You Finest Hour
You’ve finished a post. Maybe it’s a how to, maybe it’s your best piece fiction. Maybe it’s a video of you feeding your parrot. 857 words with which you’ll wow the world. Nothing stopping you from fame and accolades except getting noticed and Search Engine Optimization.
I say forget it. Write more. Work on honing your craft. Write specifics that your readers will love and pass on. For every minute you work on learning SEO, work instead on getting commas right.
Here’s why. I published a post about working out in the dripping summer humidity of South Carolina. If you don’t know, I’m from the Seattle area and grew up not knowing a soul with an air conditioner. A hot day for me was 70 degrees. Now, in South Carolina, I wake up and it’s 85 degrees. By midday, it’s 105. Locals take it in stride. I die a little every day. So I wrote my post, and assigned it the SEO keyword of heat stress. When I look up heat stress on Google, I find 512 MILLION entries. Do you think my post will get noticed? Heat Stress South Carolina does a little better at only 51 million entries. Heat Stress South Carolina Seattlite tops all at 12 million entries. My guess is that, in the 15 minutes I researched this, another million posts are put up about heat stress and I’m further in the weeds.
Can You Compete? Probably Not
There’s a solution. Kind of.
Forget about it. Add your keyword and move on to new writing. Unless you have an instantly recognizable name like Steven King, no one is finding your post on the Internet. How did I eek out 188 reads for this post? Over time, people have stumbled over my page and like my writing. The best way to grow is to continue to write things they like. Then, after the cocktail party where they hang and drink cold gin and talk about how damned hot it is, they email my post to a friend who they think will like it. And I have another chance for a follower. It’s a long game, to be sure, but it’s a sure game and builds a real readership.
A Good Read
Seth Godin on The Non-Optimized Life. He concludes, wisely I think, that ‘… at some point, you realize you’re spending your best energy on optimization, not on creation’.
I don’t completely eschew optimization, but have learned to give it about three minutes of my time. I refuse to trade writing time for tech time or on an email offer to make money for someone else. To grasp the big picture and set your site up correctly from the start, there are lots of tools. I like Rachel Thompson’s short work titled How To Best Optimize Blog Posts for SEO. It’s an easy read that you don’t need an MBA or tech degree to understand.
It’s the modern creative’s ongoing battle: spend time improving your craft or spend time marketing. Both are important. One defines you as a writer. Your answer is personal and will change throughout your career.
You’ll have to decide we’re you are now and start moving.
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