Tactical SEO vs Strategic SEO

Oct 29th

After talking with Andy Hagans and a few other friends I have got to thinking a lot more about tactical vs strategic SEO and marketing.

Many SEO tactics work well at achieving a certain goal, but to be wildly profitable you usually needs more than tactics, you need love from the strategic front. Many people who are great tactical SEOs do not build much equity because tactics without strategy have little value. Here are some examples:

Tactical:
Buy AdWords and AdSense ads to drive revenue.

Strategic:
If you are new to a fairly saturated market use AdWords and AdSense to roughly break even, hoping to increase your site exposure, link equity, and mindshare in the process...knowing that the real profits from an ad campaign can show up indirectly over time via organic search and product recommendation on other sites.

Tactical:
Get links.

Strategic:
Avoid actively seeking low quality links until your site has a significant history which includes many trusted backlinks.

Tactical:
Get quality links.

Strategic:
Create content, tools, or other packaged value systems which allow you to gain high quality viral links for a low aggregate cost. Create things that will make competitors want to talk about you.

Tactical:
Do anything to get links. Link bait link bait link bait.

Strategic:
Consider the potential outcome of your link bait if you are trying to cut others down to prop yourself up. As you build a trusted brand become more risk adverse.

Tactical:
Blog spam for links.

Strategic:
Talk about and become friends with the people you want links from.

Tactical:
Put everything on one exceptionally authoritative domain.

Strategic:
Own multiple brands that allow you to tap different market segments, or publish things that might not fuse too well with your main brand without hurting your brand. Design the brands so that they can extend in different directions.

Tactical:
Keep all your profits by doing almost everything yourself. Stick to what you know.

Strategic:
Admit your weaknesses and take on partners where neccessary. Find partners who add value where you are lacking.

Tactical:
Create high quality content.

Strategic:
Control content costs and make boatloads of average content. Build the authority of the site using exceptionally high quality content. Leverage that authority to profit from your boatloads of average content on that site. Segregate your high quality and high attention content from your lower value content, but after attention has passed ensure that the high quality content links trough to your lower quality content.

Tactical:
Use descriptive page titles to improve CTR and anchor text.

Strategic:
Title your pages such that the story spreads far. After the story has initially spread, consider changing the page title to something more descriptive.

Tactical:
Create a niche site in a low competition vertical.

Strategic:
If the vertical should be easy to dominate, make your core brand name broad enough that if you later want to expand you can.

Tactical:
Make as much money as you can right now.

Strategic:
Invest and reinvest. Make less upfront. Create passive income streams from properties that were designed around minimal customer service and growing into dominant self-reinforcing market positions.

Tactical:
Montize right away.

Strategic:
Limit initial monetization. Make the site look like a hobby or fan site made out of love for the topic so it is easy to link at. Program it such that it is easy to turn on monetization when the day to monetize comes.

Tactical:
Use consistant ad formats and layouts throughout your site.

Strategic:
On the home page and other high attention portions of your site use less ads to make your site more linkworthy.

Tactical:
Design for maximum ad clickthrough rate.

Strategic:
Consider linkability as a cost. Place ads in a slightly less aggressive position to make your content easier to link at.

Tactical:
Stay on topic to reinforce brand image.

Strategic:
Write some content for links, while writing other content for conversion. Occassionally drift off topic if there is a way to make a high link equity / high value / high authority idea relate to your site. If you are creative enough, everything in the universe belongs in a relational database that is tied to your content ;)

I am sure you probably have lots of other good examples about why strategy is important. What are your favorite SEO strategies?

Published: October 29, 2006

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Comments

October 30, 2006 - 11:03pm

Great post, great tips, and one question:

Do you believe it maybe a strength to stay within the niche and be the best in it ... and still grow inside your niche.

It may be against your position of going beyond your niche ;)

October 31, 2006 - 5:55pm

"Program it in such a way, that it's easy to monetize it when the day for monetization comes."
I am guessing that you are thinking of strategies like writing helpful info on something, and then later offering
paid membership into an exclusive mentorship, or maybe, once newbies get the hang of something they have free instruction in, then offering an expanded lesson in the form of a $5 ebook.
Are these good examples? If not,
Can you give your viewers some general examples of what you mean?
Actually, now that I think about it, I guess this website is an excellent example.
There is the forum , for example.
People ask the tough questions that you and your visitors answer.
Then, there is the marvelously placed seo book offer, which, by the way, seems to appear before my eyes just as I am pondering the topic, as I scroll down.
I guess the key to all of it, is to make the "pitch" appear natural, unforced, and unoffensive just as you have done.
But mostly I would have to say, I think you are successful because of your generosity in giving of your self and what you know.
I think people reward that in the long.
By the way, Aaron, the offer still stands for a free vacation, just let me know.
(no strings, i just appreciate your insights)
Sue

November 1, 2006 - 7:26am

I wanted to mention something you said in the first strategy you listed about breaking even wit advertising at first in order to indirectly benefit later.

I think a lot of people remain too focused on direct benefit and not enaging in something if it doesn't pay right now. Indirect benefits will often ultimately prove to have a much greater value for a business than many direct benefits.

A simple example would be giving something away for free. There's no revenue coming directly from giving something away, but the return in links and trust that can come can end up being worth far more than whatever went into giving that something away.

November 2, 2006 - 7:42pm

Wonderful post Aaron though it misses a bigger consideration of simply tactical optimization of a page for a keyword vs. strategic optimization of the entire site by instilling best practices in the rest of the organization.

bali hands
November 3, 2006 - 4:32am

Data based SEO tells a specific story and gives a specific direction for SEO implementation, rather than just saying implement H1 tags all over the place because thats what everyone else does. It lets you know what works, what doesnt work, what works for your competitors, etc (if you have the right data).

I agee with this statement, as we are still find the best way to find any usefull information for seo

November 6, 2006 - 11:32pm

Nice list, Aaron

I think SEO used to be this way all the way, when it was a part of SEM or overall marketing strategy.

Now that it is clear that SEO can't exist alone, it is just bound to be a part of something bigger. Like a tool you use everyday, but don't be obcessive on it.

The strategy I use is to build content for my own site and other websites to get links. It is not just article distribution, it is getting published on other websites by cooperating with other site owners. Pretty good so far. (In short, this strategy may be more familiar as exchanging content for links that drive targeted traffic, but it is much more than that).

Jacob Share
October 29, 2006 - 10:12am

Aaron,
Terrific post.

My experience is also that few people would think to go beyond the tactics mentioned, or even know how to do so, and I count myself in that group (although not for too much longer, thanks to you and others). Frankly, you could probably write a book based on this post. Oops, you already did :)

October 29, 2006 - 10:58am

Copycat! I made a post about stragety vs tactics earlier this month on my blog. Just kidding, great stuff, although I was thinking strategic more along the lines of timeline.

Just as in warfare, you have to understand the tactical side to really achieve success strategically. This is why there are billions being poured into startups and stocks, while guys like Markus Frind rake in millions a year single-handedly (much in part thanks to those big spenders.)

October 29, 2006 - 2:36pm

Another great post Aaron.

"If the vertical should be easy to dominate, make your core brand name broad enough that if you later want to expand you can."

I cannot agree more with this. We have all been in this situation where we have been taken by surprise by a niche and in which the branding we chose in the beginning limits our expansion possibilities.

October 29, 2006 - 3:14pm

Refreshing read Aaron.

I see some of these patterns as well, since I am involved in coordinating all forms of marketing for our company. The SEO guy is bloodthirsty for links, the affiliate guy only wants leads, the top brass only wants growth. It's my job to make sure we're all getting max value from each opportunity.... so I'll be forwarding this to at least 5 people in my company :-)

October 29, 2006 - 3:41pm

Control content costs and make boatloads of average content. Build the authority of the site using exceptionally high quality content. Leverage that authority to profit from your boatloads of average content on that site. Segregate your high quality and high attention content from your lower value content, but after attention has passed ensure that the high quality content links trough to your lower quality content.

That is probably the hardest one to balance. I try to keep all my content on my sites for the visitor. It is the long term strategy. But as you say, content costs, measured in my time, are high. So the question you have to ask yourself is, how much average content is to much? At what point does it degrade the user experience?

I'll give a recent example. One of the blogs I read every day has always posted daily, if not more. Lately I get the feeling many of the posts are just filler without much meat. They keep tossing in gems often enough to keep me coming back but there really was a point where I almost dropped it. The % of fluff was getting to high to make it worth it.

Sam
October 29, 2006 - 3:54pm

Aaron great post. I think you hit the monitize part right on the head. For many people starting a new site it is hard to wait on putting up as etc.

I am trying an experiment with 2 sites to see the "linkworthyness"

So far you are 100% right more ads means less links. In the future I am going to hold off for 6 months.

October 29, 2006 - 4:00pm

Hi Jeremy
I think the issue is that if you have a channel people are paying attention to you can do other things if you want to introduce "large volumes of content" without introducing "noise" ... for example, some people might put the noise stuff on a part of their site powered by a different cms or off a different feed, while others might backdate their noise, etc. such that the average reader paying attention to their channel does not get the noise

Balancing it is a tough issue, though.

Peter
October 29, 2006 - 8:08pm

Could you give an example of

"Strategic:
Invest and reinvest. Make less upfront. Create passive income streams from properties that were designed around minimal customer service and growing into dominant self-reinforcing market positions."

What websites would you consider to have this property at the moment?

October 30, 2006 - 12:03am

Well think in terms of verticals and think in terms of business models within those verticals.

My amount of required customer service does not drastically increase if I sell 20 ebooks instead of 2 or 3.

Then there are entire verticals where you can give the perception of adding lots of value without really requiring much customer interaction on any level at all. Those are beautiful, of course, but they are also typically wildly competitive.

As a general rule of thumb: the closer your product is to money the easier it is to make money without adding any real value. And if you sell the dream of making lots of money people will pay a lot for that dream even if their actual chances of doing well from it are quite low.

October 30, 2006 - 3:45am

Aaron,

Very good idea with the backdate. I can easily see taking a site with a news section, say about something local, and taking 100 pages of out dated news and adding them backdated to when they really occured.

October 30, 2006 - 4:04am

Hi Jeremy
Keep in mind that some people may view that as being inauthentic and some people might come here and give me shit for even suggesting it, but if you are results oriented it is almost an art form to maximize profits without adding too much noise to what you are doing.

But at the same time, as you grow and your core audience grow, does it make sense to feed lots of for beginner stuff to them? And if it does not then should you force yourself to be marginalized by an ever increasingly sophisticated audience? Or should you occasionally post some for beginner stuff, or post it more frequently but backdate it a bit?

There are lots of ways to accomplish the goal of hitting different market segments, but it is hard to keep having a profitable business model if you only post about what you are learning about at the moment...in most markets the people who teach and write for beginners are just assumed to be the topical experts even if their knowledge level is quite limited in nature.

And, in the business world at least, you are largely what others believe you to be.

October 30, 2006 - 7:49am

I have a problem with my blog like, I want to add a code which will make each page of blog take different description meta tag, is it possible in blogger, please I need it, thanks in advance.

October 30, 2006 - 8:37pm

My SEO paradigm shift goal:

SEO shift from just following SEO tactics (implementing SEO from what we understand as industry SEO techniques), to strategic, data-based SEO.

Data based SEO tells a specific story and gives a specific direction for SEO implementation, rather than just saying implement H1 tags all over the place because thats what everyone else does. It lets you know what works, what doesnt work, what works for your competitors, etc (if you have the right data).

Heart your data.

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