Writing and SEO Word Soup cartoon – Marketoonist

I recently met Jono Alderson, former head of SEO at Yoast, at Marketing Festival in Brno. He gave a fascinating talk on the state of content marketing.

Several of his observations resonated with me, including the insularity of using the same search engine optimization checklists as everyone else as a starting point to create anything.

The result is a pool of lookalike articles, written for search engines, not written for people. The actual writing is often treated as an afterthought.

As Jono put it in an interview recently:

“You are recursively optimizing a very small corpus till it’s all just word soup.”

Now that content marketing is turbocharged with AI, the word soup is endless. And as LLMs digest the existing word soup as source material, the future word soup is even more of the same.

That reminds me of Ian Whitworth’s description of AI-generated content as “infinite words nobody wants.”

Jono also shared that the clock is ticking on this race to the bottom, as search engines reinvent themselves with AI to provide answers to people, rather than endless search results. He urged people to remember who the real audience is, and the problems you can help them solve.

I don’t know how the future of content marketing will look (and I’ve actually never really been that crazy about the term “content”). But I still think that the lost art of writing is important in communicating with others. It can be aided by AI tools. But the path of least resistance is to turn it all over to AI. And that feels like a race to the bottom to me.

Whenever I wonder about the state of writing, I turn to Ann Handley (who kindly wrote the foreword to my last book). She has an insightful and refreshing newsletter on writing and marketing called “Total Annarchy.”

Ann has a few suggestions on how to incorporate AI as a tool to help you write more efficiently, like asking ChatGPT what’s missing from your piece. But ultimately, she recommends AI is a tool, not a replacement, for great writing.

Ann’s latest advice was refreshingly analog: “Start with Pen + Paper.”

As she explains:

“Don’t worry about “writing.” You’re welding the scaffolding for ideas that will become writing.

“Why this works:

“You write slower than you type. Working with analog tools slows you down. Your high-speed locomotive brain isn’t screaming ahead to get to Next Sentence Depot. It has to wait patiently for your hands to catch up, like a car driver at a railroad crossing waiting for the train’s caboose.

“That slow pace ultimately delivers better insights.”

And, ultimately, writing without better insights really doesn’t have much of a reason for being.

Here are a few related cartoons I’ve drawn over the years:

“Work is more fun with framed marketoons on your wall”

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