SEO For Developers — A Quick Overview

All you need to know about your role as a developer to improve your website’s position in Google search results.

Vitali Zaidman
Oct 7 · 7 min read

The most important thing in getting a good rank in Google is to make your website engaging, useful, and original. Your role as a developer is to ensure it is accessible and smooth for users while being exposed to Google.

Let’s talk about what it takes to appear on the fabled top position on Google.

The Dream — Top Result on Google

What is SEO?

SEO means Search Engine Optimization. It’s a set of guidelines that are supposed to make your site appear higher than others on Google search results. Specifically for organic (unpaid) search results.

We focus on Google in this article because it is by far the most dominant search engine worldwide. As the industry leader, Google sets the tone for the other search engines. Focusing on Google would probably still increase your performance on other search engines as well.

The Old Days Are Gone

I remember the “good old days”. Back in the 2000s, SEO meant doing a series of dirty tricks that would increase a website’s rank on Google.

For example, people placed huge lists of keywords on the bottom of their web pages. They would also sometimes repeat the keywords 1000 times and maybe put them in white or inside an invisible div. Google was tricked to promote their rank.

These days are gone. Google hires the best minds in the world to make sure their users only get the most useful web pages for searches. The exploits above, and many more, are mapped in “Google Quality Guidelines”. If your product contains any violations of these guidelines for some reason, even if they got there by mistake, I strongly suggest getting rid of them because Google now penalizes websites for violations of their guidelines.

Google Always Changes

Google’s ranking algorithm is very complex. Google’s experts work on these algorithms for years. Nowadays, Google gets updated daily, with bigger updates released once or twice a year.

Information about how Google ranks pages is being published all the time, and sometimes extra information gets leaked. Several websites try to track these updates and understand how if affects SEO. For example:

Focus on Content

Google search engine’s goal is to find the most useful results for the searches their users perform. Google constantly improves in doing so.

The point is that short term tricks sometimes could get you good results in terms of SEO but might not work after an arbitrary algorithm change.

Focusing on content is extremely important because your content and the value of your website for your users shouldn’t change when Google’s algorithms change.

What kind of content? That’s the million dollar question. You probably know the answer already.

The most important thing in getting a good rank in Google is to make your website engaging, useful, and original. Your role as a developer is to ensure it is accessible and smooth for users while being exposed to Google.

Another essential term in this regard is “content SEO”. This terms is defined as “the practice of producing content that ranks high on search engines”. It includes everything from researching what users are interested in using “keyword research” to structuring your website in a way that is optimized for search engines.

This practice is effective nowadays, but it might also result in a lot of content being written solely for Google without any benefit to your users. It works today indeed, but an arbitrary algorithm change might obsolete it.

Authority Matters

If you have experience or certifications in the field of what you are writing about, Google would view your website as having a higher potential of providing reliable and quality information.

For example, Google would most likely promote medical advise from Medical Doctors (M.D.). People without this degree can write about these issues and even being relevant, Google may not rank them very highly.

And indeed, in fields that impact people’s lives acutely and directly authority becomes a key factor in SEO. These fields are abbreviated as YMYL (Your Money or Your Life) and include money, health, news, legal, etc...

Always make sure to have a clear about page with information that establishes your authority (for example the fact your are an M.D.).

Be Data Driven

Short pipelines, release cycles and good analytics would ensure that the people who are responsible for content can test different options to see how they work.

For example, Google uses the <title> tag as the title displayed in search results. With short pipelines, and good analytics, content creators can test different titles more frequently to see how users respond to each title.

Best Practices

As you've seen, the topics so far would mostly concern people who deal with content and business aspects.

Assuming the content they manage to produce is indeed awesome and optimized for SEO, we as developers need to make sure the website is smooth, functional, and exposes this content to Google crawlers.

I suggest starting by reading “Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Starter Guide” where Google explains how to expose this content.

Here is a list of important best practices with links where you can read about them in depth:

Google PageSpeed Insights

The dream — 100% score on Google PageSpeed Insights — Test it for yourself!

Before even looking at how your website’s performance affects your SEO ranks, it is important to notice that users simply like fast websites and dislike slow ones. A website’s performance is one of the most important factors in user experience and consequently in conversion rates.

For the reason mentioned above, Google ranks fast websites higher. It uses PageSpeed Insights to assign a score your website’s load times and uses this score as one of the factors in it’s ranking algorithms.

Read more about PageSpeed insights.

The page speed score is generated from two sources:

  • Real Field Data” — collected from Google Chrome’s users who opt in to the option “Help improve Chrome’s features and performance”.
  • Lab Data“— Google uses real or simulated devices to navigate to web pages while measuring the websites’ performance.

In both cases a complex set of calculations is made to determine a score from a set of measurements of the page loading timeline. For example:

Notice that the mobile lab test is currently run on a simulation of the mid-tier Moto G4 device. It also simulates a mobile network with the following specs:

  • Latency: 150ms.
  • Throughput: 1.6Mbps (~200kb/s) down / 750 Kbps (~100kb/s) up.

That means you have to be very strict with every single use of device processing and network bandwidth. Every single extra data passed through the network or processed by the device would cost you a lot with this set-up. This includes your main content, third party scripts, images, and fonts.

Every single request to a new domain would probably cost you at least around 1s!
The reason for this is that every network request to new domains would follow the following steps:

  1. dns lookup
  2. connection
  3. ssl
  4. actual content download

With a latency of 150ms and relatively slow download time, each of the steps would take ~180ms. The overall request from the point in time when it’s issued to the point it’s downloaded and ready would roughly take around a whole second.

Here is a set of tips on how to speed up your website.

Welldone Software

The leading full-stack consultancy. Creating amazing frontends and rock-solid backends using top notch technologies and practices. Visit us at https://welldone.software.

Vitali Zaidman

Written by

https://twitter.com/vzaidman ⎝(•ω•)⎠ https://vzaidman.com

Welldone Software

The leading full-stack consultancy. Creating amazing frontends and rock-solid backends using top notch technologies and practices. Visit us at https://welldone.software.

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