80% Say SEOs Need Some Coding Abilities

Apr 16, 2009 • 7:15 am | comments (9) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under SEM / SEO Companies

Last week we asked if SEOs need coding capabilities based on a controversial Sphinn thread. The results are now in and I am surprised to see just about 80% of the responses said that to be considered an SEO, you need some coding abilities.

Here is the break down of results for the question, Do You Need Coding Skills to be an SEO?

:: Yes, Some Coding Abilities To Be Called An SEO said 100 respondents or 65% :: No, No Coding Abilities To Be Called An SEO said 33 respondents or 21% :: Yes, Expert Coding Abilities To Be Called An SEO said 21 respondents or 14%

I would have thought more would say that SEOs need no coding experience to be labelled an "SEO." Of course, having coding skills helps, but a requirement?

Forum discussion continued at Sphinn.

This article was written earlier this week and scheduled to go live April 16th.

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Phill Midwinter

04/16/2009 12:14 pm

I agree with the findings here - I actually voted for an expert level of knowledge and I'll say why. SEOs need to gain a better understanding of how search engines are actually programmed. SEO as an industry is currently too rumour based and this is leading to some companies doubting our research and integrity. In order to regain client trust SEOs should be working to improve their skills in relation to search in terms of programming and, unfortunately, mathematics. Search engines are based on extremely complex formulas that use vector based models and are always seeking the most efficient way to program crawlers and indexing. This reliance on efficiency is a key factor in knowing what variables affect a website's ranking.


04/16/2009 01:45 pm

SEO is very subjectively-defined initialism. If you take it to mean "whatever gets your website to rank higher" and include things like linkbait I'm not sure a drip of coding is necessary. On the other hand, coding knowledge is a real asset. Read <a href="http://searchengineland.com/getting-links-and-content-from-flickr-17000/">this post</a> at SearchEngineLand by Lisa Barone. It highlights a great method for building inbound links - that happens to require very little programming. Maybe you don't consider this SEO - which is fine, I'm not going to argue that since there's no clear and agreed definition as to what SEO is. On the other hand, I'm not going to say it isn't SEO either as it can have a serious positive impact on rankings.

Ramon Eijkemans

04/16/2009 01:48 pm

'some coding abilities' is too vague. This could mean: 'know some HTML' to: 'build your own scraper to obtain Google SERPs for ranking data'. And to be honest: Jill Whalen is a perfect example of why 80% of the respondents is wrong


04/16/2009 02:30 pm

This is so subjective it's impossible to answer does "some" understanding of HTML mean knowing what a meta tag is? Or an H1? You can often achieve the same result by recoding a site to make it more search-engine friendly OR by rewriting all the content to make it more keyword-dense and customer-oriented OR by doing a lot of intensive link building. You can achieve the most by doing all three together. To understand how search engines work you don't have to be a developer, but to understand why a site is not doing as well as it should in search engines you do need to have a basic understanding of how HTML pages are built and what makes good code. What you do need if you aren't a developer yourself is a developer to fill your own knowledge gaps. Very few people are experts at EVERYTHING it takes to be great at SEO which is why people specialise in development, link building, copywriting, etc. - which is why what you need a consultant who knows his/her own strengths and weaknesses and has access to specialists in all of these areas. I know zero really excellent web developers who I'd pay to write copy for me and I know zero really excellent copywriters who I'd pay to build a website - but when you get both working together you get the best of both worlds.


04/16/2009 02:32 pm

This is the difference between SEOs and Copywriter. I think that a good SEO MUST know the base of HTML/CSS and the base of the most used dynamic language like PHP. I think also that a good SEO must be a good writer and an opened mind. SEO is the sum of this.


04/16/2009 02:57 pm

There are so many facets of SEO, so the level of programming knowledge would depend on the task at hand. Some SEOs may focus on different elements like blogging, copywriting, link building, etc that someone may say doesn't require coding skills, but if you look deep down, there is much to benefit from understanding the programming behind it all. In the end, if I owned my own SEO company, I would never hire an SEO professional who didn't have coding knowledge. As for myself, I've been doing SEO for 5 years, and I don't know how I could be successful without knowing how to code webpages...

Phill Midwinter

04/16/2009 03:06 pm

People are asking exactly what level of knowledge you need... I'd answer the question by saying you learn as much as you possibly can to further your ability as an SEO. Myself I'm an expert developer in: - PHP - .NET/C#/VB - Python - SQL - C - Perl And I'm learning other languages as well, Java is the current one. As well as that I've developed many search engines, including LSI based engines and models for natural language and neural networks. I have brought myself up to scratch(and am continuing to try to improve beyond that) in maths, specifically vector models and matrices related to how search engines work. I also read as much as I can about AI to try and keep up with what could be coming next - the two fields of search and AI are growing ever closer. It's not about doing the minimum - it's about trying to do all you can for your clients (and for yourself).


04/16/2009 03:27 pm

The ideal SEO is a right brain and left brain person. There's a lot of user behavior, creative and marketing knowledge needed here too in addition to the analytical side of things. For any new SEOs out there, don't fret too much. Having all of the programming knowledge that lets say Phil has, isn't necessarily a requirement, those are just good qualities of a web programmer. As you can see on many job posts, SEOs should typically have HTML, JavaScript, and CSS knowledge.


04/17/2009 02:36 pm

It is really a pointless question, like asking do you think that an effective fireman needs to be good with heights. Of course you need programming skills. The more skills you have the better your potential to be a good SEO.

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