• http://jozsoft.com Joe Hall


    I am a huge fan of your work. I think you have done amazing work over the years to report on the search industry as well work hard to elevate the status of SEOs with in the greater web world. However, as a web developer, that works primarily with SEO firms, I have got to say that this post sounds a lot like the same dismissive dialogue that SEOs have been engaged in for quite some time with regards to how they talk about developers. I will be the first to say that many of my fellow developers lack the knowledge and interest on SEO. However, at the same time many many developers understand SEO better than some so called SEO experts, but despite that we never hear about them. Why don’t we ever hear about the developers that understand SEO? Well I like to think that web developers are a lot like baseball umpires, they are only noticed when they are getting yelled at. When a web developer does its job and makes sites that rank well, folks in the SEO community don’t care. But as soon as a developer (that probably is inexperienced in the first place) mucks something up with SEO, they are labeled a SEO idiot or something similar. This hypocrisy is evident in this very piece where you write two paragraphs bashing developers and then ask “Can’t We All Get Along?”.

    For once it would be nice to see prominent folks in the SEO community point out the developers that do good work versus continuing the isolating dribble that only bolsters the snake oil web developers in the first place.

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    Joe, I don’t mean to be dismissive of web developers at all, and my apologies to you or anyone who is taking this post that way.

    I totally agree. There are web developers who understand on-site SEO better than some people who call themselves SEOs out there.

    The reason you don’t hear about developers who do get SEO, I’d say, is because you rarely hear stories about those who don’t.

    When these things come up, the discussion is almost entirely around SEO=spam. Then some SEOs dig-out trying to explain that SEO is not spam, that it can help web development, but there’s little discussion of web developers themselves either pro or con.

    I can easily name any number of anti-SEO posts that have circulated over the years. I can’t recall any anti-developer posts.

    As for posts where developers get praise from SEOs, it’s the same thing — I can’t recall any posts where developers give praise to SEOs that help them.

    Hope that explains it more. I guess I figure that web developers have a pretty solid good reputation out there. I’m not trying to harm that. I am trying to say there’s a role that SEOs also have to play, but in the times I tend to hear SEO mentioned in by the development community, it’s usually that they’re all evil spammers.

  • http://jozsoft.com Joe Hall

    I recall an anti-developer post, that honestly I am surprised you don’t remember you can read it here. (btw, Jill is awesome, and she knows i know that!) But, I think its important to point out that the dialog that i am referring to isn’t necessarily in post format, but rather it seems to be a common perception with in the SEO community that developers don’t know SEO. And, i will even freely admit that I may be extra sensitive to this issue because I am a developer that has strong ties and connections to the developer communities, but pretty much get all my work from SEOs.

    Heres the way I see it: There are a lot of good developers that understand SEO, and there are a lot of bad scummy type developers that claim they now SEO, but don’t. As a developer that works in the SEO community I can assure you that i want those scamers to go away more than anyone else. So what I think it would be a cool idea is if we try to shift the dialog away from blanket statements and ideas, and actually try to send more work to the developers that do good work. Do this by calling out the good and the bad, by name and drawing clear lines in the sand that can guide businesses in the right direction. That way we can have a clear and honest dialogue about these issues with out alienating developers that would normally remain invisible.

  • http://managinggreatness.com Gil Reich

    Well said, Danny.

  • http://www.search-usability.com/ Shari Thurow

    Hi Danny-

    Very thoughtful, well-structured article and comments. Thank you for writing and sharing your perspective.

    I agree with you wholeheartedly. I also acknowledge that a large part of the problem is that some of the “noisiest” people in our industry are those who try to make those of us who honestly know what we are doing look bad, incompetent, or [fill in the blank]. I have taken a lot of unfair heat and criticism, from people in our own industry, people (such as librarians, scholars, and other information scientists), and even people I admire and respect such as Molly Holschlag and Eric Meyer. I am still dumbfounded that every now and again, that you (and I) have to deal with very, very ignorant people such as Derek.

    I, and others like me, do not have any control over the criticism. People are going to criticize, and they are entitled to their opinions, right or wrong. It doesn’t make my methodologies — which have stood the test of time and are actually getting stronger — any less valid. I still optimize. I still have never spammed the engines. But people are going to call me colorful names because I am not afraid to make an opposite recommendation than a colleague.

    You have no idea how much criticism I took for the entire NOFOLLOW debate, and even my stances on Flash and AJAX. (I am not anti-Flash or anti-AJAX. I am anti not using Flash and AJAX well.) The same people who made so much noise about NOFOLLOW? Are they going to make equally as much noise to admit they were wrong and I was right? Of course not. But I deal with it, blowing off a little steam every now and again.

    I am one of the very few web designers/developers who grew with the industry from the outset. I learned how to design/develop websites and optimize at the same time. Developers are unique animals. They take a great deal of pride in the “art” that is the database or website they have developed. They take criticism very personally when they should see that the truly gifted, talented SEOs are trying to help them build a better website. All too often, they are not in a mental place where they are open to that criticism, such as Derek. I am not afraid of Derek, just as I was not afraid of Eric Meyer or Molly Holschlag years ago. I am not afraid of the criticism from other SEOs. I know what I am doing, and put me on a stage or panel with them, I can prove it, and I have proven it in the past.

    I think it is unfortunate that you, I, and the industry still have to deal with this sort of criticism. I do not have control over the behaviors of other SEOs. I only have control over myself and my methodologies. So I write books, I lecture, I speak at conferences and write articles (thank you for giving me the opportunities, Danny). I do what I can. I cannot force others to listen, but I can be a knowledgeable, talented, experienced SEO who is not afraid to evolve and take whatever criticism is flung my way.

  • http://www.amplify.com.au Tom Petryshen

    Joe Hall wrote: \Do this by calling out the good and the bad, by name and drawing clear lines in the sand that can guide businesses in the right direction. That way we can have a clear and honest dialogue about these issues with out alienating developers that would normally remain invisible.\

    While I’ve often felt the urge to point fingers, it’s not a productive use of time. More importantly, in countries like Australia where libel laws are a bit tighter, it could land me in hot water. As a business owner the last thing I need is the distraction and costs of a court case.

    I’d rather focus my attention on things I can control such as education and training. The bigger the job, the more time I spend on stake holder management and training, especially for developers. If you are able articulate the importance of SEO (speak their language) and provide them with the knowledge and tools to perform their job better (it also helps to make them look good and share in the credit) then the chances of success are much greater.

    Everybody wins.

  • http://www.rimmkaufman.com George Michie

    We run into the same issues in paid search. There are horrendous, incompetent agencies and excellent agencies; there are excellent in-house programs and lousy ones.

    Part of the SEO v web developers tension is simply a function of marketing. Some SEOs feel they need to blow smoke about their knowledge and poo-poo the poor web developers simply as a marketing tool. The SEO wants to get paid, and to get paid they need to give the appearance of knowing more than the average developer. It’s a crowded space and some think shouting is the best way to be noticed.

    At the end of the day, quality service providers will win out. This is a young industry and the standards for entry are low to non-existent. Bad actors can still make money by brash talk. On the paid search side, we’re seeing the tide turning away from the folks who make outrageous claims and towards those who speak softly but carry a big track-record. This will happen in the SEO space, too.

  • http://www.nethaggler.com Hemlata Thakur

    Hey Danny,

    You are a mentor for online marketing industry…

    I really appreciate your valuable tips.

    Thank you for giving us such a good article

  • http://stroseo.com stroseo

    Thank you Danny for writing this well formed response to anti SEO articles. I’m tired of responding to emails labeled “FYI, Interesting view on SEO” which usually turn out to be an anti SEO spit about how it SEO is a Spam industry and comparable to used car salesmen.

    Bottom line, if a company is naive enough to hire an consultant that can’t show performance, cut them loose. If it’s too late and you already spent enough to consider yourself scammed, than shame on you. As a company, do your research on who your hiring. If your in a corporate position and have a budget to purchase goods or services you know competence and quality are essential factors in your decision making. If you had to buy a fleet of cars for your sales staff, are you going to buy cars from a “Bobs Auto Sales?” Of course not. Similarly don’t hire Jimmy SEO who works out of his parents basement in Montana.

    Thanks again Danny, the next “FYI, Interesting view on SEO” email I get will get a response with a link to this article.

  • http://www.brickmarketing.com nickstamoulis

    I am very glad you wrote this post defending our industry. I am very tired of speaking to clients that are very happy with their SEO results from my work about “is any of this true” and “what do you think of this article?” type of questions.