April 16, 2009
79% of SEOs Polled Say SEO Status Hinges on Coding Ability
A poll taken on the Search Engine Roundtable blog last week shows that of 154 respondents, 121 (79%) believe SEOs need to know code to perform their duties. The poll was prompted by a controversial article that appeared on the Sphinn social network last week written by Edward Lewis of SEOConsultants. In the article Lewis, who himself is no stranger to controversy, outlined over 70 elements found in HTML4 and associated languages that he says every SEO will encounter at one time or another during their career. Responses to the post varied and a lively discussion took place at Sphinn with the majority of respondents openly disagreeing with Lewis' remarks. The opinion of that majority at Sphinn runs counter to the findings in the poll posted later the same day at Search Engine Roundtable. Taking a step back from Ed's article and Barry's poll, the results of this exercise appear to show that search engine optimization, as a practice, has morphed into a business requiring persons of several skill sets. As an older SEO (one who has performed SEO services for over a decade), I can remember a time when one's day was spent moving between thinking like a sales person, a marketing consultant and a coding expert. With the exception of the smallest SEO shops, those days are over. Today's well organized SEO business employs persons with complimentary talents. My first SEO employer (1999 - 2005) started as an ultra-small business with only three of us in the office wearing multiple hats each day. The most recent SEO business I worked with (2006 - 2008) has over 20 employees performing several unique tasks necessary to conduct a full scale search engine optimization and marketing campaign. The first grew towards specialization. The second was already assigning tasks based on specialization when they took me on their payroll. Thinking about the second SEO business I worked with, there was a couple "technical SEOs" who could discuss everything from server configurations to information architecture. There was a few content SEOs who could churn out spider-ready content with ease and grace. There were a couple of coders capable of dissecting and reassembling virtually any sort of site. There was a small but highly trained sales team who brought home the bacon and acted as account liaisons with clients. Then there was the management, all but one of which is capable of putting their hands under the hood and getting greasy with the workers. Everyone in the company knew a lot about the practice and technique of SEO though obviously each knows more about their own specialty. Study was mandatory and constant personal improvement was rightly expected. Aside from the head of sales, (who has an extraordinary tech pedigree to talk about), which among that company couldn't be considered as a SEO? That's a tough question to ponder and a difficult one to answer. The practice of search engine optimization has matured to the point where specialization is paramount. While I personally feel comfortable acting in just about any role in the SEO cycle, I fully understand that there are others who understand certain areas better than I do. Nevertheless, I believe I am a very good SEO. Over the next few weeks, primarily on Webcology, SEO101 and SEM Synergy, WebmasterRadio.FM will explore issues surrounding the practice of SEO and what it takes to be called a SEO. No guarantees on results but the process should be interesting.