Welcome To The Machine (Or 8 Easy Steps To Nowhere)

Jan 8, 2009   //   by Hackadelic   //   Blog, Featured  //  2 Comments
This entry is part of a series, SEO Rants»

BoredomHave you noticed the increasing uniformity of how blog posts are being named these days? At every turn, there seems to be the same simple, supremely uncreative title pattern. You know, titles like

69 Hot Tips For A Perfect Love Life

or

How To Make A Billion Dollar In 3 Easy Steps

This “style” has spread like a malicious nasty little virus all over the Internet, and managed to become omnipresent like some f*ing godhood!

You think my examples are disproportionate? Here are the top 3 google results1 from a search for “easy steps” (annotated with some precious intellectual effusions of mine):

  1. In Easy Steps: Homepage. This is cool. “Easy steps” is obviously a buzzword so popular, that it deserves a homepage of own.
  2. The Attractor Factor: 5 Easy Steps for Creating Wealth (or Anything Else) from the Inside Out. Wow! It’s just a book, but it sounds like God’s Instruction Manual on Genesis, 2nd edition. I mean, create anything?!? In only 5 easy steps?!? The first time around, it took like 6 days. For him! (Have there been upgrades in heaven recently?)
  3. 10 Easy Steps to Becoming a Vim Expert. Now, I know Vim. (It’s a text editor traditionally found on Unix/Linux systems with a user interface that’s, well, unconventional at best.) While it’s operation does follow certain patterns, most people will be as close to mastering it as to mastering brain surgery. (I actually believe there are more brain surgeons than real Vim experts on this planet, but I might be wrong.) Be that as it may, a title like “10 Incredibly Difficult Steps, And Who Are You, Dick, To Think You Can Master Vim Anyway”, while probably more truthful (and definitely more entertaining), would have been unlikely to attract any noteworthy readership.

Some other interesting search results have been:

  • How Great Decisions Get Made: 10 Easy Steps for Reaching Agreement on Even the Toughest Issues. Another book that claims absolute wisdom the easy way. If you’ve moderated a meeting, or paid attention to that aspect, you might know that the actual skill of it lies “between the lines”. There are no step-by-step recipes you can easily follow. That’s why they call it soft skill after all.
  • Commercial Real Estate Investing: 12 Easy Steps to Getting Started. Yet another book. From 2004. Probably the real cause of the subprime mortgage crisis. But if nothing else, the crisis has taught you what such promises really are, hasn’t it? I mean, now you know what to think of such advice, right? Right?!?
  • ShapeWalking: Six Easy Steps to Your Best Body. One more book. And while we’re at that, I should tell you I plan writing a similar book myself. It will have 365 pages, and I’ll call it “Loose ALL your weight in no more than 365 days”. It will instruct you of a radical but highly sophisticated diet. Roughly speaking, you’ll be asked to give up your eating habits, and daily eat a page of the book instead. A dead sure system!

There have been more findings, but I’ve saved the best for the end, so read on.

23!Now, what do we have here?

One answer is: Promises. Not exactly empty promises, not always at least. But it’s a safe bet the promises the title makes are not fulfilled by the content.

All right, that’s nothing new. Promises (and not necessarily their fulfillment) are the nature of marketing.

What bothers me is the supreme “uncreativity” of how these titles are chosen. And there’s a simple reason, a driving force behind all that. It is called SEO!

Increasingly, titles (and, to a much lesser extent, some content, too) is not targeted at human beings. It is targeted at search engines alone. Here’s one advice that sure helped proliferate good SEO and poor aesthetics (I’ve underlined the key statements):

Article titles should be extremely direct, concise and keyword loaded. Fancy titles will not bring hoards of traffic, and even worse it will negatively impact Google search results since the title is heavily weighted in the algorithm.

  • Bad Example: Break out the Weber and Impinge the Chickens!
  • Should have been: McDonald’s Chicken Sandwiches are Mechanically Branded

But wait! – I thought, – I like the first one better!

So what? – I can almost hear him saying, – Yeah, you may be a visitor, but you don’t bring me visitors.

And I can’t say he’d be wrong on that one.

Alas, something great is being lost every day from our language: Expressive power. Metaphors, some of the most powerful weapons of verbal expression (and most memorable ways of expression, too), cannot be grasped by search engines. So they must give way to uninspired keyword enumerations, dictated by machines. Call me old fashioned, but I just don’t like the taste of it…2

And so, with a foreshadow of a distant SkyNET promise (of course adequately named as “Total Extinction in 5 Easy Steps”), I’m dismissing you into my last and greatest finding on the topic: The music and lyrics of Alanis Morissette‘s Eight Easy Steps.

Click to view lyrics»

Alanis Morissette – Eight Easy Steps – Lyrics

How to stay paralyzed by fear of abandonment
How to defer to men in solvable predicaments
How to control someone to be a carbon copy of you
How to have that not work and have them run away from you

How to keep people at arms-length and never get too close
How to mistrust the ones you supposedly love the most
How to pretend you’re fine and don’t need help from anyone
How to feel worthless unless you’re serving or helping someone

I’ll teach you all this in eight easy steps
The course of a lifetime, you’ll never forget
I’ll show you how to in eight easy steps
I’ll show you how leadership looks when taught by the best

How to hate women when you’re supposed to be a feminist
How to play all-pious when you’re really a hypocrite
How to hate God when you’re a prayer and a spiritualist
How to sabotage your fantasies by fear of success

I’ll teach you all this in eight easy steps
The course of a lifetime, you’ll never forget
I’ll show you how to in eight easy steps
I’ll show you how leadership looks when taught by the best

I’ve been doing research for years
I’ve been practicing my ass off
I’ve been training my whole life for this moment, I swear to you
Culminating just to be this well-versed leader before you

I’ll teach you all this in eight easy steps
The course of a lifetime, you’ll never forget
I’ll show you how to in eight easy steps
I’ll show you how leadership looks when taught by the best

How to lie to yourself and thereby to everyone else
How to keep smiling when you’re thinking of killing yourself
How to know them all too well to avoid going within
How to stay stuck in your life blaming them for everything

I’ll teach you all this in eight easy steps
The course of a lifetime, you’ll never forget
I’ll show you how to in eight easy steps
I’ll show you how leadership looks when taught by the best

Powered by Hackadelic Sliding Notes 1.6.5
  1. as of this writing []
  2. There’s still hope though. In times when the aforesaid superscription style has still been rare, it was easy to distinguish oneself with it and shine. But now that everybody is doing it… It’s easy to spot a star in a starless night, but distinguish a drop of watter in an ocean! Think about it! []

2 Comments

  • […] Once upon a time, I wrote an article called “Obama’s SEO Counterstrike“. It was written out of a twofold motivation: Obama’s then-current excellent speeches, his speaking skills, and extraordinary expressive power, which stood in strong contrast to the average, highly and increasingly uninspired language frequently found on the Internet – a phenomenon I dislike, and see worsened by everybody going crazy about SEO. […]

  • […] as we all know, fancy formulations are not good for […]

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