48 | How to Collaborate with Tech Teams with Areej AbuAli

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This week, I am joined by Areej AbuAli, SEO manager at Zoopla. We talk about how tech SEOs can coordinate and collaborate better with teams internally (mainly focusing on client-side.)

Areej started at agency side, with an array of clients. Recently, she started in her first client-side role. She has a background in computer engineering. 

Women in Tech SEO events

Areej arranges meetups for any woman interested or is working within technical SEO. It’s a way to come together to:

  • Ask questions
  • Not be judged
  • Find job opportunities
  • Attend smaller meet-ups
  • But, there is also a full day conference in 6th March 2020, in celebration of women’s day

Agency vs Client-side

When Areej was working at an agency, she struggled to understand why technical implementations take so long. She would create these massive audits and said she thought everyone was on the same page and happy with the document, but then a few months down the line… nothing happened. Areej said it wasn’t just one or two clients, it was most of them. 

When she moved to working in Zoopler client side, she realised what was happening. The internal technical teams have plenty of recommendations and priorities coming from all sides of the business and not just SEO. First thing she realised was, when will they ever have time to read an 80 page audit when they have their own stuff, from UX, commercial and sales etc as well as external agencies too. 

Example: When I was at Tesco, where they took 6 months to fix an issue they created. It was a high priority because we had a nice graph showing our Organic traffic was tanking due to the bad canonicalisation but it still took them a very long time to sort it out. It’s clear they have their own priorities and SEO isn’t the only department they’re working through recommendations from. 

How to Make a Change via Client-Side?

  • Relationship building (my example, Richard from Trainline.)
  • Ask questions. The main one is possibly asking how the development team wants to see recommendations.  
  • Find out what is important to them. Do they care about impact or do they just want the task.
  • Speak the business language and showcase the opportunity and what the leads are.
  • Speak numbers that the company understands. Anything that you recommend, even if it’s hard to envision in that conversion, it’s important to estimate as much as you can. 

Essentially, web development teams have no opportunity to read a long audit, so a google sheet with recommendations (with priority, seo team effort and technical task and prioritised) is more useful although a full audit is good as a resource if and when they’ll need it… 

In a previous episode, Luke Carthy shared how he got trust from people by making an impact with a CRO task, which then meant trust with other SEO tasks in the future. Perhaps start with something smaller to make a bigger impact later. 

If you’re looking at a series of things to get the impact that you want then take Julian’s approach at John Lewis. He says he puts tasks together rather than looking at them in silos. 

Areej says need to put prioritisation based on all teams and not just SEO. Estimate time and resources from other teams to be able to make a list of ‘ease’. Categorisation is based on different sections of the site too rather than SEO type (linking vs content or technical SEO for example,) especially if different teams will be affected by your implementations. SEO touches so many areas and departments it’s about making everything fit; organisation, timelines etc.

Getting a good understanding about sprints in the business is a must. It’s a lot of project management and understanding how it works client-side. So, ditch the long word documents and replace with easily read, one-pagers that are then easy to prioritise.

I was on a panel put together by Conductor. It was their first Breakfast meetup and focused on building business cases and return on investment (ROI.) Our recommendations were varied, from speaking the language of the business to understand where the other teams are coming from and creating relationships. Then, it’s about using the right tools and showing the metrics they understand. Areej says get training yourself about other areas of the business. You’ll be surprised what you’ll find out!

What to Include in Business Case One Pager

  • Categorise what the project is and not just from the SEO point of view but also page template or type. 
  • Actionable task.
  • SEO impact/overall impact.
  • SEO effort, how much time to spend to analyse etc.
  • Then, sit with tech team to add what effort & resources it might take. For example, 1 developer or several and does a designer need to be involved. 
  • Once added into sprints then expand on it. Is it ready for testing? And so on.
  • If more research is needed, find case studies & competitor research. Especially for anything new or to test a new idea that’s fresh.

If Areej was able to give her past self some advice, she would have said have a call or coffee with client BEFORE doing a massive audit. Ask how do you want it to look like and delivered. This would have been more helpful and perhaps would have helped them to make it easier to push through internally. Also, if a client or site is struggling with 1 major problem, don’t give them another 50 recommendations. Give them all the support they need to fix that one major issue first. 

Forecasting

Forecast expectations to tell a story or convince people to do something. From missed opportunities to safeguarding what the company already has, it’ll help build a case to do your SEO tasks. Do AB testing to see how traffic behaves with those changes before rolling it out to the whole site as it’s based on real data.  

Areej is on Twitter @Areej_AbuAli | LinkedIn | Women in Tech SEO

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Music credit: I Dunno (Grapes of Wrath Mix) by spinningmerkaba (c) copyright 2017 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. http://dig.ccmixter.org/files/jlbrock44/56346 Ft: Jlang, 4nsic, grapes.

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