Ryan Jones Blog – dotCULT.com Ryan Jones Blogs About Internet Culture, Marketing, SEO, & Social Media

April 15, 2009

Should SEOs Know HTML?

Filed under: Main — Ryan Jones @ 1:59 pm

There’s an interesting discussion developing in the SEO community about whether or not SEO people should have intimate knowledge of HTML or not.

The common analogy being thrown around is that HTML is to SEO what anatomy is to a doctor. For the most part, I agree with this statement.

As I talk with more and more people involved in SEO, I’m always shocked at how few of them actually know how to program. Not only should a good SEO know HTML, but they should be familiar with .htaccess, robots.txt, PHP, ASP, Javascript, Flash, and even some basic graphic design.

The reason is simple: All of these factors affect SEO, and the more in depth knowledge you can have of the subject the better prepared you can be to improve a site’s ranking, if this is very difficult for you to handle, companies like https://indexsy.com/ help users to have an strong seo strategy.

The biggest advantage comes from knowing the problems that your other teams are going to face and being able to infer what objections they might raise. When your coding team says “we can’t do that” it can be beneficial to offer suggestions. You’d be surprised how many development teams aren’t familiar with apache modrewrite directives or php 301 redirects.

It’s important to not only know about these concepts, but to know how they’re implemented as well. That’s one strategy that’s benefited me greatly in my career. Knowing how to do all of the code has helped me not only gauge how to prioritize projects but to cut through delays given by outsourced programming teams as well.

Making a recommendation to replace images with text just isn’t as well thought out unless you actually know the work required to do so. You can’t truly SEO a site to it’s full potential unless you’re able to look at the complete picture and see every factor of the site.

It’s almost a sick paradoxical joke to say SEOs need to have technical knowledge though, as often times technical people don’t make the best SEOs. A good SEO also needs to be familiar with sales and marketing – as they’re going to spend a lot of time in those areas as well. Much of the job requires presenting, talking, and generally convincing people that you’re right. Salesmanship is clearly a very valuable SEO skill – not just in acquiring business but in getting client and developer sign off too.

It’s not crucial that you be a l33t code monkey to be an SEO, but if you’re one of those who don’t think it’s important to know HTML you should probably start looking for a new career – your SEO one isn’t going to go too far.


  1. Hey Ryan,
    Thanks for the mention here. I think you hit the nail on the head. SEOs don’t need to be technical monkeys to be successful (although it certainly doesn’t hurt), but HTML is definitely a requirement.

    SEO is a very unique field because it’s essentially an intersection between web development and marketing. Get one foot in each and you’re way ahead of the game. 🙂

    Comment by Gyutae Park — April 16, 2009 @ 9:05 pm

  2. Hey Gyuatee, you’re welcome. SEO’s uniqueness is why I love the field and it’s what made me switch out of programming. I love being able to think of strategies and I love that the field is always changing.

    Comment by Ryan — April 16, 2009 @ 11:14 pm

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