Inevitably, you’ve discovered technical issues that are hampering your organic growth—and you need development to tackle these optimizations. But getting the ear and time of dev teams can be extremely challenging amongst all the non-SEO initiatives they’re tackling.
Frequently, SEOs will find themselves in these scenarios:
- SEO optimizations aren’t prioritized by development
- SEO optimizations are deemed impossible because of site structure or templated/programmatically-generated pages
- Development sees getting pages live as the extent of what they need to do for SEO
Josh Moody, 97th Floor Executive Director of Palomar, offers five tips for reducing the friction between SEO and development:
1. Embrace your development team's culture
Instead of trying to bend development to your SEO-strategy, learn how your development team operates and consider how you can amend your SEO strategy to fit into their existing process.
Get curious about your dev team:
- What is development’s turnaround time on a project?
- How long are their sprints?
- Are there code freeze periods to be aware of?
- How much bandwidth does development have?
- What tools are they using to manage their projects? (Jira, etc.)
- How does development like to receive requests? Some developers have a POC with dev, some like email, some will want to meet.
Adjusting your strategy cadence to be more development-friendly decreases frustration for both SEOs and developers.
2. Become fluent in dev language
Before sending over a long list of optimizations, consider how development thinks about implementation. To begin, they’re using a completely different vocabulary than you use. Why in the world are we talking to developers about “optimizations?” Let’s try “bug” instead. Submit tickets, not slide decks.
Ancestry’s Director of SEO John Crockett advises, “Understand a developer’s world enough to talk to them intelligently. I don’t get too much into the solution with them, but I do know enough coding and engineering to be prepared in those meetings with an idea of how we’d accomplish it. Doing the research has taken projects from being labeled as impossible to being done.”
Be respectful of the developer’s expertise. Don’t assume you know what a fix will require from them, but come speaking in their language to show you’re ready to collaborate.
3. Communicate in user stories
Marketers are always trying to create a story for their target audience. For SEOs, developers are your audience and you should structure your story using the following three components: user description, functionality, and benefit.
Here’s the formula:
As a [description of user] I want [functionality] so that [benefit].
“As a new or existing website visitor, I want to ensure text remains visible during the page load, so that I can have a better user experience, especially if I’m on mobile devices with a slow network.”
This reads a lot better than “make text visible while the page is loading,” and helps a developer understand why your requests are worth their extremely-limited time.
4. Get specific
Get as clear as possible about the problem you are trying to solve and the role development will play in solving the problem.
There’s a huge difference between, “Could you add Google Analytics to the site?” and “Could you add the following JS tracking code to the site via each page’s header?”
A developer’s kryptonite is scope creep—changes made to the project push schedule, budgets, or resource allocation—and every time more clarification is needed, deadlines are at risk. Get clear by helping the developer know exactly what you need from start to finish—you’ll get more accurate estimates and preserve the relationship you’re working so hard to keep with them.
5. Provide examples
Need a change and want it a certain way?
Phrases like “Add some zing” or “make it more punchy” leave way too much room for interpretation. Whatever those phrases conjure up in your head are drastically different than what it may suggest to a developer. Obviously, you’d never use “zing” or “punchy”, but maybe you’re using other terms with subjective meaning.
Sharing examples side-steps this problem altogether. The best kinds of example you can share are:
- Links with live examples of what you are looking to build
- Gifs of the motion, animation or effect
Search around Dribbble and other sites to show development what you mean by “zing.”
Bonus Tip: Once a project is completed, share wins with the development team who helped you complete them. CC the boss. CC everyone. Get excited about the ways that SEO is improving customer experience and showcase how each person contributed.
SEOs, remember that your relationship with development is a partnership. Make dev your friends by understanding their world. Developers think literally. They are also extremely busy. Make their job as easy as possible, and your SEO implementations can happen faster and with greater precision.