I know I’m helping his cause more than mine by linking to him, but Derek Powazek (who?) seems to be causing quite a stir in the SEO community with his recent rant about how SEOs are useless and all SEO should be done by web developers.
While it’s true that SEO starts with web design, and should be done by web developers, Derek is missing the bigger picture here.
In an ideal world, the web developer would know about using proper HTML coding standards and how content is king. They’d even know (As Derek doesn’t) how to configure WordPress to get good URLs instead of ones with strings of numbers – but that’s not the point.
Ted Dzuiba already talked about how just telling friends and family about your content won’t do the trick, so I’m going to concentrate on the other missing element.
I’ve already said most of this as a comment on Derek’s blog, but I wanted to reiterate here.
What about the Analytics side of SEO?
A web developer can’t tell you what people are searching for in the marketplace. Can you really expect a programmer to know what terms people search for so they can include them in the content?
Is your web developer aware of the competitive marketplace and the user demand around certain topics? A good SEO is. Does your developer keep researching and tweaking after the project is done like an SEO does, or do they move on to the next project and not look back?
Do they analyze the data to see what pages people are visiting and how they’re finding them? Do they compare what people are searching for versus what they actually find and how long they’re staying on that page? Can they identify content opportunities based on bounce rates, search terms, internal site search queries and various other factors?
All of these things are involved in a good SEO program and are well outside the scope (and educational background) of a web developer. This is especially true when it comes to 3rd party developers who you wouldn’t trust with the data anyway. While it’s quite common for SEOs to sign non-competes, my experience as a web designer tells me it doesn’t happen too often.
A good SEO uses data to make informed business decisions. Sure, sometimes SEOs recommend trivial stuff like proper site design, but often times SEO involves much more strategic decisions that shouldn’t be left to a programmer to make.
That’s the true benefit of hiring an SEO instead of just relying on your web designer.