Why Your Web Developer Isn’t Doing Your SEO. 

I want to talk to you about something I hear a lot!

I’ve been freelancing and running Yabber Marketing now for 7 years. In that time nearly every new client I meet begins with,

“SEO doesn’t work for us”, or “we’ve already invested in a tonne of SEO”.

“Great” I say. 

But, as the conversation continues, the reality of the situation starts to unravel. 

“Our web manager/developer looks after our SEO”, says the client.

“Ooh what tactics are they working on, can I take a look at their strategy?” I reply.

“There’s no strategy but our web developer has installed Yoast on our site and now we’ve got all of our keywords in the meta titles and meta descriptions,” they say.

“How’s that working out for you?” I ask.

“Not really made a lot of difference to be honest” client remarks. 

And here lies the problem. 

It’s a common misconception that Web Developers perform SEO and are responsible for it. And it’s a perception that needs to change. The truth is, no matter how much SEO knowledge or experience your web developer has, if they’re brandishing the title of Web Developer they are unlikely to have enough interest or enough time to be able to do your SEO properly. Similarly, just because I can create dynamite websites and write a little html, this does not make me a web developer. I’m lucky that I possess an interest in design and knowledge of how to create a good user experience

In order to change this warped perception that web developers can and should be doing SEO, we’re going to be taking a look at what SEO is and clarify the roles of both web developers and SEO experts. We’ll be looking at what they are responsible for and discovering why your web developer definitely isn’t doing your SEO.

So, if you’re looking at hiring a web developer, on the fence about SEO experts or simply want to get to the bottom of this argument, read on! Hopefully, next time you’re outsourcing work, this guide will help you get more bang for your bucks. 


What is a Web Developer?

Put simply, Web Developers design and maintain websites and applications. Depending on skills, knowledge and experience they will programme in languages such as HTML, CSS and Javascript to create front-end, or client-side components of a site. They can create web pages, user interfaces, and manage the hard-wired parts of your website like URL structure, menus and navigation, and ensure that designs are responsive. 

Web Developers are also responsible for back-end development. Back-end development includes working server-side in languages like Python, PHP and Node.js and often work with databases like MySQL. At the back-end level, developers work their magic to create logic and functionality that powers websites. This can include handling user input, processing data and integrating with external APIs to make your site communicate with external platforms. 

Like Yabber Marketing, some developers may also offer Custom App Design otherwise known as Web Application Development. By building bespoke, dynamic web applications that perform specific functions or provide interactive experiences, we’re able to remove a lot of the headaches associated with repetitive business processes and admin. Custom web-based software solutions include content management systems (CMS), e-commerce platforms, diary management, online booking systems and Customer Relationship Management systems (CRM). This requires a deeper understanding of programming frameworks, libraries, and database management.

Now here is where I get a little contradictory. URL structure, navigation, responsive design and user experience, and back-end development are all essential parts of SEO. Therefore, changes and optimisations made at this level (if they’re the right changes) will help with your SEO efforts. Let’s take a quick look at how each of these can help.


How can a web developer improve your SEO?

1. URL Structure: 

Well structured permalinks and URLs enhance crawlability and usability. For search engines it helps them to understand how content is structured and assist crawling and indexing efforts. Clear and descriptive URLs will also help them to understand the page topic and primary search term for a page, which can improve relevance and rank. For users, URLs can provide a clear and meaningful indication of what users can expect when they click a link. This will improve both the click-through-rate and overall onsite experience.


2. Responsive Design:

Since Google started prioritising mobile-first indexing, responsive design has become a crucial aspect of SEO. Google predominantly uses the mobile version of a site’s content, for indexing and ranking. This is called mobile-first indexing. Therefore, if your site lacks a mobile friendly design, content goes off the page, and doesn’t provide a great experience on devices, then you can expect some kind of ranking penalty. Thanks to responsive page building most web designers can carry out this task, but it’s always useful to have developers on hand for more complex, bespoke designs. 


3. Compression and Speed:

Speed is another crucial part of SEO. Since search engines only want to suggest the best performing websites to their customers, it’s no surprise that the highest ranking sites in the world load within 1.9 seconds. Plus, conversion rates are three times higher on ecommerce sites that load within 1 second, so you’ll want to ensure that your site loads and serves content quickly. By optimising images, using efficient code and minifying assets, web developers play a crucial role in keeping sites quick and nimble. 


4. Structured Data Markup:

Back-end developers can assist in implementing structured data markup, such as Schema.org markup, on web pages. Structured data helps search engines better understand the content and context of the page. This can result in being rewarded with rich snippets or enhanced search results. Back-end developers can add structured data markup to HTML code to provide additional information to search engines.

At this point, you’re probably thinking that Web Developers are pretty useful! They are! However, when is comes to SEO all of these tactics are just one part of a much broader set of SEO tactics that should be used to promote your site. These tactics are referred to as technical SEO, and while they are vital for results they are only one-third of what we should be doing. Additionally, without a clear SEO strategy put together by an SEO expert, developers may have difficulty in identifying what to optimise. 


The Role of An SEO Specialist.

SEO experts, specialists or SEOers (whatever you want to call them), have a real mixed spectrum of expertise, capabilities and beliefs. But broadly speaking SEO experts will audit sites, competitors and industries, pull together reports on technical, off page and on page SEO errors, monitor and report on changes to traffic and conversions and will always have an eye on what position your site is achieving on search engines. Again, depending on expertise and function they may even implement the tactics and strategies they develop.


Here is what an SEO specialist is responsible for.


1. Keyword Research:

If you’ve got a website you’ll want to appear on search engine result pages (SERPs) for keywords that are relevant to your business and your offering. For example, a dog grooming business will probably want to target dog grooming related search terms that are location specific. For example, ‘dog groomers near me’, or dog groomers in Leicester’. 

Done correctly, keyword research is a fairly niche specialism. Many SEOs will utilise a range of different tactics for finding the best keywords, and devise a list consisting of both short and long-tail search terms. Ultimately, they will be looking for ‘the best search terms’. These have high relevance, low competition and are packed with commercial intent. The keywords strategy forms the foundational seed from which all other SEO tactics sprout from.


2. Keyword Implementation:

Once a keyword strategy has been established, your website will need to be optimised correctly to successfully target these search terms. For this, search terms need to be incorporated into page titles, URLs, page copy and image alt tags. They’ll also need to be written into persuasive and concise title tags and meta descriptions that will entice and encourage action. Ideally your SEO specialist will have some distinctive copywriting skills too. 


3. Internal Link Building:

The keyword strategy also plays a vital role in knowing how and where to include internal links on your site. Internal link building is the act of naturally placing links to other pages, products and content within your site. Internal links not only help search engines to crawl and index your site and gain a better understanding of your content, they also pass important link juice (rank value) between pages.


4. Content Creation:

Content Creation is another crucial element of SEO. Building content on your page allows you to convey your message, your brand story, and more importantly, it gives you the opportunity to show that you’re the expert within your field. The aim of creating content should always be to add value to your site. Be sure to answer specific questions and pain points that your customers have to build trust and authority. From an SEO perspective, content should be comprehensive, better than the content put out by competitor’s and target those all important keywords. 

Building content isn’t just about blogs either! Content managers are increasingly having to rely on developing shareable infographics, eye-catching  images, and high quality videos to accompany their written content as a way of outdoing the competition. These also help to  increase dwell time and help to create a great online experience. Take a look our guide to unlocking the power of content marketing.


5. Off Page SEO:

A fast and well optimised website with a great keyword strategy is never enough. To achieve high rankings, search engines will assess how much ‘trust’ or domain authority your site has and take this into account when deciding where to rank your website. Trust and domain authority is made up of a number of different factors like, how old your domain name is, the number of external links pointing to your site and – arguably – how active you are on social media. 

Basically off-page SEO refers to all marketing activities and efforts that take place away from your site. This can include:


  • Guest Blogging: Writing in-depth articles and blogs, authored by you, but published on other sites
  • Direct outreach: Asking for other sites to mention your article or link to your website
  • Directory Listing: Adding your business profile and website to external directories like Google My Business, Yell, Yelp and Bing Places

Most SEO professionals agree that Social Media activity and likes are not a ranking factor. Meaning, Google does not take into account the number of likes and followers you have to determine where your site should rank. However, SEO experts also agree that a good social media strategy can and WILL have a huge impact on your ability to rank higher. 

Since social media helps to raise awareness of your brand and allows you to share content, it essentially helps to drive traffic to your site. It may also result in people directly searching for your site. Traffic from social media channels again help search engines understand how people interact with your site and its content. 

On top of these responsibilities SEO requires constant monitoring, evaluation and assessment. Here are just some of the elements that will be under constant scrutiny.  

Web traffic:

Monitoring web traffic rises and fluctuations provide a clear understanding of what’s working and what isn’t. If there is specific content that attracts visitors, make more of the same or keep it updated. SEOs may also want to share this more widely with external sites because they have the proof to show how popular it is. 

Click Through Rate (CTR):

CTR is calculated by dividing the number of impressions your site receives with the number of people that click through to your site. If this rate is low or starts to decline, SEOs may look at rewriting meta descriptions and title tags to make them more relevant and enticing. 

Position Ranking:

SEOs and website owners get obsessed with rank position. For clients it is the main metric they use to determine whether you’re doing a good job with their SEO. Clients will want their most valuable search terms to appear near to the top of Google and SEOs are responsible for monitoring keyword position movement and fluctuations. If they start to move the wrong way, SEO experts will have to be responsive and devise a new plan for getting it back into the top positions. 


Your web developer isn’t doing your SEO

There is no doubt that web developers play a crucial role in search engine optimisation. The best performing sites are quick, responsive and well structured, and these are all areas that can fall under the jurisdiction of a web developer. But these are just a few of the many aspects that need nurturing and constant management in order to outrank your competitors. 

Don’t get me wrong, web developers are invaluable to the success of your site. However, I have never, ever worked with a developer that would necessarily be proactively checking back-end and onsite technical elements. Then again, it isn’t necessarily within the scope of their job or their remit. Not unless the web developer you’re working with is part of a dedicated SEO team.

SEO requires a holistic approach. All technical, on page and off page aspects need attention fuelled by a clear strategy for success. In fact the on page and off page SEO elements mentioned above are so massive and have such a huge impact on your site that these SEO tactics are often delivered by experts with key specialisms in link building or content creation and strategy.   

So, next time your web developer tells you they are doing SEO or you think that web management is all that is required for success, just remember how much is involved with SEO. There are many elements to SEO and each requires unique skills and specialisms. If you want to enhance your site, achieve better rankings and attract more visitors, then hire an SEO expert who works directly with, or has access to, fantastic web developers like ours. Developers for Hire also have a fantastic guide to hiring great freelance SEO developers. If you have any questions, then just drop me a message. 

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