While back I wrote an article about how having a search engine friendly website does not make it search engine optimized. The article discussed how many web developers promise to "search engine optimize" the websites they develop. While I don't mean to discount the value of a good web developer (I rely on them heavily) many developers really know no more about SEO than than they do about plumbing. Sure, they can plunge a blocked toilet, or write some decent titles and meta descriptions, but there is so much more to SEO (and plumbing) than that.


A good web developer will undoubtedly build a very search engine friendly website. But it takes someone steeped in SEO to truly optimize it. Very few web developers study search engine marketing they way an SEO dedicates their time to learning, studying and practicing the art of on- and off-page optimization.

One of the comments I received from that article really struck home to me and did a great job of fleshing out what I have always believed about SEO:

SEO should be done not by SEO experts with little technical knowledge, but by the entire team of developers and content populators on a site. Why? Because in this new era of widgets, gadgets, and Web 2.0 hype, building a site with latest and best (aka AJAX, or FLEX / FLASH ) requires numerous techniques in converting what is a non single-threaded and non sequential flow of content, into a bite that search engines can actually take and chew. The web is no longer about flat content sites with flow of text that can try to trick a search engine into associating a phrase or word with them. It is about usefulness and focus of content, delivered in the most user-friendly way with a higher and higher bar raised in User Experience.

Aside from the assertion that SEOs have little technical knowledge, I couldn't agree more with the rest of the statement. SEOs don't necessarily have to have the technical skills to design, develop, and build sites, widgets or content management systems, but technical skills in the SEO community are hardy scarce, including some of those things I just mentioned.

SEO is a team effort

But as someone who considers himself largely non-technical compared to many of my peers, I have always understood the value of a good team. Heck, even if you limit the scope of a project solely to SEO there are a wide-range of skills required that is often beyond the skills of a single person. There are many solo-SEO practitioners out there but they often rely heavily on friends and colleagues that can help them fill in the gaps in their knowledge. It's not unheard of to sub work out to copywriters, usability and conversion experts, developers, social media gurus and the like.

This leads me to my response to the previous comment:

The SEOs place is becoming more of a conductor of an orchestra, rather than the one who plays all the instruments.

I believe it's important that the SEO have the technical skills in things that directly relate to search engine optimization and then a much broader knowledge of the many other elements that pour into effective website marketing. The SEO doesn't have to perform all these jobs, but they need to know enough about them all to develop a marketing strategy and then to orchestrate all the pieces to create an effective website marketing campaign that helps the client grow their business.

Does this leader of the orchestra have to be an SEO? Not necessarily, but it makes sense. SEOs have a unique advantage in that they often have a broader understanding in how the web works. SEOs were pretty much the pioneer in website marketing. They didn't necessarily get it right in the early years, when it was all just about rankings and nothing else, but that focus pioneered the concepts of web findability.

Orchestrating the efforts of many

SEOs of today rarely have such a limited focus. It's not just about rankings anymore. (If you find an SEO that looks at rankings as the sole measure of success, run.) Most marketing jobs are either creative or technical. The SEO already has experience balancing both and making sure they merge into a single customer and engine friendly campaign.

The SEOs should provide keywords to the copywriters so they can write keyword focused marketing copy for the website. The SEOs should work with the designers to ensure the site maintains visitor appeal as changes are made to improve on-page optimization. They should oversee the developers in eliminating barriers that prevent search engine from properly spidering the website and to also build a solid, search friendly website architecture. SEOs should work with usability and conversion experts to ensure that the site maximizes conversions without diluting the effectiveness of optimization. The SEO should orchestrate strategies for link building and social media marketing that coincide with the optimization campaign.

Let's not forget that SEOs typically have a pretty good understanding of how search engines operate. They know more details in regards to what works and what doesn't, what the search engines look for and why, and how they score different elements of the website. There is a lot of good marketing you can do on the web, but if you're not being effective at getting exposure on the search engines, you're severely limiting your potential.

Which brings us back to the statement that SEO, as a process, is an orchestra, with many instruments all playing their part. Within that orchestra are both SEO and non-SEO specific instruments, but all are a natural fit to a web marketing orchestra led by an SEO well versed in harnessing the beauty of each instrument.

July 10, 2008

Stoney deGeyter is the President of Pole Position Marketing, a leading search engine optimization and marketing firm helping businesses grow since 1998. Stoney is a frequent speaker at website marketing conferences and has published hundreds of helpful SEO, SEM and small business articles.

If you'd like Stoney deGeyter to speak at your conference, seminar, workshop or provide in-house training to your team, contact him via his site or by phone at 866-685-3374.

Stoney pioneered the concept of Destination Search Engine Marketing which is the driving philosophy of how Pole Position Marketing helps clients expand their online presence and grow their businesses. Stoney is Associate Editor at Search Engine Guide and has written several SEO and SEM e-books including E-Marketing Performance; The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!; Keyword Research and Selection, Destination Search Engine Marketing, and more.

Stoney has five wonderful children and spends his free time reviewing restaurants and other things to do in Canton, Ohio.


AWESOME title!

You make some excellent points. I agree with your assertion that many SEO's have the technical skills too. I designed web sites for 10 years, and although I don't know development, the skills I have help me a lot in making sure a site is properly optimized.

When it's a team effort, everyone benefits.

Let's not forget that SEOs typically have a pretty good understanding of how search engines operate. They know more details in regards to what works and what doesn't, what the search engines look for and why, and how they score different elements of the website. There is a lot of good marketing you can do on the web, but if you're not being effective at getting exposure on the search engines, you're severely limiting your potential.

Will fit well in with the rest of the SEO analogies I have heard:


I love your thoughts. I worry about individuals who are struggling with SEO on their own websites. Do they need a team of designers? How do they afford to compete with webmasters who have a whole orchestra at their disposal?

Great post. I especially like the part about sharing keywords with copy and content writers to help with the efforts. I hope that some of those in charge of that task within companies find your post, as we have all to often had pushback from copywriters regarding "flow" or "hindering their creative virtue" when it comes to copy. For some, their "art" is more vital than the company goals overall.

Also of note is that creating content all over the web that helps with SEO rankings is a team effort as well. Simply tasking your staff, even if small, with reviewing RSS feeds and conversations that are occuring in their industry/space and thoughtfully participating would help in supporting the overall rankings.

@ Dr Richard

There is nothing that prevents a small website from being SEOd by a single person. In keeping with the analogy, when in the recording booth, you only have to lay down a track for a single instrument at a time. Do one, move onto the next and so on and soon enough you have the sound of a full symphony recorded. SEO can be the same. One person can do many jobs, and it's even possible that they do them all well. You just get a lot more done when you have multiple people managing the instruments together.

You're spot on with this post.

I once worked for an Internet company that made all their new staff build a basic web site as a learning experience - sales people, SEOs....everyone. It was a great way to make sure the whole team new what they were dealing with.

DR. RICHARD: Small businesses wrestle with your question all the time. But as Stoney said , it is possible. You just have to tackle one step at a time, quite systematically. I recommend a checklist for small businesses who don't have the budget for our services, and provided they follow it, they actually do get it right in the end. There's no need for individuals to pass on SEO.

A gem of an article! I have been debating with myself regarding several clients - should I SEO their current CMS (smaller $), or move them to a more SEO/web 2.0 friendly CMS, and new graphics, and a video on the home page, and blog ... Because yes, we are absolutely about internet marketing. And its not just getting people to the top, they then have to convert to sales...

Many skills required!

Next step - to blog about this article to my own subscribers.

Precisely. I always chuckle when people ask me what I do and I tell them, "as little as possible." I'm fortunate enough to work with some amazing developers, designers and programmers. I just tell them what I want... they make it happen.

Keeping a keen eye on everything and directing events from beginning to end is pretty much my job.

"Do as I say, do not do as I do." :)

I think clients dont understand, its not about the graphics on the page. Its all about the content.


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Search Engine Guide > Stoney deGeyter > SEO is an Orchestra, Not an Instrument