stephen gordon author thors hammer

Puzzles Can Pay for Christmas

Let history record that at 17:47hrs 25th December 2017 I promised I wouldn’t eat another thing. Well, maybe a mince pie with some tea later but that’ll be it. Probably.

It’s Christmas day, and I’m surrounded by family who have all retreated to quiet places of their creation to settle. Contentment is a real thing that needs to be extended everywhere every day.

I don’t drive anymore, and I’d probably lose my new found Stoicism on my first 7 am commute negotiating the West Link in Belfast. But for now I’m all zen and at one with everything.

My haul of gifts included a hammer and the best alternative history of the world. Both highly recommended for hitting things and losing track of time. Judging by the smiles on the familias faces I did alright with my choice of presents for them, choices made possible by using the right words in the right place at the right time.

Five years ago another writer told me to make sure that at least half my income came from something other than writing. You never know when royalties are going to stop (or in my case start) so it makes sense that shelter, food, heat, and light are taken care of independent of my ability to meet a fiction deadline (I can’t).

One of my income streams is helping businesses sell things online. Specifically, writing content that attracts visitors to an e-commerce website keeps them there and convinces them to fill out a form, book a service or buy a product. As a process, it lies about its simplicity.

  1. Find a popular keyword
  2. Create a webpage for that keyword
  3. Measure the webpage performance
  4. Improve webpage performance

It’s a puzzle where there are no rules written down, and everyone has a different opinion how to solve it.

It drives my fellow online marketers mad with the majority going for the quick kill of an image-driven Facebook ad or splashy website artwork on but Google loves landing page content, and I love writing it.

Google, as all-powerful as it may be is a needy creature. It needs to give us the answers we are looking for. If it doesn’t, we’ll wander off and take our search business elsewhere. That’s the kind of stuff that makes high paid Googlers (is that what they’re called?) lurch awake in the middle of the night sweating. If we found what we need elsewhere Google would go the way of Lycos and Ask Jeeves (look them up, they used to be a thing).


Anyway. So eager to please is Google that it’s all-powerful sums and software sweep the web looking for well written, popular content presented in a pleasing format. When someone types in ‘Christmas heartburn cures’ Google hurries away to its database and return with results presented in order of…

  • Accuracy (does the webpage contain the keyword ‘Christmas heartburn cures’)
  • Content (do they use ‘Christmas heartburn cures’ or its synonyms more than once in different media (text, images, audio, video)
  • Layout (is there a hierarchy of information demonstrated by headers, bullet points, and paragraphs?)
  • Interest (How many other websites have linked to this page?)

At least that’s what everyone guesses Google does but the search engine giant isn’t telling which creates an economy for people like me to create, measure and update content that gets on the first page of search engine results, attract visitors, AND convince them to fill out a form, book a service or buy a product.

It’s a puzzle that never stops but if you love words it never gets boring and the better you are at it the more money you can make which is handy for paying a mortgage, food, heat, light and presents for the nearest dearest.