Why isn’t SEO a core duty of LIS?

In Information industry on March 31, 2009 by Danielle Tagged: , , , ,

This will be a serious post asking the question–why aren’t information professionals committed to search engine optimisation (SEO)–why does SEO appear to be the domain of ‘big cheese’ business types?  According to its definition, SEO is concerned with improving the findability of a website or resource. Yes, I do understand that the flip side of this is foisting a product or advertisement (in website format) onto the world–but can’t we use SEO’s powers for good as well? [Note: yes, this is moralising, adverts can be ‘good’, but in my world view literacy and education trump adverts being plastered on every available surface.  Thank you, Ad blocker.]

What I find frustrating is any informaticist/ librarian-led discussion of search engines or websites or blogs does not really touch on the black box inside the websites that increases their findability, or perhaps works against them (and needs fixing).

Because when I see interesting and informative postings like the one on the econsultancy blog, I cannot help wondering why these discussions are taking place wholly outside the LIS domain. Why are the comments populated by a ‘founder’ here and a ‘director’ there, but no information folk?

The crux of this rant is that ‘they’, the directors, head honchos, etc should be coming to us for wisdom as search experts (in theory).  It appears that our search expertise is only partial at best–we are the users of search platforms and not creators.  Will this ever change?

PS. AddtoAny might be a good idea for this blog.


5 Responses to “Why isn’t SEO a core duty of LIS?”

  1. It’s a good question and there are two reasons that spring to mind.

    Firstly, a deep ambivalence about search engines – they seem to stand in opposition to the traditional tools and techniques of information professionals.

    Secondly, a lack of relevant skills. Most of the librarians I’ve worked with in the last few years were a long way off the pace technically.

  2. Good points, Ben. We need professional organisations that provide continuing education that will allow information managers to acquire SEO-type skills. I find the range of what is on offer from CILIP and others quite limited. UKeIG is a bit better.

    I also think that the time for ambivalence about search engines should be a distant memory. Time to dive in, folks! I will not claim that books are going anywhere soon, but it is a rare library or resource centre that does not organise its collection electronically. When something does not work with the search, we are held accountable whether we like it or not. So time to swot up.

  3. My experience has been that senior management assume that SEO ‘fits’ in marketing but the marketing departments often lack the technical understanding to manage SEO alone. Where information professionals put the effort into learning about SEO they’ve usually been able to make a case for being involved.

    And it does seem to take a particular type of info pro. Not everyone is comfortable learning about software algorithms. SEO is also one of those spaces where a little bit of knowledge can be a dangerous thing – I still see people focusing on meta keywords to improve their Google rankings.

  4. Hi Danielle,

    As I said to you on that internal CILIP forum for the Update magazine panel, I have sought to include SEO material in the news section, and to highlight how important it might well be for LIS pros.

    I included a prominent pull-out quote from Phil Bradley to ram home this point, when I first wrote about SEO.

    I also stressed the importance of SEO in my presentation (in Oct 08) about media relations, PR 2.0 etc to CLSIG, one of CILIP’s SIGs.

    You can download a pdf of the slides here:

    But it’s certainly true that I hear pretty much nothing about SEO from CILIP folks, and at the SEO events I’ve been along to I’ve not spotted any CILIP/LIS people.

    It’s great, in fact, to hear someone else suggesting that SEO might be an important skill – it means I’m not just imagining it after all…! 😉


    Matthew Mezey
    (News Editor, Library and Information Update magazine)

  5. Hi Matthew,

    I wrote this posting at the same time as the Update one as I thought it worthy to reflect publicly on the lack of SEO in the profession (2 rants are better than 1). I think that is fabulous that you are featuring SEO in Update. And I am glad that it isn’t just me off on a tangent–that you have been banging on this drum as well! Possibly the reason I do not go out to SEO events is that I am not aware of them. It might be good if we could add some to the Calendar of the Gazette?
    It looks like I missed out on ‘Search Engine Strategies‘, a conference that was held in London in February.
    Great presentation. I took a Marketing course for my MLIS, loved it, but I always feel these skills are underused. There’s a bit of a pattern here: no SEO, no marketing… Possibly the public and academic librarians get more opportunities to market what they do. I always feel like I am the one in the group banging on about making posters/ documents/ anything more visual. We need to stop burying our heads in a textual sand.


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