June 16, 2011| 0

A Creative Headline about Search Engine Optimization

In a recent article titled, “’Google Doesn’t Laugh’: Saving Witty Headlines in the Age of SEO”, published in The Atlantic, David Wheeler suggests that headlines involving word play are going the way of the “classified ad.” With Search Engine Optimization (SEO) becoming the critical component to a well-read article on the Internet, web editors feel increasing pressure to ditch the pun and substitute it with a literal description of the article. Although print editions remain a viable place for witty headlines, well-written phrases such as “Better late than never” referencing Conan O’Brien’s refusal to allow NBC to push back his time slot are exchanged for dry headlines such as “Conan O’Brien won’t give up ‘Tonight Show’ time slot to make room for Jay Leno.”

Since web presence is a valuable tool for all companies and SEO requires literal keywords, will creativity lose its edge in communication? From a wider perspective, should companies even find concern with such rigid SEO ground rules?

Theologically speaking, Genesis portrays an infinitely creative God who commissions humans as co-workers in the creative work of “tending the garden”, inventing, restoring, and making culture.

What role, then, should creativity play in current business functions? No one would argue that creativity isn’t necessary to build a product or offer an important service and then strategically position it in the marketplace. But is creativity always important in communicating with the customer? When we let go of our creative calling, do we stop mirroring the full image of God?

With the necessary literal ingredients for SEO, business leaders are faced with a choice: stunting creativity in exchange for a greater web presence or minimizing SEO for the sake of maintaining the “most best readers,” a position promoted in the article by David Plotz, editor of online magazine Slate. It is a classic duel between art and expediency.

Which side do you take? Is SEO killing online imagination? Or is SEO the necessary magnet for broad readership?  How do you navigate SEO in your business? Is it possible to do both?


Donovan Richards earned an M.A. in Business and Applied Theology from SPU and works as a consulting analyst for See Seven. You can read more of his work on Donovan's blog.

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