SEO or Good Writing – Do You Have to Choose?

My main project right now is trying to transition from my “9 to 5” job to becoming a freelance tutor. While the first and most important step is finding students, my second goal is to create an accompanying website that hopefully one day I can use as another source of income. To this end, I’ve been trying to immerse myself in the world of online marketing, reading blogs that purportedly teach you how to “make money online.” I’ve learned some helpful things and I’ve been getting a feel for how it all works. However, I read an article last night that really bugged me, and I feel compelled to complain about it.

It was an article explaining niche websites – what they are and how they work. What bothered me about it was that almost every single sentence contained the term “niche website(s),” and sometimes it even appeared twice in one sentence. Hardly any pronouns were used in its place. Now, I know that search engine optimization (SEO) is a very important part of generating traffic for your blog or website, and I knew in theory that people did things like this, but actually seeing it with my own eyes on an otherwise professional-looking blog was very off-putting. I feel like this kind of “writing” undermines the credibility and casts doubt on the motives of the author. You get the sense that the author wrote the article solely because he thought it would help his blog rank higher on Google, not because he has any real interest in the topic.

But perhaps more sobering is the thought that there are so many of these people out there, using the written word to make a buck and all the time disrespecting the very medium they use. They call themselves writers, but they pay no attention to whether their sentences are well constructed or whether their article flows as it should. They just slap together some third-grade level sentences, stick in as many of their chosen keyword as they can fit, and call it a piece of writing. It’s the blatant disregard for the beauty of good writing that really gets me.

I’m sitting here with my head in my hands, trying to think of a solution. But I can’t. These people will keep doing what they’re doing, and probably nothing I say would stop them. Maybe we can stop letting them refer to themselves as writers, so at least what they are doing can be more easily differentiated from actual writing. The only real solution I have right now is a promise to myself to never become a slave to the tricks of the trade. Sure, there’s nothing wrong with SEO when kept within the proper limits. Do your search engine optimization, but don’t let your writing suffer as a result. And if nothing else, show some respect for the written word and the English language. They deserve it.

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