Marketers love buzzwords. And we especially love buzzwords that sum up exactly what we’re trying to do, and make it sound all cool and impressive at the same time.
So it’s not surprising that this concept of ‘Agile’ marketing has taken storm in the past year or so. Not only does it bring to flexibility, quick-footedness, and efficiency, but it’s derived from a web development platform consistently proven to be effective.
What, exactly, does it mean?
Agile marketing, like agile development, is based on the three-part “Ideas-Build-Measure” model.
Executed effectively, these three stages work as part of a constant feedback loop, sustaining progress while providing new opportunities for expansion and flexibility. Implement ideas as you come up with them. Measure performance carefully. Use your data to inform new ideation and the building process going forward.
Also central to the Agile model are a few key principles:
- Prioritizing productivity over perfection. “Good” is the enemy of “done,” and “perfect” is the enemy of “good.” Rather than obsessing over a project until it’s delayed past the point of usefulness, get it live first and fine-tune it later.
- Embracing fear of failure. If you want to do something groundbreaking, you have to be ready to fall on your face. And the sooner you do it, the sooner you’ll be back on your feet. Approach your work with fearlessness, and you’ll likely find much more reward than cost.
- Rapid Response. It’s not agile if it’s not quick on its feet. Agile marketers respond rapidly to changes and obstacles, adapting their work rather than having to start over. This not only saves time and energy, but it also tends to make your brand look a lot more on top of its game than the ones that lag behind as they work to reevaluate their entire strategy.
(The .net site dedicated to Agile marketing elaborates on these concepts, and others, in even more detail.)
The past year has seen remarkable changes in SEO. As we continue to emphasize on here: the landscape of search is changing, and quickly. From the more punitive updates like Panda and Penguin, to the big-picture, comprehensive game-changers like Hummingbird, Google is forcing marketers to abandon tactics that worked for a long time, even when Google insisted that they didn’t.
And as Peter Meyers’ excellent post over at the Moz blog details, even the most familiar parts of Google – including the results pages that have directed our work as SEOs for decades now – could be completely reworked by next year.
So it’s time to start rethinking not just your strategy – because that, too, will have to change – but instead, your entire conceptual approach to that strategy.
Here are the top 7 ways we recommend taking up the Agile method in SEO, and why we think it’s the way of the future:
- Don’t get wedded to any one particular tactic. Remember how much search has changed, even just in the past year alone. If you want to succeed in this game, you can’t keep your eggs in one basket. Besides, the best SEOs are ones who know how to excel with any tactic – whether it’s content marketing for long-term sustainability and brand growth, or targeted linkbuilding to increase the domain’s raw authority on the web and presence in search. Learn to be good at everything, and great at a few things – namely, the ones that your data tells you best fit the objectives of your brand.
- Stay ahead of the curve. Similarly, you can only excel at the tactics that matter if you are constantly on the lookout for changes to search that will affect what practices SEOs can use to their benefit. Don’t expect you’ll always beat everybody else to the punch, or that the newest trick will catapult you to the top, and keep you there. Instead, be realistic about new opportunities, and carefully follow trends to see if you can’t anticipate moves before Google makes them. (The aforementioned article about the future of SERPs is a great example of how to do this kind of predictive work.)
- Use your analytics religiously. Notice a common theme here? It’s not a secret: data is incredibly important to a successful Agile marketing strategy. It’s always been important for search, but constant measurement and careful attention to trends and new insights is especially crucial for a platform based on quick builds and controlled tests. Use the model to your advantage: all that up-time means you have access to tons of data about how your strategy is performing in the real world, not just how you envision it performing while the proposal makes its way from desk to desk in the office.
- Experiment constantly. The only way you can fail fast is to try it a lot. And, unsurprisingly, that’s also the best way to achieve quality results using a variety of new approaches in a relatively short period of time. Practice constant ideation. Push stuff out quickly. Run A/B tests like it’s your job. (And really, it is). Don’t just try things for the hell of it, or implement a strategy before you’re ready to measure it effectively – you should always run your experiments in as structured and controlled a way as possible – but if you manage that, you’ll likely be astonished at how much you produce and how much you learn, in the amount of time it used to take you to attempt much less.
- Structure your team to respond quickly and effectively. An essential element of a truly Agile marketing strategy is a team that is equally agile. It’s okay to have specialists, but the ideal marketing team is made up of the T-shaped variety: breadth of knowledge covering every field, and one area of deep expertise. That way, when you need to respond quickly to address a problem or make a change, any member of your team can turn on a dime and pick up the slack. And it should go without saying that constant communication and feedback between team members is crucial. Use the perspectives of everyone in your organization to make your own work better, and vice versa.
- Look for opportunities whenever they arise. Finally, an effective Agile marketer is always on the lookout not just for new tricks, but for new chances to try something that’s never been done before. Have regular brainstorming meetings. Scour the web for the best new ideas, and try to think about what’s missing. Even if what you’re already doing is working, the chances are you’ve yet to stumble upon the next idea that could put your brand well above the rest. Don’t hesitate to specifically set aside time for this process – the brands that do are the ones who are able to see beyond the static trends of “now” and start building the web of tomorrow. We call those people visionaries for a reason: if you’re not looking, you can’t do much finding.
The Agile approach to the web, both in development and marketing, has much to offer us for the future. These are some of our suggestions. What are yours? Let us know in the comments!