Does SEO Create the Pop Songs of the Internet? (Part 1: Creative Psychology)

When it comes to SEO, I’ve been throwing words at a fan. My words scatter. They are lost to the search engine wind. I have no idea where they land after I publish them. 

To be honest, I don’t know if I want to give up the spectacular fun of throwing words at a fan.

That being said, I still want to learn more about SEO because this skill is important for freelance writing. 

Part 1: SEO and Creative Psychology

To sort through the role of SEO in my online presence, I’m bringing in a long-form analogy from my distant past - my simultaneous love and hate for pop songs.

As you’ll see, I’m in no way qualified to give advice on growing a website. But I like writing songs that can appeal to people other than me. Maybe I can take my knowledge of songwriting and apply it to writing "hit" articles?

We'll see.

Either way, creative psychology's connection to business is fascinating, so let’s dive in.

What is SEO?

A rough definition of SEO (search engine optimization) is behind the scenes work done to increase the visibility and organic reach of a website. 

  • Maximizing keywords in an article’s title
  • Increasing trustworthy inbound links
  • Expanding image searchability with effectively worded captions
  • Adding proper tags to an article

The above tasks are small examples of backend work that can help a website gain organic unpaid traffic.

For me, the online product I am promoting is music (which probably sounds like financial disaster to many of you). Logic says I should probably put some time into spreading myself around the internet to increase my product’s visibility.

As a busy parent geared toward creativity, I'm also trying to maximize my skills.

Is learning SEO the best use of my time?

More importantly...

Will SEO Zap My Creativity or Enhance It?

If increasing my online visibility means I don’t sound like myself, then where does that leave my writing voice? Most people follow musicians long-term for their personalities, their signature tones, and the unique “it-factor” only their original presence can bring to a project. 

Using SEO tactics in a traditional way immediately starts my writing process off in a different place. (This place probably doesn’t involve pure emotional expression.) In fact, it’s probably calculated, involves data, and could become… dare I say… a little contrived.

Considering this, I find myself asking… is a pop song contrived? It’s certainly a formula. Does anyone listen to their favorite pop song and think, “Well, what a boring pile of predictable patterns! What a formulaic bore of 12 notes!”

Probably not.

That’s why I think SEO could be made more tolerable for creative thinkers by blending it with reasoning styles and approaches known in creative psychology.

Let's start by defining some thinking patterns you use every day.

Inductive and Deductive Reasoning Defined

Inductive reasoning starts with something specific (like SEO data on what could be the most popular topic to write about) and then moves to a more generalized conclusion (or an actual finished piece of written work). 

Deductive reasoning, however, starts with something general (like a writing topic you are genuinely passionate about) and moves to something specific (such as choosing an actual niche based on SEO and sticking to it).

Deductive reasoning is top-down while inductive reasoning is bottom-up.

Inductive and deductive reasoning styles are great to be aware of as a writer (whether you use SEO or not). 

Now, let's consider a question:

  • Could operating with limits like those imposed by keywords (or the patterns imposed in a pop song) increase creativity in certain circumstances? 

Anyone who navigates a creative project by naturally zooming in and zooming out knows the answer is yes. The flexibility to work forwards and backward multiple times while working on a creative project is what makes truly great works possible.

Setting parameters and knowing when to deviate from them can have a similar positive impact on creative projects.

Convergent and Divergent Thinking Defined

Convergent thinking is systematic and represents thinking in a straight line towards the "best" solution. When you are asked to fill in a blank on a test (or reduce something to a simple and obvious answer), you are using convergent thinking.

Divergent thinking, on the other hand, is open-ended, web-like, and thrives on making flexible connections. Both thinking styles are needed while writing, but it’s great to know which one you prefer along with the strengths and limitations of each.

(If you’d like to learn more about convergent and divergent thinking, check out this video.)

Self-Imposed Rules: A Solution For Chaos?

Knowledge about inductive and deductive reasoning (along with convergent and divergent thinking) is one of the reasons I like to write concept albums.

(Here’s an example of a concept album I made about mental health.)

The act of narrowing in on a topic offers rules to work with while providing necessary guidelines for rapid-fire abstract connections. When I made the decision to write about inventors in history (the album I’m working on now), I set similar limits on my subject matter. And I loved the structure those limitations provided.

It may seem counter-intuitive, but sometimes, the more ideas you have at the beginning of a writing project, the more limits you need to set. If you are a massive brainstormer overwhelmed with options, parameters could help you find a place to start.

Concerning SEO, restraints could help you narrow in on something the “majority” of people may enjoy (or at least find useful).

This could be a win-win situation.

In Part 2, I’ll explore some terminology for a pop song, some terminology for SEO, and the history of pop songs in general. In Part 3, I'll explore the history of SEO. 

What do you think? Have you used SEO techniques as you write? Any advice for a newbie?

Do you thrive while narrowing down information using rules? Or do you thrive while generating ideas?


10 Replies to “Does SEO Create the Pop Songs of the Internet? (Part 1: Creative Psychology)”

  1. I love reading your stuff! You always have such an interesting way of looking at things! Creativity does thrive within rules but sometimes rules need to be broken in order to be creative. So maybe a little bit of both? Some SEO writing and some not?

    Lots to think about!

    1. Thanks for stopping by the blog! I’m glad you appreciate this analogy. I’m excited about the next two posts addressing the same topic (pop and SEO) but with a historical perspective.

      Like you, I think a mix of both approaches is the only way to go. If I wrote strictly for SEO, I would hate it. If I wrote with no other human ever coming across it, well… I have a lot of other creative things I could be doing:)

  2. Great post. I struggle with the same complaints regarding SEO. Stupid Yoast tells me to “put your keyword in the first paragraph”. Well, Mr. Yoast, I’m telling a story, in a (what I hope is) creative way. I’m setting the scene. So the keyword isn’t in the first paragraph. That would be boring and formulaic.

    Like a lot of pop music 🙂

    1. Thanks for stopping by the blog Dave! I like the picture you’ve painted here of you arguing with your Yoast plug-in.

      If we all listen to all of the suggestions we are given by algorithms, we’ll start to sound the same. That would be very boring. Often times, if you Google a random topic now, it’s amazing how the first ten posts that come up have similar wording. It’s people using SEO to their advantage, but it’s also not very exciting if you are looking for deeper meaning and originality.

      Glad you appreciated the analogy and thanks for the share on social:)

  3. I love the thought and research you put into this post. I struggled with this for a long time and came to an agreement with myself on blog authenticity. How I personally think about blog posts now is that I need to write “hooks” so that my blog is found by a larger audience. SEO and listicles are one strategy for that. Then once I get them on my site, I direct them to my about page or binge page where I do not link to any other hooks and instead link to all original content that is written without caring about SEO. That way I’m impacting the largest number of readers. Since most people don’t read blogs chronologically, this method works. Other bloggers don’t like this method typically but you can’t deny the scale and how it ultimately brings more people to the fire movement than a completely non SEO blog.

    1. Thank you for stopping by the blog Julie and offering your insights! I have always respected what you do and think of you as someone who balances both approaches very well while also being interesting and raking it in. I often forget that most people don’t read blogs chronologically. That being said, when I do three-part posts and series (like this one about SEO and pop songs), I’m really conscious about trying to make sure that each post can stand alone. Glad you enjoyed it!

      Given this insight about the way you hook readers from afar, I look forward to swinging over to your website to check out your about page and binge page with new eyes. Your approach is a new idea I’ve never heard of.

      (I have yet to check out Dave’s Turnip post floating around on social about the uninspired blogger who only talks in listicles – that’s hilarious). Glad you balance the listicles with more original content while using them to get people to your site.

  4. i just write the posts and if only 5 people read them that’s ok with me. when i write the finance stuff that is 70% for me to think through what i’m doing with our money.

    part of my little blog was to write a starter blog to just learn the process of writing regularly. with all that being said i don’t do any SEO stuff. if i really decided i wanted to make some money or sell a product online i would launch another one armed with the starter knowledge and SEO and keyword the hell out of that bland selling mess.

    i don’t mind that pop songs are a little formulaic, but don’t care for most of the modern ones like taylor swift and that stuff. even though i didn’t buy michael jackson or madonna records back in the day i can see the appeal. i can see a good reason for the blended approach you mention. i’m #1 in google search for #muffurito (that’s burrito fillings on top of an english muffin and i invented them), so i got that going for me.

    1. Glad you don’t mind a little pop here and there Freddy. Like you, I started the blog to learn the process of writing regularly. I used to write in a journal every day when I was younger. Then I gave it up for a while in order to make time for “being normal.” When I started writing again this past year, I really felt at home in myself. The blog has taught me that I am open to the idea of writing on the side instead of teaching guitar lessons for awhile. I have no intentions of turning it full-time, however, because I like the freedom of writing about what I want to write about when I want to write about it.

  5. What an exceptionally intriguing topic and look forward to Part 2. I agree that both SEO & intentionally crafted pop songs employ formulas to, as you say, narrow in on something the majority of people will like. In doing so, they are characterized by some level of artifice and pretense which, for me, casts a shadow on the creators integrity to some extent. As a writer with a blog, I use some basic “behind the scenes” SEO such as tags, excerpts, etc., but eschew those that impact my writing style or how I’d like to present my overall idea. This is certainly to the detriment of attracting more readers and promoting my blog, but I believe it preserves the honesty what I’m attempting to do. However, if I was using a site to promote my music, I would, and have done, absolutely do everything to optimize the amount eyes on it since in that sense it’s only a mechanism to promote my creative product. Just my thoughts.

    1. Thanks for the insights, Mr. Fate. I barely even use tags and excerpts properly at this point! I definitely don’t let SEO impact my writing style or overall ideas either. I don’t know how I’ll ever make peace with marketing and promotion, but this blog is devoted to wrapping my head around such topics while also leaving room for the part of me that stopped journaling and put song-writing on hold for a bit. I started this blog with the intention of finding other people navigating similar sticky information. It’s been interesting and I’m definitely learning a lot. Writing in this style takes less time than the hole I need to crawl in to emerge with a song. Hopefully, it all fits together in some way some day!

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