By January 1, 2020

The Complete SEO Checklist Web Developers Need for 2020

Whether you’re running an international or local campaign on your website, having good content just isn’t enough anymore. You can use search engine optimization (SEO) to structure content and pull the most-searched keywords, and have a content team create valuable SEO-driven content, but still fail to draw in an audience. You know why? Because content is only one side of the coin.

The other side to improving your search engine ranking is how well you write your code. But how are programmers and developers involved in all of this? A typical programmer mistake is not taking SEO into consideration when they code.

Why Developers Should Be Concerned About SEO

Besides the fact that SEO can increase your paycheck, developers should care about SEO because it plays a crucial role in how high your website ranks on the search engine results pages (SERPs).

Think of your website as a house with a beautifully designed interior. If the foundation, walls, roof, and other support structures aren’t built well, it’s doomed to crumble to the ground from a strong wind or earthquake.

The same thing goes for your website. If a developer codes it well and follows Google’s best practices, chances are it will receive a high ranking on SERPs. Mistakes, on the other hand, can affect the number of people visiting your web page, its visibility, and, eventually, the potential profit of your business as your website receives penalties from search engines.

Web developers can benefit from knowing how to do SEO not only for the advancement of their careers, but for their projects, as well. Let’s focus on the latter, shall we?

To start, developers will learn to create device-friendly websites. Google’s mobile-first indexing has become one of the crucial parts of SEO. That’s why developers of old and new websites alike had to learn how to adapt and create device-friendly pages.

Developers will also learn how to create websites that can rank higher in SERPs. Of course, this is great not just for the developer, but for the client/business, as well. When your website ranks higher, more people doing a local search will be able to see your website, and it will draw in more organic traffic than websites further down the SERP.

What a Developer Should Know About Building an Optimized Website

Excited to start re-coding or learning how to code with SEO in mind? Take a look at this checklist for SEO, apply it to your website, and you’ll reap its rewards soon enough.

1. Headings

Headings are HyperText Markup Language (HTML) tags. These are the big, bold texts you see at the beginning of each section of content. There are six levels of headings, according to w3schools, with H1 being the most important and H6 the least. Headings are important because search engines use these HTML tags to index the structure of your content.

2. Alt Tags

Another HTML tag that should be on every SEO basics checklist is the alt tag. It’s basically a label for images, hyperlinks, videos, and other resources. Web developers need to fill up this HTML tag because it’s another way images can be indexed by search engines. Alt tags also give the viewer an idea of what the image or media is in case it fails to load.

3. Image Optimization

Did you know that 53% of users will leave your website if it doesn’t load within three seconds? That’s why loading speed is so important when it comes to creating websites. So what do you do if your website is packed with data-heavy, high-resolution images that slow down the loading speed? You use image optimization.

It’s basically learning how to choose the right format, file name, file size, and dimensions of an image, without sacrificing too many details. JPEGs are thought to be more SEO-friendly than the PNG format. As often as possible, save your images at 100KB in file size. If it’s larger, make sure to save it in a progressive JPEG format. Its file name should be descriptive of what’s in the image.

4. Video Optimization

It’s no secret that videos have large file sizes. Storing them on your own website will get you a penalty from Google and other search engines. You can change this by choosing the right video hosting platform, transcribing the video and adding subtitles, and using an engaging thumbnail.

5. Structured Data

Structured data helps search engines know what your website is all about. When search engines understand the content of your page, the content in the structured data can be used to match search queries.

It is also how you structure your code. How well it is nested and whether the properties are positioned properly will affect your SEO.

6. Making JavaScript and CSS External

Speaking of speed, a technical part of SEO demands that web developers use external JavaScript and Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) instead of including it all in one page. That way, browsers can load the content and HTML structure first before proceeding to the decorative part of a website.

7. Page Speed

How fast your website loads affects its SEO. The faster it is, the higher the possibility it will rank on the first page. You can use the previous points on this SEO checklist for both new and old websites.

8. Mobile Optimization

We’ve mentioned this above, and we’ll mention it again: Mobile-optimization is very important if you want your website to rank higher. Why? Because there are now more mobile users than desktop users. In fact, in 2018, 40.1% of the time spent on a website came from mobile users, and that share is expected to grow.

Make sure your code is flexible enough to adapt to either mobile or desktop platforms. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that you need to adapt so you don’t miss out on mobile traffic.

9. Mobile Usability

Just because your website fits well into a mobile phone doesn’t mean all is good. Buttons, links, texts, images, and videos can be too small. Make sure you’ve considered the layout so that it produces a better user experience for mobile users.

10. Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMPs)

Another ranking factor for your website is Google’s AMP. This is when Google shows you a bunch of websites related to your search term in a carousel format. What takes this to another level is that when you click on any of the items on the carousel, it will instantly load.

11. Robots.txt File

This file informs the way search engine crawlers will crawl your website automatically. The robots.txt file is an important part of any SEO checklist for websites because it tells the search engines which pages to crawl and not crawl.

12. Server Configuration

Did you know that the location of your server may play a major role in your website’s SEO? Well, it can when it comes to page speed. This, however, can easily be resolved using geo-tagging. You can also fix your domain and subdomains.

13. Performance Checkers

Use performance checkers to perform a quick SEO audit on your website. An audit checklist will let you see if everything—from the titles and descriptions to the links on your website—is working. That way, you know what to optimize and/or if something needs to be fixed immediately.

14. Staging Site Domain Check

During the development stage of a website, it’s usually hosted in a domain called staging. Here, tests and updates are made to make sure everything will run smoothly when it goes live.

Sometimes, with all the work involved, developers forget to update certain codes, such as for images and broken links, which can hurt the SEO of a website when switched to live. Create a checklist of things that you need to check before doing so.

Start Your SEO Transformation Today

Got everything down? Here’s a recap of why developers need to learn SEO to improve their websites in 2020.

First, having developers know what needs to be done SEO-wise can ensure better website structure, development, and especially performance.

Second, web development and SEO go hand in hand. When you merge these two disciplines together, you get a strong and indestructible website that can withstand all updates.

Third, a developer who practices SEO is a proactive one. No need for extra tasks and man hours to be added to development. Once the developer knows the best practices, there’s no need to regroup and redo everything—it’s already done.

SEO is truly a must-know for web developers. Not only will you get an advantage career-wise, but it’s also something that can improve your coding and create better, more effective websites in the future.

About the author

John Anderson

John Anderson is a Web Developer, and Social Media Specialist in Arizona. After facing a screen the whole day, he also doodles and cartoons in his free time. Other than all that, he's interested in writing about his career and expertise in the digital field.