Search engine optimization (SEO) is kind of like going out on a date with an algorithm. It’s a very one-sided relationship. It may work out in the long run. It may not.
To gear myself up for learning about the mysteries of SEO, I’m comparing it to what I know about using formulas to write songs.
Music Theory + History = My Kind Of Pop Song
If only blogging were that easy.
Too Creative For SEO?
Reasoning styles were explored to see if working with limits (such as keywords) can assist the process of creativity when an overwhelming number of options exist.
"Is there such a thing as being too creative? If by that one means too divergent in thinking, the answer is "yes” because some ability to place the divergent production within a context of other work is necessary. Without awareness of structure or the relationship to other parts of a larger domain, divergent thinkers only produce interesting images.” -Different Minds by Deirdre V. Lovecky
I’ve wandered down the divergent path many times. It’s my brain’s default mode.
As a consequence, I’ve often come back with interesting things, but not always useful things.
It takes effort to see where your creative needs overlap with the outer world’s wants. Therefore, studying popular music and its intersection with technology can be very insightful.
Parts of a Pop Song
Depending on your knack for pattern recognition, you’ve probably noticed that most pop songs follow a similar format. From I Will Always Love You by Dolly Parton to Leave Me Alone by Michael Jackson, most pop songs operate with a similar internal logic.
Regardless of differences in tone, message, tempo, or recording quality, it’s interesting to look for commonalities between different hit songs.
In fact, Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo is known for trying to balance a certain amount of change with a certain amount of variables in order to achieve perfect auditory stimulation and the ultimate brain massage.
Rivers doesn’t hide his data-driven approach to music. He’s proud of it.
Buddy Holly aside, contemporary songs have been evolving for over fifty years. Surprisingly, parts of these songs haven’t changed much. Whether you listen to music or write it, analyzation of the mechanics behind a song can increase your appreciation.
Top 40 songs from the past 50 years usually have:
- An intro
- A verse
- A chorus
- A bridge or middle eight
- An ending
Of course, some parts of “the pop song system” are non-negotiable (verses) and some of them are optional (a middle eight). That being said, more and more songs don’t follow this format. Why?
Economics Are Changing Pop Songs
Streaming services benefit monetarily when a listener sticks with a song for over 30 seconds. As a result, pop songs are getting shorter. (Some may say they are getting shorter again. The average song in the 1940s was 2 minutes 41 seconds).
Many modern artists (and 40% of current chart-topping songs) blast straight into the hook. No build-up. No tease. No big emotional release mid-way through.
Other artists are leaving out an intro, leaving out an outro, ending with the bridge, etc. - all in an attempt to make someone listen to the song twice (or at least listen to a song all the way through).
At the same time, the music industry is about to see the physical sale of vinyl albums surpass CDS for the first time since 1986.
Depending on your audience, going forward in the 2020s you may benefit from manufacturing more vinyl albums than CDs. Also, you may benefit from 1,000 fans paying you a dollar a year on Patreon versus spreading yourself around on streaming services for $0.01682 per play. (That’s Pandora’s current rate - and it’s the HIGHEST of any streaming service).
Being the old-timer I am, I’m into long albums. But why? Is it just... a listening habit?
Why did albums from the 1950s to 2000s become around 40 minutes long? Could it be because each side of an early LP had a capacity of around 21 minutes?
Who's Shaping Who?
Writers on the internet are the same; constantly being shaped by the algorithms they are trying to date.
I’m personally trying to impress the algorithm from my couch as I do research with a bag of popcorn and my husband watches Bob Ross in the background. (I’m in my Sunday best though in case I need a vintage-style selfie here and there.)
Next week I’ll discuss SEO terminology and how economic realities are impacting writing.