I Wonder About Otaku SEO And Other Tough Shit About Popularity Blogging (And I Attack Nick Creamer for His Gahkthun Review)

  1. AN INADEQUATE INTRODUCTION

Let’s take a break from things that don’t matter, like Literature, and talk about the things that really matter in this world, like SEO.

I am definitely not an SEO expert, but I might be in the future – mainly because I’ve only just started my degree in communications studies. But, thankfully, I had an internship before that where I was told by my boss, one day, to Google up stuff about SEO for a few hours just to see what the latest ‘best practices’ were. Thus, my practical SEO knowledge is derived solely from these few hours of random Googling.

Either way, in this communications landscape, it’s still an interesting thing to think about.

  1. RANKINGS

My company CEO sent an email one day to tell all of us to get the Alexa toolbar, because, according to him, a lot of their clients or competitors or whatever were using it. Alexa is an analytics site and they do ranking for all the websites out there.

My first impulse was to Alexa up a bunch of sites that I’m interested in, like booksites and anime sites. But since this is an Anime Blog (among other things), let’s look at some of those.

Smaller numbers means higher rank. This is ranked by worldwide appeal.

Nyaatorrents – 385
KissAnime – 423
Kotaku – 828
MyAnimeList – 940
Crunchyroll – 1,167
Kissmanga – 2,343
Sankaku Complex – 2,449
ANN – 5,704
VNDB – 18,984
BakaTsuki – 38,190
Random Curiosity – 58,702
Sakugabooru (puts as yshi.org) – 118,240
MangaGamer.com (Store) – 124,564
Sekai Project – 215,942
Wrong Every Time – 262,239
MangaGamer.org (Blog) – 289,601
THEM Anime Reviews – 367,509
LNDB – 453,090
Nihon Review – 489,110
Fantastic Memes – 769,488
TLWiki – 962,552
Wave Motion Cannon – 1,050,063
Tanoshimi Blog – 3,676,788
Standing On My Neck– 5,480,821
George Henry Shaft’s Strangely Recently Revived WordPress – 10,285,836
This Site – 12,971,728

Here is a counterbalance of a few other sites to get a feel of the influence

Reddit – 26
9gag – 191
4chan – 672
The Economist – 1,886
Trump’s Homepage – 7,262
British Vogue – 16,748
New York Review of Books – 24,540
Lesswrong – 77,599
Partially Examined Life (philosophy podcast) – 264,678
Cosmoetica – 3,135,606

  1. A FEW IMPRESSIONS FROM THE DATA

Now, this is the lowest form of analytics, so there isn’t any in-depth detail as to why exactly these sites are ranked this way. I’m also not exactly sure whether this is by visitors or pageviews, so I wouldn’t be able to tell whether the sites have a lot of visitors or a few recurring ones.

The site I was working on at that internship has a ranking of around 80,000 – and that was with about 8-12 articles a day split between 3 or 4 writers, as well as a few articles even on the weekends. It was strategized with an editorial timetable to make sure that topics didn’t overlap too often.

With that in mind, a few thing stand out. The ones with the highest ranks are, of course, the suppliers. Next are the databases and discussion boards. The highest for Otaku-specific is the tabloidy Sankaku Complex, while Kotaku is higher because it’s both tabloidy and also goes more into the wider games market.

In terms of individual Anime bloggers, the high density every-episode commentary types will win in SEO by quantity, provided they can keep up. Nick Creamer is the special case in that he’s both an episode-by-week type but he’s also more in-depth, which puts him very nicely on the balance of qualitative and quantitative. THEM Anime Reviews and Nihon Reviews were the review sites I used years back when I started watching, so they probably keep their rank from age. Newer sites will, of course, be obscure.

Standing On My Neck is a weird case, because I remember that a few months back when I first got the toolbar I checked the ranking and it was around 2 million. If I remember correctly, searching Flawfinder on Google reached to his site, so it was probably his old domain. Now, searching Flawfinder won’t even get you the site, and searching Standing On My Neck will get you the Daria song first and his site is a few notches down. In fact, when you search a bit more specifically for certain reviews, you get the original WordPress domain name, which links over to the new site when you click on it.

I don’t know about the technical mechanics of SEO exactly, but I know that if you change your site and don’t do it right, your ranking can completely tank because everything is stuck onto the last one. I don’t know if Flawfinder did it correctly or not, and maybe Alexa is wrong – but it also seems like a bad SEO move to name your site after a song from famous TV Show, which is definitely bound to get more hits. Although, if you add the word ‘anime’ at the end of the search, you’ll get his site.

Of course, my site violates SEO best practices in all kinds of ways. Firstly, my site name is a complete word salad, which probably torpedoes my ranking a whole lot. Secondly, I’m too lazy to tag properly, which was one of the things that I did constantly at the job. Thirdly, I don’t use much images, which loses out on Google-image search leads. Fourthly, all of my post titles go over 60 characters because I like to make weird titles.  Finally, and most importantly, my erratic posting undermines the quantity principle.

  1. BEST PRACTICES

There’s been quite a number of changes in the SEO algorithm for Google over the years. One of the most notable is an orient towards qualitative rather than quantitative content. In other words, spamming keywords won’t work anymore. The algorithm is supposedly able to read more than just keywords, and measures out related words as well, which means that it focuses on the ‘thrust’ of the text overall. So writing content that is informative and to-the-point is paramount, as well as making things easily digestible for readers by splitting things up into chunks with headers.

Beyond that, there’s the 60-character limit for titles that I mentioned earlier. Also, although you don’t have to spam keywords (between 0.5% to 2.5% keyword density is okay), it’s good to shift all of your keywords or notable things to the first paragraph, because Google gives premium on those. If I had to write an article on, say, a Gucci runway show, then I’d have to push the brand name, creative director, and any other notable thing up first. When doing up titles or keywords, be wary of case-sensitivity. Other tips includes having a 300 word minimum, and having a good grade on the Flesch Reading Ease test.

Then, there’s the building of internal link structure. The more you write, the more you have to link back to. The more you have to link back to, the more you can generate longer sessions – which may improve your ranking. Frequently try and link back to as many previous articles as possible, with relevance of course (you probably get good points for linking back to an article that is relevant to the phrase linked – e.g. Bakemonogatari Review With New Orthodox Detective Movement Analysis).

In terms of choosing the keywords themselves, there’s something called the ‘long tail’. This means that you shouldn’t choose those keywords that are the most general, by you should specify a bit. Of course specifying too much is total bad shit. The long tail works like this. Imagine the keywords in a graph pattern with the most general keywords (attached to the most sites) being the front and lowering to less sites as you move backwards – a long tail. It’s better to be on the back end so that you can find the audience who specifically wants to read what you write. So, rather than leaving Anime as a keyword, also add stuff like “Bakemonogatari Review” or “New Orthodox School”. Pretty commonsensical, but it might be something missed out by some.

As I mentioned, title and caption all your images, so that they can get Google-image searched. Also, unique images are better than stock images – but that doesn’t exactly apply if you’re reviewing something since you’re limited to the work itself (unless you have artists who are willing to make fan images of course – but unless you’re like Pewdiepie and his fanbase or something, where he can get fanart from anywhere (although he probably pays them for usage, I hope) then it’ll probably be counterintuitive to pay for unique art on such a small matter. It’s completely different if you want to do it for branding of course.).

That is, more or less, the mere basic best practices of SEO magic. The higher level stuff involves a whole much of specific programming trickery – but this is probably the ‘to-know’ for the writing side.

  1. IMPLICATIONS

An amazing thing to realize about the world of today is that there are 8 billion people living in it. And, if you can get 1 million of those people, which is waaay less than 1% of the total population, to give you a dollar – you’ll have enough cash to fund roughly two Grisaias (not counting how much you spend on business infrastructure and sourcing a team in the first place, of course). I don’t know the exact production costs of Cross Channel, but, going by what you can see, and our current technology, a million is also probably enough to fund 4 Cross Channels (not counting whether you’ll find a writer like Tanaka Romeo in the first place, of course).

The harsh reality, though, is this – the world is so information saturated and large that there’s no way a normal blogger is going to even garner any influence unless they become a content-machine. Of course, being a content-machine incurs heavy opportunity costs on stuff like having enough time to tailor your work through an editing process, or being able to focus on other creative wants. Furthermore, they have to give what the people want, which is bound to cause some degradation to original intentions. To escape mainstream influence, but to influence the mainstream, requires a person who understands the subtle flows of public opinion, and can gradually shift these flows into their agenda.

Of course, even in the midst of churning out articles, I still managed to totally go left-field in one or two and throw in weird things (like making a reference to Fellini’s La Dolce Vita and going on about classicism decayed through the process of hedonism – on a luxury site no less!). David Bryne from the band Talking Heads also talked about how being in restricted environments stimulated creativity (but he was talking about a spatially restricted environment, rather than a creatively restricting one, of course).

Incidentally, what made me think about this was Nick Creamer’s review of Gahkthun, which seemed rather lacking compared to his other assessments – probably because he’s better at explaining thematic and character arcs than the nuts & bolts breakdowns of prose. So I was wondering whether he was suffering from the ol’ content-churning decay. Especially since he represents the exact borderline of qualitative-quantitative.

  1. PERHAPS MY RAMBLING ABOUT SEO WAS TO HIDE A ROUNDABOUT ATTACK AGAINST NICK CREAMER

It’s a strange thing that people never ever assess Visual Novels in a cohesive sense – forgetting that this is a multi-media medium which also has visuals and audio as its foundation. There’s still a kind of focus to condense it all down to a single facet, without understanding how it all works together. Especially given how much it could possible integrate all sorts of other techniques.

One of the strengths of Cross Channel, for example, is how laid-back its soundtrack is, sticking mainly with light piano as its base (although there are a variety of other tracks though), and how muted the palette of the visuals are. And given that the Visual Novel rests on the foundations of daily interaction itself, the total atmosphere is a laid back kind of melancholia.

Which got me to thinking – Nick Creamer’s assessments  (weird context-free prologues, repetition etc…) can be totally applied to Hoshizora Meteor’s Forest as well – and yet that happens to be one of the most interesting experiences I’ve ever had. It was an interesting experience despite me reading it in translation and knowing full well that the prose was probably rendered worse than it actually was. If I had read the Forest translation as a book instead of a Visual Novel, I would have probably felt completely disgusted with it.

Yet Forest is such a ridiculous experience because of how much it relies on the concurrent stimulation of image and sound to screw with your senses – even though its art and programming is much shoddier compared to what we have nowadays. There’s the spoken text which clashes with the written text – and this allows for a constant stream of multiple voices to cascade into the mind. Furthermore, the soundtrack is this weird celtic-sounding thing and there are plenty of weird sound-effects matching up with the ridiculous things that are going on within the game itself.

Now, I’ve only played Sharnoth, and read through a bit of the opening of Gakhthun, and I actually don’t really like repetition (I don’t like it when Ikuhara uses it either, or Beckett in his prose vs his more varied plays) – so the style is complete not my thing. But even I could more or less get a feel of what type of aesthetic Sakurai was aiming for.

For one, the opening where Neon’s voice comes in is laden onto a baroque-era kind of music thing, which then changes into this booming epic gloom sound when the bell tower comes in. Then you get the reverberating repetitious prose. This contrast is what makes it have an effect – light tinkly baroque – then BOOOOM and “the bells, the judgmental bells, the evil ridiculous judgmental bells, such a bell would be gruesome to the world, such a bell would be gruesome to the prospect of the world, such a bell must be vanquished before the state of the world etc…”. Neon’s voice cuts (it helps that she has a really calm and cool voice), which allows for the music to segue in, and that helps to ramp up the prose – combined with the Art that is totally badass and establishes Tesla as against the tower. The ADV format of the textbox makes the 3 lines appearing after each click seem like a poetic stanza.

Then, it switches back to the tinkly baroque, and suddenly turns into a fairy-tale

Even if the translation is not as good as the original, isn’t it obvious that the cumulative effect is totally hallucinogenic? We’re talking about a schism occurring in 3 different realms concurrently here – verbal, audio, visual. Forest pulled off the same thing but multiplied it like tenfold.

I don’t like the style, but at least understand the nature of the medium you’re dealing with.

Romeo understands the nature of the unfolding ADV, which is why his stripped down style works so well – to create image after image one at a time. The unfolding ADV also allows for character questioning themselves, or asking themselves things, to have a recursive rhythm,

Compare:

She ran through the twisted trees, crashing through branch after branch, in a dark desperation. Yes, a dark desperation was what she was feeling – molten and fulminating within her as a lump of black coal. Yes, the twisted trees were snapping against her and breaking into splinters and causing her cuts and blood.

With:

She ran through the twisted trees
Crashing through branch after branch
In a dark desperation

(click)

Yes,
A dark desperation
That was what she was feeling

(click)

Molten and fulminating within her
As a lump of black coal.

(click)

Yes,
The twisted trees were snapping against her
Breaking into splinters and causing her cuts and blood.

If I had to make a guess, I would say that Nick probably went into ‘review mode’ and immediately tried to latch on to the ‘novel’ part of the word ‘Visual Novel’ – because he had to write about something that he totally wasn’t used to. I wonder if he would have changed his assessment if he had really deeply thought about the nature of the medium properly.

  1. AND SO?

Which leads me back to the point.

To develop influence necessarily leads one into becoming a content-machine in these tough and information saturated times. As such, there is a potential for over-reaching and lowering the quality of the work especially when it is not exactly in our domain.

Either one (and by using the distancing ‘one’ I implicitly mean Nick) has to learn how to deal with this new domain, or one would be better off to cut off from it and admit that it is not their best domain of action. Especially one who has a particularly high influence compared to others in terms of reach.

Because the nature of information is to perpetuate, even if it is incomplete information.

(I, on the other hand, with a very nice ranking of 12 million, am definitely separate from that zone of influence – and so I don’t care about writing for anything but my own satisfaction har har)

Now of course I can’t force anyone to do anything. I can only point out what one might be doing, and I can only point out the strange burden that high influence places on a person, no matter how much they want to escape from it.

But, knowing that we already have a ton of those tabloidistic ‘influence for the sake of influence’ sites out there – then the question is – what does one want to be?

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