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E Mare Libertas, “From the Sea, Freedom” is the motto of the tiny water fortress and country of Sealand. You may never have heard of this micro-nation before, but locked within the history of this principality we may find parallels on how to stake a claim on the virtual seas of the Web.

The British developed a series of these fortresses to deflect German air raids in World War II. They hosted more than 200 soldiers, had radar and were equipped with enough firepower to defend the islands. These metal beasts successfully prevented any invasion.

After the war, all the fortresses were dismembered except for the one known as Roughs Tower located seven miles off shore in international waters.

Can anyone say free real estate?

British military abandoned it; Roughs Tower stood in solitude until ex-Major Roy Bates came along. Bates claimed it for himself and his family; he declared himself, “Prince Roy of the Principality of Sealand.”

As you read the following history, compare these:

  • Your Competitors = Sealand’s Opposition
  • Real Estate = The top spot on page 1 of the Search Engine Results Page (SERPS)

Britain Returns for Her Baby

If you are a business owner trying to defend your position on the Web, you need your site recognized, and you are aware of the fight to get pages indexed and acknowledged for the authority they really are. To do that, follow Prince Roy’s example. He’s been there. He knows how to stake a claim.

In 1968, one year after Prince Roy declared his sovereignty, Britain wanted the fort back. As British Naval Forces approached Sealand’s territory, Prince Roy buckled in to defend his keep. With arsenal at his disposal, he fired warning shots at the encroaching vessels. Bold? Yes.

Similarly, how many of us are prepared when the competition comes back to claim the top spot we took, after our competitors let their guard down and stopped optimizing? How many of us are so well optimized that regardless of the SEO efforts of our competitor, we are one step ahead? Keep the following items in mind when attempting to be prepared:

  • Keyword Research – For each new page, are you finding the appropriate keywords for that page to claim as real estate?
  • Optimization – Are you showing the search engines through page optimization that you are the sovereign authority for your keywords?
  • Link Building – Is your dominion expanding across the Web? Are your allies and friends endorsing your sovereignty through links? Are your loyal subjects spreading their appreciation of you throughout the Web? Are you forming new alliances constantly?
  • Competitive Analysis – Are your Scouts watching the movement and expansion of your enemies?

There is no easy way to say that we are prepared, and Roy has experienced the blows of being caught less prepared than he thought he was.

A Hostile Takeover and the First War in Sealand

I will use an excerpt from the History of Sealand to describe the horrific scene:

In August of 1978, a number of Dutch men came to Sealand … to discuss business dealings with Sealand. While Roy was away in Britain, these men kidnapped Prince Roy’s son Michael, and took Sealand by force. Soon after, Roy recaptured the island with a group of his own men and held the attackers as prisoners of war.

The Governments of the Netherlands and Germany petitioned for their release. First they asked England to intervene … but the British government… made no claim to the territory of Sealand … Germany sent a diplomat directly to Sealand to negotiate.

Roy first released the Dutch citizens, as the war was over, and the Geneva Convention requires the release of all prisoners. The German was held longer, as he had accepted a Sealand Passport, and therefore was guilty of treason. Prince Roy, who was grateful that the incident had not resulted in a loss of life, and did not want to bloody the reputation of Sealand, eventually released him as well.

Roy discovered, just as we have all witnessed, that some of our enemies are willing to go to great lengths to sabotage our operations and our rankings. There are companies who would promote black hat SEO techniques and would use them against you. Those tactics are in no way appropriate in the world of legitimate SEO. If those tactics are used, search engines have the right to take those sites as prisoners of war (aka: ban them).

We should think of how Roy handled the situation. Yes, he was caught off guard and his opponents used unethical tactics, but he doubled his efforts and followed the rules of engagement when recovering his claim.

As algorithms change, there are times when your rankings will slip and you will lose your real estate. But you should never give up if you feel that your site is worthy of having sovereignty over that keyword.

sealandOne last lesson from Sealand: Britain made one last attempt to retake Sealand. Since it is located just seven miles off the coast, the United Kingdom decided to expand its border to a 12 mile perimeter instead of three. Luckily, Roy caught wind of this (competitive analysis) and expanded his own borders to 12 miles off his own “shores” one day prior.

What is my spin on this? He expanded the keywords that his site was optimizing for. You can only gather a portfolio of real estate in the search engines if you are attempting to rank for a well designed, targeted list of keywords. Expand that list to niche keywords and gather as much territory as you can before the competition tries to suffocate your traffic.

Today, Roy’s son Michael governs as Prince Regent of Sealand because of the valiant efforts of his father. For our own sites, I hope we are all willing to leave the type of legacy and example that Prince Roy has given to us. Happy Optimizing!