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What You Can Do Now to Start Ahead of the Game in 2010

hasty-herndon
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It's that time when advertisers become retrospective, reviewing everything that's happened in the past few months, taking stock of where they are, while speculating what could happen next. Yes, the season finale of "Mad Men" really puts life in perspective.

The end of the calendar year and the onset of the holidays do too, I guess.

Rather than wait until the bubbly's been popped and the ball has dropped, consider being proactive now. You're almost certainly in code freeze, and developers are already hard at work on the first release of 2010. Providing your team feedback so they can make changes now will get priorities in place in time to kick off the year on an up note for SEO, PPC, and your campaigns as a whole.

Shore up Your Tracking and Attribution

Your online presence is built on a foundation of data. It's such a big part of everything we do that we often take for granted that our numbers are correct, attributing traffic and revenue to the right channel, and painting a complete picture of how each piece affects the others.

Or are they?

If not, this is where you need to focus your efforts in 2010. If you're unsure of your results, identify the issue and resolve it posthaste.

Make sure your analytics and third party tracking line up. Re-establish your timeframes -- is your analytics reporting on a 14-day window and your third party tracking on a 30-day window? It's essential your tracking is attributing traffic and conversions to the right channels -- a huge issue in measuring PPC versus natural traffic -- so make sure you attribute your traffic and conversions to the right channels.

Speaking of attribution, assuming that the last click got the sale works to a degree, but for a complete picture of where and how you should spend your marketing dollars, look at adding deeper attribution modeling and tracking. This will help you see how customers interact with all pieces of your brand, from e-mail and direct load to brand versus non-brand keywords.

Take Care of the Easy Stuff Now

As the end of the year wraps up, ask yourself if your site needs an SEO-related overhaul. But as for what is realistically possible at this stage in the year, it's smarter to focus your efforts on how you can make the biggest impact now.

Go for the lowest-hanging fruit like duplicate content, which requires little to no outward changes to your user experience in order to improve natural search results. Do a site search on Yahoo (i.e., "site:example.com"). If you see more than one URL near the top that brings up your home page, you can quickly pick up site authority by getting them all down to one URL.

Making sure that each page, at a minimum, has a uniquely constructed title tag and meta description will help your site rank better and appeal to search engine users, resulting in more clicks.

Get Ahead of the Curve -- Use Your Assets

Search engines -- or, at least Google -- have shifted toward enhancing search results with information like prices, addresses, and reviews, plus providing more real-time search results from Twitter, blogs, and other sites that regularly provide extremely new content. This can be seen in Google's options to display more information from sites, such as prices and the Caffeine update. Also, Bing's context-rich model has won increased market share.

Look for ways to keep your site fresh, frequently add or rotate content, and add on-site blogs or other frequently updated (and crawled) content sources. Consider adding standardized microformats to your catalog and product pages, which can make your search listings more glamorous and your data more portable.

Open up your images to be crawled, indexed, and associated with the right keywords. And, certainly, take a step back and ensure that your site's content is visible and crawlable in the first place.

Good holidays or bad, we're all being asked to do more with less. Taking care of the basics now and growing toward where the engines are headed will keep you ahead of your competition and reduce the post New Year's stress and thoughts of "Where do I begin?"


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