Happy New Year to all our blog readers! Apologies for the delay in updates but the holidays did what they normally do and push several things on my agenda back a bit. I think the best way to ring in the new year here is to put together a list of recommended resolutions for people in the SEO community. After all, there are thousands out there who will be trying to get a leg up on the competition in 2010. Google continues to update its algorithm and incorporate new features into its search functionality. The Bing/Yahoo marriage has given notice that we cannot just pay attention to one search engine. It's as important as ever to stay up to date with what's going on.
1. Learn Google Analytics' advanced features
Analytics is more than just a hit counter... but you already knew that. Its referral data and site navigation mapping tools are probably what most webmasters use. And handy they are indeed. But there are more advanced features that can further educate you on visitor behaviour. My recommendation is to go to Conversion University. Sounds nerdy, doesn't it. Well, it is. But it's well worth your time if you want to become an expert in Google Analytics. Follow this link to learn how to prepare for the Analytics IQ Test.
2. Attend a Search Engine Marketing seminar
Yes, some can be pricey. But find one with reputable speakers and good opportunities to network within the industry and it can easily pay for itself in new business. My own personal goal in 2010 is to attend the Search Engine Strategies conference in Toronto in June or San Francisco in August. These regularly attract representatives from major search engines as well as experts in the search marketing field.
3. Cut and run from old, outdated SEO methods
The evolution of search has been slow in many respects. The fact that we still see spam content when making search queries on major search engines like Google and Bing tells us that there is still a long way to go. It's a sad fact of the SEO landscape that some black hat methods still do result in high rankings and traffic every now and then. The good news is that a) these gains are very much temporary and b) black hat SEO is hardly a good strategy for a legit business model.
I think we will continue to see relevancy count for more when it comes to link building tactics. The days of purchasing text links in large packages where value is determined by PageRank are over. I'll even go as far as to say that PR is 100% useless as a measure of a link's value. Article submission networks are also a thing of the past. Distributing your content is still recommended, but ask yourself this: are you submitting your article to a site that has actual readers interested in your topic? If the answer's no, pass on it. And if you haven't hopped on the social media bandwagon yet and are a small business owner, do it! Tweet, Stumble, blog and be merry.
4. Make the 301 redirect your bff
I was amazed at how many links I clicked on in 2009 that returned a 404 Not Found error page. And not just on mom & pop sites. I'm talking Fortune 500 companies, media giants (Rogers, I'm looking in your direction) and tech communities. When your web development budget is six or seven figures, there's no excuse to strand users on pages that are of no value to them. Yes, human error will always be a fact of life when coding, but a site redesign changes the entire page and directory structure; make sure the old content is not deleted. Not only will users continue to hit on old pages, you're orphaning valuable link popularity gained through long-term exposure of those URLs.
If you need some insight into 301 redirect basics, just follow the link.
5. Hop on the mobile web design bandwagon
You can likely count out National Hockey League employees as being on the list of Blackberry users, but Jim Balsillie's vision for mobile connectivity still has millions on board. With that, comes more web surfing on tiny screens than ever before. Offering mobile design and optimization services might really take off in 2010. Is your content such that a widget or "app" might be useful for users? How about streaming video in mobile quality? Or even creating some marketing information on your site that would be easily readable using an iPhone in a board meeting.
As a web developer, cross-platform analysis should not just focus on the popular Windows and Mac web browsers but also look at the functionality of a web site on smart phones. Of course it's up to you to decide how to best display your info. But if your web statistics show those iPod or iPhone referrals on the rise, chances are there's an opportunity to take the next step with your web content.
And there you have it. Five New Year's resolutions for the SEO. Now it's up to you to see them through.