The SEO blues

When I write, as I often do – some might consider me a serial writer, since I have a website closing in on 3,000 posts over 6 1/2 years – I do so for a number of reasons. First and foremost is my enjoyment of doing this, with a close second being the ability to educate on the benefits of conservatism.

And of course, there’s money involved too. I get a monthly stipend from one client, have another I have occasionally contributed to which pays me on a per-article basis, and there are other one-off deals as well as my Examiner page. I also sell advertising and have a tip jar here, so on rare occasions I find a little extra in my generally anemic bank account.

But I also know some who have a different style of writing based on the concept of search engine optimization, better known as SEO. Some do it rather well and some have a hackneyed approach, but all are after that elusive goal of standing atop Google when you do a search on a particular subject. Obviously my SEO is generally anemic as well – a quick look at my site analytics tells me that just 3% of my visits come from search engines. Yet my Alexa world rank hovers in the 280,000 range, which tells me people somehow find this site.

Where I’m going with this is that I had an interesting e-mail exchange with a person representing a company which “has leveraged the power of the Web to create a unique group of specialty e-commerce stores,” according to its website. I’d rather not divulge the company but if you Google the phrase (as I did) it naturally sits at the top.

Originally he wanted me to add guest content to my site, but when I told him that monoblogue works because it is in one voice (with a few rare exceptions) he changed his tactic. What he wanted me to do was to create a post which had three instances of a particular key phrase, one of which linked back to his site, and establish a permanent link back to his site on mine. In return I would get “a total donation of $150.”

That’s a nice chunk of change, but I told this gentleman that, for that amount, I could give him a prominent advertising link on my site as opposed to a post which would eventually both fade off the front page of my site and probably Google in a short amount of time. It seemed like a better solution for both of us, but this person wanted the post.

Could I have written it? Probably, and perhaps I could have made the content interesting and relevant with my point of view. But it’s one of those things where I believe the post would have come out flat and not up to my personal standards of integrity and excellence.

Moreover, does this really contribute to the quality of the internet as a whole? Obviously the World Wide Web has panned out to be a gold mine for certain types of e-commerce (just ask those who benefited from Facebook’s IPO) but it also has its seedy dark corners and people who try to use it for destructive purposes. I’m not naive enough to believe all is sweetness and light in this realm or that every writer of any sort of quality is entitled to riches and fame, but I often wonder if writing just for the purpose of being on top of a search engine – whether the content is really relevant or not – is contributing to the quality of the discourse or the internet as a whole. Search engines also have a way of pulling the rug out from under those who simply exist to take advantage of their system.

So I suspect this gentleman and I will part ways. I offered him the opportunity to advertise on my site and he turned it down, which is his right. I’m certain he will find a writer who will do his bidding – after all, $150 for maybe a half-hour’s worth of work is a pretty good deal, and souls have likely been sold for far less. But I like to sleep soundly at night and the quality of this website is under my control, so if I can’t do something to a satisfaction standard I can live with it’s just not worth doing for any price.

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