Narrowing The Communication Gap Between SEOs And Developers

Brandon Buttars
Brandon Buttars

A long time friend of mine, who also happens to be a web developer recently took some time to answer some questions for me.  He and I have noticed there is a huge communication gap between most web developers and SEOs/Internet marketers.  We feel that the web developer thinks that they know how to build the site “good enough” without talking to an SEO, and the SEOs assume the developers don’t have a clue about marketing online.  Both are wrong. You each bring something amazing to the table and need each other.  I think we need to have some better communication from the very start and to kick things off, and get you thinking differently – here is my interview of Brandon Buttars, web developer.

When it comes to the design and development process, what is the most frustrating thing for a designer in regards to working with an SEO Firm?

I’ve found that as a designer the company and/or the SEO firm does not give a good guideline for what elements need to be included on the different types of pages. This makes it hard to design and you usually don’t find out what elements they want until a couple critiques in and hours after the fact. If you, as an SEO or company, can give your developers and designers some detailed direction you will end up with a more complete vision.

How could SEOs/Internet marketers do a better job at making what you do easier?

I think the details are necessary up front to make things move quickly. This will cut down on development iterations and design revisions. If the SEO or company you are developing for uses phrases like, “you know what I mean”, then the person saying, “you know what I mean”, most likely doesn’t know what they themselves mean. If any part of the design/development/SEO is run on assumptions there will be problems. Everything needs to be spelled out. If the SEOs need specific features spec them out with as much detail as possible, that includes placeholder content. Do not critique the placeholder content! Be willing to communicate about things too. Even your specs may be a rough draft. Work together to define the final specs.

What does the SEO need to know about the technical developer?

First thing is first, web design and web development/programming is different. Understand what you need. Do you need a web designer, a web developer, or both. Developers often times speak different languages. They live often times in foreign worlds that are much different than the SEO or regular person lives in. When developing web applications and designing user interfaces, everything said is taken literally. Be straight forward in your requests and don’t pretend to understand developers unless you are one yourself. I’ve found that some of the best developers out there have the least amount of patience when it comes to clients and people. If you communicate clearly to your developers they will deliver clearly what you want. If you don’t and pretend they didn’t deliver something you forgot to tell them to deliver, get ready for a pissing match. Developers are often times meticulous in details so if they forgot it you most likely didn’t give it to them in documentation.

How can developers and internet marketers bridge the gap in communication to make things run smoother in the design/development process?

One thing that people often times need to realize is that the cost of a project is eaten up by communication. When communication is made developers and SEOs need to understand that it’s costing both sides money and time. Realize that the more you insist on communicating the more the project is going to cost so realize if the initial cost of the project goes up because of unanticipated communication and unnecessary meetings, don’t be surprised. If both parties would come to the initial planning meeting prepared to ask questions and also prepared to answer questions then things would be hashed out much quicker and communication later in the process would be minimal. I think both sides need to understand who they are talking to. They need to understand who is responsible for what. Documentation is the key. When things are documented you have the ability from both sides to hold people accountable, but understand that when communication slips and delivery slips, you have lost all recourse for a launch date. If you say you are going to do something by a specific date, do it.

Is there anything else you want to tell us internet marketing folks now that the cards are on the table?

I think anyone, whether an internet marketer or not, needs to come to the table prepared with a clear vision of what they want out of the site. With a clear guide on what technical requirements there are to do the internet marketing you need to do. A developer and designer can be your best friend or your worst enemy. Go out of your way to communicate what your requirements are, but be open to help explain those requirements and details to the developers. There are more ways to skin a cat than just one, the developers may have a better way of doing things if you can explain to them why you are doing them.

Do developers even care about SEO?

Most good programming practices lead to good SEO. When you validate HTML code it will often times tell you what you are missing and what code has been written incorrectly, so to a degree all programmers care about SEO. Not all programmers understand how SEO works, but most of them understand why it’s done and what technical elements it takes (meta tags, title tags, alt tags).

Do developers like internet marketing folks?

They don’t hate them. I like to compare it to camping. You go to enjoy the outdoors and to relax. You respect other campers that are around you and try to keep it clean and a better place for those around you. Then there are those campers who come up to camp hooting and hollering around their campfire all night, smashing beer bottles everywhere, and leaving the campground with a burning fire, and a pile of garbage. As long as you are a SEO who leaves the internet with good results and not full of a bunch of irrelevant results, I think most programmers and most people in general respect those SEOs.  As long as you respect the internet and try to preserve search engine integrity you deserve respect.


Brandon Buttars
Brandon Buttars

Brandon Buttars has 11 years of web design experience, 4 years of experience working directly with web development teams, and 4 years of SEO experience. His love is CSS, XHTML, and graphic design. He currently works as Online Media Marketing manager for PMA Media Group, My Colleges and Careers Online Education, Renevati Lead Verification, and Offer Alliance Affiliate Marketing. He is a social media nut and loves using Twitter.

10 thoughts on “Narrowing The Communication Gap Between SEOs And Developers

  1. ToddySM says:

    Interesting post:) And you are right – both, SEO and Developer are wrong. However I would not agree with the statement that Developers don’t hate marketers – they actually do 🙂 I know, I know, I am exaggerating but I think it is a long way from both sides to meet in the middle. My advices to them are: 1.) you both have your expertise – build on that and don’t try to rule with it and 2.) try to learn about the challenges of the other side – if you are marketer, try to learn what is involved in the implementation; if you are developer, try to learn what is the marketer looking for – thus both of you will have respect from each other.

    ToddySM’s last blog post..The Use…lessness of Analytics Teams

  2. Patrick says:

    At, we find that the most successful projects have business stakeholders, business analyst, web developer, web designer, user experience designer, SEO specialist, work together from the get-go.

    Smaller projects will have one person playing several of these roles, but the earlier in the project life cycle all these specialties are involved, the higher the likelihood of success. A business analyst can be of great help bridging the communication gap that some times is created between web developers and SEOs/Internet marketers (after all, they are trained to translate between technical and business language).

  3. Jeff Internet Marketing says:

    Let me explain it too you simply… I remember I was with a client who has his own developer and I was helping him out with his property site. The developer said “I am not interested in learning SEO”. Then his boss said, “well its like this, if you want to earn big money, learn SEO with Jeff”.

    I think this tells the true story betweendevelopers and SEO guys

  4. Mark Vozzo says:

    Excellent post Mat & Brandon – well done. I have worked back-n-forth on both sides of the spectrum. I started out in Web Development, then SEO and now Web Analytics. I’ve worked on both sides and was in roles where I had to deal with people on the other side.

    It is a challenge – it’s like The Arts vs. The Sciences analogy. The Marketers and SEO practitioners come up with the fancy fluffy creative concepts and keyword lists etc. The developers apply skill and tenacity in producing quality code that validates and renders efficiently in multiple browsers and instrument web analytics tag for measurement etc. I know this is an over-simplification, but the point I’m trying to make is – there is a big difference, a totally different mindset.

    To @ToddySM’s point – there needs to be some effort made by both parties to learn what’s involved in doing the work of the other.

    I try to do this everyday… If I’m dealing with web developer and speaking with Marketers, I’ve got to think like a Marketer. When I’m providing SEO recommendation to Web Developers, I’ve got to think in terms of code.

    Great article guys, keep up the good content flowing.

    Mark Vozzo

  5. Roshan says:

    very insightful article to try to bridge the two groups. After all both are working on the same website or application, so it makes sense that they communicate rather than think of each other as different species.