When people talk “Agile SEO”, they normally discuss the benefits of a procedural department-wide shift to the agile framework, or the development of technical tools to approach SEO problems with more of a programmers mindset. These are both great tactics, but aren’t immediately actionable. At SeatGeek, we’ve taken inspiration from agile software development to model a longtail strategy that works and can be implemented immediately with only content creators and a Google Analytics account.
Having an SEO methodology for continual creation, deployment and updating of content should not be an overlooked practice. It is important to find the right system for keyword targeting that gives you a competitive advantage. For us, iterative and incremental development processes are the core agile principles that we have applied to our SEO content strategy to achieve a competitive advantage, particularly in blog content we release.
Let’s break it down by looking at why agility is important, what it means, and how to incorporate it into your SEO content strategy.
Why Agility Matters
We can all agree that the web is always in flux, the SERPs included. The dynamic quality of the web creates a challenge for any web marketers to leverage trend-driven searches to increase site traffic. Harnessing the potential of topical searches and new information can be a terrific strategy.
In order to fulfill the changing daily needs of web users, it’s necessary to be adaptable and flexible with your ability to produce interesting content. Relevant topical queries are significant drivers of the longtail traffic we target at SeatGeek. Although we release new content on our blog daily, it’s only the first step in maximizing the long-tail searches through “Agile SEO”. But, even if you are failing to be on top of relevant topics or don’t have the resources to write daily, a lightweight version of our agile SEO strategy can still be very effective.
Iterative and Incremental Systems
Contrary to common belief, iterative and incremental are not similar. At the core of agile SEO development, the concept is to develop a system of releasing content through repeated cycles (iteration) and in smaller portions at a time (incremental). In this framework, the iteration is done with the early release of content and subsequent updating and “nurturing” of this content.
The incremental component is achieved by releasing tightly targeted and often shorter pieces, and then combining the content in a hub page (a page that links to your existing content related to one general topic, and ties them all together with higher-level content). For example, instead of having a page that targets 2011 summer concerts, festival lineups, top concerts by city, etc., we would write individual blog posts and aggregate it all on one summer concerts page. This approach has the added benefit of allowing you to re-purpose content and target something potentially more competitive with your new hub page.
As previously discussed, such a strategy is crucial to ever changing user queries and trends, and to address the fact that no-one is going to be 100% correct all of the time with their initial keyword targeting. The quicker SEOs can adapt to these changes by multi-targeting, re-targeting and re-purposing, the more competitive we allow ourselves to become.
Let me illustrate a simple example of how we did this at SeatGeek.
Example 1: Vans Warped Tour Lineup Announcement
There is often uncertainty about major concert lineups due to differences by city and the addition/removal of bands, which creates a problem for related searches. When publishers do a one-and-done approach releasing a lineup piece, they generally lack precision, with the key difference being that we continually update our posts so they are directly aligned with the searchers intent (which of course has the benefit of achieving high ranks and social shares).
When the partial 2011 Vans Warped Tour lineup (a major alternative rock tour) was leaked, we shortly after put out a blog post letting our readers know of the news. We targeted mid-to-longtail keywords such as “warped tour 2011 lineup”, while keeping a steady eye on “phrase” keywords searches as well as our own entrance keywords using actual post-specific search data from our Google Analytics. We noted a trend that people were mostly finding our content by searching for lineups by city, “warped tour 2011 lineup [city]”, but we did not rank high on page 1 for these queries. In retrospect this made sense, because the lineups are different in each city, a great example of the type of nuance that can easily be missed in standard forms of keyword research.
As such, we made small and swift changes to the blog post by organizing the lineups by city. We first rolled out a few cities to test the assumption that fans were searching by city. Shortly after, we repeated the previous cycle: (1) cross listed Google keyword traffic with incoming traffic, (2) continued to make relative changes and (3) adapt to user queries. Depending on the velocity of new information being released on the keyword, we generally iterate every few days to every week. Keeping an agile workflow for this blog post (i.e. releasing and testing content in small doses, in small intervals) resulted in an over 100% increase in organic views per day. Staying relevant to searcher intent allowed us to pick up over 450 Facebook likes and 125 comments.
Example 2: Paul McCartney Tour Dates
It was big news in the music industry when Paul McCartney (who was nearing 70) announced a new tour. It was even bigger news when tickets for his first show sold out in seven seconds. Again, being fanatics of the music industry, we caught McCartney’s tour announcement on his website and quickly wrote a longtail targeted post in hopes to gain traction based on the predicted spike of searches. I’ll depict our agile model at work here in terms of cycles:
Cycle #1: Targeted keyword – “Paul McCartney on the run tour”
(a) Ranked on page 1
(b) Low page views.
(c) Did homework in Google Analytics, saw new opportunity.
Cycle #2: Retargeted keyword – “Paul McCartney tour dates 2011”
(a) Too competitive.
(b) Low page views.
(c) Did homework, saw new opportunity.
Cycle #3: Retargeted keyword – “Paul McCartney tour dates 2011 usa”
(a) Ranked 2nd behind official McCartney site.
(b) High search term for international users.
(c) Until next iteration, will remain the same.
Between each cycle was approximately one week. We found the optimal keyword target through quick planning, analysis, implementation, testing and evaluation. We learned that the scarcely used keyword modifier “usa” was actually being used in high volumes with Paul McCartney because of his vast international reputation. We used the WordPress All in One SEO Pack plugin to make quick and easy changes to title tags, search descriptions and meta keywords (highly recommended).
By creating continual learning cycles based on small, quick changes to keywords, length, formatting, and even design – substantial knowledge is gathered by avoiding mistakes based on false assumptions. What is learned in these small tests will help us ensure content is search-friendly for the next similar post.
A Note on Bounce Rates
All of us SEO-types love testing. The “Agile SEO” workflow gives us a great opportunity to continually test new data-driven hypotheses. Creating cycles to tweak SEO is a methodology is an efficient way to stay on track for longer tailed keyword success.
It is also important to keep an eye on bounce rates when going through cycles. If you’re getting higher traffic, yet also higher bounce rates, you may just be iterating away from the main purpose of the content that users are searching. As you continue to update your content, I suggest taking a step back to make sure the ideas on the whole page are congruent with what visitors are searching.
To summarize, “Agile SEO” is releasing many iterations in small increments to continually pivot and fine tune for the optimal performance. Some of the benefits of using this methodology include: continual testing and learning, hedging against failures, and adapting quickly to changing needs of searchers.
Even if you don’t have too much time to focus on your keyword strategy, consider a lightweight approach to “Agile SEO” by focusing your effort on title tags, to target a primary and secondary keyword that users are searching.