Not long ago, a blog reader wrote that the titles of my essays often hooked her into reading the text. But of course! That is my intention and I especially like it when I can draw a connection between my humble text and the work of a great artist.
Unfortunately, the new dictates of my computer platform make it difficult for me to continue as in the past. You may remember, I have already been chided by a robot because my sentences were too long. (Blog 1/28/16). The new requirements saddle me with a check list designed to reach new readers. Unfortunately, the Search Engine Optimization program (SEO ) dumbs down the content. In fact, the new program is so narrow and restrictive, I wondered what it would do to Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address: Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
According to the SEO, to optimize this text for a broad audience, its first word should appear in the title. If choosing the first word isn’t feasible, then another can be substituted, but it must appear somewhere in the opening line. For my experiment, I chose “liberty” as my focus word. “Four score” is too unwieldy. Next, I am instructed to use this focus word 3 times in the first sentence. I gave it a try: Liberty was brought to this continent four score and seven years ago by our forefathers, who conceived of a new nation in liberty and dedicated that nation to the proposition that all men should have liberty and equality.
So far, I have met the requirements of the SEO and kept close to Lincoln’s meaning. Unfortunately, I have eviscerated the power of his words. The SEO doesn’t seem to mind. It rewards me with a little green dot.
To continue with the instructions, I am to sprinkle “Liberty” throughout the rest of the text. When I do, I receive more green dots but at the cost of having destroyed one of the most lyrical passages in American political speech. Again, the SEO doesn’t mind. But, what about those citizens standing on the plains at Gettysburg all those years ago? Would they be as moved by my adaptation of Lincoln’s words as they were by his original ones? I doubt it.
So, here’s my conundrum. In the hope of gaining more readers, do I bow before a word counting program? And if I do, will those wanton new readers still love me in the morning? And what about my current subscribers? Will they be happy with the matter but not the art?
You must guide me, gentle readers. Is it better to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous indifference and remain uncounted by the SEO? Or should I lose myself in a self-destructive program that values repetition above poetry?
Originally posted 3/14/16)