Thursday, March 17, 2011

How To Do SEO Write: And Not Be A Total Douchebag

By James Curcio
Some of what I say here are probably occult "secrets" that shouldn't be shared. Maybe I'm decreasing my "market value." I don't know. I just want to clue you in on just a few of the things I've picked up essentially living with a console of some sort glued to my nervous system for the last decade and a half.

There are, generally speaking, three kinds of SEO. I'm going to talk about two of them here. The third is "black magic" and I'm not going to talk about it. At least, not yet. 

1. There's the kind of SEO that you learn as a part of web design. This is how I first learned it, officially. It is what tells you to create all of your "semantic" content in HTML, and keep all design elements as CSS and graphics. Why? So you don't confuse the search engines. It tells you to create a hierarchy of priority using things like page titles, meta tags, and header tags. It is actually not incredibly complicated. It shouldn't be. It's simply "best practices" designers should follow to make their sites easy to spider. 

2. There is "SEO writing." This has two sides. 

The first is the writing element of what I just described: understanding how to format a document so that it is easiest for machines to parse. Hierarchy. Headers. Bullets. Proper image tags. Don't bury your key ideas inside some arcane table. Look at what words you use next to which words. Consider using but not overusing certain combinations of words, especially in regard to core concepts. 

The second is more complicated. This involves a mixture of timing, intuition, association, and having the kind of manic attention that can follow what thousands of people are saying at once. I'll talk about this last one first because it relates to the other three. 

I'm not kidding. Every morning, I scan through a twitter stream created by thousands of people, and mirror that activity on several other services. I ask myself, after a minute or two of that, "What stuck out?" 

If something really stuck out, you can best believe that thing is a high priority on the cultural mind right now, within the core demographic that you've selected to follow. This is, by the way, a reason why it is important to create lists of people to follow that represent different markets, if you want to keep your fingers on the thoughts that exist within the domain of several different egregores

Timing. Different stories have different lifespans. Especially on the Internet, the thing that is hot today might be boring tomorrow. If you scoop a story moments before it hits, you can expect to see tens or hundreds of thousands of visits. If you run it a day later, you will be lost in the noise. Signal to noise is a crucial concept to understand, and I think if you play with this stuff even for a little while you'll find yourself using a lot of "wave" and "surfing" metaphors. Comes with the territory, especially if you haven't been sober since 1995 like me

Intuition. This is the part that comes from practice. Yesterday I was sifting through feeds and my wife asked me what I was doing. "Looking for a tech story to spin on" "Why?" "I don't know. I just know it's what I need to do right now." Well, I never found the story that lit the green light. But I am fairly sure if I did, it would've been the right thing to run, right then. And knowing I didn't find it was part of that intuition, also. Instead I found a drug story which, by the time they schedule to run it, might hit too far behind the crest of the wave to bring in a real surge of traffic. So it goes. Keep going. This leads me to-

Association. Say you manage to scoop that story of the minute. The things that you associate with it are going to help focus the traffic that you receive, especially on a story that's too large for you to hope to get top ranking. You can best assume that if you type in "xxxx + mythology," you will see in the top 2 pages. That's because we work hard. (And/or are insane. You decide.) 

Know What This Is?
You'll be seeing more of them soon.
This also can be the way to garner attention for a project that deserves attention but doesn't have it yet - and it is by the way the question that "old school" news reporters will probably ask you if you are trying to pitch your novel or album. "What recent story can we attach this to?" I have yet to master this. How can you tell? I'm not on CNN right now. 

There is one final thing to remember about SEO writing that is probably the most important. So important that it deserves the feared ALL CAPS:


Very few of the people that pay for SEO work have any idea what they're paying for. And they don't pay enough and the result is garbage. This is the same problem I've seen time and again in web design. I'm not going to turn this into a long bitter rant about this subject but trust me, half of that sour feeling you get in your stomach when you hear the word "SEO"? Don't blame it on the writers or even SEO "Professionals." The blame also falls on the shoulders of clients. I've taken SEO hack jobs and it feels dirty doing it, but doing this stuff right takes a lot of time and a lot of time means a lot of money. And people are often not willing to put a lot of money into something that they don't even understand. 

If, on the other hand, you do understand the kind of campaign I could wage for you with an adequate budget: I'm not hard to get in touch with. A little demonstration of what I'm talking about. Layne Stayley. Myth. Charlie Sheen Polyamory. Adonis DNA. Of course, these will shift up constantly. But at least as of the moment of posting this, Modern Mythology is not only on the top page but often in the top 3 of these search terms. I could list a ton more search terms that were all trending for a moment, which is the point at which we set our crack team of midget coke whore psychopath douchebags loose on their keyboards.

Look for "Crack midget coke whore psychopath douchebags" next week. 

But seriously. This is the final takeaway for all of you: SEO does not determine what you say about something. I ran several stories off of the "Charlie Sheen craze." A lot of people came to me saying that I had give them insights they'd never considered before- not just saying something about Charlie Sheen (Good God) that they hadn't heard said elsewhere in the noise, but ideas about culture and personality that they hadn't considered before. Period. In other words, if you use SEO to help you determine what to write for on the web, that doesn't make you a good writer. And being a good writer doesn't ensure that you'll be a good thinker. And you've got to be all three, and keep pushing, to ever hope to be a myth maker in these times. 

Which is the only game in town, so far as I'm concerned. And I won't pretend I've "arrived" or that I'm "on the level." But I'm going to die trying, and to try to help define what that level is. What about you?
Pre-order a copy of The Immanence of Myth, published by Weaponized in July 2011.


  1. Anonymous11:06 AM

    seo is about ranking your sites well in the search engines. i think you are using the term wrong.

  2. It's about using search engines, you got that part right.



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