Bad choice of words on my part. I'm gathering my arguments in the form of a structured post and would like to make sure the views of the SEOs that wish to defend their profession are represented.
"I think SEO as a stand-alone service is bull****"
That seems to be the kernel of Eoghans' "argument", a favourite one of Kens' and driven mostly by the understandable resentment that the tail now appears to wag the dog.
Your man should take a pop at Google, it was only when clients started asking how the site would fare on G that most Irish designers stopped fiddling with their Flash and started paying attention...
It all depends what the function of the website is in the first place. If it is used as an advertising medium to bring in new business then SEO is very important. If the website is an online app for existing clients it wouldnt be as important.
Depends on the point of view you look at. If I was an end user who wanted to generate business from my site, I'd much rather a site that mightn't look good, is not code compliant but does convert/generate leads rather than the slickest design, nicest code but never getting eyeballs. I agree with the sentiment that its better to have all three (Design, compliant code, SEO) but which takes more or should take more priority is always driven by the client. Since the majority of our clients are business it comes back to ROI/sales and in that case its SEO that comes out on top. Also just from personal experience some of my clients actually enjoy the competition factor of SEO, i.e. there site ranks higher for their industries key term than their top competitor. It gives them a verifiable answer, i.e. put the search in google , see who's the winner. For the lay person, its very hard to judge which is the better website design from a coding point of view (no coding experience) or from a design point of view (it's personal taste).
Also SEO as a stand alone service is in demand, take for example Red Cardinal, he's considered a valuable member of the community and he offers this as a standalone service. SEO is the new buzz and with all change it's better to embrace it and adapt than fighting it.
glengara, if you're suggesting that an SEO with no understanding of IA, usability, accessibility, Web standards, design and best practice (and the practical application of these) is somehow a valuable asset to this industry, then you're more deluded than I thought you were. There are quite a few SEO's out there who are multi-skilled and they'll probably do well as a result but someone working in a professional capacity as an SEO with no other knowledge or industry background (effectively jumping on the bandwagon) actually invites resentment. If you don't know why, then I'm not going to explain it to you.
"glengara, if you're suggesting that an SEO with no understanding of IA, usability, accessibility, Web standards, design and best practice (and the practical application of these) is somehow a valuable asset to this industry, then you're more deluded than I thought you were." So why are you flogging his SEO Book? Here's a prediction, the SEO bandwagon will shortly become even more crowded :-)