Wednesday, July 22, 2009

High Impact/Low Effort SEO from a Developer's Perspective

Posted by jennita on July 22nd, 2009

When was the last time you had a heated discussion with your developer? Or better yet, when was the last time they rolled their eyes at you when you asked them to make some sort of change to the website? My guess is that it probably hasn't been all that long. Or has it? A higher probability is actually that you work with some wicked smart developers who blow your mind away with their sheer awesomeness!

Recently, there was a post over on YOUmoz about the naivete and misconceptions that developers have about SEOs written by cyberpunkdreams. He had gotten into a conversation with a group of developers who thought that SEOs were spammers and were only out to get bad sites at the top of the rankings. The dialogue on this topic is interesting, because at the same time that developers are thinking we're a bunch of spammers, we, as SEOs also have misconceptions about developers in general.

Sure, there are many developers out there who may not specifically focus on SEO, nor do they have a keen knowledge of everything that goes into ranking well. But they are no dummies. They often are very analytical and can think through problems or come up with excellent solutions to issues. They can create an algorithm that will take 8 different pieces of data from the database and build dynamic title tags with length restrictions, keyword usage, and anything else you want to throw at them. Without our technical counterparts, our jobs would be pretty boring, since half of the tasks we need completed, we can't do on our own.

With all this said, I decided to run a little test and find out what developers felt were the top 5 changes they could make to a website to provide high SEO impact and value with a low level of effort. I set out on a mission to contact developers through Twitter, Faceboook, email and IM. As I'm writing this I'm wondering now if they wondered what the heck I was asking them this question for. Little did they know they were going to be quoted in this post. :)

Top 5 SEO Changes

This list is derived directly from the responses I received via Twitter, Facebook, IM and email from 13 different developers. With that, here's a list of ways developers can optimize their site for highest impact, with the lowest amount of effort, from their perspectives.

  1. Title Tag
    This was overwhelmingly the top response by most of the developers. Many of them specifically mentioned building dynamic title tags, and not just hand coding each page.
    Reference: Best Practices for Title Tags

  2. Canonical URL Tag
    Multiple people mentioned the canonical URL tag which I found very exciting. In the SEO world we all got super giddy when this tag came out, and it's great to know that it has surfaced as an important feature for developers as well.
    Reference: Canonical URL Tag - The Most Important Advancement in SEO Practices Since Sitemaps
  1. Permalinks
    Get your URLs right! I built dynamic URLs for years that were not user friendly at all. There are so many options to rewrite and redirect your URLs, and many CMS's are getting more and more SEO savvy.
    Reference: Dynamic URLs vs. Static URLs - The Best Practice for SEO is Still Clear

  2. Robots.txt
    Although the robots.txt file is there to help a site owner make sure that the right areas are being crawled, if it set up incorrectly it could do more damage than it's worth. The theme from the developers was to make sure that you don't have "Disallow: /" or are in some way blocking access to relevant areas of the site.
    Reference: Managing Robot’s Access To Your Website - From

  3. Image Alt Tags
    For me, this should actually be moved further up the list. This is a big one, as we've been talking about lately that keyword rich (not spammy) image alt tags correlate with higher rankings. Now before you go and get all huffy, puffy about this one, watch the Whiteboard Friday about Correlation, Causation and SEO.
WOW! Blows your mind right? Nope. Not so much. Developers actually DO live on the same planet with SEOs. In fact this list might very well have come from any one of us. Developers are knowledgeable. Be sure to give them the credit they deserve for knowing the things you don't. The beauty in the SEO/developer relationship is that they shouldn't have to know everything you know, and you shouldn't have to know everything they know. :)

Also worth noting, but didn't make the top 5 list, were dynamic meta tags, internal linking, valid X(HTML), URL Hierarchy and fixing bad navigation.


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