How to get developers to implement SEO recommendations

By Michael King

The hardest problem in doing SEO isn’t the algorithm updates. It isn’t having access to the enterprise tools. It’s not even whether or not you have the experience to determine where to focus your efforts.

No, the hardest problem in SEO is getting developers to actually execute recommendations.

We all walk into projects hoping to discover an internal champion that can take the developers to lunch and buy them beers in hopes that our suggestions get turned into actions, but sometimes that champion doesn’t show up. In some cases, getting things done may require social engineering. In other cases, it just requires a degree in engineering.

Let’s talk about how you can be better prepared to get developers to act on your recommendations and drive some results.

The Anderson-Alderson scale of developers

First, let’s meet the players.

I like to think there are two opposite extremes in web developers, and I use two of my favorite characters to personify them. One is Thomas Anderson, whom you may remember from “The Matrix” before he became Neo.

Here’s how his boss describes him in the film: “You have a problem, Mr. Anderson. You think that you’re special. You believe that somehow the rules do not apply to you.”

Anderson developers are the type of employees who live on their own terms and only do things when they feel like it. They’re the mavericks that will argue with you on the merits of code style guides, why they left meta tags out of their custom-built CMS entirely, and why they will never implement AMP — meanwhile, not a single line of their code validates against the specifications they hold dear.

They’re also the developers who roll their eyes to your recommendations or talk about how they know all of the “SEO optimizations” you’re presenting, they just haven’t had the time to do them. Sure thing, Mr. Anderssssson.

On the other end of the spectrum you have Elliot Alderson.

For those of you who don’t watch “Mr. Robot,” Alderson is the type of person who will come into the office at 2:00 a.m. to fix things when they break, even going as far as to hop on the company jet that same night to dig into the network’s latest meltdown.

Alderson-type developers are itching to implement your recommendations right away. That’s not because they necessarily care about ranking, but because they care about being good at what they do.

This developer type is attentive and will call you out on your b.s. if you don’t know what you’re talking about. So don’t come in with recommendations about asynchronous JavaScript without understanding how it works.

Aldersons will also help you brainstorm the actual execution of a strong idea and how to help you get your recommendations prioritized in the black hole that is the dev queue. They’re likely to be aware of Google’s documentation, but recognize that it may not always be up to date and respect your experience, so they’ll ask for your thoughts before implementing something they’re unsure of.

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