The sun breaks through the leaves. They are full on the trees, creating dappled shapes that shift and heave in the breeze. Small purple-headed thistles sway by the path, but each time I move back under the canopy, the chill in the air prickles my skin. The sun is shining, but it has no strength left. It is a light, clear sunshine, like soft white wine. It won’t last. As I move, nutshells crack beneath my shoes.
What? Are you still reading? You see, I realised that everything you learn about how to write is SEO (search engine optimisation) madness. ‘Show, don’t tell’ is the opposite of keyword density.
That paragraph you read, it doesn’t have a subhead saying:
‘Hey, It’s Autumn. Get Outside’ [well, it does now-ed.]
…and the keyword density for ‘autumn’ is zero.
Every time I write a blog post, I have an army of devices that help me polish the SEO. So you’ll find it and read it. Why do I write? To be read by you.
Gutenberg is dead
You see? That subhead is no good at all. You might be interested in the demise of traditional publishing, but you’re not going to Google ‘Gutenberg’. Better to change that subhead to ‘Traditional publishing is dead’. Be literal.
The problem is you lose so much. ‘Gutenberg is dead’ works fine for your TED talk, because everyone in the audience knows the name Gutenberg refers to the printing press. They might even give you a few wry smiles about the allusion to Nietzsche’s God is dead. Maybe?
It doesn’t matter if they do or not, at least your words have layers.
If online is the future of the written word, and SEO is how you get that word seen, what is the future of the written word? Is it a race to the exclamation mark?
This isn’t about being Tolstoy. But it’s about the idea that writing can reveal itself in different ways and at different speeds, depending on when and how you read it.
If I only write in exclamation marks, I keep your attention (because we all apparently have goldfish attention spans now). That makes sense. The internet is a crowded place.
But we’re not goldfish. We’re humans.