No, your Web designer does not understand SEO!

It’s a perfectly natural assumption, so if you think your Web developer (designer, master, or whatever other term he or she goes by) does or should understand Search Engine Optimization (SEO), you’re in good company. You’re wrong, but in good company.

It’s a simple fact, but critical to understand: The people building your Web site almost certainly do not understand how to optimize your site so that it will rank well in the search engines.

Please, Web developers, don’t write and tell me that you do understand SEO. After all, there are a couple of possibilities:

1.You actually do know SEO; I’m not claiming there are no SEO-savvy Web developers … just that they are a very rare breed
2.You only think you know SEO
Unfortunately SEO has become such a hot topic that Web developers now all say that they can handle your SEO for you. Firstly, it’s another great revenue source. Perhaps more importantly, though, if they don’t claim they can help with your SEO, another firm down the street will.

It’s simply not true, though. How do I know this? Well, I’ve worked with many, many Web designers, and have rarely found any with more than a rudimentary understanding of SEO (an “enough to be dangerous” level of knowledge). Even the ones who know it “well,” don’t know it that well.

In addition, in my role as an ecommerce consultant, I’ve worked with literally hundreds of businesses, large and small. Many of these businesses come to me after it’s dawned on them that perhaps their Web sites are not ranking well in the search engines because their Web designers actually know next-to-nothing about optimization.

But I’ve even had Web developers admit to me that they don’t know much about it. (“Yes,” the owner of a large development firm once told me over lunch, “we sell SEO services, but I can’t say we really know much about it.”) Furthermore, I’ve worked with Web designers on projects, providing them advice on how to optimize mutual clients’ sites, only to notice later that one of the services promoted on the designer’s Web site is, you’ve guessed it, Search Engine Optimization. I occasionally have designers come to me for training, when they have already been selling the service for some time.

Also consider this. Why should a Web designer understand SEO? SEO is actually a complex subject that takes a long time to learn well. I’ve been doing it for years, and still learn new things every day. SEO is difficult because the laws are hidden; the search engines don’t really want you to know too much about the subject, and they’re constantly changing the rules, too. It’s like being an engineer without fully understanding the laws of physics … and in any case, the laws change every Wednesday. So SEO is difficult, and takes a long time to learn well.

Web development is also a complicated subject. I know how to create Web pages … but I would never claim that I’m an accomplished Web designer! Yet for some reason we’re expected to believe that every Web designer is also an SEO expert.

Now, this is of more than merely academic interest, because if you think that your designer will get youir site ranked well in the search engines, you’ll be disappointed. And if you actually pay for the designer’s SEO services you’ll also be just a little poorer.

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