Search engine optimization (SEO) boosts your visibility to search engines, which could catch the attention of potential clients and make your brand more likely to appear in search results. It could also improve your online credibility, which is critical in our increasingly digital world.
As a marketer, you may be focused on SEO best practices for your content — you know, keywords, word count, meta titles and descriptions, etc. But does SEO matter beyond your content?
Of course. Arguably, that’s the only place it matters. You could have the greatest content in the world — the best topics, the best graphics, the best blog posts — but if your website is structurally deficient, it will bleed into all other aspects of your web visibility and performance, hurting your overall SEO performance and ability to attract potential business from search results.
In this post, I’ll explain why technical SEO matters, how it works and why a front-end developer or user experience engineer will be a valuable asset to your marketing team.
How SEO has an impact on business
SEO is the art and science of making sure that search engines like Google and Yahoo! can find your website and present it in search results. When your site is found in search results, more people will become aware of your brand, click to your website and possibly become a lead or customer.
In one survey, 85 percent of respondents said that they first use Google search to find product ideas and information before making a purchase. SEO helps your business get in front of these searchers.
Tragically, not everyone does care about SEO. The poor fools who don’t care may as well be wearing an invisibility cloak in the eyes of search algorithms.
That might be perfect for sneaking into the forbidden section of the Hogwarts library and escaping the notice of teachers and Dark Lords, but since you’re a marketer and not a student at a magical school, take off your online invisibility cloak.
A strongly positive SEO reputation ensures that the time and money you have invested in curating amazing content isn’t wasted. If a visitor comes to your website and is faced with a slow-loading page or confusing design, they’ll click the back button on their browser and find what they want elsewhere.
This action is a signal to search engines that your website is not the best result. Though your content may be the most helpful, other technical factors (especially page speed) will affect your site’s performance and move your page further from the top positions.
When this happens, your brand will not have as much exposure in search engine results for your business’s most important keywords, leaving a better opportunity for your competitors to rank high in search results and get all your web traffic.
How does SEO work?
Underneath the surface of your website lies a complex structure of code. To a non-web developer, this code might look like a different language, and in fact, that’s what it is! The code communicates information that catches the eye of web browsers and search engines. These bits of information determine how fast your website loads, what your user sees, and more importantly, what a potential customer will see in search results.
This code contains the calls for the images, text, videos, GIFs (probably in the form of cats), memes, articles, social media posts, etc. Everything depends on your configuration. Thanks to WYSIWYG (“What You See Is What You Get”) software programs and editors like WordPress, non-developers can easily alter web pages and blog posts without needing HTML and coding experience.
With this type of software, it’s possible for marketers to optimize their content. However, there are some aspects of a website where issues can lie deep in the code. Solving these issues takes a bit more expertise. Just like you might take your car to a mechanic when there are transmission issues, you might bring your website to a developer to repair more technical SEO problems.
Part of my job as a front-end developer and technical SEO specialist is essentially to go under the hood of a website. I run regular web performance analyses on the company’s website and a few other sites to use as a benchmark. I then use a few SEO tools to gather more information to make the best recommendations for improvement.
It’s all about the user
A lot goes into a traditionally “good” website. Initially, design is important — I’ve found myself leaving websites minutes after arrival because of garish colors, confusing layout and annoying pop-ups, all of which make the site a bad User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX), which I’ll call UIX going forward. There’s also a breed of website that’s classically ’90s; I’m sure you’ve seen ones like this:
With all due respect to Gates N Fences, this website is old, static, out of style and a relic of a time when websites and the internet, in general, were unclaimed territory in the Wild West. Back then, any UI was good UI. But times have changed, and so have the casual internet user’s expectations for their website visits.
Graphic designers and UI/UX engineers are becoming more prominent and their value is being recognized more frequently. Marketers want websites that have the potential to be beautiful, responsive, flexible and dynamic — favorite buzzwords among the UIX community.
I’m a strong advocate of simple, lightweight web design. UIX should be efficient: as simple as possible, using explicit statements, including easy directions and clearly logical. I should not have to think hard to know where to go next on a website (provided I know why I ended up on this site in the first place). Below is a website design with strong UIX:
I may be biased (I developed this website during my freelancing days), but beyond baseline pride in the work I did, I like the graphic designer’s choice for this site. It’s simple and makes sense. It clearly states what PWC is (a wireless radio solutions company), lays out options for a visitor to the site, and contains invitations to view products, contact the company, read testimonials from past and present customers or further peruse PWC’s available services.
When a user stays on a website to read the content and browse multiple pages, this activity signals to Google that the page is relevant and useful in some way. This proves that even with the best-written content in the world, any UIX disruptions or annoyances could really hurt the chances of your website appearing higher in search results, ultimately hurting your chance to get more business.
Put simply: People look at the quality, usefulness and overall experience with content. Google looks at how people interact with and perceive your content.
Creating a better website
Today, marketers must know a lot to successfully reach a digital audience. But I’m here to reassure you that you don’t have to do it all (go ahead, now breathe a sigh of relief). Web design, coding and the under-the-hood aspects of technical SEO take education and training. Though you can teach yourself some of the basic repairs, more marketing teams are recruiting the help of technical specialists like me to maintain a strong website and good user experience.