February 20, 2013

Marketers still need to learn some basic HTML

html

Image courtesy of Brian J. Bruemmer via Creative Commons

Improve your readers’ experience with some basic HTML knowledge

Chris AbrahamI have recently been blogging for the Huffington Post and they use Six Apart‘s Movable Type blogging platform. Movable Type was my second blogging platform after converting from Noah Grey’s Greymatter that I started using back in 2000. Even in 2013, the Huffington Post’s blogger interface doesn’t offer a Rich Text Editor so writing in familiar WYSIWYG isn’t possible there.

So what I do is compose over here on WordPress, on its Visual Editor, and then click the Text tab and copy and paste over to Movable Type. Then the work begins. I upload all of my media, photos, graphics, and whatnot to my server at ChrisAbraham.com and then align them correctly before I copy the raw HTML over — which should work perfectly, right? No!

While WordPress uses modern CSS, styles, and DIVs, the install at the Huffington Post doesn’t, so I had to take code that looked like this:

<img style="margin-left: 5px; margin-right: 5px;" title="19-year-old Chris Abraham rowing in 1989 for GWU" alt="19-year-old Chris Abraham rowing in 1989 for GWU" src="http://chrisabraham.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/chrisAbrahamCrewRower-300x199.jpg" width="300" height="199" />

And needed to add some original, old-school, HTML IMG tags, such as ALIGN=”RIGHT” and HSPACE=”5″ as a way of making sure that Huffington Post can render the my code the way I want it to look on their install:

<img align="right" hspace="5" title="19-year-old Chris Abraham rowing in 1989 for GWU" alt="19-year-old Chris Abraham rowing in 1989 for GWU" src="http://chrisabraham.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/chrisAbrahamCrewRower-300x199.jpg" width="300" height="199" />

However, if I didn’t know a little bit of HTML — I know quite a lot; I started my professional life off as a web developer and programmer — I probably wouldn’t be able to even know how to add images. I wouldn’t know how best to link to third-party content as easily and effortlessly as I would have liked. I wouldn’t know how to fix rendering and formatting issues and problems, and I would need to rely too heavily on my editors, assuming they’re proficient enough or have enough time to fix both my copy mistake as well as my graphical or HTML gaffes.

So, spend some time right now going through an HTML primer or two so that you can better control the visual experience that you offer your readers as well as the platforms that try to render your content on other platforms such as Flipboard and mobile devices.

Knowing some HTML, especially how best to use tags associated with linking and images (TITLE and ALT, for example), can really beef up your online SEO optimization, because we all know — or should know — that Google only knows what you’re on about if you’re completely explicit.

I am lucky that I am fully able to render what I want to say exactly how I want it to display, but it isn’t hard. Knowing just a little bit of HTML very well can result in a much better reading experience for both your human and robot readers.

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Chris Abraham is a partner in Socialmedia.biz. Contact Chris via email, follow him on Twitter and Google Plus or leave a comment below.

  • liordegani

    Great one Chris, and cannot agree more! I’ve mentioned my thoughts on why basic programming help any marketer or startup founder. Would love to hear your thoughts about it :)
    http://liordegani.me/2013/01/14/why-you-should-learn-to-code-even-as-a-non-technical-founder/

  • maryanneconlin

    Excellent post! Over the years working in social media, I have had to put to work my HTML skills on different blogging platforms, to make minor corrections to websites and Facebook apps..when calling the web developer and explaining would be longer and more expensive than just making the minor correction myself and in understanding the issues around what I am asking tech folks to do. Before working in social media, as a brand marketer for CPG goods, I always made it a point to visit the factory floor to understand how the product was made. Learning a bit about the technical end of digital marketing strikes me as in the same league! I agree- take a course, buy a book, read a website- learn a bit about HTML to be a better digital marketer.

    • http://chrisabraham.com chrisabraham

      maryanneconlin Thanks so much!  I really appreciate your comment. I can’t believe it. In the same way professional people love to brag that they are above cooking and cleaning, it seems like online content-producers feel like they can be above learning a little HTML.

  • Follower_Fans

    Awesome post and it is the truth. Every marketer should know the basic or atleast know what they are looking at when they are looking at html code. I think it is imperative to be able to jump into code and tweak small things i.e. color, fonts, line breaks, etc. Also thanks for the great references, its always good to brush up on html and that is what i am about to do! My site http://morefollowersandfans.com was a pretty dynamic template on wordpress but i still needed to change a lot to it. I would have had to pay someone hourly to make the changes but luckly i know some code and got it done myself!