We work hard to ensure our VitalSite content management system is the best on the market. And we’re lucky enough to work with experts in many disciplines – not just software development. We routinely reach out to our internal experts to get advice and recommendations to ensure our software meets evolving needs.
For one of our recent development sprints we invited Casey Hansen, Geonetric’s expert on all things Google, to join the VitalSite team as a guest product owner. Casey brought a backlog of ideas for enhancing the search engine optimization features of VitalSite. I sat down with him to find out how it went.
DS: Thanks for being part of the development team this sprint. Could you explain which part of the development process you were included in?
CH: I was involved in the planning process and the daily standups to see how the product team works through a sprint and overcomes obstacles. It was eye-opening to see how all the different pieces affect each other.
DS: It’s a constant process of prioritization. Were there other surprising aspects of the development process?
CH: The biggest surprise was to see how something that seems simple can actually be quite complex. What will that change affect here? There? Across the product? What do we do if this happens? What do we do if that happens? When you’re the one with the idea, you don’t think about all of the details. The simplest little feature can have waterfall effects. It’s really enlightening to understand the process.
DS: One of the features that you worked on was an enhancement to encourage authors to provide good metadata for the content they create. How do you think the feature will boost search engine optimization?
CH: It’s going to help make sure that some of the basics are on the pages, that they don’t get left out, and that they conform to standards. In my experience, clients have multiple people putting content in and it’s easy for pages to get published with no metadata, or inconsistent metadata. This feature is going to help guide that process.
DS: As an online marketing strategist, is there an advantage to having the VitalSite development team just down the hall?
CH: I think that it’s a huge benefit both internally and for our clients. Clients don’t interact with the development team very often, but they do interact with me and other client-facing people a lot. We often take ideas that come from a client project and go to the product team and say, “This would be a great thing for everybody.” They may not even know that their project may influence some new feature.
DS: On the other side of the coin, our last VitalSite release included some enhancements to our sitemap.xml generation. It’s a feature that’s important to helping sites get fully indexed, but often goes unnoticed. I’m guessing you’ve been tracking the outcome of those changes?
CH: VitalSite already did a great job of indexing, but this enhancement really took it to the next level. We’ve been getting more and more pages indexed. Tracking the health of your site in Google’s Webmaster Tools is a great way to get insight into how you’re performing in a lot of different ways on Google, but there’s not a lot of time for clients to get in there and analyze it the way it needs to be analyzed.
DS: What’s ahead for online marketing?
CH: This idea of community building is something we’re watching. How are people finding information? If I want a recommendation for a hospital, a plumber, or whatever, I’m probably more likely to go to my friend to see what he thinks, or what ten friends think than to just type “plumber” into Google. That’s why search engines are incorporating social into search, because you’re more apt to look at your friends’ recommendations. There’s a trust factor there. It’s more about inserting yourself into the community that’s already there. It’s challenging because it’s a whole new marketing ballgame. Less push and more pull.