Building SEO & Developer Relationships – Part 2
Due to the success of our first Building SEO and Developer Relationships panel event last month we were excited to bring our panel of experts back to continue the conversation around how to build and maintain SEO & Developer relationships.
Our panel of 5 experts consisted of:
The focus of the webinar was once again to hold a Q&A format roundtable to discuss successful ways to bridge the gap that often occurs between SEOs and Developers. Each person brought a unique perspective and we’re deeply grateful they took the time to present their views.
You can watch the full recap here:
Before hosting our panel, we took to Twitter to ask the SEO community how much of an understanding of SEO best practice the developers they work with have. Check out the results:
Hey #SEO Community – do the developers you work with have a basic understanding of SEO best practice?
— DeepCrawl (@DeepCrawl) July 29, 2020
Historically there’s been an invisible gap between Developers and SEOs – it’s always stated that Devs don’t make good SEOs and SEOs don’t make good Developers. But this needs to change in order to create synergy between the teams, working towards a common goal.
Introducing our panelists
Before jumping in, we’d like to introduce our contributors along with their background and experience:
Nick has been an SEO consultant for 20 years and has worked both agency and client-side with a range of different brands. From his experience working with enterprise brands and on large scale SEO projects, Nick recognises one of the biggest challenges is getting things done, particularly fixing technical issues across the site, which is why it is important to work with developers efficiently.
Polly has worked within the SEO industry for the last 17 years and is currently working as a digital marketing director for the agency Delete, where she works with clients across multiple different industries. An important part of Polly’s job is to ensure digital strategies are in place for her clients and that sites are well-performing and she, therefore, works very closely with the development team. Due to this, she has devised successful ways of collaborating with her developers and structuring processes for working closely with different teams.
James works as a Technical SEO on the Professional Services team here at DeepCrawl and has been doing SEO for over 10 years, both in house and agency side. James has also worked as an SEO project owner, where he collaborated closely with developers on a daily basis. This inspired him to learn more about their role and enabled him to communicate better with them and build stronger relationships.
Aymen is an international SEO consultant, working within the SEO industry for over 15 years and has consulted for many clients including start-ups, eCommerce sites, and enterprise brands. Aymen is also a former computer engineer and developer which enables him to have a strong understanding of the needs of the developers he works with.
Richard is a senior technical analyst here with us at DeepCrawl operating on the Professional Services team and started his career as a full-stack developer, where he identified the importance of SEO and took the time to help educate his team. He naturally gravitated towards technical SEO and has been working in the industry now for around 10 years.
Questions from the Audience
Q: What is the best way to work with the development team in an agile SCRUM framework?
- Polly: The best way to work with developers in an agile environment is to infiltrate their development process and make your requirements part of their quality standards and best practice. One way to approach collaboration between teams is by modifying the processes that the developers are using and embed SEO requirements, such as schema markup and specific HTML tags required, within this. This means that when the team goes to write their requirements, there are questions and sections related to SEO, this displays the importance of getting the SEO team involved in the process and ensures these areas do not get missed.
It’s also important to ensure that developers are aware of the changes occurring within SEO and why making sure best practice is adhered to is a necessity for a well-performing website. Also, being able to add value to their work is a great way to create a successful working relationship with development teams.
- Nick: In order to get things implemented by development teams it’s important to be able to speak their language and know what is required in order to get things done. Rather than just taking the end solution to the team, you also need to provide the requirements.
Adopting the agile sprint planning approach and running SEO sprints is also important to ensure things can get done because requirements have already been agreed before the sprint has begun and no roadblocks will be encountered.
Q: Knowing that tech has limitations for implementations, how can we still create a client-facing SEO plan that drives maximum benefit despite these limitations?
- Richard: The best way to address this is to find workarounds, ways to get around these problems which may arise depending on the platforms you use. Ideally speak with your development team, because they will be able to help in many scenarios. It’s also important to test these workarounds because you are exploring territory where things could easily go wrong.
- Aymen: Discover where the constraint is occurring, is it within the back end layer, due to the front end or within the information structure of the site. Finding the area of limitation is a great place to start when creating workarounds.
You also need to understand the limitation and explain it to the team and stakeholders to ensure everyone is aware and working towards a longer-term solution.
- Nick: DeepCrawl is a great way to identify spider traps, and you will soon realise when you come across one. If you do discover one, you can also raise this as a priority issue with the security team as it poses a security risk, which can help you to get the issue fixed much faster.
Spider traps are something that is often overlooked by technical SEOs when performing audits but is an important thing to watch out for.
Q: What are some easy tips for getting developer buy-in if you don’t have a direct relationship with the tech team?
- James: One way you can go about this is by setting out the whole plan and ensuring they understand where the recommendation is coming from and why it is going to help, this way they will feel empowered to help you. You can also share the results expected once they have implemented the recommendations to further display the importance.
- Aymen: Ask for a call or meeting with the development team and take the time to get to know them and gain an understanding of their role and history with the project. This helps you to build the relationship and find some common ground where you can work together and help each other.
- Nick: Understand how important it is to get the buy-in and know your audience when going about getting this buy in. Go to your developers with functional requirements, spreadsheets, details, and technical documentation. Often going to the right people with the right materials helps you to make great progress. Acknowledge that in order to make the necessary case to the team, you will need to do some additional work and research.
- Polly: Appeal to them in a manner that they are going to understand, explain to them your pain points and encourage the team to get on your side. Also, make sure you are not wasting their time and causing them, and yourself, to be inefficient.
Q: How can SEOs and Developers find common ground when discussing a project?
- Richard: Generally developers are not too interested in SEO, and you shouldn’t expect them to do their own job and learn about SEO. In order to find common ground, you, therefore, need to find areas that are important to developers and take issues to them in a way that they will want to approach them. This is a much more effective approach than just going to them and telling them exactly what needs to be done, instead tell them your requirements and let them do what they like doing.
In addition, if there is important information they should be aware of from an SEO perspective, it should be you who is taking that to them, rather than expecting them to know exactly what is expected.
- Polly: When putting together user stories and standards, work together with developer team leads to help transcend the conversations around standards and requirements to the rest of their team.
- Nick: Design processes at a high level in order for these to be implemented into the dev processes. This ensures there are standards to what is being produced and you know that these standards meet your SEO criteria.
Q: Should developers need to learn basic technical SEO?
- James: Knowing SEO requirements is the job of the SEO, so if we are not explaining this correctly to our developers then that is on us. It’s nice if they do have a basic understanding, but it shouldn’t be a necessity. Instead, be that resource from an SEO perspective, to answer any questions they may have or help provide guidance.
Q: What are two or three areas you would look to train a developer on within SEO?
- Richard: Anything around error pages is a great thing for developers to get involved in because it gives them a wide view of a site. Being able to find these bugs also means they will be more inclined to fix them, and they are able to fix them quickly.
Another is monitoring the server and site performance, quite often developers and SEO measure these with different metrics, so making sure they focus on metrics from an SEO perspective is another great place to start.
- Aymen: Page rendering is something that would be useful for developers to understand, how pages display for search engines and users. As well as website structure and architecture in order to understand how crawler bots discover pages.
- Nick: It’s not always scalable to teach developers to be SEOs, instead you need to agree on processes so that they understand what is required and why it is required. Another important focus is web performance.
- Polly: Understanding rendering is critical, due to the way web technology is advancing.
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DeepCrawl Automator is a one of a kind product that helps to avoid traffic and revenue loss by mitigating the risk of introducing harmful code changes with new releases, while also helping to bridge the gap between SEO and development teams. Automator benefits the whole company by preventing errors from being released, speeding up development and QA processes and reducing the impact on production environments.