No More Hats, No More SEO

April 12th, 2011  |  Published in web design

… no more moon in the water.

Andy Budd to SEO practicioners:

Please distance your self from the world of SEO, stop talking about search engine rankings and start helping your clients deliver real value to their users. Stop defining yourself by the discovery medium and focus on the content itself. I don’t mind what you call yourselves, be that digital marketers, content strategists or simply web designers. But whatever you do, remove the word ‘search’ from your job title. It’s tainted and devalued and you’re much better than that.

That’s exactly what Web publishers need to be hearing right now. Not new ways to go back to the old game of finding shortcuts to the top.

I like the phrase “content strategist,” too. It describes how professional Web editors and website owners should be thinking of themselves and the content they produce for their sites. It suggests a mindful approach that goes beyond “my site is about this so I’m going to put up lots and lots of stuff about it,” and raises questions like “where does this thing fit in?” and “what does this mean to where I want to go and will it help get me there?”

I talk to other editors who don’t really like thinking about SEO and who act like it’s a discipline outside their natural skill set. At the same time, they sneer about SEO and SEO specialists. Well, until editors can assume some responsibility for content beyond “my site is about this so I’m going to put up lots and lots of stuff about it,” they’re going to have SEO specialists to deal with. Ways they can take responsibility include:

  • Understanding what constitutes good HTML. That doesn’t mean being an expert at CSS positioning or even remembering how the markup for a table with headers works from memory, but it does mean understanding what heading (h1, h2, h3, etc.) and a handful of other tags are for and probably investing $9 in a HTML quick reference as readily as they spend $20 for each and every new edition of the AP stylebook.
  • Understanding what a handful of page-level (think head, title, some meta) tags are for and how to see if their pages have them.
  • Learning to think about whether their pages help visitors get what they came for and how they can facilitate that.

There’s plenty more, but if the picture post-Panda is one of Google and other search engines ratcheting the pressure on all the shortcut-takers and SEO charlatans, Web editors are in a position to reclaim some of what they lost over the past few years as short-sighted suits tried to replace good content with clever automation and cheating.

(Via Smashing)

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