Nurses and Doctors in SEO

This article was published first in last months State of Search newsletter. Sign up for the newsletter to receive unique content every month.

I have come to understand that all professionals active in the field of SEO can be divided in to two categories: doctors and nurses. On the outside they both seem to be doing much of the same things, but underneath the surface there lies a big distinction.

Most SEOs are like nurses: they treat the symptoms of a disease by handing out medication and making patients feel better. These SEO nurses provide their patients – website owners – with the common SEO medication: keyword research, optimised title tags, structured content, linkbuilding, and so on. These nurses are effective at SEO, as they’ll make the patients feel better (rank higher) in nearly all cases.

The other type of professionals, the SEO doctors, seem to be doing the same things. The difference lies in the diagnosis: the SEO nurse treats the symptoms, the SEO doctor understands the disease.

SEO nurses know what they have to do to make a site score, but they don’t know why they need to do this. SEO doctors on the other hand understand how search engines work and thus grasp the true essence of search engine optimisation.

At first glance it’s not easy to differentiate between these two types of SEO professionals. Many SEO nurses seem to be as informed and competent as SEO doctors. But when you dig a little deeper the differences become increasingly apparent.

SEO nurses tend to stick to the basics of SEO and often rely heavily on linkbuilding, where SEO doctors aren’t shy to go for the invasive surgical approach and revamp a site’s entire information architecture. SEO nurses read a lot of online ‘SEO Top 10’ lists, while SEO doctors dive in to search engine patents. SEO nurses tend to come from marketing & PR backgrounds while SEO doctors are more aligned towards computer science and Information Retrieval

In the end for most small- to medium-sized websites it doesn’t matter whether it’s a nurse treating your SEO woes or a doctor, the end result is likely to be the same. But for the really complex and challenging SEO issues, you’ll want a proper doctor at your bedside.

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About Barry Adams

Barry Adams is one of the chief editors of State of Digital and is an award-winning SEO consultant delivering specialised technical SEO services to clients worldwide.