Bridging SEO and web development: How to get developers on your side
Autodesk’s Jenny Jiang shares her approach to fostering a healthy, productive environment between SEOs and web developers.
The success of any given campaign can depend on your team’s ability to get buy-in from the right individuals. Sometimes, it’s upper management and other times it’s your web developer counterparts who are likely juggling their own set of priorities.
“The ultimate goal is the same,” said Jenny Jiang, SEO developer for design and engineering software creator Autodesk, “we want to drive revenue.” Ideally, a common goal would be enough to get the development team on board with your efforts, but it also helps to have a few strategies to improve your relationship with them.
Jiang will be presenting ways to nurture a healthy, productive environment where both SEOs and web developers can thrive at SMX West in San Jose on February 19. In advance of her SMX session, she has shared with us the ways that she approaches forging a relationship between SEO and web development.
What does a successful relationship between SEO and web developers look like?
“The engineering team communicates with the SEO team ahead of time for any upcoming technical changes,” said Jiang. This includes consulting with the SEO team when making site changes as well as looping them in when launching a new project.
“For instance, we plan to migrate [Autodesk’s website] to React and the engineering team consulted with us ahead of time,” said Jiang. “We raised a few concerns (such as URL and meta tags) and were able to find solutions for these issues.”
Establishing lines of communications between teams early on can ensure that you’re making forward strides instead of performing damage control. “If they didn’t come to the SEO team first, it would be very difficult to fix these issues later or even get SEO requests prioritized,” Jiang said.
Some SEO recommendations fall upon developers to implement, creating an asymmetrical relationship. What can SEOs do to even out this asymmetry?
“When Google first rolled out FAQ structured data, I was really excited to try it on our website, but didn’t get any support from the engineering team,” said Jiang, who overcame the challenge with a proactive approach. “So, I just went ahead and implemented FAQ structured data on one of our pages and got very positive results.”
The access and background in front-end web development that Jiang had may not be available to every SEO, but there are many ways to be assertive about demonstrating the value of your team’s goals. After adding the markup herself, Jiang’s team secured an endorsement from a VP, and now, the FAQ structured data will be rolling out across all of the company’s important product pages.
Are there any pain points, in particular, that strain the relationship between the SEO and web development teams?
“The way engineering teams and SEO teams work are very different,” Jiang said. “Engineers work in two-week sprints, while SEO is ongoing maintenance and project-by-project, and could last for months.”
Accounting for the different ways other teams work shows consideration, makes your requests more actionable and can improve your relationship with those team members. “In order to accommodate engineer sprint work, I customize my requests and break down the requirements into small tasks,” said Jiang.
What does the development team have to gain by improving its relationship with the SEO team?
“The SEO team has access to a lot of great data resources, such as Google Search Console, and we build dashboards or ad-hoc reports to share with the engineering team to show the impact of our projects,” Jiang said, adding, “using data to show the impact of their efforts really improves the relationship between the SEO and engineering team.”
For SEOs that already have a working relationship with their developer counterparts, what considerations should they be advocating for when they communicate with them?
“Include SEO in the planning conversations regarding things such as any site structure or engineering improvements,” Jiang said.
However, a relationship has to work both ways, so SEOs should also be proactive about finding ways to facilitate developers as well. “I have regular 1:1 talks with product owners/managers to understand the engineering team’s priorities and how the SEO team can help,” Jiang said.
“Moreover, we’ve started having a monthly SEO shareout with the engineering team to make sure we are on the same page for the overall health of our site, what areas need engineering effort, the progress of existing projects, and so on,” Jiang said, emphasizing that these meetings help the SEO team increase their visibility and influence.