Playing the Long Game with SEO

There’s a problem with operating a website when you’re an artist. I’ve been struggling with this problem for years. There’s a dichotomy between art and business. This is even more true when it comes to operating our websites. We need to think about the long game.

I’ve called myself a blogger in the past. I don’t like the name. I’m an artist, a writer, a poet, but I prefer not to be considered a blogger. When I hear the word “blogger” I think of spin doctors and car salesmen. That’s not my gig. But here’s the bitter truth.

In order to get noticed in the online world, you have to understand blogging and play the long game. – dse

That means a couple of things for this site in 2024 and beyond. I’ll be making some changes to the way I write some of my essays. I’ll be experimenting with long-format articles.

It’s a crazy little thing called SEO.

Here’s the deal. Short-format essays don’t help a website with search engine optimization. In fact, most sources say that articles less than 300 words just get passed over by search engines. That’s not good.

I’m not going to go into the details on what SEO is all about. You can find plenty of articles about SEO on other sites. But here are a few things that help an article rank higher on Google.

  • Long-post format, 2000 to 2500 words
  • Use of headings throughout your post
  • Key words
  • Photos, about one photo per 500 words in the long-post format
  • Internal and external links
  • Deep content

Most of these SEO strategies run contrary to what we do as creative writers, artists, and musicians. But I’m not reaching very many people as things stand. What’s the point in writing and making music without an audience?

In the coming year, I’ll begin to experiment with the occasional long-post format as a creative. That will be challenging. Much of what I do works best in the short format. My work often doesn’t lend itself to excessive writing, headings, links, or photos. This site is less about educating as it is about sharing my own creations and inspiring others to be more creative.

Why would I write a 2000-word poem?

I don’t write 2000-word poems, nor do I desire to. I don’t break up fictional excerpts with headlines and photos. I dislike using stock photos. Too many links in an article makes me cringe. But there are ways to write essays and posts as an artist that may help with the SEO long game.

You might note that I didn’t add any photos to this post. Why? Because I don’t want to use meaningless photos that don’t relate to the content. But in the future, I might create a post that includes a series of my own photos in context.

Here are some other ideas for long-format posts for writers and artists.

  • Write a series of poems with a common theme
  • Use more introductions and conclusions
  • Use fictional excerpts as inspiration for posts
  • Write longer essays about creativity
  • Write longer essays about songwriting
  • Write longer articles about experimental and electronic music composition

The plan isn’t to only write long-format posts, but to write one or two long posts a month. I’ll continue to primarily post in the shorter format.

My long game is to help people.

I have a story. I was a kid in an extremist cult. That’s something that has caused me a lot of anxiety and pain in my life. It’s also an experience that has taught me some important lessons.

  • Learing how to deal with my past trauma
  • Using writing as a therapeutical tool
  • Sharing stories to help others with forgiveness and healing

Our goal as creators shouldn’t just be to entertain the masses or to make lots of money. Our art should communicate feelings. When you cry during a good song or a good movie, it’s because it touched you deeply. It made you think and feel. My cult story makes people think and feel. It’s raw and powerful. I’ve had a lot of positive feedback about its power to help people heal and forgive.

What’s the point in having a strong story if people never read it? Why write songs that never get heard? Why have a website if you’re not trying to use the tools at your fingertips to reach more people?

The best SEO strategy is to focus on your users.

That quote is from an unknown source but it rings very true.

One problem with us artist types is that we’re selfish. We tend to create for ourselves. We tend to forget about our audience. I’m not suggesting that we cater to the masses or to the industry. Write from your heart. But keep the people you’re writing for in mind. Remember, the long game is to help people.

Users are people with problems.

Why do you buy a certain book or listen to a certain song? Because it does something for you. It solves a problem, even if it’s in a subconscious way. As artists, that’s how we should look at our art. Our goal should be to help others in some way. There are many ways to do that.

  • Share stories that are relatable
  • Write music the evokes feelings
  • Write poetry that’s thoughtful
  • Write songs that are powerful
  • Make sure your art gets to the people who can use it

As much as I’ve complained about SEO and blogging strategies in the past, I know that some of these strategies work. When I operated some of my previous websites like Hip Diggs and Anderhill Music, I got 10-20 times the traffic as I’m getting here. I believe some of that traffic was due to considering the long game with SEO.

That included focusing on these strategies.

  • Careful choice of article titles
  • Using headlines and quotes
  • Using photos that relate to the content
  • Adding key words
  • Focusing on readers

2000 to 2500 words is a long-ass article.

For reference, I’m only at about 1000 words. I won’t reach 1500 words in this first long-format attempt. I don’t want to bore you with SEO strategies. That’s not what this site is about. But SEO is part of reaching an audience. And as artists, that’s exactly what we want to do, right?

I encourage you to think about your long game. I’ve often been focused on the now. I’ve often become distracted from my longterm goals because I’m not seeing immediate and fast results.

I just joined a local gym a few weeks ago. Today, I was at the gym working out. Over the years, I’ve learned not to push too hard at the start. The old “no pain, no gain” saying is wrong. I found myself doing shorter sets and/or lighter weight than some people might think makes sense. After I completed an exercise, I told myself,

That’s good enough.

We’ve been taught to believe that we have to go all out in order to be successful. But the truth is that small steps can be “good enough.” It’s the same way with using SEO. I’m not going to become an SEO master overnight. I’m just going to start with small steps.

Chances are that other than a few long articles, internal headings, and more photos, you won’t even notice a difference in what I’m doing on the website. But maybe, by playing the long game using SEO, I’ll start to reach a larger audience. Doing something is better than doing nothing. – dse

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Author: Dan Steven Erickson

Dan Steven Erickson is a great undiscovered American songwriter.