SEO for poetry, poems, poets

This entry is part 5 of 20 in the series Poetics and technology

I don’t spend much time looking at site stats. Oh, I glance at them pretty often, but I rarely pore over them to see which posts are the most popular, who’s arriving from where, and the like. Only yesterday did it even occur to me to see what kind of statistics my blog host offers, and I’ve been with them since last March. Otherwise, I rely exclusively on the very minimal statistics provided by a WordPress plugin identical to what’s used on WordPress.com. Its main virtue as far as I’m concerned is that it doesn’t slow load-times down at all, since it doesn’t require the installation of javascript. But I also like the fact that it doesn’t tempt me to waste time looking at lots of additional information of marginal utility, as I used to do when I relied on StatCounter.com.

That said, my vanity was piqued earlier today when I took a rare, detailed look at the most popular searches that led people to my blog. Via Negativa is now the #1 result in Google for penis poetry, #2 for penis poems, #8 for penis poem, and #3 for poems about penis. (You might have to turn “safe search” off to verify these results at home.) In the non-phallic category, Via Negativa comes in at #8 for poems about movies, #1 for viking nicknames, #1 for balm of Gilead tree, and #3 for raccoon sex.

There’s a depressingly clear pattern emerging from all these inadvertently search engine-optimized (SEO) posts. All include the search term right in the title of the post: “The penis poems.” “Poems about movies.” Viking nicknames.” “Felling the balm of Gilead.” “Hot raccoon sex.”

The SEO experts are right: if you want Google juice, pander to the bots with titles only a robot could love. For example, if you want to blog a poem about giving birth, title the post “poem about giving birth,” and save the actual title for the next line. (You could always enclose it in h1 or h2 tags, if you still want to make sure it’s indexed.) I mean, I’m probably not going to change my ways anytime soon, but don’t let my stick-in-the-mud example deter you from deploying titles like the one I used for this post. (If there’s one thing guaranteed to get lots of searches, it’s a blog post about SEO.)

But please keep things in perspective. Even my most Google-friendly poems have yet to garner more than a couple thousand page views total in the 17 months since I started using WordPress.com stats. Blogging poetry may be a much better way to reach audiences than through traditional publication in print journals, but that’s relative: poetry blogs will still never attract a fraction of the readership of, say, knitting blogs, mommy blogs, or (lord help us) political opinion blogs. And sadly, it seems that only a vanishingly small percentage of those who go online every day in search of information about the human male sex organs say to themselves, “Hey! I wonder if there are any really good poems about it?”

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Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave's writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the "share alike" provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).

21 Comments


  1. “And sadly, it seems that only a vanishingly small percentage of those who go online every day in search of information about the human male sex organs say to themselves, ‘Hey! I wonder if there are any really good poems about it?'”

    well, some in that small percentage in search of information about the human male sex organ may wonder more about “video” poems …

    Reply

    1. Are you saying you want me to make videos of my penis poems? Hmm. Maybe if I can do it with sock puppets. Or zucchini. I’ll give it some thought.

      Reply

      1. oh, dear. :)

        i was making a joke about the interests of the googlers, how you could attract them by putting “video” in the title.

        of course, if you have an aversion to false advertising, i guess sock puppets is a “decent” solution.

        Reply

        1. Oh, I see. No, I’d never resort to false advertising just to inflate stats. For example, I’m always careful to restrict tag use to topics that are substantially dealt with in a post, not simply mentioned in passing. The trouble with SEO gaming is that if everyone did it, Google would be rendered useless and we wouldn’t be able to find anything!

          Reply

  2. glad to see you’re keeping your sense of humour about this!

    now I know what I need to write: penis poems!

    Reply

    1. You’ll never displace me from my top ranking! Well, O.K., you could. Via Negativa doesn’t have all that many incoming links.

      Reply

  3. Yes, you are keeping a sense of humour, and writing about it. I just get very irked and annoyed by these kind of search words taking over the legit stuff, even though they aren’t finding any success at my place.

    Reply

    1. Oh, I don’t care what they’re looking for — as long as my spam comment blocker keeps working.

      Reply

  4. LOL! I have nothing clever to say, though. I wish blogs had a little facebook like this button.

    Reply

    1. Um, some blogs do, actually. See that little row of icons at the foot of each post? I particularly recommend StumbleUpon (and I don’t like Digg, hence no button for that).

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  5. I read you on my Reader, which doesn’t show that this fu-u-unny post is part of your technology series, adding another layer of humor.

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    1. Huh. I don’t know why the series are no longer showing up in feeds. That plugin was just updated and there are still some bugs in it, I think.

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  6. PS. I have some overgrown zukes that might serve your purposes. Let me know if you want me to O/N them. ;-)

    Reply

    1. Zucchini are never in short supply here, either, don’t worry.

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  7. I’m a ‘balm of Gilead’ arrival, happy to say, and loved the search terms story. Also, I found your poem and photos when getting together some info for artwork that references an old family will which mentions a BoG tree as a boundary marker of a Pennsylvania farm in the 1800s. What part of PA was your tree located in?

    Reply

    1. Hi Barb – Thanks for commenting. It’s always interesting to learn how people get to the site and what strikes their fancy (I don’t use the kind of fancy stats program that would allow me to track individual visitors).

      We’re in northern Blair County, so about 30 miles SSW of the geographic center of the state.

      Reply

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