Weekly Wisdom with Ross Tavendale: The Difference Between Strategy and Tactics

Ross Tavendale

Oct 22, 20194 min read
The Difference Between Strategy and Tactics
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Modified Transcript

Hello everyone, and welcome to another Weekly Wisdom. Today we will be going over the difference between strategy and tactics. As SEO consultants, most of us fit into the bucket of tacticians. So when we are asked what is wrong with a site, we would maybe say things like "there are too many 404s", or "there are daisy chain redirects", or "there are no internal links", or maybe "there is not enough keyword-targeted content on the page", like a million and one different things, which is all great and very valid. However, it is a tactical mindset and a tactical output. And the thing is, once you get all your tactics lined up that you want to implement, where do you start? What is most important from an SEO point of view, and what is most important from a business point of view?

How do we make a business case to get buy-in from senior stakeholders to implement these changes?

I don't know if you have ever walked into a boardroom and just spouted off a bunch of SEO jargon, but I can guarantee you are going to be left with a bunch of blank faces and a bunch of big fat "No, thank yous." This is where strategy comes in. Let me outline the difference for you.

Tactics are how we are going to do something, but strategy is what we are actually going to do.

Let me quickly give you a non-SEO example. Let's say that you need to wake up early. You can come up with a sequence of events, which are tactics to help you get up earlier. You can set multiple alarms, sleep with the blinds open, you can put an energy drink beside your bed, you can go to bed... well, probably not go to bed earlier if you are an SEO person because you will be up looking at spreadsheets all night. You can set your clothes out in advance, you can pack your bag in advance, which is all great, but these are tactics. Our strategy is to get out of bed early and go to work.


Let's work that into what an actual SEO strategy is. First, we need to look at a couple of things.

We look at the research, and then we evaluate that research before we can work out what the strategy is. In SEO terms, the research and evaluation bit, that's keyword research and a technical audit.

And for my example, it would be looking at reasons why you don't want to get out of bed early, and you might come up with, "it is because it is cold and it is dark, and I am tired." So with that research, we then need to go and evaluate what we need to do in order to build the strategy.

Three Parts of a Strategy

When we are building the strategy, we typically break it into three major parts. First and foremost, hygiene needs to happen regardless; fix what is broken. Defense is something to stop your competitors from encroaching on what you are doing from a search point of view. And growth is where you set up all of your controlled expansion.

Strategy Pillars

So back to getting up early in the morning. Our hygiene strategy for the issue of it being dark and cold, and you being a bit tired, to make the environment outside your bed a bit more appealing and sexier than the inside of your bed.

Our defense strategy is to create momentum when you are out of bed, and our growth strategy is to reward yourself to reinforce the idea that getting up early is a good thing. Now underneath these core strategy pillars, there are the tactics you need to employ, and this is typically how it looks.

If you are building a document for a client, I would set out these sorts of tables. So this is a total overall view of all of the strategies. You have got your 10,000-foot view, which is a big, extrapolated out version of what we are going to do, and inside the 10,000-foot view, we have our hygiene, defense, and growth pillars, and underneath them the three major issues that we have. And then when we drill down into hygiene itself, we highlight these three major issues through the lens of hygiene, and then we can go into the tactics, we then repeat this for defense, and also repeat this for growth as well.

Boston Matrix

Now once we have got all this stuff into a good place, what we then want to do is put together a Boston matrix. The reason why we do this is that we have associated this as a strategy and our problems and how we are going to fix everything. We still don't know which is the best one to actually fix first.

So in this instance, we have got urgent versus important, so when I go into a boardroom, I can say, "Well, here are all the strategy pieces that we have got, here are all the problems that we have got, and here is how we are going to solve them. And here they are based on urgency and importance to the business."

As you can see, just because something is in your growth strategy, technically, it doesn't mean you should do it first. Sometimes it is a hygiene piece, sometimes the defense piece, but being able to set this out means you can go in and speak to your senior stakeholders with a very competent mindset and say "Listen, here are all the problems on the website, and here is what we want to do in order to fix them. Can I get 10, 20, 30 thousand pounds to fix it?" And hopefully, they say yes.

That's everything for this week's Weekly Wisdom. I hope you have enjoyed it. If you do, please comment down below, what do you do to build your own SEO strategy? I will be in the comments later to hopefully go backward and forwards with you and share some more ideas, but until next time, we will see you later.

Author Photo
Ross is the Managing Director at Type A Media, an independent search agency that work with FTSE250 companies and mid-sized brands to help them find the optimal way to talk to more people online. When not obsessing over his clients rankings, he hosts the Canonical Chronicle, a weekly web show watched by 100k people every month. If you want to ask him a direct question you can find him @rtavs on Twitter.