The Best Compliment I Ever Received (Was From A Developer)

Complimentary Code GIFI like to think that I’ve received a couple of compliments during my career as an SEO (just one or two in nearly 5 years – not bad huh?!)… There’s probably also been an instance or two of a criticism or an insult, but hey, let’s just concentrate on the positives, yeah? ;-)

Out of those compliments, the best one I ever received regarding my SEO skills wasn’t from a manager, a fellow team member, an industry peer or a client. It was from a developer.

Why’s that such a big deal? Because it’s fairly common knowledge that a lot of developers out there hate SEOs. You only need to spend 5 minutes looking at the comments on Hacker News submissions related to SEO to see how much our industry is despised by what seems like the majority of the web/software development community. Here are two examples of threads and a few choice excerpts, because clearly I’m a sadist…

  • “SEO is basically gaming search engines instead of contributing anything of value. It’s not a respectable business.”
  • “SEO is a nasty little cottage industry.”
  • “[SEOs] are polluting the web and degrading the experience for millions of users.”
  • “SEO is more a plague then it is a real profession.”
  • And my personal favourite: “SEO is a cargo cult with no benefits to society.”

Angry computer imageBlood boiling yet? Thought so. A lot of sweeping statements there – and yet if I shouted “web/software developers are {rude|hugely ignorant|whiny crybabies}” in return, I’m sure there’d be hell to pay (besides, it wouldn’t be true anyway)…

But I digress… The purpose of this article isn’t to further deteriorate SEO-developer relations – it’s actually to extend an olive branch.

I worked at Box UK for a year, a web/software development company based in Cardiff. The development team housed 40+ developers. How many SEOs were there? Just 2.

While a number of the developers there understood ‘good’ SEO and were a pleasure to work with, it was still a challenge. A fair few of the devs were sceptical of SEO at best or outright hated SEO at worst. One guy told me that I shouldn’t be there, i.e. my job shouldn’t exist, because SEO shouldn’t exist. Another in a (supposedly) private IRC put a spin on my recent professional talk title – Getting Your Face In Google, all about rel="author" implementation – by changing “In Google” to “On Crimewatch.”

When I left the company a few months ago, I honestly felt like I’d failed in changing the minds of the development team about SEO…

Squee imageA few weeks later, I bumped into a few of the development team outside a bar near the Box UK offices. One of the devs who was present is one of the most senior at the company and widely considered to be one of the smartest developers in Wales. So I was both surprised and elated to hear that he thought I was the best SEO he’d ever worked with and that he was genuinely gutted to see me go. All the other devs present nodded in agreement and shared a similar sentiment, saying that Andrew and I know our stuff and that we carry out SEO the ‘right’ way. I was genuinely touched. My wife was with me and afterwards I was like “OMG, did you effing hear what they said?! Awesome!” :-)

In addition to the fact that it’s hands-down the best compliment that I’ve received in my career thus far – a true testament to my abilities as an SEO – it also shows that not all developers hate us SEOs. Good developers appreciate and respect good SEO – it’s the bad guys in our industry who drag us down as a whole (we all know the saying “one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch,” after all).

It’s a shame that there’s still a lot venom aimed at the SEO industry from the development community, but remarks and feelings like the ones from my experience above certainly paint a different (and more positive) picture.

…I guess it’s just a case of changing minds one at a time.

[Image credits – complimentary code GIF: created by yours truly (with kudos to Gifninja)… incidentally, if anyone wants to re-use it, you’re more than welcome to (so long as you accredit me with a link!); fiery-tempered computer: Matt Mets; really happy cuddly toy: Robyn Lee]

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3 comments


  1. Anyone whose been involved in SEO for any length of time and “got the T-Shirt” deserves a good pat on the back. It requires quite a lot of determination just to stick with it despite all the trials and tribulations.

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