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3 Ways To Defeat the Strategic Dead Zone
Written by Anthony Verre
Sunday, 18 September 2011 19:12

What is the Strategic Dead Zone?

When clients have been with you for a few years, strategies have a tendency to get stale. Routines become commonplace: the same types of site analysis, the same reporting metrics, and the types of reports. It can, and usually does, lead both sides to believe the relationship is cumbersome and no longer beneficial. Think of this as the “dead zone”.

Search Marketing Strategic Dead Zone

The Traditional Dead Zone Scenario

From a client perspective, they think they’re set going forward. For a number of years they’ve had steadily increasing growth on the site, but over the last year, the growth has slowed down. It’s still positive growth, but nothing like the first year or two where things were explosive. Maybe they think they’ve hit the plateau of growth, and can save some money by cutting back on the expense of your team. From your perspective, the strategy hasn’t differed; each period it’s more of the same.

It works but it’s not challenging. The client is comfortable with the recommendations: it is autopilot for the most part. And, for all the growth you’ve created, the client isn’t reinvesting back into the search/online strategy, even over the last year, with you preaching about warning signs and a possible contraction of growth based on the data.


Non-Creative Clients Scenario

Or maybe your client just has a hard time being creative. You suggest this and that tactic out of the search/online marketing playbook, and at every turn it’s a roadblock. No go. They want vanilla strategy through and through because they are incredibly risk-averse, overly brand-conscious, and can’t afford to fail. They want to stick with what works and/or leave well enough alone.

These scenarios happen more often than you’d think. It’s the search and online marketing dead zone. Whether you get there through complacency, trying not to “rock” the proverbial boat, or clients’ insistence on not getting too radical, once you’re there, it’s hard to come back from.


3 Tips to Avoid the Strategic Dead Zone

If you think you are approaching one, or even in one, this post is for you. However, to be perfectly honest, the theory of beating the dead zone is, on paper, a lot easier than actually beating one in practice.

Dig Into Your Analytics

It’s the first place I always go. Analytics. It’s Sutton’s Law; “Because that’s where all the data is.” Start looking into content bounce rates and conversion rates for organic, for paid search, for social campaigns.

  • Are there ways to shape up this page’s content?
  • Are there ways to make conversion points more forward and obvious to users?
  • Start looking at conversion funnels on the website. Is there a step that could be whipped into better shape to cut down on abandons and push through more conversions?
  • Are you looking at geo-regional?
  • Is there a section(s) of the country/countries that convert better than the rest and is there a way to capitalize even more? Is there a weak part that could benefit from a targeted campaign?

Even though we should all be doing this all the time, we all get caught up in the status quo. It’s the perfect opportunity to introduce some more specialized reports with some convincing metrics to suggest some unique projects or content building to help avoid and breakout of the dead zone.

Depending on the client, this might be the time to show some of the downtrending metrics. We try to minimize their appearance in performance and strategic reviews. However, when you’re in the dead zone, this is the perfect time to help jostle the situation and create action. Again, use this cautiously and only if you know the client well enough to know they will respond to this.


Monkey-See-Monkey-Do Strategy

Sometimes all it takes is for clients to see that a competitor is getting the best of them. Perhaps a competitor is The Monkey See Monkey Do Tactic running a slick email marketing campaign, created a series of new landing pages, or started a new social media marketing campaign.

Showing clients that people in their market place and vertical are innovating and creating original work. Monkey See. Monkey Do. It’s clearly an ego-play, but it might be the shove needed to get moving in a new direction.


One Idea Every Month

A good idea can go a long way. Each month write down one great idea that your client could implement to improve one aspect of their online/search marketing. It doesn’t matter how small it is, how big and complex it is. This way no matter when you meet to review strategy and progress with your clients (be it 3 months, 6 months, etc) you’ll have a few great ideas you can present to your client.

You never know when lightening will strike. And, more importantly, if you keep presenting new ideas and directions, it’s likely to keep subtly impressing upon your client the need to break out of the box.


A Note of Caution

You have to know you’re clients well enough to know which one of these tips will push the scale in your favor. You’ve got to know when to push and when to be subtle. Employing these strategies may still leave you in dead zone with clients, but in the end, you know that you did everything you could to rectify it.

Anthony Verre -

Anthony Verre is the founder and CEO of Silver Arc Search Marketing. Known at-large as "The Milwaukee SEO" . He has worked in search engine optimization and search marketing for over 5 years. He also writes a blog on search marketing, search engine optimization, and social media marketing news and opinion called The Milwaukee SEO.

You can also hook up via


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0 #1 Monica Wright 2011-09-30 05:29
I like to revisit a competitive analysis at that point. It helps putting your work in context and easily identifies where the opportunities are.

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