WebU: Learn to Speak Geek

Bridging the IT language gap

I'm sick to death of turkey and roasts and all the trimmings. The kids have already broken half of their new toys. Cyber Monday is a distant memory. January returns are in full swing. The meter has been set back in the red in anticipation of another Black Friday in another 10 months. Code locks have been lifted so we can defy death and start SEO again, and I'll bet this is the weekend I finally take down my Christmas lights.

Over the past decade of SEO, I've found that one common problem often gets in the way of implementing fundamental SEO tactics. That problem is that nine out of 10 times, the person in charge of SEO internally is not technical. They are in marketing, and they typically have no contact with the developers who build and run the Web site. Having no understanding of the technical aspects of the Web site you are marketing and no relationship with it is nothing but a great opportunity for poor communication and bad SEO implementation. Imagine how much better your life in marketing would be if you could speak "geek." I'm here to help.

Implementing SEO on a dynamically generated Web site is usually a lot easier than you'd imagine. Most large e-commerce Web sites are run on a scant handful of templates that are populated on the fly with the requested information from a database. This information includes: product name, category, image, description, price, color, size, etc. All of these pieces of information are simply inserted into the proper places in the template so that you get a nicely laid-out page. For example:




That little bit of code is part of a larger template. This bit is requesting the product name, price and description. Outside of the variable, you can see the HTML that determines the layout of the page. The product name, in this case, will be wrapped with an H1 tag. If there were not an H tag there, you can see how easy it would be to edit the template to add in that H tag.

I used the H tag as the primary example here because there is often an immediate follow-up question or objection about the fact that H tags make the text big and ugly. That is true, but thanks to a little bit of CSS, we can fix that quite easily to match the size and font that was originally used. Here's an example snippet for you:

h1 {
font-family: Georgia, "Times New Roman", Times, serif;
font-size: 18px;
font-weight: bold;
color: #000000;

You can see readily how this all works. In this example, we've specified the size, font, weight and color of the text in the H1 tag. You can do this inline (right in the HTML of the page) or externally (in a CSS file).

Don't have proper ALT tags on your product images? The page has already called the product and category data to be used as titles and in the breadcrumb trail. Why not use it in the ALT tag as well? ALT="ProdName." See how easy that is?

Once you understand how variables work, you can speak much more intelligently to your Web developers in a way they will understand. It will reduce friction and help you sail through your projects in a fraction of the time it used to require.

Oh - don't forget to take your developers to lunch at least once a month. They like that, too.

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