85 Reasons Why Website Designers/Developers Keep SEOs in Business

A few months ago, I was quoted by Google’s Matt Cutts as saying that “website developers keep SEOs in business.” I honestly do believe that and have for a long time. While I don’t mean to say that ALL website designers/developers believe or do all of these things, you’ll likely encounter many who have done or believe in some of these.

As long as there are developers and designers who believe in any of the following, there will always be a need for SEO consulting:

  1. They think SEO is impossible.
  2. They think adding words into a Meta keyword tag is SEO.
  3. They develop navigational menus that are invisible to search engines.
  4. They think one-word keywords are what you optimize for.
  5. They ask the client to provide them with website copy.
  6. They have the client provide them with what pages they want on their website.
  7. They never heard of keyword research.
  8. They think SEO is voodoo.
  9. They never heard of SEO.
  10. They think SEO is submitting to search engines.
  11. They think SEO is submitting an XML sitemap to the search engines.
  12. They put the same Title on every page of the website.
  13. They design sites completely in Flash.
  14. They think SEO is creating mini-sites.
  15. They show search engines one thing and real people something else.
  16. They use outdated content management systems.
  17. They think SEO is a scam.
  18. They find it easier to use paid search.
  19. They think link building is linking all their client’s sites together.
  20. They add hidden links to their own site in their client’s code.
  21. They have no clue what their websites look like in Google’s text cache.
  22. They create all graphical sites.
  23. They still think there’s a reason to use frames.
  24. They create duplicate URLs for the same content.
  25. They prefer to say they can’t change something, rather than figure out how to do it.
  26. They take weeks to make simple changes to a website.
  27. They recycle information from one client’s website to another.
  28. They try to optimize for highly competitive keywords only.
  29. They bury important pages deep within the website.
  30. They put the good stuff behind password protected pages.
  31. They think SEO is all in the H1 tag.
  32. They think SEO is keyword stuffing.
  33. They think SEO is putting keywords in invisible text.
  34. They think SEO is putting links in a footer.
  35. They think SEO is about creating doorway pages.
  36. They think SEO is having a certain keyword density on your pages.
  37. They think SEO is a magic formula.
  38. They are scared by the word “algorithm.”
  39. They think making websites usable for people is somehow different than making them usable for search engines.
  40. They put “welcome” in Title tags.
  41. They think SEO will take care of itself by having a blog.
  42. They think changing a few words on some pages now and then help SEO.
  43. They think frequent respidering magically increases rankings.
  44. They think SEO is all about the long-tail.
  45. They think SEO is only optimizing the home page.
  46. They believe it’s easier to tell client’s SEO doesn’t work than to learn it or outsource it.
  47. They think a beautiful website will be naturally found in Google.
  48. They optimize for just one main keyword phrase.
  49. They mistakenly put robots=noindex, nofollow on the site.
  50. They forget to fix the robots.txt file to allow indexing once the site goes off the development server.
  51. They think ranking #1 for the brand name is SEO.
  52. They change all the URLs during a redesign and don’t 301-redirect them.
  53. They think moving content above navigation will increase rankings.
  54. They use graphical headlines rather than HTML (or a workaround).
  55. They don’t put up custom 404-error pages.
  56. The remove old URLs from the server instead of redirecting them to their closest counterpart.
  57. They link “home” buttons and logos to /index.php rather than to www.example.com.
  58. They hide links to their client’s sites on other client’s sites.
  59. They use drop-down menus as the sole navigation of a site.
  60. They optimize for keywords nobody is search for.
  61. They don’t set up analytics.
  62. They create forms where the thank-you page is the same URL as the form itself, thus making it impossible to measure conversions.
  63. They create custom blogs without pinging mechanisms.
  64. They don’t understand the importance of site architecture as it effects SEO.
  65. They believe if you build it, they will come.
  66. They think SEO is something different for every search engine, and therefore do nothing.
  67. They believe that removing HTML tables will increase rankings.
  68. They think SEO is about bolding keywords.
  69. They create websites with URLs having 10 parameters.
  70. They love Splash pages.
  71. They think SEO is all in a keyword-rich domain.
  72. They change domain names for existing sites without understanding the consequences.
  73. They use auto-submission tools.
  74. They add all kinds of Meta tags to pages, that have no use, i.e., “revisit-after,” “robots=follow,index” etc.
  75. They think listing keywords in comment tags will boost rankings.
  76. They create sites where cookie acceptance is mandatory.
  77. They “hide” links in <noscript> tags.
  78. They use session ids in URLs and don’t stop search engines from indexing those URLs.
  79. They use 302-redirects instead of 301.
  80. They unnecessarily use AJAX because it does cool stuff, without understanding the search engine implications.
  81. They put “click here” in anchor text.
  82. They use image navigation without descriptive alt attribute text.
  83. They believe that “clean code” equal SEO.
  84. They think adding keywords in a list at the top of the page is SEO.
  85. They believe that keyword-rich file names are the key to SEO.

Did I miss any?

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: All Things SEO Column | Channel: SEO


About The Author: is a pioneer in SEO, beginning in the field in the early 1990s and founding High Rankings in 1995. If you enjoy Jill's articles at Search Engine Land, be sure to subscribe to her High Rankings Advisor Search Marketing Newsletter for SEO articles, SEM advice and discounts on industry events and products.

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  • http://www.jexanalytics.com.au jexley

    HA! Yet another reason you are Queen of some Awesome Things in my head Jill. Fantastic list and literally had me laughing.

    Worse still, I contract out to web design firms that are still doing these things. Like this morning, like 5 minutes ago, still doing them. And then emailing me and asking “This is cool right? Because I told the client they should get this new domain name and move their site over because the new domain has ‘pool covers’ in it! They’re other domain name is like, 12 years old and doesn’t even mention that! Aren’t we smart!”

    Oof. I’m so emailing this list around and starting an SEO meme. Smooches for that.

  • http://www.goatsmilktavern.com murrydan

    ha, pretty funny post, just 85 more reasons to hire us web designers that do know SEO instead of the cheap guys. But I do leave the link building up to the SEO consultants, I hate begging and groveling.

  • http://www.markrushworth.com trooperbill

    I think part of the problem is that developers/designers see SEO as a technical, programatic problem which is unlike their current process which ends in a definate and accountble result, yes SEO requires technical knowledge however its application is more like marketing which is always a more fuzzy thing to do… with SEO there is no 1+1=2 as there is with development, its more an x + y / z =n where the variables are all unquantifiable.

    also in my experience developers are lazy always seeking the simplest solution to code (grid view anyone) without really thinking about the semantics of a presented page.

  • johnoflah

    86. They think you’re a twat

  • http://bradley-holt.blogspot.com/ bradley.holt

    “They use drop-down menus as the sole navigation of a site.”

    The problem here is that most people implement drop-down menus using non-semantic (X)HTML. They either use JavaScript and/or really difficult to parse (X)HTML. If you use simple unordered lists (ul) for your dropdown menus and stylize them correctly with CSS (OK, IE may need a bit of JavaScript to coax it into working correctly) then they can be spidered just fine by search engines as well as read by those using text-only browsers or screen readers.

  • Jake

    I’m annoyed about this post. So many points are repeated and basically I could apply most of this to the prolific number of SEO company’s that are out there. As a web designer I do my best to make a website search engine friendly and spend considerable time in this area. SEO’s I have come across have ongoing contractual arrangements at very expensive rates which give very vague promises such as “we’ll get you to number 1 in Google”….my favourite sales pitch that my clients tell me they receive from SEO’s….When I ask my clients what keywords and phrases they would be getting the number 1 spot for they have no idea. This article doesn’t even make sense stating the reasons why web designers keep SEO’s in business. The reason is that without web designers SEO’s would have no attractive, interesting (visually) sites to optimise and they would just churn out content rich pages, forums, blogs and whatever the favourite optimisation algorithm of the moment is. Just taking a quick note of things when registering on this site…. broken image link at top of registration page, page rank 0, same old format that’s been around for years, just the same as any other SEO site out there although wait “the content is fantastic”. All well and good….content is king but design brands your site and differentiates you from competitors. I have been a long time subscriber to your newsletter (9 years in fact) and follow your advice on all my sites. Unfortunately I don’t have the luxury of having contracts for ongoing monitoring and adjusting to make sure my clients sites are maintained fully optimised. I do suggest that they seek a professional SEO if they want ongoing site optimisation but basically all of my sites fare very well organically following your advice.

  • http://www.awebapart.com paul.i

    Nice list, and if I was to add one, it would be:

    86. They create static HTML sites.

    Whilst it is a good list, with any list of short bullet points, things can be taken out of context or misinterpreted without a fuller description, caveats, or execptions behind each list item. There are plenty of items on that list, which if interpreted one way are correct, but if interpreted another way, are wrong.

    To be fair, that list is also merely a list of bad things for SEO, and as such, items on that list can and are done not just by web designers and developers, but also by SEO consultants too, all too often. So perhaps it also a list of why bad SEOs keep good SEOs in business.

    Perhaps some web designers or developers who know a little about SEO, should also come up with a list of bad things for SEO which so-called SEO consultants have recommended for their client’s sites too. I could start the ball rolling here…

    1. Giving the client somebody else’s sitemap, a sitemap for a completely different website, to load up to their site

    2. Only understanding static HTML sites and asking the client to change static HTML pages, where the site is clearly a dynamic content managed site

    3. Participating in link farms, which could eventually lead to search engine penalties

    4. Using blackhat SEO techniques, which could eventually lead to search engine penalties

    5. Asking for ftp access to the site to make changes, thus invalidating the warranty provided by the web developer (how can a web developer support a site if someone else can go in and make any changes to underlying code they want)

    6. Selling to a client by jumping on the bandwagon and evangelising about the latest SEO technique in the hope that the client hasn’t heard of it and thinks it’s the latest miracle snake oil

    7. Cold calling clients, going for a mass market client base and still convincing the client that they will do things on a personal custom basis rather than offering a budget run of the mill conveyor belt SEO service

    8. Giving meaningless guarantees or tricking the client by giving guarantees that are meant to be misinterpreted

    9. Providing tie-in SEO, that only has affect whilst the client is signed up, as soon as the client stops subscribing the ranking goes, because the SEO is just in the SEO consultant’s link network

    10. Telling the client their site’s SEO is bad for reasons that have no affect on SEO

    … etc …

  • http://www.sitebetter.com SiteBetter

    One thing missing from this post: Web designers are not paid to do SEO. They are paid to do design and the client’s budget dictates that. With a budget of a few thousand dollars it would be impossible to do anyone of those things mentioned in this article. Designers are paid to design and SEMs are paid to bring in traffic. It is up to the client to decide which is more important. I have several clients who do NOT want any kind of SEO. They deal with high-end customers and do not want tire-kickers from the internet.

    This article make sit sound like designers are not doing their job. Far from it.

  • Jake

    Exactly and this is why I’m disappointed about the initial post from someone that should be more aware of where their business is coming from and the real reasons rather than just childish swipes at designers that make sites more difficult for SEO’s to optimise. Sorry…we don’t like boring sites that all look the same and none of my clients do either.

    Oh…more common cliches from SEO’s

    - We’re employed by Google to optimise your site
    - We’ll submit your site to 300+ search engines
    - We’ll get you to number 1 spot on Google
    - It may take some time but it will be worth the money….12 months @ $1000 should do it for our base package.
    - Free consultation? but only if you signed up for the 12 month contract with us
    - We guarantee the search phrase (that we choose) will get to #1 spot
    - We guarantee your traffic will increase. WOW
    - We’ll monitor your sites statistics. WOW
    - You ask how we optimise….not sure, we leave it up to the Indians to look after that side of things, we’re sales lol
    - Not sure how long it will take but in 12 months you should be seeing some positive results.
    - What do you mean you don’t like the copy we’ve written, it’s SE friendly, jammed full of keywords and phrases.

  • http://www.highrankings.com/newsletter/ Jill Whalen

    Thanks, Jake, I think you just gave me my next article!

  • http://www.brickmarketing.com nickstamoulis

    Hi Jill, This list is fantastic and SO TRUE!

    I plan on saving this post ever time I need a laugh and encounter any “number” on your list :o)


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