Don’t Get Caught Between the Client and their Web Developer

If there’s one thing I’ve learned, working in the SEO space, it’s this.

Don’t get caught between a client and a web designer.

Most web designers have absolutely no idea what they’re doing when it comes to SEO. Whether it be site structure, on-page optimization, title tags, or even basic stuff like site speed and general user experience. A few times I’ve found myself stuck between trying to do my work as a hired SEO professional and having to deal with a fucking web designer who’s causing all sorts of drama with the client.

They’ll obstruct, refuse logins, reverse changes, and cause unnecessary panic. I’ve had web designers sending all sorts of emails to the client with stupid shit like “I found a broken link!” or “This page has been moved!” or other stupid shit like that.

Clients hear crap like this and they think somethings wrong, when indeed its about as important as your hair being slightly out of place for a school photo.

I often say “It’s like you’re launching a space shuttle mission to mars and they’re worried about what colour shoe laces the astronauts will be wearing”

It’s ridiculous.

Here’s the truth – for most SEO campaigns, things have got to get a lot worse before they get better.

It’s much like renovating a house. You rip a kitchen out, it’s going to look horrible, nothing’s going to work. It’s going to be a total mess. But you can’t put a new kitchen in unless you tear the old one out.

So to have someone in the background running around saying, “Things aren’t working,” or “There’s a fucking link broken on this page,” is nothing more than a distraction and it’s a total nuisance.

But that’s just a very simple example, I’ve had a lot worse.

Things aren’t broken, they’re just changing

As I said, SEO, (especially with on-page optimization) is much like renovating a house.

You’re going to be tearing down walls or pulling kitchens and bathrooms apart. Things are going to look horrible until, of course, you get everything sorted out and back in place – in which case everything is going to be fantastic. It doesn’t help to have some web nerd that knows nothing about SEO, barking into the ear of your client saying, “Oh, this isn’t working”, and “That doesn’t work”, and “There’s a broken link,” and whatever else in the background, it’s just a total nuisance.

Obstructions are worse

You can often find yourself working with a client that’ll say, “Listen, we don’t want you to change anything on the website, we’ve got our web guy to do that for us,” in which case you can’t log in and make simple changes that should take two minutes. Instead, you’ve got to pass the information or the change request over to the client. The client’s then got to send that change request over to the web guy.

Then from there, anything can happen –

  • They do it when the feel like it
  • They do it but whinge about it over 50 emails back and forth
  • They question it, causing delays
  • They do it, but they do it “their way”

All this does is slow you down, and guess what? It sure won’t be the web developer getting kicked up the ass when the client isn’t seeing results – it will be you.

Most web developers have absolutely no idea of SEO, so what I would recommend, is that you try and get full control of the project in its entirety. The web stuff, the SEO stuff, and anything else that you need in order to get the job done.

You caused this problem, you clown

Another issue that I’ve experienced are web developers who simply want to override your recommendations.

  • Me – “Listen you’ve got to get rid of these plugins. You’ve got 72 plugins here and they’re causing major latency, which is affecting site speed and SEO”
  • Client – “Hmm, okay, I’ll talk to my web guy”
  • Web guy – “He doesn’t know what he’s talking about, we need all of the plugins otherwise the site will break!”
  • Client – “Our web guy said no because the site wont work”
  • Me – “Fucks sake”

It’s funny, I’ve worked with so many business owners that want to listen to some web guy that has actually caused the fucking problems in the first place. The business owners have come to me because the site’s not working, it’s totally broken. They’re not making sales. They’re not getting customers. Yet, for whatever reason, they still want to listen to their web guy that put them in this position in the fucking first place.

I always push to get full control over a project. I’m really not interested in bouncing around between a client and a fucking clueless web developer who’s more concerned about how big the logo is than they are about making sales.

Which brings me to my next point.

Sales not bullshit technical jargon

Something else that I’ve seen too is web developers who want to continually confuse their clients with technical jargon.

Web guy – “The CSS style sheet must be updated with HTML5 W3 compliant code, and the JS snippets embeded above the tags, otherwise the site wont render properly on Motorola Razr mobile devices”

F off.

How about we focus on making sales, instead of trying to impress each other with technical nonsense?

Here’s a few points on this one –

  • All this does is cause confusion for the business owner
  • The business owner doesn’t care
  • The business owner is busy running an actual business
  • The business owner wants to know about sales and revenue, not technical crap

In other words, it’s all about revenue, and a lot of web developers want to get bogged down in technical bullshit and when that happens, that can really have a negative impact on what you’re trying to achieve as an SEO.

At the end of the day, you should be doing whatever you need to do in order to help the client get results, and if you’ve got some dimwit web developer who’s in your way who wants to shout-out in the background about the colors of the fonts and fucking style sheets and whatever else, then you’re going to have to make the decision.

Either you take control of the project and you ask your client to get this guy out of your way or if that can’t happen, then you’re going to have to just say to the client, “Look, I can’t help you. You’re going to have to find someone else to work with.”

By the way – I’m not saying all web developers are like this, but from my personal experience – many are.

Agree disagree? Post your comment below or come around and punch me in the face.

2 thoughts on “Don’t Get Caught Between the Client and their Web Developer”

  1. Great article, John.

    I think this rings true the majority of the time.

    In contrast, a recent project of mine I was somewhat forced to work alongside a developer, I was very worried initially about this because I did not want to impact the client’s success. Before I accepted the client, I did the following

    – Assesed site mobile responsiveness
    – Checked Google Page speed insights
    – Assessed site structure
    – Had a brief meeting with client and developer, to explain my process, and long term changes to the site
    – Agreed upon scope, backups and methodologies

    At this point I felt pretty comfortable with the developer, being a local Australian and the above tests where fine. So I knew it could work.

    I think this was a pretty rare case and the majority of the time, I’d never want to put my client in between myself in the developer, but it’s not impossible.

    1. That’s great if you can make it work, but often it can go pear shaped and you’ll find yourself caught in the middle. I’ve been in situations where the developer has –

      – Refused to implement requested changes
      – Limited site access
      – Refused logins
      – Reversed changes

      Worst case was a developer who literally talked my client out of working with me. In the end I gave up. The site was a mess and wasn’t performing at all in Google, yet the client and developer seemed more interested in the colour of the footer.

      As I wrote in a previous article “You cant save everyone”

      Hope you don’t have any issues, but again, always try to gain complete control when possible.

      By the way, I’m sure there are plenty of instances where web developers have experienced similar problems working with SEO people ;0)

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