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Any massive new career realignment will teach you a few things about life. I’d even venture to say that our jobs have become our most defining characteristic, for good or bad. When you meet someone at a party, what’s the first bit of info you usually exchange?

“So, what do you do?”

No one actually comes out and says, “Describe your current employment,” but that’s exactly what they mean. And it makes total sense. Our employment determines our purchasing power, our ability to support ourselves, and the way we spend most of our days – to it’d be nice if we could be judged purely on the content of our characters, or on our hobbies, or our personal moral code, but none of those things will get you a decent interest rate on a loan. For the intents and purposes of banks/the government/future employers, our employment is a pretty good barometer of where we are in life, our goals, and our standing. Like it or not, them’s the breaks.

Becoming an SEO writer was a pretty huge career change for me. I’d previously waited tables, performed manual labor, and worked as a secretary, and in school I studied American literature.  I wrote loads of torturous essays while somehow still retaining my overarching goal to become a writer. Of course, I didn’t know a thing about SEO or marketing, and I never imagined I’d be going into this field.

But novel writing is a daunting task, and print media is disappearing. There just weren’t a whole lot of writing jobs available, so I applied to anything that looked like it required a keyboard and a brain. I eventually found a spot writing SEO content. I went in mostly cold, but the concept was easy to grasp. I genuinely enjoy my job now, and I’ve learned a lot – and not just about search engine optimization.

A dream deferred doesn’t necessarily “Dry up like a raisin in the sun.”

Yes, I just referenced a Langston Hughes poem in an article about SEO, but it fits. When I started working as an SEO writer, I assumed that my romantic dreams of becoming a writer writer – you know, cigarette butts, empty gin bottle, ruined home life, tortured genius bleeding onto the page – were destined to fail, supplanted by my new focus. I found the opposite to be true. Instead of SEO writing crushing my spirit, I found that it was elevated. SEO writing takes a special kind of creativity; quite often, you’re forced to represent the same piece of content in multiple ways, from multiple angles. It’s almost like a writer’s workshop, and the fact that your paycheck depends on hitting your deadlines makes ennui or sloth impossible. You’re forced to push through writer’s block and just write, whereas the hobbyist can always find something else to do. So yes, for the time being my dream is deferred, but I’m becoming a better writer because of it.

Simple, direct, and to-the-point is best.

I initially approached SEO writing as an exercise of creativity. It does require creativity, but not at the expense of the SEO value of the piece. You need to remember that SEO writing in particular isn’t about you, the writer; it’s about pleasing the client and raising their rankings. If you can do so in creative ways, perfect. But don’t meander away from the ultimate goal. Be direct. Get it down on paper and move on to the next one, because there’s always something else to write. For continued success, apply this lesson to your interpersonal relationships, your workplace relationships, and your general approach to life.

Quantity matters.

I thought about going with “Size matters,” but decided against it. There seems to be an ongoing, almost eternal debate about the relative merits of quality versus quantity. People talk about them like they’re mutually exclusive, with quality usually winning. I dunno… I don’t think quantity should just be tossed to the side like that, especially when it comes to SEO writing. See, most SEO articles have a minimum word count, so you have to hit that mark while retaining quality. It’s a good lesson for life, I think. Quality counts, but having a substantial amount of whatever you’re peddling as quality is important, too – love, friends, wine, imported cheese.

Ah, life lessons. They’re found in the most unlikely of places, aren’t they?


11 thoughts on “3 Life Lessons I’ve Learned Since Becoming An SEO Writer
  1. Bravo, bravo. My favorite kind of post…a little bit of tech/industry knowledge, a few life lessons, and a lot of personality! Great job, Erik!

  2. ade says:

    Erik, this is a great blog post. I especially like the line: A dream deferred doesn’t necessarily “Dry up like a raisin in the sun.”

    It’s my first time coming across the quote and the way you used it together with your life’s experience is really touching. And when you mentioned writing because your paycheck depends on it… that’s very funny. Great post.

  3. Erik Cisler says:

    Amanda – Thanks. These blogs are pretty fun to write.

    ade – Thanks for the kinds words. If you liked that, check out the original poem… great stuff: http://www.cswnet.com/~menamc/langston.htm

  4. Tom says:

    Interesting take on quantity being a key driver. I would have thought that an articles SEO value would be determined partially by the links generated by others referencing said article.

    What would you say is the give take between quality and quantity? Say you could post an article a day that are decent are an article every day that is amazing. Do you go for coverage by submitting two articles are focus on the one and try and make it exceptional?

  5. Christian Vuong says:

    Great post Erik!

  6. Ry says:

    Good stuff dude. Stoked things are working out for you in SEO. Sounds like with the right attitude it’s a pretty solid gig. Looking forward to your next post.!

  7. Adria says:

    I loved this post! I love Langston Hughes and honor you for finding the beauty in SEO writing 😉

  8. “I honor you for finding the beauty in SEO writing.’

    What Adria said!

    Also, I know what you mean about SEO writing making you a better writer! Writing for SEO definitely helped me hone my skills…just don’t tell anyone I said that.

  9. Awesome to have you writing on the team Erik, another example of that was the greatness of this post.

  10. Maw says:

    Very nicely written! I’m searching for more of your writing.

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