Why Designers Need to Know SEO: Up-Close with SEM Expert Derek Mabie

Derek Mabie is what most of us would call an “SEO guru.” He’s the king of all things search marketing, and he cofounded Evolve Digital Labs SEM agency in 2009 to focus on just that. Evolve is committed to empowering brands by identifying potential customers’ search behavior and, in effect, lead clients to greater digital success.

Derek Mabie, an SEO/SEM guru talks about the intersection of SEO and design.

You might be thinking, “So, what does SEO have to do with design?” A lot, actually. Because this is an untapped knowledge base for many digital designers, I caught up with Derek to find out exactly why the design community needs to know SEO.

Okay, Derek. The design community wants to know: why do designers need to know SEO? Can you give me your top 5 reasons?

  • Design for the user.
  • Validate your direction.
  • Increase the value of your professional skill.
  • Increase the need for more design to target different search tactics.
  • Determine the ROI for your work.

Excellent. You’ve devoted a significant amount of work to search marketing and finding potential customers for clients. What’s one of your go-to tools for Search Engine Marketing (SEM)? 
Google. It’s ironically under-used even within the search marketing community. Not only because of the inherent knowledge a Search Engine Result Page offers, but because in the overwhelming majority of the Results Pages the answers to my SEM question are there too.

Probably the most pivotal question being “What would it take to be #1?” You can’t necessarily say this number of links or a specific domain authority, but conceptually I think you can categorize.

Having tips and tools to impact search engine results is always impressive. So why are you motivated to speak on this topic? Fame & Fortune (kidding).
The professional answer: I’ve seen search marketing change businesses for the better. Change–not just in revenue–but in terms of creating jobs, improving processes and creating accountability.

The personal answer: I am not exceptionally skilled in one single area. None that would, alone, create success. SEM has offered me an opportunity to succeed despite my mediocre skill set. It helped me blend my love and admiration for both sides of the brain. And the ability to work with those who excel through the dominance of a particular side.

I think you’re being modest about your mediocrity. Nonetheless, I’m curious about how SEM has influenced your work?
SEM has changed over time and with the experience. Initially, it helped me earn a “seat at the table.” Knowing about search marketing was a way to be a part of the strategic conversation (when I was young and not very strategic).

Then it become an opportunity to control my professional endeavors, in a way most do not have an opportunity. Most recently, it’s turned into a channel for helping others innovate their business.

You definitely have a seat at the HOW table, Derek! We’re excited to hear more about how search marketing fits into the larger design process…

SEM for Designers HOWU CourseWant to get the inside scoop on SEM and SEO for design? Catch Derek’s upcoming HOW University course on search marketing strategies for designers

Whether you’re a freelance web designer and interface with clients or work in-house as part of a team, this HOWU course addresses what every designer needs to know about the SEO/SEM process—and how it fits into your daily work life.