23 Nov 2012

Five Communication Tips for SEOs and Web Developers

SEO web deisgnLike it or not, SEOs need access to their clients’ websites so they can make the changes required to do their jobs. Website designers, developers, webmasters and site owners also need to access their websites, and for the same reasons. Does it surprise anyone that these groups of people vehemently disagree about what changes should be made?

At base, both SEOs and web developers want what is best for their websites. If you ask an SEO and a web developer what this is, they may even agree on the general points: more visitors, a better user experience, more conversions, and so forth. It’s in the details of how to achieve this where the two sides begin to disagree.

Assuming both SEOs and web developers are reasonable people – and, in my experience, they generally are – neither group wants to actively sabotage the other. Both of them, however, look at the world through the lens of their own field of expertise. This means they don’t always understand how what they do affects the job of other professionals who must work on the same website.

For example, it’s not (necessarily) maliciousness if a web developer fixes a broken link in a way that is not SEO-friendly, and then fails to inform the SEO. It’s also not (necessarily) malicious overstepping if an SEO wants full access to a website’s code, and then adds new content without telling the developer. It IS a little thoughtless. Fortunately, this kind of thoughtlessness can be fixed with a proper flow of communication – and remembering that you’re all in this together!

If you can keep this thought foremost in your mind, you’ll get the most out of these five tips for both SEOs and web developers as you work on website improvements.


Communicate your goals clearly

As I mentioned above, both web developers and SEOs often want the same things for their websites. But they may disagree about the best way to achieve them. Is it better to engage visitors by putting content front and center, or wow them with a fancy interface? How much data do you need to know about your visitors – especially if they make a purchase? If you can get on the same page as to your general goals, you can more easily explain how what you’re doing with the website achieves those goals.


Take the time to give a full answer when someone asks “Why?”

Something that might be blindingly obvious to a web developer may not be nearly so obvious to an SEO – and vice versa. As an SEO, for example, it’s one thing to complain to your web developer about building dynamic web pages; it’s another thing to explain to him that the search engines can’t read the content on dynamic web pages, which makes that content less visible in Google, which leads to fewer visitors. (Oh, by the way, Google CAN read certain dynamic pages). In this case, when the website developer knows what the problem is, and WHY it’s a problem, he can come up with a different way to achieve the same goals – one that doesn’t cause an issue.


Read some articles from the other field

If you’re an SEO, you can only benefit from learning as much as you can stand about website development. You may not need to know every detail of how to code, but it helps to understand how  user interfaces work – dynamic pages, drop-down menus, content management systems, databases, and so forth. If you understand what is possible, you will know better than to ask for the impossible.

Likewise, if you’re a website developer, it helps to understand something about SEO. You will find it helpful to learn why keywords are important, and how they should be used; why websites need regular infusions of fresh, original content; why winning certain kinds of links matter; and so on. You would also do well to read about Google’s Panda and Penguin filters.

To both SEOs and website developers, I’d suggest recommending a good “my field 101” article to your opposite numbers. At least in the case of SEO, the field changes constantly, and the Internet contains a fair bit of outdated (and downright bad) advice. But if you can guide your partner to some literature that will show them the world through your lens, you’ve taken a step toward greater understanding and smoother, more cooperative communication.


Ask questions – and don’t assume you know everything

How will the change you’re making to the website affect its overall design? How about its SEO? If you can’t answer that question off the top of your head, ask someone who knows. Whether you’re the website developer or the SEO, you may not know exactly what your partner is planning, or how your actions will affect their plans. So ask your questions respectfully, with an appreciation of their skills.

And when you answer questions, even semi-belligerent ones (“Why can’t we use this gorgeous Flash intro to the home page? I spent forever working on it!”), think of them as “teachable moments” and maybe even opportunities to give everyone what they want (“Okay, we can use it, but we need to have real content on the page that the search engines can see, or we won’t show up there and visitors won’t come by to see all your hard work. Here’s what I suggest we add…”).


Remember, you’re on the same side!

Please keep in mind, whether you’re an SEO or a web developer, that both you and the person with whom you’re working want what is best for the website. You both want the website to do well – after all, that’s how you get paid, right? So if you’re basically fighting for the same thing, isn’t it time for you to stop fighting and start working together?

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