Technical SEO vs. Content SEO: Why Few People Do Both
They couldn’t leave well enough alone.
In the good old days, there was SEO — search engine optimization. Just plain SEO and nothing else. It was the only flavor of ice cream.
Nerds handled it because they built the websites. The owner who plopped down $3,000 for a 30-page site came back a month later, complaining business was worse than ever. Nobody was calling or visiting the store.
So you’d dig into the server data (no Google Analytics back then), and sure enough, the site was starving for traffic.
That was how you got into SEO. You read everything and tried every trick in the book to drive traffic to a site with no marketing budget. You acquired “a very particular set of skills,” as Liam Neeson would say, or you looked for another line of work.
Nowadays, you have SEO specialties:
- Local SEO
- Organic SEO
- Content SEO
- Technical SEO
- Small Business SEO
- Corporate SEO (which is equal parts political maneuvering and search engine optimization)
Content and technical SEO are the East and West Berlin of SEO. There’s limited communication between the two and even less movement. Different people handle each sector, and there’s a very good reason for it.
What Is Content SEO?
Content SEO focuses on the content on your website, including blog posts, videos, podcasts, and other media. It involves content strategy, keyword research, writing techniques, and optimizing text elements like page titles and headings.
It’s the least technical of all SEO fields, but it’s critical to the success of a site. In corporate settings, content developers work under the general guidance of SEOs with a technical background in site taxonomy, internal linking, HTML, etc. But they’re mostly autonomous.
Content SEOs are writers first. They’ve learned SEO on the job and sometimes know barely enough to get by. You wouldn’t ask them to create your site taxonomy because they’ve never built a site from scratch, looked at crawl data, written a functional spec, or set up a redirect. Some never see the analytics.
They handle content beautifully but tend to be weak on the technical side.
Their work is front and center on a website, as visible as the graphic design.
What Is Technical SEO?
Technical SEO deals with a different side of the equation — how to help search engine robots crawl your site and index pages so they can rank.
Typical technical tasks include:
- Site crawls to find errors and orphaned pages
- Site health audits
- On-page SEO analysis
- Page load optimization
- Internal linking analysis
- Template design analysis
Technical SEOs come from the worlds of coding, server administration, or web development. They understand the nuts and bolts of a website.
Their work is behind the scenes, unnoticed by most users, except when a page takes too long to load, or a broken link leads to a 404 error.
Why Few People Do Both Well
Content developers are creatives. Even information copy reads better when written with imagination and pace.
Technical SEO is mainly a left-brained pursuit of crawl data, code analysis, and Excel spreadsheets. Few writers have the patience or desire for that.
But beyond the left-right brain dichotomy (which is now being debunked by medical science), some of the best technical SEOs have insurmountably poor communication skills. They almost need a translator. And they don’t have the marketing background or will to peddle.
As for content developers who have never coded, considered site architecture, or understood link equity, it’s a massive leap from blogging or crafting video scripts to building and maintaining a corporate website.
Both need the other to make SEO work. Most specialize in one field and stay there for the duration.
The handful of SEOs who can do both often work for smaller agencies. Corporate SEO can be stifling for a technical person who enjoys writing or a creative person who likes to figure out how things work.
As the demands of SEO grow, the gap between the two SEO disciplines will likely widen. Fewer people will do both. They’re the unicorns of SEO. Or maybe the dodos — a vanishing species.
About Culture Cube Digital Marketing
Culture Cube specializes in digital marketing for local businesses. Our clients include plumbers, HVAC installers, appliance repair companies, and local newspapers.
We offer the expertise of a large agency at small agency rates.
Because we specialize, we’re better qualified to promote your small business and create the most effective campaigns.
We don’t waste client money on lavish offices, fancy equipment, costly business trips, and endless meetings. We pass our savings on to you and welcome you as a partner more than a client.
Please contact us to learn what we can do for you.
Peter Losh is the SEO Director of Culture Cube Marketing in Upland, California. He's also a de facto UX designer, site builder, and content creator. Unlike most folks in the SEO biz, he works directly on the sites he optimizes, having witnessed the effects of recommendations that go ignored or misunderstood (in previous gigs).
Peter has worked on websites since the salad days of the internet, first as a graphic artist and web designer at the Centers for Disease Control. Then came several years of freelance web development, SEO and e-commerce management for business sites of various sizes, and ultimately a 10-year stint as the sole SEO Manager of PartyCity.com.
In his spare time, he enjoys classic film, classical music, and classic comebacks. And cats.
Professional Work Experience
- Search engine optimization
- Ecommerce management
- Conversion rate optimization
- UX design and analysis
- Copywriting and training
- E-mail campaign design
- Web design and development
- Graphic design