Working in collaboration will always bring with it its own challenges, as different minds, skillsets and personalities combine to bring about a shared outcome. Sometimes though, it can seem like web developers and SEOs are from different planets.
Web development is crucial to making SEO work. When both are unison, technical issues can be resolved faster, and websites perform better and give your users a better experience.
For these reasons understanding the dynamic between SEO and development teams and getting everyone co-operating effectively will not only support stronger working relationships, but will positively impact on business performance too.
Getting things into perspective
In the broadest sense, SEOs and web developers have the same overall aim – to create websites that perform well and deliver results. However, coming at a new project potentially from two different angles can sometimes result in miscommunication, and gaining a little understanding for how each side might perceive the project is a great starting point to getting everyone speaking the same language.
An SEO might visualise a website as a library of content organised in neat categories, with links making up the connections between different categories and topics. A web developer might see things in a far more scientific way, from the back-end as a network of files, directories and access routes to information.
For example, the URL www.examplesite.com/AgyuUhh123-Hyuyus-7/ may work perfectly fine from a logic and technical point of view but may have a completely different meaning to an SEO working on user-friendly URL structures and user click through rates. This kind of URL in a technical sense might reflect naming conventions and paths to different files, or the kind of language used to code a page. An SEO in contrast, might prefer to re-structure the URL to say www.examplesite.com/category/sub-category/ to make more sense to a person. Sharing knowledge is very important here.
A huge part of SEO is an understanding of how the technical side impacts performance.
The chance to influence design is important in helping websites perform well for users, and this will have an impact on conversion rates and other SEO metrics. To deliver good SEO, a specialist needs an understanding of the changes being made to a website, to be able to monitor and advise accordingly.
This can include access to a CMS or to log files and the code itself, as well the ability to add tracking codes such as Google Analytics.
A massive part of web development is being able to solve problems. A developer needs a clear brief that can be broken down into logical steps, and be given the purpose of a piece of development to be able to produce an answer in code. Web development is more creative than many think, and devising the perfect architecture of a website is no easy feat. To be able to diagnose, implement and iterate effectively, a web developer ultimately needs the time and space to work.
Just as there are a variety of different specialisms under the SEO ‘umbrella’, not all web developers will also be specialist web designers, technical architects or UX experts. The range of skills, languages and programs can be wide-ranging, so it is best to never assume one way or the other.
When communication breaks down in a team environment, roadblocks happen. Skipping out the maintenance of efficient processes and not keeping an open dialogue between teams can become both time-consuming and costly.
Plus, SEO is a long-term, ongoing process. It pays to have the mind-set of a developer and to break down the overall goal into a series of steps. It's also incredibly important to gain an understanding of the development team's own workflow, and act accordingly.
There are different approaches out there to creating the optimum working processes – take agile as one example of a popular methodology you could use to help inform the way you carry out a project. There’s plenty of information out there on agile principles in tech or agile for SEO.
Ultimately, sharing knowledge and keeping everyone in the loop means all can understand where every action fits, and helps in managing expectations by offering transparency.
There’s plenty of great examples of effective websites that perform well for SEO that are built on solid technical foundations. Take Etsy for example, that has seen a big SEO visibility increase and delivers a very good experience on mobile.
Building a strong foundation
To focus on creating a positive and collaborative team environment from the start, here are a few steps to consider:
• Culture is important, and people create culture. Spend time building relationships from the beginning. Seek to understand your client’s internal team structure, the team’s individual personalities and skills. This also has the benefit of bringing in SEO early on, as an integral part of planning a new project
• Map out the process workflow, so that no planning happens in isolation – feedback and support goes both ways
• Establish the purpose and desired outcomes as a team, and make goals and objectives relevant, realistic and quantifiable. As time goes on, this activity will help with decision making throughout the project and in keeping meetings actionable – helping to avoid unnecessarily lengthy meetings, and support information sharing as everyone works towards the same objective
• Maintain flexibility as project demands change. Staying rigidly to best practice is not always going to bring out the best working relationship or result
• Speak the same language. There’s a lot of different code types, and a lot that makes up SEO in 2016. Share the knowledge.
• Make documents actionable and shared so everyone has visibility. Prioritising tasks according to the same goal and objectives outlined at the beginning of the process, will keep things simple and clear. These documents also serve to track project progress in a shared environment
• Understand that friction can be inevitable – re-frame this and turn friction into positive creative energy
• Take inspiration from each other and remember the process is ongoing. Keep building on shared successes
Whatever your business model or content strategy, achieving a strong collaboration between all of your teams will help your company thrive. If you're looking to get started on an SEO project and would like more information on how Ad-Rank can help, get in touch.