What is Agile SEO?

I’m a computer science student at a state school, with a side interest in marketing. I have started to learn about all sorts of processes for software development. I am pretty interested in project management, web development, and web marketing. I’ve started to learn about Agile, but I do not quite understand it yet. How would these be combined? What is Agile SEO?

First things first: What is Agile? Agile began as an approach to software development. The basic idea is to build software iteratively and incrementally, instead of trying to create a finished project that will be delivered all at once. A piece of software will have many different features. A banking app, for example, will allow you to check your account balances, deposit checks, and move money between accounts. In Agile processes, these three features would be called “user stories.” If you were a developer being paid to create a banking app, you would develop these “user stories” simultaneously, starting with rough drafts of each feature and beefing them up as you go along, like an artists filling out a sketch into a fully rendered illustration. 

According to the Harvard Business Review, Agile revolutionized software development and information technology. It turns out that command-and-control style management is not great for developing software, and as software has become more and more of a factor in our world, businesses from nearly every sector have adopted Agile methodologies. As that same HBR article mentions, “National Public Radio employs Agile methods to create new programming. John Deere uses them to develop new machines, and Saab to produce new fighter jets.” This widespread adoption of Agile methods includes the realm of marketing and SEO, or search engine optimization. 

As it happens, Agile methods are great for SEO, as well. SEO relies on a constantly-shifting set of parameters, between changing search algorithms, intense competition, and the relentless geyser of new content. Adopting Agile methods allows digital marketers to keep pace with these shifting problems. As Marcus Miller discusses at Search Engine Land, Agile has helped his company eliminate waste and improve their product by keeping their work connected to the customer’s actual goals. 

It is all too easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day minutiae of SEO, which can lead you away from the original reason you began the project — and an inferior product means an unhappy customer. The incremental iteration of an Agile project helps you stay focused on what really matters: boosting your customer’s search profile. By the same token, adopting Agile methods can be a little chaotic (as you can imagine). Teams are easily led astray. Search Engine Journal discusses the importance of documentation while creating an Agile SEO project. Every change that is made to SEO will have an impact on the reach of the site. By keeping track of what worked and what did not, the project manager will have an idea of what to do next.

Say, for example, you want to improve local SEO for a bank using that aforementioned banking app. Improving local SEO would involve several different overhauls to their site, such as including references to the bank’s city or region on more pages, adding the bank to business listings like Localeze and Google My Business, and having localized publications mention or link to the bank. Using Agile methods, you would start with a couple of changes to the bank’s website, just mentioning the location and region, while reaching out to business listings to get the bank listed. Once that’s done, you would begin reaching out to local publications while you measure the results of the first tasks. Each step is done iteratively, with small changes adding up to a major overhaul. As you learn what works, you use those methods going forward.

Agile SEO has helped many a marketer, and it is an important combination of concepts for a student with your interests.

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