By: Woj Kwasi on 27-11-2013 in Content Strategy, CRO, Google, Marketing News, Online Marketing, Search, SEO

I’m just going to cut to the chase and let you know that I’ve found the world’s best SEO.

The ironic part is that they don’t even realise it! No, it’s not the link builders, nor the content marketers. It’s not the technology-savvy web optimisers.

It’s the web designers and web developers that are focusing on user experience and complying with web standards.

Web designers won’t keyword stuff the crap out of your site, instead they’ll focus on how to convert that naive visitor into a subscriber of your services or make them transact with your site. Web developers will arrange the mark-up in such a way that it keeps search engines happy, simply by following the rules as governed by bodies like the W3C.

How Dare You Make Such Conclusions, Woj

I know right… but let me put things into perspective.

I started out as a web designer / developer back in the day when wallpapered backgrounds were all the rage. I learnt how to build websites by viewing the source-code in Notepad & built my first website (a RATM fan site) by hacking my way through various sites. I kept what I liked from those sites, copy-pasted.. all that jazz. It gave me a good understanding of HTML. But I wanted more! I wanted to create dynamic stuff like guest books, contact forms.. heck I even wanted to customise my visitor’s experience by displaying their own time and date. This was all back in ’98 and coincidentally around the time Google kicked off.

Google was an infant then, but it’s now an artificially intelligent super force to be reckoned with, and it’s been my observation over the last 15 years that sites that focus on user experience are the real winners. In the last couple of years, Google has:

  • sped things up to the point of instant results (delivered to you in 1/8th of a second)
  • declared war on spam, which is a pain in the butt for (some, not all) affiliate marketers trying to get their quick hit in the SERPs
  • marrying location/device (implicit searches) with actual searches (explicit searches)
  • understanding our questions & personalising results
  • much more, guaranteeing that it will exceed our expectations

According to a recent interview with Eric Enge, Matt Cutts Head of Webspam at Google stated:

“…a lot of people approach it from a direction that’s backwards. They try to get the links first and then they want to be grandfathered in or think they will be a successful website as a result. Their goal should really be to make a fantastic website that people love and tell their friends about and link to and want to experience. As a result, your website starts to become stronger and stronger in the rankings.”

So it makes sense that the sites that haven’t been chasing the algo are doing ok, right? There are so many algorithm changes each year and every time something big happens in Google, we all jump on board to the latest tactic to help us recover, yes?

What if we were to stop focussing so hard on what they’re doing and just do our own thing?

But That Would Mean Running My Business As if It Were a Business, Woj

The problem is that people want the easy way out… the short term gain. They focus on that vision of working on a beach somewhere, sipping on a Pina Colada while the cash rolls into the bank. Or maybe not even working at all. Whilst that works for some, it doesn’t work for all. Even the people dishing out the advice have a long term strategy in place. “Watch my series of 10 videos and you’ll be the next greatest thing”. You won’t because you didn’t study how to put together a plan; you just want the quick bucks.

Another example I thought of the other day was the link building advice we give. Do it this way, be personable etc etc, but what we don’t focus on is the communications skills that are the foundation of good link building. Not everyone can do it. For some it comes naturally.

You’re Getting Off Track, Woj

Sorry. Must have been that Pina Colada.

What I’m saying is (and Wil Reynolds made this point at mozcon), keep learning new skills & strategies. For life. For work. For whatever. Don’t just rely on short term tactics based on an algorithm outsmarting you. Get back in control. Step back and get into the mindset of your site user. Rankings are no longer secure and shouldn’t be your guiding star to showcase your level of success.

Find out how people are using your site and what questions they’re asking. Build your site around that and you’re keeping both robots and humans happy. It’s what “they” want us to do. For bonus points, continue to track & measure conversions and how your pages are performing.

It’s time to be a conscious inbound marketer who balances creativity with user experience with a solid technical foundation.

What shall we call this phenomenon you speak of, Woj?

Well “user experience optimisation” springs to mind but the acronym UXO sounds too sci-fi so we’ll need something better. How about “human experience optimisation”? Or just “human experience”. Or even just “experience”? Sorry Jimi.. I’d throw in a “All Along the Woj Tower” joke right about now but we need to stay on course!

Jimi Hendrix says it's ok

What do you think we should call it? Perhaps it’s just called being a good, switched-on online marketer?

  • Karthik Vijay

    Good article! Woj.. may be we should call it “Online Experience”

  • David Iwanow

    Hmmm…. I do like the idea of web developers being more focused on UX & Human Experience but I’m sorry to say based on my 7 years experience in this industry too many web developers are probably the worst SEOs in the world.

    Let my frame it why I say that… and I’m waiting for the hate mail…
    1) SEO features/changes are the first to be dropped from dev projects to save money/time
    2) Still too many developers use default redirect settings as apparently a 302 is the same as a 301
    3) Still too many developers don’t see the importance in resolving 404 errors
    4) Still too many developers don’t bother or don’t care to add XML Sitemaps as apparently Google can crawl a HTML sitemap if they really want
    5) Still too many developers don’t setup Google Analytics so clients can actually track the performance of their website as if the client wants they can look at Server logs…
    6) Of those developers who do add Google Analytics most don’t bother to setup filters to block internal traffic or goals so conversions/transactions can be tracked because there is no real value in data
    7) Still too many developers don’t bother to setup Google Webmaster Tools or understand how to use it correctly
    8) Still too many developers don’t understand the importance of canonical tags and pagination being handled correctly to reduce duplicate content
    9) Still too many developers release sites without 301 redirects in place when they make changes to URLs
    10) Still too many developers release sites with Robots.txt or NoIndex tags in place and the clients site drops out of the index
    11) Still too many developers take down live websites and put up coming soon pages for sometimes months on end while the new site is being built
    12) Still too many developers create sites with custom or bespoke CMS platforms that aren’t SEO friendly, can’t offer SEO friendly features or are too resource intensive to make any fundamental SEO feature improvements
    13) Still too many developers are focused on W3C when Google does not use it as a ranking factor

    14) Most of the blackhat/spam techniques I have fixed/resolved were often created by a web developer
    15) Keyword stuffing into meta keyword tags was often done by the web developer not the SEO
    16) Often the meta titles and meta description tags are often too long this can be controlled by the web developers
    17) Often alt/title tags are not enabled for images by the web developers so the SEO can’t actually try and optimise them…

    So sorry Woj I disagree strongly, I’m not saying there are not brilliant developers out there that are doing amazing things and I’ve worked with some awesome folks, but so many of the items above re-occur again and again. So if web developers can get these basic items right I will shift my views but as of right now web developers are not the worlds best SEOs.

    Disclosure: I’m an SEO and possibly a horrible web developer who is not getting a Christmas card now…

  • Woj Kwasi

    No, thanks for your input Dave 🙂

    Your points are so true & I agree completely. I was being ultra broad with my definition of “web developers” and perhaps should have been a bit more nuanced in my approach. My point really was that the good ones (web devs) don’t focus on SEO so much and hence don’t over-optimise. They build for the experience. So perhaps I should have coined them as UX guys instead? It’s really the web dev who has a solid understanding of UX/CRO/SEO/Content/Graphic Design etc.

    Another thing I wanted to mention is that poorly optimised sites with good usability are starting to appear in the SERPs more and more due to natural signals..

    Btw.. See this post I put together: “Common Web Dev Mistakes To Make Any SEO Facepalm” – should show you how I feel about the majority of web devs