Recently there was a bit of an uproar in the web developer community because of a blog post by Derek Powazek titled Spammers, Evildoers, and Opportunists. In it he tears apart SEO (Search Engine Optimization) by saying, among other things, “Search Engine Optimization is not a legitimate form of marketing.” I mostly agreed with what he wrote, but only because I understood what he meant: good web development includes good SEO practices, plain and simple. A well-developed web site is easily found and read by search engine spiders. Shifty “SEO” companies that say they can guarantee top placement in search engines are probably using unethical linking tactics that aren’t SEO but instead are flat-out spamming — these are the “evildoers” who are ruining the web.
I think part of Derek’s problem was that he assumed everybody knows good common-sense web development practices. But as Danny Sullivan pointed out in An Open Letter To Derek Powazek On The Value Of SEO “the stuff that you think isn’t rocket science — that anyone knows — is indeed a mystery to others.” I’m still surprised when I see sites coded poorly — bad page titles, using images instead of plain text, misuse of (or not using) header tags — but it reminds me that what Derek (and I) consider common sense web development just isn’t to many people. This is where legitimate SEO professionals come in to help clean up a sloppy or unknowing developer’s work.
Sullivan correctly notes that “sometimes [people] can’t find that web developer who also understands SEO issues. In the same way, you sometimes don’t find web developers who are also designers.” Sites I build are SEO-friendly without calling it that, simply because it’s the right way to build websites. Of course, once the site is up it’s up to you to add the most important part of any site: compelling content that brings people back to your site.