Do You Need to Be a Programmer to Practice SEO?

Search engine optimization (SEO) is one of the most valuable, and naturally one of the most popular digital marketing strategies still in practice. But many people are intimidated to begin an SEO campaign because they don’t have any programming or coding knowledge.

Do you really need detailed technical knowledge in these areas to be successful with an SEO campaign?

Option One: Working With the Pros

If you choose to work with SEO professionals, as many businesses in the SEO world do, you won’t have to learn anything about programming.

The best option for many businesses is working with a marketing agency that specializes in SEO. In this type of agreement, the SEO agency will likely take over all your SEO duties, from building and maintaining your website to creating new content and building links pointing to that content.

Alternatively, you could choose to build a team of freelancers and contractors to carry out the work on your behalf. In this arrangement, you’ll still be responsible for setting high-level strategy in most cases, but as we’ll see, high-level strategy doesn’t require any real programming knowledge.

But what if you choose to do the work all on your own? Don’t you need to learn programming?

The Role of Programming in SEO

Let’s take a look at the role of programming and coding in SEO.

  •       Building a website. On some level, programming knowledge seems to be a prerequisite for practicing SEO since it plays such an important role in building a website. It’s important to build your website according to modern standards, and in a language that can be parsed by search engine bots. That said, programming knowledge is no longer a strict requirement because of the number of free website building tools that make it easy for non-programmers to create SEO-friendly websites. In a sense, website building has been democratized and separated from programming knowledge.
  •       Editing tags and meta data. Tags and meta data in the HTML code of a website carry significant information for search engines to parse and utilize. This is an opportunity to optimize for specific keywords and tweak the titles and descriptions of your pages so they appear more attractive in search engine results pages (SERPs). However, you don’t need to be an expert programmer to make edits to these in the back-end code of your website; in fact, many website builders offer convenient, layman-friendly widgets to edit tags and metadata related to your website.
  •       Mobile optimization. Modern websites should be mobile optimized for SEO. But again, modern tools make it easy for non-programmers to handle this requirement. The vast majority of both professionally developed and layman-built simple websites are optimized for mobile devices by default.
  •       Page speed optimization. The faster your website is, the more of an advantage it’s going to have in the SEO landscape. There are many actions an average user can take to accelerate page speed, such as deleting old content and installing a caching plugin. But realistically, there are some tasks that only programmers can handle – and you may need to learn some rudimentary coding skills or hire a programmer to perfectly fine-tune your pages.
  •       Technical website changes. Occasionally, websites do require technical alterations to make them easier to index or gain other SEO advantages. However, many of these can be handled even if you don’t have a specific programming background.
  •       Scripts and automation. Programmers who work in the SEO industry often take advantage of scripts and automation to make their lives easier and streamline workflows. These are very convenient and highly effective, but they aren’t strictly necessary – so while you might be at a disadvantage as a non-coder in terms of efficiency, you’ll be on an even playing field when it comes to ranking potential.

As you can see, many of the programming-related elements of SEO can be circumvented or ignored entirely. 

Further, the most important elements of SEO have nothing to do with coding or programming:

  •       Strategy. Without a high-level vision for the campaign, it may fall into disarray. Fortunately, there’s no need for programming knowledge when it comes to creating one. Depending on your level of familiarity and the depth of the strategy you want to create, your high-level strategy could include simple goals, like outranking your closest competitors for a handful of head keywords, or a high-level roadmap for how you’re going to generate X monthly organic visitors to your site.
  •       Keyword research. Keyword research grounds the campaign and gives content creators and link builders targets to prioritize. Modern keyword research tools make this relatively easy; with no programming knowledge, you can quickly generate a list of keyword ideas and review them in terms of search volume, competition, and more. In a matter of minutes, you could have a full list of keywords to potentially target.
  •       Content creation. Content is king in SEO – and has been for a long time. And if you have any experience creating content, you know that as long as your topic isn’t programming itself, programming skills are not required to produce something great.
  •       Link building. Links build authority, and authority leads to higher rankings. While there are some technical elements to consider in link building, they can be acquired even if you have no programming background whatsoever. Besides, these days, link building is more about publishing good content and forming relationships with publishers than anything else.
  •       Analytics. Data analysis is necessary to understand how your campaign is performing so you can refine and improve your efforts. If you already have a tool to help you do this, you can navigate all your most important data with intuitive ease – and you won’t need to write any scripts to do it.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line here is that you do not need to be a programmer to practice SEO. Even if you did, you could always hire people with coding and programming skills to handle the work on your behalf. 

While coding and programming are central to SEO, you can likely learn the skills necessary to follow SEO best practices or rely on widgets and tools to handle the work for you.

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