Shouldn’t my Developer know SEO?
Search Engine Optimisation

Shouldn’t my Developer know SEO?

5th September 2013

Whether you work in an agency, client side role or freelance there is always a requirement for integrated teams on most digital projects, with this brings hostility and often argument and debates about who is right and what works. So who wins in this scenario? Is it the SEO, the Designer the developer or the PR team?

I’m an SEO by trade but I started out as a web developer / designer, the later being my weakest strengths but non the less those are the skills I learnt first. When I went to university in 1999 Google was the latest fad and “Search Engine Optimisation” was no where near being part of the curriculum. My coarse was called “New Media” and seems pretty old when I look back now.

After finishing University in 2002 I started my first role as a web designer / developer and got inspired to learn how a search engine worked and learn the process of SEO. In those days there was always clear disruption between my thoughts and that of the developers of sites that I worked on as at the end of the day who want to be told their code doesn’t work properly? (From a search engine perspective.) We also had the arguments with creative flash designers as I advised a full flash website doesn’t work.

Early Naivety

A good marketer knows his sector and has great knowledge, a great marketer can put himself in other people’s shoes.

The one thing about a debate like this is that its not always a case of one party is right, sometimes its about what is the right solution for the problem. Depending on what the problem is can give a variety of solutions, but its also important to compromise.

Different Roles

When I look at when a Digital Project it has the following influences:

  • The client / Boss / Problem – Who signs it off.

The Team:

  • The SEO
  • The Designer / Creative
  • The Developer
  • The Content Writer
  • The Analyst / Conversion Optimiser
  • The Social Media Person
  • The PR Person
  • The Brand Manager

That’s a lot of people and for many projects its simply not viable to have everyone involved or to justify that many salaries, the problems that comes is that each has an opinion on what will be most effective for their role as appose to thinking about the bigger picture, this in my opinion where a lot of SEOs  have a strength above others.


Launching a New Product – From an SEO perspective the sooner we can do this the better, we can have the post / page spidered and start link building so we have secured a position on the actual launch. This can however create a conflict with the PR team, if they are planning a big release for the product. However tactically combing the two can give a ready made page with some establishment which can then have editorial and press releases pointing to it – Win Win.

Shouldn’t every developer be good at SEO?

This question always gets hearts pumping, I myself came from a coding background (Front end) but I’m not good with back end programming and its often rare to find that many SEO’s who are good back end developers. The trouble I have personally found is that many developers still don’t think about the implications there work has from a search engine perspective, this isn’t about optimsing the page, this is about constructing something which works for search engines i.e.

  • Has friendly URLs (Less common these days)
  • Non Duplicate Pages
  • No URL id’s or additions.
  • Spider-able content

This has been talked about a lot with different sides both for and against the statement, my personal opinion is that it can have an advantage to know how to code as an SEO, but its far more advantageous to know about SEO if your a coder. (Spot the difference.)

I still get frustrated if I speak to a prospect or consult a project for a client that’s just spent £xx,xxx  on a new website, which basically needs a major overhaul.

Shouldn’t Every Content Writer Know SEO?

Content writing firms have sprung up every where offering unique content for you blog or website, I’ll be honest I’m a little sick of it, a great piece of content can drive huge traffic from social mediums but is that content optimised? This isn’t about keyword spamming in the blog post or page its about writing an optimised page of content.

I simply try to avoid the “can you send me a template for the content to send to our writers?”

Or the random use of internal links with no real strategy, from my perspective a good content writer should know about keyword research and be demanding a keyword map or tree from the SEO team.

Don’t get me wrong I have great respect for good content writers, they are aware of key headlines to get a good CTR and I can’t really talk because my spelling and grammar is appalling.

Shouldn’t every Social Media Person Know SEO?

There are many sides to Social Media, Engagement, Brand Monitoring, Sales but of course it also links directly with the content that’s produced as a way of gaining links. Of course as an SEO my main concern is how the number of social shares correlates to links created. I’m still surprised how many social media “professionals” simply ignore the potential advantage which they could give to SEO’s.

Working Together

The key to all of this is communication! Kevin Gibbons and Matt Roberts talked about breaking down the silos at Brighton SEO earlier this year and some of the key points were:

  • Brain storing
  • Shared Environments
  • Shared Calenders and integration.

With Great Power comes Great Responsibility

Its our job as SEO’s to educate each area of the business, this isn’t to say that we are the biggest priority above any other medium, its more that what other departments do can have direct affects on our work, so sit down with the designer and talk about the best layouts for conversion, show them tools such as:

  • – Shows any web page as a wireframe
  • Analytics & Heat Maps – talk about where people click and look on the page and why, help the creative to produce designs that conform to certain rules.

Sit with the developer and go through webmaster tools, show what errors are produced in the site and discuss what effect they can have on your work. Get them to install Screaming Frog, or Microsoft SEO toolkit, show them where issues are found.

When a Branding exersise is in process, make sure your in the meeting, discuss the affects from a search perspective, this is great way to get people on side.

Of course this is my opinion, there are still plenty of developers, creatives, Social media people etc, which have an SEO background or have learnt SEO but far to many still need a good education… What’s your thoughts?



Written By
Neil Walker started working as an SEO in 2002 and rose to become Group CTO for Swedish Marketing Agency “Online Group” in 2010 he moved to consulting with agencies, in-house teams and PR companies. In 2014 he formalised this work and founded Made Notable Ltd a boutique digital consultancy based...
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