Hi, my name’s Robert, and I’m an IT Guy.
It all started simply enough. I was a happy little IT camper, content in my own little world of network management and administration, routing cables, making system installs and integrating workstations. Creative writing rarely crossed my mind, as my job has plenty of perks of its own. I had network security down to a “T”, happily disrupting workforce life by forcing new passwords every week- Good times, as that generally meant I was a star for a day, guiding people back into their complacent world by simply providing the key they needed. Yeah, I had it all.
In those days, if anyone dared approach me with so much as a mere mention of something as lofty as “Creative Writing,” well, I’d just laugh it off. Creative Writing was the fluff, the fill between the flawless code that I poured forth into the company website- I mean, what power does Creative Writing have, over the dazzling effects of my flash presentations and seamless JAVA transitions, nothing more, right? Yes, this is the sales pitch of the company to web dawdlers and late night browsers, but we’re a BIG company- one of the biggest in the area, if not the state. Besides, our customers know our product, and they know our quality. To me, the web site is just a place where I need to make our catalog easy to read and accessible. Nobody is interested in silly descriptions of endless products!
Still, the Bigwigs kept coming to me, asking about stuff, like SEO or Search Engine Optimization; They were concerned with our ‘Web Ranking,’ although I don’t know why. We are easy enough to find; since our web address is our company name. How much easier can it get? But, just to appease the powers that be, I started looking into it, sure that I would only find that it was just so much hullabaloo… Smoke and mirrors, if you ask me.
So, I logged into my Google account and started poking around. I searched for SEO and was hit with an absolute barrage of links, every one of them boasting they could boost my web persona and cure the common cold, for a fee, of course. One, even, virtually guaranteed that they could place our company in a TOP position for a very small dollar amount, so I looked into their site. Sure enough, every one of their clients listed as examples came up at or near number one position on Google, so I took it to the supervisors, and showed them my proof. With their approval, we paid this company their fee, and kept our fingers crossed. Posh- Creative writing, who needs it?
Later that week, I was checking my Gmail account and thought I’d check in and see how the company’s “Web Position” was coming along. I made a quick search for our top-selling product, and Bingo! We were number ONE! I sent out an immediate company-wide memo, patting myself on the back for a job well done, right before I reset everybody’s passwords. Oh, the joy!
But it didn’t work. Or, at least not like I thought it did. Company internet sales were crashing. The sales team was getting hot and bothered, and all eyes were on me. I’d never felt this kind of pressure before, so again I searched. I found a local guy who offered free consultations on web development and (choke) Creative Writing, geared to customizing SEO. We set up a meeting in my office.
When our appointed time arrived, in walks this quiet, unassuming young man with a laptop and little, if any, fashion sense. We exchanged pleasantries as he seated himself across from me at a table in our conference lounge.
“So,” I ask, “just what is it about you and your ‘Creative Writing’ that can make such a supposedly big difference in our company website?”
He replied, “Well, Robert, first of all, I can bring your company to the top of the rankings in Google, Bing, Yahoo, and most all of the other major search engines for virtually ALL of your top-selling products, by incorporating quality keywords into the bulk of the content in each of your company’s pages and catalog descriptions”
I was making mental notes- Keywords, Descriptions… yes, I can do that… I nodded for him to go on.
He continued, “As the search engines send out their ‘Bots,’ or, Robots, they ‘crawl’ thru your pages, following links within your pages to other pages, indexing the keywords and subjects they find.”
Indexing, yes… links- hey, this was good stuff! I began scribbling down the short version. He added, “When they are done, they rank your page- and the most relevant sites are the ones that come up to the top of the search returns for customers shopping on the web for the products you sell”
I laughed. “Son,” I flipped my laptop around to let him see. “Our site IS number one! This product is our top seller, and every day this week, it’s come up this way- If we already show up as number one, how is your service going to make a difference?”
He opened his laptop and said, “Let me try.” and proceeded to type in the exact same phrase I had- our top-selling product. When he hit “enter,” my jaw dropped. We were nowhere to be found!
“How the- How did that happen?” He just smiled, all smug. Little rodent.
“Do you use Gmail?” he asked. I told him only for personal emails. He answered, “You are still logged into your Gmail account, and your computer indexes all the links and sites you have visited today since the last time you cleared your ‘cookies.’ When you search for your products, Google looks where you have been, first. Of course, you are going to show up on top!”
I was stunned. I hadn’t thought of that! Still, I was on to this weasel’s little bag of tricks! I thanked him for his time, and said we would consider his proposal for his search engine optimization and creative writing services. He walked out, same stupid grin on his face. Sheesh. He might as well have been barefoot, too!
After looking into some of the things he had talked about, I came up with a plan. I went straight to Boss and announced I had the solution to this ‘Creative Writing and SEO’ issue. I explained that what we needed were lots of KEYWORDS in our pages to make our company accessible to people looking for what we sell. I showed him what the kid showed me about cookies and google and others, and I said I needed a week, but I could still pull this off.
He looked at me and said, “I don’t know, Robert. You’re a fine IT man, but never figured you for being a wordsmith. What do you know about this SEO and Creative Writing?”
I told him it was a lock- all the words I needed I could get from marketing and simply add them to every page across the site. Begrudgingly, he gave me that week.
For the next seven days I spent every free moment reading about SEO and creative writing. I consulted some of my peers in the IT field and discovered many of them were ahead of me, and had automated these ‘keywords’ so that any information entered in our announcements and ordering pages would get indexed as keywords. Wow! Easy as pie, I thought.
I found some great php scripting that would do the job and went to town adding it to every page of the company website. If they want creative writing, they’re gonna get it! Every word and business discussion on our company forum would build this database of keywords for me- it just couldn’t get any better!
At the end of that week, I made my presentation to the board. I was lauded for “Saving” our company’s web sales! Only, that didn’t happen. The numbers got even WORSE! My boss called me, again, into his office. He looked at me sternly as I seated myself.
“Robert, every opportunity we have given you to repair this issue has failed miserably. You’ve given a great deal of service to this company in the past, but this is unacceptable. Just who has been feeding you all this misinformation?”
Sadly I told him the whole story; about the SEO guy with the weasel grin, and the creative writing and descriptions being keyword-rich, and how he seemed like he was from another world and claimed all this magic; That it just seemed I could make my position more secure by being able to do more within the company. Then, I just sat there, staring at the floor, waiting for the ax to fall.
After what seemed like an eternity, my Boss spoke.
“Robert,” he said, “when I hired you for the position you are in, I needed someone who could handle the duties of your job description, and expected you to perform as such. I didn’t hire you to work in the plant, or clean offices, or to do the bookkeeping, or to greet people as they come in the front door. I’ve hired other people to do those jobs, and you all have done your jobs well. If I had thought that you could do your job AND any of those other jobs, that would have been your job description. If what we need to get this web site functioning properly as a marketing tool is to hire in someone who knows what needs to be done in word and in deed, so be it. I need you to do your job, and I’ll need them to do theirs. The key to economic survival is not always cuts, but it is about doing what needs to be done. We need someone who understands the creative process, who can write adequate descriptions and can focus on the big picture of our goal with this web site. I don’t expect them to be able to do your job, and I won’t expect you to do theirs. Bring this guy in.”
I guess it had never hit me before- it’s like a car. You can build a great looking, stylish and well-designed vehicle that is a technical marvel, fulfilling the wildest dreams of its owner. But without fuel, that car will go nowhere.
The fuel of our web site is its content, powering it to reach long distances with effective creative writing, optimized for search engines with quality verbiage and information… on the “information superhighway.”