How to Build SEO Strategies Effectively (and Make Them Last)

Posted by Bill.Sebald

“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”

I read The Art of War in college, written by the Chinese general Sun Tzu (author of the quote above). While his actual existence is debated, his work is often considered as brilliant military strategy and philosophy. Thus, The Art of War is often co-opted into business for obvious reasons. Throughout the book, you’ll realize tactics and strategy are not interchangeable terms.

strat·e·gyˈ
stradəjē/

– A method or plan chosen to bring about a desired future, such as achievement of a goal or solution to a problem.
– A plan of action or policy designed to achieve an overall aim.
– The art and science of planning and marshaling resources for their most efficient and effective use.
Source

These definitions vary slightly, but the essence is the same. A strategy is not constrained by size or application but promoted by planning and effectiveness. Let’s be honest, the word “strategy” is a term that isn’t always used the same way in the English lexicon (or our industry).

On the other hand, tactics can be isolated or serve as components in your strategy. They are actions you would impart as a step in the plan, or used as a stand-alone, typically with limited resources.

For some this is straightforward, but for others new to marketing or traditionally focused on tactical work, a strategy can be a difficult concept that requires practice. Perhaps understanding the purpose is key to dividing these terms. Let’s try this:

“The purpose of a strategy is to identify goals and build a plan of attack towards achieving those goals. The purpose of tactics are for smaller goals that could feed something bigger.”

Before you read on, please note: this is not an article devaluing tactics over strategy (despite the Sun Tzu quote). My goal is to inspire thought that can help you be more effective as a modern SEO, and possibly consider a strategy where you haven’t before.

A military analogy

I find analogies go a long way in describing lofty concepts. I could easily go with a football or legal example, but a military example might be the most comparable to what we do in marketing. And because I know my audience, I decided to go with Star Wars.

The Galactic Empire thought they could take over the galaxy with fear and brute force. They developed plans for a space station with firepower strong enough to destroy a planet. Under the command of Governor Tarkin, the Death Star was created. They tested the completed Death Star on Princess Leia’s home planet of Alderaan, which gave Obi Wan Kenobi shivers.

However, the Rebels put together a counter-strategy. Piecing together intelligence about a deliberate design flaw, and developing a plan featuring waves of small battalions, the Rebel ships would take passes at the target. They would work together in designed waves to equally defend and attack during this campaign.

As basic as that scene was at the end of Star Wars, it’s a strategy nonetheless (albeit a small one).

Confusion of strategies versus tactics — a real-world example

To make this a bit more relevant to SEO, here’s an email shared with me by a prospective client. They were looking for a new agency after they received this from their current agency:

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