Strategic Vs Tactical SEO. Which Are You?

RomesFall

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Let's be honest for a moment... Who here really thinks that most of the black, white, grey hat debate is that important?


Let's forget the non-sense about that because there are idiots in all camps. I believe that SEOs are in one of two camps - Primarily Strategic or Primarily Tactical.

I do whatever I have to to rank sites within the limitations of budget and how 'clean' the sites link profile needs to be. As do all the best, most of whom make my eyes weep with how good they are.

Why are some are so good? Regardless of the 'hat' label...

I would say it's because they're strategic... If you've read The Strategy Paradox you'll know it means very little if you can't be flexible, but that too can be part of a strategy in some senses.

In order to be strategic and flexible then you sure as hell need to know the nuts and bolts of how things work... Why do they work?

If you don't understand then your knowledge is essentially useless and it's going to expire, or it'll almost definitely let you down at some point. It's like saying you know something, but really you don't know anything.

Tactics have their place in a good strategy, but if you put tactics above strategy then you sure as hell aren't optimizing anything.

Nonetheless, I get the appeal. I know guys who have bought houses in cash by just following tactics. These guys are all show and no go when it comes down to it though.



I think it's a mindset issue. I think that for many people it's easier to go join a community, listen to what other people tell you is working and then buy some link packages off of them. Where's the effort going in? I've seen these guys sites... They don't do any marketing campaigns, most of them can't even be bothered to register social accounts.

Let's not kid ourselves, these guys are being lazy.

I was a moderator on a certain SEO forum for a while and the people joining really weren't getting any value, the owner who himself is a tactical SEO didn't see the need to seriously organize any tests or case-studies. Instead this owner just decided to monetize the already paid membership forum even more by offering services, encouraging the tactical approach. I guess as it's more profitable?

A little while ago I logged into that site and saw a member who I recognized from about a year before asking a question that fell on deaf ears, it wasn't even a difficult question... It was something I had learned and understood within the first month of starting to be an 'SEO'.

Was this his fault? Is it anyones fault they get drawn into this tactical approach when it's all that is being offered?

Actually I really don't know the answer to that, nobody is faultless when it comes to the situation they are in... I just don't feel that people getting sucked into the tactical mindset is all on them.

I know that some of these tactical search 'experts' fear losing everything, because when it comes down to it we all know that a lack of effort shouldn't be producing good results/making your life better... Things aren't getting any easier, so eventually the algorithm won't be so forgiving.

I was working with the same guy who owns the forum, he claims to make $120k/ month (I think it's more like 50k). I partnered with him on a site 50/50, when I doubled the traffic with <20 hours work he was happy. Around 6 months later he gives away the site which was probably worth around 5-6k minimum and tells me he put a lot more work in, so he doesn't see why he should have to give me any money for it.



Why was he acting like that? Is he just an asshole? No I actually don't think so, but I think he's so scared of losing everything he's got because he has no idea how he got there in the first place... In a way it makes sense that a guy 'making so much' isn't even willing to part with a few grand and do the right thing.

The point is that if you go down that route, no matter how much success you have you're always going to be acting out of fear to some degree. Is that worth being lazy and not putting in the full effort?

Nobody should be relying on SEO solely, surprisingly, or not so surprisingly it seems to be those who don't engage in other marketing that look to tactics more than strategy.

It doesn't surprise me that those with a marketing background take a different approach as there's a lot more effort required, a lot more understanding required to get results than just being able to buy links and themes. Even paid advertising requires more knowledge than I'll pretend to have.

What's the main difference between the tacticals and strategics then? I suppose workflow / processes could be the biggest indicator...

@Ryuzaki has done some great on-page posts and the foundation to any new SEO project (post-research) should be strong on-page. You don't see it nearly often enough though.

It's like comparing a Chef to a Cook...

A cook just throws shit in and hope it works, a chef follows a strategy that they know has the best chance of working because they understand what they're doing.

I've seen a lot of people start a new SEO project and get stumped by something not working the way they expect; the way it has before or how they are told it does. At this point they freak out, they'll either scrap the project or hastily start throwing more shit in and destroy the ranking potential altogether. There is no plan-b because there wasn't even a plan-a.

@emp has a great case-study on here which shows a site which didn't initially go to plan and he's following a strategy to remedy the problem. I've been following along and it looks to be improving again and we all know that ::emp:: has a strategic mind. Check it out.


As I asked in the title, which are you? I'm telling you it doesn't really matter... All that matters is which will you be?





 

Andrewkar

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Hmmm.. I don't get that differentiation between strategy and tactics in your post. Strategy have to be always in place before anything else right? One need to know what he is going to do with that site, traffic etc. He need to know his goals. Tactics are what he is going to use to get there. So both are equally important.
 

RomesFall

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Very vague stuff.
I'm nothing if not vague :smile:

But seriously though, I dunno what you mean... You want me to give out some more specific examples?

Strategy wise I think everyone has their own process and that every project is special and requires at least a degree of personalization. The site I'm working on now for example, the strategy I'm taking I haven't attempted in a couple of years and it's working a lot better now than it did then.

As for the more tactical people I'm trying to point out, they almost always follow some variation of this...

1. Find some keywords.
2. Get a theme.
3. Install WordPress.
4. Order Content.
5. Build Links (Mostly PBN).

6. It succeeds, or it falls to shit because they have no strategy.

I don't know is the above constitutes a strategy? Maybe it does by default, but I don't think people do that as part of one.

It's almost like they're giving it the effort of a churn and burn site, except that's not what I'm talking about because that in itself is a business model, one that I do actually respect for a whole host of reasons.

I'm talking about people doing the absolute minimum required effort for their niche sites. Of course I am only talking about this from the experience of being a moderator on one forum with 400-600 paying subscribers at the time.

There were a number of people on there doing a really good job, but the standard overall was really pretty low.

Maybe I'm way off base, but I've been involved with SEOs at a number of levels helping them do everything from build and manage their PBNs, optimizing their on-page, to being the ghost writer on their blogs... So I've had a peek behind the curtain at even some of the more well known peoples work and it follows that 'system' almost exactly.

I also think it's telling that for around 8 months prior to quitting freelancing that I haven't had to work with a single business owner outside of SEO... If they didn't know the extra effort was worth it then why have they been hiring people like me to bring a more technical edge to their projects?

I dunno man I'd say this is pretty widespread, but I'm not here to criticize as I don't even know how many on here do SEO. I just don't want to see people get sucked in by the various communities and taken down a rabbit hole that is full of snakes.

I'd always prefer to recommend that people just do a lot of testing behind their main projects and track everything with SERPWoo and Netpeak Checker... This allows people to come up with their own conclusions and eventually find some common processes that works for them. The strategy really depends on the project, but people should be going a lot harder than what I've seen them.

I think some advice @CCarter gave me one time made a lot of things click for me, which was that I should be focusing on one business model and giving it my all, enjoying it and not be dicking around with too many projects. When people are playing the numbers game because they don't know whether they can even get traffic to their sites it's no wonder that the sites usually suck... Where is the strategy? IDK. Because everyones too busy talking about the tactics and then asking why when they don't work... I don't really think you can have a real good strategy without the understanding.
 
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RomesFall

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Hmmm.. I don't get that differentiation between strategy and tactics in your post. Strategy have to be always in place before anything else right? One need to know what he is going to do with that site, traffic etc. He need to know his goals. Tactics are what he is going to use to get there. So both are equally important.
I agree, but when you don't have a strategy what are the tactics even being used for?

It's easy to pick up a bunch of tactics from anywhere these days, how and why you use them is more important than the tactic itself... That's why I used the analogy of a Chef versus a Cook.

Sorry if I wasn't making sense.
 

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One answer can be found in learning to love failure to the point of seeking it out. That might not make sense to a lot of people, but that might also mean they just haven't failed enough. Fail more.
 
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It's like comparing a Chef to a Cook...

A cook just throws shit in and hope it works, a chef follows a strategy that they know has the best chance of working because they understand what they're doing.
A cook knows how to cook each seperat item in a dish well (most times), a Chef knows how to make evry ellement of that dish come together in a harmoney and even beoynd that, a chef knows how to make each menu item compliment each other and how valubale cohesiveness is to the menu.
And finally THE chef understands how to tie the menu together with the decour as well as the look and behaviour of waiters of the restaurant to make a perfect synmphony of a dinning experiance, that will leave the custumer hapy and willing to come back to enjoy another meal.

Just to finish this I'll end it with a quote from one if not the greatest cheff alive Marco Pierre White: "Perfection is lot's of little things done right"
 

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I think what @RomesFall was getting at is a lot of people, the 'tactic' ones, don't really get how all of digital marketing fits together and simply follow a list of steps that others have said work. Since they don't understand the underlying principle of WHY these steps work they're scared that whatever success they enjoy will not last and tend to do half baked projects because they literally don't know what other steps they need to take. The don't have a full online marketing strategy and don't know how to adjust.

That's how I interpreted it anyway.
 

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Okay, your post is making a bit more sense now.

Strategy: The "blueprint" of your business. Think of it as the "battle map" on which you set up your pieces (the moving parts of your business) and calculate the most efficacious routes to your end goals.
Tactic: A method of execution to reach the goals delineated in your strategy.

It sounds like the first part of your gripe with SEOs and marketers is that they don't work out their business strategy well enough, so their tactics don't reflect their main goals. They end up choosing arbitrary tactics because their goals aren't measurable, realistic, or even set in stone.

The second part of your grip has to do with marketer's ignorance of their tactics they choose. You can have the perfect strategy, but if you don't understand why a tactic works, then you're probably going botch something while executing.

Am I somewhat on the mark?
 

RomesFall

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Okay, your post is making a bit more sense now.

Strategy: The "blueprint" of your business. Think of it as the "battle map" on which you set up your pieces (the moving parts of your business) and calculate the most efficacious routes to your end goals.
Tactic: A method of execution to reach the goals delineated in your strategy.

It sounds like the first part of your gripe with SEOs and marketers is that they don't work out their business strategy well enough, so their tactics don't reflect their main goals. They end up choosing arbitrary tactics because their goals aren't measurable, realistic, or even set in stone.

The second part of your grip has to do with marketer's ignorance of their tactics they choose. You can have the perfect strategy, but if you don't understand why a tactic works, then you're probably going botch something while executing.

Am I somewhat on the mark?
I don't think there's such a thing as a perfect strategy. Also I don't really have a gripe with SEOs and certainly not marketers who are usually more strategic by necessity anyway. I just don't want to see good people make the same mistakes I see being perpetuated by the message that's being conveyed from conventional advice in SEO circles.

I think that there are a lot of people who get most of their traffic through SEO who don't really have a strategy, and this is where the issues with their tactics/techniques tend to stem from. There's no reason to wait until you have the 'most' advanced strategy in the world, but just something basic to get going with... In the case of SEO there's enough tools around to benchmark and test everything, then adapt as you go.

I think at its most basic for a project where someone has made the decision to go for search traffic only that there should be a content strategy, on-page strategy and something in place for the link building that involves starting small enough that people aren't doing things they don't understand. If you don't understand it you won't be able to make good decisions when something doesn't go to plan and as I said before the reaction usually isn't one with good consequences.

Sure that may be slower, but Rome wasn't built in a day and certainly not without a plan. :smile:

@RiverStyx I think knows what I was getting at, but I do also think you're pretty much spot on with your definitions as well.
 

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Hmmm..
Ya got me looking up "tactic" and "strategy" and the problem is that the two are often used interchangeably.
While "strategy" often means long-term, where the cutoff is, is unclear.

Let's take this working definition (Stolen from wikipedia, I believe)

Strategy differs from tactics, in that strategy refers to the employment of all of a nation's military capabilities through high level and long term planning, development and procurement to guarantee security or victory. Tactics is the military science employed to secure objectives defined as part of the military strategy; especially the methods whereby men, equipment, aircraft, ships and weapons are employed and directed against an enemy
As for SEO, that would mean a strategy is the long term plan with an asset or marketing campaign, involving all elements, on page, linkbuilding, social media, content production, ......

A tactic would be how to achive ONE of the goals (goal: good content --> hire A+ writers would be the tactic)

BUt here again we run into the problem of levels

Social media might be smaller than the grand strategy .. but I could have a social media strategy which employs tactics like youtube commenting....

OK.. so let's just agree on "big picture" vs."small picture"?

Maybe another definition?

Military tactics are the science and art of organizing a military force, and the techniques for combining and using weapons and military units to engage and defeat an enemy in battle.[... ] in contemporary military science tactics are the lowest of three planning levels: (i) strategic, (ii) operational, and (iii) tactical.
So tactics are still a plan... (not just throw stuff in a pot cooking) but on a shorter term / narrower horizon.

::emp::
 

RomesFall

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Hmmm..
Ya got me looking up "tactic" and "strategy" and the problem is that the two are often used interchangeably.
While "strategy" often means long-term, where the cutoff is, is unclear.

Let's take this working definition (Stolen from wikipedia, I believe)



As for SEO, that would mean a strategy is the long term plan with an asset or marketing campaign, involving all elements, on page, linkbuilding, social media, content production, ......

A tactic would be how to achive ONE of the goals (goal: good content --> hire A+ writers would be the tactic)

BUt here again we run into the problem of levels

Social media might be smaller than the grand strategy .. but I could have a social media strategy which employs tactics like youtube commenting....

OK.. so let's just agree on "big picture" vs."small picture"?

Maybe another definition?



So tactics are still a plan... (not just throw stuff in a pot cooking) but on a shorter term / narrower horizon.

::emp::
I agree man tactics aren't a bad thing. Also I didn't mean to insinuate with the cook/chef analogy that they are any less intelligent, perhaps it wasn't the best analogy. I'll hold my hands up there ha!

I do think that some people within SEO could improve their results by thinking about the tactics more and perhaps being more strategic about said tactics. Perhaps that's where the problem really lies more than them not having a 'strategy' to tie all those tactics in together over the long term. I think perhaps both are issues in their own right.

Would love to see more blogs talking about that rather than the 5000th post on outreach for broken link building.
 

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Just a quick anecdote fwiw. The best ranking I've ever seen for a project I was involved with had zero seo considerations taken. It was for a kw with volume around 30k (Daily, not monthly...) and the title was just so damn clickable that it practically ranked itself. There's no way somebody is going to search for that KW and click anywhere else, esp once this page hit the top spot. This really opened my eyes to the importance of a great headline + SOCIAL.

This can work on a smaller scale for easier keywords, too... I barely do any SEO anymore, it just... happens. If you have a site about ferret cages, come up with a GREAT title and then when Google starts to test you out with better rankings, and when you're pulling more clicks than pages that are ranked higher than you, it's only a matter of time until you move up.

I used to look at the seo metrics of the top 10 for a keyword I wanted to take over, now the first thing I check is the titles of the top 10 pages. If I can write a more compelling, clickier, and more curiosity-inspiring title it's a done deal.
 
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Just a quick anecdote fwiw. The best ranking I've ever seen for a project I was involved with had zero seo considerations taken. It was for a kw with volume around 30k (Daily, not monthly...) and the title was just so damn clickable that it practically ranked itself. There's no way somebody is going to search for that KW and click anywhere else, esp once this page hit the top spot. This really opened my eyes to the importance of a great headline + SOCIAL.

This can work on a smaller scale for easier keywords, too... I barely do any SEO anymore, it just... happens. If you have a site about ferret cages, come up with a GREAT title and then when Google starts to test you out with better rankings, and when you're pulling more clicks than pages that are ranked higher than you, it's only a matter of time until you move up.

I used to look at the seo metrics of the top 10 for a keyword I wanted to take over, now the first thing I check is the titles of the top 10 pages. If I can write a more compelling, clickier, and more curiosity-inspiring title it's a done deal.
Bumping this thread because I just wanted to say I think this is one of the most correct, insightful posts I've seen on this forum.