Part of my blogophyte journey has been to learn about some of the technical workings of the online world, among which Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a big deal. Thankfully there are excellent bits of software you just plug in that will tell search engines your website is being updated with respectable regularity. So far so good.
WritingRedux was created to celebrate bright writing, fresh phrasing, arresting quotations and original metaphors and to enrich human exchange, building up a reservoir people can dip into if they are bored with faceless, clichéd or anodyne language. I’ve therefore ignored some aspects of SEO that I find quietly insidious: the ‘helpful’ imposition of a bunch of rules as to what makes for good writing.
My posts are now robotically assigned red (bad), orange (OK) and green (good) dots depending on an arbitrary if perhaps statistically relevant set of rules. Whether it is actually done by robots, I don’t know, but I do know that these generalized judgements aren’t being delivered by reading, thinking, loving, fuming humans (for one thing, they appear before I even publish a post, in fact, before I even start writing one – this means you get a red dot for a blank page and have to work your way through a checklist of 8-10 requirements to ‘score’ a green dot).
Have you ever enjoyed reading something generated by statistically relevant rules? So, I ignore these Big Brother prescriptions and proscriptions, but they bother me and I haven’t figured out if I can simply switch off this alarming feature and stick with the helpful bit that tells Google another four marvelous metaphors have been uploaded today.
Then I started writing a review of Harry Eyres’ bestellar on Horace. This quotation has reassured me that keeping my voice authentic, even if it means sacrificing scores on search engine ratings, is a small price to pay. After all, it was being fed up with formulaic writing that helped prompt the creation of WritingRedux.com.
‘Horace’s phrases, lines, and poems have lasted, I reckon, because they’re the opposite of prefabricated or glib. His words are put together with a carpentry or stonemasonry so cunning and precise that nothing can prise them apart. Syllables, sounds, rhythms are locked together with a force that even earthquakes could not budge.’
Source: Harry Eyres, Horace and Me: Life Lessons from an Ancient Poet (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013), p. 8