Five coding hacks every online marketer needs to play with this week

And yes, there are tons of tools out there to help non-technical marketers, but basic coding skills will guarantee that it will totally be worth paying for them.

What if I told you that there were five coding skills you could learn this week that would also hack other areas of your business endeavors?

Plus, as an added bonus, you’ll make friends with developers, and you’re sure to be a hit because of your marketing skills.

Ready to learn more? Read on:

1. Write some HTML and CSS from scratch

How many HTML tags can you name in under five minutes? If you’re anything like most online marketers, the answer is unlikely to be zero but there’s a massive difference between naming a few tags and actually knowing and understanding how to use HTML reliably.

In an ideal world, it would be great if you could open a text editor and create an HTML page. It’s also pretty useless to use HTML without CSS (it’s like eating steak without adding any seasoning!) so go ahead, create your first web page from scratch, without using any tools.

Tip

Our favorite way to learn and understand HTML & CSS is by messing with the work of other users.
Codepen is a great resource to play around with the creations of fellow developers and designers.

Here’s a little secret: Search engines “read” the pages of your website using the code you just wrote. Show the code you wrote to a friend and ask him or her to look at it and tell you what the page is about. The more accurate your friend is, the easier it will be for search engines to read it as well. Do the same exercise on your website.

There now, you just unlocked a new skill: basic technical SEO knowledge.

Need help with learning HTML and CSS? Try the free lessons from Codecademy.

2. Work with the Chrome Developer Tools

There is nothing more frustrating than when something goes wrong with a website you’re responsible for. Maybe the layout is totally messed up or a button simply does nothing and your developer is nowhere to be found?

What if I told you that it was simply due to a missing semi-colon or that someone forgot to close an HTML tag? Something so easy to fix for someone with a little bit of knowhow but it has you stumped.

It’s time to send “inspect element” to the rescue. These are usually known as “developer tools” and opening them is as easy as right-clicking on the page that’s broken and selecting ‘inspect element’.

It allows you to inspect anything from a webpage and to see the properties of each single element. You can see the styling properties of any object, the HTML structure, the cookies that your website places and any errors that a user might see.

Go the extra mile: Using the developer tools you can see how fast your webpage is loading and how much each element of the webpage takes to load. Loading time has a considerable impact on conversion rates.

And just like that, you’ve learned another skill: Conversion optimization.

3. Learn some Javascript

JavaScript is what makes the web interactive. Browsers are fighting to make it faster, libraries are shared to make it easier and developers are looking at ways to make the most of it every day.

If JavaScript looks too complex to you, just jump in at jQuery.com. Do some lessons and in just a few hours you’ll be able to create your first complex JavaScript. It’s the most loved library on the internet because it’s hard to find a website these days that’s not using it.

Pop-ups and sliders, forever scrolling, auto filling of forms, dynamic loading, in browser games, web analytics tracking … all of these the result of some JavaScript and without it, it’s impossible to create the user experience that the Internet public has come to expect.

Go the extra mile: Want to take a screenshot of your page but need to hide some data from it? Forget using photo editing software. Just load the Chrome developer tools, click ‘Console’ and use JavaScript (type inside the console: document.body.contentEditable=true) to alter the information you need to hide and then take the screenshot.

Source: Labnol.org
Source: Labnol.org

Magic! You just unlocked productivity.

4. Customize tracking codes

As an online marketer you rely a lot on data analytics but simply adding the Google Analytics tracking code to your website will rarely bring the insights that can actually help optimize your business.

Customizing the code so that contextual data is sent via Google Analytics is much more helpful to your business but, until recently, advanced tracking was only available via expensive tools making them inaccessible for all but enterprise customers.

With the launch of Google Tag Manager, a versatile tool for managing tracking codes, the pro league is now available to every marketer out there, regardless of the size of their business.

As for you with your new JavaScript skills, playing with tracking codes will be even easier.

Go the extra mile: Work with custom HTML tagging to remove any limit on how you track your website. You’ll never again have to ask a developer to place a tracking code on a website. You’ll be able to experiment with any marketing tool out there that asks you to place a code on your website. Copy, paste and publish is all you’ll need to do.

Congratulations, you just unlocked analytics tracking-mastery!

5. Work with an API

APIs are like the nervous system of the Internet. Their role is to connect the different areas of the Internet which would otherwise have nothing in common.

Working with APIs allows you to bring together content from different places online, to one single place, in a format that can be manipulated however you wish.

Need a concrete example? APIs can bring data from different Google Analytics accounts into a Google Spreadsheet and compare them, one against another.

It’s really easy to do and you don’t even need coding skills, just some basic understanding about how it works.

Source: Google Analytics
Source: Google Analytics Support

There you go, you just unlocked your first handmade and highly customized analytics dashboard.

By now, you’ll have unlocked your love of your developer peers. Goodbye marketing guy who doesn’t know how the Internet works. Hello growth hacker respected and loved by his colleagues.

Every single day a new service, product or technology is launched. Only last week at Google I/O, so many different things were launched that, even for developers, it can difficult to keep up, but as an online marketer with a new coding skill set, you’ll be at an advantage.

You’ll have the ability to explore these innovative technologies and services, play with them and then make an educated choice about which ones to use in your business.

Just like you, we make use of third party services for our logbook app, InnerTrends. Our current weapons of choice are the robust industry leaders Rackspace, Amazon AWS and Google Cloud but without the technical development skills of our team, making those kinds of choices would have been trickier.

Marketers don’t need to code. However, technical skills will get you far and beyond in identifying the opportunities that other less technical marketers are missing.

Developing those new skills doesn’t need to be overwhelming. Just pick one and give it a go. What are you going to work on first? Let us know how it goes in the comments.