Does SEO Success Require Development Knowledge?

December 30th, 2019 by Devin Olsen

The short and simple answer to this question is no. You won’t need to delve deep into writing code or earn a degree in computer science to improve your website’s search results. There are some more complex aspects to SEO, but a large number of important and impactful SEO tactics can be performed by any computer-savvy individual. A funny thing I’ve learned from years of working in digital marketing is that many people with advanced technical knowledge of programming and code are not informed on SEO best practices. Many of the insights and standards of search engine optimization have been devised by tenacious marketers and website owners without any technical training or coding ability.

Getting Started With a CMS

To effectively improve your website, you will need to know what type of website you’re working with. The available tools and accessibility to a website’s features can vary widely. A lot of sites are built using Content Management Systems (CMS) like WordPress, Squarespace, and Wix (along with many others) that are designed to give users without coding experience the ability to log into a dashboard and update a website. These CMSs also have features that support SEO updates as well, but they can differ and may require using add-ons that weren’t originally built into the CMS. If you don’t know if you’re using a CMS or which one it is, there are online tools available that can figure that out for you. Here’s one I’ve used that is fairly accurate.

You can also investigate the CMS type with a simple search query. Something along the lines of “What CMS is this” or “web cms detector” will bring up a number of online tools that will analyze the code from your site to determine what CMS is in use. The answers you find may not be 100% reliable, so you may need to contact whoever set up or sold you your website if you still aren’t sure.

A paper man sitting in front of HTML code reading 'Hello World'

Optimization for Beginners

Once you’ve established which CMS or code your website is built on, search engines are your best friend when it comes to learning how to edit and optimize your website. You can start searching for your website’s documentation and specific tasks you want to complete within your system. If you’re new to the game, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the vast number of beginner-friendly articles written about specific implementations of technical SEO available on the web.

As a starting point, you should research how to update title tags and meta descriptions. These components of a website impact the information displayed in search results. If you’re using Squarespace or Wix, you can access this via the page editor features and can look up how to do so in the site’s documentation. If you’re using WordPress and you want to implement these changes, your WordPress theme may or may not already have this feature. If not, it’s likely you’d need to download a plugin, which is a program that adds functionality to WordPress and installs it on your site. Pretty much any open source website (WordPress, Drupal, Joomla) will have their own version of a plugin. These programs are usually designed by developers, some of which are free!

If you aren’t using a CMS, you will probably need to access site files and edit some code. There’s plenty of online resources that can walk you through the process. Be cautious, however. You should always back up your site before making any changes to code or adding plugins. Maintaining a backup or version control system is the safety net that allows you to switch things back to how they were if anything goes wrong.

A Little Code Goes a Long Way

I know many people describe code as gibberish or absurdly unapproachable; at first glance, code can look like an alien language. However, the most commonly used code to structure websites, HTML, is pretty simple and useful. HTML is pretty much the label system of the internet. You label paragraphs, headings and sidebar content, horizontal lines, bulleted lists, blocks of content, images, pretty much everything on the page. These labels, with a little help from style sheets, tell your browser how to treat content and images and present them on the screen. There are also labels built into HTML that give search engines other important information, like headings.

Headings are implemented in HTML with H-tags. They range from h1 to h6 and are intended to organize your headings based on their importance. Search engines use these to determine keywords and the core concepts of the page’s content. To improve your SEO, use these to label your main content heading on the page with an h1, subheadings with h2s, and so on. You can start learning HTML by using online learning tools.

The Mighty Pen

Even if you absolutely hate technical stuff like code, you can still ramp up your site’s SEO. Ultimately, the content on your site is your main money maker. Even if you use a bunch of high-level SEO techniques to get into the top results for a search on a major search engine, if you can’t engage your audience by delivering topical and engaging written content, you won’t last long. A talented writer can be more impactful than a senior developer. In the world of digital marketing, you absolutely need both. We are the Yin and Yang of website creation.

Make Information Easy to Find

Here are some basic concepts for writing with SEO in mind. Make it easy to read. Easy to find key information. Title things effectively. Does your content answer a question? Then include the question most people are asking as a heading or title. Does a paragraph have details about something specific? Give it a subheading lets someone who’s skimming the page know, “Here it is! This is what you’ve been looking for.” Use lists and bullet points. Highlight key terms with links to more detailed information and bolded text. Link product names to pages where people can purchase them. Provide business hours, important addresses, and contact information on every page and make it easy to find. Make everything as easy as you can for your audience.

SEO is all about delivering what people want. Google would quickly lose its status as the top search engine if the results people got for searches weren’t helpful. Search Influence helps businesses follow SEO best practices so that they can succeed online. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you optimize your website.

Images: Paper Man