Iterative vs Incremental, The SEO Strategy Stack, Conway's Law in SEO
3-2-1 Mondays - Edition #4
Welcome to the 3-2-1 Monday newsletter.
Every Monday morning, start your week with the following:
💡 3 short ideas about working with devs and product teams.
📰 Two articles to explore to help be more effective with product and dev teams.
❓ One question for you to think about this week while working.
To receive articles like this, please subscribe to The SEO Sprint 👇.
Before we jump into this week's newsletter, I wanted to promote Similar.ai, whose teams have impressed me with a product that can help SEO teams get things done.
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🔗 Create intelligent internal linking - Create internal linking recipes that add internal linking blocks to combine AI understanding of topical relevance with a page-by-page understanding of demand to help boost SEO traffic.
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Similar.ai is the no-code automation SEO stack designed for anyone to use and grow their business at scale.
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💡 3 Short Ideas
Short ideas on how to improve working with devs and product teams.
1) Iterative vs Incremental Development
One of my favourite Jeff Paton blog posts is on iterative vs incremental development.
In his blog post, Jeff highlights that a key problem when working in agile delivery teams is balancing iterative and incremental development.
The difference between these two concepts is important to understand:
🔄 Iterative development - Building a solution, and then getting feedback and improving on the idea.
🧱 Incremental development - The process of adding functionality to a system over time.
The reality is that when you work in delivery teams, you are constantly needing to balance iterative and incremental development.
It’s a constant balancing act.
Why? Because combining both approaches is much more powerful than either in isolation.
At DeepCrawl, I learned to balance incremental and iterative development by using a dual-track agile methodology.
The team were constantly building software using two tracks:
Discovery - The team tested and validated ideas in a discovery pipeline before being added to the development backlog (iterative).
Delivery - Then we broke down the ideas we tested into user story tickets, and when they were implemented built new functionality in the software over time (incremental).
Over time this way of working built the new DeepCrawl platform and a host of other new features.
As an SEO Consultant, I use this way of working to help clients reduce the cost and time of building website SEO features and software. The iterative development (discovery) allows us to validate our risky and high-value ideas either using experiments or speaking to customers (which invalidates many of your opportunities 😅).
Then when we are confident, we add them to the delivery pipeline (incremental development) to be built.
2) The SEO Strategy Stack
A key problem with SEO strategy work is that it can be messy and formless.
It wasn’t until I learned how to put a product strategy and roadmap together, that I learned the components that help connect strategy work to delivery work.
As a consultant working with clients over the last few years, I’ve improved upon these components and created a framework that helps me quickly debug strategies.
I call this framework: The SEO Strategy Stack.
The SEO Strategy stack is a framework to help SEO professionals diagnose and debug their strategies.
Each stack layer builds on the previous layer and helps SEO professionals build a clear, focused, prioritised plan that connects the company strategy to your execution work.
The SEO Strategy Stack framework is made up of seven components:
💼 Business Strategy - The strategic initiatives, or a prioritised plan, that the business focuses on to drive value for the business.
⚠️ Problem Statement - The key challenge that aligns with the business strategy, the SEO team must overcome to help drive the business forward.
📄 SEO Strategy - A guiding policy and set of prioritised coherent actions (initiatives and opportunities) that will help overcome the key challenge of the business.
📈 SEO Goals - A set of clear goals that can help measure the success of the SEO strategy, help indicate overcoming the key challenge, and drive value for the business.
🚦 SEO Prioritization - Ruthlessly prioritizing and sequencing coherent actions (initiatives and opportunities) within the SEO strategy.
🛣️ SEO Roadmap - A prioritised plan that outlines how the strategy (initiatives and opportunities) will be implemented over time, usually a 6-12 month period.
✅ SEO Backlog - A prioritised list of tasks for teams to complete that outline how the roadmap will be implemented over time.
These seven components can be grouped into three categories of work:
🌀 Discovery - The SEO team focuses on understanding the business, the key problem and potential valid opportunities to overcome the problem to drive results for both users and the business.
🚀 Strategy - The SEO team prioritises opportunities, sets measurable goals and creates a plan to overcome the problem to drive business goals. It is the SEO strategy that is presented to other teams.
🚚 Delivery - The SEO team creates a sequence for the opportunities and works with teams to implement the strategy.
I’ve written more in-depth on The SEO Strategy Stack framework and how I use it in my SEO work if you want to find out more 👇.
3) Conway’s Law in SEO
Conway's Law is a 50-year-old thesis (1967) and observation that the design of any system (software, website, web app, etc.) is shaped by your team's communication structure.
The law is best defined by its creator:
“Any organization that designs a system (defined broadly) will produce a design whose structure is a copy of the organization's communication structure.”
Melvin E. Conway
Conway argues that the team's communication structure eventually shapes any system into two architectural patterns: Monolithic vs Modular:
🧩 Monolith Architecture - A team with a centralised communication structure will create a system design that will include core functionality that solves problems for the business.
💠 Modular Architecture - A team with a decentralised communication structure will create a system design that will not include core functionality that solves problems for the business.
Just like Melvin Conway, I've observed that a company's communication structure will shape a website's system design, especially for SEO.
Based on Conway's Law, I've defined this observation as follows:
A website’s system design (e.g. SEO, content, UX features) will mirror the team's communication structure."
Adam Gent (based on Conway’s Law)
I break down team communication structure into two types:
🎯 Centralised - Teams are constantly communicating with each other, and working together to make sure the system has the requirements to solve business problems.
🪓 Decentralised - Teams are siloed and only loosely communicate with each other, and requirements to help solve business problems are “bolted” at the last minute.
I’ve found there are two ways to help combat Conway’s Law in SEO:
🩳 Short-term: Be proactive in speaking to different teams and try to reorganise the team communication structure to get SEO involved with website decisions as much as possible.
🧮 Long-term: Work with your company's leadership team to restructure teams so SEO is a core part of the delivery teams that make changes to the website.
This isn’t just my experience, when I interviewed other in-house SEOs many of the SEO professionals I interviewed had reorganised the communication structure. This helped them have frank conversations with developers and allowed them to speak to developers frequently.
I’ve written an in-depth article on Conway’s Law in SEO if you want to learn more 👇.
📰 2 Articles to Explore
Articles to explore to help be more effective with product and dev teams.
by Gary Fox
“A model is easy to understand and analyze. Moreover, it provides a common framework that managers can use to develop new models. Most companies need to be more innovative. As a result, modelling is a creative way to explore new business opportunities.”
by Sachin Rekhi
“Product managers require a diverse set of skills to excel at their role, including design, technical, analytical, communication, and more. Yet there is one skill that I find is often underrated but critical for the success of a product manager. And that is the skill of influence without authority.”
❓ 1 Question For You
A question for you to think about this week while working.
Where does SEO sit within the communication structure of your organisation?
Do you have trouble getting SEO projects executed?
How did I do this week?
If you enjoyed reading this article, then consider the following:
📰 Share — Please share the newsletter with your network or colleagues if you think they might find it helpful!
✉️ Subscribe to The SEO Sprint newsletter — if you haven’t already, please consider subscribing.
Enjoy the rest of your week 😎.