The importance of SEO and developer relationships (and how to get it right)
The closing tech track session at the US edition of our DeepCrawl Live 2020 summit discussed the need for SEOs to forge stronger relationships with the web developers they work alongside.
The roundtable discussion was chaired by our Senior Technical SEO Analyst, Richard Barrett. The panel included:
It was a fascinating discussion. Berry and Westmoreland spoke about the importance of having the personal skills, the business tools, and the relevant processes in place to ensure marketers and developers can be aligned on what needs to be achieved to advance the business.
Here are the key takeaways…
1. Listen to your developers
Both Westmoreland and Berry agree it is massively important that SEOs are actively listening to developers.
Remember, web development is not just maintenance and fixing things. By getting to know each other and building a respectful understanding of your dev’s knowledge, their day-to-day work, and their goals, you can start to see alignment between your own aims and theirs.
‘You have to learn from your developers,’ Westmoreland says. ‘The most important thing is not just bringing up what you know. Often you don’t realize how much pressure they are under and how many problems your developers have to solve.’
The first step towards finding common ground – and ultimately getting this alignment between teams – is by listening.
2. Establish regular lines of communication between SEO and dev teams
So how do SEOs ensure that the work environment is a place of listening and alignment?
There has to be an effort to set up regular lines of communications between SEO and developer teams. Berry highlights that this might be regular tech prioritization meetings, Slack channels, or project management tools such as Trello.
The panel agrees that tension between teams can arise when there isn’t communication – particularly if dev teams aren’t connected to the business outcomes that are being discussed.
One common issue is when stakeholders give the impression that SEOs can do what they want. If developers are part of that conversation, too, then goals tend to be a little more realistic and potential issues can be highlighted earlier.
It is also important for SEO teams to be consistent in the way they submit requests. This is where tools such as Trello are so useful: everyone can see the requests, timescales are clear, and each request sticks to the same format.
3. Bring the outcome you want – not the path there
This is another key interpersonal skill for SEOs (although it is undoubtedly useful in other areas of life too!).
‘No one likes being told how to do their job by someone who knows less than they do,’ Berry says. ‘Open up a conversation, bring data, explain why you’re trying to achieve something. Is there a way to try and achieve the outcome needed?’
These conversations should be a way to try and figure out the solution that works for both parties.
There will, at times, be pushback. But SEOs shouldn’t misinterpret ‘no’ as being a personal criticism or the absolute end of the line.
If your developers are saying something can’t be done, there will be a reason, and it is often to do with resources in time or staffing – things that on one level will cost more money to the department and/or business. This is where the final takeaway is so important…
4. Use data
It was touched upon above, but being able to show business outcomes from SEO changes is a great way to get developers aligned as well as buy-in from stakeholders higher up.
ROI data can help get devs on board even when the changes needed are quite substantial. Competitor data is also a great way of pointing out how much the business will lose if changes aren’t made – site speed is a good example, here.
Data shouldn’t only be used for seeking alignment between SEOs and developers, either.
Be sure to follow up when developer work has contributed to business success. All too often, devs don’t get to see the fruits of their labor in an ROI sense after the work has been done.
Forging stronger relationships is so important
In the first sense, this advice to SEOs is vital for streamlining work processes within the organization. This streamlining can help your business be more competitive and ultimately more successful.
But another word, “tension,” was also mentioned numerous times throughout the session.
This points to staff wellbeing as another reason for trying to implement these changes.
It is more important than ever to be ensuring the people employed across our organizations are as happy as they can be when coming to work and to minimize tension or stress wherever possible.
Promoting alignment, respect, and transparency between teams – as Westmoreland and Berry have suggested – is a positive move in this sense too.
Watch the full session from DeepCrawl Live 2020