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January 3, 2008

How Will You Make 2008 Great?

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I’m seeing a lot of beginning-of-the-year type posts right now where people are making industry predictions, telling new SEOs what they need to make 2008 their year, and word vomiting their hopes and dreams to anyone who will listen. It needs to stop.

Don’t get me wrong; it’s great to see that people are approaching a new year with a sense of excitement and purpose. Fresh starts are amazing for the soul. However, if you’re really serious about making changes this year, perhaps it’s time to stop talking about it and start doing. It’s already January 3. It’s time to make a plan for how you’re going to accomplish all those things you’re already patting yourself on the back for.

I’m not trying to be anyone’s killjoy or sound especially ranty. The truth is, I, myself, couldn’t be more excited for the brand new year. Last year was a challenging transition year for me. But I’ve made it through the other side and I am super confident that 2008 is going to be wicked awesome. I’ve had a grin on my face ever since the ball dropped. But I’m not out there blogging about everything that I hope to do or what I want this year to be about. Instead, I’m working on my plan.

Most of us are SEOs with search engine optimization-related goals. We’ve decided that in 2008 we’re going to excite users and increase conversions. We’re going to experiment with new forms of marketing. We’re going to be more social and increase our rankings and the rankings of our customers. These are all great things to strive for, but if you’re going to accomplish them, it’s going to take more than just talk. You need to create a plan and identify what steps you’ll need to take in order to conquer everything on your list.

It’s like all those people who vow to lose 20lbs every January. That’s a noble goal, but how are you going to do it? What is going to make this year different? Are you joining a gym? Are you going to work with a trainer? Are you going to create a strict diet plan for yourself that includes some sort of electric shock therapy when you start eyeing the pizza and ice cream? Without outlining your road to success, you’ll never effect change. You’ll fall back on the old habits and continue along the same path you’ve been taking. You’ll become boring and old and stale. Like Susan.

Do yourself a favor and shut up. Instead of talking, use the next week to create your plan for the year. What are the things that are important to you and how will you ensure that you make it happen? If you’re looking to become a better SEO, think about investing part of this year’s fresh budget into our brand new SEO training program and start the year optimized on the right foot. If you didn’t see a profit in Pay Per Click last year, find training opportunities related to search marketing. Or make sure those are the sessions you hit when you attend the various search conferences throughout the year.

If you were a little antisocial last year, maybe it’s time to hire someone whose sole responsibility is interacting and reaching out to the greater community. It’s not enough to simply say, "I want to be more social this year" or "I want to be on the front page of Digg". Chances are you told yourself the same thing last year and look what happened. The truth is, you’ll never achieve all that you want to without making a conscious effort to set aside time to actually do it.

Chris Garrett had a great post yesterday about becoming compelling. Look at your company and decide how you can make every service offering, every angle, every communication compelling. As Chris explains, it’s the difference between being considered "must have", "essential" and "in demand", and being simply "nice" and "good" and "fun". In order to get customers excited, you have to be in the first group. Companies that are "nice" get looked over. Those that are "in demand" do not. But in order to be compelling you have to add value. How are you going to do that?

It’s the "how" that I’m not hearing quite enough of. And most of the “how” that I am hearing isn’t completely convincing. Social media is not your golden ticket, people. Not unless you invest the time in really understanding it and breaking into many of the inner circles that everyone pretends don’t exist.

I want to know how you’re going to make 2008 great. Have you started writing out your plan yet? If not, you’re already three days late.

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