Summary: By combining knowledge of coding and the value of SEO, you can position yourself as an extremely valuable digital marketer in today’s environment.
A common discussion point and question for many in the educational and professional fields is what skill-sets, traits, and abilities are most valuable to best position a person or organization moving forward. Unequivocally, my answer to this question would be practical, working knowledge of coding, computer systems, and how our daily interactions and decisions are dictated, directly or indirectly, by technology. From a more pragmatic viewpoint, having these abilities makes you more valuable in a world that needs technology problem solvers.
In this way, I view much of what I do in digital marketing as a form of problem-solving. The problem presented is one that many businesses face—how do I generate more customers or leads via the internet or digital devices? This is a loaded question, but for the purposes of this discussion I will narrow it down to one of the larger roadblocks we see when it comes to creating new customers: bad coding.
Where SEO and Coding Begin to Intersect
Now, let’s get something out of the way—oftentimes, developers and SEOs (search engine optimizers) are at odds because in many cases visually stunning websites are not conducive to what we know about SEO best practices. This is where the worlds of coding and digital marketing begin to meet, which is why knowing coding can help you become a functional digital marketer as well. By understanding how the skeleton fits together, you better understand the function of each body part. To use another analogy, you know all of the ingredients that help make the meal; it’s just a matter of using the right amounts at the right times with the right amount of heat.
Why Should I Think About SEO When Coding?
The key here is to find the right amount of both to satisfy the needs of search engines as well as the needs of users. In order to be competitive in a crowded digital marketplace, building sites that are SEO friendly is essential if you want to be rewarded with visibility on search engines. Many times, businesses will be drawn into a site design that looks the best without considering what’s under the hood. In other words, it’s a Lamborghini body with a lemon engine. It may be helpful from a branding standpoint, but if no one sees your brand, does it have any value? Consider the basic elements like header formatting, meta tags, meta descriptions, image alt text, and CSS. All of these perform seemingly basic functions in the world of coding. However, in terms of SEO, they are areas of opportunity to differentiate yourself from competitors. Whether you are performing this work on behalf of yourself, your business, or someone else’s business, knowing how to use coding in an SEO context properly will give you a massive advantage over someone striving just to make an aesthetically pleasing site. It provides the website with a more significant role than just being a landing page—it can be a space for conversion and growth. Let’s use header formatting as an example. On practically a daily basis, I see sites that have a visually pleasing heading format, meaning the page title is all big and bold and the content is split up with some more clearly defined headers. On the surface, it looks great (the Lamborghini). However, when digging through the code, we notice the page title is not wrapped in H1 tags and the remaining headers are wrapped in H4 tags (the lemon engine). SEO best practices would dictate that the page title should be wrapped in H1 tags while the remaining headers would be wrapped in H2 tags. These tags work as a type of hierarchy, sending signals to the search engine crawlers that the H1 is the main topic or the purpose of the page, and the ensuing H2 headers add more contextual value to the content. This helps search engine crawlers understand why that particular page exists, what the main points are, and under which searches this page should be considered.
Why Good SEOs Need Good Developers
In my day-to-day, there are many gaps in my abilities where I simply do not know enough about coding to solve complex SEO problems on my own. I am fortunate to have a team of developers that works intimately with all types of content management systems, coding, formatting, and styles that I can lean on for their knowledge. Many of my recommendations require the functional knowledge and the abilities of good coders to execute. If I were to redesign my career path, I would have certainly learned as much about coding as possible before learning about SEO. To revert to an earlier analogy, learning the ingredients and why they produce certain flavors helps you become a more dynamic chef rather than taking the final meal, tasting it, and then trying to figure out what the ingredients were afterward.
Looking at coding as something broader than just aesthetics will help open new possibilities. With knowledge of code, you can effectively implement changes and strategies to help your own personal site, a friend’s, or a client’s perform better. And, by becoming a sufficient coder, you have a leg up on the competition when it comes to becoming an effective digital marketer. _________________________________________________________________
Cory Agular is a Digital Marketing Analyst and SEO Specialist at Search Influence.
A national digital marketing agency, Search Influence routinely delivers a 10:1 return on investment, or better, for our customers. Offering measurable Search, Social, and Digital Advertising is what we’re known for, and has been for the past 13 years.
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