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  • Bob Dumouchel

The Art of Word WarIntroduction to Word Wars

Your business is locked in mortal combat and it is a Word War. Like all wars, the winner will be the one that wins not just the battles but also hearts and minds of the people. Your weapons in this war are your words and how creatively and effectively you deploy them. The war is being fought in search engines, social media, and within your content. Since we share the same language every business has the same weapons but your strategy and resources are what creates winners and losers. Words are your weapons and creativity and cash are your resources use them wisely.  

Everyone wants this to be fast, free, and easy; but it is none of these things.

Word Wars are not just SEO

At first glance, it might be easy to confuse Word Wars with SEO. SEO is one of many battles in a Word War and commonly the first one people focus on. Starting with SEO is a strategic error for many reasons not the least of which is the time it takes to win SEO positions. The War is waged across multiple conflicting battles including Search PPC, SEO, Web Experience, Social Media, Display PPC, email, and many others. The Battles are related to the War but you have to remember it’s easy to win the battle and lose the war by lacking balance in your strategy.  

No Right or Wrong Just Different

Over the years many clients have said to me “Just tell me what to do and we will do it” and that assumes that there is one right answer. Just to be clear there is no right answer –  just opinions and options that change frequently. English is a complicated language with 171,476 to 470,000 (1) words. Add to that industry-specific terminology and the number quickly reaches over one million words and most words have multiple meanings. The statement made famous by President Bill Clinton “It depends on what the meaning of it is” is fair because in the dictionary we use for our text analysis the word “it” has 72 meanings. Each word has an average of 2 definitions; consider a sentence of 15-20 words and you start to understand why processing unstructured data, aka text, takes so much power.

What you said is not what I heard

On top of the complexity of the language is the extraction of meaning driven by the life experiences of the reader. If you want to win the Word War you have to understand how your audiences translate your words into meaning. All readers start with perspective to your message and it is from that perspective that they derive meaning.

Empathize and Serve Your Audiences

Audiences are a collection of individuals defined by shared attributes. This can be structured information or behavior but the end result is always the same… it’s an audience. One of the first steps in any Word War is to decide who your audiences are, and if you say everybody then goes back and think again. Having an audience of everyone is worse than having no audience at all. It is important to have a persona for your audience so you can relate to your audience personally. Write out their attributes and get a picture and give them a name – make it personal.

Word Wars are Not Just Text  

In current technology, Word Wars are not always expressed purely in text. Word Wars can be audio or visual but ultimately they tie to words. Images contain meaning that can translate to the concept of words. In the AI field today there are tools like Amazon Recognition (1) or Microsoft’s Computer Vision (2) Processing that create text tags for images. If not already in the major search engines, it’s coming.   

Points vs Distribution   

Understanding a Word War requires an understanding of the foundational process. Your content strategy creates eligibility and distribution. Page-Rank creates points for this distribution. Page-Rank takes many people a while to wrap their minds around this because it is iterative logic.

Here is the original Google formula and the core of how it works today.

PR(A) = (1-d) + d (PR(T1)/C(T1) + … + PR(Tn)/C(Tn))  

The full discussion of this formula by the founders of Google is in the references at the end.

The simple translation of this is the more pages that point to your page the higher your page rank and who is doing the pointing and how unique the link is counts. This fundamental process in the Google Search Engine has not changed for decades although there is now a very thick layer of protective logic to stop it from being tricked. This enforcer layer is what puts penalties on your site if you try the trick of the day. My advice to clients has been the same for years.

Only try to trick Google if your programming staff is smarter than theirs.

If you get caught trying to trick Google, you will get caught. They respond quickly and with absolute power. The cost of this can range from a page penalty to your entire site being removed from the Google index. The stakes are high so be careful out there.

You build your points the same way you build a real-world professional reputation by sharing your expertise with the world. If you want to rank high in the search results create content worth talking about and don’t hide it from Google. You do not need to trick them you just have to serve them.  

Content Strategy

The first step in developing a Content Strategy is to decide what your brand is about. Start by understanding your audiences and the reality that you cannot, nor do you want to, win all the time. This is because of an immutable marketing rule that says “The more things you are about; the less you are about any one of those things”. Every part of your content strategy holds the potential to make a friend or an enemy based on the match to the message.

Consider the brands of Walmart and Tiffany’s, both world-class brands and companies. Going to a Walmart audience with a Tiffany strategy is a disaster. The Walmart brand is a low price strategy and the Tiffany brand is a high priced brand. This would be a classic message to audience mismatch and that never ends well. So they are not better or worse they are simply different. You have to pick your battles and serve your audiences.

In Summary

In Word Wars language is complex and the battle is perpetual. Your mission is to raise an Army (aka Team) with diverse skills, organize, and get them all going in the same direction. You have to remain flexible because your competitors will respond and you will have to pivot and respond to their moves. Look inside yourself to find the balance between your long and short term goals.

Your Mission should you decide to accept it

In every chapter of this story, you will have tasks that need to be completed before proceeding.

For this one:

  1. Establish audiences and document their demographic and behavior attributes.
  2. Start thinking of your content and how to make it worth talking about.


  1. Microsoft’s Image Tagging API
  2. Amazon Image Tagging API
  3. Original Google Formula:
Author: Bob Dumouchel
Content Scientist at Systems & Marketing Solutions Inc. Bob has worked with internet data and content since 1994 and as a programmer specializing in sales and marketing systems since 1978. Learn more and connect with Bob at his LinkedIn Profile. or continue your journey with Google Search