Search engine robots, “Warning, warning! Write from the Heart!”

Smarter search robots will usher in a new era in human writing on the Internet. Writers will be found who simply write well about topics that matter to them.

Search engine robots are my audience.  As a budding blogger I have become obsessed with how to build a readership, and am learning the tricks of how to appeal to search engine robot crawlers.  If you write a good article that the robots don’t “see,” it’s the equivalent of typing up a manuscript and carefully filing in a desk drawer.

Blog writing today demands a mixture of content that someone might want to read, and setting up the mechanics to appeal to search engine robots. If the robot crawlers don’t like your article, it won’t come up in searches, and it won’t be found.  It will sit in the desk drawer.  One current strategy: You should load up your essay with “search terms,” putting them in headers and in bold.  Your title has to be straightforward and descriptive, rather than mysterious, to get the “take home news” up front.  You should advertise your writing on social media to get tweets and likes, and leave comments on other sites and associate with the top bloggers, to generate ping backs and links.

And this extremely irritating advice:  Write articles about a focused topic.  If you don’t, your site will not appeal to search engine robots, which are looking for evidence of related material.  How do the robots know?  Words and titles shared among your articles.  Even doing all this, it takes months to attract traffic.

Here’s a question for you: Would your favorite writer have structured their sentences to include keywords, added lots of bold headers, socialized to sell, avoided mysterious titles, or given a crap about what robots think? Would your favorite writer focus on a single topic or foolishly write from the heart about their sincere and varied interests?  This sort of writer might have trouble being found on the Internet, and certainly not on day one.

Blog experts already tell us, “Content is King”

The word on the street about Search Engine Optimization is that content matters.  It does, and increasingly so.  My theory:  Search engines are evolving and will get smart. Real smart. The robots are converging on the human mind’s capacity to distinguish quality.  Why?  The business of search engines companies is to serve up relevant searches to readers.  Computers are increasingly powerful and software more intelligent.  Rather than humans optimizing writing for search engines, search engines will be optimized to discover writing that appeals to the human heart.

Already the search engine robots watch humans

Humans visiting and linking to sites help search engine robots decide whether material might be good.  The robots look for older, established sites, and supposedly check how far into the future a domain is registered to evaluate commitment.  But the robots don’t fall for the old trick of loading up an article with a list of words.  They don’t fall for a site that just copies text from other sites.  They still fall for some tricks, but the search robots are getting smarter.

Smarter search robots will usher in a new era in human writing on the Internet. Writers will be found who simply write well about topics that matter to them.  Writing from the heart and the brain will be enough.  Search engines will become like human editors, able to spot talent and even cultivate it.  Robots will become the thoughtful servants of humanity, rather than the mindless masters of the digital realm. And those who write from the heart will be found by readers.  On the first day.

So those of us who are playing the game of SEO had better be careful.  Warning, warning: If you write for the current crop of search engine robots,  you may have fewer human readers tomorrow.

search engine robots shape the writing life
tendrils and technology

Note to robots: Nothing personal and I for one admire and embrace our current robot masters.

Would you like to write at the speed of sound?

This blog was written entirely using voice recognition software, your speed of composition is increased dramatically by talking into a microphone and having words appear on the screen

This blog was written by my voice and speech recognition software in a matter of minutes.

Modern speech recognition software really works.

Just by speaking into a headset, you can have your “robot stenographer” type words as quickly as you can speak them. Right now I am writing these words, using NaturallySpeaking by Dragon.  I’m a little rusty at this, and I’m using the old version 10, which works fine.

You “train” NaturallySpeaking by reading sample texts aloud

The software needs to learn how you pronounce words.  It also pays attention to corrections you make by hand to how it “heard” you.  Once NaturallySpeaking has learned the sound of your voice, you can speak at a normal pace and get words on the page much much faster than typing.  In fact the real challenge is devising something interesting to write, since the software captures your words so quickly it doesn’t give you much time to think.

Composing at talking speed may get you closer to your reader, who reads about twice that fast

According to Wikipedia, “The average American adult reads prose text at 250 to 300 words per minute.”  “Audiobooks are recommended to be 150–160 words per minute, which is the range that people comfortably hear and vocalize words.”*  If you are like me, you don’t type nearly that fast!

NaturallySpeaking is remarkable for transcribing interviews.

Although it’s not really feasible to train NaturallySpeaking to understand a tape of your interview subject, it’s quite simple for you to listen along, and repeat everything your subject says.  The software is not perfect but it’s faster than transcribing the tape and a lot less work.  Highly recommended.

Get a Good Headset with Microphone

The older version of the software is pretty cheap and it’s quite simple to install and train, and you get better at using it (and it gets better at understanding you) with just a little practice.  To go with NaturallySpeaking  I purchased a very comfortable and easy to connect Logitech USB Headset which has worked flawlessly.

This is the first time I’ve tried NaturallySpeaking with WordPress, and it works like a charm.  Sure I’ll have to clean up the text a little bit, but I just wrote this entire blog in a few minutes.  I can imagine using speech recognition for “automatic writing” as a method to help overcome writer’s block.

Careful, NaturallySpeaking is quite powerful

When you learn the commands it’s possible to open programs and perform other kinds of functions using only your voice.  This “feature” can get a little tricky when the software begins switching pages and opening menus by itself!  No one believes me but it ordered some chrome parts for my spacecraft, which I had to keep and look cool.  Now I’m going to use the software to see if I can fill out some meta-tags.

Postscript:  Naturally Speaking’s propensity to access menu buttons can make it very difficult to compose a “self referential” article on WordPress or blogging features since Naturally Speaking leaps out of the writing interface and goes to commands beginning with words like “WordPress.”

* Wikipedia article “Words Per Minute” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Words_per_minute

 

Your Writer Versus Your Editor

As a blogger you wear “two hats”: writer and editor, two roles that often fail to see eye-to-eye and the truly critical eye of the editor is best applied after the flow of the writer’s thoughts has been tapped in raw form

As a blogger you wear “two hats”: writer and editor

The writer is the font of raw ideas, the creative impulse, and the MakerThe editor is the voice of reason, the critic, and the Fixer.  Yes, the two sensibilities can be tapped in one sitting, and good writing is good editing.  But the truly critical eye of the editor is best applied after the flow of the writer’s thoughts has been tapped in raw form.

The Maker is more conversational and wordy, adding asides and stray thoughts that may distract, or may need expansion into full paragraphs. The Fixer tends to create a tighter, more compact narrative, using fewer words.  A tension sometimes arises from the tighter version’s potential loss of the spontaneity of the first flush of ideas in prolix style.

These two roles can fail to see eye-to-eye when they are different people.  But even when played by the same person, the Maker tends to want to protect the Golden Word from the Fixer.  Often well to keep these two characters separated by a day.

A tip of the space helmet to Stephen Guise whose article A Superior Writing Method inspired this essay.