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Art of War - SEO Style; Attack by Strategem Part I

Written by David Harry   
Thursday, 25 November 2010 14:03

the Art of War; SEO Style(Part of the series on Sun Tzu's ; The Art of War – from the SEO perspective.)

Sun Tzu said;

In the practical art of war, the best thing of all is to take the enemy's country whole and intact; to shatter and destroy it is not so good. So, too, it is better to recapture an army entire than to destroy it, to capture a regiment, a detachment or a company entire than to destroy them.

Hence to fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting.

SEO Style;

This one is hard to relate, unless of course to entirely take over a competitor is to inevitably buy them out or shatter their brand presence. We can also imply that crushing a competitor on one query space can make them obsessed with 'taking you down' in another. Foster aggression without creating animosity.

A more tempered campaign will enable you to conquer the enemy while not provoking them. Create a sense of futility competing with you and 'allow' them to accept being second best.

Sun Tzu said;

(Thus) the highest form of generalship is to balk the enemy's plans; the next best is to prevent the junction of the enemy's forces; the next in order is to attack the enemy's army in the field; and the worst policy of all is to besiege walled cities. The rule is, not to besiege walled cities if it can possibly be avoided.

SEO Style;

To balk is to counter attack and the junction is you enemies allied against you. We must know the competitors well. When they launch a campaign we must heed and prepare to create a better reply in response.

But when one conducts a campaign, in light of your competitors activities, do not once more participate in long drawn out battles. When they are entrenched in a query space, do enough to keep the engaged, but begin to move to other query spaces while they are distracted.

(tune in Monday for the next edition)


Art of War - SEO Style; Waging War Part III

Written by David Harry   
Monday, 22 November 2010 14:20

the Art of War; SEO Style(Part of the series on Sun Tzu's ; The Art of War – from the SEO perspective.)

Sun Tzu said;

Now in order to kill the enemy, our men must be roused to anger; that there may be advantage from defeating the enemy, they must have their rewards.

Therefore in chariot fighting, when ten or more chariots have been taken, those should be rewarded who took the first. Our own flags should be substituted for those of the enemy, and the chariots mingled and used in conjunction with ours. The captured soldiers should be kindly treated and kept.

This is called, using the conquered foe to augment one's own strength.

SEO Style;

Set out reasonable goals for staff, contractors and all those involved in the effort. Always give credit where credit is due, but more to those most responsible for successes. Create a competitive sense towards all your activities. Enable the 'us against them' mentality. Use your own passion (as a leader) to make achieving goals beneficial emotionally and through perks (money, custom shwagg etc..).

And if you have the chance to associate, mingle or hire away from the competition. Bring them into the fold and be respectful. You are at war with the (competing) nation, not it's agents. Buy them a beer at a conference. This will lessen their own passion to defeat you or see you as a threat.

Sun Tzu said;

In war, then, let your great object be victory, not lengthy campaigns.

Thus it may be known that the leader of armies is the arbiter of the people's fate, the man on whom it depends whether the nation shall be in peace or in peril.

SEO Style;

Once again, we cannot sustain a long term cash neutral program. By securing victories in a timely fashion we will earn the nation's (client/boss/site) admiration. You will position yourself as an indispensable cog in the marketing wheel. To have the power to continue to lead, bringing the greatest benefit with the least resource drain will be paramount.

(tune in Wednesday for the next edition)


Art of War - SEO Style; Waging War Part II

Written by David Harry   
Wednesday, 17 November 2010 14:33

the Art of War; SEO Style(Part of the series on Sun Tzu's ; The Art of War – from the SEO perspective.)

Sun Tzu said;

There is no instance of a country having benefited from prolonged warfare. It is only one who is thoroughly acquainted with the evils of war that can thoroughly understand the profitable way of carrying it on.

The skillful soldier does not raise a second levy, neither are his supply-wagons loaded more than twice. Bring war material with you from home, but forage on the enemy. Thus the army will have food enough for its needs.

Travel lean and mean. Prolonged in our case being carrying on a program with diminishing or minimal returns. Always seek out what has been done by your competitors in the past leverage it in concert with your own approaches. The sooner the program, and by extension the team working on it, can move into a cash positive position, the stronger your campaign will be in the long run.

Speed has it's place over strategy in many cases. Time must be utilized effectively.


Sun Tzu said;

Poverty of the State exchequer causes an army to be maintained by contributions from a distance. Contributing to maintain an army at a distance causes the people to be impoverished. On the other hand, the proximity of an army causes prices to go up; and high prices cause the people's substance to be drained away.

Hence a wise general makes a point of foraging on the enemy. One cartload of the enemy's provisions is equivalent to twenty of one's own, and likewise a single PICUL of his provender is equivalent to twenty from one's own store.

The greater your expansion of targeting the more stretched the over-all campaign will become. And your presence in each query space can trigger increased activity by those in the space. The great SEO arms race. That will in turn further weaken the larger presence. Once more, develop programs that leverage what has (and hasn't) seemingly been working for the competitors.

Seek to learn what will be the low-hanging fruit and take paths of least resistance where possible.

(tune in Friday for the next edition)


Art of War - SEO Style; Waging War Part I

Written by David Harry   
Monday, 15 November 2010 14:51

the Art of War; SEO Style(Part of the series on Sun Tzu's ; The Art of War – from the SEO perspective.)

Sun Tzu said:

In the operations of war, where there are in the field a thousand swift chariots, as many heavy chariots, and a hundred thousand mail-clad soldiers, with provisions enough to carry them a thousand LI, the expenditure at home and at the front, including entertainment of guests, small items such as glue and paint, and sums spent on chariots and armor, will reach the total of a thousand ounces of silver per day. Such is the cost of raising an army of 100,000 men.

(*2.78 modern LI go to a mile. The length may have varied slightly since Sun Tzu's time. )

When you engage in actual fighting, if victory is long in coming, then men's weapons will grow dull and their ardour will be damped. If you lay siege to a town, you will exhaust your strength. Again, if the campaign is protracted, the resources of the State will not be equal to the strain.

SEO Style;

Here we can say that the health of the nation, (client or owner of the site) is greatly dependant on the SEO program not being a long term burden. As with the planning at the beginning of this ride, we must ensure that reaching targets that generate revenue are within a reasonable limit (time and resources). Planning and implementation must deal with budgetary restrictions.

If you engage in a program that is working too hard in non-profitable areas, you run the risk of losing the faith of the 'nation' and things may come to an abrupt end. We must choose our targets, methodologies and time scales wisely.

(Now) when your weapons are dulled, your ardor damped, your strength exhausted and your treasure spent, other chieftains will spring up to take advantage of your extremity. Then no man, however wise, will be able to avert the consequences that must ensue.

Thus, though we have heard of stupid haste in war, cleverness has never been seen associated with long delays.

Should you cause such trepidation upon the 'nation' don't be surprised to be left behind by competitors and ultimately relieved of your duties. There must always be a balance between over thinking your approach and what the situation will bear in terms of patience, budget and resources.

(tune in Wednesday for the next edition)


The Art of War - SEO Style; Laying Plans III & IV

Written by David Harry   
Wednesday, 10 November 2010 14:11

the Art of War; SEO Style(Part of the series on Sun Tzu's ; The Art of War – from the SEO perspective.)

Laying Plans; Part III

All warfare is based on deception.

Hence, when able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must seem inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near.

For the enlightened SEO you must be elusive. We must keep on-site tight but not over-optimized. Create seemingly organic link profiles. Work structurally where our presence may not be apparent. And you should avoid publicizing your involvement with clients and online properties. We are the wind. We were never there.

We have many that would seek to observe our ways. Competitors in a query space. Search engines that may be looking for a footprint. Other SEOs looking to observe our methods. Never let them see you coming.

Laying Plans; Part IV

If he is secure at all points, be prepared for him. If he is in superior strength, evade him. If your opponent is of choleric temper, seek to irritate him. Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant.

If he is taking his ease, give him no rest. If his forces are united, separate them. Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected.

Should your opponent have a technically sound website and robust link profile, be prepared to spend the time. If your competitors have greater link profiles and accrued authority than you, find where which terms they focus on and work around them in the short term. Distract them in a given query space and move around from behind laterally (on secondary and longer tail terms). Piss him off.

Always fight on every possible front. From Universal/Verticals to social, be everywhere. If your competitor seems to be copying your tactics, feign them into unresponsive strategies. Stay aware and current. Beat them to new and developing query spaces in the market. Be seemingly everywhere and frustrate them at every turn.

Now the general who wins a battle makes many calculations in his temple ere the battle is fought.

The general who loses a battle makes but few calculations beforehand. Thus do many calculations lead to victory, and few calculations to defeat: how much more no calculation at all! It is by attention to this point that I can foresee who is likely to win or lose.

But again, before the battle begins, you must research, plan, consider and develop strategy. Set in place the required resources inclusive of eventualities. Nothing can take the place of proper research and planning prior to the beginning on any SEO campaign. It is one of the most common symptoms of a failed campaign. And truly, if one puts little effort into the training before the battle, how can they hope to win beyond a stroke of pure luck. The wise SEO enters the battle with strategy and weapons brought to bear.

(stay tuned for the next one... )


The Art of War - SEO Style; Laying Plans

Written by David Harry   
Monday, 08 November 2010 14:18

the Art of War; SEO StyleOver the next month or so we're going to have some fun here on the Trail and take a look at Sun Tzu's ; The Art of War – from the SEO perspective. The idea came from necessity.

I had been meaning to read it again (hadn't since my early 30's) but given my work/writing schedule, I had no idea where to fit it in. So hey, if I need to churn out blog posts, but need time to read, why not combine the two I figured, right?

So here we are... I will put a few parts out each week and we can then work it out in the comments. At the end of the journey I will be releasing a PDF with the entire series... Enjoy!


Chapter One - Laying Plans; Part I

Sun Tzu said: The art of war is of vital importance to the State.

It is a matter of life and death, a road either to safety or to ruin. Hence it is a subject of inquiry which can on no account be neglected.

SEO Style;

For the SEO, understanding how to combat in the SERPs is paramount to the success of the site and/or program. This is the beginning. You must treat the process with urgent care. One can never be callous with a web property and should at all times seek to gain insight. All actions bear a kind of fruit.

As such, well before we begin the campaign, we must focus on the preparations (team, resources, research and planning) that will be required to set things in motion.

Laying Plans; Part II

The art of war, then, is governed by five constant factors, to be taken into account in one's deliberations, when seeking to determine the conditions obtaining in the field.

These are:

  • The Moral Law; causes the people to be in complete accord with their ruler, so that they will follow him regardless of their lives, undismayed by any danger.

  • Heaven; signifies night and day, cold and heat, times and seasons

  • Earth; comprises distances, great and small; danger and security; open ground and narrow passes; the chances of life and death.

  • The Commander; stands for the virtues of wisdom, sincerity, benevolence, courage and strictness.

  • Method and discipline; are to be understood the marshaling of the army in its proper subdivisions, the graduations of rank among the officers, the maintenance of roads by which supplies may reach the army, and the control of military expenditure.

These five heads should be familiar to every general: he who knows them will be victorious; he who knows them not will fail.

SEO Style;

In this we must survey the team, understand how to get the most from them. Identify those that are leaders and those that will hold less important stations. This includes contractors, staffers, in-house or corporate liaisons and even other departments (such as social for example).

Long before the battle is ever to begin we must prepare and motivate the troops. Secure and structure the parts required to achieve success.

Furthermore we must understand the spaces themselves and how long it may take to achieve our goals. Can the system bear the requirements. What of economic slowdown? Losing core pieces of the team or it's resources can tax your campaign. Will the approach you're taking scale.

If you are to be the general, all aspects must be considered when leading off into battle.


(stay tuned for the next one... will be 50 or so..weeee)


SEO Training Dojo Turns One

Written by David Harry   
Monday, 25 October 2010 16:19

And gets a new home!

Hi there, I promised I'd be back, and I am. Back on Friday I was lamenting the convoluted nature of this site and how we were working on fixing that. We looked at how we launched Search News Central for the authors, and we hinted at changes for the SEO Dojo. Well, we've done just that.

As part of the SEO Training Dojo's first birthday, it got a new home (domain) off of the site (at We've also done considerable renovations as per our members input along the way. It's been a lot of work, but I can start to finally call the Trail home again.

New SEO Training Dojo


Membership Discounts

Also as par tof the birthday celebrations we also are going to be giving 35% off subscription rates for ONE WEEK. This is definately the time to get in if you've been thinking about it. I have a feeling it will be getting very busy in there real soon. Here's some details to get you up to speed;

I would sit here and write some more but to be honest? I am freakin' exhausted! Launching two sites in two weeks if enough to drive ya nuts (and lose yer wife and kids). Thanks as always to all my friends, Dojo mates and supporters. Life has made some big changes lately, I can't wait until the dust settles.

Go check out my new toys;

Search News Central
The SEO Training I am gonna get some rest before I fall over. Stay tuned for - The Art of War; SEO Style


A gypsy on the move; giving thanks and taking ranks

Written by David Harry   
Thursday, 21 October 2010 18:03

Ok, see? I told you I'd be back. A lot of folks had been wondering why things had been so quiet around here over the last few weeks, so it's time I fessed up. Here's what's been keeping me busy;

Search News Central – we launched a new website into the search world. I took 17 of my fav peeps and we're going to be pumping out search goodiness over there from now on. It started when I realized the writers here (we added 6 a few months back) weren't getting credited with their own hard works. People still assume everything here was by me. Learn more about that here.

Search Engine News

The site launched on Monday and we've had a great response so far. Be sure to grab the RSS, follow us on Twitter and on Facebook. This is your new source for great geeking.

SEO Training Dojo – my private community is fast approaching its first birthday and we've been busy collecting feedback and suggestions from the gang. In the coming week(s) I will be re-launching that bad boy with an all new look and approach. We're also going to be moving the Dojo over to it's own dedicated domain name. A lot of work, but hopfully worth it. Stay tuned for details on that next week.

SEO Training

A place to call home;

So what's going to happen to the Trail and to me? Not much really. I will still be writing here on Search Engine Journal, on Search Engine Land and over at WordStream. This was more about me getting my site back as my own little personal hang out. (and getting the authors some credit).

Here on the trail will continue to get geeky, but will also have some other more personal stuff. As it used to be.

The Art of War; SEO Style

To kick things off next week we are going to have some fun taking apart Sun Tzu's 'Art of War'. Along the way we will try and relate it to the world of professional SEO. More of a fun exercise than anything, but it should be fun.

This idea came from the fact that I was thinking about how I hadn't read in in many years and wanted to. Problem of course was that with all the things happening in life, there wasn't the time. Hmmmm.. But if part of that is blogging, then hey, why not combine them? Instead of making time to write about SEO and read the Art of War, just adapt; write about SEO based on the reading.

And so that's what we're going to do.

Thank You DanaGiving Thanks

A good friend of the SEO world, Dana Lookadoo, threw down what was akin to a virtual gauntlet the other day with; Never too late to say thank you

And so first, thank YOU Dana. For everything. I'd spend the next thousand words expanding on that. But let's just say Dana is a wonderful and inspirational person. But I'd also like to say thanks to all my friends that have helped out along the way. All of the Dojo members that have been supportive, have given feedback and otherwise made the last year very edu-taining. To all the authors, both here and on SNC, that were the inspiration to get my life in order (and give up sleep). And of course to you... the Trail faithful.

Ah shit.. hey, a big thanks to the whole freakin industry! Why not. It's been a blast and I look forward to many more years of great geeking.

Have a blog? Make Dana proud and go thank some people. It's good for the world (and you too).

I hope all is well with you and do miss being here on the Trail. Programming shall resume next week. Until then keep fighting the good fight out there!

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