis-empowers” good writers from taking their readers on a journey (much like music does). I wonder how many are actually losing their unique creative edge in the quest for Google ranking. Imagine if Faulkner, E.E. Cummings, or Fitzgerald were alive today–and publishing online.

    • Faulkner would bide his time by sneaking in themes of abuse within his copy, e e cummings would not be allowed to stay in lowercase, and Fitzgerald would be a legend in multi-level marketing.


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