Does One have to be a Programmer to be an Excellent SEO?

Discussion 2: Does One have to be a Programmer to be an Excellent SEO?
Do you think one has to be a programmer to be an excellent SEO?
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Anyone saying knowing code is negative couldn't be more off base.
Now do you have to be a programmer? No. Do you need to understand how code works and how it affects your site? You better or someone on your team better.
Technical aspects to Search Engine Optimization (SEO) are a good sized part of the knowledge base and knowing nothing about code means you are missing a large part of what makes sites work and what can affect your site.
My opinion on this has changed over the years. When I started studying SEO, I only knew some very basic HTML – and that was it. I didn't think I needed to know code (after all, you can be a good driver without being a mechanic, right?)
After I started actually taking on clients, I decided I needed to get a thorough understanding of HTML, and to start learning CSS and PHP. When I started understanding the backend code, I realized how much better I could be at my job than before.
So depending upon what you mean by "excellent SEO", I guess I'd say you can be a good SEO without knowing how to code, but you'll be a hell of a lot BETTER SEO if you DO know. 😉


nope, I am not a programmer, I have dabbled in code, but if coding is required, I outsource to someone who is invested in being an awesome programmer. I think being a good SEO is learning everything important about your client and their business – then finding the balance between traffic volume, traffic focus, and thinking like an algorithm to mimic the ranking flags that it uses. Everything is an 80/20 trade off.
I think that the further away you get from actually understanding how something works, the less effective you are at doing it.
Like programming through a WYSIWYG, do you know why something works and why it doesn't? Or are you simply "for some reason I can't get these two things you align", even though a programmer could in 2 seconds.

Ammon Johns 🎓 » David
I agree with that, but the realist in me notices that many of the greatest programmers got their devotion and love for it because it's so much more logical and rule based than dealing with people. So many of the greatest technical minds are also registering highly on the autistic spectrum – which makes them appallingly bad marketers.
Let me pose this little mental teaser – if a great marketer was able to always persuade the technical talent to help him out, wouldn't he be more effective than just the guy with the technical talent?

good programmer no, knowing HTML/CSS/Javascipr yes for these reasons:
You have to deal with:
– H1, H2,H3 … tags (Header tags)
– correcting text within div instead of <div><p>text</p><div>;
– recognize javascript above the fold (and fix it)
– lower server requests
– writing 404, 301 redirect within .htaccess
– limit/deny spiders/bots visits writing server-side code (not in robot.txt)
– recognize how frameworks/themes work in order to fix them (if needed);
– Optimize/clean databases (MySql, MariaDB, MongoDB … )
– recognize redundance code (CSS especially)
– etc…
I think a good SEO should know a bit of everything: programming languages + web copy + linkbuilding + …
There are a lot of people that think they can use plugins+drag-n-drop staff to solve everything … In my opinion they are not SEO, not designer, not programmers at all but just drag-n-drop+installer people!!! I hope the number of that kind of people will grow in the next years so there will be much more work for serious SEO/Programmers/Designers (because of unhappy customers)!!!
Ammon Johns 🎓
No. I think it is an advantage, and can help, but there are more forms of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) than just technical SEO.
I personally think that all SEO users should know at least basic HTML, but being able to code a page, even from scratch in a text editor, doesn't make you a programmer. 🙂 HTML is a mark-up language, not a programming language. Take on JavaScript and you'll soon learn the difference.

Radu ✍️
Yes, but all programmers (of course not all) – know HTML, a bit of CSS and Javascript, all of which can help you a lot with the technical stuff. Sometimes. Otherwise – I too think anybody could learn all of the above to a level when it is more than enough… Except – they really should.
Ammon Johns 🎓 » Radu
hmm – okay, funny story. Back when Google started, all of the other search engines were huge web portals. They had these incredibly busy, crowded homepages that contained news feeds, email logins, stock prices, and weather, among other things.
Google stood out massively for its extreme simplicity – just its logo and a search box. In fact, it was only later that they added a footer with copyright info, not because it was actaully needed, but because it turned out people used to busy crowded pages were sat there waiting for the rest of the Google homepage to load.
This was lauded by web pundits as a genius move – a clean minimalist design.
But years later when it came up, Larry Page said the reason the page was so simple was that neither he nor Sergey Brin were web designers. Putting a simple page with just a logo and the search box on it was about as much as they could do.
So, no, not all programmers, even genius ones, learned HTML. 😃
Radu ✍️
Fantastic story. But I think we could agree that they are visionary people, whereas SEO may be looked at as a "number's" science, which for me – limits the amount of potential poetry. Do I make any sense?
Ammon Johns 🎓 » Radu
how much html does an SEO copywriter need to know when they are working on behalf of a company with its own webdev team, and their SEO content has to go to that team in a word doc to get put on the site?
How much HTML does the average link builder and outreach SEO have to know?
Radu ✍️
I think – none. But you can always argue that a perfect SEO is in fact an SEO manager with great perspective over quality, value and task. My question was about a full-blown-SEO, which I guess only applies when limited resources, startups, personal projects… Things like these. But I do share your views, I think.

Ammon Johns 🎓
I think, over the years, I've seen far more cases of people killing their business potential through trying to solve a marketing issue through tech, than I've seen businesses that had great marketing fail because they were not coding perfectly.
There's lots of big issues in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) that arise precisely because most people came into the business from the technical side, from being a web dev, and having no real understanding of marketing or persuasion.
Look at the entire history of link spam and crap-hat link building. That's where a programming-first mentality gets people. They look for the hack or code fix, instead of just building stuff people will like to link to and pass on.


This may satisfy you: Are Coding Skills Important for Being a Successful SEO Expert?
Discussion 1: Full-Stack Developers are Often Ace in SEO. Aren’t They?
Looking for some advice guys.. I love Search Engine Optimization (SEO) like nothing else but I cant stand implementing.
I'm not a dev, and I run across all kinds of sites always running into a snag where I'm dealing with something new and it takes me hours to figure out.
I dont want a VA for obvious reasons. I have the idea of hiring a full-stack developer on a part-time/hourly basis for the sole reason of implementing site changes and having the peace of mind things are going to be handled correctly and efficiently.
What are your thoughts?
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I do not suggest this, but I am bias.
If you can not implement the changes yourself then in my opinion you do not have a full understanding of how they work, and that is very scary.
I'm not sure how long you have been an SEO but the highest regarded analysts and specialists are completely aware of developmental implementation, and for good reason.
Why is it a good reason? I saw this exact scenario in my last job where a dev was hired to edit a .htaccess file script and got the entire website de-indexed from the Search Engine Result Page (SERP). They wrote a redirect from non www to www, rather from www to non www (easy to mess up), and the entire website de indexed from the non www and re-indexed to the www.
This was not my client but I was tasked with the responsibility of solving the mystery because none of their development team or in house SEO's knew how to remedy the issue.
I tell you this not to scare you but to remind you that whatever you are not doing personally and hiring out for, has the ability to fail – especially if you do not have a comprehensive understanding of it.
Not only that but an outsourced dev is no where near as invested in a clients business as you are directly dealing with them.
I hope that you spend time learning development because the only point of even creating a website to begin with is to usually rank it. All of these concepts are dependent of one another and the fact that you are leaning towards this path means you probably should not be taking on clients until you understand most of these things.
My rant is over. Good luck bud. In no way do I mean to upset you, but I did want to let you know of the possible issues that may arise.

You're not claiming that only full-stack developers should be doing SEO, right? Because most of the people in this group would be disqualified.
I've met not a single high performing SEO that understands development in its entirety. No offense taken but I disagree with your wall of text.
Mew » Joshua
Full stack, no; however…you should have a basic understanding of most common Content Management Systems (cms)s and a great command of HTML/CSS & APACHE as it relates to .htaccess files.
Those who rely on others to complete these tasks who do not understand themselves can not even verify if the task was done correctly.
To clarify, I am not suggesting that an individual should know PHP, JS, Ruby on Rails, ASPX (.net), or any advanced programming language but the above I addressed…yes they should know it.
If they do not they should only take SEO jobs in the cms's or platforms they have 100% command of. It's far too easy to mess things and risk your clients livelihood. Doing anything but is irresponsible – in my opinion.
Lysak – Well then, it's nice to meet you. Full stack developer and renowned SEO who worked for Google, Uber and a plethora of other large name companies.
It's a pleasure to make your acquaintance, bud. If you ever need a helping hand, please feel free to reach out.

I'm like half awake so I'll be brief. Answering as someone who does a lot of implementation, has a dev, a Virtual Assistant (VA), and I have fairly decent dev experience.
1. Consolidate the types of sites you work on.
Even if you're working with a full-stack dev, Standard Operating Procedures (SOP)s are going to be crazy and there's a ton of extra maintenance and things to keep up with when you're working on WP, flat sites, SquareSpace, Joomla, etc.
I used to disagree with this, but now we only work on flat sites or WP. Anything else and the client has to agree to get a site built on a better system – which is 100% fine if they're not willing to do that.
Keeps things much more simple and consistent for us.
2. Use workers appropriately.
Do you need to have the title tags copy & pasted from a spreadsheet to a plugin? Have a VA do that. Not worth your time or the dev's time.
Do you need to change H2's to H3's, H3 to an H1, etc. And may also have to update the CSS accordingly to fix the site aesthetics? Have a dev do that.
3. IMO
You should focus on strategy. And pass of implementation as much as possible.
I find it important to learn how to do most things, even if I don't implement it. This allows me to communicate better with clients and come up with ways to automate things.
For example, if you need to make a child theme in WP. Have a dev do it, but research how it's done so you understand the mechanics.
Anything that's 100% step-by-step[able] have a VA handle. Most other things, I would look for a webmaster rather than a full-stack dev. Unless you have the need for them, they're going to be a lot more expensive and the work is going to be a lot more tedious.
Just My $0.02.

Mew » Jarod
1 for researching and understanding what you're asking someone else to do. Allows for you to audit them and make sure it was done correctly before pay and so your site is not on the line of the disappear
Pollard » Jarod
Agreed understanding allows better communication for the brief and to the client


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