Most people in SEO have been in this situation.
You're on a call with a client, discussing changes that need to be made to the site to make it SEO-friendly, when you hear the words that make your blood run cold and your hand start to reach for aspirin.
"Wait, I need to talk to my developer."
It doesn't need to be this way.
Developers come in all shapes and sizes, and trust me - this isn't a post to rag on them (they're vitally important to the SEO process, too!). In an ideal world, the developer may be part of the same team as you, such as in an agency or you may actually be the developer. This is great because communication can be easily facilitated and everyone can be on the same page from day one. You can be involved in the site building process or can give advice along the way. But when the developer is someone not in the same communication loop as you, this can cause quite the problem.
Developers who also do SEO (good, bad, or otherwise) may not be keen to work with someone else, and sometimes, that's justified. Think about how you would feel if another SEO was brought into the picture for consulting or on-site work. Would that make you feel better, or would you feel like you were threatened?
But to put the pride and protectiveness of the site aside, there is something that needs to be recognized: you both are working toward helping your client - you BOTH benefit from working together well.
So, when you are faced with the challenge of working with an outside developer, here are some things you can do to make both of your lives easier - and your client's campaign more successful:
- Adopt a positive mindset. It seems like the minute you hear that someone else is involved, you automatically go into an attack mode or become overly defensive. Instead, take a deep breath - and realize that your client is going to make those kinds of business decisions. It's not up to you to do that and sometimes, that does mean there will be an extra cook in the kitchen. However, be positive. You both have the same goal - help the client - and you can work with each other to make that happen. Plus, *gasp* you could LEARN from each other. Walk into the project with the intention of working together to achieve your common goals. Be friendly. Be helpful. Be easy to work with.
- Create an open line of communication. This is the reason why so many developer and SEO relationships go sour. I'm a firm believer in making sure everyone involved in a project (including the client and developer) are on the same page. Schedule group conference calls, CC each other on emails - do whatever it takes, but keep communication open and ongoing so that everyone knows what's happening at all times, which brings us to the next point.
- Be upfront about expectations. Your job has a scope and the developer's job has a scope. Work together to avoid creating extra work for each other - and extra frustration. Define your roles in the project and make sure the client understands who he or she needs to go to when they have a question or want to make a change. Work with the developer on understanding what each of your jobs entail and make sure the client knows that too. Be respectful (and encourage respect) of each other's jobs. You both contribute to the client's success, but it does make things easier when everyone knows what he or she is or isn't supposed to do.
- Cultivate a collaborative environment. Working with the same client can mean that YES, you CAN work together! Think of yourself as part of a team. You want to work with the developer and the developer wants to work with you, so create opportunities for that to happen. Ask for his or her opinion or feedback. Have brainstorming or strategy sessions together, rather than apart. Foster an environment where everyone is contributing and feels like they're doing something meaningful. This makes a huge difference.
Going through steps like these can sometimes yield a great partnership between SEO and development, but there will also be cases where you can't really do much to make this relationship less rocky because the other person isn't willing to go through the same steps. I'm an optimist, so I think that in most cases, the developer you're working with wants the same things you do: to work together, to work well, and to help the client achieve his or her goals. Developers are people too! Be open, honest, communicative, and committed - the rest will follow.
Have other suggestions for making the developer and SEO relationship easier? Leave a comment with your tips!