2008 may be the year that you're charged with a major SEO revamp of your existing Web properties so that they are better positioned to take advantage of recent algorithmic changes that the engines have made. These changes have placed new emphasis on non-text page elements such as image and video, so it's naturally tempting to think that a major site restructuring might be necessary.
Don't make the mistake, however, of going overboard in this direction. Search engines are evolving in a way that gives greater weight to multimedia elements, but they're still primarily text-driven, and the importance of well-written, relevant copy will continue to provide sustaining advantages through 2008 and beyond. Before you embark on an expensive multimedia project, take a careful look at your copy, because it remains the heart and soul of a well-optimized Web site, both for the purposes of obtaining direct search traffic and for gaining the all-important inbound links resulting in improved PageRank.
There's another good reason why January is a good time to plan and think deliberately about SEO issues: the fact that this lull period is relatively free from short-term pressures to deliver that new site on time. Rushing to get the job done is a prescription for disaster; for example, I've seen one major content site, clearly under pressure to deliver a better-optimized site by the end of Q4 2007, make multiple mistakes that could have been avoided if the time frames had been looser. These mistakes were all basic ones, including a failure to put redirects in place to point users and search engines to newly renamed articles, plus an alarming number of missing articles. Sure, the new site looks great, and will eventually benefit from increased search engine traffic. But right now and for the next few months, its traffic has decreased, its PageRank has been severely impaired -- and all of this could have been avoided if things had been planned better and its staff had been given enough time to get the job done.
In terms of paid search, January's a great time to examine whether your efforts in this space could bear some improvement in 2008. Looking at the numbers from '07, are you fully confident that money wasn't left on the table? Were your various marketing efforts, both online and offline, fully integrated -- or were there gaps and dead ends that frustrated your objectives? How could these gaps be eliminated?
Are you sure that your approach to buying search media, whether accomplished in-house on a manual basis, in-house with a campaign automation tool, or outsourced to an SEM agency, provided maximal results? Was your in-house team given the resources it needed, or was it stretched to the max? Are you confident that they have the training required to achieve their goals, or will additional training expenses be necessary in '08? Have you thoroughly investigated whether the bid management portion of their job can be streamlined and/or automated in order to improve results and productivity?
Do you have a strategy in place not only for growing orders, but in terms of growing your most profitable orders? Are you confident that your success metrics appropriately value your investment in paid search? If your sole focus is ROI or ROAS, are you undervaluing lifetime value and/or long-term market share growth?
For those marketers using an SEM agency, similar questions apply. How did your SEM agency's reputation fare in 2007? What kind of growth did it achieve for its own clients? What kind of industry recognition, if any, did it receive? Are you confident that it has invested sufficiently in its own operations (including technology and client services) to make it an ideal candidate for your continued business? Does it really have the resources to carry out the necessary production for your campaign, or is it overselling and underdelivering?
If you're thinking seriously about changing agencies, this lull month is an excellent time to pick up the phone and shop for an optimal SEM partner.
May all of you have a great new year, and may all your projects in search succeed in '08!