Sept. 5, 2022

SEO Tips For Aspiring Frontend Developers


I finally got to pick the brain of an SEO specialist. I decided to host this podcast episode because having extra knowledge about SEO, content, and accessibility can help you stand out as an aspiring frontend developer. It helps bring in more revenue for the business and in terms of content and accessibility, it helps you serve and understand your users better. If any of this piques your interest, I highly recommend diving further into this topic on your own. He shared an amazing resource during the episode that you can check out!

Evan Sherbert (guest):
Twitter - https://twitter.com/evandoesseo
Linkedin - https://www.linkedin.com/in/evansherbert

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Transcript

Don Hansen:

Welcome back to another web development podcast episode, where we help aspiring developers get jobs and junior developers grow. In this episode, we're gonna be diving into SEO search engine optimization. If you are an aspiring developer and you wanna aim for front end and you want to be able to stand out a little bit more focusing a little bit more on accessibility and search engine optimization can be a. If you're interested in it, it could be a niche that helps you stand out. And it's also a niche that also focuses on the business needs, the user's needs. And so, you know, companies wanna hire people that care about this kind of stuff. And if you are front end developers, that hasn't really. you don't really have a lot of details around, uh, search engine optimization, and we're even gonna dive into some of the specific technical tags and you know how your company's probably gonna rank through organic search. We're gonna dive into all that. So if you're an experienced developer or aspiring developer, we're definitely gonna provide some useful information for you. But I decided to bring on a senior SEO specialist. Evan, thanks so much for coming. Thank you for

Evan Sherbert:

having me done.

Don Hansen:

Love it. All right. So before we dive into things, uh, you wanna give just a quick intro about your background and

Evan Sherbert:

yeah. Yeah, definitely. So my name is Evan Sherbert. I'm a senior SEO specialist at G2. We are a software marketplace connecting software sellers and software buyers. Uh, recently we just hit our 1.8 million verified review for software products. So if you're in the market, definitely check us out.

Don Hansen:

All right, love it. Um, how long have you been in SEO?

Evan Sherbert:

I have been in SEO for about seven years now.

Don Hansen:

Seven years? Yeah. It looks like, uh, five different positions maybe.

Evan Sherbert:

Yeah. I, I definitely jumped around a lot.

Don Hansen:

Okay. So, um, with the SEO in your position, do you feel like the responsibilities are very different depending on the company? Oh, definitely.

Evan Sherbert:

Yeah. Okay. A lot of my earlier experience was kinda small business and then jumping to mid-size agencies. Um, and then really kind of hitting my stride and getting that global agency, like, you know, marketing first instead of just SEO kind of getting outta my, you know, Heidi hole just for a second, just to see what the marketing world's all about. Uh, then I was hook.

Don Hansen:

Gotcha. Okay. So you started focusing on the marketing world. Interesting. Um, okay. So kind of, just to start with, I actually wanna start with how, um, you even mentioned it in the details, how SEO and front end developers can work together. How do, how does someone like you in your position typically work with front end developers?

Evan Sherbert:

Yeah, that's a great. Um, and so oftentimes either the SEO team will notice something happening on g2.com or one of our friends in the development team will notice something or, you know, hopefully not a, you know, a vendor will notice something is not working on the site and we will work together to, you know, idea a solution, uh, score it and really prep it for spring planning and figure out, you know, how can we can really solve this issue.

Don Hansen:

Okay. All right. So whoever kind of spots at first, I feel like with my first company, we had someone dedicated to SEO and that's we were even talking about before the episode about like, you know, writing up schema and how that's read with search engines. I'm like when I was learning how to become a developer, I, that wasn't in any course. It wasn't in my coding bootcamp. Like if honestly, if I didn't learn it, then I probably never would've learned it. So. Let's actually jump into, um, some of the technical stuff. Uh, so when it comes to specific SEO, technical details and tags that are, you know, super valuable for your rankings in search, um, you wanna kind of just like dive into some of the tags that you feel like front end developers should be aware of.

Evan Sherbert:

Definitely. I think it's, you know, it's often some of that foundational SEO, everyone kind of learns the beginning, the importance of those meta titles and the meta descriptions, as well as some of those H ones through H six S typically when we think about, you know, those tags, those are typically the most impactful places where SEOs can really have a positive impact on ranking potentially. Um, we know that search engines really use those heading levels as well as the surrounding paragraph. , they can really parse that out. And if it's done correctly, a developer can really rank well for the keywords. They really care about the most.

Don Hansen:

Okay. I'm gonna be selfish here for a second. I got a question about my website. I wanna see if you can solve it, then we'll get back to information for you guys. All right. Um, I love it with my podcast. Have you done any worker seen. Any sort of structure that focuses on helping search engines, read podcasts, because I have an audio podcast and a video podcast, and I'm kind of torn between cuz I think I can only use certain tags to declare it as an audio podcast or I prioritize the video content and that's, what's gonna be a little bit more searchable. Does that ring a. . Evan Sherbert: Yeah, I think it in the right way so far. And I always want to know kind of more to add onto it, but you, you really hit a really good spot to focus your attention on, I think the only other area of opportunity, um, and it sounds a little bit old school, um, but RSS fees are still really effective. Yeah. So I have a podcast host with an RSS feed and I pull a lot of information from that actually. Here's here's my question. I think, yeah, this will answer it. Does Google prioritize video content over audio content?

Evan Sherbert:

That's a good question. I know it definitely has an easier time with audio content. It's definitely getting better at understanding video content and this using sort of what it's learning with transcription and applying it to video. If we think about it, you know, Google can Readex, it's not challenging anymore for that. But when it comes to video, it doesn't have eyes yet, yet. And so it uses some of that audio transcription information to sort of figure out what that video is talking about, to get a sense of, you know, if this video was actually a piece of HTML, like a static document, what would that document say? And so it definitely has an easier time with audio, but I think every single day it gets better with video.

Don Hansen:

Interesting. Okay. Cool. So. What I'm hearing also. And maybe I'll just see if I can verify a few things. Um, so a lot of aspiring developers, when they're trying to put information on their page, sometimes they'll just, you know, when you're starting out, you just put it in a bunch of dibs, right? You just wanna get information up there and you wanna style those dibs and you're experimenting. And so you had mentioned, okay, so Google really prioritizes heading tags, H one through H six. How much do they prioritize those tags? What happens if you MIS order them? Um, do you need them, is it really that big of a deal?

Evan Sherbert:

Yeah, it's a really good question, Don. I think heading tags are really, really useful, both for search engines and users. Right? I think oftentimes the confusion in this space working in house, working with broader teams can be currently that confusion with heading levels, right? To users, their visual differences. Search engines. They're kind of a way of grouping information in a hierarchy. You know, the H one of the page should really be the most impactful, the most important information on the page, almost like a book chapter. And as we go from H one to H two H three, and so on, it should all relate to that main idea or topic, but still be distinct enough to sort of stand on their own and relate to that main idea. And so for users, you know, it helps us sort of scan the page of, for inpatient to find the information we want or for search engines really helps them sort of understand the information on the page in a broader context. You know, I think Google is smart enough where, you know, the, most of the web is kind of broken. I think we could, uh, or that's probably a conversation for a later episode. Um, but you know, Google can make, do with what it's given, but I think if we go that extra layer of giving that intentionality. With the structure of the page, you can definitely see quicker results and more impactful rankings.

Don Hansen:

Okay. So that hierarchy really does matter. And I almost, one thing I love about it is, uh, so I always try to teach a aspiring developers to go with a content driven approach. Like even before they start laying anything out, like, what is the content going to look like? What are you even talking about? What kind of information you trying to deliver and, and what order right. Thinking about like, The user's experience, like what do they want to need to know right now, et cetera. And like, should you break that up into a bunch of se subheaders should it be like several paragraphs, but like mainly what information should be displayed on the page and in what order? I think that's relevant. I have a question. So do you think Google is sophisticated enough to read that document and figure out a hierarchy without the header tag?

Evan Sherbert:

that's a really good question. I think it can probably use other elements on the page. You know, that page URL is definitely one of the oldest and kind of one of the smallest SEO signals. It can go a long way if you're a new site. Um, but you know, in the broad scope of things, I think the more intentionality we put in that structure it'll help it along, but it probably could figure out without any sort of heading tags, the information on the page after enough time after enough crawls.

Don Hansen:

okay. So you also had mentioned, so it sounds like the header tags are, are obviously gonna be very beneficial and people shouldn't skip on those, but you also mentioned the meta descriptions. So I've, I've heard that the title and the meta description are very important, but Google's kind of moving away from the keywords tag. Is that.

Evan Sherbert:

So the, so just to clarify, you're talking about the meta keyword tag. Yes. Yeah. That one is unfortunately a historical tag. Um, it's still there if, you know, people want to use it, but it's definitely not a ranking factor, unfortunately, because, uh, like with most things in SEO, we abused it too much. yes. And then it was taken away from us.

Don Hansen:

Yeah. People were loading, uh, that MEAG up with tons of keywords.

Evan Sherbert:

That's when I was learning. Oh yeah. All the white texts.

Don Hansen:

so what, so what other tags are relevant? You had mentioned the paragraph tag. Um, you know, what would be interesting is to, I don't know if you have this in depth of knowledge, but like the order of relevance in terms of ranking, it sounds like header techs are pretty high up there. Uh, what are some other important tags?

Evan Sherbert:

Yeah. Uh, earlier you mentioned the meta title and the meta. Um, you know, there's sort of a package deal and, you know, as SEOs, they're really helpful for us because you know, that meta title is sort of like that H one, we take it up another level of hierarchy. It's almost like the book title instead of the book chapter. And so this is really reflective of what that page is about. And so this will show within search results too. And so it's really important to be optimized the meta title of the page because searchers will see this and hopefully if we've optimized enough and we incentivize users, they'll click into our search results. On the flip side, the meta description is not a ranking factor. And so a lot of SEOs will try to either speed run the meta description, or they'll spend way too much time trying to figure out, you know, what do I put in here? Um, because it's not a ranking factor, like I said, but it has a lot of. Um, Google will bold some of those related keywords that somebody uses in their query with information in the meta description. And so, for instance, if I am searching for CRM software and my page mentions, you know, CRM software systems, platforms, tools in the description, it will bold those related keywords. And so it's not a ranking factor, but it can definitely increase that click through rate potential

Don Hansen:

that's um, That's interesting. Okay. So any words in the description that are gonna match the content? It'll bold that in the, the, uh, display in the search results of those mm-hmm matched words. Huh? Do you feel like, do you feel like Google cares about like the length of paragraphs? Does it, how in depth does it go with how well your content is written?

Evan Sherbert:

Yeah. So we, are we talking about, uh, that old, uh, that old, uh, battle between content length? You know, is it, is it long form only? Are we talking about, uh, do, uh, yeah. Can you tell me a bit more about that?

Don Hansen:

So, um, I actually had a couple stuff pulled up, but, um, so. When it reads to con okay, actually, I'll start with this question. When you break up the content, um, from what I've learned from other copywriters is way too many people will have too long of paragraphs. And this is just kind of from the user standpoint, we're not even talking about bots, but they'll have too long. Paragraphs. And so they're highly encouraging people to break up those paragraphs. And like, I even talked to someone that does copywriting that mentioned, like, sometimes you have a paragraph with one sentence and that's better for the user. Right. And you know, we go back to traditional English class. That's not really the case. You're not gonna have a paragraph with one sentence. And so it gets a little weird and funky when we bring this to the web and how people's attention will relate to this. But. Does Google. I, I guess we can even think about it from Google's standpoint too. Um, does it just care about a giant block of text? Does it distinguish, like if you break it and do two paragraphs, instead of one, is that actually gonna be relevant to Google? Does that tell Google anything? Does it rank you higher?

Evan Sherbert:

Yeah, it's a really good question. I think, you know, oftentimes, um, I actually funny enough, I watched that episode before this. Oh, cool. Um, I think, uh, a lot of people can kind of get into that trap where, you know, we're either writing for the user or writing for the search engine because you know, it, it can never be both. Right. Um, and so I think, you know, but in that same vein, it can be frustrating because we have to do both. Um, you know, we have to imagine that a user's gonna read our page. We can't, you know, drown them in an, in a Nove of text that they have to read through. But at the same time, we also have to prime it enough for a search engine to visit the page, to see, you know, does this have enough context? Is this really? Is this person really authoritative? Are they an expert? Do they know what they're talking about? Because you know, if I'm Google, I have millions, if not billions of documents about the same query, the same related queries that I could show somebody. So what on the page is relevant enough that I should show it to you?

Don Hansen:

You could almost, so I'm even thinking about, uh, when you build a responsive website and you have a mobile version, there's some text you just cut out. Sometimes that's not relevant to that user with a mobile device, cuz their attention's it's, it's a different environment, different type of attention almost. Um, they're usually. You know, being on a PC, you kind of, you just sit down, you relax, you kind of give yourself a little bit more time to get in the zone, but sometimes mobile it's just on the go and you're just trying to get information quickly. So I can even think responsiveness, we're gonna cut some of this text out, but you're saying Google cares about that authority. Right? And so they want to. they want as much content as possible to essentially see if you are an authoritative figure. So almost thinking, you know, span tags, that'll simply you hide them on mobile, right. They only need to see certain information and you might have additional extra information for Google. That's just hidden to the user. Do you ever like, do any of your front end developers ever do stuff like. . Yeah,

Evan Sherbert:

it's, uh, I don't know if it was clear on my face as you're talking about that, but typically that's, uh, that leads us down that road of, you know, a lot of EOS fear that hidden content, you know, it's kinda like the boogie man. It leads to penalties and issues with ranking. It's one of a number of things that scares us. Um, but when you think about like you were saying, For that website. I know that when I work with our really talented teams here, we run into that same issue where, you know, we wanna write up content to show across desktop, across mobile screens with that smaller window. However, we know that a user doesn't wanna scroll and scroll and scroll to see that main content, you know, we're always gonna have contextual content on the page. There's always gonna be that main content. What they're going to see what they're gonna care about. And so we can do a lot of creative ways to kind of not, not hide the content. See, I almost, uh, I almost tried myself, um, but really kind of be a little creative with it. So we've done some fun experiments where we use a drop down window, an expandable window to kind of have that content loaded there. And if a user wants to take that action to expand that window and read more, they definitely can. But when we do that, we always wanna make sure the on page content that is hidden behind that expandable window is crawlable it's crawlable, HTML. So crawler doesn't have to take an action to see that content is Google bot is extremely smart, but it can't click.

Don Hansen:

Okay. That's good to know. you had mentioned kind of just some hidden, hidden stuff behind the scenes. Um, let's actually dive into accessibility a little bit, cause it sounds like, well, you know what, before we do, I almost wanna challenge the direction I've been going down. I've also been given the advice that Google has become smart enough, where we only create content. We don't create content for Google and the user where Google's become smart enough where it's probably gonna prioritize content. That makes sense. When an actual human being is reading. Um, do you, do you find that, you know, your developers can get away with that or do you have to do some of those little tricks and, you know, uh, distinguish the two types of different content?

Evan Sherbert:

Yeah, that's a good question. Um, I think to what you were saying earlier, I think, uh, Google's getting smarter and smarter even though it's scarier to kind of believe that, um, where we we're finding, we don't need as much content as we previously thought. I think a lot of SEOs, a lot of content markers fell into that trap of, you know, long form is best because if you're gonna write about a topic, you know, we can also demonstrate our expertise by going long form by going detailed into what we're talking about, which is definitely good in some senses. But it also is a huge weight to our teams that are creating that content to our marketing and that content where, you know, I think that. It really doesn't have to be that same degree anymore. We can take that short form approach and still see a good impact to ranking and relevance. Now there's been a lot of really good updates recently with Google, including the passages update that allowed Google to get even better at parsing and understanding content in context on the page, and then pulling that into search results. So it seems like it's even getting better at understanding the document and what it can like hold and serve people. And so I definitely think, uh, we're learning more and more as we test and kind of do these experiments live on site. Um, but we definitely, and maybe I shouldn't say it too loudly. We don't need as much content as before.

Don Hansen:

That's good to know. That's definitely gonna know. So it sounds like you wrote a lot of extra content because you felt like it was more searchable. It helped with the rankings. So, all right. Yeah, Google's getting smarter. Great. That's not scary. So, um, let's dive into, uh, accessibility a little bit, so I, I'm not so feel free to tell me, like, if we hit a limitation, cause I don't know, um, how deep you go into the technical stuff on your day to day right now, but, um, what are some really useful. Important, uh, access, uh, tags that are gonna focus on accessibility that aspiring frontend developers should know about.

Evan Sherbert:

Yeah, definitely. I know when it comes to accessibility, especially for me in my day to day, um, I really focus heavily on image, all tags for accessibility, really focusing on what a screen reader can see, because at the end of the day, we really need to optimize for that reason. You know, we kind of take it. Uh, we really kind of focus on, you know, crawlable text at first blush when it comes to accessibility, we need to kind of think beyond that. And for all these elements that can be read, taking the time to be strategic there.

Don Hansen:

Do you think Google prioritizes websites that aim to be accessible?

Evan Sherbert:

I don't know if they prioritize it, but they definitely. they probably have a better user signal, user engagement signal, you know, it's not like, um, I don't know if every single user is using a screen reader, but obviously the ones that do, uh, they're not going to multiple websites and having the same bad experience. If a, if they find a website that really works for them and it's accessible to their needs, they're going to stay. They're going to convert because you know, a lot of websites don't think about accessibility. Mm-hmm, , it's sort of an afterthought.

Don Hansen:

Yeah. And so that's a tricky thing. It's like, You know, sometimes we on front end teams, right. We always kind of have a push for accessibility from some people. Um, and I think the thing is, I think a lot of front end developers want to care about accessibility, but it is an afterthought when we have a tight deadline when our funding's running short, you know, especially in the startup world. So, um, at many times, like it is, it becomes an afterthought because sometimes it's, it's about like these requirements that we have to. Um, like these could actually be costing us, you know, peop uh, jobs at our company, or like we not, might not. I, so I live in the startup world. So this is like the perspective I see larger companies. I think you can have a little bit more resources, um, and way behind the team to be able to handle some of these things. But I also think it's important. to, if we wanna have this conversation, if we want to encourage accessibility in teams, we also have to think about it from a business standpoint. Right. It's not just, we should have accessibility. Okay. Why should we have it? Right. And, you know, I don't wanna dive into like the huge moral thing, cause that's a whole other conversation, but we'd also have the conversation about how it brings more revenue, how it, um, and if it does impact search results, et C. Um, but you know, accessibility is even going back to like really fundamental stuff, like having a hierarchy with your header tags and having the content. That's gonna be very searchable, um, and image all tags, et cetera. So I think there are some tags where you kind of, uh, crew a little bit of a penalty, but, um, I. Okay. I guess I wanna ask, are there any other tags, besides an image alt text that you, in terms of accessibility that you feel like are going to be important? For example, let's even toss a screen reader idea. Like, do you find that like a lot of users are actually tabbing through the webpage? What happens? Like when we lose track of a tab index or we load up a Mo. And we haven't really built that cuz with react and get a little bit weird sometimes mm-hmm . And so you might have to manually add that in depending on your application, but like, are there any other tags that you feel like are pretty important?

Evan Sherbert:

Yeah. You mentioned earlier there was heading level tags again, right? I was, uh, recently at MOSCON this year. Um, and there was a great speaker who really talked about accessibility. Um, and her example was I thought was beautiful that she pulled up a news. and, you know, new sites, those big sites with a lot of different pages, a lot of page types. Those were some of the worst offenders when it comes to accessibility. And, you know, she gave us a demo of what that experience is like for somebody using a screen reader. And it was horrifying. It really made me care a lot about accessibility, where, you know, going through that experience of somebody trying to just, you know, learn about the news. You know the screen, reader's just reading every heading, heading, heading, heading, heading where there's no hierarchy, there's no information, there's no articles. There's just, you know, sections of a website for a

Don Hansen:

news website. That feels, yeah. I'm surprised.

Evan Sherbert:

Oh, I mean, you know, it's, I feel like you have more experience than I do with this, but you know, the bigger the website, right? The easier it is for some of those foundational elements to go kind of under the radar are. Kind of get all spooled up in that spaghetti of the site.

Don Hansen:

What's weird is I feel like a company. So I've had companies that have like, you know, uh, 30% of their revenue has literally come from organic search, which is, you know, I, I don't know if that's high or low, that seems pretty high, you know? And that's what the team of like tons of salesmen as well. Uh, bringing in clients, I feel like I feel like an information heavy website. like, those are fundamental things you would think they would focus on that would probably boost their rankings in the search engine. Um, right. am I off on that?

Evan Sherbert:

No, I think you're definitely right, but I think, uh, you mentioned earlier, it's never, unfortunately it's never, you know, anyone's biggest priority, you know, they're about getting the new article live. They're about getting, you know, headings are one thing. But when you have like a mega menu that aggregates a bunch of stories of the day or a bunch of information, it's sort of a last thought, it's sort of like, you know, next sprint, when we have time, let's come back to it. Or, you know, it's sort of the first thing that gets eked off that optimization or sprint planning board where, you know, it's more about the foundations and the found the fundamental elements of the site, less about accessibility.

Don Hansen:

It's also understanding your users. So, um, you know, outside of the moral conversation, there's, I don't think it's effective to make a big push for accessibility in a moral ground. I don't, especially, you know, cuz I've talked to people, you know, at higher positions in my company where it's like. we're we might have to let people go, like, I'm sorry. You know, we want to provide that value as many people as possible, but like, you know, we have some fires we gotta put out. Right. And so a lot of people don't realize a lot of those requirements with the business. So, you know, a big recommendation, um, with a lot of newer startups is to focus on accessibility early, build that foundation. It's much easier. Integrated into your workflow than it is like a large company. Did all of a sudden, no. Okay. Now you wanna tell, so we gotta focus on accessibility. Okay, great. I can show you the massive amount of jobs and numbers that, you know, revenue we might lose by like completely Rero. So it's, it's a conversation that needs to be had, but I think if people really wanna have that conversation, this is my personal stance. You know, you can come at it from a moral standpoint, but you have to also think about it from a business standpoint and how it's going to benefit the business. And it will in the long run, but being able to explain that to people that actually care about the revenue, it's, it's a hard conversation to have. Um, but. I've seen the organic search that it's it's brought. Um, I wanna explore a couple more tags with you. We had talked about the schema, right? I remember spending quite a bit of time going through the code and like getting all the right schema tags. And I remember spending way too much time and they're like, Don, you actually didn't need all these schema. Okay. I just needed these. So, but I, I feel like frontend developers can spend a good chunk of time with that. Um, Do you feel like focusing on those types of schema tags are worth it for rankings and are there only specific tags that you should prioritize? . Evan Sherbert: Yeah, it's I think, uh, it's sort of the joke in SEO to say it depends as a response to most questions and, uh, it sort of depends. I think, uh, you know, uh, schema structured data, this sort of information, this technology is driving the future of organic search. It powers those, it doesn't power necessarily, but it definitely helps, uh, create those enhanced search, uh, results. So those featured snippets, those FAQ results, those local results, those event FAQs, a lot of those cool enhancements you're seeing at serve results are powered by this technology as I'm reading more. I'm also reading that. Um, I remember Google had a, a really cool feature where, you know, when you ask a question on Google, Google can display search results, but like, it has kind of a list of all the, uh, of like, A similar or the same question asked and what it'll do. It's actually smart enough to look through the content of a page and, um, figure out does this specific answer and this huge block of text answer this person's question, right? If it does, we're gonna prioritize that listing and we we're actually gonna conveniently provide that answer for them. Do you feel like. Google is smart enough to be able to do that on its own. Or do you feel like schema tags are still gonna be around for a long time to map to those specific features?

Evan Sherbert:

Yeah, that's a really good question. Um, I think like we were saying earlier, Google is really, really smart. I think structured data and schema goes a long way for a site for prim. A crawler with that information, but it's not necessary to rank for those featured snippets. You know, Google can understand that and show that without the mark up there, it's just a matter of, you know, taking the time, if you want to be strategic and prime, that to have kind of a more scalable result taking the time to figure out scalable solution with your site. Okay.

Don Hansen:

I I'll be honest. I feel like I'm so lost when it comes to organic search. I do. And I feel like as a front end developer, I've become more interested in it because I can see how I can grow a business. And I've been shocked at how much it can grow a business. So I'm trying to learn more about it. Um, we could even branch out technically speaking, but, um, for those that maybe want to create an app and maybe, so this is an interesting thing. Here's actually a scenario. Aspiring developers. They create their portfolio. Most of the time they'll send in a cold application. They don't know the company, the company doesn't know them. They send in their resume cover letter. Yes. Cover letter. And they hope that the employer will come to their website. And, but they're also, they're also building their portfolio in a sense where like, they're trying to deliver Infor. So like your. Let's see like your, your GitHub, your work history, et cetera. They're gonna look at that resume. They're gonna see all that. So when they go to your portfolio, I see a lot of aspiring developers listing that again, and I'm telling them. It's irrelevant right now, you have to understand where your audience is coming from. And a lot of these websites, like not, they're barely even ranked, right. But I would love for people to continue building portfolio websites, where the users are coming in from the search engines, right. Attracting hiring managers, recruiters. And I think you can definitely do that through content and creating content. But, um, I also wanna go over some maybe non-technical. Aspects about ranking your site in Google and getting more organic search, but you can expand that to wherever you want it to go. But for those that want traffic to come to their portfolio, to their projects, maybe they built a project, they built an app and they want an audience. Right. They want people to actually use their app. What are some strategies that they can implement to bring that audience to them?

Evan Sherbert:

Yeah, I think, uh, really focusing on. Taking kind of a weird mental shift and focusing on your name as your brand, right. It's kind of a weird thing. Maybe not so weird to the younger, younger generation. I can't believe saying that to the people kind of in college these days where it's more normalized, right. They've grown up with social media. It's not so much of a weird mental shift. Um, but really focusing on your name, focusing on what shows up when somebody Googles you. it's for, for some people, it can be a little bit scary, but I think for the people you're talking about, I think if they wanna be found. And so I think like you were saying, if they really write about themselves and figure out how do I market myself, because at the end of the day, you know, you are your own product trying to be, you know, sold to a company, trying to get that job, to get that experience. And if, you know, if you don't know how to mark yourself, people don't know how to find you sort of an uphill battle. And so I think you can also do this in a few other ways, just besides on page content. Uh, Google has made a lot of advancements lately in authorship, and so a really big fundamental part of SEO is this concept of E a T expertise, authoritativeness and trust. And so a lot of these signals, um, domains try to figure out, you know, am I an expert in my space? Am I authoritative? Can I rank for so. And for a while, it seemed like publishers and like big companies didn't have a problem. You know, Coca-Cola is not going to never rank number one for Coca-Cola. That's not gonna happen, but you know, Google is now better understanding authors and try in sort of treating the individual person, almost like an entity. And so if you can mark up your on page content and show Google, Hey, this is me. I am an author and kind of build out almost like accessibility. Again, build out that early stages of telling search engines and users through that information, through that on page content, you can really be found.

Don Hansen:

Do you feel like, okay, so you mentioned something that's huge, a lot of good advice right there, but first of all, yes, younger generation, definitely much more comfortable just putting their name out there and building a brand around their personal name. And I think that's actually really powerful. So some people like it, some people don't, um, I started my brand, Don, the developer, right. I included my name in there and that was for a reason. I actually. I, I don't tell people this, I actually get sick of saying my name over and over and over. I do. It's like, I don't, I don't wanna hear my name, but it is strong for branding. And it did build my branding up when I was trying to find a job. Cause I tell people like I used to live stream on Twitch and I would live code. I skipped a technical interview with my first job. Everyone else had to do it. I didn't. Right. But they were able to essentially see my live stream and see my content where they searched Don, the developer, cuz everything is Don, the developer. They're like, oh, okay. He has a Twitter. He has a LinkedIn. He has a website. He has a Twitch channel and it. and they just had all that information and that brand for me as an aspiring developer, and even as a professional developer, getting my next jobs, it was powerful. It was really powerful. So I'm a big fan of using that name everywhere and exposing your personality, exposing your journey of coding, et cetera. My question is, does Google or how do they link social media accounts? Together. Do they link social media accounts to your main website? Right? Like if someone searches Donda developer, does Google know that like these list of five social media accounts are all mine and not separate Donda developers?

Evan Sherbert:

Yeah. And so I think that is a little bit on us to take that. You know, it's sort of a best practice. You hear everywhere, but linking your social profiles to each other, really making that connection for users. You know, if I'm on your YouTube and I wanna get to your Twitch, having that link immediately. So I don't have to take that additional step and maybe bounce. Maybe I misspelled Don in this crazy future. Um, you know, really taking the time to connect those profiles because you know, like I said earlier, authors are almost becoming like entities. And so there is a search result called the knowledge graph, which is the right side of search results page that usually has a featured image. It has some Wikipedia information, some high level information about your query. And so we're finding more and more that authors people searching for a specific person. Those social profiles are showing within that knowledge graph. And so, you know, if you do things kind of right from the first foundational perspective, if somebody searches your name, You know, all of a sudden you have everything they need to know right. With an eye shot.

Don Hansen:

So that's very valuable. And I think most people should take that advice. And I know people, some are also gonna be scared. that advice be like, that's scary. I don't want Google linking everything. Right. And they, they enjoy their privacy, um, as they should enjoy some privacy. Um, so essentially. I'm still learning more about back links and I've heard that back links can, um, and correct me if I'm using the wrong terms back links can, um, improve your authority on a subject. And, um, so is that what you're talking about is that what you're getting into backlink is kind of linking all the content or is that not how backlinks really work?

Evan Sherbert:

No. You're exactly right. And so for Google, uh, backlinks are almost the oldest ranking factor around, you know, back to the early days where, you know, Sergey and Larry Page were in college, waiting their original, you know, rank brand research paper, you know, the only way they knew to really stand out and show that somebody was authoritative was having that source. And so back links start a way for, you know, Google to have a way to validate trust. You know, that's what separates, you know, Evan, the developer.com from Don. You know, I don't have a lot of people pointing to me saying that I'm an expert. You have a ton of people who are willing to vouch for your content for you for saying, if you wanna learn about development, you really should check out Don. He knows what he is talking.

Don Hansen:

Okay. I think that's something I should have put more effort into. And I mean, maybe this is advice for people that do wanna put themselves out there and create context. I know some people do. Um, yeah, I think I need to focus more on it, especially if I'm gonna get into, um, creating a lot more written content are there. So I feel like. I feel like I've just been asking you a bunch of questions as, um, kind of just questions that have been in my head as well. Just trying to piece things together. But I feel like there is a lot of information to remember here and I feel like a lot of what we talked about is beneficial. Um, but I don't really know how beneficial it is. And like you said, it depends, and it probably depends on like what you're trying to push out there. Um, so I'll accept the, I depends, uh, answer, but are there any tools online tools to help out? That'll analyze my website. Um, and give me even just like certain rankings or tell me like that. Like, even if it weights a certain tag more than others, are there any useful tools that I could just scan my site and it'll tell me what I'm doing wrong.

Evan Sherbert:

Definitely. Yeah. And so when it comes to keyword rankings, I'm looking at traffic or are there some of those more revenue generating metrics? There's a ton, there's a wealth of tools around. Tools like SIM rush HFS tools like MAs and getta. A lot of these tools have free options available to you as well as some more paid and premium functions that like to track keywords over time to track the C what Google is introducing to new CERP environments every single day. And really kind of give you, you know, from beyond a content. Is there a format that Google's preferring? Is there a style they're preferring? You know, what is really the difference between page one versus everyone else? , you know, there's sort of this old joke in SEO that, you know, page two is where you could hide a dead body because no one goes there and I, in some respects, I think that's still true. Right. I know that I, you know, will go to page 10 all the time because I'm a lunatic, but most people aren't going past page two, maybe even page three. Come on. When's the last time you went to page three. You're right. Oh, you're

Don Hansen:

absolutely right. that's a really good point. Um, I think that's a really good, I actually think that's a healthy mindset. Um, I think understanding. I mean, this is just a world we live in with, in my opinion, a lot of our attention is being trained to essentially be sat from us. And the, the, a lot of our devices and apps are, it's just a bunch of dopamine hits and creating addictive behavior, but like it's creating behavior that doesn't allow us to essentially patiently look through a lot of content until we to find quality content. We want it now. We want it right away. Um, and we want the answer delivered to us almost immediately when we go onto a webpage. And so I think it's important to understand people's attention in this world right now, because like you said, like page, I haven't been to page three for forever for, I can't even think of a search term that I looked at page three, but yeah. I mean, you're absolutely right about that. I, um, I have a couple other questions about, uh, some extra tags. And then I kind of just wanna summarize, I know I'm like all over the place. I'm just curious. This is what happens when I'm curious. I just ask questions that I keep, uh, I just have at the back of my mind, but when I build out a webpage, um, There are ways to organize content with like sections articles aside. Um, and I feel like maybe news websites use, I mean, from your perspective, maybe they don't care about any of that. Right. Um, because it doesn't sound like they really care about accessibility, but, um, organizing a lot of your content based on the type of content it is with tags, like article, section aside, even header footer, are those, how relevant are those types of tags? definitely,

Evan Sherbert:

I think the tags themselves are probably relevant for, you know, for the developer, for the person who's in that front end, trying to organize the information, trying to, you know, figure out what the user's going to see. I know for Google, for search engine crawlers, that header that head tag is really important. All that really good information that Google relies on is in there. Things like the meta title description, the Canon. A lot of those really important elements are there. And the footer is a great spot for most people just to shove links in there. But, you know, we know better. We know the footers, a really valuable place for users and for search engines. Um, but I definitely think it might be more for the organization's standpoint. Interesting.

Don Hansen:

Okay. Well, that's a relief cuz I underuse those tag. I'm gonna be honest. Cause I, you know, even just talking about all, all of this, I feel I don't feel overwhelmed, but I know I'm gonna forget some stuff. And I feel like it's interesting because with react, this is why I love react in general. It's like. It a lot of conventions or a lot of courses will teach conventions around compartmentalizing, like a lot of react components. And what you can do is you can create your own like article component. You can create your own, uh, side component, header component, footer component. You can reuse that, um, across a different applications, but it has like this consistent structure that you just integrate in. And so. You don't have to remember a lot of these tags, but I remember at one of my companies that I worked at, we essentially built this entire hierarchy of components that really prioritized accessibility. So no one had to care about the accessibility. They didn't have to remember it. They just brought in the components that already had this built in. And so we had rules when you would use certain components. Um, it was, uh, it was called, like we used an atomic structure, essentially. We had like minor components and more complex components, more complex components that would compound all these. So, you know, it can get a little bit complex, but we had a hierarchy and that's a beautiful thing about react. No one had to care like they had, didn't have to think about accessibility anymore, cuz this there's so many tags in place. Um, what about you had mentioned the canonical tag. Can you elaborate on what that is and why it's I. . Yeah. So the

Evan Sherbert:

canonical tag. really kind of, I feel under the radar for a lot of people, it's, it's really important in SEO, but it's also like most things really confusing. And so that canonical tag is really that chance for the page to tell search engines, to tell users, you know, if I have similar pieces of content, if I have, you know, a compare page where comparing two things, one verse another, and then a variance of that, the canonical tag is a way to kind of show order in an absolute. And so it can tell us, you know, if I'm on page a, in the economical points to page B, to treats page B as the master document and try to give everything that a would've gotten, give it to B essentially. So it allows us to kind of wrangle a bunch of related pages and kind of show above that noise. Where is the absolute truth? Where should I be sending all this ranking information and SEO data to.

Don Hansen:

I'm gonna challenge that. Why is that important? Because we did a test at one of my companies where, um, I actually, well, it wasn't a test. I just forgot the can canonical tag. And so we had two separate pages with, um, in, I think we kind of confused Google on how it should rank each page. And so it kind of split the search results. But when we did add the canonical tag, It essentially just pushed everyone. That's going to this to one page, but the audience, like the numbers in who like the number of people that had actually pushed to these pages or this one page, it never changed. It just shifted the direction. So. Is it a big deal? Like what happens when you Google splits it? Like, if we kept our audience, we retained them. We didn't notice any like retention differences, et cetera. Um, I'm wondering how important that tag actually is. . Evan Sherbert: Yeah, I think in your pages, having that canonical in place pointing instead of two pages, just to one direct place, it helps Google to show what in search results. You know, if I have two pages that are relatively similar in most metrics, uh, about the same topic and Google is unsure of what to show that canonical tech can really be the difference maker and, you know, having to figure out, you know, what is we the best pace to show here? okay. Yeah, I can understand it makes sense to funnel that traffic into one page. It was just interesting to see that we didn't really, uh, get any hits in terms of rankings when we did split it. What about, um, um, what about, I think I had one more tag. I wanted address. Oh yeah. So like site maps and the. Text file. I think it's a text. I don't even know. Um, it is. Okay. So the robot file, the robot text file and the site map, I've heard that the site map was actually fairly irrelevant. And typically you're gonna add it in later down the road, like a lot of new applications and websites won't use it initially. Um, no one ever talks about the robot text files.

Evan Sherbert:

Yeah. Yeah. The robust that, uh, TXT file or text file is really, really important for SEO, right? This is our one chance. Uh, well, not really our one chance, but it's a document that Google has to crawl first or for it crawls your website to basically tell it what can I crawl and what can I not crawl specific to a individual user agent, a page type, a content type. Uh, that's your document to basically to put rules in place. Now Google doesn't have to necessarily follow those all the time, but it's your chance to really say in the best case scenario, here's what I want you to crawl. And here's what I really don't. You know, these, you know, user login pages, these pages that require passwords, or maybe, you know, God forbid the, you know, the testing site, if that gets crawled, you know, really trying to iron out all the potential issues.

Don Hansen:

So with a robot text file, this essentially. um, I mean, yeah, I don't know why it should be going to your testing, uh, site, but like, it's essentially just if you need those specific exclusions. Cause I don't think a lot of apps do. Correct. But like you said, what, what would be the penalty of like having it it's it's probably not gonna rank a log and page naturally, is it?

Evan Sherbert:

It definitely can. It definitely can't get into that, you know, actual pages behind that login window. But it can still see that initial login page. And so I mentioned a testing site earlier because it's one of those things that keeps me up at night. One of many, um, it's something called a spider trap. And so, you know, as SEOs, we want to make sure, you know, especially with a larger site, we run into issues of cannibalization and having way too many similar pages, just given the scale of a. Mm. And so we run into issues where, you know, if it, somehow, if a crawler gets to a staging website of ours, you know, then it's my nightmare. Cuz then it has four versions or three versions of a same site. And now instead of, you know, one cannibalization pair, I have six,

Don Hansen:

I mean, I can tell you as developers. Sometimes we like to have fun with the content. We replace some content on the staging environment. So there's probably other information you don't want displayed or rent I can see that. Definitely. That's interesting. Cuz you you're specifically talking about like a website that it is hard to scale a website and keep track of a lot of that. So that, that does make sense. Um, Okay. I feel like I have so many questions, so I I'm realizing the time. So I'm gonna ask this last question to let you kind of like share anything else you wanna share, but, um, uh, what about the site map specifically? Do you think that's relevant?

Evan Sherbert:

mm-hmm . And so, uh, there's kind of two necessary site maps. We have the HTML site map that standard one where it's really kind of for users giving them kind of an outline of your site map and your site content. Um, XML site maps are where SEOs can kind of get themselves into trouble for a long time. SEOs thought it was a ranking signal. It's not, um, it's really a chance for us to show Google. You know, here are my most important pages. once you've come to my site to crawl the information. I want you to focus on these pages first because they really, to me represent the best possible pages. You know, the 200 status, the non 4 0 4 S you know, the really iron out best content possible because it's not a ranking factor, but if we can teach Google to crawl the pages, the content we want them to get to, it helps us rank faster. It helps us index that content even faster.

Don Hansen:

that's interesting. That's powerful. I didn't know that. Yeah. Okay. I feel like a lot, a lot of my assumptions were kind of, they were corrected quite a bit and I, I feel like Bri. So first of all, going into a developer team, do you have an extra five minutes? We're kind of going over. Yeah, of course. Okay. I'll try to wrap it up, but I'm just, I'm curious about this stuff. I really am. When you go into a team as a front end developer, um, a lot of the team doesn't really have this knowledge and I think SEO specialists get hired in for a little bit larger companies, not super common with startups, but it depends on the startup. That's just my experience. So coming into your team with this kind of knowledge, um, I think it's very, very valuable and I. even just bringing in, if you care about accessibility and you care about, you know, ranking the website, which you're gonna be building features on these kind of things I'm telling you like this, this kind of stuff helps you stand out. And one of the reasons I wanted to do this episode is because, you know, we're things financially speaking, we're in a recession, jobs are very oversaturated, right? And I think developer, no, I know developers need to start thinking about ways that they can niche down just a little bit. And bring in that extra expertise, especially if they care about it. If I know hiring managers want to bring in developers that care about these extra things and can contribute to the team in that way, where other team members didn't have that knowledge, you can kind of bring in that domain knowledge, be very respected and cared about. And like, so this is if, if you care about accessibility, um, Hopefully this was helpful, but I've been all over the place. So, um, I'll kind of wrap it up with, do you have any extra or like one final piece of advice you wanna give for people that wanna focus more on organic search, um, accessibility, et cetera.

Evan Sherbert:

Yeah, so, um, there's a really good resource and a website called learning seo.io started by an SEO in our field named EITA. So. Um, and she is one of the best practitioners of SEO I've ever met. Um, she is really, really passionate about sharing information and really helping everyone learn all these fundamentals and how to apply them across skillsets. And so learning SEO dot Iowa will help pretty much any anyone learn things from fundamentals to executing, to even deepening knowledge. If you think you're a subject matter expert. I mean, this field is, you know, despite it being relatively new, it's very deep and it continues to get more technical. And, you know, I, I think SEOs wish the worldwide web was just a static HTML document. Cause it's easier, you know, that's almost how we're taught. You know, we, uh, we kind of shy away from renderable content and API calls and all the fun stuff that really makes the internet, you know, exciting to use because that kind of goes against our best practices. Right. We, uh, that's sort of what makes joining those front end teams both extremely rewarding and a little bit challenging at times, because most SEO practitioners are sort of learning in a vacuum they're learning in best practices. And then, oh no, if I don't have this checklist, oh, we need to fix that. but kind of the challenge is, you know, you can learn everything about SEO, everything's out there. However, it doesn't tell you how to apply it, or, you know, what's important. What's a priority that is definitely what's missing right now.

Don Hansen:

And you feel like learning seo.io supplements that,

Evan Sherbert:

oh yes. Oh my God. She has such great content for every part of the skillset. Every part of that journey.

Don Hansen:

I'm looking through it. There's a lot of detail. I just keep clicking in and then I have like 10 results and I click into more results. And, um, then I have entire articles to read. This is actually phenomenal.

Evan Sherbert:

Oh yeah. My every single day, the hardest part is not going down rabbit holes in my day to day work. Cuz everything leads to another. Right? Like previously I, I think technical probably few years ago, technical SEO was my weakest. You know, I was really confident content. I knew how that worked, but if you, you know, told me that, you know, static content rendered content was different. I would've lost my mind. I think, you know, having the ability to kind of be uncomfortable and learning something that you may think is beyond you is a really important step. At the end of the day, that's what helps me work collaboratively with developers the best, you know, I can say here's what I think from an SEO perspective, but I know I'm missing at least 50% of what's happening, right? Like from a developmental standpoint, I rely on my coworkers to kind of teach me and help me catch up to what they're working as, cuz you know, I can't rely on everyone to think SEO is as really cool as I do. Right. Because it definitely is. But you know, it's not everyone's top priority.

Don Hansen:

Well, I wanna personally apologize among all of us react creators, uh, people that work with react. I know it makes your job harder. I know it complicates things. So thank you for being patient as we continue to give you limitation after limitation.

Evan Sherbert:

Uh, no problem. I'm enjoying.

Don Hansen:

Okay, cool. All right. That's it. Um, so I, this is more of a curiosity episode. And, um, I find that when I'm curious, generally other people have some similar questions to me, but, um, we went over a lot of tags. We went over. organic search. And I think, I think a message I wanna deliver is I've already honed in on this, but, um, if you care about accessibility, you care about search rankings, a company's going to care that you care about it, right? Prioritizing that and knowing why it can bring the company more revenue. It's gonna make you stand out as a developer. I'm telling you developers that also care about the business requirements and care about understanding the users and delivering the best experience. It's gonna bring in more revenue. So if you wanna have these conversations with your teams about accessibility, you need to think of it from a business standpoint as well. And that's where I think, uh, a lot of teams fall short, they just can't have that conversation with people that aren't technical or that don't, you know, care about the certain things that they care about. Right. So you have to think about who you're talking about, but if you can relate it, it's really powerful. Um, and I've personally seen a lot of revenue coming in when you do start prioritizing this. That's all I have. I hope it was helpful. Um, Evan, I definitely appreciate you coming on, you know, before you leave, if people wanted to reach out to you and anything else you wanna shout out, where could they reach you?

Evan Sherbert:

Yeah. Thank you for Evan, man. If you want to talk to me more about SEO, you could hit me up on Twitter at Evan. Does SEO, very creative. Um, yeah, if I'm always down to chat about this sort of stuff, I love rabbit holes and getting lost in things I know nothing about. So I'm always happy to have that convers.

Don Hansen:

Love it. All right. Well, I'm glad you included your name as well. I think it'll help. Um, okay. That's it. If you're on YouTube, let me know what you think in the comments greet disagree. Do you have more questions? Um, like Evan said, this is a rabbit hole. There's more we could explore with this. I think it would also be interesting to explore how to build up your presence as a developer on social media and how. Um, essentially build up that identity that apparently Google is building on you. So, um, if you want me to do that topic as well, we could dive into it, but Evan, thanks so much for coming up. See

Evan Sherbert:

everything we believe. Thank you. See everything.