Integrating SEO into Development – Pro SEO Seminar 2010
Alex Craven, MD of Bloom is talking about how ensure SEO is considered alongside development, working in an integrated fashion – a combination of winning a political battle and employing incentive-based tactics.
Winning the political battle
Crucial point: Know your enemy
SEO has a bad reputation with some. Understand who of the team you may be working with is not your fan. Work with their concerns, be aware you need to win them around.
Crucial point: Know your client
Have they had a bad experience? Let them know how you work. Some examples:
- Payment based on Results
- Stipulated in contract: “If (client) fails to implement changes within xx (timescale), bonus is automatically paid”
Commercials, motives and expertise.
- How to get past that snakeoil reputation?
Set up aspirations for the project very early on – what the revenue/conversion opportunity is. This will demonstrate your interest and your readiness to put your money where your mouth is. You’re talking specific figures and opportunities.
- What happens when the internal team already think they know better anyway?
Don’t try to beat them into submission. Bring them on side, empathise with each individual opinion. Try to make it as collaborative as possible. So when you are kicking off a new project, follow a process like:
- Run a workshop
- Explain the strategy (why is the project happening, the bonus structure, anticipated results)
- Involve the team in the project planning
- If there is an internal SEO ‘expert’, involve them in the discussion
Having the team on-side will help you have someone checking things on-site everyday, where you can’t be there all the time. A key point: Involve the senior decision maker in the first meeting.
Tip: Let the team know if theirworkhas helped, soothe egos and pat people on the back. It overcomes most obstacles.
Practical Project Planning
Projects come in many different shapes and sizes but documentation and processes are crucial to all. This is particularly crucial when trying to get clients to understand the importance of the SEO process, e.g.
- How SEO requirements impact scope
- Why SEO NEEDS to be included from the very beginning
Before you get to the technical considerations, you will also be having discussions about customer journeys and information architecture. SEO requirements should also be discussed at this point, if it one of the business objectives.
The larger the client, the less important SEO often is. Work with them around that rather than try to push it. The brand will always be bigger than the organic search opportunity.
Have upfront requirements – e.g. domain, platform, IA, content requirements, crawlable etc. Whoever is building the site must understand how SEO impacts on the requirements of the site. This is then turned into the SEO Brief, these points should be clear and understood even before the work goes out to tender.
Follow a project management methodology – e.g. Waterfall, Agile. There are a number of different methodologies around, the key is to ensure there is a system from sitemap to creative to build to launch. Be doubly aware at launch, if a project is going to fall over this when it will.
SEO Development checklist – a few examples of some crucial points that should be getting ticked off:
- Are ALL project stakeholders identified?
- Define roles of stakeholders in relation to the project
- Ensure all stakeholders understand contract terms and targets
- Organise project kickoff meeting with all stakeholders
- Produce clearly structured kickoff meeting agenda, allow senior decision makers to leave at relevant points
- Keyphrase research and sign off
- Prioritisedlst of SEO requirements, seek input from developers as to implementation difficulty and collaboratively agree prioritisation
- Organise SEO training sessions with relavent people
- Agree KPIs
- Identify tracking capability and agree KPI reporting format, identity andy gaps and feedback into project requirements
- Produce benchmark report
- Review sitemap/IA
- Review content provided and optimise
- Review Tech spec
- Support site launch planning process – e.g. 301s, robots.txt, webmasters etc
- Pre launch benchmark report
- Post launch analysis, page indexing, crawl errors, 4042, 301 mapping check, analytics.
Where it all goes wrong – the warning signs to look out for. Many people will recognise some of the issues cropping up on this list!
- Brief signed off isn’t what gets built
- Client won’t accept SEO recommendations
- Cleint agrees specification but ‘forgets’ this when site comes out of dev for UAT and requests remove of copy/other SEO elements
- No robots.txt PPC landing pages
- No robots.txt on dev site
- Developers don’t understand how search engines crawl websites.
- Clients owns similar website (diff brand or region) and copies content (and doesn’t tell you)
- Client is late populating site so no time to check before launch
- Client copies content from competitor
- Products in more than one category (duplicate content)
- Rushed UAT/population SEO best practice abandoned
- Client updates website without telling you
Alex will be offering templates of Bloom’s process documents for download as word docs, for open use. We’ll include the link to this when it’s up.
Final thought: Alex would shy away from things like link volume as part of KPIs as it’s too complicated and difficult to manage. Ideally it should be about increasing revenue.