“The best place to hide a dead body is page 2 of Google search results” ~ Infopixels.com
To explain this, we need to delve into the buzzword that is convergence. So what is convergence then? Well, the best example I can use to explain this is the smartphone: We used to have separate devices for calling (phone), messaging (Blackberry, or even a pager) email (desktop), work on the move (laptop), web browsing (PC of some sort), now we have the smartphone, it can do literally everything. It’s all converged into one place, and this is both good and bad depending on your point of view.
Digital marketing is not a new phenomenon by any stretch of the imagination, it’s actually around ten years old and those involved at the beginning made a lot of money developing the strategies that they now make even more money from by teaching others. But here in the MENA region where it’s taking a lot longer for people to get their heads around digital, it’s seen as something sparkly and new. This began to impact the industry two years ago, with the overnight transformation of traditional PR companies to ‘PR and digital communication companies’ and web development companies to ‘digital marketing companies’. And herein lies the problem.
In order to go from one of these to the other, you need resources — resources that these companies didn’t have. But at the same time, they didn’t want to lose face, or indeed lose customers by saying they couldn’t do what was being asked of them.
But the differences between the website designer and the SEO expert are vast.
Website Designer — are usually very creative and skilled with programs such as Photoshop and Illustrator, they can take your ideas and thoughts out of your head and translate them into something tangible that you can approve or disapprove of. Traditionally, this design element was all about the aesthetics; it had to look the way you imagined it in your head, it had to be a certain shade of blue, the images had to move and intertwine, and most of all you had to have your products proudly poised at the top of the page. At no point was engagement, optimisation, or in many cases, your customer, actually considered. For some, web design was a vanity project.
SEO Expert — or anyone focused on the optimisation of web presence, focuses more on the customer, and ensuring the website, or any of the virtual real estate, is actually relevant to your target audience. The basics are covered in terms of the language of the customer and incorporate of that into the pages, the title, URL, content, meta tags, header tags, sitemaps, robot files and of course, your analytics.
As we move forward, more and more web developers are bringing the ‘on page’ optimisation under their banner when creating sites. But the bulk of SEO work is done off page and that is where you need experts in this field. It has moved on far from just link building; Google and the like are looking for organic growth in your site from a content perspective — regular relevant content creation is essential, but more important is the promotion and syndication of that great content. It’s this step that actually starts you moving up the Search Engine Results Pages (SERP’s) for the keywords that are relevant to your industry or profession.
So you can see that whilst web developers/designers may well incorporate some elements of SEO into their particular process, you would do well to question anyone claiming to do web design, web development, SEO and a plethora of other things at the same time. Ask them how they approach their SEO, what level they go to and which properties they focus on. If they can’t answer, or don’t understand the question, perhaps evaluate them to create your website — and then look for a SEO professional.
It’s a great accomplishment to build a plane, but it requires quite another skill set to fly it.
(Barry Lee Cummings is the owner and digital strategist at Maximum Net Gain. He helps companies understand and implement digital strategy to get the most out of their web presence. To connect with him, just Google Barry Lee Cummings and choose your favoured platform.)
Photo: Argur Marketing/Flickr