How SEO is Killing Creativity

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I guess you could say SEO is the “Video Killed the Radio Star” of the blogosphere. I am not new to blogging, but I have just begun the part of blogging where I care what other people think, i.e. Care about tracking page views, cultivating a following, building trust and evolving to make an impact with my readers. I’ve read and researched and listened to podcasts from the “industry leaders” and successful bloggers and media mavens and marketing guru’s and there is one overarching theme that one says will undoubtedly impact your success. SEO.

SEO is what is presented as the art of cultivating content that is readable not only by actual human people, but by search bots, in order to give you a higher ranking and your content easier to find by actual human people. Your readers, if you are going to have any, rely on your knowledge not only of your niche, but of SEO, so that you can deliver them information easily.

I have spent hours on numerous websites deciphering and cracking the code to craft the perfect, SEO optimized headline, followed the tips and suggestions of various plug-ins to make my content more readable and I have come to realize that SEO can fuck off. I have thought up so many witty and PUNderful post titles, I have peppered my content with slick references that will tickle the intellect of my readers, and we will sit, simultaneously on opposite end of the blogosphere, chuckling heartily at my dry humor and quit wits. That is how I envisioned my blogging, and let me tell you, none of my wonderful words or the way that I craft them together in a blanket of information is optimized for search engines. According to all these fancy tools and tricks I am a damned idiot with no readability and my despite having fantastic post titles, I will never become more than a speck on windshield of a speeding internet train.

It sucks. I am hella creative. Superbly honest. I’m pretty damned funny when I get the urge. I am not a rule fool, following blindly and filling my content with fluffy bull shit to get ranked higher in Google. Or am I?

I am no marketing genius. In fact, my expertise lies in a degree field pertaining almost strictly to international relations, policy and military strategy. I know, weird. But I do understand that the social fabric with which the internet is woven and I understand that social media and post engagement is an organic system on which we rely for our informational output & input.

There was a time in the not-so-distant past where writing was a creative outlet, and people sought out a writer or stumbled upon the words haphazardly. There was no targeted keywords and post promos or site boosts. Where engagement was genuine instead of forced reciprocity, where the foundations were true. The desire to rank high, to have perfectly optimized content that will attract the most amount of readers has driven writers to abandoned their creative process and take up marketing in its place. Perhaps this is the reason that I have blogged for 7 years without worrying about readership, I’m a shitty advertiser. That may or may not be the case, but I don’t want to have to forgo, or opt out of my creative genius just to appease the search bots to garner some numbers and attract the “right amount” of followers to be successful. Click Bait. I hear the term all the time and read it as a warning from all the “how-to” people. I might be a creative genius but I couldn’t write a click bait title if I tried. And it just so happened that I always fall for the shit, too. There are some media outlets, major news sources, that just get me Every. Damn. Time. I can’t even give you a decent example of click bait but I know that it’s bull shit.

Post and title key words? I won’t lie, I haven’t quite figured out the real reason that one would need to title a post and then give the post a second title just for search engines. This right here is what I am talking about when your creative genes begin to wither. Maybe there are people out there who don’t compromise their words for the sake of SEO and still have a large gaggle of followers… maybe those are the people who should be writing tutorials on how to keep your integrity as a writer and still attract readers. I’d click.

Isn’t there some sort of responsibility as a part of the organic social media fabric that we as writers must adhere to? Is there some way that we can better our output in the name of creativity rather than for points? Perhaps I have overlooked so much in my attempts to tailor my content to being hyper-readable. Well, to quote Korn. Fuck That.

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  • Theresa October 5, 2016 at 3:33 am

    Yes and AMEN!!!!! I blogged for five years took a break for two and I’m starting back up. I had a decent following, had a great connection with my blog tribe, friends telling me they like reading my stories. My new blog, with the SEO monitor, is giving me the message that my post has a readability score of poor. Self doubter that I can be sometimes, my initial internal response was, did I get dementia in the last two years and can’t recognise my post as reading poorly. Whatever I’m doing wrong I’m just going to keep on doing it. LOL. My tribe must be poor fools to be able to read my dribble and give me the thumbs up.

    • sar_ii October 5, 2016 at 3:40 am

      Just keep reminding yourself that search bots are not people, the human connection is more important I think. Screw THAT SEO ?

  • Ane October 18, 2016 at 7:18 am

    I stumbled on this post while searching Google Images and saw the title “How SEO is killing creativity” which immediately got my attention. I am a Web Analyst and technical writer.

    It makes me sad that this is the perspective that most writers have about SEO. It is totally misunderstood and unfortunately the companies and tools that are trying to make money off of people that don’t know what real SEO vs junk SEO is, are contributing to this belief. The tools and lack of proper SEO advice, people rewriting content and sharing the wrong information over and over again is what is killing creativity for writers.

    SEO’s purpose is not to manipulate users or search engines (although you get people that take advantage of others and pretend they know what SEO is – you only know what you know). The purpose of SEO is to assist search engines like Google to better understand what your website is about and to determine the quality of your website by looking and evaluating certain criteria. There are over 200 search engine “score” factors. The key is to understand and find the best combination that will work for your website and for you.

    If you do not want to compromise your blog content, then don’t. Add a target keyword to your image alternative description so that the search engine knows what the image is, have a backlink from a relevant source so that the search engine can understand what to associate you with, share your content on social media and online communities so that the search engine can associate your website and web pages to a category so that it can understand what your website is about.

    You cannot disregard a search engine if you are publishing any form of content on the internet as the whole internet works this way. Even social media platforms work with algorithms.

    If you do not want organic, search engine traffic (which often is the channel that sends the most website traffic to your website) then you do not have to do SEO at all. Again, the wrong SEO advice is what is killing your creativity, not SEO.

    SEO is not an enemy, it exists to help search engines, that control how content is discovered and delivered on the internet to understand your website otherwise it won’t be sure if it will deliver the correct, most relevant result to the searcher.

    If the search engine does not deliver the correct information to a searcher, then people won’t use the search engine anymore because it is not delivering the information that they need.

    There are many SEO techniques that you can use without compromising your creativity and content. Onpage optimisation is just one of many SEO techniques.

    Alternatively, you can make use of other search engines like PPC, social media and email marketing to grow your readership. The beauty of SEO is of course that it is a unpaid website traffic channel.

    PS – SEO tools and plugins that score your content look at their own combination of SEO criteria. There are over 200 factors, 200 factors have been discovered and tested through millions of case studies by web analysts and SEO specialists. These tools only include the factors that they “know”. It should only be used as a recommendation and indication and not be taken as a complete formula.
    These plugins often look at one keyword too, search engines now evaluate a page based on topic and not a keyword.

    PS – My intention of this comment is to inform and not to be condescending in any way.

    • sar_ii October 18, 2016 at 2:30 pm

      Thank you Ane for your knowledge and I did not take your comment as condescending in any way. As I am slowly uncovering the truth about how to optimize for search engines I am becoming more comfortable with the idea. I think what is so overwhelming about SEO, particularly to beginner bloggers, is that it’s a pushes by almost all resources as “the key”, and it’s presented as a hard truth.
      You are 100% correct about the rewriting of content and over sharing of incorrect information. Thanks for your very useful information ?

  • Imogen July 15, 2019 at 7:21 am

    GOD BLESS THIS ARTICLE. It’s totally true. I will save this (have already shared it at the digital ad agency where I work) (not that the SEO team will pay any mind to it) and re-read when they butcher my work by sticking keywords into it and all such. I know SEO isn’t the enemy, and I know ANE means well. So sorry but I completely agree with this article, being a professional creative copywriter for 20+ years and having to write SEO-friendly articles for 3. I totally understand how “no matter how good what you wrote it, it won’t mean anything if no one can find it” and that “content is meant to sell, not to be Shakespeare”, but seriously. Am struggling to “make peace” with SEO. I know it isn’t the enemy. But it sure seems that way sometimes. I understand you, ANE. But I understand Sarah more.

    • Sarah August 28, 2019 at 8:33 pm

      Thank you Imogen! You hear often that “content is key” and “if you create good content, folks will follow”, which may well be true, but sometimes my killer content isn’t well researched keywords – and even if I do go back and seek to “optimize” some content, I won’t end up changing the keywords – because I said what I meant, dammit! 🙂

      I’m glad that you understand where I am coming from.


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