There’s nothing especially magical about Jan. 1; it’s just a day like the year’s 364 others. But there’s something about the beginning of a new calendar year that evokes renewed optimism for what’s possible. We’re presented with a blank canvas upon which to create anew, and there is something magical about that.
I get caught up in that magic every year, spending at least an hour working on new goals and resolutions. This year, I landed on two overarching professional themes: focus and action. I’m going to stay focused on the task at hand, resisting the temptation to constantly check email or my Twitter stream. I’m also going to fight procrastination, and complete projects that have long been on the back burner. This is going to be my year.
2013 holds enormous opportunity for us all. Change is inevitable; evolution and innovations are inevitable, too. We need to stay nimble in order to adjust our approaches as those inevitabilities occur. Though I don’t have a crystal ball to predict everything the year ahead will bring, I am thinking of a few things we all can do better.
Here’s to 2013, and some resolutions we all should make:
Determine KPIs and performance baselines
If you’ve read many of my past columns, you’ll sense a recurring theme here. That’s because I’ve seen organizations screw this up time and again. Key performance indicators (KPIs) are non-negotiable. You must know where you’re going before you know what to pack. Align search marketing tactics and activities to business objectives; rely on KPIs to show progress against those objectives.
Over time, performance improvements should be benchmarked against the initial baseline metrics. You have to start somewhere, and now’s the perfect time.
Some are guiltier than others when it comes to ignoring Google’s social network. I admit that I pretended it didn’t exist for much of last year. But Google continues its relentless push into the social space, and that won’t change anytime soon. Google AuthorShip markup (and AuthorShip analytics), Search Plus Your World, Places, the new Communities feature, Hangouts (the coolest feature, IMO), the ability for Blogger users to tag Google+ users natively in posts, GMail integration -- the list goes on.
Google+ is both a legitimate tool for SEOs, and a social experience ripe for growth in user engagement. It’s time to get onboard.
Optimize for user intent and commit to experimentation
A back-to-basics reminder that user wants and needs are often not aligned to our business objectives. You shouldn’t (hopefully wouldn’t – let this article serve as your fair warning if you’re considering) propose after the first date. Don’t ask for the sale if visitors are only kicking the tires. Earn the trust of prospective customers by delivering content and materials that are relevant to them at that particular moment.
If you lack sufficient content to engage visitors at those earlier stages, then build some (or prune your keyword lists). And always experiment with content, offers and calls-to-action.
Acknowledge that your market is real-time
Consumers of goods and services across every industry vertical are hyper-connected. As I noted in a column from last year, “Fueled primarily by the explosion in mobile and social technology platforms, consumers have unprecedented control over the ways they receive, share and discuss brand-related information.” Your organization (or clients) is not immune.
This is the year that organizations wake up to this real-time dynamic. Smart marketers will build a communications protocol on a foundation of real-time analytics data streams. The smartest of the bunch will heed the advice of Search Insiders Rob Garner and Gord Hotchkiss.
Real-time strategy + real-time publishing + real-time data = winning combination.
Optional bonus resolution
A note to those of us who have some tenure in this field: Shed the elitism. We have cultivated a rock-star culture in search (and social), where the biggest names are revered as celebrities. Stay humble and pay-it-forward to the newbies who are getting their start. They need you and you’ll actually learn something along the way.
For the newbies: find a mentor, or follow/fan/friend someone who inspires you. I have a Google+ Circle and Facebook list called “Inspirational Peeps” where I track the thoughts and movements of those whom I respect most. Do the same, and soak up the knowledge like a sponge. 2013 can be your year, too.