We’re not going to pretend that there are lots of amazing new changes for the new year when it comes to online marketing. A lot of the changes that made news in 2012 were just crackdowns on things that have always been a bad idea: link farming, shady links, poor quality content, duplicate content, excessive ads — they’ve never been a good idea, even if they seemed to benefit sites in the short run.
Create the best possible experience for your visitors and don’t even look like you’re gaming the system. We’ve said that for years, and it’s still true.
Still, technology continues to change — fast — so the resolutions we’re offering you for 2013 are a mix of the most important things that are still true, and the things that have become important.
- If your business doesn’t have a website, or your website needs an update, make building a new website your top priority for 2013. The internet is your customer’s top source of information, and it’s many people’s first impression of your business; deciding not to have a good website for your business is like deciding not to have a telephone, not to have signs, or not to have a door. Put a website build into your budget — if you’re not online, you’re really not in business.
- Create quality content regularly. Fresh content brings both search engines and people to your website, it gets you links, and it builds your brand. If you do nothing else but add new content to your website on a regular basis this year, you’ll see increases in traffic to your website. We have exactly one client who actually does this himself, and he is a novelist, so we think you should get over the idea that this is something you have to do yourself. Like cleaning your restrooms or filing your taxes, it has to be done, but not necessarily by you.
- Go mobile. The percentage of people accessing web content with mobile devices is increasing so fast that there’s no point in giving you numbers. Check your analytics to see whether — and how fast — your mobile visits are increasing. Notice any differences between how mobile visitors interact with your website and how others do. Then respond to those differences. If your website doesn’t look good on phones and tablets, see point #1 — it’s time to update your website.
- Get social. If you’ve been delaying your business use of social media because you figured it was a fad, it’s time to quit waiting for it all to blow over. If you haven’t done social media for your business, hire someone like Haden Interactive to manage social media for you. Social media done right can increase traffic and conversions, as well as building your online brand. Check out 10 Social Media Resolutions for specifics.
- Integrate your efforts. We’re finding that the results our clients get when they have blogging, social media, linkbuilding, and analytics going on are far better than when they have just one element. It makes sense: blogging provides that fresh content, social media spreads it and brings people back to your website to read it. linkbuilding is easier when you have extensive content to work with and social media relationships to leverage, and analytics shows what’s working. It’s time to divert resources from traditional advertising to integrate online marketing.
- Stay local. Even if you don’t have primarily local clientele, don’t miss the SEO benefits of using your local connections. Have your physical address on your website, be active in Google Places, and list your company in local directories. As you’re doing that listing, make sure your information is consistent and that your descriptions are unique.
- Use your analytics data. We use Google Analytics, which is (currently) free, but there are plenty of other programs as well. Whatever you choose to install, make sure you actually use the data you capture when you make decisions about your online marketing.
- Test early and often. Whether you choose A/B testing of pages or direct observation of users, testing is important. If you’ve been going with your gut so far, 2013 might be the year to work with the data instead.
- Take advantage of Google’s authorship attribute. Visit the Authorship page at G+ to connect your G+ profile to your content. This gets your picture onto the search results page. Clearly, this is not ideal for all businesses; however, if you use your personal photo on your social media accounts, connecting your content can make what you’ve written seem more trustworthy. Your clients and patients will see your face when they search for keywords, and this not only makes them more likely to click through, but also makes you appear more authoritative. Again, it’s not for everyone, but it is one of the new factors in SEO, so it’s worth considering.
- Consider other semantic markup. Schema.org lays out a system that both Google and Bing have endorsed. This is a tech option that requires some skills and lots of time, so it may not be the first step you take. If you’ve already done all the other things on this list, though, this is a good resolution for you.