written by Janet L Bartoli | Technical SEO, Training

March 27, 2020

Does Your IT Team Need to Learn SEO?

To answer this question you should first understand that developers, IT and engineering teams are the heart of how the site operationally performs. 

It is in the best interest of the business to have their IT team learn SEO and here’s why. 

I have witnessed countless times over the course of my 16 years as a professional SEO, where the IT team, unbeknownst to them, made some major changes in a large well-known brand site that crashed the traffic from organic search in a matter of hours. 

Whether or not your business is a large brand with international offices all over the world, or a small local brand with limited visibility, the developers that touch your site need to know when it comes to SEO, is extremely important.

Here's The 4 MOST Important Reasons IT Teams Need to Learn SEO:

  1. JavaScript + Google. Understand the best practices of JS and SEO and how they live together
  2.  Page Speed is part of the ranking algorithm in Google. Improve the page speed
  3. What does and does not really matter in the ever changing world of SEO today (hint: Meta Keywords never mattered FYI)
  4. Anytime you make any major change to the site i.e. migration, redesign, site architecture or replatforming changes it's important to know how this will impact your SEO performance 

The Code: JavaScript and Google

There are many things that can go wrong with rendering and indexing JavaScript. The process is complicated and unless you understand the right best methods you can make it incredibly difficult for Google to interpret the JavaScript on your site. 

Googlebot does not act like a browser. For example If your content requires Google to click, scroll, or perform any other action in order for it to appear, it won‘t be indexed. Google’s renderer has timeouts. If it takes too long to render the script on your page, Google may simply decide to omit it. 

Without getting into the weeds of the technicalities of coding, your IT team should know how the code within your site appears to the search engines. 

Recently I worked with a large entertainment ticketing business and while working with their IT team learned that they unintentionally developed a method whereby they’d show one thing to Googlebot, and another to the visitors, because as they said “the page speed was too slow with all the JavaScript in place..” so instead of solving that, they thought that by developing a “short cut” that should solve the poor user experience the visitor was experiencing and just letting Google deal with it. 

There were a few problems with this method.

  • They never shared their idea with the SEO team ahead of time (had they done so, the SEO team would have put the kibosh on that idea) We incorporated this understanding within their SEO Governance Framework
  • Showing one thing to a visitor and an entirely different thing to the search engine goes against Google’s guidelines and if Google were to pick this up, it would have penalized the site in some way. This method was what many had done in the late ‘90s early 2000’s when they built “doorway pages”. This was a way to “trick” the search engines. 

 I explained to the large development team that this is never a good idea and that they should come up with a way to leverage Google best practices regarding their JavaScript rendering and working directly with their technical SEO team lead to come up with a more constructive solution.

Your Website Performance (Page Speed): Should be a primary focus for optimization

If your IT team uploads images or videos or anything that could potentially lag your site, it will directly and negatively impact the performance of your site. If you ask most IT team members they would NEVER want to harm the overall performance of the website. 

I recently worked with an IT team that genuinely wanted to learn how to improve the site performance. I taught them what page speed was and how Google interprets this.  I even helped them find a web performance and browser analysis that helped them combine both uptime and page speed performance. 

What many don’t seem to understand is that your page speed does impact your site’s overall user experience, which indirectly impacts your search visibility and engagement over time. 

It’s not that uncommon you’ll find IT teams developing their own “page speed testing tools” I’d say 8/10 clients will have an internal tool they developed that they use to measure the download speed of the site.

The problem with this is that it does not look at page speed the same way Google does, therefore whatever calculations you get from your proprietary tools are just not accurate as they relate to how Google views page speed. 

Here’s a great resource for showing you how Google interprets page speed.

Meta Keywords: Do NOT Matter in 2021 SEO (and even in the last decade or so too)

What does and no longer matters in the SEO world changes quite a bit. 

About a year and a half ago, as of this writing, I was working with a developer, who was really smart and very senior in his role. He was a certified SiteCore developer, he never had any SEO education previously and I know that because one day, I overheard him telling his team to make to “include the Meta Keywords tags on all the pages” 

FUN FACT: 1997 — was the last year that the meta keywords tag enjoyed support among the majority of major crawlers out there (4 out of 7 – Excite, WebCrawler and Northern Light, also crawling the web that year, did not support it). Of all the SEO tactics I’d love all developers to remember, that is not one of them. In fact, Google never supported the tag once it was born in 1998. 

I don’t blame that developer for not knowing, because there continues to be so much nonsense on the internet about what SEO is and what it is not. SEO myths are something that continue to circulate around from one so-called SEO expert to another. 

In a completely different scenario I worked with a very large telecom client who had a large on-shore and off-shore development team. They worked with an outside design agency to build and deploy a large scale website redesign. 

Once that site was relaunched to the world, the traffic fell month after month for four straight months because neither the designer nor the development team had any idea that they needed to properly set up one to one page mapping and account for every URL change by using proper 301 site redirection. 

These teams learned through a very in-depth technical SEO training I prepared for them. The next migration or redesign they were ready and able to easily work with the SEO team on how to mitigate loss of traffic. 

This is yet another reason why your developers and IT teams need to learn SEO. I don’t mean they should become experts, but attending a training on technical SEO at least once a year would be very valuable to their day to day jobs. 

How Should the IT Team Learn SEO?

Here’s the best way developers can learn SEO starts with getting them engaged directly with your internal SEO team lead, agency or SEO consultant so they’re plugged in to what they’re doing and sharing that directly with the SEO team. 

Here’s a few more ideas:

  • Hire an expert SEO to train them on what matters in Technical SEO
  • Understand that what they do directly impacts SEO efforts, in either a negative or positive way

As a professional SEO I have always found it so much more valuable to work directly with developers than, like some of my predecessors, disconnect themselves from those who work in IT. 

The training I offer my client’s teams appeals to anyone in the IT department, but I have occasionally seen others in the organization curious as to what technical SEO is all about, and so they decide to join in on the training. 

Whether you conduct the training in person or remotely, it does not matter. I will say that I do enjoy in person training because I find that many are more willing to interact and ask a lot more questions than if they’re remote watching from afar. 

seo team training

Each training should be developed for your particular environment considerations.

For example if you’re operating in a headless environment on ATG or operating a Shopify site the training provided should be specific to that developer's environment and what they should understand from an SEO perspective. 

All the basic best practices should also be included of course. There are many basic best practices that do not change over the years and those should be part of the training. 

There should also be some resources, cheat sheets or take aways so the IT team has something to reference following the training. I generally share the training with the entire IT team and provide them with a plethora of SEO resources specific to technical SEO.

The best resources just about every developer, IT team or engineering team I’ve ever worked with has always appreciated some information direct from a reputable source, whether that’s from Google’s developer SEO area


As you can see there's lots any IT team should know about SEO. Feel free to share this article with them and hopefully it will spark some conversation, or better yet, get them encouraged to want to learn SEO and improve your businesses website experience.