The true value of technical SEOs

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Like many technical SEOs, I was outraged when I first read Clayburn Griffin’s post, “The True Value of Technical SEO,” a couple months ago.

Clayburn said things like “Technical SEO is really just SEO 101” and “Technical SEO will never set you apart.” As a technical SEO and co-creator of a technical SEO Slack group, along with Paul Shapiro, believe me when I say that I am amazed to find myself agreeing with him in many ways after revisiting the post.

Clayburn isn’t really wrong, in that technical SEO is just following best practices, though I don’t agree that every issue can be Googled. Technical SEOs are on the bleeding edge of making newer JavaScript frameworks search engine-friendly, and this is something you won’t find much, if any, documentation for. I’ve spent years doing technical SEO, and I still run into new issues all the time and learn things I didn’t know before.

The fact is, the web has become more complex and technical. The larger the company, the more that is usually wrong; sometimes, applying even simple best practices to these websites can create hundreds of thousands, or even millions in additional revenue.

Technical SEO vs. technical SEOs

While technical SEO is just following best practices, it’s rarely done well. A lot of practitioners who are lumped into a “technical SEO” category really just have core competencies and follow checklists but lack a true understanding. If technical SEO were easy, then websites wouldn’t have so much wrong with them.

This is where the value of true technical SEOs comes in. Experience means a lot, and the best technical SEOs have usually run across any problem you can name (or something similar) and know how to troubleshoot issues. They have a drive in them that makes them want to know why something is the way it is.

That drive is what makes a technical SEO great — it’s not that they are necessarily more technical than others, it’s that they cared enough to learn over time because they want to understand and they want to help.

What makes technical SEOs different?

A good technical SEO will know not just how to problem-solve or troubleshoot underlying technologies, but also how to implement changes themselves or better communicate changes to others. They have a solid understanding and are able to explain the issue to people in a way that makes sense and instills confidence in a client because they really know what they are talking about.

Technical SEOs can figure out the problems no one else can and know how to prioritize efforts better. They understand more pieces of the puzzle than anyone else and have the experience to know what’s actually going to make a difference.

Pick any technical element of a website, and a good technical SEO can probably name more than a dozen ways they’ve seen it done wrong and tell you the best way to fix it, how long it will take to fix, the likely impact of fixing that issue and where you should prioritize that in your list of dozens of other things that are wrong.

Give a technical SEO a little freedom, and you’ll see that they will always find a better and faster way of doing things. If you want to increase the quality of your work and improve your processes, then let a technical SEO have the freedom to try something new or different.

This process improvement can go beyond work for clients, though. I’ve seen some amazing ideas for business process improvements come from these men and women. Again, this goes back to that drive; these people just want to find a better way of doing things and will likely save you hundreds or thousands of man-hours each year with their improvements.

A new breed of technical SEOs

There is another subset of awe-inspiring technical SEOs that never ceases to amaze me. These men and women live and breathe every aspect of SEO, and for fun they do major data analysis, make useful tools, do amazing things with APIs and do really cool things with machine learning.

I’m honored to know many of these men and women and feel like I learn something new from them every time I speak with them. Each have their own strengths, and amazing information and ideas come out when they get together. I’m always inspired to learn more, to try more and to do more.

Technical SEO goes beyond getting the basics right: Technical SEOs are not only leading the way in many new areas (such as making new JavaScript frameworks search-friendly), but they are stepping outside the normal bounds of SEO and doing truly amazing and cutting-edge projects that will shape the future of our industry.

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