My Creative Adventure in SEO
By Lauren Carey
Just before I finished my MA at Wilkes, I got a job at Solid Cactus as an SEO manager. My job actually lets me flex my creative muscles in ways I never thought possible. To me, this kind of work is just as exciting and validating as working on a great collection of poetry or a novel. If you like to write, you can have fun writing about virtually anything. And, luckily for me, I get to do a whole lot of writing each time I go to work.
My favorite part of the job has to be the blog posts. I manage about a dozen client blogs—and no two are the same. In the time I’ve been there, I’ve blogged for a wedding retailer, a gift shop, a candy store, a sex fetish shop, a seller of quality custom-made hair systems, and so many others. It’s always a challenge to come up with something interesting, relevant, and SEO-friendly.
SEO, for those who don’t know, is Search Engine Optimization. Basically, we make it so that your website looks good to search engines. (Granted, there’s so much more than that, but you get the idea.)
My supervisor, Alicia Magda, probably put it best: “SEO copy is both an art and a science. It’s the art of creating great copy, and the science of applying tried and true SEO techniques to that copy. Keywords should be worked into the copy naturally to grab the attention of search engine spiders, but innocuous enough to not detract from the reader experience.” So, essentially, if you write SEO copy you’re writing for both man and machine.
(When the robots finally take over the world, SEO copywriters are going to be the only ones that survive.)
This is perfect for me. My creative writing journey started sometime in elementary school when I learned about haikus. I spent all my free time creating little poetic nuggets that fit into that 5-7-5 structure. I tried my hand at limericks, sonnets, and other poetry forms. I love taking creative thoughts and sticking them into little boxes. And SEO is all about boxes.
Who Am I Today?
Writing blogs for different companies is a blast. Every day I get to slip into a different persona. If I’m writing for the candy store, then I have to pretend that I actually work at the candy store—I live and breathe candy. I’ve heard writers say that sometimes their characters speak to them and take on a mind of their own. In my SEO job, I get to become my characters.
Many of my characters talk about the things that they’re going to do with their children over the holidays, how they’re going to decorate their new kitchen, or embarrassing things that happened to them before they found the right wig adhesive.
The Game of Keywords
Alicia also noted: “Creativity is crucial in SEO. Search engine spiders are becoming more advanced by the day and can tell the difference between copy that’s written for real people, and copy that’s meant to spam search engines. Successful SEO copy should engage and inform readers, whether you’re writing about candy or welding supplies.” (Or fire resistant apparel. Or performance auto parts…)
SEO managers spend time using various keyword research tools to determine the keyword phrases that will work the best for a particular website. Once that’s done, we have to incorporate those keyword phrases into the SEO copy. That’s probably the most creatively challenging part of the whole job. (And I LOVE it.) Search engine spiders aren’t dumb. They can sense keyword stuffing from a mile away. But you have to stuff those keywords in there, anyway. It’s an intricate balancing act, and it really tests your writing chops.
For instance, if I had the keyword phrase “glass vases,” I’d have to use that several times throughout a page of SEO copy. But I’d have to do it in such a way that you won’t really notice. Nobody’s going to enjoy reading an article that says, “Our glass vases are so much better than our competitors’ glass vases. These glass vases are the ideal solution for your glass vases needs. When you want the best glass vases for your home, you know where to look. Glass vases are the best way to dress up your home.” Ugh… Humans hate that, and search engine spiders hate that. They key is to work the keyword phrase into the copy in a sneaky and creative way. When I write SEO copy, I read over it afterwards. If I don’t notice the keyword phrase, then I’ve done my job.
My name isn’t attached to the pieces I write for my clients. But that’s fine. I’m not in this to get my name out there as a writer. I’m in this because I like to write. If a few people read my articles and blog posts and get something out of it, then that’s more than enough for me.
Lauren Carey served as the copy editor for Wilkes University’s undergraduate literary magazine, The Manuscript for four years. In her time in the Wilkes MA/MFA Creative Writing Program, she’s learned that creative writing comes in all shapes and sizes, and it’s okay to step out of the box. She will complete her MFA in creative writing in June 2011, and she currently teaches English composition at Luzerne County Community College. Lauren is an SEO Manager at Solid Cactus, a Web.com company, in Shavertown, PA.