Where do we Draw the Line When it Comes to SEO?


I’ll admit this is more of an open ended question then it is an informative blog post so, with that in mind I’d like to delve into where we as SEO’s should, or rather tend to draw the line when it comes to our work.

What are we Supposed to do?

As I started writing this post, Moz released a Whiteboard Friday where Rand asks a similar question: What does an SEO do in their day-to-day work? This is yet another great video by Rand which touches upon a few points that an SEO should What are we supposed to do?focus on after the initial website audit. This is also proof that I need to stop procrastinating and write more.

So what does this all mean? What I can say is that SEO is not a condiment that is added seconds before a site or app is launched. SEO is (or rather should be) a strategy that should be implemented from the beginning stages of website or app development. If there is no plan in place, you run the risk of causing more damage which will in turn cost more money and time to repair later.

So what exactly does that mean? What are our responsibilities to our clients? Are we only supposed to perform keyword research? Do we just post to facebook and call it a day or should be doing development work as well?

The answer is… maybe? There are different levels of and approaches to SEO which, in my opinion, causes confusion with company decision makers. A lot of terms quickly become buzz words which are often misused and misunderstood. One person could say you need to get as many backlinks as possible and another would stress only focus on on-page issues and content. How does someone in charge discern the right course of action with all these options?

I have spoken to many SEOs over the years, all with different backgrounds. Someone with a sales background are going to be focused on getting the most traffic to the site to increase transactions whereas someone with a design background is going to be focused on usability. There is not one method that is more important than another, at this point we know generally what works but more so what doesn’t work.

Isn’t SEO Just Putting Keywords on a Page?

As inbound marketers our best course of action should be to educate the masses as to what current best practices are so they have a better idea of what to believe. I get really annoyed when a client says their last SEO guy told them (X) where X is a decade old technique that can actually cause more harm. Personally, I make it a part of my job to educate my clients as to what I’m doing, why I’m doing it and why it works. This may involve sending them an email about an algorithm update or discussing the importance of local citations.

But where does that leave us in terms of actual work performed? What else should we be doing? What happens when there is a development issue involving URLs or a Google Analytics/Tag Manager code? Is it our responsibility to correct these issues? When am I going to stop asking questions?

The answer is, I don’t know. In my opinion all SEOs should have some comfort level with setting 301 redirects, updating source code (HTML) and changing some CSS settings. Our field is built on tectonic plates in that it’s always changing so we really should have working knowledge of coding; this may vary though depending on your company. Some companies only allow certain departments to make changes to a website so those requests need to be submitted to them.

At the very least we should have what I call dev-lite experience. This mainly involves making HTML and CSS changes, I would venture to say javascript and PHP are a bit more advanced. If your website is in WordPress there are plugins that make setting 301 redirects easier than having to edit the .htaccess.

Like any professional sport or hobby there are varying levels of expertise in what we do. There are some that stand out from the crowd while others fly under the radar. Both are ok as long as our goals are our clients best interests. Stay humble and honest!

So I reiterate my initial question, where do we draw the line when it comes to SEO?

I’d love to get everyones thoughts on this topic as it’ll be nice to gauge everyone unique approach to their accounts.


  • Our field is in a constant state of flux so we need to remain informed and up-to-date as to current best practices.
  • SEOs should have a degree of knowledge when it comes to coding so quick changes can be made. This includes HTML and CSS.
  • Monitor your clients website activity to see what’s working and how your efforts impacted their success.

About the Author:

An SEO in NYC with a penchant for the technical side of things. Father, Husband, Novice Photographer and Music Lover.

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