In The SEO Game, It’s All About Strategies And Systems

When it comes to SEO, folks tend to think of me as super-tactical (perhaps because, when presenting at conferences, I cram so many tips and tricks into my infamous 80 slide PowerPoints when I have only 10 minutes to present!) But in actuality, I’m really very strategic. My new title at Covario (now that Covario has acquired Netconcepts) speaks to this: it’s “VP of SEO Strategies”, not “VP of SEO Tactics”.

Why give so much importance to the distinction between tactics and strategies? Because strategy will always win over tactics. Just ask Sun Tzu if you don’t believe me. Strategic thinking forces you to step back and look at the bigger picture; it keeps you from the trap of treating SEO as merely a collection of tactics. Without strategy, you leave yourself open to strategic-minded competitors swooping in and stealing market share from you. Strategy guides the selection and implementation of tactics. It’s the framework that underpins all actions. It’s what keeps you from getting lost in the weeds. Strategy always comes first.

Which leads me to what comes next. Because there ends up being so many moving parts, strategic SEO requires killer project management skills and processes.

Being efficient at daily tasks

I’m a big fan of managing your time and your projects using sophisticated systems like GTD. GTD stands for Getting Things Done and is the productivity methodology developed by David Allen. Getting Things Done also happens to be the name of David Allen’s bestselling book. GTD is amazing. For me, it was truly life-changing. I can’t tell you how much comfort it brings me to have a trusted system into which I can dump everything out of my head (I use Things on the Mac and iPhone). That trusted system is for capturing ideas, notes, next actions, project plans, etc. All “next actions” get assigned a context like @Office, @Home, @Computer, @Phone, @Errand. That way, when the time comes, you can filter by context. Picture this: you are in the waiting room at your doctor’s office with nothing at your disposal but your cell phone and gossip magazines. Wouldn’t it make sense to only view those next actions on your “To Do” list that are phone calls?

Another critical piece to GTD (and I admit, this is where I fall down) is the “weekly review” — an appointment with yourself where you review your next actions, project list, waiting fors, someday/maybes, and so forth to assess your progress and plan for the following week.

GTD was the main feature of my presentation at SMX West last year on the panel “Productivity Tips for the Busy Search Engine Marketer” (my PowerPoint is here). Also be sure to check out my articles on GTD here and here.

Looking at the big picture

My latest love affair is with a system called RPM. It’s project management and so much more. RPM stands for Rapid Planning Method and was pioneered by Tony Robbins, who is probably the most famous business coach / life coach in the world.

When practicing RPM, you start with the result you’re after. The desired result must be well-defined; in other words, you must have a clear outcome that you’re shooting for — in order to maximize your chances of achieving it. Then, you move to your purpose for wanting to achieve that result. This is what “juices” you, i.e. what inspires and motivates you to achieve your goal. Finally, brainstorm list of possible activities that will move you towards your goal. Tony calls these “massive actions.” (Did you notice that RPM is also an acronym for Results, Purpose and Massive action? That’s not coincidence.)

Not every tactic, or “massive action,” that supports your strategy is worth implementing. Think of various tactics — and their resulting action items — as arrows in your quiver. In other words, the tactics don’t all have to be executed in order to achieve your desired outcome. They are merely available to you if you choose to utilize them. If you get your outcome by executing on just a percentage of your massive actions, all the better! This helps you step out of the to-do list mentality and the stress that accompanies it.

The cornerstone of RPM is the “RPM block” where you lay out on paper (or spreadsheet) the Result in the middle, the Purpose to the right (these are your “musts”), and the Massive Action Plan (these are the available arrows in your quiver) to the left. Also on the left are columns for Duration, for Priority and for Leverage. Leverage refers to who you can enlist to help you accomplish that task. Leverage can come in the form of an outsourced “virtual assistant” or an in-house executive assistant. If you want to be masterful in your outsourcing and delegating, read my article on the topic.

If you remember nothing else: you want to be working on the important things, not just the urgent things. Urgency (e.g. constant email checking) obscures true importance. It’s the 20% time you spend planning and working through important but not urgent things that brings you 80% of the value. So make that time a larger percentage of your work day. Implementing GTD and RPM can free up literally hours each day (imagine getting some of your life back; doesn’t that sound good?) while simultaneously making you more effective. Now that’s a beautiful thing!

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: All Things SEO Column | Channel: SEO


About The Author: is the author of Google Power Search, creator of the Science of SEO and co-author of The Art of SEO now in its second edition, both published by O'Reilly. Spencer is also the founder of Netconcepts and inventor of the SEO technology platform GravityStream. He also blogs on his own site, Stephan Spencer's Scatterings.

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  • lisaSEM

    Welcome to Covario, Stephen :)

    For myself, I find that applying a mixture of basic GTD principles and a very strict interpretation of Inbox Zero helps me stay focused on task completion/management. I’ve never worked with RPM, but the planning process sounds similar to what I do on my task lists – get really, really specific about which things need to be done in order to complete the task.

  • Max Thomas

    Stephan – Great post. This sums it up for me:
    “If you get your outcome by executing on just a percentage of your massive actions, all the better! This helps you step out of the to-do list mentality and the stress that accompanies it.”

    Thanks for sharing your insights into GTD and RPM…and always for your 80+ “tactical” slides :)

  • imuzcorner

    Your information on SEO very helpful for me in running SEO Contest, Thank you


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