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Published on May 23rd, 2012 | by 011100110110010

12

The SEO Coding Fallacy

For the second time in 24 hours David Cohen has given me an idea about a new post, this is something that I’ve been thinking about for a while. To learn how to code or not learn how to code and whether it would benefit me both professionally and in terms of future ‘experiments’.

It always makes me laugh when SEO’s ‘admit’ to not knowing how to code. I mean there is an obvious benefit in terms of understanding how a website works and how to actually implement your recommendations. But surely as an SEO you know what code your need to know in terms of recommending site changes, don’t you?

I keep seeing articles from the ‘a-list’ trying to make coding knowledge the difference between an SEO and a great (expensive) SEO. At the same time these are the same people who talk about return on investment and providing a high quality service, does this attempt at geeky elitism really help a clients ROI that much? (if it does I would love to be wrong and see it.)

All they have done is looked at the industry and tried to work out where they can make a difference in the market.

“There are loads of SEO’s nowadays.”
“That’s true”
“How are we going to stand out in the market when the basics of SEO are actually quite simple and people are willing to do the same job at lower rates than us?”
“Fuck it, you know how to code?”
“Nope”
“Get on it man! New business calls have gone through the roof since I learnt to code, developed a few tools and tweeted about them!”
“Oh rly?”

And that’s how the SEO coding myth was born.

If you know how to code and find it useful when running a day to day campaign then nice one, you’re one of the good guys. If not stop pretending that it is anything less than a money making exercise.

Meh.

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About the Author

One day I will make a living out of this industry, until then I'll carry on writing here.



12 Responses to The SEO Coding Fallacy

  1. Jonathan says:

    Luckily I found a spare minute when I wasn’t moving, thinking and creating to leave a comment.

    I recently heard a shocking statistic that in the UK you’re never more than 12 feet away from a coder. In which case outsourcing rather than spending hours hacking around makes perfect sense.

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    • Jonathan, I always enjoy reading your comments. It does seem that everyone is awfully busy nowadays. It must be difficult moving, thinking, creating, being, living life to the max, 24-7 baby, wooo!

      I thought the statistic was 6ft but I am happy to be proved wrong. These coders, they’re everywhere…

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      • Jonathan says:

        Thanks, you’re right, it is tough in the fast lane.

        In all honesty I see no real reasons or justification for all SEO’s to learn to code unless of course they had the idea themselves in their own working non coding brain.

        I also think that you should only tell people they should learn to code if you know for certain it will influence plenty to start coding and give you lots of buying time so you can move into the products and training space.

        So whilst I’m pissing about trying to build pointless WordPress plugins with a million security exploits or a Google doc that can extract my number of twitter followers and divide it by 7 (that by the way will definitely 100% make me a better SEO) you can start changing your whole business model.

        It’s like saying that all opening batsmen should learn to bowl off spin otherwise they’re not worthy of a place in the team.

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  2. Alessio says:

    Dear Sean,

    I wrote about this too. It’s a trending topic, I called it the 2012 dilemma.

    If you want to read, here is the link:

    http://www.alessiomadeyski.com/to-code-or-not-to-code-2012-dilemma/

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    • I didn’t see the original post but yeah, Nail > Head.

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  3. Andy says:

    You hit the nail on the head, I personally know what I need to know and leave the rest to people who have a lot more experience and know code like a second language. They are going to do a much better job at it than I am.

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  4. Alex says:

    I hate this learn to code / don’t learn to code argument. Every time I see an SEO tweet that Jeff Atwood article “Please don’t learn to code” I feel like drowning a cat.

    If you want to learn to code – that’s great! But saying people shouldn’t learn to code (as Jeff does) because they aren’t going to be a useful addition to the coding workforce is like arguing I shouldn’t enjoy a kick-about in the park because I’m never going to play for England.

    Everyone in SEO or inbound marketing (or whatever we’re calling it now) should learn to code – if they want to.

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    • I read it as well. Again though it’s someone looking down on people and wanting to keep his industry as small as possible so that he can charge as much as possible.

      How can I look elitist when everyone can do the same as me?

      I also agree that if someone wants to learn how to code then it’s their choice. I just think (and you probably agree) that they shouldn’t feel like they have too :)

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  5. Emma says:

    Hi Sean,

    I’ve seen this bandied about quite a bit recently. Coding skills are good to have, but certainly not necessary with regards to SEO practice. My current position is mostly about supporting the SEO team and in my spare time I’m learning really basic macro coding so that in the future SEO people spend less time doing repetitive tasks and more time doing SEO. Now, web coding is an entirely different ball game and I’m not planning, any time soon to learn how.

    So yes – learn to code if you want to, and if you think it might improve your skills in a way that you can use them!

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    • Hey Emma, thanks for the comment and I like your blog :)

      I also like this…

      I’m learning really basic macro coding so that in the future SEO people spend less time doing repetitive tasks and more time doing SEO

      If coding and creating something will help save time then I’m all for it. The impression I get throughout the industry is that people are learning to code for no real reason/to call themselves a coder/to sell. Fuck it, if they want to do it for those reasons why not!

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  6. Adam D says:

    It depends on the level of coding knowledge claimed.
    Not many SEO projects require in-depth OOP PHP using scalable and modular best practices, for example.
    Every “SEO expert” *shudder* should know basic HTML, CSS, JavaScript.

    Anything else is a bonus. Something is very wrong if you work as a professional SEO engineer but don’t know basic HTML.

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    • Anything else is a bonus. Something is very wrong if you work as a professional SEO engineer but don’t know basic HTML

      #Truth

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