The Miserable Necessity of SEO

If you’re writing for the web, you are writing for your boss, of course, the client, certainly, but also most importantly for a bot, a group of algorithims somewhere in Mountain View or wherever Google has them kept. If you don’t have people handling SEO for you, then you better get on the learning curve and quick.

The days of producing substantive writing and throwing in some keywords to attract the search engines is over. There’s too much original, quality writing on the web for you to get noticed by that alone. Keyword selection is still important but it goes hand in hand with a dozen other methods to get your client ranked higher in results.

Worse, a few individual web pages may not help a client’s website by themselves, instead, an entire website of pages specifically written to appeal to Google is more likely to win. That’s where a team comes in, you can’t do this by yourself unless you want to dive deep into SEO and become a webmaster as well.

Steinbeck, Hemingway, and Kafka would have real difficulty producing business writing these days without an understanding of search engine optimization. Which is terribly unfortunate; it makes me angry to think that I am often writing or revising mainly for a machine.

What triggered this discussion?

I got a nice email today from Aliaa El Nashar today about a great list of writing courses her group has put together. Link below. She writes,

Hello Thomas,

My name is Aliaa and I’m the editor of Kotobee Blog. Our goal is to help writers achieve their dreams of honing their skills and getting published. I came across Thomas Farley’s Blog and found it to be quite insightful and gripping.

We’ve been accumulating a list of over 300 online writing courses that you and your readers might be interested in. You can easily filter through the courses by genre, date, and price. Here’s a link to the post: (external link)

You’re more than welcome to share it on your blog. Let me know if you’re interested. I’d be happy to hear your thoughts on it?

Have a nice day!

Aliaa El Nashar


To which I responded,

Thanks for the email and that is a great list. I’ll share it on my blog in less than a week. Right now I am moving to a new home and everything here is in chaos.

That Berkeley course on writing for social media has no relevance to business. I signed up for the course only to drop it immediately, a sad thing for me because a previous Berkeley course on writing creative non-fiction proved rewarding (internal link) and well worth the money.

I communicated with the teacher of the course at the time and the emphasis was on developing quality writing, something any good English course can do. Today. we need to write for humans, somewhat, but more importantly, for a bunch of bots and algorithms.

If my company doesn’t get our client on the first page of Google’s search results then that customer is invisible. That is what writing online is today, a combination of good writing and an understanding of search engine optimization.

The company I’m with produces blog posts and other writing for law firms across the country. Our writing matches up as good or better than other website developers. While I am only on the edges of the SEO work that my team does, my duties are chiefly editing and writing, I am aware of certain methods we use to make our pages more search engine friendly. And these techniques go way beyond keyword selection and they are constantly changing as Google won’t reveal its methods lest someone game the system. There is also a constellation of other tricks that support any page that is posted. These are not within the writing itself but have to do with how the writing gets distributed or promoted beyond where the page resides. SEO is a dark art and unfortunately any writer putting content on the web better know something about it. (Content – I hate that word!)

I know of no course that combines business writing with SEO. Steinbeck, Kafka, and Conrad would all be lost today without an optimized website. Social media writing without SEO in mind? Good luck. I’m 62 and have been writing professionally since 1994. Now, my chief concern is getting the attention of a bot.

With personal websites like my writing website, who cares? I don’t sell anything, have no ads, and don’t care where I wind up with Google. For any business writer, though, they better get used to a new reality that will take time away from their craft and put it down a rabbit hole of algorithms. Sorry for the rant, all of us business writers need to move from an uncharted sea onto a new land. Most people, though, like that Berkeley teacher, haven’t landed on shore yet. Tom

NB: More here: Do I Need To Repeat Myself? (external link)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s