As an SEO and content strategist, there’s one thing that frustrates me more than search engine secrecy surrounding changes to ranking factors. (Cutesy animal names can only soften the blow slightly, Google!) What could possibly rankle more than enigmatic algorithm updates? Simple: encountering an SEO issue that can’t be fixed or devising an on-page tactic that can’t be deployed due to bureaucratic divisions separating SEO and web development departments.
Tear Down This Wall! Why to Unite SEO & Web Design
Many content marketers and SEO experts see the value in dissolving departmental divisions. But too often, agencies or clients see SEO and website design and development as two distinct entities, but still expect exceptional, high-ranking websites. Whether these divisions are in place due to lack of understanding of SEO best practices, budget shortages, a deficiency in collaborative spirit, or a stubborn refusal to change the established workflow, the result is the same: with a division in place, SEO capabilities are limited, and website visibility is stunted.
I equate it to making someone draw a detailed roadmap to your desired destination without revealing that there’s a 100-foot wall surrounding every exit out of town. It’s not possible to deliver the best SEO strategy when the roads are blocked. The natural intersections between the two disciplines should be encouraged so that SEOs and developers alike can deliver the best product.
Here’s why cross-departmental collaboration is a must when it comes to SEO and web development.
Setting Up Critical SEO Infrastructure
Whether they are customizing an existing Content Management System (CMS) or coding a CMS from scratch, web developers are responsible for creating a site’s core framework.
While there are many on-page factors that drive SEO performance, a strong technical SEO infrastructure is needed to enhance website rankings. Without the necessary back-end bridges such as XML sitemaps, modules for metadata and tags, optimized URL structures, and other “behind-the-scenes” elements, your SEO strategy can’t take your site where it needs to go.
It’s possible to have your web team add these elements post-launch, but to start your journey out on the right foot, it makes the most sense to include SEO-related tasks in the development stage. Contrary to what some SEO strategy “experts” might say, optimization does not provide an instant ranking boost, which means that every month you have to lay your foundation counts. The sooner you are able to start optimizing your website, the better – hence why integrating SEO into the web development process is essential.
Site Structure Impacts SEO Strategy
Back-end elements in your CMS aren’t the only SEO factors your site needs for success. An effective SEO strategy encompasses technical aspects as well as front-end structure.
When information on your website is organized in a logical way with core pages prioritized in the hierarchy, it makes it easier for searchers and for search engine spiders to understand what your business does. You need to develop an effective plan for categorizing and siloing pages, as well as an internal linking strategy.
While software developers are obviously highly-intelligent, to ensure timely delivery of a quality product, it makes sense for an SEO and content expert to take the lead on developing the site structure. It’s much easier to tweak an already SEO-friendly structure than to restructure a sloppy hierarchy that has negatively impacted website rankings.
SEO & UX Strategy Intersect
In the Dark Ages of SEO, it was feasible for marketers to cram keywords on a page and rank well. Thin content that provided little or no value to the searcher proliferated, leaving users frustrated.
Since the search engines have caught on and penalized sites with shallow content, user experience (UX) and SEO strategy have grown more closely-related. Google uses over 200 ranking signals in their algorithm, including factors like bounce rate and mobile responsiveness that reflect how users interact with your site.
Essentially, websites that provide users with the information they seek in a quick, straightforward manner are more likely to resonate well with searchers. Unique, valuable content that dives more deeply into subject matters tends to perform better – as long as the content is laid out effectively. That’s where a UX designer’s keen eye comes in.
Likewise, while an SEO expert will be able to provide data-driven insights into site performance (like why a page’s bounce rate may be unusually high or how a page may benefit from the addition of certain content modules) web designers and developers are the ones who can execute crucial functionality needed to for a successful SEO strategy.
Siloes are for Content, Not for Your Teams
While properly siloing content is a must when it comes to SEO, the same tactic should not be applied to your team. Subject matter experts should come together to provide insights to one another and ensure each website project reaches its full potential. Not only is collaboration key for employee growth and morale, it’s also crucial to delivering the highest-quality product and avoiding costly, time-consuming reconfigurations down the line.
Want to get started on your SEO project? At AJi, we provide SEO consulting and analysis as well as integrated website development and SEO strategies. Contact our SEO experts today to see how we can help.