SEO - is this killing literary creativity?

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  1. Joe Badtoe profile image60
    Joe Badtoeposted 13 years ago

    I've tried reading up on the whole SEO optimisation thing but it's difficult to stay awake reading such tedium. I appreciate those out there who write purely to earn money and produce work to order but to me this just seems to be a flooded market with so many of the same kind of things. I mean writing and including specific words to make sure you get a connect so the article spreads? Doesn't this remove any original creativity?

    I've read so many 'how to' articles that are dull and uninspirng and so many 'topical' things that are just regurgitations of the days news.

    Bores me to the point of fossilisation.

    Wouldn't it be better just to write something unique and truly creative and generate an audience that isn't on a backlink forwardlink reciprocating link etc etc (of course I have no idea what I mean by that)etc etc just to get traffic.

    Are we all swimming in a sea of blandness?

  2. Misha profile image64
    Mishaposted 13 years ago

    Depends on how you do it smile

    1. Joe Badtoe profile image60
      Joe Badtoeposted 13 years agoin reply to this

      fair point Misha and I'm sure there is a level of ingenuity in getting the system to work for you (you as in general) but to me the idea of writing to order and ensuring certain keywords are included just doesn't appeal to me at all.

      This probably explains why a talented guy like you is wealthier than me!!

      1. Misha profile image64
        Mishaposted 13 years agoin reply to this

        Thanks Joe, but this really has nothing to do with talent and has something to do with professionalism vs hobby smile

        1. Pcunix profile image91
          Pcunixposted 13 years agoin reply to this


          You may want to spend your life gaming search engines, but that's a game that has no long term future. 

          Yeah, everybody looks up to you. For what? Because you fool Google? Because you buy content and then link to it from everywhere you can?

          Good for you.  That's not how I would ever want to earn a living.

      2. profile image0
        ryankettposted 13 years agoin reply to this

        You seem to have missed the fundamentals here and skipped to a small aspect of the foundations.

        Literature in all forms was the reserve of the print industry. First books, then newspapers and magazines. In fact first the papyrus.

        Ask yourself whether paper books, paper newspapers, or paper magazines require 'Search Engine Optimisation'.

        Now ask yourself whether books, newspapers, or magazines still exist. There is still a market for books. Magazines and newspapers are dying.

        The 'digital book' is the same, in essence, as a paper book. The pages do not get search engine indexed, at least unless you elect for them to.

        So there is your answer. The market for creative writing is precisely where it has always been, for centuries, in book writing. So no, SEO is not killing creative writing. SEO is killing newspapers and magazines.

        It is therefore killing journalists and columnists. Online articles are a direct replacement for magazine articles and newspaper articles. Perhaps short stories would be included in magazines, but certainly not novels.

        A novel is still read in much the same way. Never have you had to search engine optimise a novel, and neither do you still need to search engine optimise a novel.

        The 5th best selling book of all time was published in 2001, the 10th best selling book of all time was published in 2003, and then follows J K Rowling.

        Those that come on here bemoaning a lack of earnings from creative writing are in the wrong market place, and are deeply misguided if they believe that websites such as Hubpages have stolen their industry. I have one individual in particular in mind whilst writing this paragraph; I would suggest that creative writers who bemoan search engines and blame technology on their failures are blaming the wrong people and should be blaming themselves.

        I am sitting in a flat right now, besides a window. In this same flat 3 years ago a man, the previous occupier, released his second book in two years. He won a £20,000 literary prize for that book. The industry has not been killed, it certainly hasn't been anything other than slightly scratched or bruised.

        1. Joe Badtoe profile image60
          Joe Badtoeposted 13 years agoin reply to this

          Appreciate the detailed response but I'm still unconvinced that the whole SEO thing isn't harming the quality of literary work online.  Not sure if you think I'm one of the 'bemoaners' on here but I'm really not that interested in writing specifically to get traffic who then just get trafficthemselves and somebody somewhere makes a few dollars.

          Don't quite get your SEO v Novel analogy I think a Novel is an entirely different medium than articles looking for viewers. I think the SEO obsession will implode with overuse at some point. You clearly endorse the whole SEO thing and that's a fair point and if you're making a living from it good luck to you. I just think original work and different styles of writing are being sanitised by the desire of traffic builders who are simply playing a numbers game whilst collecting lots of failry dull information.

          I didn't join Hub Pages to chase money I just wanted to test the waters with a few pieces of work. I enjoy the forums and I've met some great people on here who I will think of when I depart HP for something more suitable.


          1. profile image0
            ryankettposted 13 years agoin reply to this

            No I wasn't aiming anything at you, rather a former member of the site.

            Anyway, look.... being original is often precisely what is needed to make money and can at times limit the need for unorganic SEO.

            Give the market what it needs and it will share itself. I was the very first hubber on this site to produce an article on a particular topic, dozens soon followed suit. I got in their quick, not just internally but also externally. I now have top spot on Google, dozens of organic backlinks, and a stupidly high amount of traffic.

            I only analyse keywords for my title selection and subtitles. The body of the articles are never compromised to incorporate keywords. Doing that suits me just fine, and I get well over 20000 page views per day on this site.

            I spent 5 minutes finding a title and a couple of subtitles, an hour or half hour writing a load of stuff, 5 minutes creating a couple of backlinks, 2 minutes tagging, and that is really it. It should have no effect on your creativity whatsoever, the title is the only place where you may be limited. Even then you can suprise yourself.

            If the quality of your articles suffer because of SEO, then it is likely to be because you are attempting to keyword stuff. The vast majority of hubbers that I know do not attempt to keyword stuff. Normally your natural product is entirely sufficient as long as it relates in some way to the title.

            I confused 'literary creativity' with 'creative literature' when responding to you. Creative writing is of course a completely different market, and I stick by what I said... creative writing still exists primarily as an offline industry.

            The problem with standards online has more to do with zero barriers to entry, rather than SEO as a principle, in my humble opinion.

  3. paradigmsearch profile image59
    paradigmsearchposted 13 years ago

    "SEO - is this killing literary creativity?"

    It is certainly mangling it at least. smile

  4. Mighty Mom profile image78
    Mighty Momposted 13 years ago

    Hi Joe,
    I sooooo hear your writer's pain. I think it's an evolutionary process. But, like learning to write an article vs. a bunch of thoughts loosely connected, it takes practice.
    Content is still king -- at least that's what I read.
    If you know what you want to write about and do a keyword search before you write it you can easily incorporate the "hot" words into your hub. I have found the results of keyword searches enlightening and in many cases surprising.

    The other SEO tools like backlinking, etc. Maybe we could get our resident experts here to give just one EASY tip. What's the one, dummy=proof thing to remember to do so your hubs attract visitors?
    Anyone up for answering?

    1. Pcunix profile image91
      Pcunixposted 13 years agoin reply to this

      Write link worthy material.

      Write something I want my sister to know about. Write something people will want to tweet or put on facebook or link to from a post they are writing.

      That's the "secret".  Everything else is nonsense.

      1. Joe Badtoe profile image60
        Joe Badtoeposted 13 years agoin reply to this

        I guess it's defining what exactly is link worthy material PC!!

        I know what you're saying and you're right but I just have this feeling that I'd fall into a trap of writing to order and not for expression.

        1. Pcunix profile image91
          Pcunixposted 13 years agoin reply to this

          Every dog has its flea.

    2. Joe Badtoe profile image60
      Joe Badtoeposted 13 years agoin reply to this

      Hi MM

      Thanks for advice and I agree with you that there maybe has to be a change of mindset in order to write stuff that gets picked up by searches. I guess I just don't find that kind of thing inspiring.

      I have no idea if my hubs are 'useful' ,actually I'd be amazed if my hubs were considered useful because I think they should be read under supervision!

      keep smiling

  5. John Holden profile image61
    John Holdenposted 13 years ago

    "Are we all swimming in a sea of blandness?"

    Ah yes, mediocrity rules. Quantity over quality.
    Though I've no intention of leaving HB, after a few weeks I don't think HP would be my first port of call for either information or entertainment, so many hubs miss both.

    Ah well, must write some more hubs!

  6. sunforged profile image72
    sunforgedposted 13 years ago

    Content is King but if you place your literary masterpiece on parrots into the auto mechanics manual section of the bookstore and wait for it to get attention and acclaim, then you will be in a kingdom of one.

    The important aspect of SEO that is relevant to any internet writer regards how your work is organized (on page optimization). I dont see this as being much different as following offline MLA  APA, journalism etc. standards of writing.

    You probably see the most info on backlinking and keyword selection, rightfully so as these are still the most important aspects of being found by those who search for you and appearing in the front of the shop.

    Offline, a writer would be supported by a publisher, the publisher would be responsible for PR (backlinks in related articles and sources) and editors would be responsible for changing your titles and approach to meet the demands of their market.

    Seo doesnt kill literary creativity, the pursuit of money in exchange for creative output is rarely without checks to your vision. So if anything, money kills creativity.

    On the flipside, I think a creative person can find a way to both create and be found within any system at whatever the current climate is and on whatever platform.

  7. lakeerieartists profile image63
    lakeerieartistsposted 13 years ago

    Writers have never written solely for themselves unless they were independently wealthy.  They have written for publisher's guidelines, newspaper's guidelines, etc.

    SEO is just the way of writing within guidelines to achieve the audience necessary to sell your work.  If you do not want to sell your work, then you can write whatever you want for yourself, and publish it however you want with your own money.

  8. SiddSingh profile image61
    SiddSinghposted 13 years ago

    Normally, whenever I feel like reading a creative piece - say a poetry, or a story - I have a lot of choices. I may pick up a say, O'Henry, or a Neruda, sometimes a Tom Clancy, even. I NEVER come to Hubpages, or sit at my computer for "enjoying" written word - simply because there is little available here. I didn't find these writers due to SEO - I just knew they were great - or someone told me so.

    On the other hand, whenever I feel like reading a review before I buy a, say, Camera, where do I turn to? Obviously, the Internet!

    My point - if you are writing "creative", why worry about SEO at all? If you trust your work, maybe people will find it all by themselves, and share it with all their friends.

    Trouble is - VERY few people who are looking for READING creative writing turn to internet - they trust O Henry, Neruda, Shakespeare.

    A LOT of people who are looking for buying things, or to learn a quick fact about something, on the other hand, turn to internet.

    1. profile image0
      ryankettposted 13 years agoin reply to this

      I'm not sure that he really meant 'creative writing' in that respect, but I agree 100% with your point.

      I love the fact that we have a few creative writers on this site, but the market for creative writing exists online.

      The pinnacle of creative writing is having a book published, in both paper and digital formats. Like you said, people dont come to hubpages to read novels.

      People do read poetry online, but it is difficult to find poetry online unless it is hosted on a dedicated poetry site. And thats just the way it is.

      Reading novels and short stories is generally a form of relaxation anyway, using a laptop is a form of stimulation. One helps you sleep, the other hinders your sleep. And that is why books will never truly die, I dont think anyway.

      1. SiddSingh profile image61
        SiddSinghposted 13 years agoin reply to this

        That's exactly what I meant to say - whenever I want to read a good story, or a poetry - I turn off my computer, lie on an easy chair, and read a book. I rarely go online. I reckon that is what most of the people do.

        1. lakeerieartists profile image63
          lakeerieartistsposted 13 years agoin reply to this

          One of the things that you are discounting in this argument is that you are using yourself as an example of what people do.  The thing is though, that your behavior while being the norm for you, is not necessarily the norm for others.

          While I agree that when I want to read creative writing or fiction I will sit down with a book, the truth is that my children, both teenagers, sit down with their laptops and read fiction online almost exclusively.  This is the upcoming generation, who is finding popular fiction (at least for teens) online.  So behavior is changing as they grow up, and I think we will see more and more virtual books, and less and less traditional ones.  smile

          1. Pcunix profile image91
            Pcunixposted 13 years agoin reply to this

            Even I, a 62 year old geezer, now prefer to read a book on my iPad than in paper form.

            It's not just kids.

          2. SiddSingh profile image61
            SiddSinghposted 13 years agoin reply to this

            Fair enough - I get your point.

            But I am curious - do they use Google to find what they like to read?

            And I agree with your point about more popularity for books in virtual form and not in paper form.

      2. Joe Badtoe profile image60
        Joe Badtoeposted 13 years agoin reply to this

        Fair points Ryan

        Can't really argue against those.

        Guess I'm not cut out for the cut throat business!!!   

        Unless maybe I write an article explaining how not to cut your throat!

        Keep Smiling

  9. Fiction Teller profile image60
    Fiction Tellerposted 13 years ago

    Not sure that creating to order limits creativity.  Professional writers and artists always have had to work within constraints - limits set by their patrons, their readers, etc. 

    The idea that art should be 100% the product of a personal expression and otherwise it is selling out is weird to me.  The whole POINT of writing is the readers, right?  If they want to read advertising copy, then write that and have fun.  If they want to read poetry, then write that and have fun.

    Now, if you're just talking about the feeling of discomfort any creator gets when somebody says "Create this!" and it's not what you're in the mood to create...well, that's just part of being a professional anything.  As long as we want somebody to pay us for what we produce, we have to either stretch beyond our comfort zone, or hope our comfort zone is exactly in line with what people want.

    1. Joe Badtoe profile image60
      Joe Badtoeposted 13 years agoin reply to this

      Well I sort of disagree but I understand your commercial argument.  I'm not sure where you got the implication from my criticism of SEO techniques and the link to a formalised writing style that I was saying I write exclusively for expression.

      That wasn't my point. I just think the obsession with SEO, Affiliarte Marketing etc will at some point (sooner than later) dumb down literary efforts if only through sheer numbers of articles being published online.

  10. Barbara Kay profile image74
    Barbara Kayposted 13 years ago

    I hope I don't read any books that are SE optimized. Some of our future writers might learn to write on the internet.

  11. Fiction Teller profile image60
    Fiction Tellerposted 13 years ago


    Ah, but it's not "dumbing it down" - it's getting people who were never writers to write.  Takes a while before they get the hang of it.  It looks "dumbed down" because so far career writers are still looking wistfully to print, thinking it's the most legitimate publishing medium, so most of the writing on the web isn't by people who were trained to write.  Yet.  After it gets some credibility, you'll be astonished at what you can find online, even stuff that's search engine optimized. SEO is really just a new form of language - writers have been dealing with changes in language since language began.

    I look at it as new opportunity.  Remember the pulp era of fiction?  New medium - cheap paper - lots and lots of awful stuff written and published by very young or untrained writers. There was a burst of print how-to writing on every subject imaginable, too.   But the glut of new writers meant some wonderful stuff published, as well, enough to create the well-loved genres of mystery, science fiction, romance, westerns, plus an explosion of scientific and philosophical ideas.

    We're at the beginnings of exciting times, and SEO is just one step toward getting us all connected.

    1. gracenotes profile image87
      gracenotesposted 13 years agoin reply to this

      This is a pretty good point you've made.

      There were some fairly up-and-coming genres in the 1970's and I latched on to them as a young person.

      When I look back at these novels that I enjoyed decades ago, I am appalled at just how poorly written they were.  I didn't know any better, because I did not have any training in writing myself.

      Not that I want to read excessively from any genre at this point.  I don't. I feel it's too limiting.  But when I do pick up a novel that fits a particular category, I can appreciate that the writer and editor have made a good effort.  Even if the novelist doesn't know the first thing about how to wrap up the story.  smile  (Sorry, one of my current pet peeves)

  12. prettydarkhorse profile image56
    prettydarkhorseposted 13 years ago

    I think that it will only affect the "language" of writing __ SEO friendly language, but not the literary creativity.
    The words or string of words that are saleable for SEO purposes will be the main words to be used. I think this is how language evolved because of cultural transformation through technology - Internet.
    And one thing more SEO cater to the languages used by common people so we will understand poetry more.

  13. psycheskinner profile image82
    psycheskinnerposted 13 years ago

    If you are writing for literary reason, SEO doesn't matter.  If you are writing for commerical reasons, literary style doesn't matter.  If you are trying to do both simultaneously, well, that would be a trick.

  14. Uninvited Writer profile image81
    Uninvited Writerposted 13 years ago

    It is possible to write for people and write good SEO...

  15. psycheskinner profile image82
    psycheskinnerposted 13 years ago

    Of course, but is it possible to write good literary fiction and good SEO?  It would, at the very least, be difficult.

    I would sugges not even thinking SEO with poetry, but perhpas for the introductory text.

  16. Joe Badtoe profile image60
    Joe Badtoeposted 13 years ago

    I'm not sure good writers can be trained particularly to write novels. Not all good artists were conventionally schooled. If every musician was trained we'd have an excrutiatingly boring choice in music.

    The thought of someone writing a novel and deliberately including SEO techniques is anathema to me.

    Without meaning to be melodramatic the death of the classic book might be imminent.

    There is a huge difference in my view of being creative with a free will to write fiction and writing instructionasl type essays in order to attract traffic. To me they are two seperate entities.

    Besides I'm giving you all two more weeks and I'm switching the internet off because you've all been very naughty.

    1. TNB profile image60
      TNBposted 13 years agoin reply to this

      Are you referring to psychedelic drugs?

      1. Joe Badtoe profile image60
        Joe Badtoeposted 13 years agoin reply to this

        Are you seeking help to find your sense of humour?

    2. profile image0
      ryankettposted 13 years agoin reply to this

      As I said above, the book industry is thriving. You seem to be working on pure speculation. You only have to find market data to establish this. For example...

      2008 - publishers net revenues up 1% to $40.32bn (3.1bn unit sales). There was actually a 1.5% fall in units sold, as to be expected during a global recession.

      2009 - US book sales of $23.9bn down from $24.3bn in 2008. That doesn't even include digital formats, which actually more than plugged the short fall. In other words, publishers and authors benefitted from the emerging digital market - and did not suffer.

      Hardly a dead industry, if anything it is holding up better than almost any other industry during this troubled economic period.

      Why don't I take this further? In 2009 the total gross spend on Adwords, globally, was $23bn. Google announced that 68% of this is passed on to publishers. This makes AdSense a $15.64bn industry GLOBALLY.

      There is more money to fight over in the US book market alone than there is to fight over in AdSense revenues globally.

      Now, if you were to calculate the estimate number of single worlds fighting over a share of that AdSense and compare it with the number of single words formally published, you will find a much bigger share to fight for in the publishing industry.

      So I have decided not to hear another bad word said about sales copy, affiliate marketers, or search engine optimisation. Creative writers are fantastic in my opinion, I love having them around, but they do have a huge market all for themselves. People like 'PG' would slate Hubpages and its earnings potential, whilst deep down she was fully aware that she had failed to penetrate her own chosen market.

      The book is not dead, and if it is to be replaced by anything it will be digital books. Exactly the same principle - you find yourself a publisher, they do 90% of the promotion, just like offline books.

      1. SiddSingh profile image61
        SiddSinghposted 13 years agoin reply to this

        Why should sales copy be excluded from the purview of creative writing? One could find sales copies that are no less than fine works of art - think David Ogilvy, Joseph Sugarman et al.

        Writing good sales copy - mind you, I am not saying SEO optimized web copy - is just as challenging as writing an appealing poem, or a fast paced work of fiction. Both address human emotions at some level or the other.

        1. Joe Badtoe profile image60
          Joe Badtoeposted 13 years agoin reply to this

          Sales copy is not a book though is it? It's far easier to write a handful of sexy words to sell a product and if you're good at it it doesn't take much time either.

          Ad copy really isn't that challenging Sidd. I did that stuff for years for clients. I'm not for one minute suggesting that I was the best at it but judging by the repeat business I got I did ok.

          1. SiddSingh profile image61
            SiddSinghposted 13 years agoin reply to this


            No, writing sales copy is not like book writing. But I think it is like comparing oranges to apples - they are different ball games.

            There are good writers, and there are exceptional writers. Likewise, there are good copywriters, and there are exceptional copywriters. I think that an exceptional copywriter is just as dedicated to his/her craft as an exceptional creative writer.

            Yes, writing sales copy is not tough - why, even I am able to sell stuff from hubs (plus I do write occasional sales letters), and I have no pretenses of being a good copy writer!

            But writing some really GREAT ad stuff is still a creative work.

            1. Joe Badtoe profile image60
              Joe Badtoeposted 13 years agoin reply to this

              Again, I disagree but not to the point of being stubborn. I think we'll just have to agree to disagree on this.

              You make some valid points and I do nderstand what you mean. I guess I'm just not convinced that SEO articles in the main are good examples of creative writing.

              Thanks for debating though.

      2. Joe Badtoe profile image60
        Joe Badtoeposted 13 years agoin reply to this

        Your fond of your long answers Ryan!!

        Digital books need to rely on technology as do millions of onlne writers. What happens if the web falls over?

        I know that's beside the point but we'll agree to disagree but I really don't see writing SEO articles as being particularly creative.

        Oh and my life isn't about money!

        Thanks for your intelligent input I've enjoyed the debate.


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