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How SEOs and Developers Can Work Better Together

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How SEOs and Developers Can Work Better Together

The author’s views are entirely their own (excluding the unlikely event of hypnosis) and may not always reflect the views of Moz.

This is part one of a three-part series with Helen Pollitt on how to work better with folks within your company.

SEOs and developers need to work better together. Understand how to communicate with each other in a way that fits into each other’s processes. By doing so, you can safeguard your organic traffic while also safeguarding your entire website.

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Hi, I’m Helen, head of SEO at Car & Classic, and today we’re going to look at how SEOs and developers can work better together. Now, I’d spend some time explaining to you why developers and SEOs need to work better together, but it’s kind of obvious really. Developers have the opportunity to make our lives so much better by quickly implementing that fix to load speed or making our lives so much worse by accidentally rolling out some code that completely de-indexes the website.

But actually, we can really help developers as well because we have the opportunity to give them data into usability and accessibility. It’s actually quite important that we work well together. Now, you often hear people say that if you want to get on well with your developers, you need to bribe them with doughnuts, which is a little bit insulting and a lot expensive because who has that kind of doughnut money just hanging around?

But actually, we need to work out how we can form a really good working relationship with developers that doesn’t rely solely on baked goods. How do we do that?

Understand processes

Understand processes

Well, first off, we need to start by understanding their processes, because essentially if we’re asking them to do things for us, we need to make sure that we are communicating in a way that fits into their processes.

So learn how to brief in your requirements in a way that helps them to prioritize and plan your work. So what is it that they do at the moment? Do they have a ticketing system that they use that they put all of their requirements in, and it allows it to be monitored as it moves through the process? Or do they have some other way that they track the work that they’re doing? But make sure that you are putting in your requirements and your requests in the format that works for them.

There’s no point just shooting over an email to them, asking them to fix something if it doesn’t actually make it into their work. So what else do you need to do? You need to look at where you have briefed things in the past and it’s not really worked out well. So perhaps mistakes were made, there was a misunderstanding, a problem with communication. Have a look through some of the tickets that you’ve submitted in the past and look to see whether there are reasons why they got rejected or misunderstood.

What do you need to do to clarify things when you’re briefing in work for your developers? Perhaps you can look at other teams and what they do when they are briefing in work for the developers. Maybe you can understand how they are structuring their tickets or whether there’s a particular terminology they use to help communicate things to the devs better. But learn from where other people are doing it better as well as where you’ve not done it so well in the past, and hopefully you’ll come up with a really good way of helping your developers understand what work you want them to do.

Look at things like their work cadence. So do they commit to doing work two weeks in advance? Do they commit to a whole month worth of work before they get going? Or do they have some slightly confusing mix of agile and waterfall that essentially means no one knows what work they’re doing, but it has to be done right now? Whatever way your developers have their work planned in for them, make sure that you are aware of it because that cadence is going to be really important.

If you want something done and you need it done soon, then you’re probably going to have to see if you can get it prioritized in order for it to be in this sprint or the next sprint, for example. You want to know what kind of time frames that they’re working to. How much time is your ticket going to take? So if you’ve asked them to do something really complicated on the website, it’s going to take a lot more time, testing, and resources for that to actually be rolled out.

So make sure that you’ve got that planned in for your own schedule of work. Finally, what you do if everything explodes on the website and you need to get it fixed right now? So say the entire website has been de-indexed somehow. Are you supposed to just put a ticket in and wait for two weeks for the next sprint for it to get fixed? That doesn’t sound like a good idea. So how do you escalate when there are some real serious, critical issues that you’ve identified?

Do you have to put a ticket into a different work stream? Do you have to talk to someone in particular about it? Do you just have to run around the office screaming a little bit until someone pays attention to you? What is the way that you get your tickets escalated at your company or at your client’s company?

Train colleagues in SEO

SEO training

Next, look at some training. What are the common things that your developers run into when they are being asked by the SEOs to implement work?

So are there problems with pagination often that you’re asking them to fix, or they’re implementing links in a way that isn’t particularly SEO friendly? Can you just train them in this kind of stuff in advance so that they are already equipped to know how to do things from an SEO perspective, rather than waiting for you to say, “You did that wrong”? Maybe you can put together a repository of these documents. So actually, why don’t you write this kind of stuff down?

So whenever you tell someone how to implement pagination in an SEO-friendly way, write it down, give the context of what it is that you asked them to do and how that was fixed, so that they can refer back to it, other members of the team can refer back to it, and actually all the SEOs are on board and making sure that they are recommending the same ways of working in the future. If you want to train your developers, they’re busy.

They’re busy people. They might not have an hour or two hours for you to go through the intricacies of how websites are crawled by search engines. Is there an alternative way that you can train them? Look at things like, how do they train each other actually? Do they send over videos? Do they write it all down? Do they have a real quick 15 minutes distilling of information?

How do they train each other? How do they upskill themselves? See if you can conduct your training in a similar way.

Get an SEO Q&A process in place

SEO QA process

Really important to making sure that you’re working well with your developers is getting some kind of SEO QA process in place. So this means things like being tagged in the tickets that are being taken through the development process. So it might be that developers aren’t aware of things that could be affecting SEO, and therefore if they can just tag you on the tickets, you can go in and check to see whether there’s any SEO impact or any input that you need to have.

You can also assign a point person. So perhaps there’s a project manager or there’s an engineering lead within the development team that you can always go to and make sure that you have an SEO that they can always come to. That way, you’ve got a point person, a point of contact between both teams, so whenever there is any kind of confusion or discussion around tickets or priorities, they’re getting one message from one person and you’re not confusing the situation with lots of voices all chipping in.

Make sure whatever happens, you have the authority to stop something being rolled out. Make sure that you’ve spoken to the right stakeholders so that you have that authority to say no to something being implemented, because it’s all very well being tagged in a ticket or being told of future developments, but actually, if you’re not allowed to say, “Hold on, we need to change how we’re implementing this,” then it’s kind of useless and a waste of your time.

Ultimately, you don’t want something to get rolled out that is going to have a really negative impact on your organic visibility just for it to have to get fixed or rolled back at a later date. You want to be able to say no before it’s rolled out in the first place.

Get buy-in from your developer team

Getting buy-in

Last up, how do you get buy-in from your development team? Well, I once gave a survey to a whole bunch of developers asking them what they needed from the SEO team to work better with them, and of the two developers that actually responded to my survey, they both said they wanted more context around the tickets that we were putting in.

They want to know why we’re asking for stuff, not just what it is we’re asking for. So if you’re asking for your developers to implement hreflang tags on a website, make sure that you are telling them why. What is it that you are trying to end up with? What do you want from the hreflang tags? So that they understand the context and they can perhaps suggest better ways of doing things, or they can make sure that wherever they are implementing SEO changes is not negatively affecting the website in other ways.

Our job as SEOs is to safeguard organic traffic, and their job as website developers is to safeguard the entire website. So they probably want to know why we’re making changes so that they can check it’s not going to have any adverse effects. Make sure you understand their ways of working. So if they like to communicate through emails or instant messaging services, or perhaps they like to only communicate about tickets within the ticketing system itself, so they’ve got a nice audit trail that anyone can refer back to, try and make sure that you’re working in a similar way so that your recommendations and your advice and your questions don’t get missed.

If they’re only checking the tickets to see what people are commenting on or asking and you’re sending the emails through, then chances are that the right people aren’t going to see the things that you’re commenting on. Try and get yourself an SEO champion, and this is kind of good advice for any of the teams that you’re working with, but make sure that you have a person within the development team or your client’s agency that really wants to know more about SEO, that really gets SEO and wants to improve their understanding of it, because if you have someone who’s really keen to learn more, perhaps they did SEO a bit in a previous job or they just have an interest in it, then you’ve got a person who’s probably going to be on your side when you are asking for things like changes in ways of working or for a whole new process to be implemented.

If you have a champion, someone in the development team that wants to learn more from you, that you can perhaps mentor a bit in SEO, then you’re going to have someone who’s really keen to help you. Look at the tools and data that you have access to as SEOs that your development team doesn’t, and see whether there’s data they’d actually find quite valuable. Yes, they can interrogate a database, but they don’t necessarily have the tools to crawl a website in the same way that we do, for example, and it might be that they want to find information and understand how a search engine is perceiving something.

So you can either train them in using things like Google Search Console, or you can give them access to the data instead. But make sure that you are communicating with them the data that they will find useful because it’s a great way of getting buy-in. Show them the results of their work. So if they have done something that’s greatly improved Core Web Vitals, show them. They’re going to want to see all the green ticks just like we do.

So maybe you can communicate and give updates regularly to the development team after they’ve completed a ticket of what impact it had. Maybe it improved rankings. Maybe it helped with usability. What is it that their work did that had a very positive effect on SEO? You can even go as far as giving them scores and feedback on it because they want to learn, they want to get better at their jobs, and if SEO is a part of that, then you kind of need to give them feedback so they know where to improve.

So thank you so much for listening. I’m going to go and find myself a doughnut. Is there a doughnut shop? Have you got a doughnut shop around here?

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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Why We Are Always ‘Clicking to Buy’, According to Psychologists

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Why We Are Always 'Clicking to Buy', According to Psychologists

Amazon pillows.

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A deeper dive into data, personalization and Copilots

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A deeper dive into data, personalization and Copilots

Salesforce launched a collection of new, generative AI-related products at Connections in Chicago this week. They included new Einstein Copilots for marketers and merchants and Einstein Personalization.

To better understand, not only the potential impact of the new products, but the evolving Salesforce architecture, we sat down with Bobby Jania, CMO, Marketing Cloud.

Dig deeper: Salesforce piles on the Einstein Copilots

Salesforce’s evolving architecture

It’s hard to deny that Salesforce likes coming up with new names for platforms and products (what happened to Customer 360?) and this can sometimes make the observer wonder if something is brand new, or old but with a brand new name. In particular, what exactly is Einstein 1 and how is it related to Salesforce Data Cloud?

“Data Cloud is built on the Einstein 1 platform,” Jania explained. “The Einstein 1 platform is our entire Salesforce platform and that includes products like Sales Cloud, Service Cloud — that it includes the original idea of Salesforce not just being in the cloud, but being multi-tenancy.”

Data Cloud — not an acquisition, of course — was built natively on that platform. It was the first product built on Hyperforce, Salesforce’s new cloud infrastructure architecture. “Since Data Cloud was on what we now call the Einstein 1 platform from Day One, it has always natively connected to, and been able to read anything in Sales Cloud, Service Cloud [and so on]. On top of that, we can now bring in, not only structured but unstructured data.”

That’s a significant progression from the position, several years ago, when Salesforce had stitched together a platform around various acquisitions (ExactTarget, for example) that didn’t necessarily talk to each other.

“At times, what we would do is have a kind of behind-the-scenes flow where data from one product could be moved into another product,” said Jania, “but in many of those cases the data would then be in both, whereas now the data is in Data Cloud. Tableau will run natively off Data Cloud; Commerce Cloud, Service Cloud, Marketing Cloud — they’re all going to the same operational customer profile.” They’re not copying the data from Data Cloud, Jania confirmed.

Another thing to know is tit’s possible for Salesforce customers to import their own datasets into Data Cloud. “We wanted to create a federated data model,” said Jania. “If you’re using Snowflake, for example, we more or less virtually sit on your data lake. The value we add is that we will look at all your data and help you form these operational customer profiles.”

Let’s learn more about Einstein Copilot

“Copilot means that I have an assistant with me in the tool where I need to be working that contextually knows what I am trying to do and helps me at every step of the process,” Jania said.

For marketers, this might begin with a campaign brief developed with Copilot’s assistance, the identification of an audience based on the brief, and then the development of email or other content. “What’s really cool is the idea of Einstein Studio where our customers will create actions [for Copilot] that we hadn’t even thought about.”

Here’s a key insight (back to nomenclature). We reported on Copilot for markets, Copilot for merchants, Copilot for shoppers. It turns out, however, that there is just one Copilot, Einstein Copilot, and these are use cases. “There’s just one Copilot, we just add these for a little clarity; we’re going to talk about marketing use cases, about shoppers’ use cases. These are actions for the marketing use cases we built out of the box; you can build your own.”

It’s surely going to take a little time for marketers to learn to work easily with Copilot. “There’s always time for adoption,” Jania agreed. “What is directly connected with this is, this is my ninth Connections and this one has the most hands-on training that I’ve seen since 2014 — and a lot of that is getting people using Data Cloud, using these tools rather than just being given a demo.”

What’s new about Einstein Personalization

Salesforce Einstein has been around since 2016 and many of the use cases seem to have involved personalization in various forms. What’s new?

“Einstein Personalization is a real-time decision engine and it’s going to choose next-best-action, next-best-offer. What is new is that it’s a service now that runs natively on top of Data Cloud.” A lot of real-time decision engines need their own set of data that might actually be a subset of data. “Einstein Personalization is going to look holistically at a customer and recommend a next-best-action that could be natively surfaced in Service Cloud, Sales Cloud or Marketing Cloud.”

Finally, trust

One feature of the presentations at Connections was the reassurance that, although public LLMs like ChatGPT could be selected for application to customer data, none of that data would be retained by the LLMs. Is this just a matter of written agreements? No, not just that, said Jania.

“In the Einstein Trust Layer, all of the data, when it connects to an LLM, runs through our gateway. If there was a prompt that had personally identifiable information — a credit card number, an email address — at a mimum, all that is stripped out. The LLMs do not store the output; we store the output for auditing back in Salesforce. Any output that comes back through our gateway is logged in our system; it runs through a toxicity model; and only at the end do we put PII data back into the answer. There are real pieces beyond a handshake that this data is safe.”

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Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads (And How To Fix It)

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Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads (And How To Fix It)

Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To

You ask the head of marketing how the team is doing and get a giant thumbs up. 👍

“Our MQLs are up!”

“Website conversion rates are at an all-time high!”

“Email click rates have never been this good!”

But when you ask the head of sales the same question, you get the response that echoes across sales desks worldwide — the leads from marketing suck. 

If you’re in this boat, you’re not alone. The issue of “leads from marketing suck” is a common situation in most organizations. In a HubSpot survey, only 9.1% of salespeople said leads they received from marketing were of very high quality.

Why do sales teams hate marketing-generated leads? And how can marketers help their sales peers fall in love with their leads? 

Let’s dive into the answers to these questions. Then, I’ll give you my secret lead gen kung-fu to ensure your sales team loves their marketing leads. 

Marketers Must Take Ownership

“I’ve hit the lead goal. If sales can’t close them, it’s their problem.”

How many times have you heard one of your marketers say something like this? When your teams are heavily siloed, it’s not hard to see how they get to this mindset — after all, if your marketing metrics look strong, they’ve done their part, right?

Not necessarily. 

The job of a marketer is not to drive traffic or even leads. The job of the marketer is to create messaging and offers that lead to revenue. Marketing is not a 100-meter sprint — it’s a relay race. The marketing team runs the first leg and hands the baton to sales to sprint to the finish.

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via GIPHY

To make leads valuable beyond the vanity metric of watching your MQLs tick up, you need to segment and nurture them. Screen the leads to see if they meet the parameters of your ideal customer profile. If yes, nurture them to find out how close their intent is to a sale. Only then should you pass the leads to sales. 

Lead Quality Control is a Bitter Pill that Works

Tighter quality control might reduce your overall MQLs. Still, it will ensure only the relevant leads go to sales, which is a win for your team and your organization.

This shift will require a mindset shift for your marketing team: instead of living and dying by the sheer number of MQLs, you need to create a collaborative culture between sales and marketing. Reinforce that “strong” marketing metrics that result in poor leads going to sales aren’t really strong at all.  

When you foster this culture of collaboration and accountability, it will be easier for the marketing team to receive feedback from sales about lead quality without getting defensive. 

Remember, the sales team is only holding marketing accountable so the entire organization can achieve the right results. It’s not sales vs marketing — it’s sales and marketing working together to get a great result. Nothing more, nothing less. 

We’ve identified the problem and where we need to go. So, how you do you get there?

Fix #1: Focus On High ROI Marketing Activities First

What is more valuable to you:

  • One more blog post for a few more views? 
  • One great review that prospective buyers strongly relate to?

Hopefully, you’ll choose the latter. After all, talking to customers and getting a solid testimonial can help your sales team close leads today.  Current customers talking about their previous issues, the other solutions they tried, why they chose you, and the results you helped them achieve is marketing gold.

On the other hand, even the best blog content will take months to gain enough traction to impact your revenue.

Still, many marketers who say they want to prioritize customer reviews focus all their efforts on blog content and other “top of the funnel” (Awareness, Acquisition, and Activation) efforts. 

The bottom half of the growth marketing funnel (Retention, Reputation, and Revenue) often gets ignored, even though it’s where you’ll find some of the highest ROI activities.

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Most marketers know retaining a customer is easier than acquiring a new one. But knowing this and working with sales on retention and account expansion are two different things. 

When you start focusing on retention, upselling, and expansion, your entire organization will feel it, from sales to customer success. These happier customers will increase your average account value and drive awareness through strong word of mouth, giving you one heck of a win/win.

Winning the Retention, Reputation, and Referral game also helps feed your Awareness, Acquisition, and Activation activities:

  • Increasing customer retention means more dollars stay within your organization to help achieve revenue goals and fund lead gen initiatives.
  • A fully functioning referral system lowers your customer acquisition cost (CAC) because these leads are already warm coming in the door.
  • Case studies and reviews are powerful marketing assets for lead gen and nurture activities as they demonstrate how you’ve solved identical issues for other companies.

Remember that the bottom half of your marketing and sales funnel is just as important as the top half. After all, there’s no point pouring leads into a leaky funnel. Instead, you want to build a frictionless, powerful growth engine that brings in the right leads, nurtures them into customers, and then delights those customers to the point that they can’t help but rave about you.

So, build a strong foundation and start from the bottom up. You’ll find a better return on your investment. 

Fix #2: Join Sales Calls to Better Understand Your Target Audience

You can’t market well what you don’t know how to sell.

Your sales team speaks directly to customers, understands their pain points, and knows the language they use to talk about those pains. Your marketing team needs this information to craft the perfect marketing messaging your target audience will identify with.

When marketers join sales calls or speak to existing customers, they get firsthand introductions to these pain points. Often, marketers realize that customers’ pain points and reservations are very different from those they address in their messaging. 

Once you understand your ideal customers’ objections, anxieties, and pressing questions, you can create content and messaging to remove some of these reservations before the sales call. This effort removes a barrier for your sales team, resulting in more SQLs.

Fix #3: Create Collateral That Closes Deals

One-pagers, landing pages, PDFs, decks — sales collateral could be anything that helps increase the chance of closing a deal. Let me share an example from Lean Labs. 

Our webinar page has a CTA form that allows visitors to talk to our team. Instead of a simple “get in touch” form, we created a drop-down segmentation based on the user’s challenge and need. This step helps the reader feel seen, gives them hope that they’ll receive real value from the interaction, and provides unique content to users based on their selection.

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So, if they select I need help with crushing it on HubSpot, they’ll get a landing page with HubSpot-specific content (including a video) and a meeting scheduler. 

Speaking directly to your audience’s needs and pain points through these steps dramatically increases the chances of them booking a call. Why? Because instead of trusting that a generic “expert” will be able to help them with their highly specific problem, they can see through our content and our form design that Lean Labs can solve their most pressing pain point. 

Fix #4: Focus On Reviews and Create an Impact Loop

A lot of people think good marketing is expensive. You know what’s even more expensive? Bad marketing

To get the best ROI on your marketing efforts, you need to create a marketing machine that pays for itself. When you create this machine, you need to think about two loops: the growth loop and the impact loop.

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  • Growth loop — Awareness ➡ Acquisition ➡ Activation ➡ Revenue ➡ Awareness: This is where most marketers start. 
  • Impact loop — Results ➡ Reviews ➡ Retention ➡ Referrals ➡ Results: This is where great marketers start. 

Most marketers start with their growth loop and then hope that traction feeds into their impact loop. However, the reality is that starting with your impact loop is going to be far more likely to set your marketing engine up for success

Let me share a client story to show you what this looks like in real life.

Client Story: 4X Website Leads In A Single Quarter

We partnered with a health tech startup looking to grow their website leads. One way to grow website leads is to boost organic traffic, of course, but any organic play is going to take time. If you’re playing the SEO game alone, quadrupling conversions can take up to a year or longer.

But we did it in a single quarter. Here’s how.

We realized that the startup’s demos were converting lower than industry standards. A little more digging showed us why: our client was new enough to the market that the average person didn’t trust them enough yet to want to invest in checking out a demo. So, what did we do?

We prioritized the last part of the funnel: reputation.

We ran a 5-star reputation campaign to collect reviews. Once we had the reviews we needed, we showcased them at critical parts of the website and then made sure those same reviews were posted and shown on other third-party review platforms. 

Remember that reputation plays are vital, and they’re one of the plays startups often neglect at best and ignore at worst. What others say about your business is ten times more important than what you say about yourself

By providing customer validation at critical points in the buyer journey, we were able to 4X the website leads in a single quarter!

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So, when you talk to customers, always look for opportunities to drive review/referral conversations and use them in marketing collateral throughout the buyer journey. 

Fix #5: Launch Phantom Offers for Higher Quality Leads 

You may be reading this post thinking, okay, my lead magnets and offers might be way off the mark, but how will I get the budget to create a new one that might not even work?

It’s an age-old issue: marketing teams invest way too much time and resources into creating lead magnets that fail to generate quality leads

One way to improve your chances of success, remain nimble, and stay aligned with your audience without breaking the bank is to create phantom offers, i.e., gauge the audience interest in your lead magnet before you create them.

For example, if you want to create a “World Security Report” for Chief Security Officers, don’t do all the research and complete the report as Step One. Instead, tease the offer to your audience before you spend time making it. Put an offer on your site asking visitors to join the waitlist for this report. Then wait and see how that phantom offer converts. 

This is precisely what we did for a report by Allied Universal that ended up generating 80 conversions before its release.

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The best thing about a phantom offer is that it’s a win/win scenario: 

  • Best case: You get conversions even before you create your lead magnet.
  • Worst case: You save resources by not creating a lead magnet no one wants.  

Remember, You’re On The Same Team 

We’ve talked a lot about the reasons your marketing leads might suck. However, remember that it’s not all on marketers, either. At the end of the day, marketing and sales professionals are on the same team. They are not in competition with each other. They are allies working together toward a common goal. 

Smaller companies — or anyone under $10M in net new revenue — shouldn’t even separate sales and marketing into different departments. These teams need to be so in sync with one another that your best bet is to align them into a single growth team, one cohesive front with a single goal: profitable customer acquisition.

Interested in learning more about the growth marketing mindset? Check out the Lean Labs Growth Playbook that’s helped 25+ B2B SaaS marketing teams plan, budget, and accelerate growth.


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