Since launching our blog Santa Fe Travelers in December 2010, it’s become a vital part of my life.
While I love blogging, there are some inherent things about writing for the web that irk me.
I think that to keep quality content on the web and to minimize gaming the system, change is needed. Will it happen? I’m not optimistic, but perhaps, if enough of us raise our collective voice, there will be change.
Here are four of my pet peeves about writing for the web.
- To really succeed on the web, you have to write for SEO: Really good content is secondary to such skills as keyword optimization. I had a discussion with one of my blogging friends who now makes sure to use each “keyword” at least four times in each post. That was something I easily did years ago when optimizing a commercial website. We sold stuff. Repeating the name of a product ad nauseam worked. It affects your flow when you’re trying to be creative. Sure you can go back and edit it after the fact and make sure that you get those “key” words in at least four times, but, in most places, keyword repetition makes for really poor reading. Google and other crawlers don’t read critically, they are word searchers. At some time in the future, crawlers will probably have the ability to judge the literary and content merit of a post, but they don’t have it now.
- The power we allow a few Internet companies to control content: Google, Facebook, Twitter and Klout, to name a few, have too much power. Especially Google, whose search engine results and ranking can make or break a blog or website. It can mean the difference between being seen and not being seen, making money and not making money. So much so that people write for them, and worry about going astray of their rules. Many are consumed with gaming them. People pay hundreds of dollars a month for back links. Why? Because the number of sites that link to yours affects your rankings. It’s like a sports star or sports star-wannabe taking steroids to succeed. It’s neither ethical nor sportsmanlike. And that to a large extent sums up the Internet. It’s not a level playing field and it sometimes doesn’t matter how good you are at something, it’s how well you game the system.
- Errors Verboten: I read something on Twitter that came out of the recent TBEX (Travel Bloggers Exchange) Conference in Vancouver. This is third hand, but reportedly one of the speakers talked about how vital it is to have good spelling, punctuation and grammar to be considered a serious blogger. Yes it is. In the golden days of journalism, there were copy editors. Most bloggers aren’t making money, let alone enough to hire an editor. It’s difficult to see everything that’s wrong with your own stuff. It takes objective eyes. I think content should be king on the web. I read a lot of pieces that are boring and have incorrect facts, but the spelling and punctuation are perfect. What do you prefer, a blog with heart that engages you or a grammatically correct one that is not well written and boring?
- Numbers over content: Some blogs and websites are only interested in numbers. They don’t care what’s up on their site. I’m tired of putting a term in a search engine and coming up with a post from content mill with no substance that got top placement because the writer knows how to optimize keywords to get top placement. These sites are not interested in the experience and the writing process, the part of blogging that fascinates me. They put up any garbage, often without even fact checking and call it a day.
- Playing the social media game: People with polished social media skills have a distinct advantage over people like me who are distinctly tech-challenged. It’s too bad that the web game is defined by social media and not quality. I consistently find posts that are poorly written, obsolete and not dated, that contain no useful information or even worse, incorrect information, and ones that do not entertain or do anything else worth high search engine placement. The people who posted these are masters of the social media game and that knowledge gets them a great location. People like me who are totally tech-challenged do not get the recognition they might deserve. As I said earlier, one day bots will be able to be discerning. Until that time, unfortunately, the social media savvy will be king. But when the day comes when quality counts, a lot people will get knocked off their Internet pedestals. There’s going to be a loud crash.
When I think about writing for keywords I get a pain in my gut. I realized if I gave in to that and other SEO pressures, the joy would be gone from my writing process. So, while I will get key words into my title and sometimes photo captions, I have decided to continue to write from the heart. It may not be the Internet-wise decision, but it’s the one that speaks to me.
What are your Internet pet peeves? What’s your opinion on the issues I’ve raised here? Based on a very lively debate in a Facebook group I’m in, I know that this is not a cut-and-dried thing, and that there are nearly as many opinions as there are bloggers on the web.