The Difference between SEO Strategy and Tactics

Understanding SEO Strategy Versus SEO Tactics is a Critical Distinction.

In the dynamic world of digital marketing, the terms “strategy” and “tactics” are often interchanged, but their meanings are distinct and critically important. This realization became clear when my company merged with another agency in early 2019, where “strategy” took on a different connotation.

The Essence of Strategy and Tactics in SEO

At its core, strategy is the overarching plan that outlines the ‘why’ behind your actions. It’s the blueprint that guides your journey towards achieving long-term objectives. Conversely, tactics are the ‘how’—the specific actions you take to execute the strategy.

Consider the insights from my colleagues:

  • “Strategy is a collection of tactics,” says Patrick Willoughby.
  • Claudia Miller defines strategy as the planning phase, with tactics being the steps to realize the plan.
  • Megan Mars views strategy as the overarching plan, with tactics as the actionable steps.
  • Sun Tzu’s wisdom encapsulates the relationship perfectly: “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”

The Interplay Between Strategy and Tactics

Strategies and tactics are not mutually exclusive; they are interdependent. A strategy is necessary to direct tactics towards a targeted outcome, such as driving not just any traffic to your website but targeted traffic that aligns with your business goals.

Without a strategy, tactics may lead to haphazard results, akin to a Frankenstein’s monster of digital marketing—functional, perhaps, but lacking purpose and cohesion.

The Cyclical Nature of Strategy and Tactics

The relationship between strategy and tactics is cyclical. A broad business growth strategy may encompass digital marketing as a tactic, which requires its strategy to select the most effective methods, such as SEO, social media, or PPC.

For instance, SEO is not just a tactic but a complex strategy. It demands a framework to ensure that each SEO action, like optimizing title tags or improving site architecture, contributes to the overarching goals.

The Biblical Correlation: Strategy Begets Tactics

If we were to draw a biblical analogy, it would be: Goals beget strategy, which begets tactics, leading to more strategy and further tactics, ad infinitum.

Imagine a goal to boost sales by 10% over the next year. The strategy to achieve this might include various tactics like organic optimization and social media marketing. Each of these tactics, in turn, requires a sub-strategy to ensure they contribute effectively to the main goal.

The Importance of Strategy in Digital Marketing

Ultimately, the actions taken might appear similar whether or not a strategy is in place, but the outcomes will differ. Without a strategy, there’s no benchmark for success. You might gain traffic, but without direction, it’s difficult to determine whether it’s the right traffic or profitable.

Strategy as the Foundation for Success

Anyone can implement SEO tactics, but doing so without a strategy is akin to shooting in the dark. A well-defined strategy ensures that every tactic is purposeful and steers you toward the greatest possible success. Strategy should always precede tactics, driving both the actions taken and the strategies for those actions to achieve the best possible return on investment.