The Importance of Choosing the Right Text Editor for SEO

The Importance of Choosing the Right Text Editor for SEO

Boston Web Marketing SEO - Example of a Microsoft Word Document Loaded in a Text Editor

SEO work often requires you to interact directly with the content of web pages in order to create content, change page titles and meta descriptions, add schema markup and analytics tracking, and many other standard SEO services that improve and analyze web traffic. While this work can be done quite nicely and efficiently when your client has a site built in a user-friendly content management system like WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, or many others, other clients may come in with websites with pages coded entirely with HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and possibly a separate web backend language like PHP, Python, Ruby or Java. These sites will be running on a web stack, with the old standard being the popular LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) stack still highly available on most hosting providers. Some clients may have built their website with a drag-and-drop editor like Dreamweaver or Muse. Tech-savvy clients may have websites developed with a Model-View-Controller (MVC) environment like Ruby on Rails, Django, Laravel, or one of the many node.js-based JavaScript MVC frameworks. For any client for which you will be editing HTML files or templates directly, it is important to evaluate your text editor to make sure that you are maximizing your ability to make changes quickly and efficiently.

When we talk about text editors, in this case we are not talking about programs like Microsoft Word, Open Office, or Google Docs. These programs are Word Processors, which are different from text editors because they provide built-in WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) formatting that uses behind-the-scenes processors by the .doc or .docx format. If you try to code websites with Microsoft Word, you will most likely have an unfortunate time dealing with the extra “/r/n” character inserted for every newline character, not to mention the fact that Microsoft intentionally obfuscates .doc files when you open them with Notepad as part of their proprietary formatting (see image). Even attempting to circumvent saving to .doc files by copy/pasting to and from Microsoft Word adds the “gotcha” moment of having to remember to choose the “Paste without formatting” or “Paste as plain text” option in order to avoid issues with browsers attempting to process the formatting code. Therefore, when editing pages built in HTML/CSS/JavaScript, it is best to choose the right tool for the job, and that tool is a special text editor specifically designed to work with code. While it is possible to use your computer’s built-in Notepad program, most SEO specialists will choose a more modern text editor for the advantages of code syntax highlighting, code completion, multi-file find and replace, tabbed views, and many other. Here is a comparison of some of the top text editor software on the market: Brackets.io, Atom.io, Sublime Text, vim, and GNU Emacs.

Brackets.io is an open-source text editor released in 2014 specialized for web development. Brackets is made by Adobe, which is the same company that makes Photoshop, Illustrator, and other industry-standard design software. Like most of the other text editors on this list, Brackets is free and open source. One interesting aspect of Brackets is that it runs in its own node.js container, which lets it thrive with the backing of the npm JavaScript package manager. Brackets comes with unique functions like the ability to preview HTML files with Chrome integration and in-line CSS editing. Brackets also often receives laudation for its clean user interface. However, Brackets has its downsides — although the project is developed by Adobe, its open source issue tracking can be slow and so the software still has outstanding bugs at the time of writing, like handling for non-UTF-8 encodings.

Atom.io is the newest offering released in 2014 from Github, a version control repository company. Atom has the major advantage of the extensibility offered by a deep ecosystem of third-party packages, which can be integrated directly into Atom simply by adding the package in the editor settings. Like Brackets, Atom is built on web technologies, and advanced users familiar with JavaScript can benefit from this by writing their own Atom packages to accomplish goals and add custom functionality. However, one downside of Atom is that it can lack some built-in functionality common to other editors, like multi-line search and replace across multiple files, meaning you may have to go hunting for a package that already includes the functionality you need, or carve out time to learn how to build the package yourself.

Sublime Text is the most finished user-friendly product on the list of these text editors, having been released in 2009. Sublime Text has the deepest amount of built-in support for many different coding languages and features. The major downside of Sublime Text is that it is closed source and a single user license costs $70, although there is currently no enforced time on the evaluation period.

Vim and GNU Emacs are interesting choices with similar design philosophies intended for individuals who are interested in the extreme of efficient processing, but also willing to learn a completely new environment that may not be intuitive to the average user. These two choices are based in Linux and released several decades ago, although they are kept up-to-date by third party plugins. Many of the top developers in the world swear by one or both of these text editors, and they have a deep and storied history. They come with built-in tutorials to get started, and there are many advanced resources online.

A text editor is an important tool in the arsenal of an SEO specialist. Make sure that you choose the text editor that meets your needs and allows you to take advantage of advanced functionality to efficiently accomplish your work.

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