How many times have you seen a search engine marketer cringe at a business talking about how our industry is nothing but smoke and mirrors run by slimey practioners? I know I've seen it (and done the cringing) more than a few times in my life. What many in the industry seem to forget is that we often do the same type of generalizations and mud-slinging at other industries. That's exactly the line of thinking Miriam Ellis at SEO Igloo Blog explored yesterday.

Miriam's post comes in response to a Search Marketing Standard interview that featured Bill Slawski and Kim Krause Berg talking about trying to work with designers that don't understanding search marketing.

In the post, Search Marketing Standard's Joe Whyte comments:

It seems that designers typically have a hard time working with SEOs. They do not realize that things like Flash simply don't work for SEO reasons.

Ironically, Joe falls prey to the type of stereotyping that good search marketers find themselves battling every day. In this case, Joe assumes that designers (as a whole) have a hard time workign with SEOs because they're more in love with fancy graphics than creating a visually appealing, yet usable interface.

Miriam responds:

I agree with Joe that this is typical...but I also want to point out that this is a generalization of the same nature as, "SEOs typically spam search engines". Do some Google searches for SEOs or web designers, and chances are, you will be overwhelmed with the atrociously bad options in both fields. SEOs who submit your site to 5000 search engines and web designers who think design means building splash pages. Yuck, on both counts.

It's a good point.

The search marketing world has come a long way in the fight to legitimize our industry. Mainstream marketers are starting to understand that search marketing goes beyond simple manipulation and actually focuses on building relevant, usable content. Part of that progress has come from the work search marketers have done to educate people about our industry. Part of it has also come from the willingness of those outside the industry to stop and take an honest look at who we are and what we do.

Affording those in other industries the same time and respect seems only fair.

September 10, 2007

Jennifer Laycock is the Editor of Search Engine Guide, the Social Media Faculty Chair for MarketMotive and offers small business social media strategy & consulting. Jennifer enjoys the challenge of finding unique and creative ways to connect with consumers without spending a fortune in marketing dollars. Though she now prefers to work with small businesses, Jennifer’s clients have included companies like Verizon, American Greetings and Highlights for Children.


Good one.. It is tough to make the designer think in terms of SEO, However it is not a big deal to optimize any graphical site for search engines as long as it isn't 100% flash

Sorry to tell you that, but I am already sick and tired of n00bs generalizing and teaching people howtos. If the SEO and the designer don't fit, that's because the SEO knows nothing of webdesign AND vice versa. The same problem can be experienced with programmers/designers and programmers/SEOs. If one of them is n00b and doesn't get the big picture it just wont work. The problem can be in the SEO himself. Like this n00b, for example, that said SEO and Flash don't work. Too bad, how did I do it then? Of course, with no knowledge of PHP, JS and Flash you wouldn't know how to optimize it, but ... it works. Check for example. Its a Flash-navi site with AJAX-driven content. All SEO-Friendly, max usability, perfect design. Whatever you do the header animation won't start from the beginning again. How is a webdesigner supposed to work with a n00b like this?!


You are comparing apples and oranges. When Joe made the comment about SEO and Flash, he was talking about ALL-Flash sites, not HTML or XHTML web sites that feature Flash components.

Obviously having PART of your page in Flash won't hang you up, it simply keeps the content within the Flash area from being indexed. No big deal, you don't index the text or content in graphics either.

Unfortunately, there are designers that refuse to compromise, just as there are SEOs who refuse to compromise. You cannot properly optimize a site that is ALL Flash, but you also shouldn't push aside or discount a site that uses Flash well.

I don't think calling Joe a n00b is justified in this case as I have no doubt he was referring to ALL-Flash designs, not to sites designed the way you've put yours together.


I do aggree that calling Joe a n00b was too much, for which I am sorry and beg for appologies. But.. as browsers and search engines treat Flash as an on-page element, so must the SEO do. If there's an All-Flash website (like the perfect ) with the use of SWFObject and 1 extension (I am sorry for forgetting its name), you can give each scene a different URL. Then with a CMS you can organize the pages for at least a sitemap. Having the sitemap, you can put it in a MySQL Database and describe the relations through pages (which pages link which). Then, you put the Flash static content into a PHP/MySQL CMS and embed the Flash in it. By the use of noscript you index all the content and all the links.
I mean... you are an SEO. People hire you, because they have a problem with their SE visibility and/or ranking. So what you have to do is - optimize! If your customer asks you why his All-Flash website is not getting indexed properly and what should he do about it, that's the right answer: put it in HTML, make your content dynamic and present both the SE and the users.
Take a look at (in case you don't know this website). Will you aggree that this page's webdesign is much more of a linkbait than any paragraph of howtos an SEO can write in his blog?
Why should we generalize that Flash is not good for SEO, when there are enough technologies on the world to get it properly indexed and even to pass link juice through its scenes?
My point is, if the designer refuses to alter his work, that's because he doesnt want to. The SEO should think of an idea that will lead to the same (or better) user experience without losing link value or indexed content. That's easier than improving.

Georgi, isn't that a bit of much work to make Flash indexable?

Why not just have stuff in images (unless you do need interaction from Flash)?

Anyway, I think this whole geneneralization thing comes from experience. Given that few designers understand SEO or even usability, it is too easy to only have met designers that don't know a thing.

For example, I know there are good web designers, who appreciate SEO/usability, and that allows me to be more precise with giving web designers a name or two.

The same can be said about SEOs: few people outside SEO know what they do. Mostly, they get the info from the sources outside the industry.

In both cases, web designers and SEOs need to show their projects to the public and show what they have done to make effective websites/businesses. Then it'll settle the dust.

I think that the conflicts between SEO and designers will last forever. It could be only one solution - when website designer is also an SEO.

I am amazed by all the back and forth about SEO in general. So many people spend so much energy trying to make the point that they are right. If the SEO and web guys put all this energy into helping serve their clients things would be a win/win/win!

Arthur... you might have a point there... then again, a jack of all trades is a master of none!

Communication is key. A lot of designers and developers are quite happy to work within certain boundries if you explain it to them. As with everything assumption is the mother of all... well, you get the picture.

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