Do You Need to Know Coding When Learning SEO? (Includes Graph!)

Learning search engine optimization, or SEO, can seem like a daunting task, especially as a beginner. From learning new skills like keyword research, traffic estimation, link building, analyzing industry trends, and more, you may start to wonder how much technical knowledge you will need for SEO, in particular if you need to learn coding.  

Lucky for you, coding knowledge is not needed to learn SEO. While learning coding is not required for SEO, it certainly helps those who know the basics of HTML, Javascript, CSS, and other technical SEO terms to excel in their field. However, there are many successful SEO gurus in this field who have backgrounds more in content than development.

To those of you who are considering diving deeper into learning SEO and becoming more familiar with coding, I’ve included some common situations you may run across in your career where coding would be especially useful to you.

Communicating with Developers & Other Members of Your Work Team

When working on maximizing your company website’s SEO, you will likely be working with others to achieve this goal. Often at larger companies, you will have a team of developers and other technical experts who will greatly appreciate your ability to speak using their jargon. Communication between you and your team is key to reaching the best SEO results. 

Knowing coding can help you stand out from your SEO coworkers in many different scenarios. For example, identifying that your website’s structure is hindering your SEO rankings and communicating to the developers how that structure needs to look to increase the user’s experience is a valuable skill. Or discovering that Header 1 (aka H1 Tag) isn’t clear or compelling enough and that it should be changed so you communicate that the H1 Tag on page number XYZ needs action required. 

You may be asked to do a site wide SEO analysis and discover that your alt attributes aren’t descriptive enough. In turn, it’s affecting your site’s accessibility which is bogging down your site’s rankings. Here once again, you will find it useful to know the coding language and in this case, particularly what good alt text looks like. Being able to explain to your team what works well and what doesn’t with Google rankings, in this case how alt text affects it, will help get you the SEO results you want much faster than someone who has no coding background whatsoever.   

When learning coding, it doesn’t take much to speed up the communication process as well as avoid costly mistakes. Putting in the effort to learn coding shows your developers that you care enough to talk to them in a way they understand. Not only will this knowledge make others more inclined to work with you, but it could also bump you up the career ladder.

However there is a point of diminishing returns when it comes to learning coding depending on the type of job you take. This chart outlines the extent to which it would be useful to you to know the coding languages of HTML, Javascript, and CSS skills based on your job type. While business leaders may only need to understand the bare bones of coding, industry leaders and pioneers need to live, eat, and breathe it and will be the ones you find attending monthly conferences to always be up to date with trends.  

Building a Website From the Ground Up

Developing a company website is a huge project. There are so many aspects of a website that could go right, or wrong. From determining which CMS, or content management system, is right for you to figuring out what plugins you need to designing the structure of the website for maximum user experience and accessibility, hundreds, if not thousands of decisions must be made. Each of these decisions have an effect on how Google will rank your website and how much coding knowledge will be required to create your website.  

Choosing a CMS right for you could depend on how much your company is willing to spend and how much they care about SEO rankings. Different goals companies can have range from merely wanting their website to act as a brochure on Google to utilizing their website to drive traffic and sales into their business to creating an entire business online and solely using e-commerce. Finding out your company’s objective in advance could save you a lot of time and headaches. A few common, well known CMS platforms include:

However, all are not equal when it comes to SEO or ease of use. While SquareSpace would be the most intuitive for a beginner to learn, it has the least powerful SEO tools of the four. This is because all three of the other sites are open source platforms and SquareSpace is a closed source platform. An open source platform is a software or program whose source code can be accessed and contributed to as needed by developers. Additionally, the ‘skin’ of each of the open source systems can be customized by the end user or developer, because of this, SEO is on a fairly level playing ground based solely on the website’s structural elements, provided the developer knows what he or she is doing. 

What is a bonus to beginners just beginning their website creating journey, WordPress offers a variety of drag and drop plug-ins like BeaverBuilder, Divi Builder, and Elementor among others to allow those who don’t know coding to build beautiful websites. With these plug-ins, you get the easy to use accessibility SquareSpace offers, but retain the SEO powerhouse of WordPress. 

Looking at Joomla, you get a middle of the road system for ease of use. It isn’t quite as intuitive for beginners but also doesn’t offer as extensive of SEO settings as Drupal does for advanced coders. While experienced developers can use this system, most opt for Drupal over Joomla. We’ll talk more in-depth on content management systems in a future post! 

That is only looking at the building side of the website. Maintaining and troubleshooting your website is a whole other can of worms. You could be dealing with anything from IP detection and redirection, slow site loading time, http headers, 301 and 302 redirects, 404 page not found, and more. In these cases, holding at least developer level knowledge would be incredibly advantageous.

When You Won’t Need Coding

While some areas of SEO optimization like website building may demand more coding knowledge, other segments of it require none. This includes content writing, public relations, and brand journalism. 

While no coding knowledge is needed for content writing, it requires a different type of expertise. According to IMPACT (https://www.impactbnd.com/blog/seo-statistics), 57% of marketing executives say on-page content development was the most effective SEO tactic. Content writing is often used by companies to increase their SEO by various marketing strategies. From blogs to pillar page content to social media, companies need content written on their website to assist Google in its indexing process where it determines how high a ranking of a website should be. This indexing process is based on the three factors of relevance, authority, and technology. 

Using those factors, content writers will focus on creating the best possible resource on a particular topic so Google will show their article or information first. Google judges these articles on everything from their length, layout, title, subtitles, images, quality of content, monthly search volume, page engagement, user reading time, internal and external links, and navigability. As you can see, none of these require coding knowledge but are extremely important to rank well on Google. 

Public relations is another segment you won’t need coding knowledge. Public relations on the web consists of building up a company’s reputation whether that means burying negative articles, featuring positive press releases, or connecting to the right external websites.By using Google’s search algorithm to their advantage and analyzing the company’s website, experts in this field work to build your company’s reputation and bury anything that could hinder it from a negative online review to an article from the Washington Post. 

Brand journalism is similar to content writing but it is more focused on developing its brand personality and sharing its brand story through journalism. Content writing is focused on providing useful content to its readers to increase product demand, traffic generation, and sales. However, Google’s search algorithm works the same when judging which articles to be shown. When determining which journalist’s article will be featured first, it still uses all the factors listed above for content writing. With journalism, website authority may weigh in more heavily for Google ranking.

Nevertheless, the coding backend of the structure can drastically affect the web rankings and authority of your site and in turn, negatively affect your online rankings for articles. Site speed, metadata, alt text, and image title attributes all play a role in your SEO score. While coding isn’t directly needed for mastering SEO, you can see how intertwined it is between developers, content writers, public relations personnel, and journalists, and recognize that creating a high ranking website takes vast knowledge in each SEO discipline. 

How Long Will It Take To Learn Coding For SEO? 

Expect learning coding to take varying amounts of time depending on what you are using it for and what type of learning approach you take. You can learn coding various ways outside of the traditional college route. You can teach yourself online, take continuing education courses, enroll in coding boot camps, and even attend web development conferences. If we look at what is needed for SEO, it really varies what all you might need to know. The best thing to do would be to simply start. Once you’ve started it will be easier to assess where your knowledge gaps are and who knows? maybe you’ll be really into it! Start with HTML, then move towards understanding the specific CMS that you use the most.

Conclusion

The main takeaway is that coding is not required for SEO, but depending on your career, knowing coding may be beneficial. While careers like content writing, journalism, and public relations need zero amount of coding knowledge, these roles would benefit understanding coding whether it be the basic terminology or the up-to-the-minute, latest technology news.