A Casual Ramble About Boats, Websites and Why I Do This

Hi there! This is Ben, writer/editor/manager/whatever of the Casual Ramble. I appreciate you being here. I generally try to avoid marketing myself and I don’t like paywalling content. That’s why most of this website, if not all, is free. However, I always appreciate a helping hand for my Patreon so I can keep doing it. Click the link below to support my writing. If not, enjoy it all the same!

I quit my job on February 28th and while I am totally fine, I also know I am totally fucked.

What I had was a writing job, yet I would categorically not consider it just a writing job. It was an A.I. sculpting job. The writing to advocate for small businesses made up one component of it. The search engine optimization component is made up of the other component.

Okay: quickest recap possible on what search engine optimization (SEO) is: basically, as the wrapper says, it’s the act of targeting high-value search queries on Google, Bing or Yahoo. Let’s be honest; everyone is using Google, so the others don’t really matter.

What does matter is that everything anyone has ever Googled it for has already been crawled, cataloged and categorized by Google Search Algorithm.

Every time anyone publishes a new web page or YouTube video or product online, a Google crawler is requested and sent to parse the page for keywords, authority, security, and load speed, among other data points, to quantify how relevant a web page is to the targeted search query.

SEO has its uses, of course, making sure when we search for an emergency plumber, the first results on the page aren’t replete with ice cream parlors near you. But by the end of my tenure, I despised it.

And it all spurred from one metaphorical question: “what is a boat?”

This stock picture is brought to you by an algorithmic need. PC: Jack Gittoes

“’You know what Bill’s doing? He’s going for that anti-marketing dollar. That’s a good market. He’s very smart.’ Godammit, I’m not doing that, you scum-bags!”

Bill Hicks, Revelations (1993)

Hating SEO writing is probably a terrible thing to admit in the modern age. Especially when actively (alright, passively) searching for a job in a similar field. But I have to say it: fuck SEO.

Yes, it has its uses. Yes, it’s a requirement to write something on the internet and have it rank well. But the impact it can have on a writer’s mind is just depressing.

There’s a point where one has so many clients that connecting with them on an individual level is impossible, thus straining the ability to write about the actual product or business without turning to lip service or keyword stuffing.

Instead of writing for the person, one begins to write for the algorithm, the robot hivemind at Google that grades your content by the applicability of the words more so than the veracity of them.

Let’s say I’m writing for that same local mechanic. I’ve written a fair deal about the services they offer, and I’ve avoided using buzzwords like trustworthy or auto technician, but I’m no mechanic. And the optimization tools say I’m only 34% optimized while the threshold rests at 37%.

So is this mechanic really trustworthy? Fuck if I know. I’ve never used their service and everything is review doctored on Google these days anyways, but the optimization tool says “trustworthy auto technician” ranks highly.

So type that shit in, find some stock pictures and send it. Next client.

I don’t like my job, and, uh, I don’t think I’m gonna go anymore.”

Peter Gibbons, Office Space (1999)

It’s not the conveyor belt that destroyed my enthusiasm for the job anyways, but a simple metaphor about what was on the production line. It’s that damn metaphor about boats.

The metaphor asks: what is a boat? A hole in the ocean that you throw money into.

SEO writing for a website can paraphrase this metaphor. To ask the question again: what is a website? A hole in the internet that you throw keywords into.

And as a boat is supposed to float atop the water, there has to be faith in the process that the website floats to the top of the search engine results page. If you’re not top ten, you’re taking on water. If you’re on page two, you’ve sunk. More water means fewer leads for the client, which means an unhappy client.

As for the audience? There is none.

Sure, people might see the posts and read them, but there’s no name to attach what I write to me. It’s all done under the guise of an admin.

Still, there was always a small part of me that hoped someone would enjoy the boat. But a large deal of clients don’t care about anything but leads and the robot overmind that reads these pages isn’t programmed to care about anything but SEO.

When I realized that, it was the beginning of the end for me in that office space.

This is not me writing SEO. It’s me writing about bloody SEO. PC: Andrea Piacquadio

You see, Bob, it’s not that I’m lazy, it’s that I just don’t care.”

Peter Gibbons, Office Space (1999)

Quitting my job was not out of the blue.

I had given the company three months’ notice in October to hire a replacement but then extended it another two months when I realized I didn’t have enough cash on hand. I still don’t.

Yeah, I’m totally fucked. But at least they had time to find a replacement and I could choose my last day.

I’ll probably fall back into the writer business soon enough. I have the experience now and a portfolio (which is a hard currency) and when I could connect with the clients, I wrote solid content that ranked well.

Nonetheless, I don’t have anything lined up. Partly because no one was really hiring before March and partly because I need a break from SEO. That type of writing is the complete antithesis of why I write and, to be a little prescriptive, why any writer would want to write.

Writing is not for robots. Writing is for the self. For some form of connection through the work. Other people only come into it for the purposes of pride or money. I wasn’t receiving any of that except for the money. I had more connection falling asleep to Bill Hicks’ comedy routines about marketing or scenes in Office Space.

So I left. And now, I am equally left to answer the question, “why do I do this?” Let’s give it an honest shot with the projects I have left on the back burner.

I’m writing this ramble because it satisfies some inner desire to reflect and make sense of myself.

I write about my experiences with music and basketball because of the sheer emotions they bring out of me.

I write stories because I want to tell them, even if they’re not quite ready to be shared yet.

And I write for my college fraternity’s website because it helps keep alive the connection between brothers and alumni.

That’s why I do this.

Peter, most people don’t like their jobs. But you go out there and you find something that makes you happy.”

-Joanna, Office Space (1993)

P.S. If you haven’t watched Office Space, do yourself the favor of watching it.

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About BenJamsToo

An insane man moonlighting as a respectable member of society from Portland, Oregon. A rock ‘n’ roller since his mother first spun The Police’s “Roxanne,” Ben is a lover of all things rock, soul, funk, jazz, blues, electronic and hip-hop. Perhaps it’s easier to list what he doesn’t like: most gangsta rap, country-western and modern metal disagrees with his stomach. Once upon a time, a friend told him to write about music. So he started doing that under the title of a Willie Bobo cover by Santana. Now he wonders about what Stu McKenzie has for breakfast, why John Congleton is the best damn record producer this side of the millennium and just how Common came to be his favourite hip-hop star. He’s been working on that last one for nearly a decade now. No answers yet.