Want SEOs to lose their job? Start doing yours!

Want SEOs to lose their job? Start doing yours!

December 11th, 2012 – 61 Comments

This morning, an article by Paul Boag was published on Smashing Magazine that got a few SEOs, including myself, all riled up. As Bill Slawski pointed out in the comments, Paul has written articles on SEO before. Paul, whom I respect tremendously for his web development work, obviously doesn’t “get” SEO and has evidently had some bad experiences with the snake oil side of our trade over the years. Luckily he’s shown himself to be willing to learn and I hope to be part of that learning experience. But I also wanted to write about this as I think it’s important for our industry.

His main argument, after you remove the link-bait title and the weird introduction, is that what we SEO’s call SEO these days, shouldn’t be called SEO as it should be called (decent) web development. I agree in large part with that statement. But here’s the kicker: if a web developer or web development agency fails (and they do, very often, very miserably), the client often doesn’t notice. The web developer often delivers a shiny new website with all the bells and whistles that the management asked about. The fact that technically, information structurally and architecturally, the entire site is a mess, will not be noticed by 99% of clients. At least…

Not until they notice their analytics, or rather, the fact that their phone stops ringing. And they notice one specific thing: a big hole in their traffic, where organic traffic from search engines used to be. That’s when they call an SEO, because those are the people that know about search engines, right? That, Paul, is why we’re still called SEO’s. It’s a demand driven thing: the client wants more search traffic, so he / she searches for someone that delivers that to them. They don’t know that their web developer did a lousy job, it’s our job to tell that to them.

In our website reviews we encounter, on a daily basis, websites that have been redesigned where the web developer / designer deemed it “not necessary” to do 301 redirects from the old URL structure to the new one. Where development environments are left open for Google to index and a few wrong links in the content mistakenly go to that development environment, causing havoc for the website in question. Websites where a fancy new faceted based search system causes 4.5 billion URLs (actual example), to be created and Google slowly indexes all of them, leaving the websites ranking in dust. I can go on for hours.

My buddy Richard commented:

But what if they call it “inbound marketing”?

To which Paul said:

I much prefer that. It does not apply that sites should be optimised for search engines over users.

Sigh. First of all, if SEO means anything, it’s that we optimize the search engine, not the site. The term is a weird acronym, but people know it now, so we stick with it. You see, even when BMW wants to sell “mobility”, in the end they sell cars. We all want to sell website optimization, but in the end, people come to us for SEO. That we’ll give them website optimization as a result doesn’t matter.

Also in the comments, Bill Slawski said:

A person who uses things like keyword density and gateway pages is not an SEO, and never has been.

But, if you need help with hreflang, canonical link elements, parameter handling, rel prev and next values for pagination, XML sitemaps for pages and images and videos and news, Google Plus authorship markup, Facebook’s Open Graph meta data, implementation, and many other issues that great content alone will not solve, an SEO can help you with those.

To his credit, Paul responded to that thanking Bill and stating that these:

… are not things I would expect any half decent web designers to do as part of their job.

Well to be honest Paul, I do expect a decent web designer to know that stuff and if he doesn’t, I expect him, and thus you, to stop commenting about SEO until you do know about that stuff. You obviously don’t, because If I take your article from 2010, linked above, as an example:

  1. you haven’t implemented rel=”author”;
  2. I can’t find an XML sitemap;
  3. most of the pages on his site except for singular posts and pages lack a decent rel=”canonical” link element;
  4. there is no rel=”prev” / rel=”next” implementation on his archives;
  5. in fact, there is no decent pagination on those archives at all, and lastly;
  6. there is no markup.

I could go on. So, Paul, you say in your article that SEO should be decent web development, but you obviously haven’t kept up to date with what decent web development is then. I have an easy fix for you though. If you install my (100% free as in beer) WordPress SEO plugin and take 2 minutes to configure it, 1 through 4 will be taken care of for you by that plugin, automatically. But if you do that I will take that as an acceptance that there is a very convenient truth about SEO. I trust I’ll get to convince you that SEO is worth while, but I think the world deserves more than just a comment on your post as a counter argument to your headline, which I know you now regret.

Let this be the first step in me, and others, convincing you of the value in SEO. I very much hope to see an article from your hand in 6 to 12 months time stating you were wrong.

61 Responses to Want SEOs to lose their job? Start doing yours!

  1. Hector Mota
    By Hector Mota on 8 January, 2013

    I am so happy that Google is punishing these sites buying links and doing dirty tricks to outrank those of us whom actually do REAL SEO work. In the end, as your tittle points out, if we do our jobs then it will show. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, opinions with us.

  2. Kees Torenvliet
    By Kees Torenvliet on 1 January, 2013

    thanks for your very interesting and passionately argued position on web development and SEO in this article. Your writings are a breath of pure, fresh air, compared to a lot of the stuff I have encountered on the subject (SEO) lately, while I have been trying to learn the ins and outs of web development.
    Thanks for the enlightenment.
    And, of course a Happy New Year to you and yours.

    Kees Torenvliet

  3. Moda
    By Moda on 31 December, 2012

    I have learned a lot about SEO from your blog and your plugin. I need to thank you for that. Thanks Joost.

  4. Freida
    By Freida on 26 December, 2012

    Well, I personally believe in righting someone\’s wrongs and I believe, as usual, you\’ve done a superb job of it! =)
    It seems that only a few will truly understand the unique mysteries of SEO. The job will always have its clientele for the sheer fact that this side of the web is a deep, dark place! I believe that Joost has the market on this corner – perhaps even beyond the status of \’Guru!\’ I know that if I need information on the subject of SEO, he is the ONE that I will turn to!
    Even with all of this \’help\’ I still shudder when I consider the daunting task of designing a website while taking SEO into account; both are overwhelming, and both have those that claim to be the pros. While there are \”backyard mechanics\” in every industry, none can hurt a business more than mistakes made in these two areas!!
    I look at SEO the same as I look at marketing in-store; the \”good stuff\” is placed where that particular target will see it best and most. The same with product placement on the web. If you want your target audience to see a particular item, then you place it where it will be seen! Simple, right!? Well, even with this amazing plugin, it is still an overwhelming task at times, but at least success IS feasible!
    No matter what you call the practice; SEO, In-bound Marketing, Internet Marketing, etc., (notice I did NOT use Web Developer or Website Designer), it still remains that, no matter how \”good\” Google, or others, get in the future, we will still need a dedicated force that understands how to get that \”quality content\” out there and FOUND!
    SEO is not dead, or dying, nor will it vaporize any time in the future… That would be like saying we will soon find a reason to do without product placement and advertising/marketing professionals in the \’brick and mortar\’ arena – as long as we have things to sell or tell/show others, there will be a need for SEO and folks like Joost de Valk with his amazing plugin, to make it a little easier for us laymen to do OUR jobs!

  5. Kasim
    By Kasim on 26 December, 2012

    Thank you for this amazing rebuttal. Joost, You ROCK buddy! :D You\’re like a celebrity! I am your big fan! :D :)

  6. Rahul Gupta
    By Rahul Gupta on 24 December, 2012

    Thanks for this wonderful rebuttal. I just read the original post and your follow-up. I must confess I fail to see what the fuss is about. I agree the original article missed the point a few times but the premise of the article wasn’t entirely off the mark.

  7. Dustin
    By Dustin on 23 December, 2012

    I think Paul\’s idea may have stemmed from the reality that search engines are getting better, and when they have the technology to identify high quality and relevant information much like Superman can fly, SEO \”techniques\” won\’t be needed. I don\’t think Google, Bing, etc., are looking to keep SEO strategists in business, and when people learn to become better writers, link relevant information and truly try to help others, SEO will be a thing of the past. It was just recently that IBM predicted future technology may closely resemble the 5 senses. Sounds out there but those attached to ideas, jobs or whatever have to move on sometime.

  8. Michael Zorko
    By Michael Zorko on 21 December, 2012

    I learn so much from your website. I use your SEO for WordPress plugin. I love it. However the information you provide helps me actually understand SEO. I am getting there. Thank you for all the help!

  9. Wayne Cochran
    By Wayne Cochran on 21 December, 2012

    I need an expert opinion, and I couldn\’t readily find much info on this matter of SEO optimization. Currently on my blog, I am using excerpts on my blog page and categories pages. However, I have been using the default excerpts, so they have just been the first 55 words of my posts. Would I be better served creating custom excerpts that do not duplicate the content from the post pages of my blog entries? My blog is only a month old, so I don\’t get much traffic yet, but I do post daily, so I\’ve got around 30 posts already published and another 16 scheduled over the next few weeks. Will it be worth my time from an SEO perspective to create custom excerpts? I appreciate any info or opinion on this matter.

  10. Adam Wagner
    By Adam Wagner on 19 December, 2012

    Joost, thanks for providing such a strong rebuttal on behalf of the SEO community.

    I feel like Paul\’s article is a classic example of a web developer missing the mark when it comes to the value and complexity of SEO. I will never forget when a good friend of mine that is also a web developer was bragging to me about how talented he was at SEO because a client received a Google Alert for their site when his new portfolio page went live. He understood that the site was crawled, but completely missed the fact that the client never actually found the page through search (and never would have).

    We all need to remember that a variety of disciplines are incredibly important for effective online marketing, and nothing is ever simply a silo. Our clients need integrated, cross-discipline strategy to see the most positive results for their investments.

  11. Bill Ray
    By Bill Ray on 19 December, 2012

    SEO techniques are critical to anybodies business, just hoping for the best does not work.

  12. Felix Ofiwe
    By Felix Ofiwe on 19 December, 2012

    Thanks for this wonderful rebuttal. I just read the original post and your follow-up. I must confess I fail to see what the fuss is about. I agree the original article missed the point a few times but the premise of the article wasn\’t entirely off the mark. These days I get a few calls from companies looking for SEOs and when I try to explain to them that the job of SEO is changing, they have a hard time believing it. It is true, Google is forcing all of us to change the way we \’practice\’ SEO. Its all about quality content. In 2013 and beyond, it will be more about quality content and socializing (creating social) businesses (Note I didn\’t say Social Media. I said Social Business. There is a difference). Know the difference and you will understand SEO going forward. Cheers!

  13. Philip Stancil
    By Philip Stancil on 14 December, 2012

    I have to say thank you for standing up for honorable SEO practices. We all know there are several out there who use black hat SEO tactics, which does a disservice to everybody. Being a web developer, I found myself incorporating more and more practices that I had thought fell under the domain of an SEO. I came to realize that there’s a strong overlap that seems to blur, to the point that it’s hard to determine where the responsibilities of one ends and the other begins. Because of this, I decided to do my part to learn as much as I could about search engine optimization. I bought SEO Secrets by Danny Dover and began implementing what I learned. There is a whole LOT to the practice of inbound marketing, and I think it is poor form for Paul to completely write us off like he did. Thank you, Joost, for being a voice for good SEO practices.

    • Garratt
      By Garratt on 17 December, 2012

      I agree, certainly more than SEO bleeding into Internet Marketing as the previous comment mentioned.
      For internet marketers SEO is but one of many resources/tools they use on a daily basis. If I was going to list my job as: SEO, Web developer, PPC Marketer, PPA Marketer, Advertisement Campaigner, Social Marketer, Programmer, Article writer, Author, Researcher, Video Tech, Audio Tech, Salesman and Diplomat Etc. I’d get tired pretty quickly at parties when asked what I do for work.
      “Internet Marketer” just seems to roll off the tongue a bit easier.

  14. Chatman R.
    By Chatman R. on 12 December, 2012

    I must have been asleep, because I honestly had no idea SEO and web development were seen as being in conflict. It’s true that there are unscrupulous ‘SEO experts’, but there are also bad developers. For the most part, they don’t come from a place of malice, but we’ve dealt with the snake oil type at least once. As a web designer, I try to build rich experiences. As part of my writing background, I completely understand why we should put content first.

    However, in a world where the web, and by extension search engines, are in the palm of our hand, saying that SEO has no place is incredibly short-sighted. In fact, I’d argue that Google’s recent algorithm changes have made it even more important to consider. This isn’t the SEO of the 90s anymore. Even as a greenhorn I could see that. Penguin & Panda seem to be working toward optimizing search engines for the user.

    Therefore, I’d like to argue that modern SEO is also about the user. Why do we use rel=”author” to make authorship info readily available to Google? It’s so the user in turn has better information about the author in case they’d like to read more. Why use the microdata? It informs search engines about the content on the page, which in turn provides the user with relevant information.

    I think the reason designers and devs tend to write off SEO is because it deals with things behind the scenes. It’s like the lighting and sound crew for a major production: mostly invisible, but you can tell when something is off. Great content, design, and interface logic are visible, but that doesn’t mean SEO should take a backseat. The way I see it: if it’s part of the markup, I make it my business to know. If it at all impacts the success of a site I bust my ass to build, I make it my business to know.

    Mr. Boag may have years of experience on me, but I think he was off the mark here. From my perspective, modern SEO isn’t about pandering to the search engines, it’s about helping them parse content intelligently so that the right people find it. It goes way beyond rankings.

    That said, I still need to educate myself on the microdata format, as well as rel=”prev” & rel=”next”. I’m gonna get on that.

  15. Fritz
    By Fritz on 12 December, 2012

    Nice rant, Joost, way to go: some serious finger-slappin’ was needed for good ol’ Paul ;)

  16. Mohammad
    By Mohammad on 12 December, 2012

    Its really shame for smashing magazine to publish such a low quality article about SEO.
    I think Joost is the best to do so :)

  17. Thomas Semmler
    By Thomas Semmler on 12 December, 2012

    I was integrated in yesterdays twitter conversation, further more, you also said, and that is what really annoys me very much: “I’ve done projects myself where I’ve increased uniques by millions a month. No single writer could do that.” (

    So SEO generates interest? Lets take for example an article, that had not much of an impact. SEO unoptimized content gets, thanks to the social media machinery, a lot of, enough, attention, to generate as much attention as it earns, because its content is valuable.

    In short: If the content of the article itself is worth its million clicks, it will find its way to the users, by itself, via the users themselves.

    What is a SEO’s real duty? To generate interest, where there wouldn’t be? I don’t think so.

    I would never, ever think, that SEO is something invaluable, or wouldn’t be worth its price – paul definitely chose some dangerous headline for his smashingmag article, but SEO has to be part of content strategy nowadays.

    Our industry is constantly changing, and the work that content strategist do, should go in one hand with yours as well.

    And as I already said, a projects budget is always limited. What do you think, are customers gonna spend theire valuable time and money for, in a few years? Content Strategy, or SEO? I think, the times, in which SEO is a standalone business, are about to be over. It will be part of Content Strategy.

    again: This is my opinion, my personal opinion. I would never, ever tell a client, not to consult a SEO-Expert, because I am not. But if he asks me, weather to pay for a content strategy workshop, or a search engine optimization, it will definitely be the workshop.

    You will do the same, because as webdesigner/developer, the sucess of the project itself matters, not our financial income.

  18. Dave
    By Dave on 12 December, 2012

    Great comment on the article, Joost. We’re not talking about a little bakery website, right. Honestly, i see a lot of blogpost passing by; one title more catchy then the others and i can understand that some people buy everything they read; and sadly remember the catchy title the longest: “Oh no SEO is dead… pffff…!” So, 100% agree with your well-described opinion. Thanks !

  19. Nico
    By Nico on 12 December, 2012

    not long ago, SEO was “something” to be done to gain better rankings. There were many possibilities out there, and linkbuilding as the major and outstanding discipline. SEOs were able to nearly fully compensate any technical drawbacks (onsite/onpage) with a decent amount of links, even low quality ones……. now that was easy! even easier in the early beginning, were keywordstuffing (even in in meta-tags) used to work to bomb altavista, fireball & co….. i do remember times, when some of my customers dominated SERP1 and 2 for a 100%!!!

    This has all changed and there has been an evolution in SEO, as search engines have tried to evaluate “good content” through many factors. In the beginning of the google era, they already tried to get that one into their algo using DMOZ, assuming that the editors only approve “good and trusty” sites! Having seen the effect, that (some) dmoz-editors began to sell approvements, google stopped this factor at some point.

    i could go on and on…..

    but in the end it comes all down to this: “nobody is dead” but things have changed! …a lot! and they did ever since to be honest. But we have now reached a new level of evolution-speed and a new era, that has been predictable! they have preached to optimise your site for the user not for the crawlers for a long time. Since it was easier to aquire links mostly every webmaster ignored this! and webdevelopers were thus not forced to look after technical SEO.

    then SocialMedia came into the traffic-game. together with having to deal with more “competitors”, google has one big problem: the pressure of satisfying shareholders by continously raising their stockvalue in a saturated market. Seen as a major threat, google speeded up their their change in strategy, becoming the monster-affiliate, pushing small affiliate-sites (competitors) to SERP 3+, which means in general a complete traffic loss.

    Panda&Penguin were the forerunners of this new era. SEO is not dead at all, but changed almost completely from a linkdriven -dominated approach to contentdriven and technical strategies. good SEOs have taken advantage of all that stuff already for a long time, creating technically perfect websites with their developers, delivering the best and most outstanding content to their users. others were not able to accomplish this, because many customers only have a limited budget, which ran mostly into linkbuilding instead of technically driven relaunches or content.

    SEO is all about technical skills combined with profound marketing knowledge. I agree that webdevelopers wouldn´t need SEOs when it comes down to the technical side… but I never would take my webdeveloper to do inbound work for granted.

    todays SEOs need to be generalists that guide and lead specialists! and of course, it helps a lot, when webdevelopers as a specialist has technical SEO Skills!

  20. Butler
    By Butler on 12 December, 2012

    Unfortunately Smashing Magazine was also blocking legitimate, constructive, non-inflammatory comments, which was a little worrying for a site I’ve come to respect over the years.

    One look at Boag’s client base – for whom he has developed web sites from the ground up – shows that he and his agency know little as to even the basics of SEO, which somewhat undermines his position.

  21. James Bavington
    By James Bavington on 12 December, 2012

    Yoast, completely agree. I’m also all-for developers taking more ownership of producing websites developed with search in mind.

    I work for an agency that combines design, development and SEO, so our developers & SEOs work together to ensure things like XML sitemaps, 301 Redirects, Canonicalisation etc are in place. Otherwise they are missed, and like you say, these are things beneath the surface that clients don’t notice and assume are there.

  22. Frank
    By Frank on 12 December, 2012

    Really true Joost. And your plugin is great. But: Even the best software requires brains :)

  23. David Breder
    By David Breder on 12 December, 2012

    The Title Says it All!

  24. Jeff
    By Jeff on 12 December, 2012

    Brilliant post Yoast. I come across developers ALL the time that leave a “trail of destruction” in their wake, simply because the site owner thought they would “develop the site first, and THEN bring in the SEO guy”, and the developer had absolutely no clue on ensuring usability and things like 404s didn’t happen…..sigh.

    The number of clients I’ve implored to bring me in PRIOR to the development starting (or just get me to do the development!) …. lets just say I’ve lost count.

  25. Jen
    By Jen on 12 December, 2012

    I totally agree with you on most points, especially that your plugin will take care many of the technical issues. Sure, designers and developers need to be mindful of SEO and provide a good technical base and solutions. But, you can’t always fault the web developer for SEO failure in terms of content / content structure in a WordPress based site. Clients have control over both their content and the way they choose to organize their content, title their content, etc. It may not be the designer/developer that did the lousy job ;) In this sense, decent web development and SEO are separate entities. I sincerely hope that knowledgeable SEOs keep their jobs, whatever the job title is ;)

  26. Andrea
    By Andrea on 12 December, 2012

    The problem with SEO is that anybody want to talk about SEO even if they don’t know anything about it.

    Talking and insulting without respect Job where you aren’t competent probably make you “cool”.

    I don’t write about Surgery cause I’m not a Surgeon!

  27. Jack
    By Jack on 12 December, 2012

    I absolutely disagree that “web development” has anything to do with what follows the build and launch of a site. Even if the site was built with proper SEO foundation.

    The reason I disagree entirely with that term ever being used to describe the marketing that must follow the launch of a site is that, on a local level most especially, businesses still cannot believe it when they don’t get traffic after a site is launched.

    They honestly believe the “build it and they will come” thing and are, to my unscientific calculation, about 5-8 years behind even understanding this conversation.

    No way we should be arguing about semantics that only our industry knows and cares about as if what’s being discussed is common knowledge where it really matters: on the front lines, with clients.

    Finally, if anyone out there is designing sites without building them specifically for the end result and only reasons to have a site on the web: traffic, leads, engagement, sales, then my feeling is they’re being fraudulent in a certain way.

    When a client asks for their site to be re-designed and that’s it, it is the responsibility of the designer to know what to say in that situation and make sure the client knows they are paying for proper SEO. The client isn’t saying “I just want a pretty site and don’t care if we show up in search or social or get any traffic at all.” The client is NEVER saying that.

    There should be no solely design-oriented firms out there anymore unless they work with a partner to pass off the marketing when the site’s done. To finish a site and invoice them without any further advice, referral, recommendations is uncaring and unethical toward business owners.

    It’s dumb business to just be a design firm anyway. Sure, do design, but don’t leave money on the table by not working in the client’s best interest and at least recommending they get help from a trusted marketing or SEO firm when their part of the job is over.

  28. Navin Poeran
    By Navin Poeran on 12 December, 2012

    Why take the effort to try to convince a person who’s not willing to learn anything?

    Just read the comments he posted on his own article.

  29. Andrea
    By Andrea on 11 December, 2012

    Thanks for the interesting rebuttal. I think fair points were made on both sides but definitely learnt a few things from your post that I hadn’t thought of before.

  30. andrea "gareth jax" Scarpetta
    By andrea "gareth jax" Scarpetta on 11 December, 2012

    it’s amazing how many web developers love to disallow websites, it’s looks like some form of self-celebration.

  31. Wayne Cochran
    By Wayne Cochran on 11 December, 2012

    I love your blog and your plugin for WordPress. I am not yet familiar with markup. Are there plug-ins that can add this, or is this something that could possibly be on the horizon for your SEO plugin? Keep up the great work!


  32. Laura Dunn
    By Laura Dunn on 11 December, 2012

    I was waiting for an article like this to pop up after Paul’s appeared on Smashing Magazine…well argued Joost!! SEO / content marketing / inbound marketing – who cares what you call it. Educate your clients on what you can do holistically to help their business grow and remove all the jargon and techy terms. After all, that’s what we’re all really trying to achieve here.

  33. Paul Boag
    By Paul Boag on 11 December, 2012

    Hey Joost, I am not going to kick off this whole thing again here but I did want to say three things…

    1. Thanks for responding.
    2. I agree that web developers need to improve in this area.
    3. I know for a fact that Smashing Magazine would be open to a rebuttal if you want to.

  34. SeoMuscle
    By SeoMuscle on 11 December, 2012

    Thank you SO MUCH, Joost.

    I am sooooooo tired of this debate, so tired of having to prove to people like Paul Boag are wrong. Great article Great answer and above all you kept your cool – RESPECT.

    As you said I would be more than happy to change career if only web developers and designer really knew their job

  35. Eliz C
    By Eliz C on 11 December, 2012

    I’m still amazed at the poorly structured, for SEO purposes, websites that I’m asked to look at to help them with getting traffic. I really thought by now that web designers would realize just how important it is. But they don’t! I’ve had to argue with a few of them and they still just don’t get it or want to fix the problems. One in particular told the client that it would cost them thousands of dollars and weeks of time to change the permalink structure of their blog posts to get them how I thought they should be…grrrrr.

    My favorite thing to tell clients is that is like getting all dressed up and nowhere to go.

    I’m dreaming of a world where web designers and SEOs work together harmoniously. But realistically I don’t see it happening anytime soon.

  36. Paul Baguley
    By Paul Baguley on 11 December, 2012

    A lucid and constructive reply.

  37. Nick Nelson
    By Nick Nelson on 11 December, 2012

    Speaking as a person who likes to think he knows a little about SEO, but want to make it a practice that I make a priority while marketing in 2013 – I think labeling yourself in SEO is shortsighted.

    SEOs are Online Marketers – Inbound Marketers if you will, or Content Marketers – ultimately you’re a marketer.

    But more than anything, using SEO tools such as WordPress SEO is obviously important, but is link building, truly SEO? It may be today, but maybe not tomorrow?

    • David Aimi
      By David Aimi on 12 December, 2012


      Firstly let me just say that the phrase “Inbound Marketing” is the new buzzword for the all-encompassing inbound traffic conversion. “SEO” itself was a buzzword back when and is now a phrase re-used because non-technical people can make a quick association with it. I see your point about just referring to yourself as an SEO as being shortsighted, but honestly, SEOs aren’t are not really inbound marketers. As Joost mentioned there’s a grandiose deal of technical implications that need to be implemented, especially the larger the site gets. I don’t agree with your phrase that “all SEOs are marketers”. SEO is the process of serving up an vehicle that makes marketing possible. This includes many things like server speed/ optimization, website performance / optimization, semantic code structure, accessibility, device platform. If you’ll notice, most of those things I just said have little to do with marketing itself.

    • Joost de Valk
      By Joost de Valk on 11 December, 2012

      I disagree Nick. It’s not just marketing, it’s a very technical trade as well. Try explaining a spider trap to a “normal” online marketer, he’ll never get you. SEOs are in the middle of server optimization, content development, HTML, website performance, etc. because it all impacts how a site performs in the search results.

      • Barbara
        By Barbara on 21 December, 2012

        I think that\’s a good description about SEOs being at the center of it. A good SEO is the Architect of the entire project, able to oversee all areas of a website\’s growth (or lack thereof). Writers should be able to optimize their text. WebDevs should be able to optimize their code. Content Managers need to be able to do a little of both. The SEO often bears ultimate responsibility when a site ranks or tanks, but every person that touches a website has a role in its optimization and should be held accountable.

      • Garratt
        By Garratt on 16 December, 2012

        But SEO’s definitely need marketing skills. Unless of course you only plan to work for others.
        What’s the point of ranking 1000001 phrases on first page if you’re only using Adwords… You’d be loosing out on hundreds of thousands of $$$.

      • Nick Nelson
        By Nick Nelson on 11 December, 2012

        Can you say that marketing can’t be technical though? In my mind it totally can be. I can see what you’re saying. But I’m just not sure that marketing has to be non-technical.

        Maybe it’s almost a Marketing Engineer…if Sales Engineers are the technical side of Sales. But I do hold that calling yourself an SEO is limiting yourself.

        • Joost de Valk
          By Joost de Valk on 11 December, 2012

          I don’t feel limited by it, but I can see why other people would feel they are, I’ve always called myself a developer & an SEO. These days “growth hacker” is all the rage it seems, all of these are fine to me, I just make websites work.

      • Amy
        By Amy on 11 December, 2012

        SEOs are kind of like coordinators. I think it takes a pretty exacting person to know how, or at least something about how, content, code, traffic, links, etc., can/should work together AND then have the desire to see it all implemented. I was quite timid of SEO at first, and “just a writer”, but found that my nature of being a helper, perfectionism, thirst for constant learning, creativity and curiosity about technical things seemed to fit the bill perfectly. I really hope SEO one day is considered a very specialized and respected title instead of a synonym for “snail oil salesman.”

    • Amy
      By Amy on 11 December, 2012

      Anything and EVERYthing that affects the performance of a website is SEO.

  38. Cory Howell
    By Cory Howell on 11 December, 2012

    Thanks for defending us as always Joost!
    And if you need any examples of poor web development & the impact it can have, I have some major e-commerce retailers that suffered over the past few weeks I could share (anonymous stats only).

  39. Jason Diller
    By Jason Diller on 11 December, 2012

    WebDev should feel bad if they’re not doing some of these things…but as we have new things to do…we need to adjust our divisions of responsibility to react to current industry trends.

    Also, that post on smashing kinda got me pissed off…

  40. Angela
    By Angela on 11 December, 2012

    I got riled up reading that as well and completely agree with you. I don’t label myself an SEO, but as you pointed out above, I do deliver SEO to my web dev clients through using smart tools and positioning their content properly, something I find is severely lacking with alot of Devs.

    I think another part of the issue is that alot of Devs don’t want to own that SEO should now be a large part of the development process. Yes, the site should look great, but if no one can navigate it, and they can’t find that great content, then all is lost.

  41. Brian Krogsgard
    By Brian Krogsgard on 11 December, 2012


    Really great post.

    I tend, in general, to agree with much of what Paul said in his post. Content is the key driver in my opinion. But as you say, it’s silly to ignore SEO as you’ve defined it: good, thought out web development practices that are well documented to be beneficial.

    Content and SEO do not have to be mutually exclusive. They are best when they dance together to guide Google in the right direction.

    As you mention, it’s easiest to just leave most of the technical bits to your plugin – which I’ve done with success for a long time. Other than that, items like your numbers 5 and 6 are just good development practice.

    I’m glad you guys are hashing this out. These kind of discussions, when held with respect and points made with good reasoning, make the web better.

  42. Amy
    By Amy on 11 December, 2012


    I’ve been trying to explain this to people for a year and a half now, ever since I hit the 6-month mark in my SEO studies. I am self-taught and as much as I’ve doubted myself along the way, I’ve always recognized what I was doing actually worked! I just do things as they are explained to me in forums, articles, by programmer friends, etc., since those have been my only sources. (And I’ve hardly programmed more than BASIC and an HTML tag in my entire life.) It is OBVIOUS for anyone with half a brain to figure out which sources are snake oil and which are legitimate. Or maybe it’s not, which is why I moved to another department at my company. Got tired of bursting into tears over a programmer failing to implement my meticulous cut-and-paste instructions for optimized content and code.

    And I sure do miss SEO. I guess to me it’s like baking a cake you’ve never baked before. It could work just as you expect from previous experiences, or it might not. Wait and see what happens and tweak the end result if you have to. Unless you decide to swap out the salt for the sugar and Elmer’s glue for the eggs, you’ll get a satisfying result. I just don’t understand why it’s so complicated.

    (sorry for the rant)

  43. David Aimi
    By David Aimi on 11 December, 2012

    Great comments Yoastman, I 100% agree and I also happened to read that same article. I laughed when you made the plug about him installing WordPress SEO. At the end of the day “SEO” is not puppies and rainbows, its a science. A Science Google and others have worked very very hard to perfect. To also compliment what you said, I find it uneasy when I find out a developer does not know basic semantics of web structure.

  44. Dane Morgan
    By Dane Morgan on 11 December, 2012

    I wondered how long it would take for that to elicit some full on responses. My prediction was ‘not long’. ;)

    He did indeed have points to make, but I think he made them poorly. Yes. WebDev should handle some things, but often it does not. And the part about having content made internally is valid, with the exception that someone who knows something about SEO needs to help with positioning the content the right way.

    Ironically, I do both of those things for my clients and I do not consider myself SEO at all. I am WebDev.

    • Joost de Valk
      By Joost de Valk on 11 December, 2012

      I think Dane, that 99% of people who should know about SEO need not be SEO’s and don’t need to be called SEO’s. But that doesn’t mean one should dismiss the practice.

      • Dane Morgan
        By Dane Morgan on 11 December, 2012

        Certainly not. I value the hell out of it. WordPress isn’t installed until Yoast is. ;)

  45. Steven Jacobs
    By Steven Jacobs on 11 December, 2012

    Thank you for addressing these issues at hand Yoast. I’m tired of seeing these posts “SEO IS DEAD!”… but for $79 buy my product which is the SEO Killer.

    It’s true a lot of SEO doesn’t work like it used to, but so many of these web design companies are so driven on design rather than functionality that it’s when they call us SEOs to figure out their screw ups and why it’s not ranking.

  46. Steven D. Sanders
    By Steven D. Sanders on 11 December, 2012

    It should be “lose” rather than “loose”.

    • Joost de Valk
      By Joost de Valk on 11 December, 2012

      Already fixed, but thanks :)

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