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September 24, 2018

Agile SEO: Why You Need it and How to Implement It

SEO Targeting
Photo Credit: Augur Marketing via flickr

It’s been six years since Maile Ohye (Developer Programs Tech lead at Google) said that one of the biggest SEO mistakes is not being agile. In her own words: “The advantage of having an agile SEO cycle is clear. Aim to be agile.”

Not clear enough for you yet?

No problem!

That’s what we’re here for.

What is agile SEO?

Agile is a time boxed, iterative approach to software delivery that builds software incrementally from the start of the project, instead of trying to deliver it all at once near the end.”

Yes, the agile methodology is typically applied to software development.

Briefly put, it means that you break the work on a project in smaller cycles called sprints. They typically take around two weeks.

Why does it work?

Well, the main reason is that you get to see and mitigate problems and risks in your project before they become catastrophic. Instead of waiting until close to delivery date to diagnose what went wrong and what can be improved, you do it continuously.

How does this translate to SEO?

The agile methodology can be easily translated to any industry. When applied to SEO, it means that you should focus on one thing at a time, nail it and only then move on.

Let’s see what this approach can do for your SEO strategy.

Why do you need agile SEO?

First of all, it’s about resource buy-in. Irrespective of the size of your company, you need a CMO, a VP of something or a CEO to agree to allocating resources for SEO.

When you slap these decision-makers with a long-winded plan (read: a 50-slide PowerPoint) about the long-term benefits of SEO, you’ve already lost them. 

But if you ask for less resources to accomplish one small SEO goal (and you explain why that goal matters to the company, you’re golden. Plus, you can fit this in less than a page.

Of course, it’s not just about convincing the right people.

First and foremost, it’s because agile SEO is beneficial for your long-term marketing strategy.

Let me give you an example.

A short while ago, I launched a new service at Idunn, the digital marketing company I run. It’s an AMA (Ask Me Anything) Call. The principle is simple: for an hour, you get to ask me anything about your digital marketing strategy. In fact, I even worked on completing strategies with some of my clients this way.

While I love doing this – I met a lot of amazing and inspiring people this way –, there is one thing that bugs me.

Everyone wants things to get done fast. Especially SEO.

And we all know that the only constant thing about SEO is that it’s constantly changing. 

One of these calls was with the owner of a real estate agency. She wanted to boost her SEO right now. In a month.

Better yet, she already had a great plan, just needed me to fill some things in and give her a budget estimation. 

What I did instead was ask her to take a small step back and take her time. Go Agile.

How does agile SEO work?

First off, let’s take a look at the traditional approach.

If you want to overhaul your SEO, the broad strokes of the plan look like this:

  1. Check for technical errors on your website (responsiveness, 404s, other redirects, broken links and so on)
  2. Optimize the title tags and meta descriptions of each page
  3. (Re-)optimize existing content (web pages and blog posts)
  4. Create an editorial calendar and start producing new content 
  5. Search for link opportunities – guest posts and more.

A bit too much to tackle in a month, wouldn’t you say? 

In the traditional approach, you would start working on all of the items at the same time. It’s not impossible, especially since you need people with different skills on board. While your web developer fixes the technical issues, your content team can create meta descriptions and prepare the editorial calendar.

But here’s the thing: the agile approach gives you the chance to fuel your SEO strategy with results from each of your sprints.

How would the above plan look like when tackled in an agile manner?

1. Check and fix technical errors. 

Before moving to step two, take a close look at the results. Measure your KPIs. Did any of this work improve your rankings? Put together a report and get buy-in for the next phases.

2. Optimize tags and descriptions. You don’t even have to do it for the entire website. You can start with the most important pages.

Again, check the results. By now, you should be able to see an increase in your organic traffic. You might even see an increase in the sales. The latter can help finance the following steps.

By the time you get to publishing what’s written in the editorial calendar, you will have a solid base to build on. Better yet, when you’ll be looking for outbound linking opportunities, you will have a great website to showcase.

One important thing to mention here: you shouldn’t think about SEO content publishing as a single sprint. This is a marathon.

Treat each piece you post as a sprint in itself. Test. Measure. Compare. See what works and what doesn’t. 

Don’t get attached to topic too much. Even if it’s written in your editorial calendar, it can still disappear if, three months later, it doesn’t look like a fit for your business goals.

Speaking of which: always circle back to the business goals. I know I’ve said it a lot, but it needs to be said again: high rankings aren’t a goal. Neither is organic traffic. Every step of your SEO strategy should be done to support your business goals. In other words: growth.

The agile approach is ideal for keywords, too. At Idunn, we often have potential clients approaching us with huge lists of keywords that they want to rank for. 

They know SEO takes time, so they want content for as many of them as possible as fast as possible.

And yes, it can be done. You can dump 30 articles on your blog in a single day. But do you know why no one really does that?

Because it’s a waste.

When you publish gradually, you give pages time to be crawled by search engines. And even picked up by other bloggers and linked to. Plus, you have all the time you need to focus on inbound linking. 

Posting gradually allows your newer posts to capitalize on the SEO juices of the others. And, of course, a regular publishing schedule is what Google appreciates the most.

Final thoughts

After implementing agile SEO for my own agency and for a lot of our clients, I can say that the two things about it I appreciate the most are the flexibility and the visibility. An agile approach gives you the time to fine-tune everything as you go. You don’t have a huge amount of content to produce at once or to re-optimize.

In a nutshell: it gives you the time to do everything right without breaking the bank. In fact, it is the approach that clearly shows that little + little =  a lot. And it can also be the approach that finances itself quite quickly.

If you need help with implementing agile SEO for your own company, my team and I are just a click away.


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Adriana Tica is an expert marketer and copywriter, with 10 years in the field, most of which were spent marketing tech companies. She is the CEO of Idunn, a digital marketing agency that helps clients all over the world with copywriting, social media marketing and marketing strategy. Follow her blog here: http://idunn.pro/blog.

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