Web development and search engine optimization (SEO) become more and more intertwined as search engines get smarter. Therefore, experts in both fields must have a basic understanding of the other.
What do developers need to know about SEO?
If you are responsible for creating and maintaining a website, you are also partially responsible for making sure it can be ranked in search engines.
SEO is often divided into three categories:
Technical SEO: How search engine bots crawl and index a website
On-page SEO: How well your site content is optimized for your target keywords and user experience
Off-page SEO: How other websites link to your website to increase its authority
Of course, developers play an important role in technical SEO, but that’s not where developer SEO should end. They also help ensure a positive user experience, which can help with on-page and off-page SEO.
Here are eight SEO best practices that developers can focus on to take their efforts to the next level.
1. Keep your code clean
Web developers can do so many incredibly intricate things, but it often helps to keep things simple.
Users value convenience more than anything else. We want quick access to information, and anything that stands in the way harms the user experience. More complicated code can lead to more roadblocks for site visitors.
Keeping your code clean is one of the first steps in SEO for developers. When people land on a website, they make quick decisions about whether it’s worth it.
2. Keep loading times fast
Relying on the complicated code: Loading times are vital for SEO.
Search engines want to direct users to websites that answer their questions quickly and accurately.
If another website can provide comparable information twice as fast as yours, Google will likely prioritize them on search engine results pages (SERPs).
SEO for developers – page load speed
Even if loading times weren’t a direct ranking factor, this would still be a big deal.
The loading time of a page directly affects its bounce rate. For example, pages that take two seconds to load have an average bounce rate of 6%. After four seconds, the rate rises to 24 percent, and after only six seconds have elapsed, 46 percent of visitors have left.
When Google sees people returning directly to search results, it probably thinks your page isn’t valuable and assigns less ranking power.
3. Use the correct redirects
Websites are constantly evolving. Content is updated, pages move, new elements are added, and developers make sure this goes smoothly.
The end user is the most critical factor in this equation because everything you do has to work for them. However, you also need to think about how crawlers view your website.
This is where understanding how redirects work in SEO is essential.
The two most common redirects that affect SEO are 301 and 302 redirects.
A 301 redirect indicates to search engines that a website or pages have been permanently moved. When you use a 301 redirect, search engines will transfer most of the original page’s link equity to the new page.
A 302 redirect, on the other hand, indicates that a page has been temporarily moved. You could use it when you are redesigning or updating your site, but you still want to keep the link equity of the original page.
Proper use of redirects may seem like a small thing, but it can make a big difference in terms of SEO.
4. Add a sitemap
Search engines are very sophisticated, but they don’t experience a website like humans do. They need you to give them clues as to how pages link together and one of the ways you can do this is with your sitemap.
When you index your site, bots follow each link to see where they go. One way you can help with this process is to add a sitemap.
Google and other search engines should be able to crawl your entire site if you use a good internal link. However, large sites can get complicated, so a sitemap simplifies things for search engines and ensures your site is indexed appropriately.
5. Make sure the site works on mobile devices
Mobile devices account for 54.8% of website traffic. Google knows this, so it prioritizes websites that offer an excellent mobile experience.
SEO for developers – mobile optimized page
Google now uses mobile-first indexing, which means that when its bots crawl your site, they use the mobile version. If your website doesn’t work on mobile devices, it’s unlikely to rank very well in the SERPs.
Even today, too many websites overlook this vital fact.
To check the performance of your mobile website, Google’s mobile optimization test is a convenient option. It gives you a quick performance check and tells you where you can make improvements.
If you want to dig a little deeper, Google Lighthouse is also a great option for overall UX.
6. Check the Robots.txt File
The robots.txt file sets rules for how web crawlers crawl different parts of a website. It’s a simple piece of code, but it can have a significant impact.
A robots.txt file unintentionally blocking crawlers from content can be catastrophic for SEO. If the bots can’t crawl the page, it won’t be indexed — meaning it won’t appear in search results.
Sometimes, webmasters don’t want a page indexed, and a robots.txt file is a valuable tool.
However, if your SEO team notices a page that should be getting traffic isn’t, keep an eye out for a rogue robots.txt file.
7. Ensure Follow / No Follow Links Are Used Appropriately
Links are like the language of the search engine, so you’ve got to be able to speak it.
One distinction to be aware of is follow links vs. no-follow links.
Follow links, also called do-follow links, are backlinks where the person linking to the page doesn’t edit the HTML to ensure Google doesn’t associate their site with another. When a site gives a clean backlink with no changes, a crawler sees this as one page vouching for the quality of the other.
Crawlers still look at no-follow links to see where they go, but they don’t ascribe value to the link.
From an SEO standpoint, you want to follow links from authoritative websites to yours. However, you should still consider no-follow links valuable. Even if the link itself doesn’t give authority, it can still drive traffic to or from your site.
For developers, this means they’ve got to make sure they’re using the right links to communicate properly with the crawlers.
8. Understand and Implement Structured Data
Structured data can be tricky for many people involved with SEO… and this is where developers can really shine. Developers already know how to format a page so that all parts of it flow well and can be read by both human and search engine searchers.
SEO for developers – structured data
When used well, structured data lets Google know exactly what’s on every part of a webpage. Beyond that, it can tell Google precisely what questions you’re answering.
SEO for Developers: Frequently Asked Questions
How Do Developers do SEO?
Developers should be familiar with technical SEO and effective user experience.
Do Web Developers Do SEO?
Web developers do SEO to some extent. A clean, functioning website that offers a great user experience essential to SEO is all the developer’s domain.
What Is SEO Software Development?
SEO software development is the process of making sure software and web applications are SEO-friendly.
What Is the Role of an SEO Developer?
An SEO developer understands how development decisions will affect a website’s search rankings and organic traffic.
SEO for Developers Conclusion
Increasing organic traffic is a key goal for most website owners, so SEO for developers is important.
Good developers naturally aid SEO by creating user-friendly websites, but it pays to understand search engine optimization itself. Even just the basics could allow you to make more informed decisions and offer a better service for your clients.
SEO for developers doesn’t have to be complicated, but it can make all the difference to a website’s success.