A Surefire Strategy for Getting SEOs and Developers to Work Better Together
Here's how to create a better working environment for your developers and SEOs.
It’s not a secret. SEOs and developers have a tricky relationship. The same can be said for marketing and IT departments. Or Cardi B and Nicki Minaj. Some occasional finger-pointing, confusing experiences, or both, can lead to distrust on both sides of the fence. The same pitfalls can bring down any relationship, work or otherwise.
SEOs are sometimes guilty of requesting website changes that aren’t fully baked and might require intensive development, even though they appear simple on the surface. Likewise, developers are sometimes guilty of stiff-arming collaboration.
The result isn’t just an HR problem. A dysfunctional relationship between the two groups may result in wasted time and money, defeated morale, and ultimately, a less than ideal website experience for users and search engines.
Even Google would like to see the two groups work better together. When asked what he’d like to see SEOs focus on, Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller said:
What can you do to reroute relations at your company? Be like Mila and Ashton. Start the makeup process. The following tips and tactics can help you get there by:
- Promoting empathy between teams
- Helping both teams understand each other’s problems and motivations
- Fostering a mindset of positive intent
We’ve summarized Deepcrawl’s Ultimate Guide to Improving the Relationship Between SEOs and Developers. Download the full whitepaper here.
Understand Each Team’s Inherent Mindset
Fruitful relationships start with understanding. Doesn’t matter whether you’re married, swiping right on Tinder, or making a conscious decision to date your dog. You do you, boo, and recognize that your SO was beautifully made with a different mindset.
Similarly, SEOs and developers play different roles within an organization and gauge their success in different ways. Start by acknowledging the distinctive mindsets.
What does each party care about? Developers generally focus on functionality and user impact. Their goal is to build something right the first time and mark it complete. SEOs, on the other hand, focus on a website’s visibility in search results. An SEO views a website as an ongoing piece of work that can always be further optimized and improved.
Despite their differences, the two groups have a common goal: ensure the website that’s being worked on is as successful as possible. Here’s how you can help the two teams recognize the common goal.
SEO and development teams traditionally sit on opposite sides of a ticketing system. The SEO team logs a ticket and the developer picks it up. There’s no human interaction. Just a bunch of necessary, but human-less bureaucracy.
Instead, try connecting face to face every once in a while. Get out from behind the ticketing system. Human interaction matters. Meet people, shake hands, go to lunch. See the human, not the ticket.
Research shows, “The closer proximity you have to someone, the less likely you are to be mean-spirited.”
When both sides see one another as people first and “SEOs” or “developers” second, they’re less likely to fall into a pattern of criticism and negativity, and propagate distrust between the groups.
Assess Communication Style
As an SEO, you can assess the way you make requests to help developers understand the impact of a recommendation. Developers and SEOs are all snowflakes, and each have their own comprehension and communication processes.
- Evaluate structure and tone. As an SEO, are you submitting requests or tickets that have more fluff than facts? Double check that you’re delivering a concise list of tasks, a succinct description of the problem, thorough examples, and detailed steps to replicate the problem. State what’s wrong and the process of discovery in black and white terms. At the same time, what is the communication method and style from the dev team to the marketing/SEO team? Could that use some tweaking, too?
- Assume positive intent. Remember that you’re both working on the same website and want it to succeed. Don’t point fingers in a request. Instead, point toward the common goal in objective language.
- Leave opinion out of it. Again, be objective! Support your requests with Google developer pages or Google webmaster blog posts.
“Novice SEOs ask developers to make changes. Competent SEOs cultivate a dialog with developers about site fixes. Expert SEOs create an equal partnership with developers built upon trust and common goals.” – Britney Muller, Senior SEO Scientist at Moz
Neither SEOs nor developers need to be experts in each other’s fields, but a basic understanding of languages and processes can go a long way in setting the appropriate expectations. (Disappointment so often stems from un-communicated or incorrect expectations!)
SEOs should start by learning the basics of front-end development (like CSS and HTML), and developers should start with Moz’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO and stay up to date on SEO news. A little education can help both sides understand the level of effort and potential impact behind requests and optimizations.
Start a Conversation at Your Company
This all sounds rosy, right? But what happens when you mix in company culture, high-pressure deadlines, and quarter after quarter of emotional baggage? The landscape starts to look pretty yucky.
No matter how strongly both groups feel, the truth is SEOs aren’t asking for useless tasks, and developers aren’t working to undermine or sabotage organic rankings. Both groups share a common goal of wanting the websites they work on to be successful.
Start steering your teams on a path toward collaboration by:
- Identifying the root pain point. How are tickets written and submitted? Perhaps the organization needs a refresher on how to submit tickets so that they’re processed and completed as quickly and efficiently as possible. Do the same problems keep happening at the same time? Review both team’s implementation and communication schedules. Something is likely out of sync or was never synced.
- Organizing meet and greets. Get some face to face time on the calendar! Meet and greets could take the form of lunch and learns, happy hour drinks, or coffee breaks in the afternoon. Give people more opportunities to get to know each other on a personal level. Start breaking down barriers.
- Integrating the two groups. Incorporate SEOs throughout the development cycle instead of at the end. That way, the SEO team doesn’t toss a long list of to-do’s over the fence when the project has seemingly reached completion.
- Being an example. When a team member starts pointing fingers, point them toward the common goal. Gently remind them that both teams are working toward the success of the same website just from two different angles.
The ideas we’ve presented here aren’t revolutionary. Empathy, communication, and education are at the heart of any great relationship—even ones outside of the workplace.
At GPO, we often aren’t the ones implementing our SEO recommendations. We hand them off to a development team on the client-side. It’s in our best interest, and our clients’ interests, to optimize this process so that everyone wins.