Are SEO’s With Technical Knowledge Dinocorns? #SEOLunch

Are SEO’s With Technical Knowledge Dinocorns? #SEOLunch

Since I spent a solid 10 minutes on introducing the concept of #SEOLunch, I’m short on time with today’s topic.

What I want to know is this: Are SEO’s with technical knowledge today’s dinocorns?

In recent weeks I have come across more online marketing analysts who portray themselves as SEOs, despite the fact that they cannot tell you:

– why a robots.txt file is important
– what an .htaccess file is or how it can be used
– who provides Yahoo! search results
– what valid HTML code is, or how to check for it

My problem here is that to me – those topics are all things that ANY SEO should already have down pat. I know I’m not alone, either. There are always going to be more emerging topics and technical issues that become specialties or areas of focus… But if you’re going to say that you’re an SEO – it’s my belief that you should at least have an awareness of these things. When did it become okay to forget about some of the most critical on-site SEO elements? Did I miss all that?

Otherwise, you’re really just an online marketing analyst. My point is… You’re not an SEO if all you can do is talk about keywords and dissect a Google Analytics report. You need to be involved in the technical aspects of the site and know how content delivery and formatting plays a role.

Note #1 — I think I just invested a word there with dinocorns. If so, I’d like the formal definition of “dinocorn” to be, “and aging, possibly extinct unicorn.” Simple, right?

Note #2 — I haven’t invested nearly enough time in my own blog’s setup and optimization. Therefore, please hold off on the flames that indicate that I’m not taking advantage of known SEO components like schema tags and microdata. Yes, I’m looking at you, @HunterSatter.

21 thoughts on “Are SEO’s With Technical Knowledge Dinocorns? #SEOLunch

  1. First of all, dinocorns sounds like a prehistoric foot ailment.

    Second of all, I get around all this “you shouldn’t call yourself an SEO if…” by not calling myself an SEO – I am a webmaster with benefits.

    Third of all – SHHH! You’re giving away a key advantage here!

  2. Ok, I know about everything you mentioned, except who provides Yahoo! Search results. Can you tell me :-) Inquiring minds want to know!

  3. I somewhat agree with Meg here. An SEO without a highly skilled webmaster [with benefits] on their payroll is like a fish lacking a bicycle. Unfortunately, fishes without bicycles are industry standard nowadays.

    1. First – It’s great to see you around here again, Sebastian.

      Second – I agree with her as well, so no disagreement there. I think it’s just necessary for self-proclaimed SEOs to have some understanding of basic technical elements at play. On more than a few occasions I’ve found some “SEO Managers” recently who had no idea what a server response code was, for example.

      The trouble, at risk of sounding like I’m reminiscing too much, is that “fishes without bicycles are industry standard nowadays.” If you have multiple people involved, that’s one thing – but a standalone SEO, particularly one in charge of things, should know their way around how a server interacts with agents.

      1. Yup, we totally agree. Especially the one man shows must have the technical expertise. Those who haven’t, should team up with a skilled webmaster, at least.

        And of course my last statement addressing those “SEO Managers” is polemic. ;-)

  4. Dinocorn – Am. Slang. (noun) die-know-corn A nearly but not quite so extinct mythical species of web active people who are no longer as young as they once were when things such as skill, talent, ability to retain knowledge, and appreciation for traditions established in previous generations still mattered.

  5. I would agree that it is very difficult to find SEO professionals that can blend technical, creative, and overall marketing skills. My opinion is that this is just a facet of how the search marketing space has evolved more than anything though. That said, I also completely agree that anyone labeling themselves as an “SEO” should be able to identify answers for the four questions above.

    1. So diplomatic, Derek. Good to see you around here again, too. Familiarity would be enough for me – but many times I hear people talking about things as if they’re feet above their head. Lots of hand gestures and arm waiving, but they couldn’t tell you a thing about how things work.

      I know, too, that I’m coming off as an old, SEO elitist. I don’t mean for that to be the case – I just wish more of these analysts would spend time in the craft before making false claims.

      And that’s a recurring issue in the space, I’d say.

  6. Need to be diplomatic these days! I don’t think your off base though and a perfect segway into setting up that New England get together at some point in the near future…

  7. I’ve watched with a level of dismay as the SEO space has been invaded by marketers and much of the technical conversation pushed aside as unimportant in the last few years.

    Many SEO conferences no longer feature (much) technical content, or if they do it’s way too basic.

    SEO is multi-discipline and it’s OK to specialise within this vast field, but at the moment things seem to be skewed in quite the wrong direction.

  8. When I saw this on Twitter yesterday, I thought “Wow, this is me. I am a dinocorn.” As I look at client’s web sites and hear their SEO woes, even after consulting with a “young SEO hotshot” (a client’s description, not mine), the technical aspects are where I tend to look first. Granted, I have the somewhat unique advantage of working in a IT innovation company, so the technical part often takes the reverse precedent of being thought of first in our offices, with the rest of the content and social pieces a second thought. Who knew technical skills would become a “differentiator” in the SEO industry – this is ever so troublesome.

    On the second point, of your own blog not being fully SEO optimised, I must laugh. Very few working SEO professionals I know have the time to do a great job for their own sites. Once a client asked why I didn’t follow my own advice and I had to honestly answer because there are not enough hours in a day! It’s not like anyone is paying you to make it a priority, so it doesn’t get dedicated attention.

    Here’s to keeping dinocorns from being extinct!

  9. While I can usually find time to read bits and pieces of SEO news, I rarely find an article worthy of comment (not spam, keep reading).

    I am proud to be a dinocorn, but I have to admit that I have been guilty of raising up SEO staff members that are not aware of some of the more technical issues. SEO has been around for quite a while now. Sites that have been technical-ly optimized for years generally only need the occasional tune-up to adjust for new concepts, not a full-blown, from-the-ground-up SEO effort. So, as I developed training material for my staff, I commonly addressed the concepts they would need to know going forward… writing keyword-rich content, titles, descriptions, etc. because the sites under their care do not need robots.txt adjustments very often, are run in IIS (with an SEO-fed developer to maintain it) and the kind of HTML they are writing is difficult to screw up for the most part (links and copy).

    To bring my In-House example around to your point, while I believe most of my team is capable of learning anything and everything the industry could throw at them, I dare say only a few of them currently qualify as dinocorns and should consider striking out on their own.

    I think a lot of the “SEO” practitioners you are talking about may be folks like my team, without the benefit of a mentor to compassionately tell them what they don’t know. They have learned what they needed to do a specific project, and learn something new only when they need to. I have also observed a personality type that exists in people, regardless of industry, who learn something and immediately believe themselves experts. Combine these two scenarios and a bad apple is born, clients are poorly served, and our industry suffers a great injustice.

    Dinocorns are the folks with an ingrained work ethic, often type A’s who love all the different avenues and areas you can organize in an SEO project, and the folks who will still be SEOs long after things get hard and the marketers-in-SEO-clothing find a snazzy new title to use.

    Just my two cents…

  10. If this “inbound marketing” name catches on, I’ll guess that discussion of anything technical will be rapidly kicked to the kerb by those folks. The technical stuff will be deemed to be part of the IT departments remit.

    However, any seasoned SEO practitioner already knows, from experience, that the vast majority of IT departments have no clue about SEO and often are the source of many of the problems requiring fixing.

  11. When I read the headline, I got a little nervous. I thought technical SEO was going to be so much deeper than .htaccess and robots.txt. It seems like pre-Caffine, knowing how to make sure your entire site got crawled and indexed was a major requirement which involved technical knowledge.

    Now, we are spoiled with highly advanced crawling via Googlebot and plugins that make all these technical aspects of SEO less necessary.

    It is kind of like doing math with pencil/paper vs. using a calculator. The person with the calculator can get answers but doesn’t know why – when the going gets touch, Mr. Pencil/Paper can solve problems were Calculator Jr. can’t even identify step 1.

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