Geeks Are Still Relevant In Modern SEO

Holy optimization Batman! Are search geeks no longer relevant in the world of SEO? Nothing of the sort my caped companion in ranking. Search geeks are still highly relevant and likely will be as long as search engines exist. You might even say without them all your optimization efforts could fail entirely.

Last week James filled in with a great guest post on the evolution of the modern seo in which he argues that SEO is moving away from the world of the search geek and towards the world of the social networker.

I actually agree completely with the central theme of James post. 10 years ago you could stuff a bunch of keywords into your meta tags and call it a day.

If you found you had some competition you could look for a few other places to stuff those keywords and again move on to your next task.

Those days are over and SEO is certainly evolving and moving more and more in the direction of traditional offline marketing.

Still I wanted to defend my geeky brethren and point out why search geeks are just as relevant to SEO as they always have been and why coding is still an important seo skill.

SEO Evolution

Let me unfairly pull a quote without context from James’ post

the range of skills required to be an effective SEO has moved further and further away from page and code tweaking.

I disagree that SEO is moving away from coding. I see the evolution more like the following quote I pulled from a comment Mike Bradbury left on the post.

I don’t think SEO has moved away from coding and tweaking at all. It has just added social media. Designing an SEO friendly site is still a valuable skill that every SEO needs to hone.

The evolution SEO has been seeing in recent years is less about subtracting from where it was as it is about adding new skills for the future.

I absolutely agree that social media, networking, effective communication, and creativity are playing an ever increasing role in search engine optimization. However, I think coding still plays an important role too.

SEO Coding Evolution

Building a search friendly site will be an important part of SEO for a long time to come. For the last month Stoney deGeyter has been writing a series of posts on website architecture for Search Engine Guide. The posts evolved from a webinar titled Secrets to Creating a Search Engine Friendly Website.

Last time I checked search engine friendly still fell in the realm of geeky coders. SEO coding may no longer be about meta tags and stuffing alt attributes, but it still deals with:

Imagine an ordinary garden hose. You turn the water on and it flows through the hose. But it won’t flow out of the hose if the nozzle on the other end is closed. At it’s most basic level search engine friendly coding is making sure that nozzle is open.

If you ignore search engines when you develop a site you could end up with a nozzle that prevents traffic flowing into and through your site.

At a more advanced level seo coding not only makes sure the nozzle is open, but helps control where the water goes as it leaves the nozzle and enters your site.

Binary pillow
photo credit: LaMenta3

Algorithms Are Geeky

Say the word algorithm to your non-geeky friends and you’ll likely be met with rolling eyes and blank stares. Algorithms are geeky and algorithms are what evaluate all the data search spiders collect to determine where pages rank.

Those who better understand the algorithm put themselves in a position to have the pages and sites they create rank better.

No, you don’t need to spend all your days reverse engineering things. And let’s face it, no one really knows exactly what search algorithms look for, but testing and understanding some parts of it gives you a competitive advantage.

Algorithms are hardly alone in search geekdom. Analytics falls within the realm of geeks. What’s more geeky than studying an endless supply of statistics? Show me someone who’s profession revolves around numbers and I’ll show you a geek.

Words like charismatic aren’t often applied to accountants, engineers, and actuaries. If you spend all day dealing with numbers you’re much closer to the world of geeks than you are to the world of celebrity.

Old School SEO Still Works

What works and doesn’t work depends in large part on the competition. Make up a word or phrase that has no search results, add it to a web page, and that page should rank for the phrase as soon as it’s indexed. It’s the only page using the phrase after all. Add the phrase to another page and it now has competition. Something more is needed to ensure the top result.

With only one other page competing that something more isn’t a lot. Add the phrase a second time or better add it to your page title and that top spot is yours. At least until the other page does the same. The two pages might battle by adding the phrase in hx tags or making it bold on the page.

In time as more and more pages enter the competition it becomes harder to determine the best result based on on-page factors. Links into the pages and into the sites end up having a greater impact. But that doesn’t mean those on-page coding tweaks aren’t playing a part.

Take a look at Google’s results for the query seo india. The top results are filled with

  • keyword stuffed page titles
  • keyword stuffed body text
  • keyword stuffed hx tags
  • keyword stuffed internal anchor text links

I think you get the idea.

What does that say about the SEO industry in India? Aside from it being a sad representation of SEOs in general, it also seems to indicate that old school geeky SEO can still work well in the market.

In time the SEO industry in India will mature and the keyword stuffers will find their sites aren’t ranking as well, but for now code tweaking appears to be working well in that market.

There will always be new markets and until those markets acquire competition old school geeky code tweaking will be an effective first step in SEO.

Coding Neanderthals

Once again I do want to point out that I agree with the central theme of James’ post. And I’d like to thank him again for writing it and publishing it here. This post isn’t meant to disparage the other, even if I did poke a little fun here and there.

The skills James talks about, the social skills and the networking skills, the copywriting skills and the creative skills are already important tools in the SEO toolbox. They’re only going to become more important in the future. Ignore them at your own risk.

You should be adding these skills to your skillset if you want to effectively market your site in general and in search engines in particular.

But coding and other skills from the world of geeks should also be part of your SEO skillset. Search friendly code sits at the foundation of SEO. The social aspects of SEO sit on top of that foundation and become more and more important as competition increases, but remove the foundation from your home and it crumbles like a house of cards.

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