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Build the Agile SEO Framework – Mozcon 2012 Recap

Brian Jensen

Greetings from MozCon 2012 ! It is a beautiful day here in Seattle as fellow SEOs and inbound and online marketers convene at The Westin Hotel in Seattle to get the latest and greatest news in search. I wanted to share a brief recap of Jon Colman’s presentation this morning on how REI keeps rolling with the punches by being agile and embracing recent changes in search.

Jon began his “Build The Agile SEO Framework” presentation by asking us, Why SEO is so hard? One can only speculate Jon might have been referring to the fact that SEO is a fast paced industry. In April, 2012 Google made 52 changes to their algorithm, the next month they made another 39. We have seen the effects of Panda and Penguin, which have both changed the way many SEOs are looking at their current strategies. We have seen many new and emerging channels such as mobile and social, fresh batches of unnatural link notices, and, most recently, Panda 3.9. While it’s great to have the diversity, it’s our job to provide a road map and to be on top of it all. Jon says in order to respond to these changes we need to be agile.

So how do we respond to changes and adjust strategy on the fly? Jon tells us to focus on one thing at a time and make adjustments to strategies and processes that can’t adapt. The following are Jon’s four principles and thirteen hacks to help your company or team become agile:

Principle: Customers First

  • Hacks: Find user stories. The following is a template Jon provided to help us meet the needs of our client’s customer base

As a <role> I want to be able to increase my online presence.

I want <goal/desire> to be able to realize a 20% increase in online sales from organic search<benefit> .

In order to fill in the blanks, you need to interact with your users.

  • Hack: User collaboration. Get feedback from the people using your products or services.
  • Hack: Lo-fi prototyping. Invite your customers to help develop new interfaces. Invite customers to test new interfaces, products, and services. Get feedback and make changes on the fly where possible. Jon mentioned Balsamiq.com as a great resource to develop prototypes.

Principle: Cross-Functional teams. Every team consists of people with different skills and personalities. Jon tells us that we need to be incentivizing our teams to work together.

  • Hack: Breaking down silos. Most companies and teams work between multiple departments which can include marketing, IT, designers, SEO, and content. So what can be done to work more efficiently between these departments? Combining forces with meetings between departments can quickly get everyone on the same page. When the email volume goes down, work output goes up.
  • Hack: Allow for self-organizing teams. A team is going to invent a process that it sees as functional and efficient.
  • Hack: Minimize meetings. You can’t be in meetings all day and expect to get anything done. Jon provided the following resource to help you determine how much your meetings are costing your organization: http://www.effectivemeetings.com/diversions/meetingcost.asp
  • Hack: Work with transparency. This can be done by adding tasks and processes to white boards, post-it notes, and categorizing by to-do, in process, to verify, and then done. Organizing tasks in this fashion lets everyone know what your status is and helps to build trust and accountability.

Principle: Be biased toward action – don’t let anything stand in the way for producing something of value for clients.

  • Hack: Make your own commitments – at the end of the day, you’re responsible for what you will or will not do.
  • Hack: Remove impediments – no wi-fi access, broken power cord, collaboration with someone who’s not around, getting micro-managed… we need the freedom to do our jobs.
  • Hack: Look at the work that’s not getting done. What are we doing that is not producing value. To stay agile you need to be constantly focusing on real work that produces results.

Principle: Don’t hate, iterate. Focus on building, measuring and learning. Mistakes are O.K.

  • Hack: Ship early, ship often. Under promise, over deliver.
  • Hack: Respond quickly to change. Your response time is what will make your organization competitive. Being agile gives you the freedom to respond to change. Requirements can and will change during a cycle. Search is a rapidly evolving industry!
  • Hack: We should stop chasing perfection, there is no such thing. Focus on getting more stuff out the door.

Jon’s conclusion is simple: you can save your business by creating lasting change in your company by constantly shipping value to your customers and creating a better community in the workplace by supporting rapid change to become agile.

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