All I Want for Christmas

I started writing a post that was an essentially an anti-post to my last post; a must have list to my previous must not list, but that’s not the post I’m going to write.

Because somewhere in the bottom third of the first paragraph that I was writing, I realized that nobody was going to figure out that I was writing a post about things you should spend your money on. I realized that I give my posts clever little titles that I like, and keep myself on the bottom ranks of search engines thanks to my propensity for clever.

And then I realized how fucking shallow and contrived and not the heart of the matter that SEO practices are for a personal blog. And how fucking shallow and contrived the holidays are. And I devised this clever little comparison about how shallow the holidays are, and how shallow blogging can be:

Presents are to the holidays what SEO is to blogging.

And what I mean by that, in this context, is, go ahead. Put all of your effort and time and energy into shopping for presents or devising ways for search engines to find you.

Then you need to back that shit up.

You need to put some effort into something other than a pretty package, a ribbon, the wrapping. What do I get when I tear the paper off? Do I get something thoughtful? Do I get something meaningful? Am I glad I travelled here? You sure wrapped that present up all pretty; you sure tried to impress me with your fancy ribbons and your keywords.

What else you got?

I’m glad you lined up at 4am in the cold and the dark and went to the effort of sleeping in Walmart so that you could buy a whole ton of shit. I’m glad there will be a ton of presents under a fake tree on December 25.

But once all the presents are opened, I hope there are smiles, and love and lots of good food and traditions and singing and drinking and visits with people you love. I hope there are, and I hope that after you’re finished telling me about all the great loot you got, you’ll tell me about those things.

And I hope that after you come up with a totally contrived headline with the best searchable terms for our demographic according to google, or figuring out what long-tail search terms are or peppering your posts with optimized content, I hope, that you can at least write.

Because I could care less what your stats are. I could care less about what my stats are. If you have been in my reader for 6 years – yes, I’ve been doing this for that long – or if I’m reading you for the first time through a link on twitter, don’t just give me pretty wrapping. Don’t just load your post with words that will bring somebody to your place and then have nothing nourishing for them.

Don’t put a present under a tree for me unless you intend to share a cup of tea and a conversation and some time with me. And don’t spend more time on getting people to your post than you do on making it amazing once we’re there.

Good writing – it’s all I want for Christmas from the blogosphere.



  1. I don't even know what SEO is, but don't get me anything from walmart ok?

  2. well said. because in both situations, the point is to make/deepen a connection by delivering value and meaning. :)

  3. Loved this post! Seems like a lot of bloggers post too much. They're just trying to get as many followers as possible, so they throw out every idea that pops into their heads to see what sticks. For me it's not about quantity, it's about quality.

  4. Tim Riley, you are a man after my own heart.

  5. I just had to google SEO (blushing) of course it took me to some shitty blog (sarcastic smirk).

  6. Amen, on both levels.

    On the holidays level, after sobbing all the way home from the mall yesterday morning, I realized that I am donating to charity in everyone's name this year. The grown-ups, that is. Because the holidays shouldn't be about crying in a car when it isn't even DECEMBER yet, and Christmas is weeks away.

    On the blog post level, I am a fan of clever titles myself. They are pretty meaningless, but they make me smile. And that's more important than what Google thinks.

  7. Omg Karen, totally. Everyone knows SEO is so last year and the only thing that matters is expanding your social media network. So like my FB page for a chance to win that xmas shopping spree at Walmart, k?

  8. Once again, I adore you. It's so counter to the whole organic notion of a personal blog, and even if you are hoping your blog gets widely read, a personal blog still has to feel... personal.

  9. I'm not going to touch the analogy, because I'm afraid what I want to say will get lost if I do. So I'll just talk about SEO, and writing, and messages.

    The first rule of SEO is write good content. Anything that is done in terms of choosing the right title and peppering your post with keywords is just icing on the cake. Someone who is only worrying about keywords and not worrying about writing good content is not going to do well in the search engines.

    On my blog, some posts I write entirely for my readers. They are written from start to finish for the people who already know and love what I do. Some posts are written for me, because I just need to get the words out. When I am writing either of those types of posts, I don't worry about SEO at all. I just write.

    But other posts are written because I have an important message to share. One that I want to reach lots of people with. When I write those posts, I start by writing. I write the best damn content that I can. Then I think. What would people be searching for on Google if they were interested in what I am writing here? Which title will catch someone's eye when it gets shared on facebook or on twitter? What other words might people use to describe the topic I'm writing about and can I work them in somewhere?

    Is my writing great? Sometimes it might be. Other times it isn't. But even on the days when my writing isn't going to win me any awards, if my message is important, I want people to read it and I'll use SEO techniques to get more of them to read it.

    Eloquent writing comes naturally to some people. It doesn't come naturally to others. So for some it isn't as simple as saying forget the SEO and just write better. Not everyone can.

  10. Did you know Miley Cyrus Hates Breastfeeding? So does Justin Bieber. I'm just telling you that as a SEO-courter (It's okay -- I know you love me), so that you can write your quality writing and I can up your SEO.

  11. Thanks for this! I've actually been struggling with this for a while on my blog. I do want my blog to be popular and lots of people to look at it and hopefully find the info and resources useful, and so I do cram SEO-heavy words in the headline (like Annie, I ask myself how people will search for my article), but they are just boring. As a writer, I love clever headlines.

    This post kind of makes me feel more at easy to just go with what I want to use. Thanks! :)

    May your Google rank go up while advocating to forget about SEO :)

    Dagmar's momsense

  12. If a tree falls in a forest, and there's no one around to hear it... did it make a sound?

    The thing is, you can be the most brilliat writer in the world, with the most amazing, eloquent things to say, and messages to share. But...

    If no one can find you, if no one can HEAR YOU, you're not making a sound.

    In order for people to hear you, you have to be found, which means, perhaps unfortunately, you have to show up in the organic search results, which means you have to use the right key words, the right titles, the right content.

    But in order for people to keep coming back? You have to write well. I try for both. :)

  13. This is weird; I left an entire comment for Annie and now it's now here. Maybe it will come back. I was good, I argue with you for a little bit, then close with, now let's hug it out.

    Kelly - I don't think you have to pepper posts with SEO terms in order for people to get to your blog. I absolutely do not rely on google to get people to me, and I dare say I've enjoyed a modicum of the kind of success I'm looking for here.

    On the other hand, this blog is not a service provider. Clearly yours, and Annie's, and many others' are. So go for it. SEO it up. It's the nature of what you are doing here, and I have no issue with it whatsoever. But like you said, if there's no substance, who cares how high up your google page rank is? If nobody returns, nobody's going to hear you anyway.

    And, often, I can't help but feel like I've been helping up the click-count for somebody's ad revenue and gotten nothing in return.

  14. I don't think people necessarily find connections to other personal bloggers via a Google search so SEO feels less than useful to me. I know I don't search for "great blogs to read" on Google to find new voices. I find them via Twitter, reading their posts and seeing who they link to, who comments, that sort of thing. That can't be automated via great keywords.

    For a site like Annie's, SEO makes sense because people search for the issues she writes about.

    For a personal blog, there are too many other, more organic options to get my voice heard to rely on SEO and Google to get my URL out there. And most of those issues involve me needing to get off my butt and *talk* to people, via comments like this, or tweets to others or whatever. I struggle with this (but am working to improve), which is why my readership is low. Ultimately though, my site is for me first so I try not to make myself too crazy with numbers.

    I honestly think that if SEO and everything else had been such a huge deal back when blogs were exploding, I don't think there would have been nearly as many personal bloggers then - the barrier to entry would have felt too high. (But then again, if the first wave of bloggers could handle doing all the updating by hand or by now-antiquated methods of automation), I suppose they could have gotten the hang of SEO. The landscape just feels so much different now than when I started blogging back in 2000. Do it for the love of writing, not for pageviews.

    *goes back to the porch where I can yell at the kids to get off my lawn already.* :)


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