ROFL: Random Outbursts From Lar! LarryNocella.com

13Apr/09Off

Thinking in keywords. Is the net making us horny people, as easy to spark as dry kindle in the Amazon under a kiln owned by Harry the potter?

Recently, I was researching the effectiveness of ads for my novel, Where Did This Come From? on Google and Yahoo! I was looking into what phrases (known as keywords) were being used on those search engines that ultimately led people to this site.

That's when I came across the fact that the keyword used most often to find my site, by a large margin, was "horny people." Wow! The internet really does invade privacy. All this time I thought I was keeping that to myself! How do I clear my browser's history again?

Seriously, after I got done laughing, I had to find out what was going on. I'm not paying Google and Yahoo! to show my ads when people enter "horny people." Why would I? My novel is about the environment and consumerism, not boinking. So I went to Google, typed in "horny people" (for the first time, I swear) and clicked "Google Search." No, I did not click "I'm Feeling Lucky," Doctor Funnybone.

Bang! There was my site. (Image.) Talk about SEO (and by that, I mean a Search Engine Orgasm!) I was among in the organic listings, not the paid ads, about the fourth one down (it has since moved). It was the Holy Grail of placements! This was a location on the search results that paid ads cannot go. I was there for free, completely by accident. Awesome! Now if only horny people happened to be interested in purchasing an environmental-themed novel also available in eBook format including for the new Amazon Kindle!

What was going on? Apparently, Google had picked up my essay, "Apocalust now! Why are people so horny for Armageddon?" (Link.) and was leading the sexually frustrated to my blog. (You being the sole exception, of course.) As for capturing web traffic, this was good fortune. As for capturing people interested in purchasing my novel, not so lucky, but it was free, so ha ha funny funny, no harm done.

Right? Well sort of.

Let's put on our serious hats for moment (no, not Jimmy-hats, serious hats, thank you! Damn horny people!) This whole thing made me think about all the people trying to tell us the internet is bad, but never successfully articulating how. (See boring reading like the book Snark by David Denby and the article Is Google Making Us Stupid? The Atlantic, July-August 2008)

I'm here to pick up their slack. Unlike those weak critiques, I don't consider the danger I see as inevitable. It's not a doom we are powerless to stop. The net will only harm our thinking if people try to consciously write to achieve what happened to me by accident. Meaning, if people write (and editors edit) for keywords.

Mark Twain said the difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter, it's the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.

If your motivation is not to communicate, but to score web traffic, you won't be looking for the right word based on what makes the most impact on the heart of the reader, but what the most popular keywords are.

Just as word processors (is that not the coldest term possible for writing software?) can check grammar and spelling and suggest synonyms, it will only be a matter of time (if it isn't here now in some form) before you can select your text and request your words be changed to synonyms that are more likely to be keywords. The meaning of your article wouldn't change, but the words would, so your site is more likely to fall into the organic listings.

For example, say you wrote a blog entry that contained the sentence: The chicken was burnt. Afterwards, you would run it through an Search Engine Optimizer (or this process would be Orwellianly automatic) and it changes your sentence to: The cock was hot.

Since porn is big on the net, the latter is much more likely to be listed organically, grabbing all the "hot cock" searches which are most certainly more numerous than "burnt chicken" searches. Sure, your communication is eviscerated, but who cares when you can get free advertising?

This situation reminds me of filmmakers raging against the process of colorizing. I think it was Woody Allen who noted that all the effort that went into making the movie appear correct in black and white was obliterated by the colorization process. Sure, the movie was now in color, but the loving devotion to make it beautiful was gone.

It could be the same if we let search engines dictate what words we choose. All the effort that went into unleashing the lighting would be reduced to the silent blink of the lightning bug. As Orwell pointed out in 1984, where words go, our thoughts follow.

Fortunately, we can control whether this dystopia arrives. To avoid it, we just need to keep writing from the heart, the horny people demographic be damned.

Allow me to give the last word to Rush (the band, not the blowhard) from their song, The Spirit of Radio. When commenting about the changes in the music world, the lyrics note new technology isn't good or bad. "It's really just a question of your honesty."

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Larry Nocella's novel Where Did This Come From? is available on Amazon.com as a paperback and Kindle eBook. It is also available for other eBook readers. For more info, visit LarryNocella.com.