Developer Grade SEO


Findability Flower

A few months ago a friend of mine asked me if I knew of any SEO training specifically for web developers. I didn’t know of any off the top of my head, so I also asked around to a bunch of Twitter friends in the search industry – nobody knew of any.

It got me thinking about what a missed opportunity this is. The truth is that the way your website is constructed is ground zero for good search engine optimization. If your website is conceived and constructed without SEO in mind, it can sometimes be impossible to fix it without tearing it to the ground.

I decided to talk about the idea at the Raleigh SEO Meetup. It was a packed house that night and people came in from as far away as Charlotte. I was definitely on to something worthwhile.

I continued to work on my presentation over the weeks between the meetup and ConvergeSouth where I’m presenting on the same topic. I felt like I hadn’t offered enough details at the Meetup so I kept adding more.

The problem stems from the fact that everyone seems to hate the SEO person. The developer hates that they’re forced to modify code after the fact, the copywriter hates being forced to use keywords X number of times on a page.

I propose a new world order where SEO’s live in harmony with their co-workers and ride a unicorn over the double-rainbow to find the pot-o-gold!

That dream can only be realized if optimizer and developer can get together at the beginning of the project. Developers have to understand the importance of well written semantic html, microdata, ajax, title tags, header tags, bold and italics and how all that factors into an optimized site.

None of this is rocket science, but it requires web developers to go beyond the basic blocking and tackling of code. They need to start looking at the bigger issues like information architecture, structured data and content life-cycle.

If you’re doing web development, take a look at this checklist and tell me how many of the items you can check off as “done done done” on your last project.

  1. I know the purpose of the website
  2. I know what pages are the most important
  3. I know where conversions will take place
  4. I have a full understand of the lifespan of this site
  5. I have built it to grow over time
  6. The Information Architecture is solid and logical
  7. Internal linking strategy is solid and logical
  8. The html validates at W3C
  9. I have thought through the robots.txt and it’s implications
  10. I have built a sitemap
  11. I have integrated analytics at a base level
  12. I have event tracking implemented to track as much as possible
  13. The site is indexable
  14. I have proper canonicalization
  15. I use a little markup as possible
  16. I have tested the site in multiple browsers
  17. I have tested the site on multiple mobile devices
  18. I have tested the site in Lynx/seo-browser/Fetch as Googlebot
  19. I am allowing search engines to fetch my ajax content in some manner
  20. I am using microdata/rich snippets.RFDa
  21. I have integrated social media sharing where it makes sense
  22. I have made A/B testing as simple as possible the way I built the site
  23. I have added the site to Google and Bing’s Webmaster Tools
  24. I built a custom 404 page
  25. I know the difference between 301 redirects and 302 redirects and am using them properly
  26. I have a plan for if the site goes down

More importantly, can you ask these questions before starting your next project?

Here’s the slides from my Developer Grade SEO presentation at ConvergeSouth 2011:

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