I’m the type of person who listens to pop music while on my way to see avant-garde jazz. Despite desperately wanting to be a music snob, I've actually become more openminded about pop music and its place in our culture as I grow older.
In fact, the other day Cotton Eye Joe was blaring from my car when I arrived at my husband’s work for a jazz concert (he’s a sound tech).
Please hear me out. I have an excuse for this untimely display. I was listening to a podcast.
I was learning how the popular version of Cotton Eye Joe from 1994 (not the original folk song which predates the American Civil War) was an embarrassing assemblage of a Sweedish take on red neck facets of America.
Those Eurodance Swedes did well at selling a historically inaccurate version of us back to ourselves. (Dreadlocks are not from the south.)
Inaccuracies aside, you can now buy the Rednex brand for $2 million. Point for the Swedes.
Exposure To Mainstream Ideas
Learning about the history of the above song made me wonder:
- Even with all of my musical explorations, would I have ever learned about the original Cotton Eye Joe (rumored to have started on a plantation in Texas) if it hadn’t become a pop-dance phenomenon of bizarreness around the world? (Probably not.)
- Moreover, are there times when I should be thankful a “mainstream infusion of interest” watered-down something of depth (because then at least I could find it and be exposed to it)?
- If the “pop music formula” described in Part 2 didn’t exist, what would music be like today? Would it still be a unifying force?
- Likewise, if the economics involved in music streaming have an obvious impact on the structure of music, what is SEO’s impact on writing?
- What about the process of writing itself?
- And the depth of writers who rise to the top?
Economics Are Changing Writing
Today, I’ll be exploring the history of SEO along with terminology that is important to understand while writing for websites and blogs.
Learning how to work with a system instead of against it can make projects easier (and potentially make your results useful to others while helping you gain exposure).
That being said, sometimes it makes sense to break the rules, deviate from the norm, and do something creative for yourself.
At other times, rule-breaking is conducted for economic benefit. (Like Loretta Lynn said, you better be the first, the best, or different. I find different to be the most achievable.)
I like my writing to feel genuine. In order to maintain this, should I work with SEO in mind or ignore it? That's the main question here.
Also, where did SEO come from anyway?
History of SEO
As websites started crowding the internet in the early 1990’s, search engines were created to sort out the ensuing chaos.
Therefore, SEO has its baby roots in 1991.
But SEO really burst onto the digital-savvy scene in 1996 when Larry Page and Sergey Brin started designing Google.
(Did you know it was first called BackRub?)
"Why does your baby sleep through the night?”
"I spent time BackRubbing it and found out about the powers of blue light!”
What an alternate universe that would have been.
Known as Google when the domain was registered in 1997, the search engine used SEO willy-nilly until it was revealed spam could game the system and rise to the top.
Since it's annoying to have your questions answered with spam, Google decided to do us all a favor, update the algorithm consistently, feature quality content, and try to read our minds (and bad spelling) to help us find what we are actually looking for.
SEO tweaking hasn’t stopped since.
The history of SEO shows us that it’s a system with good intentions. It’s out to make the world more efficient. It has nothing against you as a writer. It’s not trying to make you boring or bury your message. It's just trying to help people find things.
It may sound obvious, but I didn’t start writing with SEO terminology in mind. I started writing with a journal while sitting on a hay bale. The last I checked, a “slug” was something outside in the woods and a “tag” was something itchy I cut off my pants.
The world seems to have evolved without me though, so here’s to Savvy History’s goal of getting with it.
- Keywords - The words and phrases a searcher enters into a search engine (such as Google). Keywords can also be known as "search queries.” If you’re going to write about a topic anyway, it may benefit you to know how it is popularly termed.
- Slug - Part of the URL unique to each individual page of a website. When you create a new post or page, it's wise to spend time to optimize the slug by including keywords you’d like to rank for. This won’t impact your title if you still want your title to sound creative.
- Stop Words - Common words that search engines skip over. They ignore them in order to save space in databases. It also speeds up the process of indexing data. You don’t need to include stop words in a slug.
- Title - Titles are meant for people already on your site (so they know what your post or your page is about). SEO titles, however, are meant for people NOT on your website (yet). Title tags are an HTML component indicating the title of a web page.
- SERPs - Search engine result pages. This is where a title tag shows up as a headline to click on.
- Meta description - A 160-character description that summarizes the content of a page. A search engine will show the meta description in the search results, especially when the phrase that was searched for is present in the description.
- Css - Cascading Style Sheets are responsible for the visual appeal of a website. CSS provides control over the fonts, style, layout, etc. of a website.
A Fine Mix: Balancing Knowledge of Pop and SEO
While consciously trying to write pop-style songs for the first time ever (after writing five folk albums), I don’t feel like I’ve lost myself or my mission.
While writing articles and becoming curious about SEO, I don’t think I’ve lost my voice either.
As you can see, there are several weird twists and turns on my mission to write history-tinged songs that are impactful and stick.
For one, I’m currently finding a way to appreciate pop music I couldn’t stand before. I’m using “the absurd” to find meaning on a deeper level, to find commonalities, and to open my mind.
A good song is a good song. I don’t care if a boy band danced it while an obscure songwriter wrote it.
However, I do draw the line at cultural misappropriation. Please, if you have an extra $2 million, buy the brand that spawned Cotton Eye Joe and put it out of its misery (especially before it spreads to another generation of kids trying to learn about the 90s).
SEO Conclusion: No One Wants My Jingles
When I google the best vacation spots in Iowa, I’m glad the magic of SEO helps me out behind the scenes so I can actually find some. (They’re awesome and they’re out there!)
In the future, when people google history songs, creative business story, or crazy frugal vintage people, I secretly hope they can find Savvy History.
Still, all of this reflection has left me wondering; when is expression done for the sake of expression and when is it done to meet the needs of the masses?
If we go too far with the act of trying to appeal to others (or an algorithm), our message may morph from an artistic work into something more like a commercial. And jingles are a different beast altogether.
I don’t mind a world full of pop songs. But a world full of Oscar Meyer Wieners? That would be embarrassing.