Local Search Engine Optimization: Does SEO Require Coding?
The difference between a successful business and bankruptcy can be as little as a few places in Google’s results. According to a study by Search Engine Journal, 28.5% of people click the first result, while only 5.1% click the sixth. Likewise, almost no one goes to the second page of results.
Depending on what you provide, the success of your business may depend on local search engine optimization. That could be a problem if you don’t know the first thing about creating a website.
The good news is, there are a lot of very important things you can do to boost your SEO without knowing any coding. The bad news is, you’ll never reach the top spot without knowing something about HTML.
Think About Your Human Visitors
The most important thing you can do for your local search engine optimization is to think about what actual visitors to your site. That means thinking like a publisher and providing quality content people want to read.
Search engines make their money by providing results that answer people’s questions. That brings in more searchers and also more advertising revenue. In other words, search engines will have an incentive to rank you higher if people like your content.
The good news is, providing quality content does not take any coding skills. You can have strong local search engine optimization with no knowledge of HTML. In fact, you can do a lot to improve your local business search engine optimization without any actual coding.
Pick and Place the Right Keywords
The days of keyword stuffing are gone. Search engines are sophisticated enough now that packing in repetitive keywords can actually move your site down the rankings.
Instead, you want to think about your customer’s intent when they search for terms related to your business. Anticipate their needs and answer their questions. Optimizing for a single keyword is less important than creating unique content that answers those questions.
Then, within that content, you can incorporate your keywords (and their synonyms) naturally. Free tools like Google Adwords Keyword Planner can help you pick the right ones. But this data should be a guide for how customers think, not a hard prescription.
Popular search terms may only make up a small percentage of all searches. In fact, about 25% of searches are specific enough that Google has never seen them before. It’s worthwhile to optimize for the long tail too.
Where you place the most important keywords matters. Search engines give greater weight to keywords in:
- Content headings
- Page title tags
- Navigation bars
- Anchor text
Conversely, search engines devalue keywords in the sidebars and footers of sites.
Get High-Quality Links to Your Site
Search engines use a mixture of how relevant your content and site are to a user’s question and how important your content and site is to determine your ranking in search results.
If you create quality content that answers user’s questions and drop the right keywords in the right places, you’ve already taken care of relevance. To address importance, you need to get some links.
Search engines use link analysis to create hierarchies of important sites. The idea is similar to citations in academic research. People cite more important research more often. It’s the same with online content: people cite more important websites more often.
But online, citations take the form of links. So, the more inbound links to your site, the more important it must be, especially if those inbound links come from other authoritative and relevant websites.
If you can build the right network of links to your website and to your individual pages, your site will rise in Google’s rankings. Ideally, the links from other sites will also include your most important keywords in the anchor text too.
Choosing the Right Template
One of the big decisions you need to make if you are creating your own website is what template you will use to build it. If you pick the right template, you may be able to take care of a lot of crucial SEO tasks almost automatically.
WordPress is a good example since many sites are built using their platform. WordPress makes it easier to deal with titles, alt tags, or meta descriptions. It also includes a host of free SEO plugins that can make things easier after you build your initial site.
Coding and Local Search Engine Optimization
Of course, while creating great content and getting authoritative links will boost your search ranking, it will not bring you to the top of local results for Tampa on its own.
To maximize your search rankings, you will need to step into your site’s code at some point. Fiddling with the code might not make your site more attractive to human visitors. Instead, you’re trying to make things easier for spiders.
That gets even more complicated when you try to optimize for mobile SEO too.
How Search Engines Index Sites
Before Google can rank your site, Google needs to find it first.
Very simply, search engines find websites by crawling the internet using automated programs called spiders. Starting with a seed set of high-quality sites, the spiders follow links from there to discover other pages (another reason good links are so important).
Spiders don’t read websites like human users do, so coding your website is all about making things easier for them.
Images and Alt Attributes
The simplest thing to deal with is probably alt attributes for images. Spiders have trouble seeing:
- Flash files
- Audio and video files (although they are getting better at video)
- Content from plugins.
Because of this, it’s important to always add an alt attribute for your image files. The alt attribute is basically a text description of what is in an image. The spiders can read these descriptions, which can help them determine if your site is relevant or not.
Another place that some coding may come in (depending on which template you pick) is designing the navigation for your site. We already mentioned how keyword-rich navigation was important, but crawlers look at navigation more deeply than that.
In general, search engines like to see a flat site architecture. In other words, you want to minimize link depth so that people can reach a given page in as few clicks from the homepage as possible.
This makes it easier for the crawlers, who do not have to travel as far to reach the content, and for human users. Likewise, both people and crawlers assume that pages close to the homepage are more important than pages that are farther away.
If you have not set up your site properly (or you have chosen a poor template), creating this flat architecture may take some serious coding.
Avoiding Unnecessary Subdomains
Depending on your site, you may also need to rebuild it slightly to avoid subdomains and use subfolders instead.
For example, suppose you have a Tampa-based business selling used cars, including pickup trucks. If you created a new page on your website about pickup trucks, you would want to use a subfolder (tampacars.com/pickups) instead of a subdomain (pickups.tampacars.com).
Search engines consider the importance of your overall domain when they rank your individual pages. But, generally, the search engine treats subdomains as separate entities. So, a bunch of links to one subdomain (pickups.tampacars.com) would not boost a different one (convertibles.tampacars.com).
That’s why it’s important to use subfolders instead. Then, each link to one of your subfolders helps to boost the link authority of the overall domain.
Controlling What the Crawlers See
Crawlers hate duplicate content. It’s an easy way to move your site down the rankings.
But sometimes, you need to repeat content for the sake of your human users. Or, you may want to include pages on your site that you don’t want Google to index, like confidential information or pages just for employees.
There are any number of reasons you might want to keep crawlers off parts of your site, and there are tools to do it. But each of these tools requires some coding knowledge to execute:
- Canonical tags
- Robots.txt files
- Nofollow tags
- 301 redirects
Each of these tools fits a specific situation, and implementing them requires knowing which to use and the coding skill to do it properly.
Bottom Line: Some Coding Is Necessary
Without great content, your website will never make it to the top of local business search results. But, great content will never be enough on its own. It’s necessary for local search engine optimization but not sufficient.
You need a site that the crawlers can find and navigate easily, that will load quickly, and that works for mobile too. Building all that means getting your hands dirty in the HTML of your site.
That may seem daunting, but luckily a local search engine optimization company can help. If you’re ready to boost your Tampa business with better SEO, browse some of our services.