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.
I have to disagree with much of what you have said:
1) You don’t have to write for SEO. I do no SEO at all and don’t rely on Google for my traffic.
2) You only allow companies to control you if you buy into the SEO game. Don’t do that can Google can’t control you. The other companies are just platforms. This is just as true in print where only a few big publishing companies control most of the print media.
4) These are people who follow your advice from #1. If you just don’t play the Google game, you don’t have to deal with this.
5) Social media is hardly an impediment to the tech-challenged. Twitter involves typing 140 characters into a box. There is nothing more to it. Same with Facebook.
You seem to be under the myth that just writing “good content” (whatever that is) will naturally result in popularity and traffic. That has NEVER been the case in the history of the printed word. Marketing is very important. Always has been and it still is today.
If you can’t take the time to become “tech savvy” then don’t expect to do well in a technical environment. I’m not sure what else to say. If all you can do is complain that you are great but get no traffic, you never will get any.
There are millions of bloggers out there who all think they are great and deserve attention. Your blog is nothing special. Mine is nothing special. You have to do something beyond just writing blog posts to get attention. Complaining that no one acknowledges you because you are great won’t get you anywhere.
..and I’ll also add, you’ve only had your site for half a year.
It takes at least 2-3 years to get any traction. I’m not sure what you expected. As with anything else you have to pay your dues and you’ve just barely started.
I think what it comes down to as a blogger is how you measure success. If you view success as volume of readers, then you might need to play the game, at least in regard to social networking. But for my personal goals, I measure my success by any improvements I see in my writing quality. After all, that’s my end goal: to be a writer in print, not a popular blogger. And while I do sometimes complain about not having enough readers, I like the fact that a few other bloggers who write good content are starting to read my blog and even sometimes get in touch with me. I like the sense of community that comes with that. So even though I don’t have a big audience, I do have a well-written, well-traveled one. That’s how I measure (my personal) success, and it frees me from needing to follow the “rules” that some of the more popular bloggers may adhere to. But like I said, it really depends on what you want to get from your blog.
Gary, I have to respectfully disagree with your 5th point: “Social media is hardly an impediment to the tech-challenged.”
Twitter remains a niche service; according to eMarketer, just 11% of US Internet users are active on Twitter, although awareness is high (source: http://hispanicprpro.com/2011/06/11/twitter%E2%80%99s-awareness-vs-usage-problem/). In my own experience, established communications professionals feel the need to be on Twitter but many aren’t sure how to use the service. Over a dozen people in my networking circle (mainly print journalists and traditional marketers) have approached me and asked me to help tutor them on Twitter, and even on Facebook pages. As a blogger and vet of the Internet boom, you are clearly more tech-savvy than the general population. Just something to think about before you attack the writer’s conclusions.
I have to agree with all parties to some degree. The beauty of travel writing within a blog is to create pure personal content that your followers will enjoy. The moment you crave ‘success’ you have to market your work using the necessary tools, which at the moment is Social Media and SEO. I believe your writing can still remain true even using the modern tools of the trade.
An interesting topic!
I have to agree with some key points from the comments. When you really soley on search then you have to play the search game so to speak. I know some who was getting most if not all traffic through search engines. Update came and traffic went out the window. However those who have good content and a mixture of good SEO enjoy the fruit of both. It takes time to build trust from readers and hardwork to stay around. people like reading interesting stuff and things they can relate to.