Sun Tsu is the (in)famous strategist and advisor to the armies of ancient China who wrote the ultimate tome on conflict and contest. Aptly named -The Art of War- (you may have heard of it) it is still used today to inform business professionals, self help gurus and just about everyone else.
At first I thought that the links people made were a bit tenuous – can you really apply a thousand year old text to modern dating for instance? But after reading it I have to admit that while some claims are a bit of a stretch, generally this is a text that you can apply to a lot of situations and certainly contains some gems of wisdom for most aspects of our modern lives.
So as a bit of an experiment I shall here attempt to apply the principles and lessons from that book to one of the most contemporary pursuits out there: SEO. Let-s see what old Sun has to teach us about Google…
Be extremely subtle, even to the point of formlessness. Be extremely mysterious, even to the point of soundlessness. Thereby you can be the director of the opponent-s fate.
In order to make Sun-s lessons a bit more applicable to us, we are going to have to make some substitutions – for instance -opponent- should probably be taken to mean either the visitors, or Google, or the other sites in your niche.
And in this regards SEO certainly should be -subtle-. Being too obvious with your use of keywords and your attempts to grab attention will not only put your visitors off of your website, but it will also cause Google to penalize you by damaging your ranking, and it will cause other sites to bite back hard. Use subtle versions of SEO and don-t be too heavy handed or you will find that more obstacles arise to prevent you from finding success.
Later in the treatise Tsu points out the value of making allies of your enemies where possible. This is all gold for the hopeful webmaster – and it is folly to get into a prolonged struggle for the top spot in Google with a competitor. You will end up in some kind of bidding war seeing who can spend the most on SEO, and ultimately you-ll probably fall foul of an algorithm change. Instead then try using a slightly different keyword, or just offering something unique to your opponents. And try actually contacting the owners of the competing blogs and sites because they may be willing to work together and you can probably offer each other a lot. Offer to write them a guest post, or link to them from your site, and you-ll find you get a lot further a lot quicker.
Know the enemy and know yourself; in a hundred battles you will never be in peril.
This could be seen to apply to both the importance of getting feedback and statistics – both from your analytics and from market research, but also the importance of researching the opposing websites. You can stand to learn an awful lot from them in terms of marketing and design, and if you find what they are lacking then you can provide something different to your audience.
Opportunities multiple as they are seized
This is highly true of online business and describes the way that success tends to -snowball-. The more visitors you get to your site, the more advertisers will offer you to place their ads there, and the more other bloggers will want to work with you. Your visitors will start to write more on your forums and generally you-ll hit a point where your success just booms.
Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war and then seek to win.
Come up with a fool proof strategy for your website and your SEO, and pour every ounce of effort and work into making the best product you can. Then when you unleash your site on the net it will only be a matter of time until you find success.