In SEO, communication between departments is everything.
But trying to explain SEO to other teams can make you feel like Bill Murray’s character in Lost in Translation.
Tasks fall through the cracks. Follow-up questions compound.
To remove bottlenecks like these, Adam Gent recommends a method used by elite teams called specification by example.
Specification by example uses concrete examples and descriptions to help you build shared understanding and a common language between departments.
Let’s talk about what that looks like in practice.
Here are two different tickets from an SEO to a development team:
- “Please add self-referencing canonical tags to certain pages in the [link]. You can read more about implementing canonical tags in Google’s official documentation [link].”
- “Please add self-referencing HTML canonical tags to dress colour pages in the /dresses directory. A full list of pages can be found here [link]. Any HTML canonical tags must be placed into the section of the HTML.”
Which request is the clearest—and most likely to get done? The second one, by a long shot.
Here’s why: The first request leaves it up to a developer to figure out, “What is a canonical tag? Which pages?”
Meanwhile, anyone can read and understand the second request – no guesswork, friction, or uncertainty.
When you use specification by example, you can quickly:
- Clarify acceptance criteria. Better specifications reduce completion time.
- Develop a common language.
- Build shared understanding and keep the entire team on the same page.
Finally, Adam shares a three-step guide to creating your specifications:
- First, identify the scope of the task by asking specific questions.
- Then, gather examples of data, design, etc to show what success looks like.
- Lastly, illustrate and write specifications, by turning abstract statements into concrete tasks.
That’s the quick summary. Of course, this is all explained in-depth in Adam’s detailed breakdown. Seems worth trying out, doesn’t it?