Shari Thurow has finished her series on identifying search engine experts. While I have disagreed with certain points of each article, overall I find that we do largely agree on the big points.
I don’t mean to be egotistical but can’t help but wonder if the following statement was in reference to my communication with Shari, “One reader told me usability skills shouldn’t be part of an SEO professionals skill set. People who make this statement are usually algorithm chasers.”
This wasn’t a direct quote of anything I said but I did express in my previous post that I didn’t believe that usability was a primary function of SEO, but rather more of a secondary function. I am, of course, using the strictest definition of SEO in that the job of an SEO is to achieve top rankings for their clients. The means by which that is achieved, black-hat or white-hat, is unimportant, just so long as the SEO can deliver.
I’m not saying that I’m OK with black-hat techniques, I think every SEO must make that decision for themselves and I have made a decision to optimize by following the search engine guidelines.
But the argument of white-hats don’t have the technical skills vs. black-hats don’t have the usability skills is a valid one. To be fair, I think it is a bit of both, but again, it comes down to a decision that each SEO must make. I don’t have the technical skills to cloak because I never sought them out. Cloakers don’t have the usability skills because they also don’t want them. I think it goes both ways legitimately.
Many clients don’t care how they get top rankings paving the way for black-hats to do their thing. Other clients don’t wish to pay for extensive re-design or usability testing, paving the way for a white-hat SEO to to do their thing. If results can be achieved, that—to me—makes an expert SEO.
However, as I was working through this in my mind last night something hit me. While a black-hat SEO can get top rankings, it takes a bit of an extra skill to achieve top rankings AND ensure that usability of the site is effective. Yes, it takes extra skills to cloak, but cloaking doesn’t require the delicate balance of pleasing the search engine and the client and ensuring that the site converts effectively. This is why I continue to believe that usability is a SEM function more than an SEO function. Usability and conversions are what marketing is about.
But looking at the big picture, an SEO that does function well in marketing aspects of SEM is going to be the more successful in the long term. Personally, I believe that the SEO firm is dying. Not SEO, but firms that only know how to perform SEO services for top rankings. Without the addition skills in marketing and usability the SEO is providing ONLY top rankings but not assisting the business in the other important aspects of their online marketing campaign.
While there are many site owners that still only want to pay for top rankings, I think that as more business get online and optimized the SEO field needs to provide more than just top rankings, but overall site performance.