What I am about to share with you is a real-life example of the disconnect between web developers and SEO experts. I am sure that many of you reading this blog can relate to the story I am about to tell: a client hires you to do SEO work, you identify SEO changes, but there is a roadblock in trying to get the developer or design team to make the changes.
Most importantly, this story will highlight why it is essential for web developers and search engine optimization teams or agencies to work collaboratively to develop a technically strong site for SEO and ranking purposes.
The Real Life Developer-SEO Disconnect Scenario
In this scenario, Client A hired Flying V Group to begin monthly SEO work. As with any SEO relationship, we started with a thorough SEO audit of the existing website and online structure and found some small errors and optimization opportunities that could instantly improve on-page optimization for our client.
Let me preface this by saying that the site is a beautifully designed site and one that we were very excited to work with knowing that it had all of the pieces we needed to be successful.
Okay, back to the story. We identified quick wins, and the client was happy that we identified instant ways to help increase site exposure, which was their current pain point.
Our priority as a firm is to do what is best for the client to generate more traffic to their website, create better keyword rankings, and ultimately, increase their online visibility. Our client has a beautiful website, but there is always room for improvement, especially when it comes to technical SEO configuration. As we all know, you can build a $1M website, but without SEO and other digital marketing, there is no guarantee that anyone will even see it.
“As we all know, you can build a $1M website, but without SEO and other digital marketing, there is no guarantee that anyone will even see it.”
So, let’s dive into a few real-life examples of the disconnect that exists between web developers and SEO experts. The goal here is to show how important it is for web developers and SEO’s to work hand-in-hand through the design and development phase of the website. Alternatively, if hiring on an SEO agency or consultant, allowing them the ability to make the noted changes is of utmost importance.
Initial Search Engine Optimization Findings
After review and audit of the client’s site, we brought up the following initial technical SEO changes we wanted to implement on to the website:
- No Schema.org Tags Present
- No XML Sitemap Found
- Need to Optimize H1 and Image Alt Tags
- No Google Webmaster Tools/Search Console Found
- No Robots.txt Found
- No Canonical Tag Found
- No HTML Sitemap Found
We all can agree that these were reasonable requests and basic on-page optimization requirements. We thought nothing of it and were ready to get these points implemented and move on to bigger, better, and more productive efforts. Here is the response we received to each one of the above-recommended changes from the web development team:
- True. Usually used to help describe products or events to search engines.
- Submitted at launch.
- There are multiple H1 tags, but the homepage isn’t focused on one thing: it’s an introduction to various parts of the website. Most image alt tags should be editable as fields (or are auto-generated).
- Setup at launch, but on my account.
- True. But we’re not blocking access to any portion of the site from search engines.
- True. But there shouldn’t be any duplicate content requiring it. Http automatically loads Https version of the site, and the rest of the pages use rewrites for clean URLs. Wouldn’t hurt to add.
- True. But all parts of the navigation and links should be accessible to search engines, and the footer provides links to all major areas of the website.
Now I am sure some of you got a kick out of some of those responses. They weren’t bad and are understandable with general knowledge, but they were wrong in terms of creating a well-configured SEO site. However, let me be fair, we do not expect web developers to thoroughly understand the importance of the SEO issues we presented entirely in the same way that we as SEO’s might not understand the importance of web design/development caveats.
SEO is complicated and always changing, which is why it is vital for web developers and SEO teams to work together when creating a web presence. SEO experts should consult web developers during development in the same way web developers should consult SEO experts when looking at certain things like conversion rate optimization (CRO). A healthy relationship between web developers and SEO's will only create a better and more successful experience for the client.
For us, we took this as an excellent opportunity to educate our client on some SEO opportunities and show our expertise and knowledge on the subject. The following will highlight how we handled a web developer’s rebuttals to our requested SEO changes:
Real SEO Discussion Between Agency and Developer
Change #1: No Schema.org Tags and Need to Add
Response: True. Usually used to help describe products or events to search engines.
Our Response: Schema tags help crawlers understand what our site is about to deliver our site for relevant search engine results. These tags help search engines read our pages and display them correctly in search engine result placements.
With schema on our site, we have a chance to be displayed more prominently. More prominent features increase our chances of being clicked on in search results. Not only that, but schema markup includes much more than just products or events. Businesses, people, recipes, and videos also use schema markup!
Change #2: Need to Add XML Sitemap
Response: Submitted at launch.
Our Response: An XML sitemap helps Google bots understand the pages that are on our site and what pages are available to crawl. Not only that, but here is what was showing on our client's website when we navigated to the XML sitemap page:
The above is a problem since the sitemap is rendering errors. Having an XML sitemap on your website makes it so much easier for Google to know where your site pages are and be able to go and find them more efficiently. An available sitemap leads to increased crawl efficiency and a better understanding of our client’s website by search engine bots.
Change #3: Need to Optimize H1 and Image Alt Tags
Response: There are multiple H1 tags, but the homepage isn’t focused on one thing: it’s an introduction to various parts of the website.
Our Response: There should be only one H1 tag per page as this is how to build useful on-page site hierarchy to help search engines discern what information is on a specific page. Our H1 tag on the homepage should include what we do or our main keyword. In doing so, we are telling Google what the site is about, or more specifically, the home page. We would do the same for all of the other additional subpages of the website.
At the time, the H1 tags on the homepage were as follows: a phone number, a tag line, a question, and the title of one of the blog posts. Unfortunately, these tags do nothing to help Google understand what it is we are trying to do or the message our website is trying to convey. These H1 tags do nothing to help us rank for our targeted keywords.
Change #4: Need Google Webmaster Tools/Search Console Added
Response: Setup at launch, but on my account.
Our Response: This one is pretty easy, but it is obvious why the client and the SEO company would need access to Google Search Console. Google Search Console allows us to see traffic as it pertains to keywords and it also identifies potential issues that the site might be having in regards to search engine efficiency. GSC is also an excellent way for us to request indexing of our website when we add new content or dramatically change pieces of the site.
Change #5: No Robots.txt File and Need to Add
Response: We’re not blocking access to any portion of the site from search engines.
Our Response: A robots.txt file tells Google bots what it can and cannot access on the site. Now, bots must respect our wishes as a site, but having a robots.txt file is a great way to help guide bots to the pages we want them to index. In some instances, we actually might want to block access to specific pages with robots.txt because they might not be a crucial part of our SEO strategy.
Google Bots have what is called a ‘Crawl Budget,’ which is broken down into two segments called a ‘Crawl Rate Limit’ and a ‘Crawl Rate Demand.’ The ‘Crawl Budget’ and the ‘Crawl Rate Limit/Demand’ basically determine how many pages Google bots can, will, and want to look at on your site. So, we want the bots spending time on relevant pages that we want to show up in search results. Limiting access to your site’s login page or thank you pages would be wise to help Google get to the meat and potatoes of the site, which is where robots.txt comes in!
Change #6: No Canonical Tag and Need to Add
Response: True. But there shouldn’t be any duplicate content requiring it. Http automatically loads Https version of the site, and the rest of the pages use rewrites for clean URLs. Wouldn’t hurt to add.
Our Response: Unfortunately, we did have a duplicate content issue. The site displayed over www and non-www instead of automatically loading a certain version and Google sees this as different sites, or it gets confused on which page should be the source of truth. Adding a canonical tag is beneficial for the SEO of your website. By adding a canonical tag, we make sure that the canonical version of the URL (the source of truth) is receiving credit from search engines for all of the links that may be pointing to other versions of the URL, like non-www to www or vice versa.
Change #7: No HTML Sitemap Found and Need to Add
Response: True. But all parts of the navigation and links should be accessible to search engines, and the footer provides links to all major areas of the website.
Our Response: It would not hurt at all to have an HTML sitemap. As we add more and more content to the site, we want to make sure that the user has a place to go to see the entire scope of what we provide on the site in a clean and straightforward layout. There is not enough room in the footer to show the site as the whole. HTML sitemaps also help distribute link authority to our site pages since we are linking to the sitemap on every one of our site pages if it is in the footer.
So, What Should You Do Next
For Business Owners That Already Have a Site
As you can see from the above real-life examples, there is a disconnect that exists between those in the SEO field and web developers. There are web developers that are well-versed in SEO and build the on-page optimization pieces into the site during development, but there are also many that are on the opposite end of the spectrum.
As a business owner, it would be wise to consult your web developer to make sure that technical SEO configuration exists on your site. Please read up on technical SEO and on-page optimization to make sure that you at least have a basic understanding of what it is and how to implement on-page optimization. If you do not feel comfortable doing this, then consult an SEO agency about conducting an SEO audit on your site. The agency should be able to quickly pick up areas of improvement and quick wins for your on-page optimization that can then be passed on to your web developer.
For Business Owners Without a Site
If you are looking to re-design your existing website, or need a new site altogether, make sure that your web development company emphasizes SEO in their website builds. We love working with businesses beginning with web design through digital marketing strategy because we know the website design will include technical SEO configurations.
As an SEO provider we will not have to spend time fixing SEO issues that were not configured correctly in the first place. Also, a technically SEO configured website design ensures that your company’s website includes optimization from day one instead of finding out that the site was improperly configured and costing your business important keyword ranking positions for years.
For SEO’s and Web Developers
We are all working towards one common goal, and that is to make our customers happy with a well-designed site that can receive traffic and visibility online. SEO’s do not always have all of the answers, and the same goes for web developers. It is essential that we work together to create the best possible product for our clients.
In the same way, web developers would be unwise to neglect SEO; SEO’s would be unwise to neglect dynamic design and creativity. We need each other, and when working together, we can create something better than we could have on our own! Collaboration is the key to closing the web developer and SEO disconnect.
Thank you so much for reading Should Web Developers and SEO's Work Together? A Real Life Story. We really appreciate it!
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Robb Fahrion is a Co-Founder and Partner of Flying V Group. He is passionate about helping businesses grow using the power of the internet. Robb graduated from Chapman University in Orange, CA and currently resides in Costa Mesa, CA. Robb enjoys writing about digital marketing, helping his clients turn their dreams into reality, and he is a HUGE Mike Trout fan.