SEOs and developers can often butt heads, but columnist Neil Patel provides some advice for how we can work together to achieve our common goals.
In order to have a successful website, you need a lot of things. For purposes of this article, I’m only going to discuss two of these:
- Development: Making the website. This is what developers do.
- Optimization: Making the website get found. This is what the SEOs do.
For a website to reach its full potential, the developers and SEOs have to work together. Unfortunately, SEOs and developers have different ideas about website best practices, and those ideas may not align perfectly with one another.
This is where things can lead to conflict. SEOs think that the developers are unresponsive or arrogant, and the developers think that the SEOs are ignorant or fraudulent.
Here’s What It Looks Like
The conflict can get nasty. Let me just share some excerpts from one of the few articles I’ve found on the topic, as well as some of the comments. These are the kind of attitudes that characterize the conflict.
Look, someone had to say it. So I thought I’d be a team player and be the one who said it. While it’s no secret that many people have a general disdain for SEO’s in general, the guy (or gal) writing the code for that new niche website you’re getting ready to launch probably hates your guts. OK, maybe hate is a bit strong. But they almost all think you’re probably a fraud and cringe when they receive any form of communication from you.Stings a bit, doesn’t it. Well, the truth hurts.
Behold, a sampling of the comments:
Bret, A Developer: After being in this ‘web’ industry for a few years now, I’ve come to learn that about 80% of the people involved are hacks, scammers, and generally just trying to make money instead of trying to help their customers succeed.
Ioana (An SEO): Well, sometimes we hate developers too. […] Does the truth hurt? Well, it’s not all your fault. Just most of it. Oh wait, you’re not responsible for what other developers do? Then why do you think good and honest SEOs should accept being blamed? Because what you’re saying is that all SEOs should take the blame for what bad SEOs do, since we’re all in the same business. That’s almost communist.
Okay, let’s all take a step back. Breathe deep. Swallow hard.
I have no desire to stir up hate and passion – there’s enough conflict in the world. My goal here is to help SEOs and developers be friends again.
And if being friends is too much to ask, then at least following these steps together can help us accomplish our shared purpose of creating a kick-ass website that both works and gets found.
SEOs and developers, this is for you. Both of you.
1. Start Working Together Early On In The Process
First of all, the relationship needs to get going early on. The developer and the SEO need to sit down and chat before the developer creates any code and before the SEO starts thinking about page titles.
When the SEOs and developers meet late in the game, it ends up getting messy. The SEOs are appalled that there’s no meta data and no H1s! The developers are furious that the SEO is asking them to redo the entire site!
The result is that someone’s going to get bitter and possibly use naughty words.
So, once you’ve decided to create a new website or redesign an existing one, get into a conference room or Google Hangout and start talking.
And then maybe go out for beers or something after work. You’re going to need to strengthen this relationship, because it’s going to get tense.
2. Know Your Stuff
Both SEOs and developers need to be skilled in their trade.
Developing and optimizing websites are both highly technical tasks that require a great deal of skill. If either party doesn’t know what they’re doing, then things will unravel.
If the SEO is really good at SEO, then the developer can be confident in her skills and trust her recommendations. And if the developer is good at what he’s doing, then the SEO can trust him to do it right.
3. Respect Each Other’s Skills
I’m going to root for the SEOs here, because they’re usually the ones getting stepped on.
In some organizations, the developers are viewed as gods. They get the six-figure salaries, the Herman Miller Aeron chairs, the offices with killer views, and the prime parking spots.
The SEO? They’re treated like pond scum.
What’s the difference between the two? Well, SEOs are still trying to redeem their trade, which has long been seen as shady due to scammers. “SEO” was synonymous with “huckster” for the first few years of its existence.
Things have changed. There are many SEOs who are smart, skilled, talented, trained, and experienced. They’re good at what they do.
SEOs need to respect the developers for their skill and expertise. And the developers need to respect the SEOs, too.
4. Don’t Do Each Other’s Jobs
Both the SEO and the developer have a job to do, and the best person to do those jobs is the person assigned to them. SEOs do SEO. Developers develop.
Conflict arises when developers start trying to do SEO, or when SEOs start telling the developers how to do their job.
Please understand that this is supposed to be a collaboration, not a power struggle. So, while you must collaborate, meet, talk, and work together, you also need to make sure that you are allowing one another to flourish in your respective fields.
When a developer allows the SEO to make H1 recommendations and suggest alt tags, things work out. But when the developer tells the SEO, “No, we’re not using any H1s on the pages,” then things might get a little hairy.
This works both ways. If the SEO says, “We’re going to use this plugin to enhance SEO,” and the developer says that it will crash the site, then the SEO needs to listen up.
Teamwork involves a bit of compromise on either side.
5. Remember That You’re On The Same Team
If SEOs and developers would both grasp this idea, the world would be a better place.
You’re on the same team. You’re pursuing the same objective: to make a great website!
I’ve heard developers say this about SEOs: “They want to sabotage the site!”
And I’ve heard SEOs say this about developers: “They don’t care if anyone finds the site or not!”
Both of those statements are exaggerated falsehoods. You must acknowledge that you’re trying to reach the same goal, but you each bring a different perspective to the issue.
The goal that is shared by both developers and SEOs is user experience. Web development today depends upon a great experience for users, and a well-optimized site is one that’s both user-friendly and search engine-friendly.
You have the same goal. Go get ‘em.
6. Accept That There Are Some Things Developers Just Can’t Do
This advice is primarily for the SEOs who are reading this article.
Developing websites is hard work. And, I’m sorry, but developers can’t do everything that you ask of them. In spite of their wizard skills, they have human limitations.
When you ask them to “just make a plugin,” or “just change all 197,081 image alt tags,” that’s kind of hard to do. In some cases, it might be impossible.
If the developers fail to comply with your demands, don’t take it personally. Just accept that there are limits to what developers can do, and work with them to find alternatives that will suit your optimization needs.
7. Acknowledge That SEO Is Important
This advice is primarily for the developers who are reading this article.
We all know that a site’s functionality is crucial. I mean, what good is a website that’s poorly designed, confusing to use, or outright broken, right?
But SEO is important, too – after all, a website that no one can find is a complete waste of time and resources.
SEOs want to optimize a site so the world can see the great work you’ve done in developing it.
Thus, when the SEOs are making request or recommendations, take them seriously.
8. Remember: It Takes Developers To Implement SEO
This advice is for both developers and SEOs.
Doing SEO requires both developers and SEOs. Usually, it works this way:
- SEOs make recommendations to the developers.
- Developers implement the recommendations.
Viewed this way, SEOs are at the mercy of the developers – so SEOs, be nice to the developers. And developers, help them out with implementation.
My goal with this article is to help developers and SEOs work together successfully. It takes both roles to produce a successful website, and it takes mutual respect and understanding to make the process go smoothly.
Have you seen or experienced conflict as an SEO or developer? How did you handle it?