On first glance, The KLF and SEO don’t have much in common. But both things worked by developing the same concept.
Search Engine Optimisation. It’s easy for an outsider to think that only the most acute and talented of SEO consultants and copywriters have the level of insight needed to make your website work for you.
On one level, this is true. It’s not for everyone. The majority of business owners, and in fact working people everywhere, don’t need or want to find out how to optimise a website. It takes time to learn about SEO, and it’s best left to someone who is focussed on it.
But it’s not all a dark, mysterious world. There are two sides to it: one is a technical side, involving backlinks, outlinks, page speed, traffic metrics, etc. And, as I wrote before in this other blog post, there is the content side – a lot of which is common sense and good old market research.
You don’t need to rely on Google Insights and SEMrush to see what keywords the target user or customer is using. Organic searches, latent semantic indexing (pardon my jargon) and social media activity are valuable indicators of what people want to see, hear, buy, etc, and the language used to talk about it.
It’s about seeing what the target audience/customers want and then giving it to them in their own language.
Justified And Ancient
Startlingly, I realised this was what the KLF were doing back in 1988, without the benefit of Google, or even the internet.
Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty published a book called ‘The Manual (How To Have A Number One The Easy Way)’. They had just had that exact level of success with their single ‘Doctorin’ The Tardis’, under their pseudonym ‘The Timelords’.
A lot of the book was a cynical comment on the music business of the time, but it was also a fantastic no-nonsense guide. It contained some quite prophetic notes about how technology would enable many people without much talent to create popular music at home. Sadly the book is no longer in any shops, and used copies on Amazon are £183. But, fortunately, you can read it here: http://freshonthenet.co.uk/the-manual-by-the-klf/
Doctorin’ The Material
The clincher is their method to create a number one record, which goes something like this:
- Listen to the current top 40 on Radio 1, consume the latest pop and dance music compilations, and also all single releases that you or your mate might have that made it to the top 5 in the charts;
- Extrapolate, borrow, steal, find patterns, and then disguise, modify and enhance elements before putting them together to create a new track;
- Add a break-beat or dance rhythm that runs through the track;
- Add a lyric, some kind of simple refrain that people will remember.
So, basically, find out what works, what people like and are listening to right now, and distil it down. Squeeze it through the toothpaste tube of taste and add elements of consistency that will bind the tune together and hook people in. Then you’ll have a hit.
That’s a very over-simplified and cynical way of looking at it, I know. But it does have a reflection in content writing today:
- Pay attention to what works, what people like to read, watch and listen to. This is easier now than ever for SEO consultants, thanks to the range of powerful tools for analysing online activity.
- Learn the way these people are talking, how they are reacting, what they are sharing, etc. Again, this is easily available.
- So that you don’t sound like a re-hash of every article you might have read on a certain subject, add some of your own style in terms of the pacing, sentence length, etc.
- Add a killer headline and sub-headers to hook people in and keep them reading. This will be the writer’s equivalent of the main title/chorus line and the ‘verse-chorus-verse-chorus-breakdown-chorus’ structure.
What Time Is Love?
I won’t pretend to be the smartest writer on the block. And right now I’m not creating blog posts designed to go to the proverbial number one in the blog charts. It takes a lot of effort to be that clever.
But I am sure there are people who are. Thinking about it, you’d be a fool not to. Similar to how web advertising shows you things you’ve already looked at or bought, it’s possible to see what a lot of people are looking for, and then create an article that meets their needs.
Maybe I should try it?