S3E5 Billie Hyde, Communicating With Developers

Keira Davidson (00:21):

Hi, and welcome to the TechSEO Podcast. Today, I’m really pleased to announce that I’m joined by Billie from the SEO works. I don’t suppose you’d like to provide a bit of background information about yourself.

Billie Hyde (00:34):

Hey. Yeah, of course. So I’m Billie, also known as Billie Geena or Billie Hyde or that really annoying person on Twitter. I’m a senior account manager at the SEO Works. I’ve been there about a year and before that I worked in-house doing SEO. And before that, I was a copywriter for a large newspaper publication, nothing fun, I just wrote bereavement notices. Yeah, so that’s kind of me.

Keira Davidson (01:08):

Well, that’s super cool. So you’ve been in-house and you’re now agency side so you’ve seen it from both sides, which is really interesting and because of that, you’ve probably got some really good insights on getting recommendations implemented because as an SEO, that is something I am constantly… It’s like a massive barrier and it can be quite frustrating, especially when there’s pressing stuff coming up, like the page experience update. It’s really important to be making these changes and well, firstly identifying the changes and then writing a ticket and passing it to your developer to get it done but sometimes, they have a massive backlog and it can be a nightmare. Do you have any tips on how I can help the process?

Billie Hyde (02:10):

Yes. I’ve got a few different things that have been tried and tested in both backgrounds really. Some of them, it won’t work for every developer or every client that you’ll have. So something that’s worked with me, it worked fantastic for me, when I worked in house. And it’s only works maybe twice since I’ve joined an agency, but I’ll be sending my suggestions over to a developer and they’ll be getting turned down or we’ll look at that in a few sprints time. What I’ve started doing is just saying, “Can I come to one of your sprints maybe once a month? Or be like, “Attend one scrum meeting?” It doesn’t work with every developer. I’ve had a few no, “Why you even asking this?” How dare you kind of reactions, but I’ve had a few where they’re like, “Yeah, let’s do it.”

Keira Davidson (03:11):

That’s very good.

Billie Hyde (03:14):

Yeah, really surprising when they went for it. It was much easier in-house to do that, but it gives me much more understanding of their workflow and what things they’re rolling out in the coming months. And there’s been occasions where they’ll be rolling something out, which is going to improve page speed without me even nagging them about it. So then I can kind of, “Okay, this is going to do this. I’ll just move on and start [inaudible 00:03:41] on something else.

Keira Davidson (03:44):

That’s really interesting how the strategies that you used in-house aren’t fully transferable to agency side, but I guess it kind of makes sense as in-house, you are a part of the team. It’s not like they can run away from you whereas agency, I’m guessing you usually dealing with the client’s developers.

Billie Hyde (04:11):


Keira Davidson (04:12):

There’s a barrier almost.

Billie Hyde (04:15):

There is. The developers kind of sees us a third party and I think coming from agent, there’s much more barriers to break down to kind of get the developer like, “Okay, yeah. Let’s actually listen to these suggestions they’re making.” And there’s a lot of relationship building. For some situations I’ve found it really works, if your client’s using a third party developer, they’re kind of passing along messages from me to them. It happened just because the client was kind of sick of not getting it right what I’d been telling them or the developer had been telling them to tell me. Not the developer, sorry. The client was like, “I can’t do this anymore. You need to talk to each other.”

Keira Davidson (05:17):

Yeah. I can imagine that’s a massive headache for them.

Billie Hyde (05:21):

Oh yeah, definitely. It didn’t help that they took one thing that I said is, make every single page of the website a PDF.

Keira Davidson (05:29):

Oh God, so the homepage is a PDF.

Billie Hyde (05:34):

Literally. I don’t know. I never said anything along those lines and that’s just what they were convinced was happening. So that caused the developer to be like, “Well, this SEO person doesn’t have a clue what they’re on about.” But then I was under the impression the developer wanted to make the entire website PDFs. So it was kind of butting heads quite a lot. And then once we was able to talk and we kind of had those monthly sprints, things became a bit more understandable between us and our goals became aligned.

Keira Davidson (06:18):


Billie Hyde (06:20):

It’s hard to do. And most clients will say, “No, why do you want to do that annual contact?” But I think it’s just worth asking.

Keira Davidson (06:31):

Yeah. I think I’d agree on that because I’d say similar to you, I’ve not been in-house but I’ve experienced the fact of, basically you’ve done a massive audit and there’s, let’s say, 26 issues or recommendations from that audit. They then get passed to the client. They then have the opportunity to sort of misinterpret or miscommunicate it by passing it on to the developer, so I definitely find going straight to the source is best. And like you, for one of my current clients, I have a, I think, it’s monthly scrum or… I think it’s monthly to discuss certain tickets that we’re currently working on. And I personally find that so insightful because you sort of forced to talk to each other, but you can get great results from that because you can get on the same page and you can work together instead of against each other.

Billie Hyde (07:30):

You 100%, yeah. I always find as well that they’ll be doing something that I’m like, “Oh my God, I’ve never even thought of that. There’s so much opportunity there.” And then that can create a whole new adaption to a strategy. So I think there’s a lot of developers and SEOs working against each other and it just needs to become a collaborative thing. And once we’ve got that, all of our jobs will just become so much easier.

Keira Davidson (08:06):

Yeah. No, I agree on that. I’m personally in for an easy life. So I’m all more for, let’s get the developers on side so I agree. I hope you don’t mind, but I noticed you put a tweet up yesterday. It was a little poll regarding when Technical SEO identifies an issue. For example, page speed or mobile usability, whose responsibility is it to resolve the issue? And the two voting options were technical SEO and the other option was developers. What’s your thoughts on that?

Billie Hyde (08:45):

I’m not sure. I’ll be honest. There’s some stuff where I’m confident that I know how to fix it and make things better but then there’s other things where I’m like, “Should I spend time to learn how to remove unused CSS or HTML or JavaScripts? Well, how do I know what to get rid of?” Kind of things and that’s kind of why I’ve started that poll because I just don’t know where the border is sometimes and I think that a lot of SEOs feel that.

Keira Davidson (09:27):

Yeah. I could say I definitely do.

Billie Hyde (09:31):

The polls coming up on my side, because I would normally be like, “Yeah, that’s the developer’s job.” And so far 78% of the people poll have said, it’s the developer’s problem not us.

Keira Davidson (09:43):

That makes sense. For me, like you saying, if it’s such a simple task and you can do it and it’s going to be quick and easy, then the time that it takes to write a ticket, brief the developers, then get them to action it, it’s actually quicker just to go in and do it. But from the other side of it, where it’s completely out my conflict zone, I am not going to touch it because I don’t want the liability and the risk of potentially breaking something or just making a massive mess so then on that, out of the two options, I probably would side with the developers, but I’m glad that 78% also agree on that.

Billie Hyde (10:29):

Same. Because if everyone was like, “No, that’s up to the technical SEO to fix,” I’d very much be thinking I’ve not been doing my job right at all, ever.

Keira Davidson (10:39):

Yeah. I could do the basics developer stuff, but no I can’t build a theme. No, I can’t make page speed changes and all of that. No, I can’t fix the CLS shift. No, it’s a whole different thing in itself.

Billie Hyde (11:01):

It is and I think that’s what some clients don’t realize that a technical SEO, even if they do know Python or HTML and JavaScript and can do all the things like that, they’re still not a developer. They don’t…

Keira Davidson (11:15):


Billie Hyde (11:16):

Well, there’s probably some out there that had experience resolving those issues, but majority don’t and that’s because it’s a developer’s job to understand that. An SEO specializes in SEO, we don’t specialize in developing a site, so it’s just to setting those expectations and reminding clients that two different jobs and two different skill sets or that they overlap.

Keira Davidson (11:46):

Yeah, there’s definitely overlap. And like you said, you probably can get someone who can do it all, like a T-shaped marketer, and then you’ve also got people who specialize and excel at certain points and can do bits really well, especially in development. So I think ultimately depending on what the end goal is, depends on what type of person is used for the role but either way, the same strategies for getting the tasks implemented can still be used, no matter the type of person in the role.

Billie Hyde (12:27):

Yeah, definitely. Sorry, I can’t get my words out now.

Keira Davidson (12:35):

It’s fine. Don’t worry.

Billie Hyde (12:41):

Even the most advanced technical SEO, I’m not them so I’m speaking completely, just imagining the situation. I think if they’re wanting to make changes to fix something big like that, they do need to tell the developer. It probably needs to go through the same scrum process. They probably just can’t do it there and then, so they need to still probably be that ticket system or the communication or something, even if they’re the one implementing the fix.

Keira Davidson (13:16):

Talking of ticket systems, do you typically find that, typically speaking, each developer will have their own ticketing system, whether it’s Trello, [inaudible 00:13:28] Basecamp or whatever? When trying to get these recommendations implemented, will you try and take to the ticketing system that they use to almost be on their side?

Billie Hyde (13:42):

Yeah. So I try to adapt any ticketing into the way that I know the developer likes to communicate. So for me, I’m basically a walking spreadsheet. Every bit of my life is in a spreadsheet and that’s how I have to write out the issues I find for myself and I like to break that down. It’s all color coded, like traffic light, how urgent it is, broke down into which area it falls into and then the issues, and I list the implications. And then even if it’s something that I completely don’t understand, I’ll still link myself an article about it so then I’ve got all the information ready to send to a developer.

Keira Davidson (14:26):

That’s helpful.

Billie Hyde (14:28):

Yeah. I’m so lucky that majority of the developers I work with have just accepted this system. When I initially sent it over and they’ve just ran with it, but it’s in a way that I could just easily copy and paste it into a Trello board or a [inaudible 00:14:46] or a Jeroo or whatever they use. And I think having it listed like that for yourself and then also what I do, so then there’s no deniability that I’ve sent it, I also mark off when I’ve sent it and date it so then I’ve got everything I need there. And then I know they’ve got it as well and I just find having that full picture of every issue for myself just makes everything easier for me knowing I’ve done everything I need to, and now it’s up to the developers.

Keira Davidson (15:32):

Yeah. I definitely think I like your style on making it clear as to when it’s being sent so there’s no sort of rigging out of that one. I think that’s a smart move. Something I should probably think about more, which is cool. Today I’ve been introduced to, I don’t know if you’ve heard of it before, it’s called Fibonacci. It’s do with prioritization and apparently it’s something developers, agile developers, typically use and it’s quite cool because it gets the developers involved in the process. So you list all the issues and then we, as the SEOs, we put an impact score and then we then send over the doc and we get the developers to list what they think the ease of it, the impact score is and basically the implementation. So then my score and the developer score is then combined and it then creates this overall prioritization, which I think is actually a pretty smart way because then we’ve managed to get their buy in almost.

Billie Hyde (16:44):

Yeah, that sounds actually amazing. What was that called, sorry?

Keira Davidson (16:48):

It’s called Fibonacci. I can happily send a message over to after if you’d like.

Billie Hyde (16:54):

Oh yeah, 100%. That sounds like an absolute dream. From experience, I’ve learned to never assume how easy a task is for a developer to do so. I love that they can put their ease in so that’s something that I think is just going to be super helpful. It’s like you’ve said, you’ve got that almost immediate buy in because they’re basically saying they’re probably going to do it, especially the higher score they give you and they get it, it means it’s going to fall higher on their workflow.

Keira Davidson (17:30):

Yeah. It’s a higher priority. So I think the highest score is 53 off the top of my head is in… Sorry, the highest impact score that it can have so that’s like, “This is urgent. Red light sort of flashing issue.” Whereas an eight is like, “Oh, there’s an issue. It exists, we’ll get round to it sort of thing.”

Billie Hyde (17:55):

That’s really cool.

Keira Davidson (17:58):

I thought that was really interesting and quite useful. And I think, like you said, as an SEO, personally, I don’t honestly know how hard certain things are. So I think getting, getting a developer’s opinion on it helps to clarify things and so when I’m demanding something or asking for something, I now have better clarity understanding how difficult or complex the task is.

Billie Hyde (18:31):

Yeah. It’s just so difficult to know… Sorry, my words aren’t coming out again. We think we’ve got a lot of data and spreadsheets and formula to know. They’ve probably got a hundreds more, especially if it’s a fully custom made CMS they use and things like that so we genuinely, unless it’s something like updating a meta tag, not a meta tag, a meta viewport tag, I feel like every SEO knows that’s pretty easy now.

So I would be like, “Look, it’ll just take you two seconds for something like that.” But if I was asking them to even just automate some content, run a quick script, I don’t know how difficult that would be for them, depending on how much content I want to change kind of thing because I don’t know the languages and the programs they use that well. And again, as an agency, so I know a little bit of Python, that’s great but what if the website they’re working on in C# or [inaudible 00:19:56] So we can’t just assume things are straightforward if we don’t know, but one of the best things I’ve ever done and I know it’s probably not as easy as it sounds, but from not agency work, I don’t know these in a work capacity, but I’ve befriended a few developers. And if I’m stuck on something, I just want to know, “Look, does this sound insane? How wild?” So

Keira Davidson (20:28):

[inaudible 00:20:28] Second.

Billie Hyde (20:29):

Yeah. I was like, “If I came to you and I was like, this needs doing now, what would your response be?” Kind of thing.

Keira Davidson (20:36):

No, go away.

Billie Hyde (20:38):

Yeah. Literally, they’ve told me that but just a bit more explicit.

Keira Davidson (20:42):

Yeah. I think that’s a really good idea because it helps prevent irritating anyone because ultimately we need to keep developers, on our side and as friends.

Billie Hyde (20:55):

Yeah. And developers are people too and I know that’s a very obvious thing to say.

Keira Davidson (20:55):

It’s forgotten though.

Billie Hyde (21:05):

Yeah. It’s often forgotten all the time and how we talk to them is just like, “Do this or [inaudible 00:21:14]” All the time in the world to do whatever we need. So befriending people at work in that level of tech has just been so helpful for me to just be like, “Oh yeah, I kind of need to chill a little bit.”

Keira Davidson (21:35):

Yeah. They’re just not going to like me if I ask this.

Billie Hyde (21:39):

Yeah. And basically, once that relationship between you and the developers being damaged, it’s so much harder to repair a working relationship than it is to just build one from the onset.

Keira Davidson (21:55):

Yeah. I definitely agree especially because you can gradually build that trust whereas once that trust’s gone, it’s painful. It’ll be challenging.

Billie Hyde (22:06):

Yeah. That’s a little understatement really.

Keira Davidson (22:11):

Basically it makes your life hell.

Billie Hyde (22:15):


Keira Davidson (22:18):

So then this brings me to ask my final question. Do you have a top three of absolute don’ts? Don’t even bother trying to taking a certain approach to get recommendations done.

Billie Hyde (22:34):

Well yeah, a little bit. Okay. I’m just picking my top three here.

Keira Davidson (22:45):

Sorry. I’ve put you on the spot here.

Billie Hyde (22:50):

No, it’s fine. I love it. So my first thing would be to not oversimplify what you are asking them. I’m saying this with experience. So I’ve, on occasion, done a crawl on Sitebulb, found a bunch of hints on it and just copied and pasted the hint. And what I like about Sitebulb, it tells you what the issue is and its implications but what I’ve found. It either explains them just a little bit oversimplified. And then if some of them, it’ll say it’s critical or high issue, but I’ve took it to the developer and they’re like, “You’re being a bit dramatic here.”

Keira Davidson (23:42):

I think we’re all probably avoid on that, I think.

Billie Hyde (23:48):

Definitely. I don’t know an SEO who hasn’t done that, but I try my best to steer them away. So my advice is to take those hints and the advice any tools give you, use them as your base of what you’re going to suggest to them, but do your own research and rephrase it to how you think the developer would respond better to ,it if that’s the approach you’re taking by doing a crawl like that and just using all that data as your baseline. Another bit of advice would be to consider the evidence you’re taking to them. There’s no point in spending hours trying to find a thousand examples of an issue.

Keira Davidson (24:33):


Billie Hyde (24:34):

I’ve done it. I think everyone’s done it.

Keira Davidson (24:35):

I was going to say I’ve done that.

Billie Hyde (24:38):

I literally did it just today and I’m like, “I need to practice what I preach sometimes.” It’s so easy to get swept up into, “Oh, here’s how bad this issue is. Oh, here’s another example.” And all of a sudden you’ve got a massive spreadsheet. Just try to reduce that sample you’re getting. Try and take them 20, 50 or a hundred examples of it. Vary depending on how difficult the issue is to identify or how long it’s actually going to take you to find, because on more than one occasion, I’ve took the issue to them and I’ve found loads of examples. And then the developer wants to see if I’ve got all the examples and stuff like that, and they just run a really quick script in Python and then have this massive list and I’ve spent six hours compiling things [inaudible 00:25:32] in 20 minutes.

Keira Davidson (25:34):

That is always the way. And in that moment, I’d probably just want to curl up in a ball and cry for the amount of time I just wasted.

Billie Hyde (25:41):

Definitely, your heart just drops but you can’t admit that it took you that long.

Keira Davidson (25:46):

You definitely can’t.

Billie Hyde (25:53):

Yeah. So always provide examples but just don’t go wild with it. And then my final don’t is to not do the research on the issue. So you know what the problem is, but how is that problem going to translate to the CMS and the program? Is it something that’s going to be really complicated to resolve? Does the CMS even have the capabilities to do what you want it to do? Consider things like that so then if the developer looks at it and says that they haven’t got capacity or they can’t do it, you are less disheartened but then you kind of knew it was coming, so you’ve probably got alternative suggestions.

Keira Davidson (26:51):

Yeah. That’s a good one actually, taking into account what you actually have there, what the platform is, because certain things aren’t possible across all platforms. They have their own nuances.

Billie Hyde (27:05):

Definitely. There’s a Chrome plugin called whatruns.com and I use that all the time. It just tells me literally if it’s built on WordPress, what plugins they use, what theme they use and stuff like that so it just helps me with that bit of research.

Keira Davidson (27:26):

Oh, awesome. Thanks for that. Yeah, that’s the one I should have a look into.

Billie Hyde (27:30):

Definitely. I probably say its name three times a day. I’m just so obsessed.

Keira Davidson (27:35):

Soon you’ll be getting a discount code and…

Billie Hyde (27:38):

I’ve been trying.

Keira Davidson (27:43):

That’s great.

Billie Hyde (27:47):

Then there’s Grammarly.

Keira Davidson (27:47):

Oh, I love Grammarly, it’s a good one.

Billie Hyde (27:48):

I don’t think I can write a sentence without it these days.

Keira Davidson (27:53):

Oh, I really enjoyed speaking with you today, Billie. Thanks so much for joining and being a guest on the TechSEO Podcast. So I’ve really had great fun.

Billie Hyde (28:03):

Me too. Thank you so much for having me.

Keira Davidson (28:06):

Thanks. I’ll catch you in a bit.

Billie Hyde (28:08):

All right, bye.

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