SEO 2.0 is Like Poetry


When I was young and idealistic, that is when I didn’t have to spend most of my time earning money to pay the bills, I used to write poetry.

It wasn’t bad poetry at all, at least after a few years as with poetry it’s not only about inspiration but also about techniques. The problem with poetry nowadays is: Nobody reads it.

In the wild years around 1969 Lawrence Ferlinghetti sold millions of his books. Nowadays he’s almost forgotten.

The Beat Generation he was one of the most prominent members of is mostly represented historically by Allen Ginsberg (“Howl”) when it comes to poetry.


Why writing poetry is frustrating

It seems my poetry was not bad at all. I even had a publisher who wanted to print my first book. He contacted me.

The idea of printing a book which will be bought or read by some 200 elitist book worms sounded far to bleak to me.

Poetry made me go online in 1997 as I imagined to be able to address the whole world here imagining millions of potential readers eagerly awaiting my poems.

Well, it didn’t happen. Remember that I wrote in German and nobody really reads poetry in Germany.

The least popular seems to be modern poetry written by young authors only a few years ago. Just visit any bookshop in Germany. It’s frustrating.


Reaching larger audiences by being descriptive

The story does not end here but I don’t want you tell the story of my life. Just this: One of the reasons I got into SEO was to find out how to reach larger audiences.

I do not want to write for a small elitist circle, be it in poetry or SEO. I want to reach thousands, tens of thousands, maybe more one day ;-)

You probably know the “code is poetry” slogan by WordPress. Well, back then, before this one was coined I used to take it literally: I wrote JavaScript poems.

They were poems which would function as a poetic script and be a poem in the source also. This way they would work on many levels.

In fact my nick name I use online – onReact – stems from my JavaScript poetry days. The poems would react to user interaction.

Now even though I write for searchers I still know most of the techniques used in poetry. Most would-be and even many published poets already fail at the title.

In SEO copywriting the same problem arises. Most people can’t write a proper title that will convert visitors to readers.

In fact, in SEO copywriting is the same applies but upside down. For instance most people who think they write a poem write a description instead.

They will start a poem with a title like “Autumn” or “Sadness” or “Rome”. I never read such “poems”.

When you start a poem with a noun as the title you will in most cases describe the noun. I don’t want to read another poem about autumn and how sad it makes you.

I don’t want to read another poem about your “sadness” or another description of Rome. A real poem evokes emotions. It does not describe them.

In SEO copywriting on the other hand Google forces you to use the most boring title. Google can’t understand metaphors. A rose is rose is a rose.

When you want your post about Autumn Sadness to be read you need to make the page title and h1 heading “Autumn Sadness”.

Now these Google requirements result in the poorest possible language used. In poetry you shouldn’t describe what you see or feel.


Are you repeating the same words over and over?

Words which do not mean anything anymore only reproduce cliches. You have to evoke the emotions of the reader by any means possible.

Now SEO 2.0 comes in. In SEO 2.0 you can reconcile SEO and poetry, you in fact can write SEO poetry.

Let me explain how with an example. One of my favorite poets in American literature at college was the post modernist John Ashbery.

John Ashbery is renown for his highly structured and artificial poetry forms. What is less known is that he wrote a book of poems that were truly visionary.

These poems were so much ahead of the time that the book failed completely both with the professional audiences and the book buyers alike. Why?

Ashbery removed all descriptions from it. They were using language solely to evoke emotions.

Unlike the dada poets it wasn’t for it’s own sake though. It was not meant to be fun. He wanted to evoke the same feelings he felt at a certain time in a certain place in the reader.


John Ashbery and the bees

My favorite poem by Ashbery thus is “Leaving the Atocha Station“. Atocha is a city in Spain. The title, while the only descriptive part of the poem uses the “keyword” Atocha Station.

The poem itself is a wild array of confusing fragments. It’s so confusing that nobody “understood” it. The failure was not on the part of the poet though.

The poem, like most great poems btw., is not to be understood with your head but to be felt with your heart.

The fragments were only made to evoke certain emotions. Sadly I can’t find the poem neither online nor in my Norton Anthology of American Literature.

Here it is: Leaving the Atocha Station.

Nonetheless I remember just one thing about the poem, there were bees was honey in it. Of course there weren’t bees wasn’t honey on Atocha Station itself though.

The bees were honey was used just to evoke a certain emotion. You could imagine the sweetness and may be even afraid that some bees would show up to protect the honey.


Headlines using metaphors

Now again how does this make you a better SEO 2.0? In SEO 2.0 you do not write headlines or titles for Google. You want to evoke certain emotions in your visitors.

You want to make them want to read your post or article or at least to click the link. It’s not solely the head that decides which link to click, which post to read. It’s the heart.

The heart wants to feel the need of reading a particular post. Thus you must evoke a certain emotion in your visitor to make her or him a reader.

Now poetry does not want to sell you anything besides itself. SEO works the other way around, it wants to convince you to visit, read and buy.

In SEO 2.0 that changed. SEO 2.0 is like poetry. It does not sell you anything directly but it does make you want to read more by the same author and to buy the whole book.

Do not sell in a blog post. Give away and evoke emotions but let the book sellers make the selling.

You can add a “buy book here” link but do not try to sell in the SEO poem itself. How do you evoke emotions with headlines?

Read my “Top 10 Killer Headline Formulas for Tremendous Online Success” post again. Most of them use poetic figures like metaphors or metonymies to evoke certain emotions.

Headlines do not kill, thus “killer headlines” is a poetic speech figure in itself. Yet it’s a bloodthirsty one that may evoke negative emotions.

Why not use a metaphor that has some inspiring connotations instead? What about enlightening headlines? Try to use language consciously.

Last updated: May 17th, 2018.