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5 big obstacles to overcome to succeed in agile marketing

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5 big obstacles to overcome to succeed in agile marketing

With the knowledge I’ve gained by implementing agile marketing in several teams over the last decade, I’ve encountered some common obstacles that make it challenging to implement. You can avoid those pitfalls by being able to catch them early.

Leaders that aren’t aligned

Agile marketing is more than just a process, so aligning leaders on the mindset shift that needs to happen will be critical to your success. 

You’ll want to understand the scope of your agile marketing transformation and everyone impacted by it. This may involve leaders within marketing and leaders from other teams, such as sales, who request work from marketing.

Hold a collaborative “visioning” working session once you’ve identified which leaders will be impacted.

During this session, discuss:

  • Vision: What’s the vision for this change?
  • Importance: Why is this change important for our company?
  • Success measurement: How will we measure success?
  • Impact: Who and what is affected? What people, departments and processes need to change to realize our vision?
  • Support: How will we support people? What actions will we take as leaders to support people through this change?
  • Next steps: Note any further action items that leaders need to take.

By going through this activity, all leaders will be able to speak about agile marketing in the same way. If you have leaders opposed to the change, try and uncover what’s behind their reservations. If the majority are in favor and you have a few reluctant leaders, ask that they support the effort, even if they can’t quite see the benefits yet.

Trying to bite off too much at once

Let’s face it, after the last couple of years of uncertainty, most marketers are dealing with change fatigue. If you try to rip off the Band-Aid all at once, you may be faced with a huge revolt as change is scary.

Instead, take on an agile approach to becoming agile. Begin with some basic education, so everyone knows what it means (there are many preconceived notions and false info out there). Then, determine the pain points in the marketing organization and how agile can help people, not just add more change.

I always recommend starting with a pilot team to test and learn how agile marketing best works, given your culture, people and business needs. Pilot teams can feel messy, but a lot of learning is uncovered from the process of doing, not just planning.


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Focusing on process only

I cringe when I hear people say they’re doing agile marketing because they purchased a workflow tool that says it’s agile. While tools are important, the culture and way people work need to change — a tool merely supports that change.

In the early days of agile in software development, everything was done on sticky notes on the wall because tools often prohibited meaningful collaboration and conversation. Well, we’re now living in a global marketing and online world, so tools are necessary. However, don’t center how you approach agile marketing around a tool change.

Culture change must be the primary driver for prolonged and lasting success.

Read next: More on agile marketing from Stacey Ackerman

Taking a team only approach

I often see companies taking a “team only approach.” This means that they expect the marketers on the team to learn agile marketing and change, but no one else around them does. Let me tell you — this is an approach that won’t get you very far. 

Since agile marketing is about a new and different way of working, everyone is impacted. Managers may need to work differently because they no longer assign team members to work but coach them in career growth and skills development. Business stakeholders need to work differently because teams now prioritize work through a backlog, so how they request work has to change. Even departments like Human Resources may be impacted, as how reviews happen, and how people are compensated, may go from an individualistic approach to a team-based one.

Using agile words, but not really changing

And last, but certainly not least, are those companies that use all of the right agile words but want to keep working in the exact same way as before. These are the same people that think they can lose 10 pounds by eating an entire box of Girl Scout cookies and sitting on the couch (believe me, I’ve tried this approach — it doesn’t work)!

So while knowing the agile lingo is great, it’s really understanding the agile mindset and where you’re headed, not just where you’re at today, that’s crucial for your success with agile marketing.


Living the agile marketing values A dos and donts guide

Many marketers struggle to apply agile marketing in a way that adds value to team members. Learn how to break that pattern in this free e-book, “MarTech’s Guide to agile marketing for teams”.

Click here to download!



Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.


About The Author

5 big obstacles to overcome to succeed in agile marketing

Stacey knows what it’s like to be a marketer, after all, she’s one of the few agile coaches and trainers that got her start there. After graduating from journalism school, she worked as a content writer, strategist, director and adjunct marketing professor. She became passionate about agile as a better way to work in 2012 when she experimented with it for an ad agency client. Since then she has been a scrum master, agile coach and has helped with numerous agile transformations with teams across the globe. Stacey speaks at several agile conferences, has more certs to her name than she can remember and loves to practice agile at home with her family. As a lifelong Minnesotan, she recently relocated to North Carolina where she’s busy learning how to cook grits and say “y’all.”


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Introducing Variation Generator for Web Experimentation

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Introducing Variation Generator for Web Experimentation

If you attended Opticon ’23, you saw first-hand how Optimizely has been investing in AI. Optimizely introduced Opal, an AI assistant designed to accelerate the entire marketing lifecycle. Opal is ever-present across Optimizely One, providing generative AI, smart insights, and recommendations to transform how our customers create, test and personalize digital experiences.

Now, our latest AI capability is here: Variation Generator. Available for all Web Experimentation customers, Variation Generator helps experiment authors expedite the ideation and creation of test variations.

What does it do?

Variation Generator leverages generative artificial intelligence to create a list of phrasing suggestions based on a site’s text elements like headlines, product descriptions, or call-to-action (CTA) wording, ultimately making it easier and faster for experimenters to plan multiple variations for their tests, which can be quite time-consuming.

Who is it for?

Based on our research, around 30% of experiments include text changes. So, experiment authors like optimization managers or digital marketers are spending a lot of time ideating/brainstorming multiple versions of the original copy to decide which should be tested. Variation Generator empowers users to add more variations in an experiment, which we strongly suggest after our Experimentation Benchmark research found that experiments with more variations (4+) tend to see higher win rates and return higher uplifts on the metrics tracked.

Cool…but generative AI is popping up everywhere, why does it matter here?

  1. Directly embedded into our UI: No separate tools or tabs to click out to…No typing out a prompt to a chatbot…just click the text element you want suggestions for, and click “generate.” All interaction stays within our Visual Editor.
  2. Reduce time and effort in variation ideation: Shorten the time it takes to come up with new experiment variations, allowing experiment authors to get more time back into their day.
  3. Optimize each variation in an experiment: Variation Generator provides unbiased and creative alternatives to experiment authors so they can make sure that each variation is different enough to avoid duplicative messaging, yet effective enough captures visitors’ attention.
  4. Increase a test’s chances of winning: Our Benchmark research shows that experiments with 4+ variations are ~90% more likely to win than experiments with just 2 variations. Variation Generator helps experiment authors create more variations, leading to higher lifts.
  5. Fine-tune brand positioning: Improve existing headlines, product descriptions, CTA buttons, and more, ensuring a consistent and impactful brand message across digital properties.

Increase a test’s chances of winning

This outcome is important enough to highlight a second time. Mentioned earlier, we know from our Experimentation Benchmark research that tests with more variations (4+) are more likely to produce a winning (statistically significant) result versus a traditional A/B test that pits a baseline (original version) against a single variation. Variation Generator can help experiment authors get into the habit of testing more variations and producing more winning results.

Future enhancements

Optimizely is committed to continuous innovation and improvement. Potential enhancements for Variation Generator include generating suggestions for other content types like images, icons, HTML, and CSS, as well as giving users more control over output fine-tuning, such as adjusting length, tone, and other fields.

At the end of the day…

Optimizely’s Variation Generator is a simple yet powerful feature that empowers experiment authors to create more effective and winning experiments. By harnessing the power of artificial intelligence, this feature saves time, optimizes variations, and fine-tunes brand positioning, ultimately leading to better results, stronger brand presence, and an effortless workflow.

Want more info? If you’re an existing customer, ask your account manager about Variation Generator, and if you’re a future customer, contact us to learn more.

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Tips and Tricks for Digital PR

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Tips and Tricks for Digital PR

In the bustling digital landscape of the 21st century, public relations (PR) stands as a beacon of brand visibility, trust-building, and reputation management. As businesses navigate the complexities of online competition, the synergy between search engine optimization (SEO) and PR has become increasingly evident. This article delves into digital PR, exploring how strategic integration with SEO practices can elevate brand visibility, drive organic traffic, and amplify PR success.

The SEO & Digital PR Power Couple

In today’s digital landscape, success hinges on a strong online presence. Two crucial aspects of achieving this are SEO and Digital PR. While they may have functioned as separate strategies in the past, they’re now recognized as a powerful team.

SEO focuses on optimizing your website and content to rank higher in search engine results, driving organic traffic. PR, on the other hand, builds brand awareness and cultivates positive press mentions.

However, creating compelling content that resonates with audiences and search engines can be challenging for many PR professionals. A recent Institute for Public Relations study found that nearly three-quarters (70%) of PR practitioners struggle with content creation. This is where the magic of SEO and digital PR working together comes in.

Combining these forces creates a synergy that delivers impressive results. Effective SEO techniques in PR campaigns can amplify brand messaging and ensure it reaches the right audience through search engines.

Conversely, strong PR efforts can generate backlinks to your website, a significant factor influencing SEO ranking. This teamwork propels brands to industry leadership by establishing online authority and positive brand sentiment.

Optimizing Your PR Efforts for SEO

PR and SEO go hand-in-hand in today’s digital marketing landscape. By aligning your PR activities with SEO best practices, you can significantly boost your online presence and reach a wider audience. Here’s how:

Keyword Research

Just like any successful marketing campaign, PR needs a strong foundation. Keyword research is crucial for understanding the language your target audience uses online. According to Google, more than half of consumers (53%) consult online resources before purchasing a product or service.

This includes potential students researching educational options. For instance, terms like “best online degrees for 2024” can be valuable keywords for online schools to target in their PR efforts to reach potential students actively searching for programs.

By identifying relevant keywords with high search volume, PR professionals can craft messaging that resonates with their audience and increases the discoverability of their content in search results.

Content is King (and Queen)

Compelling and newsworthy content is the cornerstone of any successful PR campaign. But for SEO, it’s not just about capturing attention.

High-quality content, such as press releases, blog posts, and infographics, should also be optimized for search engines. This includes using relevant keywords strategically throughout your content and adhering to on-page SEO best practices. By creating content that is both informative and search-engine friendly, you attract not only readers but also valuable backlinks and organic traffic.

Building Backlinks

Backlinks are links from other websites pointing back to yours. Search engines consider backlinks a sign of trustworthiness and authority.

Strategic PR campaigns can help you secure these valuable backlinks by pitching newsworthy content to relevant websites, building relationships with journalists and influencers, and leveraging social media to promote your content. However, focusing on earning backlinks from reputable sources is crucial, as spammy tactics can hurt your SEO efforts.

Optimizing Media Coverage

Every media placement you secure, whether an article, interview, or social media mention, presents an opportunity to enhance your SEO. Encourage journalists and influencers to include relevant keywords and links to your website in their coverage.

Promoting these media placements on your social media channels can amplify their reach and drive more organic traffic to your website.

Advanced SEO Techniques for PR Success

Today’s audiences crave engaging content; SEO is crucial to seeing your message. Incorporating advanced SEO tactics into your PR strategy can amplify your reach and achieve tremendous success.

Leveraging Multimedia

We’re living in the age of visual storytelling. Eye-catching images, infographics, and videos aren’t just trends; they’re powerful tools for grabbing attention and boosting SEO.

A Demand Metric report highlights the power of video marketing for conversions. 93% of marketers agree that video is just as practical, or even more effective, at driving conversions compared to other content formats.

These elements enhance user experience and provide opportunities for keyword optimization. Descriptive alt tags and strategic file names can help search engines understand your content and improve your ranking for relevant searches.

Data-Driven PR

Gone are the days of guesswork in PR. You can achieve laser focus and maximum impact by integrating SEO data with your PR strategy. Tools like keyword research can help you identify topics and language your target audience is actively searching for.

Analyzing website traffic and other SEO metrics allows you to tailor your content for optimal performance. This data-driven approach ensures you craft content that resonates with your audience and achieves your PR goals.

Collaboration is Key: Aligning SEO & PR Teams

Many companies have separate SEO and PR teams, but these teams should work together closely for maximum impact. By collaborating, SEO and PR can achieve more than they could. Here’s why:

  • More robust results: When SEO and PR share information, like keyword research and content plans, they can create campaigns strategically placed in search engines and reach the right audience through media coverage.
  • Unified Voice: Consistent team communication ensures a consistent message across all channels, from website content to press releases. This builds trust and credibility with your target audience.
  • Measurable Success: Working together allows SEO and PR to track the combined impact of their efforts. This data can refine future campaigns and demonstrate the overall value they bring to the organization.

In short, by breaking down silos and working as one unit, SEO and PR can create a powerful force for achieving your company’s goals.

The Future of SEO & Digital PR

The digital world is constantly changing, and how we approach SEO and digital PR also needs to evolve. Here’s a look at some of the biggest trends we can expect to see:

AI-powered everything

Artificial intelligence (AI) is poised to become a game-changer in SEO and digital PR. AI can help create high-quality content tailored to specific audiences, analyze vast data to identify trends and opportunities and personalize outreach efforts for journalists and influencers.

Voice search is king

With the rise of voice assistants like Siri and Alexa, voice search optimization is becoming increasingly important. This means websites must be optimized for natural language queries and focus on long-tail keywords that people might use when speaking.

Focus on user experience

Search engines are becoming more competent at understanding what users are looking for and giving more weight to websites offering a positive UX. This means creating sites that are easy to navigate, load quickly, and provide valuable and relevant information.

Building trust and authority

Search engines also emphasize Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-A-T) when ranking websites. This means businesses must establish themselves as thought leaders by creating high-quality content and building relationships with other reputable websites.

By staying ahead of these trends, businesses can ensure their websites are visible, and their brands are well-represented in the ever-changing digital landscape.

Beyond the Buzz: Building Lasting Success with SEO-Fueled PR

In the dynamic realm of digital PR, mastering the art of SEO integration is paramount for sustained success. By optimizing PR efforts through strategic keyword research, compelling content creation, and targeted link-building strategies, brands can amplify their visibility, drive organic traffic, and forge lasting connections with their audience.

As we march towards the future, the synergy between SEO and PR will continue to be a guiding light, illuminating the path towards digital supremacy.

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3 Contextual Link-Building Strategies That Actually Work

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3 Contextual Link-Building Strategies That Actually Work

 

Quality content can get your web pages ranking higher in Google search results. But contextual links can help, too.

Google says the inclusion of relevant, high-quality links signals the content that includes them may be quality content, too.

So, how can you earn contextual links to give your content an edge over the competition? Adopt one, two, or all three of the strategies detailed in this article.

But first, let’s understand what contextual links are.

What are contextual links?

A contextual link appears in the body of a web page’s content. A hyperlink is added to a relevant word or phrase. They:

  • Link to other pages on the site.
  • Cite the source of a claim or statistic.
  • Indicate other relevant pages.
  • Provide readers with more in-depth information on the topic.
  • Guide readers to a product or service.

In this screenshot of an article with the header, Challenges of Productivity Tracking in Remote Workplaces, three phrases are hyperlinked — measure productivity, Microsoft, and research by Gartner.

Each contextual link serves a purpose:

  • “Measure productivity” goes to a Slack article about how to measure employee productivity.
  • “Microsoft” directs the reader to the original research for the cited statistic.
  • “Research by Gartner” links to the native source for the research cited in that paragraph.

With a contextual link-building strategy, you not only boost your content in the eyes of Google but also encourage other sites to use your valuable content to provide their readers with additional information or context.

Now, let me show you three strategies to grow your contextual links and improve your content’s rankings.

1. Help sites fix their broken links

Broken link building involves contacting a website, pointing out a broken external link on a page, and suggesting your content as its replacement.

Broken links could result from a 404 error, a blank page, or a redirect to an irrelevant page — any alteration that ruins the original link’s purpose.

Since broken links negatively affect the visitor experience, removing them is in the site’s best interest. Your replacement offer gives them a quick solution to their problem. Plus, people are more willing to help you after you’ve helped them.

To find broken links, use a tool like Free Backlink Checker extension. I also like to inspect links manually since most tools only pick up 404 errors. Rely solely on them, and you will miss relevant broken-link opportunities.

Ahrefs also has tools for finding broken links. Its free broken link checker is helpful, but the paid version is more robust.

Paid subscribers can go to Site Explorer, go to the Outgoing Links report, and click on “Broken Links” from the dropdown menu.

The report identifies the total number of broken links (3,136 in the example below), the referring pages (the URL for the content including the broken link), the anchor (the words hyperlinked in the content), and the link (the URL that no longer directs to a viable page).

The report identifies the total number of broken links (3,136 in the example below), the referring pages, the anchor, and the link.

Ahrefs subscribers can also compile a Best by Links report under the Pages option in the Site Explorer tool.

In this example, the report lists pages with 404 page-not-found errors for TheMuse.com. It has 6,230 pages with broken external links. Each page URL listed is accompanied by the number of referring domains and a number of links to the page.

The report lists pages with 404 page-not-found errors for TheMuse.com. It has 6,230 pages with broken external links.

This research can identify the topics with the biggest potential to become the fixes for a broken link. You can create content to address them or identify content you already published. Just make sure the content closely matches the intent of the anchor text’s original link.

For example, the same research report, which is now a broken link, is cited in articles from Oyster and TINYpulse. On Oyster, the anchor text reads, “44% of companies did not allow remote work.” On TINYpulse, the anchor text says, “only 33% are very satisfied with the level of trust in their organization.”

On Oyster, the anchor text reads, “44% of companies did not allow remote work.”
On TINYpulse, the anchor text says, “only 33% are very satisfied with the level of trust in their organization.”

For a single article link to replace the broken link on Oyster and TINYpulse, the content would need to cite both a statistic about remote work and another stat about trust in organizations.

2. Guest posting

Like the broken-link replacement strategy, guest posting benefits both your and the recipient’s sites. You reach out to sites and offer to write content about a topic relevant to their audience that relates to your content subjects and includes a link to your site. This technique works well because you typically control where and how to add your link to make it as relevant as possible.

You can take multiple approaches to win guest-posting opportunities. No matter which tactics you use, track the sites and verify the site’s quality using Ahrefs, another tool, or a direct visit to the site.

First, you can use Ahrefs (or a similar tool) to examine your competitors’ backlinks and identify any links that come from guest posts. The anchor or surrounding text might hint at its status with phrases such as “contributed by,” “guest post by,” or the name of the brand or author. You also can check links manually to see if they’re contributed content.

In this example from Collegiate Parent, the headline reads “EFC Too High? Tips for Successful Aid Appeals” and includes a byline for “Billie Jo Weis.” At this point, you don’t know if it is a contributed article.

The headline reads “EFC Too High? Tips for Successful Aid Appeals” and includes a byline for “Billie Jo Weis.”

But scroll down to the end, and you can see the author’s bio. It confirms the article is a guest post because her bio says she is a client services advisor for My College Planning Team, not the publisher (Collegiate Parent).

The bio confirms the article is a guest post because it says she is a client services advisor for My College Planning Team, not the publisher (Collegiate Parent)

You can also use Google search operators to identify sites open to guest contributions. You’ll want to do several searches using variations of your target keywords and topic accompanied by phrases, such as “guest post,” “contributed by,” “guest post by,” and “guest posting guidelines.”

The example in the screenshot below works for a brand targeting college prep topics. The search is “’college prep’ ‘guest post by’ -site.pinterest.com.” The results reveal four articles from four sites that use the words “college prep” and “guest post by.” You can add those sites to your outreach tracker.

The example screenshot shows the search for "college prep" and "guest post by" -site.pinterest.com. The results reveal four articles from four sites that use the words

Finally, you can list sites relevant to your niche that didn’t appear in the earlier searches.

TIP: Not all sites that accept guest articles say so on their website.

3. Niche edits

A niche edit, sometimes referred to as a link insert, is a technique that adds a link to existing content. The key to success is finding relevant articles on high-quality sites and pitching your content as a valuable addition to those articles.

You can use a similar process to the Google guest post search. Input a broad keyword for your targeted keyword, then tell it you don’t want the targeted keyword in the title. If the entire article is about your targeted keyword, your chances of getting the publisher to include a link to a similar article are low.

Here’s an example from one of our client’s that sought to make niche edits for the keyword “soft skills.”

The Google search included these phrases:

  • “Organizational development” soft skills -intitle:”soft skills”
  • “Organizational development” soft skills employee training -intitle:”soft skills”
  • Soft skills employee training  -intitle:”soft skills” organizations

It led to an added link for “soft skills” in this article — “Employee Development,” which includes the header, “What are the benefits of employee development for an organization?”

Article from Big Think, which includes the header, “What are the benefits of employee development for an organization?” The article shows the "soft skills" link.

You can do several searches, modifying your search operators each time to see what sites and content appears. Think of multiple angles to broaden the potential sites that publish content with your targeted or a related keyword.

After you’ve crafted a list of high-quality prospects, it’s time for outreach.

Niche edits might be the hardest of the three strategies to achieve because they’re not as clear of a win-win situation as the other two (repairing broken links and publishing new content).

Your email pitch can make or break your niche-edit campaign. It must convince the publisher that your content provides so much value that they will want to take an extra step with content they’ve already completed.

 Here are some tips to craft a link-earning email pitch:

  • Start by mentioning something about them. It could be something you like about their website or the article you’re targeting. You want them to know you’ve explored their site and read the article. But don’t overdo it. A simple compliment or sentence about how you found the article helpful should suffice.
  • Introduce your content and mention how it can help their audience. Be concise and convincing, but don’t oversell it.
  • Go one step further and point to a section or sentence where you think your content might be a good fit. This will help them see where your content can add value and link to it.

Get linking

Though contextual link building may seem challenging to execute, it can bring great rewards. Follow these tips and strategies, and your valuable content will get more attention from external sites and eventually Google rankings where it deserves to be.

All tools mentioned in this article are identified by the author. If you have a tool to suggest, please tag CMI on social.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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