The two types of happiness

My shpiel on why I haven't written in a while: 1) I actually half forgot I had one and got really excited when I remembered, 2) my blog doesn’t help fund my shoe addiction, 3) I feel a little shy about having a blog to begin with.

How un-Amurrican of me, right? Like, my thoughts matter and I want them heard. But the truth is, when you’re a white, non-binary, (upper?) middle-class female, no one cares about your narrative. Except for my mom. She totally cares about my narrative. Hi mom!

The Internet (or rather entitled millennials) push out content at a rate too rapid for us #peasants to digest. Not only has the authenticity of content suffered as a result, but anyone and their dog with a WordPress password can label themselves a "writer", a badge of honour that so many of us have toiled after and cried for and endured insomnia for (way too many prepositions at the end of clauses, will fix eventually).

The whole Internet is just one giant Mean Girls cafeteria discussion and everyone is trying to speak louder than the next guy. I don’t want to wear pink on Wednesdays! I want to wear pink EVERY DAY! I’m sure your dad has sat you down at the dinner table one night and been like, “So, kids, what’s new on the Internet these days? A lot of garbage, eh?” Hi dad! Sifting through it all is exhausting and makes me want to retire early. You were right. 

That’s why I conducted a little experiment with myself: I decided to go to a relatively big deal of a thing and not write about it. Last night, my friend Nick took me to the Sex Tape movie world premiere (starring Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel) at the Regency Village Theatre in Downtown LA.

There are celebrities behind me on a red carpet. Could I see a thing? No. Did I care? Also no. Is this what emancipation feels like? Yes.

Enjoying things from a consumerist lens and then from that of a publishing one is kind of a schizophrenic experience. You get to be happy both ways, but as a consumer, you can double-fist popcorn AND Diet Coke while snort-laughing at the movie’s terrible sex jokes, and as a reporter, you tend to be busy panicking that your recording app will run out of space, that you’re going $40 over your data limit fact checking important things on Safari like “New Girl show Hannah Simon is it Seesee or Cece?” and worrying that there is probably maybe definitely coral lipstick on your teeth while interviewing a celebrity. Both yield different forms of happiness, ones that I would have to oscillate between in order to hit that sweet spot.

Hannah Simone (Cece) from New Girl is the ultimate sweetheart. "Oh my God! I'm going to get my boobs all over you!" she said, panicking at my height in comparison to hers. Here I am on stilts/tippee toes. Editor's note: This is from the same night, I just had to run to the car to change outfits because pencil skirts are LITERALLY the Houdini-straight jackets of fashion and why anyone would submit themselves to that kind of torture I don't know.

In any industry, it's important to go off-duty to renew the thrill of getting back into the game. Like rest days from the gym. BUT WHAT ARE REST DAYS EVEN. SLEEP WHEN I’M DEAD?

Suffice to say, I felt very guilty not compiling a best-dressed list, or some philosophical analysis about why couples make sex tapes in the first place (Jack Black in the movie has the answer, btw. Go see it July 18). Oddly, publishing — as opposed to consumerism — is my guiltiest of the guilty pleasures. It’s hard for me to demonstrate restraint when all I want to do is contribute to the Internet’s muddled discourse, noise and “garbage” your father so fondly talks about at the dinner table. 

Where for art thou poetry stigma

For those of you who’ve been following my posts, you’ve probably come to realize that I often talk about digital media within the context of health, beauty, fitness, and the occasional nail polish idea. These aren’t particularly offensive topics – at least I hope they aren't. That’s why I have been hesitant to talk about poetry, because once you throw that into the mix, people run for the hills and start occupying Wall Street, or worse, shaving Miley Cyrus mohawks in protest.

And understandably so – there is nothing safe about poetry. There is nothing comforting about it. There are no CP Style or AP Style guidelines telling you to do things a certain way. You could write % instead of per cent and get a round of finger-snapping applause while the audience at your poetry reading murmurs along to your free verse thing about hummingbirds at dawn and you will feel like you don’t deserve the praise because you invented your own writing rules, you went hard on that line enjambment, you inventimavized words, you went CRAY on spacing, your poem is to be read in a Norwegian­ accent, so how could you be right? Being objectively wrong about a syntax rule is soothing. There is no wrong in poetry, unless you're one of those angry kids in my former poetry workshops. 

Oddly enough, promising not to talk about poetry is only turning me into one of Freud’s little “repression leads to fixation” projects. I used to write poetry all the time, either to get published in anthologies or to tell my friends things that I was too shy to say sans the guise of obscure language. It was my platform of choice, my language, my Snapchat (ps: Snapchat is the worst but I use it religiously). Being a journalist and a poet is a difficult thing for many people to contend with because they pull at opposite sides of the brain.

You’re probably wondering, How can she tell my story accurately and fairly if she’s feeling so many feelings? This is a good hypothetical question. The tools I’ve learned as a poet have helped me immensely as a writer in that I’ve developed a linguistic fearlessness, almost a feeling of being invincible. More so, I think it’s helped me connect with people I talk to on a very human level. I get attached to the stories I write and the people I interview, but that’s because poetry has helped me care.

Even so, telling people I write poetry is often met with visceral reactions. It's like coming out of the closet. Eyebrows scrunch into unibrows, mouths go ajar, nostrils flare in panic. The digital age – aka all of society, aka our governing force – doesn't make the world very comfortable for poets. Every verse is a Survivor challenge and few of us get that Immunity (#TBT). People are threatened by its fluidity, its ability to emancipate both physically and spiritually. Incorporating SEO into poetry is not a thing, and the moment it is will be the moment it is tarnished forever.

In 2008, police arrested a Jordanian poet for incorporating verses of the Quran into his love poetry without approval of the Jordanian government. He was charged with harming the Islamic faith and violating the press and publication law for combining the sacred words of the Quran with sexual themes. If this weren't a fairly outdated example, I’d say that a breach of freedom of expression in this seemingly harmless manner (stemming from either political or religious sources) is a world I’m ashamed to be a part of. 

I hate to say “poetry is everywhere” because that is probably something I learned from Sesame Street, but it really is. Find your poetry. Do that one weird thing that totally conflicts with your career and make it work for you. We’re all anomalies. 

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Google and Ryan Gosling love you! (example of a non-SEO friendly headline)

I want to talk about SEO in a way that won’t gross out people who don’t care about SEO. For those unfamiliar with the acronym that has become as trendy as the shift from kale to cauliflower (PS: I do not endorse this. Cauliflower is the herpes of vegetables), it stands for search engine optimization. Media brands, be they blogs or multi-national corporations, are resorting to various algorithmic techniques to ensure their content wins the Number One Spot (the Ludacris song, obviously) on search engines, yielding more traffic, engagement, shares and sales. Side note: when you work in digital media long enough, you tend to forget that there is such a thing as traffic with cars.

Yesterday at the magazine, the staff was (sounds weird but it's a collective noun so we're good) invited to an SEO workshop. I don’t need to go to this, I thought. The best way to learn SEO is to JUST DO IT (brought to you by Nike) as a sort of trial-and-error-experiment. Wrong, Marissa! You did need to go to this!

One fascinating thing I learned is that yes, it means you are doing something right if your article ranks top 10 in a search request, but while the top result garners 53% of clicks, the 10th result garners, wait for it…wait for it… one meager depressing per cent of clicks. Imagine how much exposure the 30th or 50th or 100th search result get? Chew on that for a bit. 

Very fundamentally, it starts with a focus keyword. Let’s say nail art tips. Because really nothing is more important than nail art tips. You can’t just toss around “nail” or “art” or “nail tips” on their own throughout the article content, meta description, headline, page URL, heck, even the image file should be something like nail-art-tips.jpg!!!

My aim is not necessarily to demystify SEO as a practice, but to encourage you all to play around with various techniques and figure out what works for you, what makes sense in the context of your brand. The key, in many ways, is to play reverse psychology (or maybe just psychology, I don’t know, I’m not Freud, leave me alone) and envision what people will type into Google, and in what order they will phrase their search inquiry. How does the mind work? How do people want their information served? This includes embedding your post with relevant hyperlinks in an organic way and, the money tip, producing quality content.

When the lecturer was all like “quality content,” I was all like “Hold the phone, mister.” How do you measure quality content? Besides being some subjective evaluation, how do you create content that is holistically *good enough* for SEO?

He said the trick is to produce original content. This means that all of that syndicated crappola (excuse my French) that you read on blogs who regurgitate one another, are truly shooting themselves in the digital foot. The take away: Be fearless in the content you create. Be artists, visionaries and abstract thinkers whenever you can. Ironically, it's important to be creative in how UN-creative you get in terms of crafting SEO-friendly headlines. A pretty pun on a print page is a disaster in digital. Think in numbers, lists, how-to's. When a Google user wants to get rid of a cold, they don't have time to type in "Sucker punch those sniffles in the face!" but, quite plainly and banally, "Get rid of a cold fast."

There is a plethora of replicated garbage out there and not enough room for it in search engine rankings and in our brains. I get that it’s financially savvy to run stories from a newswire, but the return on investment of producing a fresh angle on an old story is invaluable to your brand and to readers. Or, you could just save a ton and get your intern to write it. But don’t worry, because that intern will one day be successful and enterprising and all that fun stuff. See? It’s all about ROI. Wink.

Pretty much, if your crush isn’t noticing you, it is because you are not SEO-friendly enough and you’re just ranking low on search engines and you should probably paint more relevant keywords all over your skin. Feel me? 

The trick now is to implement SEO best practices into this SEO blog post. How’s that for meta?