Living in harmony with IT

By Dave McAnally, Natural Search Supervisor, Content Solutions

A common thread among our clients' challenges is that, internally it is a struggle to get their marketeers (pronounced \mar-‘ ke’ –tears\) on the same page as their IT staff (those fellows that actually execute on the implementation). The two camps don’t always (if ever) share the same priority on matters. Where marketers are concerned with SEO, user experience, calls-to-action and so forth, the IT team’s primary interests are in uptime, security, server load and site performance. That’s not to say that these things don’t ever complement each other, but those instances where they are at odds engenders these challenges (at least in your humble author’s opinion). It’s not that these camps disagree with the direction to go; it’s just that priority levels don’t always sync up. Factor in the limited ability to access and change things on a site, and we have what my macro-economics professor used to call (and probably still does) “forced allocation of scarce resources”.

There are some tactics in SEO that simply ask a lot more of an IT staff than they do a marketeer. Some may compromise site performance or server load. If you are a marketeer (as I imagine you probably are), knowing what those things are can be invaluable in improving lines of communication. There are two principles I can think of that can keep marketeers and IT at odds if vantage points aren’t considered:

  • Any new piece of software means a new point of failure – When you tell your site admins about an amazing piece of software that will magically handle all your rewrites on that IIS server, what they are thinking is ‘This is something that could crash/fail’. And they would be correct. That’s not to say the software should be scrapped, but this is POV of someone whose prime interest involves server uptime. The marketeer isn’t who has to get up at 3am to reboot the server when the filter crashes! Always factor that into your thinking when talking about new software.
  • Extra work = Extra Load = affect on scalability - You see, when someone requests a URL (through a search engine, a bookmark, etc), a server takes a number of steps to provide the corresponding page. Now, if you task that server with having to look up where that URL redirects to, or what the new name of that URL is, you are creating one more step between your end user and the web page they want to see. Multiply that by a few hundred thousand requests and we may start seeing a lag time in pages served. This is what your IT team is thinking about when you ask them to rewrite lots of URLs or redirect things.

Does this mean you should abandon all things that could cross into these territories? Absolutely not. It does, however mean that one must understand the tradeoffs. Typically, in the latter, the various Content Delivery Networks have addressed most performance based issues for larger companies, and other such options can alleviate some of the pain. Where there’s a will, there’s a way basically. It falls to us, the marketeers, to properly address that will (I’ll leave it to you the reader to determine if that last sentence was remarkably poignant or fantastically cheesy). I should also mention at this juncture that Jeff encouraged me to suggest things like "give the techs Star Wars figures", or “never say anything derogatory whatsoever about The Fifth Element” however, my own nerd-quotient is demonstrably too high to speak objectively about such things.


Live it, love it. said...

This must be a prescient issue for many people (and I understand how it would be). Just read another post on how these relationships and diverging priorities play out in the client world with regards to SEO:

Great article, D-Mac, and godspeed.

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