As an SEO, being able to work effectively with a development team is an important skill. Developers too can benefit greatly from SEO input, making an end product that performs better than it would have. Anybody that’s worked in this environment knows that the reality is harder as sometimes motivations aren’t aligned and there are frequent miscommunications.
Here are 5 things SEOs can do to make their relationship with developers easier.
1. Take the time to learn HTML
I can’t get over how important this is. You don’t need to necessarily go as far as learning PHP or the ins and outs of Angular, but a basic understanding of how a web page is put together will really help you. While there are some aspects of SEO that don’t require any HTML knowledge, it really is a cornerstone skill that everybody should look to develop. Asking a developer to do something that’s fundamentally wrong can make a bad first impression and make it hard to earn their respect later on. Saying “I’m not a techie” doesn’t wash in 2016 and there’s plenty of free online resources to help you learn.
2. Appreciate it isn’t always a simple as changing a single line of code
Okay, so understand what you want to change, it’s that simple line of code – that’s just a ten minute job, right? Even SEOs that are competent coders are guilty of this. Doing our job of auditing and suggesting improvements we are protected from the trench work of getting that CMS to do exactly as the client wanted or the fact that the background API that you have no idea exists, depends on having data in this particular format. Don’t make assumptions about timescales for what you want to change, be respectful and check with the developers responsible that there are no knock on effects from what you want to change.
3. Outline SEO expectations at the scoping stage
There are few things that will frustrate a developer more than having them building a site to a specification only to be told it needs to be changed later. Getting involved in site builds as early as possible and having a pre-compiled best practise list of general 'do this' and 'avoid this' that can be revised for each build will save you a lot of time and heartbreak in the long run. Don’t make assumptions just because you’ve worked with a team for a while that things will be done in a certain way “because that’s how we did it before”, developers have a lot on their mind during their build and SEO is your priority, not theirs.
4. Be aware of external factors and compromise
With project based work, it is very likely the developers you’re working with are working to a strict schedule and adding even “quick changes” (see above) can cause big headaches. You need to accept the fact that it isn’t always possible to get a ‘100% perfect’ SEO build out the door first time. If this is the case, work out where your biggest wins are and try and get them in. Everything else, work with the developers to plan in changes after their mission critical launch milestones are complete.
5. Be specific about what you want
While you don’t need to tell a developer how to do their job, it is expected that you will tell them precisely what to do – not just the outcome you want. For example, saying to a developer "I would like to track contact form submissions" isn’t good enough. Would you like these tracked as an event? What do you want the event labels to be? Do you want it setup as a goal, or are you doing that? Are we using Google Tag Manager? The DataLayer? Think clearly about what you want, specify this to the developer and give them a chance to feedback if they feel any information is missing.
Hopefully these few tips can help you smooth over relationships and work more effectively together. Give developers the respect they deserve!