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I once came in second place in my fourth grade spelling bee. Although I didn’t secure the most coveted top spot, I’d say I still have some clout on the subject of spelling and grammar. So when I accepted my first real job out of college as an SEO content writer, I was in for a surprise when I learned I was no longer in a place that cared whether I used “more than” versus “over” when describing numerals; I was in the world of “teh interwebz.”

On Hyphens

I’ve been harassed by clients for using grammatically correct hyphens between words because “that’s just not how people search for things.” Well, before I throw all of my morals out the door, let me just say this: Google is pretty smart and can figure out that “self-storage” and “self storage” are the same thing, but I don’t like getting yelled at so I changed my ways. See what you’ve done to me, Internet?!

On Misspellings

Misspelling words on PURPOSE to rank higher on search engines. That’s a THING. Isn’t that why spellcheck was invented…to prevent this monstrosity? Shady people will try to rank on Google by writing about things that people may mistakenly type in the search bar, like “whether in Kansas City” and sometimes, it works. The hope is that people will tend to not trust these NAUGHTY, HORRIBLE sites because they lack integrity. Thus, no one will link to their website, or they’ll quit reading the blog post because it’s just so atrocious. It’s an unethical practice, and I guarantee I will never stoop to that level. I promise all of my misspellings are simply a result of pure carelessness.

On AP Style

It’s not just my high school teachers who would be rolling over in their metaphorical graves. The journalism TA who drilled AP style into my head like it was her life’s mission would be equally appalled. “Oh, everyone uses AP style” is the same lie we were told when we were forced to learn cursive because “that’s what the sixth graders do.” And sorry, teachers, but no one is ever going to search for “Tallahassee, Fla.” And, it’s also perfectly acceptable for me to start a sentence with a conjunction.

On Writing for a Robot

I’m unfortunately not talking about a fun, beer guzzling robot like Bender or an intergalactic pal like R2D2. Writing for googlebot and its peers can present a challenge for which no 11th grade essay could have ever prepared me. Imagine you’re writing something that’s appropriate enough for your grandparents while still needing to impress and convert someone who’s looking to buy a 24 pack of Natural Light. You need to follow strict guidelines to ensure you don’t offend the search engine gods; all while keeping a charming and persuasive tone. Try to use keywords as often as possible, all while looking like you’re not trying to use keywords as often as possible. Creativity blossoms when you’re restricted though, right?

On Childhood Dreams

Because of all of these SEO particularities, I’m allowed to be much more casual in my writing, as I’m no longer restricted by the stringent rules and regulations upon which I was raised. I’m not necessarily complaining about it; it’s just that everything I’ve ever learned was a lie. Even though I’ve grown as a professional in the industry and can now comprehend the psychology behind a Google search, I’m just a few bad habits away from giving up my childhood dream of becoming the next Bill Shakespeare.