Dealing with Tricky Development Resource

Dealing with Tricky Development Resource

Dealing with Tricky Development Resource

Following the popularity of my BrightonSEO debut last April, I was delighted when the powers that be at the UK’s best SEO conference asked me to speak once more; this time on the topic of dealing with tricky development.

A slipped disc unfortunately ruled me out of the event at the last minute, much to my chagrin but thankfully Banc’s SEO Manager, James Chapman, deputised and delivered my slides superbly.

The talk discussed how to get your SEO recommendations implemented even when development resource is proving tricky and gave some tips and hacks on how to succeed when the going gets tough.

BrightonSEO | April 2018 | Dealing With Tricky Development Resource | WhitworthSEO from Charlie Whitworth

Change In Culture

The main premise of the presentation was focussed on the change of culture that is needed within the industry in order for brands to benefit from SEO.

Attendees may have been expecting the talk to be a tirade against web developers, but those that were will have been bitterly disappointed. The talk’s key theme was for SEO professionals to remember that it isn’t a developer’s job to implement technical SEO recommendations.

SEO & Web Development Overlap

There are key recommendations such as site speed, performance enhancement or perhaps SSL which overlap, but these should be worked on collaboratively rather than either party tasking the other up with work.

webpage test

Indeed, a positive relationship between SEO and development usually ends up with both parties looking good and ultimately, the performance of the site in question improving significantly as a result.

Main Issues

So, what are the main issues that usually cause a disconnect between SEO’s and developers and therefore result in recommendations not being actioned, or implemented incorrectly?

  • Competence or Laziness
  • Bad Communications
  • Budgetary Issues
  • API or Booking Engine Issues
  • Political Issues
  • Marketing Agenda Changes
  • Global Issues Within The Organisation
  • Anti-SEO Sentiment

The first point is perhaps the most salient, as the key is not being lazy and just sending web developers reports from your SEO tool of choice to “fix”. This is almost certain to result in nothing being implemented and is lazy and disrespectful.

As a technical SEO, it is your job to put the hard work in and by the time a developer sees a recommendation it should be pretty much ready to add to the site.

This includes all code required, rationale, where on the site it needs to go and an example of how this should look when live. A developer is unlikely to ever create work for you, so be sure you limit this as much as possible.

Correct Personnel

If you are still struggling to get your work implemented, then there could be a chance you are speaking to the wrong personnel.

You could ask your account management or client services team to reach out on your behalf to check you have been sending your SEO recommendations to the right person, there is a chance that they could have just been sitting there and all it takes is ensuring they are being seen by the right individual client side.

Effective Task Management

Provided all is well and you have managed to forge a productive relationship with the development resource you have available to you, what else can help when looking to get your SEO recommendations implemented quickly and correctly?

seo task management

The key can sometimes be setting up a great task management system. Again, the key here isn’t tasking developers up with lots of work but more monitoring what has been done and what hasn’t and crucially, prioritising what will have the best short-term impact.


There are lots of tools out there that can help, from Trello for creating tasks and Jira for creating tickets to Google Sheets where you can see all SEO recommendations at a glance and their status.

These are just a few but creating a great system could be the key. A lot of the time the issue emanates from a lack of organisation and both parties not quite knowing what has been completed and what is outstanding.

Jargon Free Documents

Jargon-free word documents can also be a great help to pull all of this together but remember to write in terminology that your client and developers will understand.

Using lots of SEO terms may sound impressive to your peers but probably isn’t the best way of getting tasks completed quickly and easily.

Remember to check any work that is implemented too as mistakes can happen, especially with crucial tasks such as tracking code or structured data mark up.

A Few SEO Hacks 

Unfortunately, there will be times when getting the required support for your SEO recommendations just isn’t going to happen, in the short term or maybe even indefinitely. In these instances, there are a few ways you can get at least some improvements made without this support.

Tag Injection

If you are able to get Google Tag Manager or a similar product added to the site, then this could help you to add certain things to the site. These include:

  • JavaScript (into site header via data layer)
  • Structured Data
  • HTML Tags (canonical, noindex etc)
  • jQuery

100% Tests

Although not an ideal solution in the long term, something you may want to consider is 100% tests using website optimisation platforms such as Optimizely or VWO. These can help you create a great case for implementation if the tests are successful and you will of course not require developers to make your changes.

a/b tests

This could be perfect in the interim period whilst you wait for development resource to make your changes or in extreme cases, you may choose to just leave these tests in place for good.

These tools can be used to make significant changes such as a new menu or website structure and show decision makers just how effective your SEO changes can be.

Google Search Console

Don’t forget about Google Search Console either. Although only useful for the simpler recommendations you will make, it can be great for highlighting crucial data or restricting the crawling of URLs with certain parameters and reducing your crawl bloat.

Don’t Annoy Developers

Tying in somewhat with the opening section of the presentation is the idea of not annoying developers and therefore creating a turbulent working relationship. Some very quick ways of doing this are:

  • Not learning the CMS
  • Asking silly questions
  • Creating unnecessary work
  • Chasing implementation to quickly

By not doing things like this and putting the hard work in as an SEO, you can create a great relationship with your development resource and as a team, look great together.

The result of this will be great results for both developers and SEOs but ultimately, ROI for your brand or client which is of course the name of the game.


As a final point, full-service digital agencies should always do all they can do get development resource brought in-house.

If you have good full stack developers or perhaps a comprehensive team of front end and back end developers, then being able to sit around and discuss the challenges a site has, both in terms of SEO and user experience, is always going to yield the best results.

So, instead of spending weeks if not months battling with developmental resource this could be the prudent option.

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