Nathan Buggia – Microsoft
Nathan went through some examples of internal optimisation that the Live team were faced with. One example was that Microsoft had a product that they knew by its full technical name – however online most people were searching for the abbreviated initials ‘Moss’. So whilst originally Microsoft were optimising for the internal long name, the customer base was actually searching for Moss. As a result people searching for ‘MOSS’ were going to affiliate type websites for MOSS and not to the official company pages. Once Microsoft realised what was happening they began to optimise their pages for the keywords users were searching for. The importance of understanding what users are looking for are key whether you’re an in-house SEO or working as part of an agency.
Martin Bowling – VEC 3
Martin outlined what he called his pre-flight checklist for projects. These included:
He proposed a good place to start every project was an initial phase is Brainstorming and when doing this, not to exclude people from this phase as the creative process isn’t one-dimensional. He argued that different team members bring different perspectives (and involving more people can get a better buy in).
Next he suggested it was useful to provide the developer with example sites to look at it and to create mock ups and have alternatives to flash for the design team. Next Martin proposed internal reviews followed by user testing to ensure that there are eyeballs on the project that are not just the in-house team. Finally he advocated stress testing the website code before going live.
Eric Enge – Stone Temple Consulting
Eric was quick to advocate KISS principles (keep it simple stupid)
From years of first-hand experience Eric stressed the long term benefits of explaining key SEO concepts to developers.
A good place for SEOs to start is to explain links as votes as this can be a good way to get the concept across to developers so they can understand what the SEO is trying to achieve. Also the concept of ‘link juice’ and that it’s a fixed quantity is another important aspect to convey to developers. E.g. Link juice is shared across the website – so internal and external links are an important part of the SEO process.
In addition to the concept of links as votes and link juice, Eric argued it was important to cover why redirects matter. So an explanation on the main differences between 302 and 301 redirects is useful for developers to grasp (IIS defaults to 302 – so will often be the one used as a default).
As well as these initial concepts, things like ‘Wasted Crawl Budget’ if a website is serving up duplicate content is another explanation that can resonate effectively with developers. E.g. A crawler wants to take X pages a day and if there is thin content, its wasting crawl budget.
Finally things like why canonical issues are important are good to cover e.g. www V non www versions of a website and why both versions shouldn’t resolve.
As someone who had a strong grasp of technical SEO, Eric stressed to the audience that ‘just because it’s simple to express, doesn’t mean it’s easy to do’.
Carolyn Shelby – CShel
Your job as an SEO is to make the business understand why SEO is important. It’ll save money, effort in the long run and not add complexity.
There are common misconceptions about SEO: It’s all Adwords or it’s all link building or it’s all social media and so on.
Carolyn argued that developers should automate as much as possible for the template.
Some of the common obstacles for an SEO when dealing with developers are: Programmer may not want to do something, not have the skills, is not motivated – or perhaps doesn’t know the importance of what is being requested.
She pointed out that if your involved in SEO and your dealing with developers you need to almost turn into the search cheerleader because ideally search needs to be part of their consciousness. Especially in-house you have to become the search evangelist and so eventually people will be on the same page. Then it can become part of everyone’s process and not just the SEO’s.
Vanessa Fox – Search Engine Land
Finally Vanessa Fox added some input to the debate.
Vanessa advocated building a couple of checklists as developers will often want to know why they are being hassled to do things.
So the SEO needs to explain it to them in a way they understand as this will then help get them on side.
If an SEO can also then show web analytics and thus the benefits to developers they can be further incentivized by seeing improvements from the process.
As a result goals can then start to align as most people want to see a good outcome coming from their effort. Once the developer understands this – the SEO’s job becomes a lot easier
Some of the key factors to address would include: