SEO, Googlebots, and Still Missing Mark

I don’t really know what to write this morning. I’ve been spending time each day, writing about Mark, using his videos from a year ago as writing prompts. This process of “writing into grief” is never easy.

Sometimes when I look at my blog stats, I want to stop blogging. Then, I’d become just another vacant and boarded-up storefront on the interwebs.

Mark would tell me, “don’t pay attention to your stats, dad.” He gave me lots of advice. Most of it was spot-on.

The other day I stumbled across a blog post from a local marketing firm that calls itself a brand collective. Not sure what the hell a collective of brands does. Well I do, but it doesn’t really jive with my own vision of what a collective should be about.

Given that my blog stats have returned to the paltry level they once were before Mark was killed, I decided to read one of their posts titled, “What is SEO?” for shits and giggles. According to the blogger, I’d fallen down in cultivating a warm relationship with the friends of SEO, the GoogleBots. I guess if I want people crawling all over my content, then I need to get cracking on my keywords. Keywords are the key to capturing eyeballs. Or something like that, I think.

I kind of got fixated on this for a bit longer than I intended. Let me share just a bit more, something that this collective of brands doesn’t really deserve here on my own personal site that I created as the antithesis to this kind of SEO-craven way of writing, blogging, and branding.

According to Little Miss SEO:

Once you’ve got your site in order, create some killer content. Content your viewers will actually love. Is it useful to them? Does it make them laugh, cry, or even better, give you their money? Content doesn’t always mean words in a blog, it can include video tutorials, pretty visuals, and free tools/help. Just make sure your content is wow-worthy.

Perhaps I should apologize that my content since last January 21 has been centered on Mark and his death. I guess I haven’t been doing enough in posting honest content straight from a heart that feels like it’s been ripped from my chest to make people “laugh, cry, or even better, give me their money” in the way that she means.

Contemplating grief and loss and honestly sharing my experiences relative to losing my only adult child has certainly made me cry. But perhaps I should be more sensitive to the need that people need to laugh, and to reach into their pockets and send me their money.

*****

This morning, I returned home from swimming at the Bath Y. I drove into the garage and realized today is Brunswick’s curbside pick-up day. I wheeled the trash can down to the end of the driveway and put out the recycling.

Walking back towards the house silhouetted against the early December morning sky, my thoughts traveled back a year. We’d just moved to this new house and would have been a week into a new place to call home. For a moment, I was in a space where it was December, 2016, and Mark was still alive.

“Was it one year ago?” I thought. Then, it hit me like a baseball bat to my midsection and I almost wanted to double over. I’ll never be able to consider him alive again. Tears welled up and I was wracked with grief.

In the house, our cat, Lucy, was there to greet me. She’s a good friend and she senses our hurt, I think.

There was a morning music show on WMPG and the music was a mix that I enjoy and isn’t always the type played during the early AM shows on the station. More electric guitars, rather than the hammered dulcimers of folk and bluegrass. Not crazy electric music, but American-tinged rock and post-rock. And then, Warren Zevon’s “Keep Me In Your Heart Again” came on and I lost it. I was wrecked and crying while fixing my breakfast.

This was Zevon’s parting gift to his family and fans just prior to his own death, from cancer. It’s a powerful song and I’ve heard it now twice in the morning on ‘MPG since Mark’s death and each time, it hits close to home.

In his Day 057 video from last year, Mark walked 30 miles, mainly on dirt back roads. He talks to the cows and sheep he passes along the way. He got lost. He had to walk through snow and sub-freezing cold. He arrived at the motel after 3:00 in the morning.

Mark gave me lots of advice about blogging, writing in general, but better, how to live. I doubt the collective of brands’ posers can bottle and pass it off as their own the kind of content that emanated from the soul of someone like Mark. His mission in life wasn’t about SEO, posting keywords for Googlebots, or getting people to buy the latest gadget of his that will end up clogging some landfill somewhere.

Here are two poems Mark wrote while walking and posted on his blog from Cambridge, Ohio.

sheep death

The earth / died / a little / today / it dies / a little / every day / because / I think / there are too many / ways / for people / to make / death / without / realizing / they’re making death / yesterday / I saw / a sign / next to a pasture / of / sheep / it said / be careful / there’s a gas pipeline / in the dirt / the sheep / didn’t/ seem to understand / they just looked / at the sign / and/ waited for whatever / form / of / death / was next

a man

A man / asked me / where I was going / I pointed / he didn’t understand / I looked / at / the / thing / I pointed / at / it was / a mirror / a few seconds / passed / the man said / ohhhh / I get it / then he said / “deep” / part of me / wished / someone would / break down the door / and / save / this / poem / but / even if someone / did / break down the door / they probably / wouldn’t be able / to save this / poem / maybe / they would / whisper / no / I / can’t / sorry

I will keep you in my heart forever, dear boy.

Less Dreck

When you begin your journey hosting a blog, the experience is a heady one. You—just a solitary individual armed with a keyboard—think the world and your readership will sit at your feet and hang on each and every word. Actually, you probably don’t have quite those lofty aspirations, but there is a certain confidence (arrogance) that what you set down for content matters. It usually doesn’t.

The start of a brand new run through spring, summer, fall, and then, the close of yet another year, offers a chance to revisit how/why you do things. I’m reconsidering my own blogging schedule and what passes for content.

For awhile now, posting twice a week—on set days at that—seemed like the best plan. I’m not certain that convention is necessary any longer. Since I no longer really care to serve as anyone’s paragon of a writer these days, self-imposed deadlines have become a bit of a drag. Continue reading

Writing Questions

I’ve been writing for a long time. Well, it seems like that to me, and for most people, 14 years isn’t anything to sneeze at. That’s a quarter of my life.

If you’ve been a reader of my various blogs, then you are somewhat familiar with my story. If you haven’t heard it before, here it is in a nutshell. At the age of 39, after dabbling with writing on-and-off for a couple of years, I got serious about my craft. Much of this newfound motivation was a result of reading Stephen King’s well-known book about writing, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. I followed his advice in establishing a routine and adopting discipline. About a year later, I had an essay published. Three years later, my award-winning first book, When Towns Had Teams, came out. That was in 2005.

I continued on through two Moxie books, the period I called “the Moxie years,” and in 2012, decided it was time to move on to something more personal—a book of seven essays touching down on my life experiences, with several centered on my hometown of Lisbon Falls. That book was a failure from a sales standpoint, even though it contained my best writing to date.

During the last decade-and-a-half, I’ve also spent extended periods freelancing for local newspapers, regional magazines, alt-weeklies, and a few websites. I’ve gathered a file of clips, with my most recent ones posted here. Continue reading

Holding My Place

When you’ve been blogging since 2003, like I have, there are ebbs and flows to content creation. A new job, a topsy-turvy month of May (and now into early June) often bring challenges to my own self-imposed schedule of Tuesdays and Fridays.

As much as I’d like to sit home this morning and crank out 500+ words, my aching knees and back (from umpiring) tell me that I’ll feel better if I put in 30-40 minutes in the pool before heading to work. I try to listen to my body now and then.

Think of today as a placeholder. I’ll have something more substantial next Tuesday, even if it’s simply pictures from Sunday’s Bicycles Battling Cancer ride.

See you then.

I'm sort of like this in the pool.

I’m sort of like this in the pool.

Fewer Words

Blogging regularly requires finding a subject and crafting a post about it worth reading. The subject can be something significant and newsworthy—or it can also be mundane and personal. As my sister commented the other day, “there is almost no topic that can’t be worked into an interesting post.” That’s what it takes to keep creating content, consistently.

When I got serious about my writing, I realized that writing regularly was part of the process required to develop my craft. Actually, Stephen King shared that secret with me. Since then, my blogging track record dating back to 2003 (although some of that blogging is no longer with us, at least not on the interwebs) demonstrates that commitment.

While I’ve continued to build narratives of 500, 1,000, and upwards of those word counts, the world seems to be moving in a minimalist direction regarding communication. How many words does it take to tell a story? I’m not sure. Probably 400 or 500 would be on the lower end. I’m a firm believer that it takes more than Twitter’s 140 characters to communicate effectively. And I’m no fan of communicating by emoji via Facebook. That probably identifies me as old-fashioned.

No one writes letters these days. People can’t even be bothered to email.

Then there are days like today when life gets in the way and there’s not enough time to tackle something larger. I’ve been ruminating about things I observed during recent work-related travels through western Maine that I can’t do justice to today, so I’ll hold off ‘til a later date.

The Land of Confusion

It’s Saturday (not Friday). I’ve been consistent about posting on Tuesdays/Fridays. I’ve remained steadfast about that schedule, because that’s how self-imposed deadlines work.

As a freelance writer, I’ve always been proud of delivering on (and prior) to agreed-upon deadlines. Occasionally, I’ve had to ask an editor—usually someone I’ve developed a relationship with over time—for an extension. I guess blogging and self-imposed deadlines allow some flexibility, too.

Questions about content?

Questions about content?

Continue reading

A Change is Gonna Come

When I launched this website back in 2012, I never intended it to be overtly political. The Jim Baumer Experience was me attempting to establish my personal brand, and this site (and blog) have played a part in that process. Life is a lot different these days.

Work is now a combination of freelance opportunities, with other fairly interesting part-time gigs rounding out the mix. I’m not sure how I want to write about all of that, at least not in the context of this blog.

Politics lately has taken up more of my blogging time than I intended. Over the past few weeks, I’ve made a valiant effort to reason and write about what’s going on from where I sit. Basically, it’s gotten me nowhere. How can you reason with people who have lost their minds and lack any historical context for anything that they believe?

What is it that I really love to do and would spend most of my waking hours engaged in if making money and paying bills weren’t the bane of my mortal existence? The answer would be, write. And likely, it wouldn’t be writing about politics, either.

I won’t promise that you’ll never see another political post here at the JBE, but I can say that you won’t be seeing one in the near future. Continue reading

Most People Don’t Follow Through

The road to hell is paved with good intentions. You’ve heard that one before, haven’t you? While clichéd for sure, it speaks to a universal truth—people like to talk, but they’re even more enamored with procrastination. But intentions by themselves don’t result in success.

Even though my blogging has been consistent over the years, I don’t always feel like putting up a post. Since I’ve selected Tuesday and Friday as days for fresh content, I have a commitment to making that happen. I’ve self-imposed these deadlines to ensure that my blog doesn’t end up like so many other vacant storefronts out there by bloggers who thought it would be cool to blog and then got waylaid by boredom, or difficulty, or the myriad of excuses that people use to not do what they need to do.

James Altucher mentions the importance of being consistent and persistent. He’s speaking about podcasts in his case, but I think those traits are applicable to just about any task-oriented endeavor. You’ve got to commit to making it happen, and then you need to follow it through—not once, or twice, or for a week—but time after time, for a year, five years, and even longer.

Practice makes perfect.

Practice makes perfect.

Continue reading

End-of-year Blog Settings

Re-calibrating my blog settings.

Re-calibrating my blog settings.

After publishing like clockwork for 50+ weeks since last year at this time (I think I’ve varied twice), the week following Christmas finds my blog schedule set on “random.”

How was everyone’s holiday? Despite my downer post, pre-Christmas, I actually rallied Christmas Eve and managed to keep the cheer rolling through Christmas Day. Perhaps it was my sister’s Baumer Bingo and assorted prizes (although, I came up empty). It might have been my ability to “screw up” whatever emotion is called for, whether I’m “feeling it,” or not. It might have simply been the magic of Cointreau and some holiday cocktails I tossed together over the two days of our holiday celebration.

Spending December 25th at the beach was a new experience. Miss Mary and I drove to Popham Beach State Park, along with what seemed to be everyone else in Southern Maine, as 60 degree December weather doesn’t happen every year on Christmas. Cars were lining the road as we approached the park gate (locked, as all park personnel had the day off). Many others decided to take their afternoon celebrations to the seashore. Continue reading

“D” is for Discipline

Discipline is an old-fashioned word. It belongs to the time before everyone’s shortcomings got filed under disease, disability—or better—blamed on someone else or a societal injustice. To use “discipline” in a sentence or conversation is a great way to get you branded as an anachronism.

That’s fine. There are some things that can’t be fixed without traditional approaches.

I was thinking about this as I was swimming my lengths in the YMCA pool, part of my twice-weekly routine that I’ve adopted to remain fit and flexible. I rarely am excited when I wake up at 4:30 to be in the car by 5:15 (that’s AM, not PM!) to do something that three years ago I considered impossible. But when I’m done, I’m thankful for the intrinsic motivation that got me up and out the door.

Discipline means having your own personal drill sergeant.

Discipline means having your own personal drill sergeant.

Continue reading