February 12, 2016

Be The Wasabi: Write Words That Add Real Value

Warning! Achtung! Stop! This post may offend those who like to conform and follow rules.

SEO writing to add real value and wasabi

Your SEO needs a little wasabi. Be the wasabi.

Once upon a time, in a realm far far away…one of my — how shall I say this – hands-on clients came up with a fantastic proposition, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the two of us attended an SEO workshop? Together!”  After all, she’d always wanted to write a book.  And between conducting surgery and running her medical practice, she had oodles of spare time, so we could finally write that ultimate guide to women’s health we’d brainstormed about for years.  When you consider she’d contracted me to write all manner of professional content before–newsletters, medical, health & beauty articles, brochures, ad copy, sales copy, blog posts, and of course social media messaging–two days of unmitigated SEO boot camp ought to be a real treat.  Right?  For, me.  For both of us, really.

Wake Me Up When It’s Over

Ever the team player and, as she always paid my top rates, I attended the first morning of “breakout sessions” (sidebar:  whoever came up with this combination of words should be strung-up in the town square).  By noon, I was ready to “break-out” alright.  Of the room, the workshop, and out of my own skin.  Incidentally, my client took an “emergency” call about ten minutes in and was inexplicably absent for rest of the day.  The spirit of solidarity with which I sallied forth had begun to dissipate after an hour-and-a-half of technical difficulties, while in the clutches of these SEO wizards.  Further, I sat wedged between several eager small business owners who seemed pleased as punch to hear the inside dope on writing searchable SEO content (If I hear that “content is king” one more time, heads will roll).  Was tempted to fake a seizure; however, since my personal physician had already played the medical emergency card before me, wasn’t sure if that would fly.

Grin and Bear It — You May Just Learn Something

So, I stayed, nodded meaningfully, asked enlightening questions–you know, for the edification of those less seasoned writers in the room.   I happily translated acronyms, gave examples of relevant keywords, drew “real-world” parallels in “real-time” to animate the speaker’s monotonous presentation style, suggested trouble-shooting strategies…The Works!   The professor in me was coming out — in a good way.  I became a model of the Socratic method, literally the Platonic ideal, selflessly subsuming my academic credentials and freelance writing expertise for the benefit of the new initiates to the kingdom of content.  Plus, I really needed to visit the ladies room and figured that eye-rolling, audible sighs, and laughing aloud were more likely to drag things out than speed them along (am nothing if not a pragmatist).

Cut the Mustard 

SEO cut the mustard

Umm...yeah, let's cut the mustard.

Then, I heard it.  At first, I thought I’d entered into some sort of dream-state.  It wouldn’t have surprised me in the least, if I’d dozed off during one of the insufferable afternoon “breakouts” –they’d served only dry sandwiches (in sore need of something saucy) and potato chips during our catered lunch and I was famished.   Then the presenter said it again:  “Be the mustard.”  Looking around, I saw a roomful of rapt students just waiting for him to unlock  this key to website super stardom.  Pausing dramatically, he continued with his condiment analogy.  We all know that ketchup is the king of condiments, he explained, there will never be another ketchup.  You–your product, your brand, your website, your blog– won’t ever replace ketchup.  You can’t change that  Why bother?  Instead, your goal is to “Be the mustard .”  Why go for the gold when a bronze will do? (and now I’m editorializing, a bit). The best you can hope for is to sit at the table (with the ketchup, I’m presuming).  Come on, we’re SEO marketers, not miracle workers.  Let’s all be realistic.


Be The Wasabi – Add Real Value

Maybe I’m naive, and I acknowledge that I merely write sentences not algorithms.  But I’ll tell you what keeps me coming back for more.  Will give you a hint:  It ain’t the ketchup or the mustard, for that matter.  I’ll take wasabi any day.  Give me something with some spice, with a kick, with an edge — something that makes my nostrils flare and my brain feel like it’s about to freaking explode.  The wordsmiths at this SEO workshop could benefit from having their minds blown, or simply a shot of horseradish.  They basically told the class (in this case, their clients to boot!) to just “conform, fit in, don’t rock the boat, or piss anyone off.”  Here at FWD, we beg to differ.  Your Honor, we implore you! If you don’t strive to rock the boat and stand out above the rest, there’s no point in leaving the shore.

Whether you love or hate Apple, Inc. and all that goes with it, this quote from Steve Jobs still rings true:

Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.


Image credits: colonel mustard – cheezburger dot com, wasabi sushi girl – designdazzling dot com

About Amy Shoultz, Phd

Amy, a.k.a. The Prof, joined the Dream Team in August 2011. With a Ph.D. in American Studies and years as a writing coach to university students and fledgling writers, she adds an amazing amount of knowledge and energy to the team. As a co-editor of FWD and our medical site, Medtopicwriter, she handles all queries regarding guest submissions, website issues -- just about anything. She ROCKS!


  1. This was so entertaining I forgot I don’t like wasabi. Seriously, though, “Be the mustard????” Who wants to be mustard? Mustard doesn’t draw attention, and people don’t even put it on everything like they do ketchup. He didn’t even say Dijonnaise…

    Thank you for breaking out, Amy, I’ll bet no one admitted it–or even realized it, if you were as good at subsuming as I think you were–but they probably learned a lot more from you than they did from the presenter. SEO is one workshop I constantly fall asleep on, too, but I’m doing alright, thank you. Pass the habaneros.
    Shakirah Dawud recently posted..Why You Can’t Benefit From Escaping The Echo ChamberMy Profile

  2. Amy Shoultz, PhD says:

    Thank you for your comment Shakira…So pleased that you stopped by FWD for your daily dose of spice–an honor to be in your illustrious company. Relieved to know that I’m not the only one whose response to SEO is deep sedation (I so *want* to be interested).

    Mustard?! I know! Am still baffled by the concept…And, you are so right, it really doesn’t hold up as an extended metaphor–please don’t get me started! Glad that you enjoyed my little fairy tale and thanks thanks again for commenting. Oh yeah & POW!!! Your habaneros, madam?

  3. As a big sushi fan, I had to read this one. And while I find that top photo both intriguing and quite disturbing (can’t wait to dream tonight…), the inherent message in here is a good one. You certainly can be the ketchup too, but only if you can create a way better brand than currently exists.

    Working with SEO for over a decade, I completely get it though. We’ve always been ecstatic just to break the Top 10 for specific keywords. Hitting the Top 5 or the numero uno spot would be insane, but it’s a ridiculously lofty goal. So change things up and just hope to make it to the party and you’ll be golden.

    Great job on taking a the most boring 3-letters on the planet (SEO) and making quite an entertaining post.
    Andrew Kardon recently posted..My Twitter Experiment: Getting Stores to ReplyMy Profile

    • Yeah, Amy rocked this one, didn’t she? It’s based on a real experience, but she changed the names to protect the innocent…er…boring. I concur with you, Andrew, rework it until it’s fresh and new and you’ll not only make it to the party, you’ll be the life of the party. #likeaboss XO Samantha

  4. Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Andrew…I agree with you about the “sushi girl” image–disconcerting on so many levels. You can thank Samantha for that selection!

    I appreciate hearing the perspective of someone who’s worked for years in SEO. Was worried that I may have alienated some readers with an article that was meant to be in good humor. SEO doesn’t have to be boring, right?

    Hope we see more of you here at FWD–you obviously have discerning taste-) Am promptly heading to check out some of your most recents posts, Andrew. Curious to see what you’ve got to say.
    Amy Shoultz, PhD recently posted..How to Write Tweets that Get Read and RetweetedMy Profile

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