The foundation of any good business strategy lies in understanding the key players and how they interact. Part One of this column examined the similarity between biological ecosystems and business ecosystems, and the role of Dominator, Niche and Keystone players in each. The Keystone player, explored in the book “The Keystone Advantage,” surpasses the others in functionality by supporting an entire network.

In business, the most interesting aspect of the Keystone strategy is the shared fate between the platform player and the users of the platform. Even though platform players provide tremendous value to users, it is ultimately the platform users who provide the vast majority of value. For example, if the best software developers did not embrace the Microsoft platform or the best consumer packaged goods were not found on the shelves at Walmart, these powerful Keystone players and their networks would shrink overnight.

Take IBM for example. IBM played a Dominator strategy by trying to control not just the IBM platform, but also develop and own all the software. However, even in the 1970‘s when there were relatively few pieces of software on the market, executives at Microsoft knew it would be impossible for one company to provide a platform along with the best version of every type of software that meets every user’s needs. The Microsoft execs realized the company could have a much wider reach through a platform strategy that allows developers to do what they do best. The platform with the greatest value wins, and the world saw this play out when Microsoft DOS quickly overtook IBM as a software platform in the early 1980’s.

The early 1900’s business strategy of vertical integration (early IBM) is dying out. This is a result of today’s technology allowing for cost-effective distributed business networks that contribute a much greater overall value to consumers.

The most successful companies with Keystone strategies realize the vast majority of innovation and value is provided by the platform users, which is why they typically provide tremendous amounts of support to their user groups. Microsoft provides software development kits, training classes, user conferences and online support, while Google provides quite possibly the most robust analytics software applications to ensure its users are extracting the most value from its platform.

Google is a highly targeted marketing platform. The mass adoption of the majority of search engine users provides value to brands wishing to market themselves to a highly targeted audience. In turn, valuable websites and relevant content are what search engine users are looking for when performing a search. If these search engine users do not find a relevant resource, they can easily abandon that search platform with a click of a button. Search engines must maintain a giant catalog of websites to serve up relevant results for any search string imaginable, and value-add websites have the option to not appear in any specific search index. Thus, there is a shared fate between the websites showing up in search and the platform on which these results are served.

Organic SEO companies add tremendous value to search platforms by helping brands extract the most value possible from non-paid results on a search engine platform such as Google. However, it is not just the fact that organic SEO helps brands extract value from search platforms that is valuable to Google; it is the way that organic SEO companies help these that also adds value to Google. Organic SEO companies are half PR company and half librarian. A great organic SEO company will structure websites in a way that search engines know how to categorize them and deliver the most relevant results. Ethical organic SEO is a long-term play because it adds value to search engines by organizing websites correctly (as a librarian) and adding thought leadership on behalf of brands in the form of valuable online media (as a PR company).

Understanding the business ecosystem of search platforms such as Google will give brands greater understanding of the role they play in this business network. Maximizing the value your brand provides to search platforms and the Internet as a whole will in turn maximize the value your brand can extract from search platforms.

At Slingshot SEO, we are mindful of the value we add to the Internet on behalf of our repertoire of brands deserving of value extraction from search platforms. We will always strive to maximize not just the value we extract for brands through organic search, but also the value we add to the Internet as a whole. This has translated into an extremely successful long-term SEO strategy for our clients as well as Slingshot SEO Inc.