There's a pervading theme in some sections of the web development community to slate SEO, and every 6-12 months, there's a flood of blog posts on the matter. So what's all the fuss about? The most recent article to come on my radar is "Spammers, Evildoers, and Opportunists" by someone called Derek Powazek. It's the usual ranting, with blanket statements like this:
Search Engine Optimization is not a legitimate form of marketing. It should not be undertaken by people with brains or souls. If someone charges you for SEO, you have been conned.
No, Derek, if you pay someone for a service and it doesn't deliver on your expectations then you may feel rightly aggrieved. If someone deliberately misleads you in order to obtain money, then you've been conned. I can find plenty of examples of both within the internet community at large, and within the web developer community itself. And yes, there are very low quality SEOs out there.
The argument that some people can be conned by cowboys in a particular industry therefore the industry itself is rotten is obviously false. People get ripped off by plumbers, for instance. According to the logic of the "SEO is evil" crowd, that means all plumbers are bad and you should never use a plumber.
In tiresomely repetitive form, the argument moves on to why SEO itself has no use:
1. The good advice is obvious, the rest doesn't work.
2. SEO is poisoning the web.
If you overpaid for basic SEO, then you made a poor business decision. SEO does not equal spam. If you paid a spammer for SEO, then you have made a poor business decision.
And, of course, the solution is always "build it and they will come" - a laughable idea for anyone with experience of business on the web:
Make something great. Tell people about it. Do it again.
I've actually summed up SEO in a similar way (in three lines). The point is that "tell people about it" involves things like, well, SEO actually.
But just for the record, let's get a few things straight about SEO:
Most web developers are not great at SEO
I don't need to argue a case for this. The overwhelming majority of people who approach us have tried "build it and they will come" and they didn't come. It's not a criticism of web developers that they aren't good at SEO - it is a particular specialism, just as web development is. Most SEOs are not great at web development - we pay web developers for that.
Writing titles and reasonable code is not SEO
It's a small part of SEO. The problem with the "SEO is evil" crowd is that if they knew this, they wouldn't say what they are saying. A similarly false statement would be that if you have a CMS, you don't need a developer.
Here's a few tasks I've done this week as an SEO:
- Designing a site taxonomy that reflects the highest conversion keywords for the target audience
- Discussing Google's geo-targeting processes to ensure an internationalised site maximises its audience
- Determining the cause of an algorithmic filter that is resulting in low ranking for a number of well-constructed pages
- Analysing the backlinks of a website to determine links that are delivering incorrect HTTP status codes
There are no doubt web developers who could do all of these things, just as there are SEOs who can develop good websites. These are the exceptions rather than the rule.
Anyone can learn web development or SEO
Advanced SEO (just like advanced web development) is complex and requires a lot of experience. But the basics are straightforward to acquire and anyone with the inclination and time can pick them. Hey, I could learn to be a plumber if I wanted. But I don't want to be a plumber, so if I need that work done, I will pay a specialist to do it. And if I want a good job done, the last thing I'm going to do is hire an electrician who tells me that plumbing is easy and anyone can do it. And that's what the "SEO is evil" crowd are advising you to do.
I'll leave the last word to foul-mouthed Ted Dziuba: Hey Lets Bitch About SEO Again:
Hey I have an awesome idea. Let's take a field of business that many people work in to make a legitimate living, and tear it down for being immoral and accuse it of fraud. And when it comes to solving the actual problem that this business works on, apply a nice helping of sunshine-up-your-ass, and everything's just fine.
Better yet, let's do this every six to eight months, because collectively we have the attention span of a fruit fly.