Years ago, before the likes of Twitter and Facebook stepped to the front of the stage, blogging was all the rage. People saw that successful bloggers attracted audiences that were often greater than what the typical commercial site could attract. This observation led many SEOs to start recommending to their clients that they create a blog of their own. The promise being that if you build a blog the traffic will follow.
What most people ignored was that a blog should add value to a site and be used to engage potential and existing customers. In practice, what ended up happening was that the blog became a dumping ground for a mishmash of content that was uninteresting, usually too short, and infrequently delivered. What continues to amaze me is that even after their blogs have failed to attract traffic or produce results in any measurable way, site owners are still loathe to get rid of them. The most common reason given? Because having a blog allows them to check off another search engine optimization (SEO) tactic on their list.
Don't get me wrong, I'm all for trying things out. In fact, part of what makes SEO so interesting for me is the testing of new ideas. But I also learned from my project manager days that sometimes when a project isn't completed on time and the window of opportunity the project was meant to capitalize on has closed, the best course of action is to terminate the project. Or if you're the investment type, you don't throw good money after bad. Clichés aside, terminating an SEO tactic that isn't working is a smart move, but can be hard to do.
First of all, don't start with an assumption that you haven't verified. In the blog example above, it would be easy to declare that what seems like low traffic levels as a failure of the blog effort, but what if the blog was created as a testing ground for landing page copy that is far easier to deploy using blog software like WordPress? Once you confirm what the goal was you can then proceed to confirm that it wasn't met.
Understand the History
Second, find out the history of the tactic. You'll have a much easier time shutting something down if the person that came up with it is no longer an employee or, better yet, if it was something a previous SEO agency came up with. While the difficulty will vary depending on who came up with the idea, your best approach is one that acknowledges that everyone is just trying to succeed in the competitive organic search engine space. So your justification to end an effort should be one that is based on data, actual experience, or if secondary research is all that is available, then try to make it as bulletproof as possible.
Prepare an Alternative
Third, before you go in with a recommendation to end something, be sure to have a replacement idea to present. After all, if you're about to free up resources, you might as well come up with something new to apply those resources too. Not only will this help move the SEO campaign forward, but it will also provide a good conversation point for anyone that has to explain why a tactic is being terminated, i.e., it is being replaced by a new and improved tactic that holds more promise.
What I've described above is essentially a three-step process for winding down a tactic. And while it's certainly methodical in its presentation, don't lose sight of the need to be aware of people's perceptions and egos. If you go into the conversation respectfully, you'll have a far better chance of succeeding than if you go in as one of those know-it-all SEO types we all like so very, very much.
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Marios Alexandrou is the East Coast Director of SEO for Steak's Search Marketing team and has a background in web development and project management. While he loathes to tell people just how long he's been working with computers, he will admit that his first computer had just 16KB of memory.
His SEO experience includes work with both in-house and agency teams ranging from one-man shows to 20+ dedicated SEO strategists. He has worked with organizations of all sizes and across multiple industries including hospitality, financial services, publishing, and healthcare. He particularly likes to use his combination of skills to identify ways to scale SEO activities through process standardization and automation.
In addition to writing about SEO for ClickZ, Marios also writes on the broader area of Internet marketing for Infolific.
March 19, 2014