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Search engine optimization (SEO) has become a critical component of modern digital marketing. Essentially, the goal is to make changes to your website and its overall online presence to increase its rankings in search engine results pages (SERPs). This, in turn, increases organic traffic rates, which can make any website more popular and profitable.
To an outsider, SO looks technically complex and intimidatingly challenging. But is it really as technically complicated as it seems? Do you even need programming or coding skills to practice SEO?
Search Engine Optimization: The Basics
Let’s start with the very basics. When Google produces search results for a given query, it considers two main categories of factors: relevance and trustworthiness.
When it comes to relevance, Google prioritizes webpages with topical similarities to the query given, with further prioritization for pages that appear to adequately address user search intent. To this end, SEO practitioners can optimize for specific keywords and phrases, building webpages designed to address certain types of queries.
When it comes to trustworthiness, Google looks at both domain authority and page level authority to determine which relevant pages are most authoritative and trustworthy. The technical performance of your website, the quality of your content, and the number of links pointing to your website all factor into this equation.
There are literally hundreds of ranking factors you’ll need to consider within these categories, so SEO is difficult to practice as a solo practitioner. Some people choose to work with a local SEO organization, like a Salt Lake City SEO agency. Others choose to work with freelancers. But no matter what, you’re probably going to need some help.
Programming and SEO
SEO does require some technical expertise. Some fundamental skills, like optimizing content for specific keywords, are relatively easy to pick up. But you’ll also need to address the following in your SEO strategy:
- HTML coding. Your website needs to be coded efficiently and in a standardized way to be indexed properly. Google also evaluates trustworthiness based on how your website is coded.
- Page speed optimization. Faster websites typically get priority over slower ones, and web developers typically have the skills necessary to accelerate loading times.
- Metadata and microdata. Programming skills can also come in handy when managing metadata and microdata on the back end.
- Technical changes. If you need to make any technical changes to your website, such as optimizing for mobile devices or cleaning up content that doesn’t load properly, coding can be useful.
Because of this, programming and coding skills can be beneficial. But these days, they aren’t totally necessary. That’s because free website builders, plugins, and SEO tools have been designed and published to minimize the need for individual technical expertise.
Non-Programming SEO Skills
Additionally, there are many foundational SEO skills that don’t require any programming or coding knowledge whatsoever.
- High-level strategy. Even if you don’t have any coding knowledge, you should be able to understand the fundamentals of SEO and put together a high-level strategy for your website. Strategizing only requires you to understand your target audience, your top competitors, and your key objectives.
- Keyword research. Keyword research is relatively easy to do – and there are even free tools available online to help you do it. Ideally, you’ll target a selection of keywords that are topically relevant to your business, high in search volume (meaning lots of people conduct searches for those keywords), and relatively low in competition so you don’t exhaust your budget too quickly.
- Content generation. You generally don’t need coding knowledge to produce and publish content on the web, especially if you’re using a website builder or any CMS that makes it easy for you to change things on the back end. Content is one of the most important elements of SEO, allowing you to optimize for specific keywords while simultaneously building your authority, so it’s a high-priority skill to master (and it’s not technically complicated).
- Metadata optimization. If you’re not familiar with SEO or website coding, the phrase “metadata optimization” may sound intimidating, but it’s rather straightforward. This type of task simply requires you to tweak page titles, descriptions, and other types of metadata for your target keywords.
- Link building. Building and earning links is necessary to establish and grow your authority on the web. Fortunately, this is something that you can do without any programming knowledge – though you’ll need to prioritize building relevant, high-quality links.
- Promotion. Promoting your best content is also useful from an SEO perspective; it can help you earn more links, shares, and other trust signals.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line here is that programming and coding knowledge aren’t necessary to practice SEO. While they can be beneficial in supporting some technical SEO actions, there are many approachable tools that render these skills unnecessary.