When we think about SEO, the on-page elements tend to come to mind first. For example, we might consider the use of targeted keywords and alt text for images.
However, foundationally, you need a site that’s easily crawled and indexed at the HTML level, meaning coding knowledge can be an important part of SEO.
Often, what will happen is that you may think you don’t need to know coding when you work in SEO because of the plug-ins and tools that will do it for you. However, those plugins can slow your site down.
Also, even with WordPress, some elements need to be done manually, such as schema markup. Schema provides context for search engines. Source code is what browsers read to know how to show the content of a site.
The big takeaway is that coding helps you have a search-friendly site, and it can also help you speed-up or automate certain elements of SEO. Learning coding also helps you work with people on the technical side and improve communication.
If Your Work at an Agency
If you work at a digital agency, you may think learning coding isn’t relevant to you because your development team will make the needed changes.
There are a few flaws in this perspective.
First, when you’re creating support tickets for your development team, the more clearly and contextually they’re written, the faster they’ll be resolved.
Your ticket needs to include the problem, the desired outcome, and as many specifics as you can provide. If you have even a basic understanding of coding, you’re going to be better able to offer those specifics and contextual details that lead to efficiency in resolution.
There’s a tendency to assume developers will know what you’re talking about, and that’s an assumption that leads to frustration and delays.
Also, you might create a ticket thinking it’s a quick fix you’re asking for, without understanding the true scale. With coding knowledge, you’re going to be able to discern better the scope of the problem and the required solution so that you can manage expectations. You can show examples and screenshots that are going to actually be relevant.
With coding knowledge, you might have already tried to fix the problem, which can then be included in the ticket. By showing what you’ve already tried, you can save time on the development side because they don’t have to repeat your efforts. They have a better starting point from which to work.
Software most commonly used to create tickets includes JIRA, Asana, Trello, and Basecamp. These are general project management software tools that also facilitate the management of development tickets.
If You Are an in-House SEO
Some businesses opt to manage SEO in-house and depending on factors like the size of your organization, you could also have an in-house developer, but smaller businesses don’t tend to have someone on board full-time. Instead, a small business will usually outsource development when building a site initially, but they don’t retain them for ongoing maintenance or new projects.
If you have a developer on your team, of course, you’ll be relying on them significantly.
Much of what to remember if you have a team developer is similar to what was detailed above for SEOs who work at agencies.
You want to foster effective communication and collaboration, so with an understanding of coding, you can work better with your in-house developer. There’s less confusion that goes back and forth, and you know what you’re asking of them each time you create a ticket or bring a problem to them. You’re giving yourself the ability to specify your tickets to the point that it cuts down a lot of time on the problem-solving end.
With coding knowledge, you’re breaking down silos that lead to slowdowns.
If you don’t have a developer on the team, you might consider broadening your coding capabilities even beyond a basic understanding. Then, rather than turning to a third-party outside the organization, there are certain changes and fixes you can make on your own.
If You’re a Self-Employed SEO
If you work on your own as an SEO, you face two choices. The first is to work with a developer on a project-by-project basis, or you can learn how to make changes yourself.
When you opt for the second choice, you’re potentially broadening your client base and your marketable skills, making you more in-demand.
Why Learn Basic Coding for SEO?
While we’ve touched on these important benefits of learning basic coding for SEO, to highlight them again, benefits include:
- Coding is the foundation of any site, and it plays a pivotal role in how search engines read that site. By learning basic coding, it will help you be a more analytical and strategic SEO professional. You’ll have a deeper understanding of how to create sites and content relevant to search engines.
- Source code is ultimately what browsers read to know how to show content appropriately.
- You will understand what a site needs to be easily crawled and indexed at the HTML level.
- Learning coding can help you speed-up or automate SEO.
- You’re able to communicate better with people on the technical side and create better support tickets.
- You may be able to fix issues on your own, even without turning to a developer. You’re a more self-sufficient SEO professional. It can take weeks or potentially months for a developer to fix SEO issues otherwise.
- Learning to code could benefit your career as you build on in-demand skills.
- When you learn to code, it can help you spot problems before they happen, and you can approach your work differently than you did before. It also helps you learn how to go over and check your work in more effective ways.
SEO Coding Skills
For someone interested in learning how to code for SEO, three main languages are relevant to coding. These are HTML, CSS, and JSS.
HTML stands for HyperText Markup Language, the standard markup language used to create web pages. HTML is used to describe the structure of a webpage, and it tells how content should be displayed to the browser.
HTML elements are used to label content. For example, HTML will label something as a heading, a paragraph, and a link.
Learning HTML can benefit an SEO because it gives you a deeper understanding of structuring a page’s content.
CSS stands for Cascading Style Sheets, and it describes how to display HTML elements. There’s a certain efficiency in CSS as it lets you control how you’re going to layout multiple pages simultaneously.
CSS can be used for stylistic elements of pages such as layout and display variations.
HTML is meant to describe webpage content versus formatting, while CSS is for style formatting.
As an SEO professional, learning coding can be one of the best things you do for your career and the organizations you work for.
Learning coding can help you deep-dive into what makes a great webpage, rely less on outside help, and improve how you communicate with those people who are on the technical side of things.
Even if you just learn the most basic skills, there’s value in coding for anyone who works in SEO.