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How to avoid your search marketing campaign falling short of its potential

It’s disappointing when you go into a campaign and there are high hopes of success but you fall short.

You do your research and your preparation. There’s scope and a great opportunity to do well. But you don’t quite reach that potential. You miss those measures of success.

If you’re working as an SEO professional this post is for you. I’ll show you some practical ways you can ensure that your campaign reaches it’s potential.

No more excuses

Now, there is the old saying, isn’t there? If a tree falls in a forest and no-one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? Well, I want to update that.

If an SEO makes a recommendation and no one implements it, did it really matter?

Was it worth making the implementation in the first place?

Because if an SEO makes a recommendation and it doesn’t get implemented, was it ultimately a waste of time?

I think that more campaigns fail due to poor execution, rather than poor strategy. Particularly SEO campaigns and I think this is also true with social media campaigns. It’s not the idea, the principles behind the strategy that leads to the failure. It’s actually the delivery of that idea.

When a SEO campaign fails what’s the cause? Maybe you recognise some of these.

  • The developer hasn’t implemented the changes. So you make a series of recommendations, and the developer hasn’t implemented them.
  • “My boss delayed signing off the budget or it just got held up with the boss.”
  • “The client was too busy to answer my questions.”
  • “They asked me to do an audit, and they never read it.”
  • “They changed my content idea so much, it ruined the ideas.”

They’re not reasons. They’re excuses for why a campaign didn’t work.

My job isn’t to recommend changes to improve SEO. My job is to deliver SEO results.

If I’m working for an agency, I’m paid by the client to deliver the results.

If I’m working in-house, I’m employed by the company to deliver the results.

I’m not paid to make the recommendations. I’m paid to make the recommendations that lead to outcomes.

So no more excuses? Our advice only has value if it’s persuasive.

If we’re making recommendations, our job isn’t to make the recommendations. They’re to make recommendations that are persuasive, that they get implemented.

But there’s some good news? Someone’s literally written a book about how to be persuasive.

You may have come across it before. “The Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” Robert B. Cialdini.

He’s written a book about how to persuade people. It’s based upon six scientific principles.

I want to take you through those six key principles of influence. You might have heard this talked about in terms of helping with conversion rate optimization. I’m discussing it for a different reason. They can have an impact and make your SEO projects more successful.


So the first of these six principles in Cialdini’s book is reciprocity. People tend to return a favour. So we tend to respond when people do us a favour. So you should always give before you take. When you’re trying to deliver SEO results, you need to give before you take.

So you want to think how do you help someone else do their job while still doing yours? So what should you do when you make recommendations? You should be thinking about framing that in the context of the person you want to persuade.

  • How do you help them do their job?
  • How do you make it feel like you’re doing them a favour?

You’ve still got your objectives. You’ve still got your results you want to achieve. But by framing it in a slightly different way, you’re much more likely to get the outcome that you want.

Commitment and consistency

The second of those principles is commitment and consistency. So if people commit orally or in writing to an idea or a goal, they’re more likely to honour that commitment. There are studies that back this up. People value commitment and consistency. So if you can get people to commit, you’re in a much stronger position.

That means get people to physically sign off actions.

If you have a meeting, get them to say, “Do you agree to these actions?”

Run through them in the meeting, or run through them in an email afterwards. That’s a good way of doing things.

Also, the language you use is important. Whether it’s written in an email or whether it’s delivered in a meeting itself. A good approach is to frame things in specific ways.

For example “So you’re going to do that? Is that correct?” You’re specifically stating that they’re going to do it. Getting them to agree, yes or no, if they are or they aren’t going to take the action.

If they say yes, they’ve made a commitment, and out of consistency they will try and deliver that as well.

Social Proof

The third of these principles is social proof. People will do things that they see other people doing them. This has some really practical implications for people who are conducting SEO audits.

“We’re recommending doing this because your competitor is doing it.”

Rather than saying, “I think you should implement hreflang,” you’re saying, “We recommend implementing hreflang because Competitor X has implemented hreflang.”

“This has worked for Competitor X,” when making a justification why.

In an ideal world, you would justify every decision, every recommendation that you with it’s commercial value? But that can be quite hard to do.

If you can’t do that, a good fallback is relying on social proof, as this has worked for other people already. So here’s the benefit of it.


People tend to obey authority figures, even if they’re asked to perform objectionable acts. Hopefully your SEO recommendations aren’t going to be objectionable acts. But the more authority that you can give yourself in the process, the greater the likelihood it is that your changes will be implemented.

Sometimes, people are a bit shy about talking about their credentials. Talking about what makes them an expert. But you want credentials in your proposal, credentials on your email, credentials everywhere. If you’ve got success stories, case studies, use them. These things can add authority to the recommendation. You’re giving yourself authority.

There’s this idea of the HPPO. That’s the highest paid person’s opinion, that’s what HPPO stands for. And there’s a lot of people in the world of analytics, particularly, who say, “Fight the HPPOs”. They’re wrong.

The HPPO fighters say, “Just because they’re the highest paid person in the room. That doesn’t give them the right to make decisions about marketing”

They want to rely on data.

Now, that is true, and I can see the persuasive argument for that.

But I want to work in the real world. This is the world in which you have to make recommendations.

So the authority of those people can help you get your recommendations made.

Understand that, use that to your benefit.

Use the HPPOs, make friends with them, to help push through your recommendations.


People are more easily persuaded by people that they like. Making them like you is, perhaps, if not more important, than giving the right advice.

If you give good advice and they don’t like you, they’re not going to implement it.

It doesn’t matter how good the advice is.

I’ve seen this in particular campaigns. SEO managers who have a great relationship but not the best SEO knowledge. Yet they deliver better results because what they ask for gets implemented. This is because they’re liked.

Someone being very, very knowledgeable, but not very persuasive, isn’t necessarily the kind of person I want running a campaign.

So you need to be thinking with every conversation, how can I build rapport?

This is with your boss, with your peers, with your client. You need to be thinking, “Do they like me?”

What can you do to build rapport? How can you be cementing and building that relationship, so they like you?

The more they like you, the greater the likelihood they’re going to implement the changes that you suggest or follow the strategy that you outline.


Percieved scarcity will generate demand.

You might think, “If I’m creating a strategy, how do I apply scarcity to those recommendations?”

You frame it around opportunity costs.

Talk about, “Not doing this will mean we will miss out on that,”

That’s a way of introducing scarcity.

And also quantifying the value of success, again, adds scarcity to it as well.

“This is what you’re missing out on.”

“This is what you won’t get by not doing these things.”

This allows you to add an element of scarcity. It leads to a greater chance of that suggestion being followed.

You will see the impact if you follow these things through. Change your language. Change your way of framing things. Change your way of thinking about things. Based upon Cialdini’s principles you are more likely to have successful marketing campaigns.

You need a strong idea or great insight, but I don’t think that’s the why campaigns fail. I think lots of good ideas don’t get implemented, so implementation is what is important.



by Kelvin Newman