Search Engine Optimization Is Part of Good Web Design

One significant aspect of web design that we at Webmonkey often ignore is so-called “search engine optimization,” or the art of making sure Google and its brethren can find, crawl and index your websites.

Part of the reason we typically ignore SEO is that it’s an industry full of what Derek Powazek, who has worked at both Google’s Blogger and Technorati, and is a former Webmonkey contributor, recently called “scammers.” Indeed, black hat SEO outfits are responsible for creating billions of bad results for users — highly ranked sites that actually offer little more than advertisements and spam.

It’s too bad the SEO industry ended up this way, but with the rise of Google and the importance of PageRank, as Powazek puts it, “like the goat sacrificers and snake oil salesmen before them, a new breed of con man was born, the Search Engine Optimizer.”

Naturally Powazek’s rant against SEO raised the ire of folks like Danny Sullivan over at Search Engine Land — people that focus on optimizing sites for Google without resorting to black hat techniques.

Leaving the ranting aspects of Powazek’s post aside, you’ll find that he and Sullivan actually agree. They just use different terms to describe what they’re talking about. The real message of Powazek’s rant is not that SEO is wrong, but that you shouldn’t have to pay extra to get it.

SEO is actually just a subset of good web design. Powazek writes:

Good SEO techniques are just good web development techniques. They should be obvious to anyone who makes websites for a living. If they’re not obvious to you, and you make websites, you need to get informed. If you’re a client, make sure you hire an informed web develeper.

Powazek is actually echoing Google’s own advice, which says: “if you’re thinking about hiring an SEO, the earlier the better… that way, you and your SEO can ensure that your site is designed to be search engine-friendly from the bottom up.”

In other words, if you’re a web developer and SEO isn’t part of your toolset you’re doing your customers and yourself a disfavor.

So what if you aren’t familiar with the intricacies of optimising your site for search engine spiders? Well, perhaps the best place to start is with Google’s own recommendations for webmasters and there’s also the Webmaster Central Blog.

For the nostalgic, we also recommend checking out Powazek’s decade-plus missive on why he loves HTML tables right here on this site.